Short shrift though this post might be, it seems better than neglecting the blog entirely, although I do begin to wonder whether I shouldn't simply integrate my reading lists and occasional brief reviews into Materfamilias Writes. . . we'll see. . . perhaps 2016 will surprise me, see me shift my energies more in this direction. . .
For now, though, just popping in to say that I've finished Elana Ferrante's The Story of the Lost Child, and while I will save my response to this last volume, and the series overall, for another, more considered, longer post, I have found every one of the four books compelling and absorbing. I've been mesmerised by the microscopic examination of a female friendship that is suffused with rivalry, and by the way that friendship holds our attention while we consider the many social, political, economic, and cultural changes that have shaped women's lives -- in Italy, yes, but beyond that, across European borders and with obvious resonance for North America as well (at the very least). This balancing of the very particular and the sweeping global, this fascinates me, and the way it's held in the conversational, if confessional, tone of one of the two central characters, the over-abundance of some detail while there is so much we cannot or will not be told....
But, as I said, I have to save my response... more later.
Meanwhile, I'm finishing Jake Morrissey's The Genius in the Design: Bernini, Borromini, and the Rivalry that Transformed Rome -- it has to be returned to the library tomorrow (when I'll exchange it for Francine Prose's book on Caravaggio, which I'd put on hold). Very interesting on 16th-century Rome, the intrigue and politics behind the city's architecture and art, the obvious influence of the church but especially on how that was connected to the city's powerful families. Also on the role of personality in the respective success of the two rival architects.
And to complete this post, such as it is, I'll tell you that I did finish Morrissey's book and have just finished Prose on Caravaggio. Even more emphasis in the latter on the role of personality in an artist's success, particularly at a time when patronage was so crucial. Both books also highlighted the violence and sexuality that seethed behind much of the art that we've so privileged as High Art, much of it created supposedly in service of religion. Rape, pederasty, murderous rampages, viciously jealous disfigurement of mistresses who betrayed. I think with even more amazement of Artemisia Gentilleschi's accomplishments in the Rome of Baroque art, her commitment to her painting even throughout her rape and her subsequent humiliation in the court prosecution of same. But that's another book..
Finally, as is my habit after the busy Christmas season, I spent some lovely lazy hours over the past couple of days in my armchair with a mystery novel. Val McDermid's latest, Splinter the Silence, returns us to the relationship between police detective Carol Jordan and Tony Hill, profiling psychologist. Without too much spoiling, I hope, I can tell you that this volume sees Jordan and Hill regaining some of their earlier closeness as they contend with another serial murderer. I was pleased to revisit some likeable characters, and although McDermid's feminist messaging occasionally becomes a bit ponderous, the book's politics align comfortably with my own and perhaps draw some necessary awareness while not detracting unduly. A satisfying escape, overall.
Having caught up, however briskly, with my reading list, I will now return to my contemplation of the huge stack of new books and decide what would make the best pivot from 2015 to 2016. Currently, the top contenders are André Alexis' Fifteen Dogs and Marlon James' A History of Seven Killings. . . and, despite the lack of a number in its title, or an apostrophe-confounding terminal "s" in its author's surname, Cynthia Barnett's non-fiction Rain: A Natural and Cultural History. Care to wager on my choice? Or to push me in one direction or another?
My plan for my next post is to publish my 2015 Reading List in the next week or two. It will either include, or be shortly followed by, my Top 5 or Top 10 recommendations. . . or Top 3 in this or that category, depending what I recognize retrospectively as I look over the list of titles.
But you know what Mr. Burns said about "the best-laid plans of mice and men" . . . Crossing my fingers mine don't "gang . . . agley"
Before that post, though, we will turn over the calendar page into 2016. Who knows what we will read or discuss together in this New Year?! But let me wish you all a Happy New Year! May you read some of the books you've always meant to, in this coming year, and may you discover wonderful new authors you'd never heard of!