Posted by: zhiv | May 9, 2008

Reading Notes

Struggling a little bit, trying to read and write and angle the new job and all the rest.  Moving along, but not quite over the hump with any really good postable material.  Here are the areas of focus:

Richard Yates.  I think I’ve given away 5 copies of Revolutionary Road now, and it’s about time to check in on everybody who is reading it.  I got my account going and did a little Yates blitz, so the biography is going to show up any day.  I already received a pristine copy of Easter Parade, which seems like it’s too nice to read, but the GD needs a book so I may let her go at it first.  She gulped down Nick Hornby’s A Long Way Down, partly just because it had a character reference to RR in it, but she has read NH before and liked the book.  At any rate, I was on a modest schedule of reading Yates’ stories, and realized that I had finished all of the stories in Eleven Kinds of Loneliness, so I want to do a thoughtful and sustained post on that book, but just haven’t found the right moment.  The stories are all completely solid and enlightening in terms of the larger Yates enterprise, and they throw occasional flashes of light at what he was doing in Rev Road. 

With Yates in mind, I also pulled a Fitzgerald volume down off the shelf and read the short story “The Adjuster,” and it was a good choice, as it showed how FSF really was a master of what might be called the American dilemma, in his own way.  Lots of FSF to be read here in mid-life (which he never quite made it to), and lots to say about that over time, I would guess.  It’s interesting to see how an author’s work can change so radically from a different perspective, how Yates was seeing something in FSF that so many others might have been missing, while I had my own entry-level young guy perspective when I was reading it the first time.

Mary McCarthy.  Spending most of my time on MM.  Couldn’t break through and get into Gordimer, read a little bit of the Olive Schreiner biography I’m trying to finish, but none of that was really getting me going.  Same with trying to take a shot at Madame Bovary.  But instead of all that, I’ve been happily meandering through the next step on MM, and am almost done with Memories of a Catholic Girlhood.  So my next posts, when I get around to them, will be on the Yates stories and MM’s memoir.  I’m also reading the most recent MM biography, Seeing Mary Plain, by a former New Yorker fiction editor, which seems to be outstanding, but I’m moving around in it a little bit and trying not to get ahead of MM’s own memoir.  So I read the first chapter, which is about MM accepting an award at a writer’s colony late in life (great stuff), and then the Vassar and New York beginnings chapter, interested to see how it talks about the stuff behind The Group, and The Company She Keeps, all of it quite interesting.

That’s the update.  I’ve done a little bookshopping (and looking), and wanted to mention that at Borders I saw not one but two fairly recent editions of the book from my last post, Jewett’s The Country Doctor.  I wanted to sit down and read the introductions, but it was good to see that the book is out there and being read and taught.


  1. I finally have discovered your blog, and I fear I will be up all night reading it, especially because I’m a huge Mary McCarthy fan.

  2. Bless your intelligent reading of Yates. I thought you might be interested in this review:

  3. I can’t wait to hear what you think of Memories! I read Carol Brightman’s bio of MM, Writing Dangerously; it was a while ago, but I remember enjoying it.

  4. Neurotic — It’s about time! I look forward to careful analysis of Mary McCarthy.

    DW — Thanks for stopping by. Trying to psych up to write about Memories as we speak. I’m confusing Brightman with Gelderman, I believe, but the one I’m reading is Frances Kiernan, which is outstanding. I keep discovering new levels to MM. More soon.

    DH — Honored by your presence and kindest of words, Sir. I had read your interview of Yates, and will have more to come. Eager to read your latest book, but most interested in “Fathers and Daughters,” which is the stage I’m going through right now, as seen in some of my “literary parenting” posts, so that is probably the first book of yours that I will read. Very best regards.

  5. Am taking RR with me on my upcoming holiday and am looking forward to having the time to enjoy it. Also, after your careful attention to her, I think I will be adding Mary McCarthy to my list. I’ve never read her before.

  6. Have you read the MM memoir yet?

    I’m trying to have a life and think I might actually pick up something to read tomorrow, because my book club selection hasn’t arrive yet.

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