Archive for July 16th, 2007

Try everything once except incest and Morris dancing

Since I set myself the playful requirement of using the title of an actual book for the title of each blog post, I find myself searching Amazon for titles, and this one came up just now.  It is the autogiography of Linzi Drew, whose Wikipedia entry describes her as an “English glamour model and actress” born in 1959.  The one used copy on Amazon can be yours for $109.50 plus shipping.  The title alone is worth that.

I wanted a title, by the way, for a post that essentially says this: Yikes.  This is my first complete week of overlapping classes at 2YC and GU.  Two days a week, I am at 2YC in the morning, GU in the afternoon.  My 2YC students will be doing diagnostic essays today, and my GU students have a paper due Tuesday that needs to go back on Thursday, and a midterm Thursday.  The other overlapping weeks will probably be worse, though, with more overlapping assignments.  It wasn’t possible to schedule it all really neatly, though I’ve tried to spread out the grading rather than clump it.  Trying to do both of these summer terms at once is a lot.

But I’ll try anything once except incest and Morris dancing.

Anything for Jane

It almost feels like a waste to use the title above for a blog post that’s actually about Cheryl Mendelson’s novel Anything for Jane.  Seems like I should save it until a reason comes up for writing about one of the Janes I know.  Even worse, I am using the title before I’ve read the book–it comes out at the end of the month.  It is the third book in the trilogy that began with Morningside Heights and continued with Love, Work, Children. 

I think there’s a blurb on the back of one of Laurie Colwin’s novels–probably Happy All the Time–that deems it “a canny Manhattan pastorale.”  Mendelson’s first two novels were a bit like that, though her characters have problems with things like housing, reputation, and money (albeit on an Upper West Side scale) as well as with love, which is the only variety of problem that Colwin seems really interested in.  (Although what other American novelist has done love problems with the wit and seriousness that she did?)  The overall effect is more serious, then, though still mildly comic; the comparisons to Trollope and Austen are plausible.  Real happiness is at stake for the people in these books, though nothing worse than temporary discomfort or disgrace is likely to happen to them.

Like this reviewer, I preferred Morningside Heights to the second book, but Love, Work, Children was a pleasure to read.  I look forward to beguiling a few days of commuting with the new one.  (I’m sorry, Cheryl Mendelson, but I am unlikely to pay $26 for it.  I’ll be reserving it at the library.  If I like it as much as I think I will, I’ll probably end up buying it as a gift for someone else later, which is what I recently did with The Post-Birthday World.)

All of which is just to say that even though, yes, I am anxiously awaiting Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, I realize that there will still be new books to look forward to after July 21. 

And just glancing at the shelves on my left, where resides most of the fiction that didn’t get ruthlessly winnowed out the last time we moved, I can come up with the following short list of writers whose next book I await with pleasurable anticipation (list is alphabetical because the fiction shelves are organized that way, of course):

Nicholson Baker
Lan Samantha Chang
Tony Eprile
Allegra Goodman
Kazuo Ishiguro
Perri Klass
ZZ Packer
Mark Salzman
Vikram Seth
Lionel Shriver

After I typed that list, I took out a couple of the names I’d originally put in there. Not because the writers aren’t good or I haven’t enjoyed their books, but because a new book from one of them would not necessarily get the same definite interest from me.  When one of these writers brings out a new book, I will read it.  Possibly within a week of its publication; probably within a month; certainly within a year.  At least, I think I will.  Sometimes I’ll rush out to get my hands on a new book; sometimes I’ll get all diffident about it, as I have been doing lately with Nicholson Baker.  I didn’t hurry out to get the one about the guys talking about assassinating Bush.  Stubb bought it for me when it came out in paperback:  “Hey, did you know that Nicholson Baker has a new book out?”  “Yes.  Yes, I did, and it’s supposed to be weird and depressing.”  It was interesting to see what Baker’s political despair looked like running through Baker’s unique sieve of a mind.  But it’s not my favorite book of his.  Still, I’ll probably read the next one.  Probably within a couple of months of its publication.

[Edited to add: The Stylish Hermit should be on that list, too, but I’m afraid anyone who knows her would be able to recognize her as the Stylish Hermit if I put her on the list, and as she doesn’t know about the blog, that would be pretty weird for her.  Of course, this is all theoretical at the moment, as only about seven people seem to be reading this thing.]