Back in the day when there was talk between Tom’s Sheila and my Barbara of the two squads going halvsies on a great big house in Hamptonia, we all were sitting around in said real estate after a Sunday brunchy fress—Tom’s sidekicks Eddie Hayes and Richard Merkin among the newspaperbound bagelbound boasters—and I just so happened to have launched myself into a rapsode bearing on my baseball-playing startlements, this before I was expelled from the school where I’d done the startling, and Tom said he had a couple of mitts, why didn’t we go on out onto the lawn and throw it around awhile, and I said, thanks but no thanks, I having been a catcher when I was doing my startling and would therefore require the glove worn by a catcher if I were to catch a ball thrown by a pitcher known to me to have been a farm-team pitcher for the Dodgers, unless it was the Yanks, whereupon Tom allowed as to how he had happened to have fetched out from the city to Hamptonia the very variety of mitt, and so he had and so we did, humping it out onto the lawn and just as humpily regrouping among the housebound, Tom mum as you’d want that no toss he’d lobbed at me could I, the be-mitted braggart, begin to handle.
New and newish titles from the good people at Picador. A few highlights:
I read Peter Hoeg’s bestseller Smilla’s Sense of Snow over a decade ago; I recall reading it in a day or two, maybe as part of a long bus ride somewhere, and enjoying caustic Smilla’s murder investigation. It’s 20 years old now and getting the rerelease treatment. From Robert Nathan’s original 1993 review at The New York Times:
TRY this for an offer you could easily refuse. How would you like to be locked in a room for a couple of days with an irritable, depressed malcontent who also happens to be imperiously smart, bored and more than a little spoiled? Say no, and you will miss not only a splendid entertainment but also an odd and seductive meditation on the human condition. With “Smilla’s Sense of Snow,” his American debut following two previous books, the Danish novelist Peter Hoeg finds his own uncommon vein in narrative territory worked by writers as varied as Martin Cruz Smith and Graham Greene — the suspense novel as exploration of the heart. Mr. Hoeg’s heroine, Smilla Jaspersen, is the daughter of an Eskimo mother who was a nomadic native of Greenland and a wealthy Danish anesthesiologist father, parentage that endows her with the resilience of the frozen north and urban civilization’s existential malaise. One day just before Christmas, Smilla arrives at her Copenhagen apartment building to find a neighbor boy, 6-year-old Isaiah Christiansen, sprawled face down in the snow, dead after a fall from the roof of a nearby warehouse.
Love love love the covers for these pair by Nadine Gordimer—nice design work. I haven’t read Gordimer’s stuff — she’s a South African writer who won the Nobel in 1991 — so Jump and Other Stories seems like a good starting place. Here’s James Wood on Gordimer:
Gordimer’s talent is poetic and intellectual…Her best writing, sensuous, but aerated with deep intelligence, moving shrewdly between the serene claims of the poetic and the frantic compulsions of the political, makes her the lyrical analyst of an entire country
Amy Waldman’s The Submission is a 9/11 novel. Here’s Michiko Kakutani gushing in The New York Times:
A decade after 9/11, Amy Waldman’s nervy and absorbing new novel, “The Submission,” tackles the aftermath of such a terrorist attack head-on. The result reads as if the author had embraced Tom Wolfe’s famous call for a new social realism — for fiction writers to use their reporting skills to depict “this wild, bizarre, unpredictable, Hog-stomping baroque country of ours” — and in doing so, has come up with a story that has more verisimilitude, more political resonance and way more heart than Mr. Wolfe’s own 1987 best seller, “The Bonfire of the Vanities.”
A Death in the Summer is new in trade paperback. It’s another in the Quirke crime series from Benjamin Black — pen name of writer John Banville. Jacket copy:
On a sweltering summer afternoon, newspaper tycoon Richard Jewell—known to his many enemies as Diamond Dick—is discovered with his head blown off by a shotgun blast. But is it suicide or murder? For help with the investigation, Detective Inspector Hackett calls in his old friend Quirke, who has unusual access to Dublin’s elite.
Jewell’s coolly elegant French wife, Françoise, seems less than shocked by her husband’s death. But Dannie, Jewell’s high-strung sister, is devastated, and Quirke is surprised to learn that in her grief she has turned to an unexpected friend: David Sinclair, Quirke’s ambitious assistant in the pathology lab at the Hospital of the Holy Family. Further, Sinclair has been seeing Quirke’s fractious daughter Phoebe, and an unlikely romance is blossoming between the two. As a record heat wave envelops the city and the secret deals underpinning Diamond Dick’s empire begin to be revealed, Quirke and Hackett find themselves caught up in a dark web of intrigue and violence that threatens to end in disaster.
Tightly plotted and gorgeously written, A Death in Summer proves to the brilliant but sometimes reckless Quirke that in a city where old money and the right bloodlines rule, he is by no means safe from mortal danger.
Del Quentin Wilber’s Rawhide Down: The Near Assassination of Ronald Reagan demanded more of my attention than I thought it would. It’s tightly paced book, telegraphed in sharp language—but most of all, the story of John Hinckley is just too bizarre. Here’s a sample of the would
And if that’s not weird enough for you, check out Hinckley’s fantasy life:
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Notebooks are crammed with little sketches, scenes, observations, and, uh, notes (obviously). Although they are brief, his notes on Ernest Hemingway reveal much about Fitzgerald’s agon with Papa.
Ernest—until we began trying to walk over each other with cleats.
Snubs—Gen. Mannsul, Telulah phone, Hotel O’Connor, Ada Farewell, Toulman party, Barrymore, Talmadge, and M. Davies. Emily Davies, Tommy H. meeting and bottle, Frank Ritz and Derby, Univ. Chicago, Vallambrosa and yacht, Condon, Gerald in Paris, Ernest apartment.
Day with a busy man. Combine the day of Ernest’s pictures, the man of genius episode,
As to Ernest as a boy—reckless, adventurous, etc. Yet it is undeniable that the dark was peopled for him. His bravery and acquired characteristics.
Nevertheless value of Ernest’s feeling about the pure heart when writing—in other words the comparatively pure heart, the “house in order.”
That Willa Cather’s poem shall stand at beginning of Mediaval and that it shall be the story of Ernest.
Just as Stendahl’s portrait of a Byronic man made Le Rouge et Noir so couldn’t my portrait of Ernest as Phillipe make the real modern man.
Didn’t Hemmingway say this in effect: If Tom Wolfe ever learns to separate what he gets from books from what he gets from life he will be an original. All you can get from books is rhythm and technique. He’s half-grown artistically—this is truer than what Ernest said about him. But when I’ve criticized him (several times in talk) I’ve felt bad afterwards. Putting sharp weapons in the hands of his inferiors.
Ernest Hemingway, while careful to avoid cliches in his work, fairly revels in them in his private life, his favorite being Parbleu (“So what?”) French, and “Yes, We Have No Bananas.” Contrary to popular opinion he is not as tall as Thomas Wolfe, standing only six feet five in his health belt. He is naturally clumsy with his body, but shooting from a blind or from adequate cover, makes a fine figure of a man. We are happy to announce that his work will appear in future exclusively on United States postage stamps.
Parallel of Ernest’s and French conversation as opposed to Gerald and me and U.S.A. emotional bankruptcy.
Do you know what your affair was founded on? On sorrow. You got sorry for each other. (Did Ernest borrow this one?)
Very strong personalities must confine themselves in mutual conversation to very gentle subjects. Everything eventually transpired—but if they start at a high pitch as at the last meeting of Ernest, Bunny and me their meeting is spoiled. It does not matter who sets the theme or what it is.
Ernest taking me to that bum restaurant. Change of station implied.
Ernest would always give a helping hand to a man on a ledge a little higher up.
Ernest Hemingway and Ernest Lubitsch—Dotty “We’re all shits.”
I talk with the authority of failure—Ernest with the authority of success. We could never sit across the table again.
People like Ernest and me were very sensitive once and saw so much that it agonized us to give pain. People like Ernest and me love to make people very happy, caring desperately about their happiness. And then people like Ernest and me had reactions and punished people for being stupid, etc., etc. People like Ernest and me————
Tom Fast’s story of Ernest.
Ernest and “Farewell to Arms”—producer story.
An inferiority complex comes simply from not feeling you’re doing the best you can—Ernest’s “drink” was simply a form of this.
It [For Whom the Bell Tolls] is so to speak Ernest’s ’Tale of Two Cities’ though the comparison isn’t apt. I mean it is a thoroughly superficial book which has all the profundity of Rebecca.
I want to write scenes that are frightening and inimitable. I don’t want to be as intelligible to my contemporaries as Ernest who as Gertrude Stein said, is bound for the Museums. I am sure I am far enough ahead to have some small immortality if I can keep well.
But there was one consolation: They could never use any of Mr. Hemingway’s four letter words, because that was for fourth class and fourth class has been abolished—
(The first class was allowed to cheat a little on the matter.)
But on the other hand they could never use any two letter words like NO. They had to use three letter words like YES!
Bald Hemingway characters.