November reading log

What Maisie Knew (1897) – Henry James

The Trees (1940) – Conrad Richter

The Talented Mr. Ripley (1955) – Patricia Highsmith

Wake in Fright (1961) – Kenneth Cook

Recollections of the Golden Triangle (1978) – Alain Robbe-Grillet (trans. J.A. Underwood, 1984) (finally finished after abandoning midway)

Louis the Torch (1983) – Paul Metcalf

The Shape of a City (1985) – Julien Gracq (trans. Ingeborg A. Kohn)

Arvida (2011) – Samuel Archibald (trans. Donald Winkler, 2015) (begun)

Daring Greatly (2012) – Brené Brown

Greene County Ohio

A field in Greene County, Ohio, 2015

Last night Paris was attacked in an unimaginable act of hate. I hope for peace, in Paris and elsewhere, as unlikely a prospect it may seem. Condolences to those affected by the tragedy. Our thoughts go out to those Parisians whose lives will be affected by increased security measures. We love you, and we share your tears. – J.S.

The Well-Stuffed Watermelon

“Many Ways to Stuff a Watermelon” is up at Numéro Cinq.

Pierre Senges explores the relationship of writers and fictional characters to libraries. It was hard to translate.

There are sections on Flaubert (Bouvard and Pécuchet), Casanova, Borges, Jean-Paul Richter, Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky, Thomas De Quincey, Thomas Browne, Émile Borel, Cervantes, Sorrentino, Moby Dick, Diodorus, Réjean Ducharme, Aristotle, Miklós Szentkuthy.

Check it out.

Wake in Fright & Other Blotto Books

Kenneth Cook’s short novel Wake in Fright (1961) is, according to its publisher, the “original and greatest outback horror story.” J.M. Coetzee acknowledges it as a “a true dark classic of Australian literature.” So, naturally, I was interested and sought it out.

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I found it horrifying and suspenseful, but also humorous at times. For the book’s entirety, the protagonist, a young schoolteacher, finds himself stranded in a tiny outpost town of New South Wales, near what Cook ominously calls “the Dead Heart,” that is, the uninhabited interior of Australia. On his way home to Sydney, he spends a night in a mining town called Bundanyabba (or “The Yabba,” as the locals call it; apparently modeled on Broken Hill, where Cook had jobs as a journalist in his twenties). The schoolteacher goes on a little spree that depletes his savings, leaving him broke, without any way to get home or anywhere to stay for the six long weeks ahead of the Christmas break. Thus, he finds himself dependent on the hospitality of the locals of The Yabba, who ply him with beer after beer, and take him on a ultra-violent nocturnal kangaroo hunting trip. (Dare I tell you that a film adaptation, directed by Ted Kotcheff, can be viewed on YouTube?)

So this book takes the form of an alcoholic nightmare, and it set me thinking of the other classic books in this vein. On Twitter I asked what other books people would consider classic novels/novellas of alcoholism, in addition to two that sprang readily to my mind: Appointment in Samarra and Under the Volcano.

So, for no other reason than the sheer pleasure of making lists, I compiled the answers. This list stakes no claim to exhaustivity, especially as it includes only a few works written in languages other than English, but I would be glad to include any suggestions readers might have. You can leave those in the comments, or on Twitter.


L’assommoir (1877) – Emile Zola – via @AmateurReader

various books of Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald (especially The Sun Also Rises and Tender is the Night) – via @olivia8k

‘A Drunk Man Looks at a Thistle’ (poem) (1926) – Hugh MacDiarmid – via @issekinicho

Appointment in Samarra (1934) – John O’Hara

The Thin Man (1934) – Dashiell Hammett – via @levistahl

The Lost Weekend (1944) – Charles Jackson – via @noctambulate

Under the Volcano (1947) – Malcom Lowry

The Drinker (1950) – Hans Fallada – via @jb_lett

Wake in Fright (1961) – Kenneth Cook

A Fan’s Notes (1968) – Frederick Exley – via @olivia8k

Post Office (1971) – Charles Bukowski – via @olivia8k

Moscow to the End of the Line (1973) – Venedikt Erofeev – via @theuntranslated

Disturbing the Peace (1975) – Richard Yates – via @jb_lett

Ironweed (1983) – William Kennedy – via @noctambulate

Jernigan (1991) – David Gates