Unique selections of books from our book buyer Paul Ingram. He compiles great lists of books on varying topics.
If you have any requests for recommendations, send Paul an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
April 3, 2014 - 1:12pm
Spring and All, XIV
Spring and All, XIV
William Carlos Williams
talked to me
sleep to trim
he said, we die
ways to grow
I told him
of the quartz
and of old men
sets of teeth
to the cue
of an old man
at the door—
March 28, 2014 - 11:30am
Jane Hamilton is one of our finest contemporary writers of fiction. She’s never written a bad book. I chose Disobedience for Book Club because, as I thought back to the book, many lively, touching, and wildly funny scenes came immediately to mind. I became hungry for a reread, the way one becomes hungry for a favorite apple pie.
In the novel, a boy (Henry), setting up his mother’s email, discovers that she is having a passionate love affair with a wonderfully goofy European musician (his emails are very funny). Henry has no idea what to do, and this of course gives us a story.
Disobedience is the April selection for Paul’s Book Club.
We’ll meet at Room B in the Public Library, April 17 at 7 PM. See you there.
March 28, 2014 - 11:13am
The Bohemians: Mark Twain and the San Francisco Writers Who Reinvented American Literature
Ben Tarnoff’s new book, The Bohemians: Mark Twain and the San Francisco Writers Who Reinvented American Literature, is wonderful. I recommend it for anyone who is curious about the history of American literature, the complicated life of Mark Twain, and the writers of the American west. It is an impressively researched, thoroughly engaging read.
“When I think of Mark Twain, I think of an older gentleman in Hannibal, Mo., wearing a white suit, maybe holding a copy of his classic novel, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Rarely, if ever, have I imagined him as a young, struggling writer — in California! — whose initial attempts at journalism whipped his audience into a fevered pitch of anger or sank like stones.
Ben Tarnoff’s meticulously researched and exhilarating The Bohemians: Mark Twain and the San Francisco Writers Who Reinvented American Literature, has forever changed my image of Twain, his spotless white suit and the role of California and its writers in the post-Civil War surge of American literature.
Twain may be the main draw of Tarnoff’s book, but Tarnoff’s writing about a few of Twain’s contemporaries — Bret Harte, Charles Warren Stoddard, Ina Coolbrith — is just as engaging. In 1863 San Francisco, where “even the shaggiest miner aspired to bardhood, and poets were pop stars,” these up-and-coming writers were mining not for gold, but for words.
While these “Bohemians” had one another for support and encouragement, each of them still struggled with his or her demons. As sole provider for her mother and other family members, Coolbrith had to fit her writing time somewhere between a full-time job and the relentless demands of her household. Stoddard’s writing success was inconsistent as he fought with society’s expectations and came to terms with his own homosexuality. Harte suffered ridicule at the hands of his classmates for his physical appearance, and intolerance by his mother of his literary aspirations. Twain’s own mother pleaded with him from the East Coast to get a respectable job.
As much as this is a story of the men and (few) women who made up San Francisco’s burgeoning literary community, it is also a thorough treatise on the mid-19th-century newspaper culture on the West Coast and beyond. While there are many ways that Tarnoff could have swerved off topic, he manages to put the world of these writers into historical context without overwhelming the reader with superfluous facts.
These Bohemians shared many difficulties with the writers of today: They fought to publish in a vast sea of voices; they struggled daily with self-doubt, and their supportive community was paramount. There was also the stark fact that some writers, such as Twain, would continue on to lasting fame while others, such as Coolbrith, would drift into obscurity.”—Meganne Fabrega, New York Book Critics Circle.