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In recent years, I’ve been trying to catch up on my 19th century novels. I’ve tackled a number of them so far, never with great anticipation, and yet have enjoyed them all. When I chose Jane Eyre as my next conquest, it was merely because I had a copy of the book on my shelf. But, it has proven a timely choice. First, in the Morgan Library and Museum‘s excellent new show, The Diary, there are two wonderful manuscripts by Charlotte Bronte. One, written in her famous minuscule handwriting, is a two page story that flows effortlessly between her lived experience and wild invention. The other is a small note jotted in her geography text book–a complaint about how she misses her siblings, how miserable she is at school, and how there is but one person there worth her time. They are stand-out pieces in the show.

Second, as I discovered this week at the movie theater, there is to be a film version of Jane Eyre released in March. As we watched the extremely dramatic preview for the movie, Dan asked, “is the book really that exciting?” to which I answered, “absolutely.” This was a truly suspenseful, salacious, exhilarating read. Love affairs! Ghosts! Destitution! Arson! Feminism! It has it all–500 pages of very satisfying entertainment. I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to get around to reading it. Read the rest of this entry »

Twenty Grand has been on my wishlist for years, but I finally received it as a gift this Christmas. I delved in and immediately realized that I had read the first two stories, in the New Yorker and Harper’s, respectively. I was happy to see them again. The two stories, “Hungry Self” and “Summer, with Twins,” have a lot in common. Both are from the point of view of a college-age girl, working a summer job at a resort restaurant and living as the odd-one-out with well-off twins for housemates. The stories are honest, as funny as they are disturbing. The protagonist is dysfunctional through both no fault and plenty of fault of her own. These two stories are really, really good.

The fourth story in the collection, “The Alpine Slide,” also concerns a New England resort. A fifteen year old good-girl lands a summer job at a local resort, newly helmed by a Canadian named Jacques, featuring a gigantic, precarious slide. Visitors ride down the slide on sleds, flying along as if in snow, although it is summer. Disasters of the flesh and psyche follow. This story satisfies on a lot of levels. It’s a summertime, coming-of-age story, it’s got blood, sex, crime. It’s nostalgic. It’s terrific.

As I read the first two stories, I was confounded by the front and back cover blurbs on my copy of the book. Read the rest of this entry »

I’ll start off this post by telling you that, when I finished By Nightfall by Michael Cunningham, I was actually crying–like, reach for the tissue box crying. The last book that made me cry like that was A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore (and yes, I sniffled a couple times during Freedom). Ms. Moore and Mr. Franzen were writing about death when they moved me to tears. Michael Cunningham was writing about marriage.

Peter, the narrator of By Nightfall, is a forty-four year old gallerist. He’s married to Rebecca, who helms a struggling art magazine and they live, comfortably, in a SoHo loft. Read the rest of this entry »