The Books of My Numberless Dreams

Oh my goodness, oh my goodness!

Posted on: February 23, 2007

A Different Stripe: HALF-PRICE SALE at NYRB

Which ones are you going to get? As for me…

The Child by Jules Vallès – Jules Vallès, an anarchist and a bohemian, dedicated his book “to all those who were bored stiff at school or reduced to tears at home, who in childhood were bullied by their teachers or thrashed by their parents,” and it tells the (autobiographical) tale of a young boy constantly scapegoated and abused, emotionally and physically, by his peasant mother and schoolteacher father, whose greatest concern is to improve their social status. But the young hero learns to stand up to his parents, even to love them, in time, and for all the intense pain the book registers it is anything but dreary. 

The “Also see” book is Unknown Masterpieces by Balzac which had several transcendent moments.

Sleepless Nights by Elizabeth Hardwick – Nobody writing prose now gives me as much pleasure as Elizabeth Hardwick. She honors our language and enlivens our woe. “Sleepless Nights” is elegant, wise, tasty–a truly wonderful book.

— Susan Sontag

I’ve stayed away from her fiction, ’till now, because I was worried that it wouldn’t be as good as non-fiction. I have her Seduction and Betrayal listed in Assortments because it was such a salient, inspiring, beautiful book. It’s the only collection of literary criticism that I own (so far). And NYRB has it and Sleepless Nights on a special offer! (No, I’m not on any payroll. Stop looking at me like that, I’m not.)

 Varieties of Exile by Mavis Gallant – Russell Banks’s extensive new selection from Gallant’s work, demonstrates anew the remarkable reach of this writer’s singular art. Among its contents are three previously uncollected stories, as well as the celebrated semi-autobiographical sequence about Linnet Muir—stories that are wise, funny, and full of insight into the perils and promise of growing up and breaking loose.

The female writers in the NYRB classics back list are the ones whose works I’ve gotten on the best with. I expect this to continue. Or not. Who cares, the cover of this book is gorgeous.

And so these aren’t on sale but don’t they look irresistible?

Virgin Soil by Ivan Turgenev – Turgenev was the most liberal-spirited and unqualifiedly humane of all the great nineteenth-century Russian novelists, and in “Virgin Soil”, his biggest and most ambitious work, he sought to balance his deep affection for his country and his people with his growing apprehensions about what their future held in store.

I’ve been tentatively widening the range of my net to include Russian authors, none of which I’ve actually tried except Nabokov (he counts, right?).

The Pure and the Impure by Colette – Colette herself considered “The Pure and the Impure” her best book, “the nearest I shall ever come to writing an autobiography.” This guided tour of the erotic netherworld with which Colette was so intimately acquainted begins in the darkness and languor of a fashionable opium den. It continues as a series of unforgettable encounters with men and, especially, women whose lives have been improbably and yet permanently transfigured by the strange power of desire.

A few bloggers have been reading her novels so, by chance, I plugged her name into the site search and this is what popped up. It sounds enticing.

Sadly these shall have to wait ’till March. Those Soft Skull books plumb cleaned out the last of my February book budget. Oh, will next week never come.

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9 Responses to "Oh my goodness, oh my goodness!"

Thanks for the tip off about the sale. NYRB Classics publish such a fantastic assortment of books. At the top of my list among those on sale is Randall Jarrell’s Book of Stories. I’m also tempted by the Mavis Gallant. And, of course, by lots of the not-on-sale ones…

I’ve got my eye on the Mary McCarthy book of essays, but the Elizabeth Hardwick and Mavis Gallant ones sound good too … and there are tons of non-sale books I want, just like you and Kate.

The Pure and the Impure is definitely a MUST BUY. Of course, that’s only if you enjoy Colette. I do, so I’m bias. ;p

Virgin Soil – I was at the library this afternoon and the copy they had was loaned out.

I’m inspired to read Turgenev after Robert Dessaix’s Twilight of Love.

I also recall Michael Ondaatje and Alberto Manguel recommending Mavis Gallant. One of those underrated writer that deserves so much more.

You have impeccable literary taste, Imani. *grin*

Well, I AM on the payroll, so you might have to be skeptical of anything I say. Even so, I so highly recommend Virgin Soil. It was the first Turgenev I read, and I think a decent introduction to the writer. The book also has a portrait of the self-absorbed young radical that is stunning in its accuracy–hey, I know that guy! I’ve also never seen the fizzling-out of a romance handled so well. I hope this book gets more readers. Oh, I also love Constance Garnett’s translation and seek her work out when I can.

You’re welcome, Kate. I was kinda tempted by the Jarrell but it didn’t leap out at me, so I tucked it into a mental corner. Oh, there’s always tons of NYRB Classic books I want. But I promised myself to read more of the ones I have before purchasing anymore, the exception being half-price sales.

Dorothy I shall have to take a look at the McCarthy as I don’t recognise that name. But yes, do try the Hardwick if you’re so inclined.

Dark Orpheus why thank you for recognising quality. 😉 You and Danielle at “Working Progress” were the bloggers I was referring to in respect to Colette. And just last night I watched Gigi–a musical I haven’t seen since I was a teeny bopper–and realised that it was based on a Colette novel!

I think I remember Manguel recommending Gallant myself in an interview somewhere. And your review of Twilight Love was excellent, I can see why that book would kindle your interest.

Sara, welcome and thanks for commenting. 🙂 I’m encouraged by your personal recommendation of Turgenev. Those classic Russian, for me, have always been covered in a distant film of abstruseness that, until now, I’ve been reluctant to remove.

Hi Imani:

Happy to help reduce a little of the budgetary impact and hook you up with something gratis–just order something from our website sometime, and e-mail me with a couple of things you’d like me to throw in for free, and I will!

Oh, oh oh! Thank you very very very much Mr. Nash, I will definitely take you up on this!

Just to say The Pure and the Impure is to my mind Colette’s greatest work, and one of the most lyrical and original explorations of early twentieth century sexuality you’ll ever find. I wish I were able to read it for the first time again.

Another personal rec! It’s definitely on my list now, litlove.

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