2013 … started out the year with Manil Suri’s The Age of Shiva. Women in India seeking identity. Need more be said? Beautifully rendered.
Followed by breakneck pace of Shantaram by David Gregory Roberts. Set in Mumbai with diversions to Pakistan. It covers the ground from slums, brothels, ex-pats and more. An adventure chased by a dose of compassion.
Grace Coddington, the iconoclastic red haired creative director of Vogue sharing a wonderful wild ride of her life in Grace.
As a sailor, I love disaster stories and All Brave Sailors by J. Revell Carr tells a little known tale of the sailors who survived a U-boat sinking told with vivid portraits and an ass kick ending…all true.
Unrequited love, an angry goddess, epic warring in Madeline Miller’s Song of Achilles puts you on the beaches of Troy and sits you in Achilles’ tent aching to let his desire be fulfilled.
There was a brief biography gluttony with Nancy Milford’s Savage Beauty (Edna St. Millay) and Zelda (you know who.) Both amazingly written about amazing women.
Then the man. William Shawn, the New Yorker’s legendary editor as reminisced by Ved Mehta in Remembering Mr. Shawn’s New Yorker, the Invisible Art of Editing.
Oh, one more indulgence with Catherine the Great, Robert Massie’s lovely biography of Russia’s leader during our Revolutionary War and the builder of St. Petersburg.
Closing out the year with my friend Dawn Wink’s debut novel, Meadowlark a moving account set in South Dakota of a woman’s life on the prairie at the turn of the century. Briefly noted, tough, misogynistic and dawn to dusk toil in the midst of drop dead beauty. Our heroine is up to the task though and inspiring. Speaking of heroines, don’t forget to re-read The Robber Bridegroom by that crafty Eudora Welty, hiding behind her spinster demeanor. I love her! Just finished it, again.
Finally two biggies: Thomas Pynchon’s Bleeding Edge which I hated. Too clever and smart for my taste. I mean, does Pynchon have to prove he’s smart? It bored me to tears and thought the premise of uber-surveillance though prescient, was wasted on slack writing. Sorry.
The Woman Who Lost Her Soul by Bob Shacochis is also smart. But in a different way. Like Bleeding Edge, its characters, with one exception, are hard to like. But the scope, the treatment of mid to late 20th century political blunders and the chaos of the 21st century are written with incredible detail and beautiful language. Spoiler alert. Women are not treated well but then, neither are men. It’s a great read. A commitment at 700 pages.