Wednesday, March 4, 2009

summing up February books

I've just realised that the last few posts have all been lists of books. And here's yet another. I'm pretty sure that I do things aside from read books, and look at books, and think about books...

Books read:

How I Write: The Secret Lives of Authors
Edited by: Dan Crowe, with Philip Oltermann
This is a well-designed, extremely covetable book as work of art. Everything about it--fonts, images, margins, broad expanses of color or simple white space--is presented to you slow down while reading and consider the words almost as objects, which might ordinarily be distracting (or, distressing), but here is entirely appropriate. It's gorgeous, and would be something nice for sitting out and getting dusty on the coffee table except the innards are too addictive.
Mr. Crowe sent correspondance to a number of authors, mostly famous, and asked them what they can't write without. What do they need, what little habits, obsessions, and lucky talismans, are essential to getting words onto paper? They sent back miniature essays and Polaroids and confused emails. The Guardian has an extract here.

Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan
I liked this book a great deal. I did not love it, but I think it could be the kind of book that would make people fall in love with Lanagan's writing and seek out everything else that she's written, particularly her brilliant short stories. The way that she tells the story in a whole chorus of different and distinct voices, without losing track of them or letting them blend into each other, is wonderful. It lures you along, and at the same time, makes you retrace your steps and reinterpret the same events through different lenses.
Also, Muddy Annie is one of my favourite new characters that I've met this year.

The Seance by John Harwood
I read an ARC of this, but it just came out. It's unrepentently Gothic: apparitions, possibly cursed manor houses, unsolved murders, spiritualism, gloomy paintings, and thunderstorms. I enjoyed it, and it kept me entertained over the course of two flights, even with stomach-dropping turbulence, but I found some of it confusing (it's told in alternating narratives as well, but without as strong control over the voices and time).

Museum of the Missing by Simon Houpt
My friend, Todd, knows about the my current obsession with art theft, so he picked up a copy of this when he went to the library and passed it on to me. I sort of gobbled it up. Houpt tells the stories of some of the most famous, brazen, and strange episodes in the history of art theft. He also introduces Harold Smith, who was a famous art detective and also tall, elegant man with a black eyepatch. The last pages of the book are devoted to a catalogue of a imaginary gallery of stolen works of art with miniature reproductions.
I've never been especially fond of Vermeer, but this book made me want to seek out some of his paintings and see if I've changed my mind.

Books bought:

The Lost Painting
by Jonathan Harr
About a stolen Caravaggio.

The Mystery and Lure of Perfume by C.J.S. Thompson
I bought this book used from the lovely Bell's Books in Palo Alto. It's from 1927 and has a lavendar moire cover with an amphora and roses embossed in gold on the corner. It has several engravings and is slightly ridiculous, but I'm fond of writing from the 20s and I'm making the excuse that it's for research.

So, in February:
The fascination with illicit art acquisition has yet to abate.
Genre fiction makes for more absorbing travel reading than fashion magazines.
Non-fiction is more delightful when obsessive, specific, or over the top.

1 comment:

Bookgeek said...

Megan - could you fill out the review of Tender Morsels for my next book blast? Pretty please? I've been wanting to read this for ages.
And try Theft by Peter Carey. About an Australian artist who was once very famous, his relationship to his semi-autistic brother, a young woman steeped in the art world and a possible art thief/con artist, and a stolen painting. I'm half way through at the moment and am thoroughly enthralled by it.