The other day Terry offered his short list of CDs for stockings. Here are a few more ideas for you from the world of print:
– Edward P. Jones, All Aunt Hagar’s Children (Amistad). A patiently beautiful book of stories with the unmistakable air of permanence about them. It’s not too much to say they awed me; five months later I think almost daily about the last paragraph of the last story. My book of the year, or perhaps the decade.
– Claire Messud, The Emperor’s Children (Knopf). I devoured Messud’s brilliantly observed, highly companionable book in one weekend during which all my plans to leave the couch came to naught. I did not feel guilty afterward. It is or isn’t “about” 9/11, but among its many revelations it reminded me ten times more palpably than anything else has of what “normal” once felt like.
– Henry Green, Living; Loving; Party-Going (Penguin) and Pack My Bag: A Self-Portrait (New Directions). My current reading, Green throws you straightaway into the deep end of, for instance, the intricate little society of the domestic staff in an Irish castle (Loving). While you slowly sort out relationships and plots, the strange immediacy and piquancy of the language keeps you afloat, along with (and related to) his understated exaltation of everyday experience. A new sensation.
– Anthony Powell, A Dance to the Music of Time: First Movement (Chicago). Because the whole thing won’t fit in a stocking, silly! But seriously, if you’re feeling generous, by all means buy the whole four-volume set and stick it under the tree. Powell’s twelve-novel epic can prove addictive. A friend who’s approaching the end of the third movement has determined to ration the remainder, clutching onto the vain hope that he can stretch out the experience indefinitely.
Nothing else I read (for the first time around) this year affected me like these four books.