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21 april 2017

Sibilla Aleramo's A Woman (Una donna, 1906) reminded me quite a bit of Elena Ferrante's My Brilliant Friend (L'amica geniale, 2011). Though I'm putting it preposterously. Elena Ferrante should remind one of Sibilla Aleramo. But that's assuming that people always read books in literary-historical order. We don't – not even when those books were written 105 years apart.     read more

17 april 2017

I've been intermittently interested in pithy sayings in this space over the years, so I was entertained to get a free-Kindle-book offer for Garson O'Toole's Hemingway Didn't Say That, a compendium of pieces from Quote Investigator, one of the more offbeat and tenacious projects on the Internet.     read more

16 april 2017

I love books about Arctic exploration, but for some reason I haven't reviewed many of them here. I did write a little, ten years ago, about Per Olof Sundman's novel The Flight of the Eagle. But in recent years I've also read books about Elisha Kent Kane and Adolphus Greely, plus Hampton Sides' In the Kingdom of Ice (about the lethal voyage of the Jeannette in the 1880s). All these books, like David Welky's new Wretched and Precarious Situation, share a common feature: the expeditions they chronicle were pretty comprehensively disastrous.     read more

10 april 2017

I missed reading Italo Calvino's If on a Winter's Night a Traveler when it first appeared in William Weaver's marvelous English in 1981. That is perhaps a good thing. If on a Winter's Night a Traveler has since become a classic in world literature and dated badly. I wonder if I would have been able to sit through it back in '81. I struggled enough with If on a Winter's Night a Traveler in 2017 – despite, for the most part, loving the novel extravagantly.     read more