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Book report for November 2023

Book report for November 2023
© Dale Keiger

Letter No. 63: Includes California, God, physics, a Polaroid camera, and single-sentence stories.

I read a quartet of the dissimilar this month: an excellent and creepy contemporary dystopian novel, a collection of interviews, a photo book of days, and a Lydia Davis, which is a genre all on its own. I maintain an affiliate store on Bookshop.org; buy from it and you a) oppose the Amazon hegemon, b) benefit independent booksellers (so far, more than $29 million contributed to indie retailers), and c) enrich Dr Essai by a couple of bucks. Who could resist?

  • Something New Under the Sun, Alexandra Kleeman. Kleeman’s second novel is sunlit, firelit noir, if that’s possible, a California nightmare plausible and unsettling. Part mystery, part scathing critique, part forecast, part warning. Creepy and impressive.
  • Einstein’s God, Krista Tippett. Serious intellectual exploration of the weave of science and faith through a series of conversations with an array of scientific minds, by one of the best interviewers in the business.
  • A Book of Days, Patti Smith. A 366-page collection of her (mostly Polaroid) photographs, one per day, with brief text under each. Smith takes pictures often lacking in technique but affecting nevertheless. More elegiac in tone than I’d anticipated, but like many of us she has more losses to mourn with each year.
  • Our Strangers, Lydia Davis. A Lydia Davis story might be a single paragraph, or a single complex sentence. I think of them more as prose poems. Some are clever, some are very funny, some suggest a great deal more than you’d expect from such economy, but reading one after another from this book got a bit tedious, like a playlist heard too often. This volume published by the innovative folks at Bookshop.org and available only through them and indie bookstores.
In progress
  • The Best American Essays 1999, Edward Hoagland (ed.)
  • Everything in its Place, Dan Charnas
  • Tricks of the Mind, Derren Brown
  • Everything in its Place, Dan Charnas
  • A Book of Days, Patti Smith
  • Bob Dylan: Mixing Up the Medicine, Mark Davidson and Parker Fishel (eds.)
  • Six Walks, Ben Shattuck
  • Border Districts, Gerald Murnane
  • The Auburn Conference, Tom Piazza
  • The MANIAC, Benjamín Labatut
Under consideration
  • Prophet Song, Paul Lynch
Dipped into
  • Atom Land, Jon Butterworth

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