Letter No. 70: Includes heavy presence of Hemingway, accessing wolf brains, and too many bland essays.
All right then, 2024 in full swing. But Dr Essay’s brain a bit scattered, mustering only a half-swing as reflected in attenuated productivity as a reader and especially as a writer. Corrective action has been taken. Remedial measures applied. Letter No. 71 nearing completion as we speak.
The links for a few recommended titles take you to my Bookshop.org affiliated store. Buy from it and I get a few bucks. Yes, it’s a kickback scheme; don’t tell the feds.
As always, dear Jogglers, thank you for reading. And while we’re here, what have you been perusing?
- Against Amazon and Other Essays, Jorge Carrión. Intermittently interesting, but overall a disappointment. Carrión writes about bookstores, so you’d think this was my kind of book, but the author offers little insight or original thought. Blah.
- Papa Hemingway, A.E. Hotchner. I have known of this book for a long time, and for some reason thought it was a biography. It’s not, it’s a memoir of Hotchner’s time with his friend in the last 10 years of Hemingway’s life. It’s a wrenching story of the great author’s decline, well-written and heartbreaking.
- The Little Drummer Girl, John le Carré. Not his best. About 100 pages too long. The central plot element is an elaborate scheme to infiltrate a Palestinian terrorist cell and kill its notorious bomb-maker. The scheme comes off with nary a hitch, which is improbable, and odd for le Carré, who has always made a point of all the ways intelligence operations always go wrong.
- Selected Letters 1918-1926, Ernest Hemingway. From the Library of America’s first Hemingway volume. You will need to bring a keen interest in the author to the letters, but many of them fascinate in various ways. The Hemingway that emerges was constantly anxious about money, consumed by ambition, alternately confident and insecure, a treacherous friend who expressed love when writing to you but sliced you apart when writing about you to others, bad to women, and an anti-Semite.
- Feed Them Silence, Lee Mandelo. Potent novella about a troubled scientist who, through a brain implant, accesses the sensorium of a wolf who has been implanted with the same device. All goes bad for all concerned. A compact work that manages to explore profound questions, by a very smart writer.
- The Auburn Conference, Tom Piazza
- Seduced by Story: The Use and Abuse of Narrative, Peter Brooks
- American Smoke, Iain Sinclair
- The Imaginative Landscape of Christopher Columbus, Valerie I.J. Flint
- The Big Bang of Numbers, Manil Suri
- A Spy Alone, Charles Beaumont
- A Year and a Day, Phillip Lopate. Got tired of waiting for Lopate to live up to his reputation as an essayist. Got tired of waiting for any insight, original thinking, or striking prose. Got tired and quit.