Writer Carole Burns stops by today to give us her holiday book lists. Carole's own book, Off the Page, is an addictive book on the writing life, featuring interviews with forty-three contemporary authors including Edward P. Jones, Jhumpa Lahiri, Marisha Pessl, Walter Mosley, Margot Livesey, and Alice McDermott (Launch Party in DC, Tues. Dec. 18).
If you're looking for a few good books to buy friends and family this year, here's a couple of more suggestions from Carole Burns:
My gift of five books would have to be from the heart.
Books have meaning far beyond what is in them. They reflect on you, and what is in you. How one responds—that one responds at all—depends so much on who we are, at a given time, but not only. They encapsulate then and now.
And so today’s list will be different from last year’s list and a list from ten years ago and a list one month from now.
The first two have been favorites for a while. I don’t know how long the others will last. Previous books (by Henry James, George Eliot) have dropped off, but could return.
I would not give these books to anyone. It would have to be someone I loved, or someone I wanted to love. Someone I suspected I could have a true friendship with.
-- Spartina, by John Casey. I’m not sure exactly why this book means so much to me. It could be the oceanside setting of Rhode Island, the way this difficult protaginist is revealed so we understand him without excusing him (he’s a pain in the ass), the physical, tactile sex scenes. A beautiful and unapologetic book.
--Mrs. Dalloway, by Virginia Woolf. “What a lark! What a plunge!” To the Lighthouse should have this slot. Because isn’t Clarissa housewifey and conservative? And yet how she struggles against it, despises herself for it and yet holds it dear, too. (Are parts of all of us we are not proud of yet cannot help?) All that passion underneath.
-- The History of Love, by Nicole Krauss. My newest choice. I believe in the imagination, I rail against those who question whether a white man can write a black female character, or a black man a white woman character. And yet—how did this not-yet-thirty-year-old create this amazing, wise, foolish, sad, joyful old Jewish man? I will read Leo Gursky again and again and again.
--Any book containing Jorie Graham’s poem, “The Region of Unlikeness.” A spectacular tracing of imagination, memory and the artistic impulse.
“Oh wake up, wake
up, something moving through the air now, something in the ground
-- The Compact OED with Magnifying Glass. This is literally on a gift list. My sister asked what I wanted for Christmas; I answered. $125 on amazon (we’re splitting the cost) and free shipping. Now, I want a beautiful library stand to place it on.