What I’ve been reading

1. Red April (Abril Rojo], by Santiago Roncagliolo, translated by Edith Grossman.  This Peruvian “Shining Path noir” tale is as good as the strongly positive reviews indicate and it has an excellent dark humor.  Here is an interview with the author.

2. Effi Briest, by Theodor Fontane.  Remarkably vivid and full of life, despite its reputation as a stodgy 19th century novel.  It also can be funny and very much to the point about human nature.

3. Made in Britain, by Evan Davis.  Too simple for my tastes, but this is nonetheless an effective accounting of where the British economy remains strong and also where the weaknesses are starting to bite.  The author has a good understanding of economics and he avoids the mercantilism that you might fear is implicit in such an enterprise.

4. Hart Crane, The Bridge.  Two-thirds of this is stunning, mostly the first half and most of what comes after “Three Songs.”  Plus it’s fairly short and easy to read, though difficult to comprehend at the highest levels.  Think of it as the next step after Leaves of Grass.

5. Popular Crime, by Bill James.  Silly idea, or self-recommending?  Perhaps a bit of both, because this is the Bill James, writing a 500-page treatise on popular crimes and also on other people’s books on popular crimes.  The classic error detection and pattern recognition skills are still there.  The bottom line is that a) I finished it (skimmed maybe a fifth, some of the cases I didn’t care about), and b) I liked it increasingly as my read progressed, and c) I have no trouble with books which fall outside of the usual “central narrative” structure but you might.  If you think you might like it, at the very least try it.  That said, if you’re looking to pick holes in it, you certainly can; here is one critical review.  Here is another review.

6. Javier Marias, A Heart so White.  Loved it, a modern classic by Spain’s leading writer.


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