Reading an Author for the First Time

One of the pleasures of literature is reading authors one hasn’t tried before. Sure, it’s great to read or reread multiple novels by your favorite writers, but the thrill of the new is also a lure for most of us.

In this post, I’m going to discuss four of the authors I read for the first time during the past few weeks — working backwards chronologically — and then ask which authors have been new for you in the not-too-distant past.

I just finished a novel today by Penelope Fitzgerald, an author I wasn’t aware of until she was mentioned a few weeks ago (the “recommender” is credited in the comments section below). Offshore is a short, quirky book about various people living near each other in houseboats on England’s River Thames. One of the things that gives the Booker-winning novel its appeal is the way those different houseboat dwellers comprise an extended family of sorts, with all the positives and negatives that entails.

Last week, The Hypnotist’s Love Story was my introduction to Australian novelist Liane Moriarty (suggested by several people also credited in the comments section below). That Moriarty book is engaging, original, suspenseful, psychologically aware, and written like a dream. It’s about a hypnotherapist (Ellen) who starts dating a guy (Patrick) who’s being stalked by an ex-girlfriend (Saskia) who becomes a patient of Ellen’s without Ellen initially knowing Saskia is the stalker. Pretty clever plot!

Before trying Moriarty’s work, I read Sue Grafton’s first three “alphabet mysteries”: A is for Alibi, B is for Burglar, and C is for Corpse. As mystery/thriller/detective novels go, those three books have “whodunit” plots that are very good but not extraordinary. The major appeal is private investigator Kinsey Millhone, who is smart but not drop-dead brilliant, brave but also anxious at times, warm, funny, down-to-earth, and not exactly wealthy. One can really relate to her — in contrast with someone like Lee Child’s Jack Reacher (who I love but who is practically superhuman) and Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes (the ultra-brainy sleuth legend).

Prior to reading Grafton’s third mystery, I enjoyed Alexander Pushkin’s adventure/romance The Captain’s Daughter. I had previously read a good deal of 19th-century Russian literature — including various works by Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Gogol, Turgenev, and Chekhov — and was happy to see firsthand that Pushkin deserved to be in the top ranks along with those other iconic writers. In fact, he was born before those five men, and influenced some of them.

Pushkin (of course) and Penelope Fitzgerald are now-deceased authors, while Sue Grafton and Liane Moriarty are very much with us.

Before Pushkin, I recently read for the first time Benjamin Blake (A Death in Summer), Raymond Chandler (The Big Sleep), Walter Mosley (Devil in a Blue Dress and A Red Death), James Michener (Tales of the South Pacific), Patricia Highsmith (Ripley’s Game), Jean-Paul Sartre (Nausea), Evan S. Connell (Mrs. Bridge), Abigail Tarttelin (Golden Boy), and Julia Alvarez (In the Time of the Butterflies), among other authors. All were excellent or at least interesting — and well worth the hours spent.

But I will get back to reading or rereading more authors I’ve read before: Isabel Allende, James Baldwin, Charlotte Brontë, the aforementioned Lee Child and Dostoyevsky (can’t believe I just put those two writers in the same clause 🙂 ), Fannie Flagg, Henry James, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Philip Roth, Lionel Shriver, Donna Tartt, Edith Wharton…

Which authors have you recently read for the first time?

The box for submitting comments is below already-posted comments, but your new comment will appear at the top of the comments area — unless you’re replying to someone.

On April 2, I’ll be writing a blog post about my new book Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Authors and the Greatest Novels of All Time: The Book Lover’s Guide to Literary Trivia.

In addition to doing this weekly blog, I also write the award-winning “Montclairvoyant” topical-humor column — now with Baristanet.com, which covers Montclair, N.J., and nearby towns. The latest weekly column is here.

90 thoughts on “Reading an Author for the First Time

    • Glad you’re liking it, Bill! Dostoyevsky is just an amazing author to read.

      There are also some novels I finally read recently (two examples being Maugham’s “Of Human Bondage” and D.H. Lawrence’s “Sons and Lovers”) that I wondered why I hadn’t gotten to much earlier. 🙂

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  1. So many classics and authors I have read when a teenager. Then it was cool to take about authors to friends and who has covered more of them. Now perhaps who landed a cool boyfriend.
    I still remember TKAM Dave, one distant relative brought the book to me and wanted me to read, oh did I read it !
    Same with Somerset Maugham , I don`t remember which book I read first.
    A.J. Cronin , Citadel , The Keys of the Kingdom
    Ernest Hemingway ” Old man and the sea.
    Much later I read ” Of Mice and Men “, you heart breaks to read the book.

    There are so many good books , so little time, wish DT goes away so I can focus 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, bebe! Reading Harper Lee and “To Kill a Mockingbird” for the first time — what an amazing feeling! Steinbeck and Maugham, too. I have more mixed feelings about Hemingway, and haven’t gotten to A.J. Cronin yet. And, yes, our teen years were often when we read various authors for the first time.

      DT is indeed a time waster. I spend more time than I used to each day keeping up with the news, and thus have somewhat less time for novels. Maybe we can sue that mean-spirited creep for literary deprivation. 🙂

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      • Now I think The Razor’s Edge I read first. On Hemingway his personality is bothersome. if alive I am sure he would vote for DT.
        I wish I listen to news less then DT says something insulting which makes me feel like screaming.

        Here is the joke

        Eric Lipton‏Verified account @EricLiptonNYT 22h22 hours ago
        More
        Ivanka at meeting with German Chancellor. Why?

        Capulcu Tonella‏
        @diehimbeertonis

        More
        .@EricLiptonNYT Looks like Merkel asks herself the same question internally

        Liked by 1 person

        • bebe, my first Maugham novel was “The Painted Veil” — not his best, but pretty darn good. “The Razor’s Edge” is excellent! And, yes, Hemingway’s personality colors my feelings about his books a bit — plus his terse, often-macho writing is not my thing. But I did like “For Whom the Bell Tolls” a lot, and “The Old Man and the Sea” is pretty good, too.

          Ivanka met with Merkel? Didn’t know that. Love the look on Merkel’s face! The very smart German chancellor must think the Trump family is a bunch of unsavory, greedy, narcissistic dolts. And she’s right!

          Liked by 1 person

          • Nepotism Ivanka invited herself !
            It was in yahoo
            Was in yahoo..
            Angela Merkel’s powerful side-eye at Ivanka Trump is asking the question we’re all wondering

            Ivanka Trump gatecrashed Angela Merkel’s ill-fated summit with Donald Trump Friday, the latest in a line of questionable appearances at gatherings where she probably doesn’t really belong.

            The reality TV star, businesswoman and jewelry vendor had a seat next to the German chancellor, who has a Ph.D. in chemistry and speaks fluent Russian, for the roundtable discussion with German and U.S. business leaders. Twitter was quick to spot a theme in the photos that emerged from the encounter.

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            • Thanks for that information, bebe! Trump’s children — whether daughters or sons — do NOT belong at that sort of thing. Not that the illegitimate president belongs, either…

              Maybe Ivanka can now sell side-eye-themed jewelry? 🙂

              Liked by 1 person

  2. In one of our recent threads, I mentioned a book I had bought off a table $1!– on the basis of its title, “The Financial Lives of the Poets”, by Jess Walter. Well, I fibbed a little. I was also swayed more than slightly by the blurbs in front.

    Here is a fun read, as blurbs like to say, but the sort of fun than can induce a knowing wince or three along the way, and several sardonic laughs as well.

    Written in the first person, TFLOTP concerns the plight of newspaperman Matt Prior, a former financial columnist in a middling daily, who read his own copy and invested, as it turns out, unwisely. In the dope world, this is known as getting high on your own supply, and nearly always ends badly, as it does here, although it is but one sort of investment that comes to the dissecting attentions of the narrator once he is in the throes of an intractable money crisis.

    His house is underwater, his wife’s job, now she has returned to work after a season of stay-home parenting, pays her a fraction of what she used to make, his kids are both in a private school he cannot pay for– all this would be bad enough, but there’s more. A few years before, in the flush of the dot.com bubble, he had quit his job, started his own website of financial advice– in mostly blank verse, though other poetic forms are also employed. Amazingly, this proves to be met with very little enthusiasm by investors of every stripe, and all he’s got to show for his efforts is more debt.

    One night, with the house about to go into death-spiral foreclosure, Matt goes out to the 7-11 for a jug of milk. There he meets a couple of stoners, and for no good reason, takes a toke on a proffered joint in the parking lot. What happens next is one wrong move after another, amplified by sleeplessness, desperation, revenge, tenderness and cops.

    Walter has a discerning ear for many types of American speech, and has written a sort of cri de coeur for the generation a couple decades younger, and more than a bit attached to material symbols than my old self. There is much rueful wisdom to be had, and laughs. The sort of laughs you get when you see old things in new ways, thanks to the eye and sensibility and able craftsmanship of the author.

    Incidentally, as some may know Matthew Prior was an 18th century poet. There are a good many poetic references (and a good many original poems) sprinkled throughout, which is fun for English majors like myself, proud to have spotted the ones I spotted, mindful of the great likelihood I missed several.

    I plan to read more Jess Walter, at least his earlier novels “Citizen Vince” and “The Zero”. He has also written, curiously, a book on Ruby Ridge a while back (titled “Ruby Ridge”) which the NYT called “a stunning job of reporting”!

    Liked by 1 person

    • “The Financial Lives of the Poets” sounds like quite a novel, at any price. And hard to beat the title! Thanks, jhNY, for the summary of the book and the info about its author!

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      • In the interest of brevity, I left out a few things– one of them being that Matt Prior returned on reduced salary to his old newspaper, before being let go. The description of the management creature that takes over the place and succeeds by degrees to destroy it will make you laugh and cry; you’ve worked for this guy, or several– anybody in a failing business has. Jess Walter has deep love for his old profession, and yours.

        Next time I lash together a package for USPS I will make one for you too, and in it, among others, will be this very book. I sincerely believe you will enjoy “The Financial Lives of the Poets” .

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        • Oh yes, I’ve worked for managers like that (on magazines, newspapers, etc.). Some of the lowest of the low in high positions. And, yes, managers often want employees to work for lower pay but rarely reduces what they (the managers) are paid for their incompetence.

          I would indeed like to read that book one of these days! Thanks, jhNY! Would be happy to mail it back.

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  3. First thing that came to mind when I saw the week’s topic:

    On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer
    by John Keats

    Much have I travell’d in the realms of gold,
    And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
    Round many western islands have I been
    Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
    Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
    That deep-brow’d Homer ruled as his demesne;
    Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
    Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
    Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
    When a new planet swims into his ken;
    Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
    He star’d at the Pacific—and all his men
    Look’d at each other with a wild surmise—
    Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

    George Chapman’s translation, by which Keats was astounded was not new, but rather, an Elizabethan product, first published in 1616– by most descriptions a free and vigorous work, which contrasts to its profit with later tamer efforts by Dryden and Pope– at least that would seem to be Keats’ judgment, who had undoubtedly read both.

    Of course, Keats was wrong about Cortez, who was neither stout nor the explorer who stumbled over a mountain and saw the largest of the world’s oceans.

    from wikipedia:
    “In point of historical fact, it was the members of Vasco Núñez de Balboa’s expedition who were the first Europeans to see the eastern shore of the Pacific (1513), but Keats chose to focus on Hernán Cortés; “Darien” refers to the Darién province of Panama. Keats had been reading William Robertson’s History of America and apparently conflated two scenes there described: Balboa’s finding of the Pacific and Cortés’s first view of the Valley of Mexico (1519).”

    But he was right about everything else– the thrill of discovering an author, or in his case, a translator, with scope and insight and transformative power– it’s a lot like finding a new world– in such a book, and, miraculously, in oneself.

    In recent years, becoming acquainted with ETA Hoffmann, Giuseppe di Lampedusa, Bruno Shulz, Stendahl and Krzhizhanovsky has allowed me to explore several ‘new planets’, as Keats would have it– and I am better for it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Greatly appreciate your eloquent, metaphorical comment, jhNY. “…the thrill of discovering an author [is] a lot like finding a new world” — so true!

      I should add that I tried Lampedusa and Hoffmann on your recommendations, and was very glad I did! “The Leopard” novel and “The Sandman” short story by those respective writers are superb.

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  4. Reading a book by an author for the first time is more challenging and interesting than reading other books written by authors that I am already familiar with. If one is familiar with an author, he or she might know an author’s style, diction, and syntax, making the book more comfortable yet less challenging.. It leads one to focus expectations on plot. For me, J.D.Salinger was the most controversial. When I read it for the first time, I read a translated version. At that time, I was 12 or 13 years old. Apart from novels that I previously read, the narration of the protagonist, Holden Caulfield was very unexpected. It was filled with negative portrayals of people and object, using words such as “phony” and “cheesy”.It was very surprising for me because no other novel portrayed world as negative as this book.

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    • Great points, and well said! Reading an author for the first time is indeed usually more challenging and interesting — perhaps out of our comfort zone. Though of course reading or rereading an author again also has its appeal!

      Twelve or 13 is a very good age to first read “The Catcher in the Rye.” I didn’t get to it until college, at which time I was already a bit cynical about how J.D. Salinger depicted Holden Caulfield’s cynicism. 🙂

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  5. Hi Dave … I hope you’re having a wonderful week so far; I know the weather is awful (good book-reading weather, right?) I tend to be one of those who goes back to the familiar — I can’t tell you how many times I’ve re-read “To Kill A Mockingbird”, for example. Over the past year, however, I’ve read a lot more authors for the first time: Paula Hawkins (“The Girl on the Train”), John Ajvide Lindqvist (“Harbor”), Lee Child (“The Killing Floor”), Peter Swanson (“The Kind Worth Killing”), and Marisha Pessl (“Night Film”). My bilateral cataract surgery is scheduled for the first 2 weeks in April (one eye one week, the next eye the following week) and I have a feeling I’m going to thereafter be reading everything I can get my hands on again, including cereal boxes, lol. I can’t wait. As much as I love the weight, texture, and smell of books, I have to say my Kindle e-reader has been indispensable as my cataracts have increasingly changed my vision. As long as we’re reading, that’s the important thing 🙂

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    • Well, my week has been “interesting,” with the weather and a few other things. 🙂 But, yes, snowstorms can be excellent for reading inside! Hope your week has been good, though it can’t be a great feeling anticipating the cataract surgeries. But the results of the surgeries are worth looking forward to! Kindles, and their adjustable font sizes, do come in handy! Funny aside by you about cereal boxes.

      Along with trying new authors, I also enjoy reading many books by a particular author, and rereading some novels. (But I’ve only read “To Kill a Mockingbird” twice. 🙂 ) You’ve certainly read a number of interesting authors for the first time in recent months!

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      • Hi Dave, I have to admit I have not read a single page of any book this week, my mind was preoccupied with all the lies that DT spills and never ever is sorry or apologizes. Already started campaigning for 2020.
        This could be me

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        • Oh my gosh, bebe, I needed this so much! I was just thinking the other day that we just need to put large amounts of valium in the water supply if he’s going to remain in office … but then I thought, no way, because then we wouldn’t have the rage it’s going to require to kick him out of the WH. He’s seriously causing global ulcers. But I am so thankful for that tiny little girl in the yellow sweater who interrupted her dad’s BBC interview … we needed some sweetness and genuine feel-good laughter in the news, That clip was a temporary Trump-antidote.

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          • HA….so true…send to my husband from his friend who was in MD Anderson, could not figure out who mad this. That could be me or you in the picture Pat. I love the video also on the man in Seoul and his family. Trevor Noah satirical video I was trying to find.

            We need to laugh, last thing I watch Rachel Maddow a bit, her cool demeanor and story telling makes me feel good. I understand in home she does not even own a TV.

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    • Hi Pat, I went through bilateral cataract surgery almost 8 years ago (mine was from chronic use of Prednisone for my asthma problems, so I was younger than most everyone else that goes through it does), and it made such a wonderful change in my life. Before I had it done, I went with a friend to see “Wicked” on Broadway, and I loved the music, but I couldn’t get the full effect of the costumes and staging because of my poor eyesight. Once I had the surgery, the whole world seemed to open again and be bright and beautiful instead of dull and gray. To use the analogy from “The Wizard of Oz,” it was like living in Kansas and waking up in Oz.

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      • Hey Dave, well it only took me two days to finally figure out to get my avatar to show up on your site. Yes, that is me, sitting in my den with two big bookshelves behind me, though you can’t see much of them or the beautiful painting my father gave my mother years ago. But it’s somewhat gratifying to learn something new, even if it seemed to take forever! 🙂

        Liked by 3 people

        • That’s a terrific photo of you, Kat Lib! And one does get a sense of what’s in the background.

          When it comes to things digital, it often takes me a while to figure things out, too. 🙂

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          • Aw, bebe, thanks so much — I was going to say the same thing about your awesome…basketball?! 🙂 Anyway, I loved your video above about T.I.A.D., as I’ve been suffering too. In the morning, I usually catch up with the news headlines, then the satiric comedy of whichever was on the previous night: Seth Meyers, Trevor Noah, Sam Bee, John Oliver, and/or Stephen Colbert. After that I watch “The Rachel Maddow Show,” which I love, because she always does such great research and gives a little historical background to her lead story. I know some don’t like that because many folks these days have the attention span of a gnat. This morning after watching some of these shows and Rachel, I came storming out of my den and yelling, I can’t take much more of this! (which definitely scared my friend Bill)!

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            • I too watch Rachel Maddow, but have come to also appreciate the patient intelligence of Chris Hayes, who precedes her show nightly on MSNBC. If you haven’t already, give Chris Hayes a try!

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              • I first watched Chris Hayes when he started out on weekends and enjoyed him a lot. However, I don’t think I can get him the next day on MSNBC on-line (even Rachel’s show is not shown in its entirety) or even On-Demand. Yes, I could DVR his shows, but I’ve limited time during the day when I could watch him, but I may give it another try, because he’s definitely very good at what he does.

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                  • I sleep through the first half of her show– I keep late hours, usually going to bed around 4AM– sadly, this means I miss Joy and also the brightest rays of the sun. Wish she had a show where Greta now appears. I’d wish she could replace the blowhard Matthews , but he seems welded to the network for reasons I can’t bother to speculate about.

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                    • Bed at 4 AM…? Must be peaceful at night to be awake, I am sure there is a charm there. I wake up so early which is annoying..before 5 AM, but go to bed early enough.
                      Joy is really a Joy, Harvard educated, I keep the TV on but difficult to be glued on at that time. Greta / Chuck..both not worth watching. Now I convince my husband to watch PBS news hour with Judy Woodruff…awesome. But if I am not looking he turns on Matthews as a habit 🙂

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                • That Chris Matthews is one obnoxious fellow, who like a blind pig, by rooting in the ground constantly, does occasionally comes up with a nut– which he eats without sharing anything much beyond the noise of his mastication.

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                  • HA…he gets faster and faster and asks a question and overlaps the guest by talking over. Good they got rid of Ed, now on Putin TV and so we get Chris Hayes another gem.

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                    • Thom Hartmann is also with RT, and like Ed, has more than occasionally been a bit of light in an otherwise dark sort of place. And Larry King! He too graces the suites of RT, peddling suspenders and radio voice as per always. Must be a gamble, on each of their parts, to work for a propaganda arm of Russia. For King at least, I can’t imagine he has any financial need to do so– guess it’s hard becoming formerly famous. For Ed and Thom, that has so far been a problem that eludes them, even though one imagines himself to be Working Stiff Everyman, and the other, the work-shirted conscience of ineffectual liberalism. All are easier on the eyes and ears than Chris Matthews.

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                    • Thom Hartmann ? Oh way oh why ? Is money that important to them, I understand it is a livelihood. But RT ? Larry King perhaps voted for DT, who knows.

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            • I am for KU Jayhawks as always..wonderful distraction away from DT.
              Lies and more lies, I also listen we need to be well informed. Maddow is my favorite , she is more like a night time security. All these you mention is to keep our sanity .
              Last few days they are all after rachael, some are envious because it has been said her ratings even bat FOX or CNN.

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        • OK, another true confession to all and not sure where to put it; however, I’ve done something I swore never to do, which is to watch “Jeopardy” and “Wheel of Fortune” every night as my parents would do when I went to visit them when both were alive.

          Bill (who’s older than I) loves to watch these after the evening news, and I’ve decided to support him in this, as he does with many of my own quirks. I’m also quite good at both shows, and it’s amazing how many answers to questions on “Jeopardy” categories have something to do with something that arose recently on this blog. I often read about how good puzzles and such are to keep one’s mind young, so I’m relying on those as much as just reading a book.

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          • Nothing wrong with watching some of the better stuff on TV, Kat Lib, especially when there’s some family/family nostalgia involved! I’ve literally never watched “Wheel of Fortune,” so I know little about it, but I used to love “Jeopardy” back in the days when I watched TV. (I’m sure it’s still excellent.) Great that such an intelligent game show that exercises the mind is still on! Not surprised that you’re good at “Jeopardy,” and nice that some answers are on topics mentioned in this blog!

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            • I was perturbed today to discover that the only remaining political website that I used to enjoy commenting on, Salon.com, has now gone the way of HuffPo, where it appears one must do so through a Facebook account. I still have no desire to join FB, so another one of my small pleasures has gone away. Which is probably just as well, considering the number of trolls that have taken over that comment section, so I’ll just continue to post here as my one oasis of sanity, which still remains as one devoted to literature and the arts in general, though we’ve been had to veer into politics recently due to DJT. Sad!

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              • Sorry about that, Kat Lib. I’m on Facebook myself, and usually find it enjoyable and useful, but joining it should be a totally voluntary thing — not something one has to do to continue commenting on a site. Seems to be just another example of corporations clumping together and maximizing profit-making/cost-cutting.

                Thank you very much for your kind remarks about this blog, which you and others make what it is! 🙂 It’s definitely nice to have an “oasis of sanity,” as you note, especially in times like these. And, yes, there’s no way NOT to veer into politics somewhat because of the Voldemort-in-Chief, but I guess we’re all making it just one of the things we talk about. Funny one-word ending to your comment!

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                • Dave, if there hadn’t been that whole FB debacle on HuffPo, I may never have followed you over to this wonderful site, so sometimes good things happen after bad. Is that one of Trump’s now infamous Irish proverbs? (If you’ve been keeping up with all of the gaffes his administration had been making on St. Patrick’s Day, which I say as someone half-Irish by osmosis.) 🙂

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                  • True, Kat Lib. Sometimes there are silver linings. Heck, I might not have started this blog if HuffPo had treated its commenters and bloggers better. And, yes, Trump was his usual gaffe riot on St. Patrick’s Day — making all of us turn green for the wrong reasons. 😦

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    • Joseph, I’ve mentioned on this column before about how “Bleak House” was a required book to read in my senior English year. I think I was the only one in my class who actually read the entire book, but I did enjoy it very much. There was also a very good BBC production of it; one of the stars was Gillian Anderson of the X-Files fame.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, I heard about that! It’s got Carey Mulligan in it, and the guy who plays Tywin Lannister in Game of Thrones (as Tulkinghorn, of course). I definitely look forward to watching it once I finish reading the book.

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  6. Dave, I’ve been trying to come up with new novelists that I’ve recently read, but it seems that I’ve been sticking to authors I’ve read before that blew me away so much, I keep wanting to read all their other books. This includes authors I’ve probably mentioned many times before, including “Still Alice” by Lisa Genova, “Sister” by Rosamond Lupton, “The Fault in Our Stars,” by John Green, “Where’d You Go, Bernadette,” by Maria Semple, and the novel mentioned elsewhere in this column, “What Alice Forgot,” by Liane Moriarty.

    I’ve also been reading a lot of memoirs recently, e.g., “Dog Medicine,” by Julie Barton, “When Breath Becomes Air,” by Paul Kalanithi, and “Just Kids,” by Patti Smith. The first was about a woman suffering severe depression with thoughts of suicide, and how adopting a golden retriever saved her life; the second one was written by a neurosurgeon who is diagnosed with colorectal cancer (stage 4) at age 36 and confronting his own mortality; the last one was Patti Smith writing about her time in NYC in the late 60’s, early 70’s with Robert Mapplethorpe. My best friend wouldn’t read it because of negative feelings about Mapplethorpe, but I must say it was extremely well written and I look forward to her latest memoir “M Train.”.

    By the way, I just read an article on Salon, I think, about the book “The Circle,” by Dave Eggers, and saying how great it was. Anyone here know anything about it, and whether it’s worthwhile? I was interested to read that there’s a movie coming out with Tom Hanks and Emma Watson, both of whom I adore.

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    • That’s okay, Kat Lib. 🙂 Working through the canons of favorite authors is a wonderful thing, and I’ve done it myself on occasion — bingeing on Dickens, Atwood, Steinbeck, Colette, Zola, Willa Cather, L.M. Montgomery, and a few others.

      I have a memory of someone mentioning “The Circle” in this blog a while back, but can’t recall the specific person.

      I enjoy memoirs, too, though I haven’t read many recently. Some of the best ones are almost like novels. The three you skillfully described sound very compelling.

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      • So, Dave, I was going to comment on each of the memoirs I just read back-to-back, all of which had a special meaning for me, but the one standout from my perspective was “Dog Medicine.” I’m sure I’ve shared with you and other commenters my struggles with severe depression 30 years ago, and I’ll have to be on anti-depressants and anti-anxiety meds for the rest of my life, but I’d not been able to fully understand the absolute joy and comfort a dog can make in one’s life.

        I adore the cats I’ve had through the years, especially my Jessie that has been my companion for the past four or five years, but there is nothing like a dog that loves you unconditionally. Willow is a small dog, mostly Chihuahua and perhaps Pomeranian, but she’s completely devoted to me and fearless when it comes to protecting me from any person or other animal, sometimes to my chagrin, yet I feel the same way about her. When a neighbor’s Rottweiler across the street was off the leash, it came charging toward us and I stepped in front of Willow to protect her. The Rottie was actually rather benign, but I didn’t know that at the time. I now understand the way a parent will do whatever they can to protect one of their children. Sorry if this is something I’ve already mentioned here. I know I’ve got a tendency to do that! 🙂

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        • Thanks, Kat Lib, for those thoughts on the wonderful qualities of a dog! They are indeed amazing, loving, loyal animals — and I can totally understand you wanting to return the favor. Loved your comment!

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    • Kat Lib, specifically due to your comments about Liane Moriarty, I have been wanting to read one of her books. There are several, so I was wondering if you could suggest a starting point?

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I read far too many books, so there are always some authors who are new to me. Recently I read my first book by A.B. Yehoshua, “The Extra.” His writing is sophisticated and accomplished, but I think I prefer his fellow Israeli Amos Oz. Another author I’d never read was John Edgar Wideman, whose “Writing to Save a Life: The Emmet Till File” interweaves history and authobiography in an exploration of bllack manhood. Both of these writers are over seventy and have been prolific, but somehow I never got around to reading them.
    I decided to try the latest book by Javier Marias, “Thus Bad Begins,” which is about historical memory, especially of the Spanish Civil War and the Franco era. Marias is extremely popular and I can sort of see why, although now that I’ve tasted his style I feel I may have had enough.
    A writer new to me who isn’t at all well known is Joan London, frrom Perth Australia. She’s well-known in Australia, of course. I read a book called “The Golden Age,” which is set in a home for children recovering from polio in the early 1950s . Her writing is deceptively plain, but her characters and insights are deep, and the book is wise and humane.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Jean, for mentioning those authors — only one of whom was familiar to me (John Edgar Wideman, who I might or might not have read years ago). Very nice descriptions/summaries of some of their work! I will give at least one of those authors a try.

      Literature relating to the Spanish Civil War can be really compelling — that’s certainly the case with Hemingway’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls.”

      Like

  8. Howdy, Dave!

    — Which authors have you recently read for the first time? —

    Thanks to you and other members of the DAOLiterati, I have begun reading Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy, starting with “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.” I like David Fincher’s derivative film, so it is unsurprising I love Larsson’s novel, at least in its initial hundred pages.

    I expect to also read this year both “The Girl Who Played With Fire” and “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest.” (However, I suspect I will not get around any time soon to David Lagercrantz’s “The Girl in the Spider’s Web,” so it could be a good long while before he qualifies as an author who I have recently read for the first time.)

    J.J. (Alias MugRuith1)

    Liked by 1 person

    • That trilogy is so great, J.J. All three books are total page-turners, plus I love the way Stieg Larsson threads in all kinds of exposure of corruption — governmental, corporate, etc.

      I have no plans to read the fourth book, either. I just don’t like the idea of someone else taking over the “franchise” — especially given that the late Larsson’s significant other was apparently against it.

      Like

      • — All three books are total page-turners, plus I love the way Stieg Larsson threads in all kinds of exposure of corruption — governmental, corporate, etc. —

        Based on this multifaceted approach, I am guessing the novelist was also pretty good in his previous incarnation as a left-wing researcher into right-wing extremism in Sweden, the results of which, of course, came in handy while he was writing “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.”

        — I have no plans to read the fourth book, either. I just don’t like the idea of someone else taking over the “franchise” —

        Me, neither.

        — especially given that the late Larsson’s significant other was apparently against it. —

        Well, I most likely will take a pass on anything Eva Gabrielsson produces along a similar line, too.

        Liked by 1 person

        • It does seem like Larsson’s prior career was perfect preparation for his trilogy (whose Lisbeth Salander character is about as memorable as can be).

          And I agree — I’m done with that series no matter who possibly writes another sequel.

          Like

    • Fascinating former approach to reading you had, Almost Iowa! I kind of like it, but not sure I could have sustained it because I also enjoy older novels so much.

      “It made for a rough January” — ha! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • I was a high school dropout and got a job on a loading dock for a few years. Trucks would only come by once an hour which left me a lot of time to read. I spent most of my time reading the classics then I got bored with it and switched to contemporary literature.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Dave, I’m trying to enter a comment and it’s preventing the blog from accepting it again. This is the second time it’s happened. When I try to enter it again it says, “duplicate entry”. So this time I’ve copied the comment and I’ll paste it here and see if it accepts it.

    Every year I like to read at least a few authors I’ve never read before in addition to all those novels by authors with whom I’m very familiar but still haven’t read. To limit it to this year, I’ve read six books so far, two by authors I’ve read previously but not very much of (Joyce Carol Oates, James Lee Burke) and four by authors I’m reading for the first time.

    I began the year with Zadie Smith’s ‘White Teeth’. This is an amazing debut novel, also amazing considering Smith was around 25 when she published it. It’s also incredibly confident. For one thing, it deals with ethnic groups I’m not that familiar with in London and extends back to WW II and moves forward from the 70’s through the turn of the 21st century. There’s also an exhilarating, clever, humorous energy to the prose rhythm.

    R.A. Dick’s ‘The Ghost and Mrs. Muir’ is a novel that I felt I had already read through repeated viewings of one of my favorite films, the atmospheric movie from the mid-40’s with Gene Tierney and Rex Harrison. The movie was an excellent adaptation of the novel. The novel is not long but the film still needed to trim a couple of extraneous characters and incidents to make it more cinematic. It’s a very moving, trans-mortal romance.

    Sheryl Monks’ ‘Monsters in Appalachia’ is a debut short story collection that I had first noticed in a review in the e-mail newsletter I get from Booklist, Shelf Awareness. There was something about the stories as described by the reviewer that piqued my interest so I made a purchase suggestion with the library. It arrived and was placed on hold for me so I felt I should be the first to read it. Again, although it is a debut book, there’s nothing novice about it. These are very evocative stories about lower income characters in what is being described, ironically, as Trump Country (someone had to inject him into the discussion so it may as well be me this time). Like most story collections, some are more impressive than others but it’s well worth checking out and it’s short so there’s not much of a time investment.

    Finally, I just finished a couple of hours ago Robert Coover’s ‘The Public Burning’. I have heard of Robert Coover for many years but wasn’t even aware that he was still living until I came across a Shelf Awareness review of his brand new novel, ‘Huck Out West’. This is, of course, another reworking of Huck Finn, actually a sequel in which Huck is grown. We’ve speculated in this blog about what Huck might have been like as an adult. Well, Coover gives us one scenario. Of course, I’m a sucker for ‘Huck Finn’ related stories so I put in a purchase request for this one as well and it was subsequently purchased and placed on hold for me. However, I felt I needed to read one of the author’s major novels from the past before reading this one which, as good as it might be, is still dependent on a classic American novel for its existence. So I discovered the 1977 novel ‘The Public Burning’. This is a carnival atmosphere absurd satire of the 1953 executions of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. Most of the novel is narrated by then Vice-President Richard Nixon and the rest is third person omniscient narration. The Nixon chapters are the most engaging. I actually felt sympathy for the poor deluded bastard. I’ve gone on so long I think I’ll shut up for now. However, if you want to know more about the novel, here’s the link to the review I just wrote of it:

    https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1940010090?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, bobess48! I’m glad your comment finally made it through. Sorry this blog gave you trouble posting for a second time.

      Great that you mix authors new to you with authors not new to you! I also read “White Teeth” recently — absolutely brilliant and hilarious. I didn’t include Zadie Smith in this week’s post because I had previously read one of her other novels a couple of years ago — “On Beauty,” also excellent, but I think I liked “White Teeth” a bit better.

      Would love to read “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir.” I even enjoyed the so-so TV series version of that.

      Read your wonderfully done review of “The Public Burning.” Thanks for linking to it! Sounds like a novel with a very different approach to the Rosenberg case than taken by E.L. Doctorow in his novel “The Book of Daniel.”

      Funny how Nixon, who can legitimately be criticized on MANY levels, seems almost decent compared to the despicable Trump — who you worked into your comment quite skillfully. 🙂

      Like

      • Nixon was actually an intelligent and skillful politician who also knew the in’s and out’s of American government, although obviously not enough to prevent him from attempting to subvert that law to serve his own agenda. But I think his ego and his paranoia overrode his rational mind more than anything else.

        I also read a short piece in our poet laureate’s magazine (TIME) on George W. Bush’s new book of paintings. Bush still has a lot of damage to answer for but I do believe that he sincerely believes he was doing his best. I think he also sees the opportunity now in view of the current tyrant, to improve his reputation a bit and indulging in art, especially paintings of veterans who were wounded primarily because of his decisions, is a way of doing that. I think he has an ulterior motive in this but at least it’s in the service of a sort of penance for what he did to these vets. Plus, he’s far more articulate and intelligible (hell, EVERY previous president is) than the Trumpster, who can’t even spell correctly in his tweets.

        But here I’ve gone and dumped on the Trump again. Seems to be a reflex reaction among us sensitive commentators on this blog.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Agreed — Nixon was smart, and savvy to a degree, while of course possessing the personality flaws you mentioned. But, heck, the EPA that Trump wants to trash started under Nixon.

          Yes, George W. Bush is no longer the worst president in U.S. history. 🙂 And I guess some of his paintings are a bit of penance; he seems (unlike Trump) to have a smidgen of a conscience. But, as you eloquently allude to, he is certainly a LONG way from sainthood.

          Like

  10. Hi Dave,

    I wish I could take credit for recommending Moriarty to you, but it wouldn’t have been me, as I’ve also just read my first! “Three Wishes” was everything that you said about “The Hypnotist’s Love Story” and more! Big thanks to Kat Lib for her recommendation.

    As mentioned in last week’s column, I’m also reading my first Thomas Keneally – “Schindler’s Ark”.

    If I spent the rest of my life re-reading favourites, and re-reading things that I don’t remember, I’d never run out of books, or tire of the ones that I’ve read multiple times. And I always feel like I’m taking a bit of a risk when reading a new author. I remember my Nan having books by Sidney Sheldon that as a young person, I thought were romantic and sexy. I don’t know if I actually read any of the novels when I was a teenager, but I know I definitely got around to giving Sheldon a go a few months ago (please don’t judge me) but never ever again. However a year or two before that, I was lucky enough to read my first Dostoyevsky, followed by my first Steinbeck. Both are now in my favourite author lists, and I need to hurry up and get to the second great novels by those authors.

    I’m curious about which Bronte you’ll be reading? Is it a ‘new’ book for you, or are you visiting a favourite? And I LOVE that this blog has Lee Child and Fyodor Dostoyevsky side by side!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oops, Sue — I thought you had been among the people recommending Liane Moriaty! Let me know if I should take your name out of that credit comment.

      A coincidence that you also read her for the first time! Glad (but not surprised) that “Three Wishes” was great. Ms. Moriarty is one heckuva novelist.

      Well, another benefit of reading authors for the first time is finding out/confirming there are some writers we DON’T like. Might do that with Ayn Rand one day. 🙂

      As for Charlotte Brontë, I hope to reread “Jane Eyre” yet again (for the seventh time), and I have yet to read her novel “Shirley.”

      “And I LOVE that this blog has Lee Child and Fyodor Dostoyevsky side by side” — me, too! So nice to read mass-market lit AND the classics.

      Like

      • Hi Dave, I was thrilled to see that you had enjoyed “The Hypnotist’s Love Story” by Liane Moriarity and Susan loving “Three Wishes” by the same author. I’m not sure that I’ve ever been so enamored of a modern novelist. I know I’ve told you that I became disabled six years ago, so I now have the time to read as much as I like (which doesn’t mean I would want to go through all of the medical trials and tribulations I’ve endured, but trying to find the silver lining in it all is the books I’ve been able to read).

        I’m not sure how I picked out my first book that Moriarity wrote, but I think it was one of those B&N “buy two, get one for free” deals I usually have no problem finding two, but often have trouble getting the third one — if I get a freebie, I want it to be a good one! The book happened to be “What Alice Forgot,” by Moriarity, which I adored, so I went on a quest to buy all of her books, which became easier because of the best-selling “The Husband’s Secret.” I’ve read all of her books twice, except her latest, which I’ll get to again quite soon. So nothing new right now, but I’m sure I’ll have more to add later. 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

        • Thank you, Kat Lib! I was so glad my local library had a Liane Moriarty novel. After just that one book, I also place her among my favor contemporary novelists — along with such writers as Donna Tartt, Lionel Shriver, Barbara Kingsolver, and Margaret Atwood. You have read an impressively large amount of Moriarty’s work!

          Being able to read a lot IS a silver lining, but having some disability is a very large price to pay.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Hey Pat, I was going to say that my first book by her was “What Alice Forgot,” so that has a special place in my heart, but really I’d recommend any one of her books, except perhaps her latest one, “Truly Madly Guilty,” but it’s the only one I’ve read just once, so I don’t have the same affection for it. They are all standalones with different characters, so it doesn’t matter whether you read them in order or not.

            Liked by 1 person

      • No worries about the comment, Dave. I’m happy to take credit 🙂 And we probably coincidentally read Moriarty at the same time as we had the same recommendation. I’ve not read Ayn Rand yet. I will one day, and will go in with an open mind, but I don’t expect to be blown away in a good way.

        I’m so glad to hear that you’re rereading “Jane Eyre”. It was such a pleasure for me to revisit “The Dark Tower” over Christmas. I know why we don’t allow ourselves those pleasures more often, but it really is worth the wait when we get there.

        I keep hearing about the terrible weather that’s hitting the north east. I hope you and the commenters from the area are keeping safe and are not too cold (she says while still sweltering under a fan!).

        Liked by 1 person

        • Susan, we may indeed have read Liane Moriarty around the same time!

          Now I’ve begun “Second Class Citizen” by British-based Nigerian author Buchi Emecheta — who died only a couple months ago. Excellent! One of the authors/novels I’ll mention next week. Seriously, I might try Ayn Rand someday, but not in the very near future.

          Yes, occasionally rereading novels and series we love is a wonderful, comforting pleasure — as it was for you with “The Dark Tower.” We know we’ll like those books, and we don’t have to figure out the plot, characters, writing rhythms, etc. — we already figured all that out!

          Definitely some snow and wind in New Jersey yesterday. My town got a fair amount of snow, but nothing like the 1-2 feet predicted. I hope other Northeast places fared as well.

          Ha! I’m a fan of fans — of literature and the ones that circulate air. 🙂

          Like

  11. Thanks to Liz Haigney Lynch for recommending Penelope Fitzgerald, and to Annie Barr, Kat Lib, Susan, and Ana for recommending Liane Moriarty! (Under previous columns, I credited the people who recommended Sue Grafton, Alexander Pushkin, and other authors I mentioned today.)

    Like

    • I just finished a book by Alice Hoffman and I have never read any of her work before. The book was called Opposites in Marriage and it was a fictionalized account of Camille Pissarro’s mother. I found the book tedious at times and am glad I finished it. I will try another book by this author.

      Liked by 1 person

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