Last Week’s Reading: February 19-25


Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders: I confess that this is the first George Saunders book I’ve read, and now I get what all the hype is about. The novel takes place on one night, in the graveyard where young Willie Lincoln’s body has been delivered. His grieving father, faced with the loss of his son and the looming loss of his country (the war is not going well), visits the cemetery, to the surprise of the resident ghosts. Mr. Saunders stretches the form of the novel in unexpected directions, and the result is polyphonous, nuanced, joyful and terrible, and—dare I say it?—Joycean, in a good way. Highly recommended.

Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates: Everything there is to say about this book, a father’s letter to his son about moving through American life in a black body, has already been said, I think, but: yes, it’s searing, bleak, and galvanizing. And the writing is beautiful. Highly recommended.

Peacock & Vine, by A. S. Byatt: As an object, this book is covetable—gorgeous thick paper, a carefully chosen font, around 50 full-page photos—but I closed it and wished for more. It’s an essay, A. S. Byatt is careful to say, that through various lenses considers the lives and work of the artists Mariano Fortuny and William Morris. I knew a bit about Morris coming into the book, but nothing about textile designer Fortuny, and in both cases I felt out of my depth because of my lack of knowledge. Byatt’s writing is gorgeous, of course—is there a writer who can describe color better?—but I think this book is best suited for people particularly interested in the two designers. Made me want a Fortuny coffee-table book, though.

Look, by Solmaz Sharif: In Look, Ms. Sharif’s debut collection, poetry is an act of witnessing, even when what is witnessed is erasure. These poems focus on the way war destroys or maims the body, relationships, and language itself. A powerful, sad, cohesive collection. Highly recommended.

(The library was good to me this week, as you can see. Wish I’d had time to write longer reviews!)

11 thoughts on “Last Week’s Reading: February 19-25

  1. I have a library hold on Lincoln in Bardo. It will be my first from Saunders as well. I’m looking forward to it.

    This is one of the few Byatts I’ve never read, but you’ve reassured me that I don’t desperately need to go in search of it. I picked up Unruly Times, her book on Wordsworth and Coleridge, secondhand over the weekend.

  2. The library has been very good to me of late, as well. I just wish I didn’t have to send so many back, unread.
    I haven’t read any George Saunders yet, either, but have Tenth of December on my bookshelf. I’ll likely get to that one first… eventually.

  3. That’s an impressive, diverse selection of books! “Lincoln in the Bardo” sounds interesting, so we’ll definitely be checking that out. Great work!

  4. The only one I’ve read is the Coates essay: I echo your thoughts on it. It’s nice when the library loans come together in a satisfying way!

  5. I’m getting a proof of Lincoln in the Bardo – a coworker is reading it now and loving it – and you’re right about AS Byatt and colour; nobody does it better.

  6. I am waiting for Lincoln in the Bardo in the mail! I also need to finish Between the World and Me…I picked it up during a time when I was overwhelmed but hope to re-start soon.

  7. Lincoln in the Bardo was most unusual, and in a good way. I read it in one day! That’s how engaging it was.

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