Books: I only finished 6 books this quarter. So I am well off the pace I need to get through 52 by the end of the year. I did, however, manage to read the Sunday Washington Post every week and am close to caught up on magazines.
- Bernard Malamud, Pictures of Fidelman: This is a collection of stories about an American Jewish artist ho goes to Italy to paint and to study art. He gets involved with various dodgy characters, including a prostitute who poses for him. Fidelman isn’t entirely likeable, but he is interesting. Overall, I thought this was reasonably good. A solid B.
- Anthony West, Elizabethan England. This slim volume was part of a series of books that my parents had which are intended to provide overviews of various subjects. It covers a wide range of topics – from religious wars to architecture to industry to the arts. It’s superficial and basic, but does have a lot of pictures. The writing is rather dull, but, overall, this doesn’t pretend to be anything other than the quick overview that it is.
- David Hirschberg, My Mother’s Son. This was a book club selection. It tells the story of a Jewish family in post-World War II Boston. Joel and his brother help their grandfather and his friends run numbers, get involved in a scheme to keep the Braves from moving to Milwaukee, and try to figure out how many of their family stories are true. The characters are interesting and colorful, particularly the aunt whose diary entries are interspersed with Joel’s reminiscences. There are big events behind some of the action – ranging from the polio epidemics of the 1950’s to Kristallnacht to the Korean War lithis was interesting and worth reading, though implausible at times. Recommended.
- Sajal Badani, The Storyteller’s Secret. Another book club selection, this novel tells the story of Jaya, whose life is in turmoil after a third miscarriage. She goes to India to see her dying grandfather, but arrives too late. Instead, a family servant tells her the story of her grandmother, who had struggled against the limited roles for women in India during the Raj. There aren’t any real surprises in the story, nor is it particularly elegantly written. But I still got caught up in it very quickly and enjoyed reading it. Recommended.
- Tom Cantor, Changed. I have no idea why I bothered to read this offensive and poorly written tract which showed up in my mailbox. I’ve thrown it out to prevent others from making that mistake.
- Berton Roueche, Sea to Shining Sea. Roueche is best known for having written a really interesting series of magazine articles about epidemiology. This is, however, a collection of travel essays, including both U.S. and European travels. I liked his style of travel, which mostly had to do with getting to know people in what seem like ordinary places. For example, he hopped a series of tugboats pulling barges down the Mississippi River, followed a small town doctor in New Mexico through his rounds, rode trains from France to Switzerland, and visited the last Shakers living in a village in New York before that village closed. I read only one or two pieces a day, so this took a while, but I enjoyed it.