Dec. 8th, 2014 05:05 pm
decemberthirty: (tree swallow)
[personal profile] decemberthirty
I have quite a few books I want to talk about!

Selected Stories by Katherine Mansfield:
I first encountered Katherine Mansfield in grad school, when we read her long story "At the Bay" in a novella workshop I took. I was Mansfield's coolness, by her light touch, by the ease with which she shifted about among an array of perspectives, by the way she built a story out of tiny, ordinary moments somehow turned it into much more than the sum of its parts. Now that I've read more of her fiction, I can say that these qualities are shared by all of her best stories, and the ones that don't succeed are the ones where she loses her lightness or the effortless mobility of perspective. I found some of the stories in this collection to be quite flat, but those that are good are very very good. The best stories of all were the group about the Burrells, the family in "At the Bay."

The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher by Hilary Mantel:
What an uneven collection! There were a few standout stories that I loved (the title story, "The Heart Fails Without Warning," and "How Shall I Know You?"), but the rest were either underdeveloped or marred by pat endings. Reading this collection gives the impression that Mantel is much better at starting stories than at finishing--almost every piece here had a promising premise and atmospheric beginning, but most of them fizzled by the time they were over. Although I was sometimes frustrated by Mantel's prose in Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, in general I found it more interesting than the style in these stories.

The Matisse Stories by A.S. Byatt:
Wonderful! A beautiful tiny gem of a book. This book contains only three stories (longish stories, but still), yet it feels very rich and full. And pleasurable! I luxuriated in Byatt's descriptive writing. The characters all felt natural and believable, and though there was considerable thought put into themes and connections, it didn't impinge on the stories' need, first, and foremost, to be good stories. (Hilary Mantel could learn a thing or two.) As much as I admire Byatt as a novelist, I'm beginning to think I might like her even more as a short story writer.

Our Lady of the Flowers by Jean Genet:
I've just started this after having it on my shelf for quite some time. I confess that I'm reading it now more out of sense of mingled curiosity and obligation (if one is going to claim to be knowledgeable about queer literature, one must read Genet!) than out of a deep desire. So far all I can say is that it's a strange book, with very flowery prose applied to base acts, and an unusual relationship between the narrator, the author, and the text.... I am fifty or sixty pages into the book, and still feel like I don't quite have a handle on it yet. We shall see.

Date: 2014-12-08 10:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I felt the same way about Mantel's new collection.

I've added Byatt's book to my library list, thanks!

Date: 2014-12-10 12:57 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
My girlfriend read the Mantel before I did, and she felt the same way too. So that makes three of us!

Hope you enjoy the Byatt!

Date: 2014-12-08 11:30 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
super intrigued by that a.s. byatt collection. her prose is so elegant, and i love matisse!

Date: 2014-12-10 12:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
The connection to Matisse is more explicit in some of the stories than in others (I guess that's probably an obvious statement), but it's definitely worth reading. Check it out!

Date: 2014-12-10 08:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I'll let you know when/if I do :)

Date: 2014-12-10 05:21 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I LOVE AS Byatt. I read "Possession" and loved it. Why haven't I read more of her stuff??

Date: 2014-12-10 12:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Yeah, Possession is fantastic! If you liked that, you might want to try Angels & Insects, which is a pair of novellas that grew out of the historical research she did for Possession.

Date: 2014-12-10 04:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Ooh! I will love that. Thanks! I've banned myself from amazon for this week, so I'll get it next week haha :)

Date: 2014-12-31 03:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Well, I don't know when/why I got unlisted as a friend, but happy birthday anyway.
Edited Date: 2014-12-31 03:47 pm (UTC)
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