a ragbag collection of this and that
I went to a very good party last night where there were mostly writers--poets, journalists, memoirists, novelists--and their hapless spouses and SOs, and there was a lot of talk about books. Not so much the ones being written (although there was some of that), but those being read and recommended. Here's a gleaning, from conversations and eavesdroppings:
Dashiel Hammett's letters (that was me)
Hammett's Red Harvest (I can't convince Charlie that it's a wonderful book)
Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential
Memento Mori, Muriel Spark
The Working Poor (forgot the author)
The Life of Pi (am I the only person who hasn't read this?)
Sylvia Plath's poetry (with a side conversation on Ted Hughes goodness or badness)
Oliver Sachs's books
the Helen MacInnes spy thrillers (this was me again)
Alistair MacLean (this was because at first I said Helen MacLean, conflating these 2 quite dissimilar spy-thriller writers)
Sarah Gridley's poems
Middlemarch, which several of us are reading, although I'm sadly behind.
Some other this-and-thats:
Some kind people have put together a list of underrated writers, a nice way to fulfill any New Year's resolutions you may have about reading more widely. I was charmed to find Elizabeth Bowen on this list, and also Michael Martone (who is very funny and off-the-wall) but most of them I haven't read--new literary fields to gambol in.
Worried about the state of the novel? He's not dead yet--here, from MrBFK is the report of a sighting.
If you're a fan of horror writer H.P. Lovecraft, you'll be delighted to hear that the Library of America had published an edition of his stories. In his review of this and a book-length essay on Lovecraft by the French novelist Michel Houellebecq, Luc Sante lists the fears that fed Lovecraft's horror:
He was also frightened of invertebrates, marine life in general, temperatures below freezing, fat people, people of other races, race-mixing, slums, percussion instruments, caves, cellars, old age, great expanses of time, monumental architecture, non-Euclidean geometry, deserts, oceans, rats, dogs, the New England countryside, New York City, fungi and molds, viscous substances, medical experiments, dreams, brittle textures, gelatinous textures, the color gray, plant life of diverse sorts, memory lapses, old books, heredity, mists, gases, whistling, whispering—
Well, who isn't afraid of gelatinous textures, I ask you?