Sunday, January 03, 2010

2010, Day Three

It's an unseasonably cold day here in northern Virginia. The sunshine is misleading as a thin and reedy wind keeps the temperature below 30. A perfect day, then, for reading.

I have read eight chapters, some 90 pages, of Dicken's Little Dorrit. I have met Amy Dorrit, the title character who was born in Marshalsea Prison, the infamous debtor's prison. I have also been introduced to Arthur Clennam, recently returned to London and who suspects that his family business may have reparations to make; Clennam's cold and emotionally distant mother; and Flintwich, a conniving servant, who appears to have a twin.

There is a mystery here, perhaps more than one; wrongs to be righted and an unfortunate in need of a champion. All the ingredients are present for a satisfying read as Mr. Dicken's is wont to provide. In the introduction to the book -- it is an Oxford Illustrated Edition -- Lionel Trilling indicates that when Little Dorrit was first introduced it enjoyed greater success than Bleak House.

I have read slightly more than 100 pages of My Father Is A Book. Clearly, this is not the typical memoir penned by the child of a famous author. Janna Malamud Smith, a practicing psychotherapist, offers valuable insight into her father's writing by exploring his past; his mother's attempted suicide, his brother's mental instability and the doubts -- his own and others -- that he had the talent to be a successful writer.

My Father Is A Book promises to be a rewarding read. Have I mentioned that I have never read a book by Bernard Malamud? That is an oversight that I plan to remedy this year. I think The Natural is the Malamud novel I will read.

I also completed the January 4 issue of The New Yorker. Yesterday, I read the feature story on Whole Foods founder John Mackey and today the short story Baptizing the Gun by Uwem Akpan.

The feature on Mackey by Nick Paumgarten is well written and well researched. I've never been a great fan of Whole Foods and this story only serves to confirm the reasons why. Akpan's short story is disappointing. It feels incomplete and, I suspect, is an excerpt from a novel.

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