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18 may 2015

The Perilous Road by William O. Steele, a Newbery Honor novel in 1959, brings a wealth of local color and historical detail to a well-focused coming-of-age story.     read more

10 may 2015

The Hundred Days (1935) is not the first book by Joseph Roth that you're supposed to read – that's The Radetzky March – and in fact The Hundred Days may be pretty much the last you should read, since it languished for a long time out of print in English. An American edition of Richard Panchyk's 2011 translation appeared just last fall, and who knows how long the novel will stay in print this time. But there were two good reasons for me to start reading Joseph Roth here and now: it's precisely two hundred years from the Hundred Days, Napoleon's return from exile that ended at Waterloo; and a paperback copy was on deep discount at a local used-book store.     read more

9 may 2015

Much Ado about Nothing is not a very informative title, and as Nick de Somogyi notes in the introduction to his 2006 edition of the play, "appears to disparage the preposterous froth of its own storyline" (xxviii). De Somogyi goes on to suggest some deeper meanings to the title, but the literal one does fine for a start: everybody gets all upset about a woman's unchastity and subsequent death, and then it turns out she's alive and a virgin and everybody's OK again. Much ado indeed.     read more

7 may 2015

Here was a book too unusual to pass up: a meditation on the materiality and mythology of Hell, by a Dutch geologist, translated into vivid English, handsomely illustrated, and bound in bright sulfur-colored buckram. It's a weird, autobiographical, expository, opinionated, magisterial journey to the center of the earth – and it's one of the best books I've read in a long time.     read more