Results for “anne enright”
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Anne Enright is honest about books

How have your reading tastes changed over time?

I was a book-a-day child, a pretentious teenager. I read hugely in my 20s and 30s — all the good stuff, nothing very odd or esoteric. As I started getting published, I read my contemporaries in a way that was not entirely pure. Then, after I had children, I stopped. It is possible more books were written than read by me, in the years when they were small. I don’t think I am a recreational reader. I am always looking for something and I am not sure what it is. These days, I am increasingly restless. I throw books aside. I blame the internet. I blame the chair. I yearn for books not published yesterday or next week. I stick to nonfiction. And then suddenly, I can’t leave a book out of my hand. This happened most recently with “Where Reasons End,” by Yiyun Li.

Here is the full interview (NYT).

Anne Enright on plot and writing

 AE: Plot is a kind of paranoia, actually. It implies that events are connected, that characters are connected, just because they are in the same book. I like the way Pynchon exposed the essential paranoia of plot in The Crying of Lot 49. When I read that book as a student, I realized that if you bring coincidence or the mechanics of plotting into a book, it begs all the questions about who is writing this book and why, or why you’re making this mechanical toy do these things. That, to me as a reader, is slightly alienating. But, you know, things do happen in real life. People die in car accidents. There are connections and coincidences.

She is an Irish writer, there is more here, interesting throughout.  I also liked this sentence:

The unknowability of one human being to another is an endless subject for novelists.

And this bit about writing:

It’s like getting a herd of sheep across a field. If you try to control them too much, they resist. It’s the same with a book. If you try to control it too much, the book is dead. You have to let it fall apart quite early on and let it start doing its own thing. And that takes nerve, not to panic that the book you were going to write is not the book you will have at the end of the day.

Hat tip goes to The Browser.

What I’ve been reading

1. Anne Enright, The Green Road.  Could Enright be the least heralded, English-language novelist in the United States today?  I also was a big fan of her last book Actress.  Her short pieces are wonderful as well.  Having won a Booker, she is hardly obscure, and yet I have never had anyone tell me that I absolutely must read Anne Enright?  Even after the very recent burst of interest in Irish writers…I will read more of her!

2. Patrick Leigh Fermor, The Traveller’s Tree: A Journey Through the Caribbean Islands.  My favorite Fermor book, the best sections were on Trinidad and Haiti, but you might have known I would think that.

3. Nadia Durbach, Bodily Matters: The Anti-Vaccination Movement in England, 1853-1907.  Back then vaccines were quite often dangerous: “Victorian public vaccinators used a lancet (a surgical instrument) to cut lines into the flesh in a scored pattern.  This was usually done in at least four different places on the arm.  Vaccine matter, also called lymph, would then be smeared into the cuts…[often] vaccinators required infants to return eight days after the procedure to allow lymph to be harvested from their blisters, or “vesicles.”  This matter was then inserted directly into the arms of waiting infants…After 1871, a fine of up to 20 shillings could be imposed on parents who refused to allow lymph to be taken from their children for use in public vaccination.”  Oddly, or perhaps not, the arguments against vaccines haven’t changed much since that time.

4. Andrew G. Farrand, The Algerian Dream: Youth and the Quest for Dignity.  There should be more books like this!  Imagine a whole book directed at…not getting someone tenure, but rather helping you understand what it is actually like to be in Algeria.  Sadly I have never been, but this is the next best thing.  As I say repeatedly, there should be more country-specific books, simply flat out “about that country” in an explanatory sense.  As for Algeria, talk about a nation in decline…

Eswar S. Prasad, The Future of Money: How the Digital Revolution is Transforming Currencies and Finance is a useful overview of its source material.

Anna Della Subin, Accidental Gods: On Men Unwittingly Turned Divine, starts with the question of how Emperor Haile Selassie became a god to Rastafarians in Jamaica, and then broadens the question accordingly, moving on to General Douglas MacArthur, Annie Besant, and much more.  I expect we will be hearing more from this author.  At the very least she knows stuff that other people do not.

You can learn the policy views of Thomas Piketty if you read his Time for Socialism: Dispatches from a World on Fire, 2016-2021.  Oddly, or perhaps not, his socialism doesn’t seem to involve government spending any more than fifty percent of gdp, which would be a comedown for many European nations.

Kathleen Harward and Gabriella Sulbarán, The Shared Dog, for young children, teaching the economics of property rights through the tale of a dog.  From BrandyPie Books.

What I’ve been reading

1. Christopher Tugendhat, A History of Britain Through Books, 1900-1964.  Most of all a look at the “well-known in their time, and reflecting their age, but not read any more” books from the stated period, using short, capsule portraits of each work.  It induced me to order some more Elizabeth Bowen, C.P. Snow, and other works.  There should be more books like this.

2. Maggie O’Farrell, Hamnet.  Perhaps my favorite novel of the year so far, noting this is from Northern Ireland and my #2 pick by Anne Enright is from Ireland proper.  Usually I dislike stories with a “gimmick” — this one recounts part of the life of Shakespeare’s family during plague times — but this one was tasteful, subtle, and suspenseful.

3. Charles Freeman, The Awakening: A History of the Western Mind AD 500-1700.  A gargantuan work at over 800 big pp., the size and the breadth and title all might seem to herald trouble.  Yet it is really good.  It has chapters on whether England really had a scientific revolution, what was actually published with the new printing press, and how medieval universities really worked.  There were fewer tired summaries of “the usual” than I was expecting.  The author is a specialist on the ancient world, and so there is coverage of Cassiodorus, and what Montaigne took from Plutarch, and numerous other “ancient world” sorts of topics.  Which is a good thing.

4. Despina Strategakos, Hitler’s Northern Utopia: Building the New Order in Occupied Norway.  What did the Nazis have planned for Norway after a supposedly successful conclusion of the Second World War?  Lots of reformed urban townscapes, and with plenty of detail to boot.  Sometimes it is books like this, rather than the recounting of atrocities, that make WWII seem like the truly bizarre event it was.  I am still not sure if restructuring Norway is something fascinating to do, or still super-dull.

Thomas A. Schwartz, Henry Kissinger and American Power: A Political Biography is consistently good and readable.

I found David Broder’s First They Took Rome: How the Populist Right Conquered Italy to be a useful explainer of a complex situation.

Jacob Goldstein, Money: The True Story of a Made-up Thing is a good introduction to its chosen topic.

What I’ve been reading

1. Elizabeth A. Fenn, Pox Americana: The Great Smallpox Epidemic of 1775-82, quite a good book.

2. Louis Galambos with Jane Eliot Sewell, Networks of Innovation: Vaccine Development at Merck, Sharp and Dohme, and Mulford, 1895-1995. Imagine a book with both Vannevar Bush and Maurice Hilleman as leading and indeed intersecting characters.  How is this for a sentence?: “Hilleman had spent his boyhood on a farm on which the German-American tradition was to “work like hell and live by the tenets of Martin Luther.””

3. John Duffy, The Sanitarians: A History of American Public Health.  A little boring, and not conceptual enough, but is anything on this topic entirely boring at the current moment in time?  Nonetheless this is a very useful overview and survey of public health issues in American history, and so I do not hesitate to recommend it.

4. Robert P. Saldin and Steven M. Teles, Never Trump: The Revolt of the Conservative Elites.  Remarkably fair-minded and substantive, here is my blurb: “”Who are the Never Trumpers, what do they want, and what are their stories? Robert P. Saldin and Steven Teles have produced the go-to work on a movement that will likely prove of enduring influence in American politics.”  Here is a relevant Atlantic article by Saldin and Teles.  Recommended.

5. Anne Enright, Actress: A Novel. A subtle Irish story of a woman telling the tale of her now-departed famous, charismatic mother and her career in the theater.  Unpeels like an onion as you read it, and reveals successively deeper layers of the story, it would make my “favorite fiction of the year” list pretty much any year.  But please note it has not have the “upfront attention-grabbing style” that many of us have been trained to enjoy.

My favorite things Ireland

The last time I was in Ireland I wasn’t blogging yet.  What riches lie here, let’s give it a start:

1. Poetry: I pick Joyce’s Ulysses, then Yeats and also Seamus Heaney, especially if the word “bog” appears in the poem.  A good collection is The Penguin Book of Irish Poetry, edited by Patrick Crotty.  Beyond the ranks of the super-famous, you might try Louis MacNeice, from the Auden Group, or perhaps Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, who writes in Gaelic but has been translated by other superb Irish poets into English..

2. Novel/literature: Jonathan Swift: Gulliver’s Travels.  One of the very very best books for social science too, and one of my favorite books period.  After Joyce, there is also Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw, Samuel Beckett, Lord Dunsany, John Banville (The Untouchable), William Trevor, and Elizabeth Bowen.  Iris Murdoch was born in Ireland, but does she count?  More recently I have enjoyed Anne Enright, Colm Tóibín, Eimear McBride, Claire Louise-Bennett, with Mike McCormack in my pile to read soon.  Roddy Doyle is probably good, but I don’t find him so readable.  Colum McCann somehow isn’t Irish enough for me, but many enjoy his work.  Can the Anglo-Irish Oliver Goldsmith count?  His Citizen of the World remains a neglected work.  The recently published volumes of Samuel Beckett’s correspondence have received rave reviews and I hope to read through them this summer.  Whew!  And for a country of such a small population.

3. Classical music: Hmm…we hit a roadblock here.  I don’t love John Field, so I have to call this category a fail.  I can’t offhand think of many first-rate Irish classical performers, can you?  James Galway?

4. Popular music: My Bloody Valentine, Loveless.  Certainly my favorite album post-1970s, and possibly my favorite of all time.  When the Irish do something well, they do it really really well.  Then there is Van Morrison, Them, Bono and U2, Rory Gallagher, Bob Geldof and The Boomtown Rats, The Pogues, The Cranberries, and Sinead O’Connor, among others.  I confess to having an inordinate weakness for Gilbert O’Sullivan.  Traditional Irish music would need a post of its own, but it has never commanded much of my attention.

5. Painter: Francis Bacon is the obvious and probably correct choice, but I am no longer excited to see his work.  I don’t find myself seeing new things in it.  Sean Scully wins runner-up.  This is a slightly weak category, at least relative to some of the others.

6. Political philosopher: Edmund Burke, who looks better all the time, I am sorry to say.

7. Philosopher: Bishop Berkeley.  He is also interesting on monetary theory, anticipating some later ideas of Fischer Black on money as an abstract unit of account.

8. Classical economist: Mountifort Longfield and Isaac Butt both had better understandings of supply and demand and marginalism, before the marginal revolution, than almost any other economists except for a few of the French.

9. Theologian: C.S. Lewis, you could list him under fiction as well.  Here is a debate over whether he is British or Irish.  Laura Miller’s The Magician’s Book: A Skeptic’s Adventures in Narnia covers Lewis, one of my favorite books from the last decade.

10. Silicon Valley entrepreneur: Patrick Collison (duh), of Stripe and Atlas, here is his superb podcast with Ezra Klein.  Here is further information on the pathbreaking Stripe Atlas project.

11. Movie: There are plenty I don’t like so much, such as My Left Foot, The Wind That Shakes the Barley, Waking Ned, and The Commitments.  Most people consider those pretty good.  I think I’ll opt for The Crying Game and also In the Name of the Father.

12: Movie, set in: Other than the movies listed above, there is Odd Man Out (quite good), The Quiet Man, and The Secret of Roan Inish, but my clear first choice is the still-underrated masterpiece Barry Lyndon.

The bottom line: The strengths are quite amazing, and that’s without adjusting for population.

What I’ve been reading

1. Intelligence and How to Get It: Why Schools and Cultures Count, by Richard E. Nisbett.  A good compendium of the arguments for environmentalism in the IQ debates.  But this book has all the same flaws as The 10,000 Year Explosion — albeit from the other side of the issue — and egads are those people in the comments section touchy.  This book, by the way, offers the state of the art rebuttals to genetic explanations of Ashkenazi achievement, if you are looking to advance your understanding of those debates.

2. Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating, by Mark Bittman.  The best book on "food sanity" to date.

3. Yesterday's Weather, by Anne Enright.  I'm not usually a consumer of short stories (Alice Munro is one exception) but the best ones in this (high variance) volume are very very good.

4. Bioethics and the Brain, by Walter Glannon.  I wished for more of the author in this book but still I found it a useful compendium on what people are arguing about in the field these days.

5. Ted Gioia, Delta Blues: The Life and Times of the Mississippi Masters Who Revolutionized American Music.  So far this is the book of the year for me.  There are many fine books in this area but this one rises to the top of the heap.  It's both the best introduction to its topic and the best book if you've read all the others and feel that nothing more can be said; a major achievement.

Emergent Ventures winners, sixteenth cohort

Phoebe Yao, founder and CEO of Pareto, “a human API delivering the business functions startups desperately need.”  Here is the Pareto website.  She was born in China, formerly of Stanford, and a former classical violist.  (By my mistake I left her off of a previous cohort list, apologies!)

BeyondAging, a new group to support longevity research.

Sam Enright, for writing, blogging, and general career development, resume here.  From Ireland, currently studying in Scotland.

Zena Hitz, St. John’s College, to build The Catherine Project, to revitalize the study of the classics.

Gavin Leech, lives in Bristol, he is from Scotland, getting a Ph.D in AI.  General career support, he is interested in: “Personal experimentation to ameliorate any chronic illness; reinforcement learning as microscope on Goodhart’s law; weaponised philosophy for donors; noncollege routes to impact.”

Valmik Rao, 17 years old, Ontario, he is building a program to better manage defecation in Nigeria.

Rabbi Zohar Atkins, New York City, to pursue a career as a public intellectual.  Here is one substack, here is another.

Basil Halperin, graduate student in economics at MIT, for his writing and for general career development.

Gytis Daujotas, lives in Dublin, studying computer science at DCU, for a project to make the Great Books on the web easy to read, and for general career development.  Here is his web site.

Geoff Anders, Leverage Research, to support his work to find relevant bottlenecks in science and help overcome them.  A Progress Studies fellow.

Samantha Jordan, NYU Stern School of Business, with Nathaniel Bechhofer, for a new company, “Our platform will accelerate the speed and quality of science by enabling scientists to easily manage their data and research pipelines, using best practices from software engineering.”  Also a Progress Studies grant.

Nina Khera, “I’m a teenage human longevity researcher who’s interested in preventing aging-related diseases, especially those related to brain aging. In the past, I’ve worked with companies like Alio on computation and web-dev-based projects. I’ve also worked with labs like the Gladyshev lab and the Adams lab on data analysis and machine learning-based projects.”  Her current project is Biotein, about developing markers for aging, based in Ontario.

Lipton Matthews, from Jamaica, here is his YouTube channel, for general career development.