Unlike Nick Hornby’s Pollysyllabic Spree (see previous post), Sara Nelson’s book is really a memoir. Because she is a book enthusiast, she talks a lot about what she reads (or, sometimes, does not read, or reads only part of), but she does not seem to know very much about books, or to be able to put her own reading experiences or tastes into any besides personal contexts. Madame Bovary and Anna Karenina, for instance, lead her to reflections on unreasoning passion, marriage and infidelity in her own life (no, she does not confess to having been unfaithful–except figuratively, as she concludes what I thought was a laboured conceit about her relationships with books, which are “the affairs I do not have”). The chronicle of her attempt to read and write about a book a week for a year is moderately entertaining, and Nelson’s style and personality are generally engaging, but for someone looking for literary insight, this book has little to offer.
- Jenny Offill, Dept. of Speculation
- “Some Pattern That I Could Not Unravel”: Rose Macaulay, The Towers of Trebizond
- “History is True”: Penelope Lively, Moon Tiger
- This Week in My Sabbatical: Out of Sync
- Comrades or Hooligans? Doris Lessing, The Good Terrorist
- “A bourgeois tragedy”: Honoré de Balzac, Eugénie Grandet
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