What I’ve been reading

1. Dave Eggers, What is the What.  Despite its preciousness, I quite liked A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius.  Sadly this quasi-fictional tale of a Sudanese refugee reveals that most contemporary writers are lightweights, pure and simple.

2. Gore Vidal, Point to Point Navigation: A Memoir.  I loved Palimpset, volume 1, but this follow-up is junk.  Julian is his best book, but overall he has more misses than hits.

3. Othello.  I’ll teach this in my spring Law and Literature class.  I read Shakespeare as despising the Moor for turning his back on his natural Muslim allies and fighting them in Cyprus.  In a strange way Othello deserves some of the bad treatment he receives — why should anyone trust him?

4. The new Stephen Dubner book…I am not reading it yet, but I don’t want to be slow with the news.  Discover the other Dubner.

5. Steven Johnson, The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic.  This is from the guy who brought us Everything Bad is Good for You, except it turns out that cholera isn’t good for you, it is bad for you.  A brisk and readable story of public health issues in Victorian London.

6. Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Chronicle of a Death Foretold [Crónica de una muerte anunciada].  I regard One Hundred Years of Solitude as a good but overrated book; this slim volume may well be his most exciting fiction and it is clearly the most humorous.  I’m also fond on his non-fiction book about the kidnapping and volume one of his memoirs, plus of course the short stories; that is what he will be known for.


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