I don’t post about every book I read. I don’t like to blog about books that I don’t like all that much since I don’t want to waste your time. (I know, we all have different tastes.) Sometimes I read a book because I’m following a particular interest of mine and I don’t expect others to have the same enthusiasm. Right now I’m reading a biography in that category: Anthony Powell: Dancing to the Music of Time by Hilary Spurling. Powell is one of my favorite British novelists; he’s often called the British Proust. He wrote a 12-volume work called A Dance to the Music of Time that I read years ago and loved. It’s very much a roman à clef so I’m enjoying reading about Powell’s friends and family members who served as models. For me, reading this biography is like eating a very rich dessert. Not only is Powell’s life fascinating but Spurling’s writing is wonderful.
Since I don’t expect lots of other people to share this enthusiasm, I thought I would briefly list some of the books I’ve enjoyed recently that are of more general interest.
Actress by Anne Enright. This novel, about the relationship between a young girl and her famous actress mother, circles around and back through their lives. It requires–and rewards–your attention for it’s understanding of the blessings and curses of fame. Some of the chapters are remarkable set pieces and there is some great material about writing at the end. Enright is a tough, unsentimental author who gets right to the heart of emotions.
Monogamy by Sue Miller. It’s been a while since Miller had a new book out. She’s an excellent writer of domestic fiction, quiet novels that surprise the reader with insight. This one’s about a woman married to a charismatic bookseller. He dies suddenly and she has to cope with sadness and secrets.
Spying on the South: Travels with Frederick Law Olmsted in a Fractured Land by Tony Horwitz. Olmsted, the great parks designer, spent time in the South before the Civil War to learn more about slavery and Southern culture. Horwitz travels in Olmsted’s footsteps; his story is s doozy, full of wit and surprises. If you haven’t encountered Horwitz before, this is travel writing at its best.
The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai. Winner of the National Book Award, this lovely novel traces the relationship between a young Indian woman, orphaned and living with her cantankerous grandfather, and her tutor, a young man caught up in the political turmoil of the Nepalese independence movement. (There’s much more going on here than that simple statement.)