Man Booker 2013. The winner is: Eleanor Catton



Congratulations, Eleanor!


Seems my guess was the kiss of death for Jim Crace and NiViolet Bulwayo. Sorry about that, you two. Especially to Jim Crace. That man should not stop writing, almost as much as I should, in order to protect the innocent. I’m upset with him for his insistence he’s done. He wants to fish, he says. To relax and fish. Well, maybe he’ll change his mind one day.

Speaking of, have you read a book by him yet, have you? We had this discussion (I did, at least) a few weeks back. Everything he’s written is touched by God Himself. Read all his books, write reviews of him in all the places and maybe he’ll see them and feel all nostalgic and weepy about the terrible feeling of facing the blank screen (or notebook, I can’t recall offhand what he said). I would email him again and instruct him to get back to work but I’m afraid he’ll develop Sebastian Barry complex and begin to look at me askance. Truth is I am the most innocent thing. A bit excitable (only about books, otherwise I pretty much just stare into space) and passionate (ditto) but not at all scary.

Convincing? Should I revise?


luminariescatton2Lots and lots of copies of the book I couldn’t get through.


But the point – lost long ago, in a fit of wildly careening writing – is the Big Prize went to the one novel I tried to get through and couldn’t! Huzzah…?

What’s wrong with me? It’s not a bad book. Not bad bad, I mean. The fault was in not giving it enough undivided attention, I’m almost certain. I’m sort of bad, that way. It’s well-written and about the intriguing and new-to-me subject of the gold rush in New Zealand:

It is 1866, and Walter Moody has come to make his fortune upon the New Zealand goldfields. On the stormy night of his arrival, he stumbles across a tense gathering of twelve local men, who have met in secret to discuss a series of unsolved crimes. A wealthy man has vanished, a prostitute has tried to end her life, and an enormous fortune has been discovered in the home of a luckless drunk. Moody is soon drawn into the mystery: a network of fates and fortunes that is as complex and exquisitely patterned as the night sky.

The Luminaries

Sounds lovely when you put it that way, doesn’t it? Well, as far as I know it’s still on my Kindle (I have a free eBook from the publisher, which will disappear when they decide to “archive” it), so I’ll get back on it or die trying. With Moby Dick still ongoing. And that doorstop Tudors.

At least Henry’s dead now, (the VIII, not some random Henry) finally, and Elizabeth’s primed for crown and sceptre, once that pesky Edward gets out of her way. I’d grown tired reading about Henry and his sadism. What an @$$hole, really! Boiling people alive? Dismembering, chopping off heads, hanging and burning? Not to mention the destruction of all those beautiful churches and the illuminated manuscripts. Did you know they used those gorgeous works for toilet paper? Turns my stomach. Ten centuries destroyed in one fell swoop, Ackroyd wrote, and I wanted to weep.

Why the fascination with the Tudors? Shame on us all. While the kind, caring rulers are gathering dust in their marble sarcophagi we’re lusting after the Tudors, because a hot little minx or three and a few messy beheadings make a good story, I suppose. Better we should forget the ulcerous old bastard and look to Elizabeth I. She had her own moments but she is a female role model, of sorts.

Because who needs a king? Not that one, that’s who.


elizabethiThis one, that’s who.


Back to the Bookers, sorry. I get prattling and things go awry, then I don’t feel like working on segues and here we are.

I knew I was off my game this year, as I told you in my last post. My prediction for either Jim Crace or NoViolet Bulawayo didn’t materialize but I had an unsettled feeling I wasn’t quite getting it. My intuition didn’t sense it as strongly this year. Something was off-kilter: my Karma or what-not. For so many years I’ve been nailing it. Not so 2013. Sigh.

I’ll get back to the Catton, with a dose of Melville and Ackroyd on the side. And, well, okay a dash of Joyce Carol Oates’s My Sister, My Love, my creepy pleasure of the moment. It’s based on the JonBenet Ramsey case, if you remember that child murder from years and years ago, about the beautiful six year old whose mother whored her up like a slutty Barbie doll, entering her in beauty pageants (do not start me on that rant). Still unsolved, unbelievably. And just now I read this article, from two days ago saying the slaying indictment, which was never prosecuted (?!), may be unsealed.

You can’t hear it but I’m making a disgusted sound at the thought of how wrong the world is right now, for JonBenet and so much else. Now my forehead’s hitting the desk. You can’t see my desk – THANK GOD – but it’s very 1990s and I want to burn it. The drawers tend to fall out when you open them. It’s an optional feature I chose. In another 100 years it will come back into style, complete with a charming patina of coffee cup rings and stray ink marks.

This would be it for this time but I didn’t direct you to my review of Nicholson Baker’s Traveling Sprinkler, published on the New York Journal of Books website. It’s a  little rambling but they took it, so phew! Relief making the deadline is all I can say. Strike that. I could say much more but I have to go start dinner. Plus, if you’ve read this far I feel badly on your behalf.

Now my work here is done, for this time. I’d meant just to talk about my Man Booker fiasco but then things got away from me. Woe is you!

Ta, loves. And keep reading.



Reading catch-up: October 2013


The Man Bookers, 2013



The days are winding down. Not long to go now. Six days until the big winner is announced.

As for my own progress, I tried so, so hard to get through Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries. It’s well-written but I found it so bloated with extraneous detail and repetitive material I was forced to throw in the towel. Yes, I did like that at first, considering I was having so much trouble recalling who was who and Catton’s tendency to repeat herself was a plus. But that got to be old.

I have so many other eBooks on the go from NetGalley something had to give. So I put The Luminaries aside for Peter Ackroyd’s Tudors. Yes, another book about Henry VIII. It’s a weakness.


Lahiri’s publisher sent me a copy of The Lowland, which I’ll try to fit in. And I really want to read Ozecki’s book, too. and NoViolet Bulwayo’s.

Lots of ambition, little time.

I have a feeling it will come down to Jim Crace’s Harvest and Bulawayo’s We Need New Names. So, barring any last minute change of mind, I’m thinking one of these. Either Crace’s to keep him writing or Bulawayo’s to honor a new writer whose book sounds wonderful. SOUNDS WONDERFUL. Notice I haven’t even READ IT. Which stops me from expressing an opinion, oh, never.

I also have the sneaking feeling I may be WRONG in my prediction this year. Disconcerting. If I’m wrong, will you still respect me in the morning?

Will see soon enough.


Moby Dick. I think I’ve been covering my progress with it pretty well. And it continues…



John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley. Did I mention I’m reading it? In case I didn’t, I’m reading it.

It’s Steinbeck in a camper/pick up truck, his big poodle Charley and a journey across America. It’s my health club (elliptical and stationary bike) read and it’s funny and interesting to read about America from several decades ago, what’s changed and what hasn’t.

HINT: Most hasn’t.

Its light prose (with deeper insights) makes a good accompaniment to sweating and swearing.

I long to do this one day, to take off and visit small town America, writing about what I seem and who I meet. I’ve seen a lot of my country – more than the average American – but never just for the sake of analyzing it and writing about it. It’s always been rush, rush, rush from one site to another. In other words, your standard family vacation. But the difference is we didn’t spend a lot of time in the little places, off the beaten path. We did drive, which is rare in these days after the invention of the Big Silver Bird, so we were at least old school in that way. I want to take off with no destination in mind (Steinbeck did have a map, I have to qualify), just rambling, writing and taking pictures.

Some day? Probably not. That’s how life goes.



Peter Ackroyd’s Tudors. Looks like it was released this week, so I’m hoping NetGalley doesn’t yank it away from me. It’s a really long tome, written in Ackroyd’s smooth, readable prose. Finally I’m getting the hang of who Cardinal Wolsey was, as well as Cromwell and a few other historical figures who’ve been muddled in my mind.

From Amazon:

Above all, however, it is the story of the English Reformation and the making of the Anglican Church. At the beginning of the sixteenth century, England was still largely feudal and looked to Rome for direction; at its end, it was a country where good governance was the duty of the state, not the church, and where men and women began to look to themselves for answers rather than to those who ruled them.

I bought the first volume in Ackroyd’s new history of Britain series, Foundation, which covers the period from its earliest beginnings up to the Tudors. Tudors goes along well with my having just read Russell Shorto’s Amsterdam (read it! it’s phenomenal!) as it deals with religious liberalism and what was coming out of that Dutch culture at the same time Henry was having his religious “issues”. Serendipity.

For the sake of continuity, I may have to purchase Tudors as well. How can I own a partial set of books?

Heresy (irony intentional).





Aside from dips into this ‘n that, this covers the bulk of my recent reading. I’m in my usual panic, looking at my overflowing bookshelves upon bookshelves upon bookshelves added to what’s coming out every day (damn the fall publication titles!). I purchased the new Barnes, Levels of Life, which I’ve been waiting for forever, since it was of course published in the UK first. I had that on Amazon pre-order.

And the new Drabble Pure Gold Baby. Same thing.

And a few others. OKAY. QUIT TWISTING MY ARM. On my crazy weekend away with my galpal I visited Boswell Book Co. in Milwaukee, WI. Aside from a plush Charles Dickens doll (I know…), these jumped into my arms:


I’ve lost my copy of Christopher Morley’s classic The Haunted Bookshop. And look how pretty this edition is (top)!

Then, A.J.A. Symons’s The Quest for Corvo:


One day in 1925 a friend asked A. J. A. Symons if he had read Fr. Rolfe’s Hadrian the Seventh. He hadn’t, but soon did, and found himself entranced by the novel—”a masterpiece”—and no less fascinated by the mysterious person of its all-but-forgotten creator. The Quest for Corvo is a hilarious and heartbreaking portrait of the strange Frederick Rolfe, self-appointed Baron Corvo, an artist, writer, and frustrated aspirant to the priesthood with a bottomless talent for self-destruction. But this singular work, subtitled “an experiment in biography,” is also a remarkable self-portrait, a study of the obsession and sympathy that inspires the biographer’s art.

I had to. Plus, you’ll note the Bargain Book sticker, thanks very much.

Finally, Read Me: A Century of Classic American Book Advertisements by Dwight Garner

Because how often do you run across books like this? AND, another Bargain Book.

Don’t judge me…

Trouble is, I feel like I’m missing one. Ah, well. Neither here nor there.

Then, a partial pile of review books lately arrived:


Gosh, I’ve missed several other review copies, I realize now, including a paperback copy of Crace’s Harvest (I had the hardback for review). I’ll put those on the accompanying Bluestalking Tumbler Blog. Problem solved.

It’s nice reminding myself what I’m reading. I rely on my blog a lot for that but even that’s a struggle. A written book journal would go a long way toward helping me keep up at a glance, now, wouldn’t it. Making mental note. That’s what this blog was originally meant to do but I can’t seem to keep things organized enough even with that. The books just KEEP ARRIVING! Strange how that happens.

Back soon. In the meantime, read on, my loves! Read on! And don’t spare the horses.



Photo credit: Dennis Camp Photography

Photo credit: Dennis Camp Photography