Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Books Read in 2013

These are the books I read in the past twelve months. Many titles were suggested to me by the peerless Kassie Rose, WOSU's book critic and my cohort for All Sides Weekend/Books on 89-7 WOSU FM
Ed Hoffman, book antiquarian supreme introduced me to the stories of J.F. Powers and Edwin O'Connor. Kevin Griffith at Capital University kept me on the best literary paths. I digressed with bios of Artie Lange, Debbie Reynolds, Whitey Bulger and Jodi Arias. Shirley MacLaine's daughter wrote a "Mommy Dearest" Read some fun historical fiction by Philippa Gregory

This was also the year I tried and failed to crack William Faulkner.
I DID read, finish and love Ulysees. Did I get it? Dunno. Had a great time reading it. Much of it sounded like the conversations in my grandmother's kitchen fifty years ago.

At my age I try not to re-read. But recently I need ed a Hemingway fix, and went ahead and indulged. Also I don't even try to reisit Wally Lamb or Lionel Shriver.

These are my favorites for 2013:

Far From the Tree by Andrew Solomon
    An incredible study of persons dealing with everything from autism and savants to chronic illness and delinquency. Solomon gives humanity to people and those who care for them

The Testament of Mary  by Colm Toibin
    The mother of Jesus presents herself as a mother scorned and kept at the edge of her son's life and death. A new voice and a real voice for he most revered woman in Christianity

The Childhood of Jesus by J.M. Coetze
     NOT what you'd expect

The End of Life Book Club  by Will Schawlbe
    The author formed a book club with his mother as she underwent treatment for cancer. You are welcomed into Mrs. Schwalbe's rich life and you are welcome at her death, surrounded by family and books.

We Are Water by Wally Lamb
     He's done it again.

Thank You for Your Service   by David Finckel
    Vets broken by service in the middle east and what more needs to be one for them and heir families

Patriarch: Joseph P. Kennedy by David Nasaw
      A reexamination of a formidable crook on Wall St. and an appeaser during WWII-and the father of a president

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
    Everyone loves this novel and I did too. A boy survives a n explosion that kills his mother. A small paining is his only legacy.

The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout
    A hate crime in Maine resonates

Wilson by A Scott Berg
    A complicated man in a ciomplicated time with debilitating illnesses and a randy love life

Zealot by Reza Aslam
     A biography of Christ with an eye toward historical facts and away from dogma

Here's the rest from 2013. *= recommended

*Far From the Tree     Andrew Solomon
One More Thing Before I Go   Johnathan Tropper

The Redgraves     Donald Spoto

*Stella Adler on the American Playwright
John Quincy Adams     Harlow Unger

Outlaw     George Higgins

Queen Unseen    Peter Hince

*NW     Zaide Smith

The Last Runaway    Tracey Chevalier

Tropic of Cancer     Henry Miller

Ride a Cock horse     Raymond Kennedy

*The Leftovers           Tom Perotta (interview with Tom Perotta on this blog)

Mrs. Queen Takes the Train    William Kuhn
A City of Dark Secrets     Michael Douglas

Beautiful Ruins     Jess Walter

Casual Vacancy     J.K. Rowling
*Moscow Rehearsal     Norris Houghton

The Middlesteins     Jami Attenberg

First and Lasting Impressions     Julius Rudel
Redeeming Features     Nicholas Haslam

Crappalachia     Scott McLanahan

Lucky Me     Sachi Parker
*Going Clear Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison  Lawrence Wright

Cranberry Sidewalks     Rodney Crouch
The Law Given     Herman Woulk

*The Testament of Mary     Colm Toibin
Sacred Hunger     Barry Unsworth
The Antagonist     Lynn Coady

Ulysees     James Joyce
Vatican Diaries    John Thavis

Invisible Cities     Italo Calvino

*The End of Like Book Club     Will Schwalbe
*Until I Say Goodbye     Susan Spencer-Wendel

The Swimming Pool Library     Alan Holinghurst

Whitey Bulger      Kevin Cullen and Shelly Murphy

Civil War Dynasty, The Ewings of Ohio   Kenneth J. Heineman
Gods Like Us : On Movie Stardom and Modern Fame     Ty Burr  

Top of the Morning: Inside the Cutthroat World of Morning T.V.   Brian Stelter
Wheat that Springeth Green     J.F. Powers

Silver Lining Playbook     Matthew Quick
Karajan     Richard Osborne

*Libra     Don DeLillo

Carrie and Me     Carol Burnett

*Frank O'Connor   Stories
*J.F. Powers          Stories

The Line of Beauty     Alan Holighurst

Banished: Surviving My Years in the Westboro Baptist Church     Lauren Drain

A Thousand Pardons     Jonathan Dee
Blood Doctor     Barbara Vine
CivilWarLand in Bad Decline (stories)     George Saunders
In Persuasion Nation     George Saunders

Unsinkable     Debbie Reynolds
You Came Back     Christopher Coake
The Other Queen     Phillippa Gregory

The Woman Upstairs    Claire Messud
*The Burgess Boys     Elizabeth Stout

A Killing in the Hills     Julia Keller

Harvard Square     Andre Anciman

*Too Much Happiness (stories)     Alice Munro
Priestly Sins     Andrew M. Greeley
Sight Reading     Daphne Kolaty

The Way of the Dog     Sam Savage (interview with Sam Savage on this blog)
*Big Brother     Lionel Shriver
I Know This Much is True    Wally Lamb    (interview with Wally Lamb on this blog)

The Collective     Don Lee
Deadly Audit     David Selcer (interview with David Selcer on this blog)
*The Son     Phillip Meyer
*The Execution of Noa P. Singleton   Elizabeth L. Silver

Dispatches from the Edge     Anderson Cooper
Rose for Mary: The Search for the Real Boston Strangler     Casey Sherman
Light in the Ruins     Chris Bohjalian  

*An American Tragedy     Theodore Dreiser
The Butler     Will Haygood
A Study in Revenge     Kieran Shields

The House     Ann Leary
Mary, Ted, Lou and Rhoda
As I Lay Dying     William Faulkner

All That Is    James Salter
Everything That Rises Must Converge     Flannery O'Connor
*Patriarch: Joseph P. Kennedy     David Nasaw

Mothers and Sons     Colm Toibin
Rose Kennedy: The Life and Times of a Political Matriarch   Barbara A. Perry

The Litigator     John Grisham
The Girl Who Loved Camellias

Manuscript From Accra     Paolo Coehlo
Salinger   David Shields
Raise the Beem     J. D. Salinger

Sanctuary     William Faulkner
Inferno     Dan Brown
*Five Days at Memorial     Sheri Fink

*The Childhood of Jesus    J.M. Coetze
*Dissident Gardens     Jonathan Lethem
*Sparta     Roxandra Robinson

Helen Taft: Musical First Lady   Louis Gould
The Empty Family     Colm Toibin

Ear to the Heart     Mother Dolores Hart
*Thank You for Your Service     David Finckel

*The Aftermath     Rihdian Brook
The Silent Wife     A.S.A. Harrison
*Drama High     Michael Sokolove

Pray for us Sinners Patrick Taylor
Crash and Burn    Artie Lange
*Zealot    Reza Aslam

Adam     Henri Nouwen

*The Orphan Master's Son     Adam Johnson
The Salinger Contract     Adam Langer

Queen Anne     Anne Somerset
Basketball Diaries     Jim Carroll

*The Way We Live Now     Anthony Trollope
Nine Inches     Tom Perrotta

Wotan's Daughter: The Life of Marjorie Lawrence     Richard Davis

Bobby Orr: My Story     Bobby Orr

*Empty Mansions     Huguette Clark

*Wilson     A. Scott Berg

*Brewster     Mark Sloucha
Americans in Paris: Americans During the Nazi Occupation

Johnny Carson     Henry Bushkin
*Reinventing Bach     Paul Elie
The Best Short Storeis of 2013 ed. Elizabeth Strout

*The Color of Water     Wally Lamb

The Sun Also Rises     Ernest Hemingway
Tony C. (Conigliaro)     David Cataneo

A Farewell to arms     Ernest Hemingway
*The Goldfinch     Donna Tarrtt

Exposed: Jodi Arias     Jane Velez-Mitchell

*The Death of Santini     Pat Conroy

One Verdi Opera per Day: At Last, Falstaff

Tito Gobbi
Today marks the final day of Verdi's bicentennial year. I've made it a point to listen to every one of his operas, minus some of the revisions, in sequence. I came across some unexpected new hits, including Alzira which the composer himself disowned. It was great becoming acquainted with Il corsaro and I masnadieri. Less so with Un giorno di regno.

There are a handful of operas considered to be miracles. I'm not sure how subjective my list is: Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria; Cosi fan tutte; Norma; Aida; Tristan und Isolde; Otello...to these I would add Giuseppe Verdi's final opera, Falstaff 


Verdi's fat knight out of Shakespeare has been much in the news lately. The Metropolitan's new production is a huge hit. The action has been moved from Elizabethan Windsor to Elizabethan II Windsor, circa 1955.I thought everything worked. The costumes, big bellies and big hair, the dirty underwear, what was not to love? Ambrogio Maesteri owns this role. You know why? Language.

Falstaff is about language. Not just for its Shakespearean roots but but for Arrigo Boito's masterful
Boito and Verdi
adaptation and translation. Mrs. Quickly sprouts "Povera donna!"  a dozen times and its never boring. Falstaff makes love to himself, to youth and to the audience as remembers his days in service to the Duke of Norfolk, when he was sottile, sottile, sottile (skinny skinny skinny)

Ambrogio Maesteri

Falstaff's word setting is conversational. You needn't know Italian well to listen to this opera as one would watch a masterful TV sitcom. I Love Lucy and Vitametavegimin comes to mind. Or Carol Burnett as Scarlet O'Hara. The ensembles often sound bus, because the characters are, plotting against one another-wives v. husbands. The forward momentum, often the joy of the music makes Falstaff a "fast opera", over before you know it and you want to hear it again. Now.

Verdi knew what he was doing, saying goodbye with a comedy. Falstaff himself is US. We are all foolish, silly and stupid. We all deserve both comeuppance and forgiveness. Other people need to laugh and need to forgive. My favorite parts of this score are the juxtapositions of the raucous with the sublime


The great final fugue borrows lines form a different Shakespeare play. Tutto nel mondo e burla: The whole world is crazy. This is the farewell of Verdi and his gift to the audience. W know the composer was a taciturn and rather unpleasant man. Sad to think he was suppressing such sentiments, such music for eighty years. But the last six minutes give us a g'bye with happiness and no bitterness. VIVA VERDI.