Joan Didion, Play It as It Lays

Play It as It Lays by Joan Didion My rating: 5 of 5 stars She had announced her willingness to cause her subjects pain in Slouching towards Bethlehem, but at the heart of Didion's sense of morality and her sense of style, which cannot be separated, hurting the reader's feelings is also part of the … Continue reading Joan Didion, Play It as It Lays

Against Celebration: Bloomsday vs. Dallowayday

Two years ago, Elaine Showalter suggested that we balance Bloomsday (June 16, the day whereon Joyce's Ulysses is set) with Dallowayday: Like Joyce’s Ulysses, Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway is set in a single city on a single day: London on 13 June 1923. But while Bloomsday on 16 June is the occasion of riotous celebrations … Continue reading Against Celebration: Bloomsday vs. Dallowayday

Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood My rating: 3 of 5 stars Some books are so famous, so ubiquitous in the culture, that you feel you have read them well before you ever read them. You feel, in fact, that you don't need to read them. This is what kept me from reading The Handmaid's … Continue reading Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale

Adrienne Rich, Diving into the Wreck

Diving into the Wreck: Poems 1971-1972 by Adrienne Rich My rating: 3 of 5 stars In the blurb on the cover of this paperback, Margaret Atwood promises that this book "forces you to decide not just what you think about it, but what you think about yourself." Rich's seventh collection, written in the early '70s, … Continue reading Adrienne Rich, Diving into the Wreck

Toni Morrison, Paradise

Paradise by Toni Morrison My rating: 5 of 5 stars Paradise was not well received upon its publication in 1997—influential critics like Michiko Kakutani, James Wood, and Zoë Heller disparaged it, and even Oprah's audience, instructed to read it for the talk show host's book club, demurred, prompting Oprah to call Morrison to offer the … Continue reading Toni Morrison, Paradise

C. G. Jung, Answer to Job

Answer to Job by C.G. Jung My rating: 3 of 5 stars The back cover advertises Answer to Job as "one of Jung's most controversial works." He wrote it toward the end of his life, in the early 1950s, and according to the introduction to the 2010 edition by Sonu Shamdasani, he composed it in … Continue reading C. G. Jung, Answer to Job

Susanna Rowson, Charlotte Temple

Charlotte Temple by Susanna Rowson My rating: 2 of 5 stars Often called America's first bestseller, Charlotte Temple (1791) is a short didactic novel of primarily historical interest. In this, it is similar to Hannah Webster Foster's The Coquette; both short novels urge their young female readers against corrupting entanglements with men and against extramarital … Continue reading Susanna Rowson, Charlotte Temple

Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham, Nameless

Nameless by Grant Morrison My rating: 3 of 5 stars But did Grant Morrison deserve my bitchy crack about Coldplay toward the end of my review of Greg Carpenter's British Invasion? After being too pleased with myself for its cleverness, it occurred to me that I had not read a Morrison comic all the way … Continue reading Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham, Nameless

Muriel Spark, The Driver’s Seat

The Driver's Seat by Muriel Spark My rating: 4 of 5 stars Murlel Spark's 1970 short novel The Driver's Seat, recommended to me by a friend and former student, reminds me of a phrase from another short novel, César Aira's An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter, wherein the protagonist's life is described … Continue reading Muriel Spark, The Driver’s Seat

Nathaniel Hawthorne, “Rappaccini’s Daughter”

Rappaccini's Daughter by Nathaniel Hawthorne My rating: 5 of 5 stars While I am not in the habit of reviewing individual short stories, this is almost novella-length anyway and is one of my all-time favorites. Someone should publish it in a lavish illustrated edition: I imagine mixed media, photos of floral tendrils and marble ruins … Continue reading Nathaniel Hawthorne, “Rappaccini’s Daughter”