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Here are some book ideas from Sister Mary Murderous and Georgette Spelvin. Check back for more suggestions during the next several weeks because we'll be posting more.
Jonathan Coe is a British novelist whose nine books are all very different, but are generally politically oriented and satirical. The first book of his I read was The Winshaw Legacy: or, What a Carve Up! This unusual book is almost indescribable. It's a pastiche of detective story, farce, gothic and savage satire of Thatcherism. Weird, huh? This story of the old, powerful, corrupt and bizarre Winshaw family plays out from 1940 to 1990 and is one heck of a roller-coaster ride. I'd recommend it to somebody like Georgette, who enjoys non-linear storytelling.
I've been warily eying my fellow Material Witnesses since August, when Sister Mary Murderous reminded us of the passage of time. At the end of the year, she said, it will be time to compose lists of our favorite books read in 2011. I detest list-making in general because it's foreign to my disorganized nature, and favorite-books lists specifically because, as Annie Proulx says, "Lists, unless grocery shopping lists, are truly a reductio ad absurdum." I dearly love reading other people's lists, however. You're probably wondering why I'm bringing this up now, but there is a reason: Della Streetwise is reading The Top Ten: Writers Pick Their Favorite Books, edited by J. Peder Zane, and when I saw that, I hurried to buy it.
I love it. Yes, many of the books listed aren't a surprise, but this is still a book well worth owning, or you can check it out of the library. There's a section describing the books listed that is wonderful reading. There are lists of top ten fantasy and science fiction (in Fiskadoro by Denis Johnson, "after a nuclear war devastates the planet, residents of what had been the Florida Keys try to rebuild their lives and communities in a landscape where shards from the obliterated past–religious stories, Jimi Hendrix records, parking decks–remain but are barely understood"); comic works (Right Ho, Jeeves by P. G. Wodehouse includes "perhaps the funniest scene in the Wodehouse canon–Gussie Fink-Nottle's drunken speech at the Market Snodsbury Grammar School–this madcap farce once again finds Bertie Wooster and his brilliant manservant Jeeves working to point Cupid's arrows toward other hearts." Blithe Spirit by Noël Coward is "a gay and witty farce about death. The sublime silliness begins when a writer holds a séance to research his novel on a murderous fake psychic. Who should appear but his first wife, dead these six years and none too happy about wife number two."). By American authors (if someone you know over age 12 hasn't yet read Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, there's his or her gift), by Russian authors (The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov is a complex book that would make a great gift for your satire-loving friends who like brain food), by British authors, etc. Given her love of straightening drawers and making lists, Zane's The Top Ten: Writers Pick Their Favorite Books would be a good gift for lawyer Sister Mary Murderous or other readers who are intimidatingly well-organized brainiacs but otherwise wonderful people.
We hope you're enjoying plenty of cheer as you prepare for the holidays. We'd love to hear about your suggestions for bookstores and gift books for people on your list. What are you reading now, and are you going to treat yourself to a new book for the holidays?