Friday, April 10, 2009

Time to Choose A New Book

For our next book selection I turned to 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die and Classics for Pleasure to get some ideas. So a bit of a mix with a classic, a short story collection, book in translation, etc. I hope you'll find something here you like. Here are the choices:

If On A Winter's Night A Traveler by Italo Calvino (259 pages). This is a novel about the urgency, desire, and frustration bound up in the practice of reading novels. The novel, which is nonlinear, begins with a man discovering that the copy of a novel he has recently purchased is defective, a Polish novel having been bound within its pages. He returns to the bookshop the following day and meets a young woman who is on an identical mission. They both profess a preference for the Polish novel. Interposed between the chapters in which the two strangers attempt to authenticate their texts are 10 excerpts that parody genres of contemporary world fiction, such as the Latin-American novel and the political novel of eastern Europe.

Life Like by Lorrie Moore (192 pages). In these eight exquisite stories characters stumble through their daily existence. These men and women, unsettled and adrift and often frightened, can’t quite understand how they arrived at their present situations. Harry has been reworking a play for years in his apartment near Times Square in New York. Jane is biding her time at a cheese shop in a Midwest mall. Dennis, unhappily divorced, buries himself in self-help books about healthful food and healthy relationships. One prefers to speak on the phone rather than face his friends, another lets the answering machine do all the talking. But whether rejected, afraid to commit, bored, disillusioned or just misunderstood, even the most hard-bitten are not without some abiding trust in love.

Manservant and Maidservant by Ivy Compton-Burnett (320 pages). At once the strangest and most marvelous of Ivy Compton-Burnett's fictions, Manservant and Maidservant has for its subject the domestic life of Horace Lamb, sadist, skinflint, and tyrant. But it is when Horace undergoes an altogether unforeseeable change of heart that the real difficulties begin. Is the repentant master a victim along with the former slave? And how can anyone endure the memory of the wrongs that have been done?"


Under the Net by Iris Murdoch (256 pages). Iris Murdoch’s first novel is a gem – set in a part of London where struggling writers rub shoulders with successful bookies, and film starlets with frantic philosophers. Its hero, Jake Donaghue, is a likable young man who makes a living out of translation work and sponging off his friends. A meeting with Anna, an old flame, leads him into a series of fantastic adventures. Beneath the surface of the narrative lies a wealth of philosophical questioning: Murdoch contests existential ideas of freedom; she asks what it means to be in love; and she rigorously questions what makes a good writer and what constitutes good art.


The Slaves of Solitude by Patrick Hamilton (272 pages). England in the middle of World War II, a war that seems fated to go on forever, a war that has become a way of life. Heroic resistance is old hat. Everything is in short supply, and tempers are even shorter. Overwhelmed by the terrors and rigors of the Blitz, middle-aged Miss Roach has retreated to the relative safety and stupefying boredom of the suburban town of Thames Lockdon, where she rents a room in a boarding house run by Mrs. Payne. There the savvy, sensible, decent, but all-too-meek Miss Roach endures the dinner-table interrogations of Mr. Thwaites and seeks to relieve her solitude by going out drinking and necking with a wayward American lieutenant. Life is almost bearable until Vicki Kugelmann, a seeming friend, moves into the adjacent room. That's when Miss Roach's troubles really begin. Recounting an epic battle of wills in the claustrophobic confines of the boarding house, Patrick Hamilton's The Slaves of Solitude, with a delightfully improbable heroine, is one of the finest and funniest books ever written about the trials of a lonely heart.

Let's leave the voting open until Thursday (16th) and I'll let you know which book "won" on Friday, April 17. Our discussion will then start on May 31st.

12 comments:

Danielle said...

Nice choices, Iliana. I'd be happy reading any of them, but I'll pick The Slaves of Solitude as that's one I've had my eye on recently.

Stefanie said...

What a nice selection! What to choose? I'm going with Manservant and Maidservant mostly because I just picked up a copy recently. Second choice would be Iris Murdoch.

Dorothy W. said...

Thank you Iliana -- those are all great choices! I'll vote for Manservant and Maidservant because it's been one I've been meaning to read one of these days.

SFP said...

We've never done a story collection and I love Lorrie Moore's so I'm tempted to go with Like Life, but somehow it just seems appropriate for the Slaves of Golconda to read The Slaves of Solitude.

What a great bunch of choices, Iliana. Thanks for putting the list together.

dovegreyreader said...

Thanks for a great list, I am so spoilt for choice but The Slaves of Solitude sounds right up my reading street right now.

litlove said...

I would like to read any of these, but I'd be particularly interested in Iris Murdoch or the Ivy Compton-Burnett.

J.C. Montgomery said...

Oh you always come up with such great choices...darn you! (said with a smile)

I am most intrigued with The Slaves of Solitude and so that is my vote.

Sarah said...

That is a good list, I'd pick The Slaves of Solitude as I've been meaning to read it for ages.

My second pick would be If on a winter's night a traveller, which is an old favourite.

Tami said...

I am a brand new follower of her blog, but am still interested in voting. I would chose If on a Winter's Night a Traveller. But all look like great choices.

Grad said...

Oooo, nice list. But, Slaves of Solitude gets my vote.

Lillet said...

All choices are just brilliant.I am partial to the Lorrie Moore story collection, myself. But would be happy with any of these choices.

Iliana said...

Thanks so much for voting you guys. It looks like it will be The Slaves of Solitude for the Slaves of Golconda :)