Here’s one that just weaseled its way to the top of my To Be Read mountain. It’s called Uncommon Arrangements: Seven Portraits of Married Life in London Literary Circles 1910 – 1939, by Katie Roiphe.
I’ve heard many great things about this book, and after it came in for me at the library I could not resist diving in. It sounds very interesting.
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. In this astute and engrossing examination of seven artsy marriages from 20th-century England, Roiphe (Last Night in Paradise) couples her penchant for social criticism with her training in English literature (she holds a Ph.D. from Princeton). The book’s title is apt, for some of the unions Roiphe describes may strike even today’s jaded readers as outré. Feminist writer Vera Brittain proposed that she and her husband, George Catlin, be joined in their household by her dear friend, Winifred Holtby. Katherine Mansfield and John Middleton Murry found that their highly romantic conception of love failed to sustain them through illness and other crises. Roiphe also examines the unions of H.G. Wells and Jane Wells; Elizabeth von Arnim and John Francis Russell; Clive and Vanessa Bell; Ottoline and Philip Morrell; and Radclyffe Hall and Una Troubridge. Roiphe writes not just as a disinterested historian. She wants to know what she can learn from Brittain and the rest about marriage, and the themes Roiphe focuses on remain relevant to 21st-century marriages: is domesticity compatible with long-term emotional engagement, or are marriages destined to become boring? Roiphe finds that once people began to think of marriage as an arrangement that ought to produce human happiness, monogamy was no longer a given. Fans of Pamela Paul and Cathi Hanauer will enjoy this volume, which is vintage Roiphe: provocative, dishy, substantive and fun.
So this book has made it into my hands despite, as The Book Design Review blog points out, one of the “sleepiest” covers seen in years.
I’ve been doing a better job this month keeping my “books bought” pile lower than usual. We’ll see how it actually turns out at the end of the month. (See above and below – books to be read from the library!) But one that I could not resist was The Sunny Side by A. A. Milne.
This was published in 1921, and I’m gathering that it was out of print for quite some time. This new edition is incredibly sweet – small and very charming. Just like everything he wrote. This has already moved quickly up my reading list as well.
From Publishers Weekly
First published in 1921, this witty, pleasantly rarefied miscellany from Winnie-the-Pooh creator Milne features his contributions to the British magazine Punch, where he was assistant editor, in the years before and after WWI. In disarming short pieces grouped around various themes, the deft Milne gently—very gently—skewers the peccadilloes of his generation and its classes, such as Simon Simpson, the litterateur of some eminence but little circulation, who invites all his friends to join him on a lazy holiday on the French Riviera (Oranges and Lemons). In the section Men of Letters, Milne has great fun caricaturing the self-serious pomposity of fellow writers and poets, and even offers a sampling of the tedious fare presented at Lady Poldoodle’s Poetry At-Homes. Some of the pieces in the War-Time section chronicle the humble predicament of the French infantryman: managing an intractable horse or finding comfort in a toy dog. A set of Home Notes concerns the narrator’s dear thoughts on married life with the sensible but rather fluttery Celia; one piece finds the couple instigating a mystifying dinner party game of Proverbs. Milne’s quotidian observations remain quite moving in their wry simplicities, which are not simple at all.
Kurt Vonnegut raves about Something Happened by Joseph Heller in his autobiographical collection Palm Sunday. I trust Kurt completely, fully knowing his close friendship with Joseph Heller. Kurt actually wrote the original review of Something Happened in the New York Times Book Review. He was reviewing the book right before and during the time he first met and became friends with Joseph.
After reading his review, I flipped through a copy at the library, and the first person narrative hooked me right there in the library stacks. I don’t know if I’ve ever read something this long – a novel of 569 pages – that was entirely written as if you’re in someone’s head eavesdropping. It seems really incredible, and I’m excited to start this.
Bob Slocum was living the American dream. He had a beautiful wife, three lovely children, a nice house…and all the mistresses he desired. He had it all — all, that is, but happiness. Slocum was discontent. Inevitably, inexorably, his discontent deteriorated into desolation until…something happened.
Something Happened is Joseph Heller’s wonderfully inventive and controversial second novel satirizing business life and American culture. The story is told as if the reader was overhearing the patter of Bob Slocum’s brain — recording what is going on at the office, as well as his fantasies and memories that complete the story of his life. The result is a novel as original and memorable as his Catch-22.
(This post was brought over from emilyw.vox.com.)