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Original Essays | June 20, 2014

Lauren Owen: IMG The Other Vampire

It's a wild and thundery night. Inside a ramshackle old manor house, a beautiful young girl lies asleep in bed. At the window, a figure watches... Continue »
  1. $18.90 Sale Hardcover add to wish list

    The Quick

    Lauren Owen 9780812993271


Customer Comments

Elizabeth L has commented on (27) products.

The Case for Books: Past, Present, and Future by Robert Darnton
The Case for Books: Past, Present, and Future

Elizabeth L, January 29, 2010

Darnton writes about far more than books in this anthology comprised (mostly) of lucid and compelling articles he contributed to the NYRB of books during the past two decades. However, if his title is slightly misleading, the issues he deals with (electronic publishing, discarding old newspapers) are important enough to compensate. In short, Darnton writes about books and print in a way that combines his training as a historian with the practical knowledge he has acquired as a librarian and board member over the years. He raises issues that are important to anyone who regularly works with or reads copyrighted material (whether in print or online). And, as he shows, this is basically all of us.
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(2 of 4 readers found this comment helpful)

The Gathering by Anne Enright
The Gathering

Elizabeth L, January 25, 2010

Anyone who is mildly familiar with Irish literature (or literary tropes) will recognize the themes of Enright's novel: Catholicism, alcoholism, English antagonism, and the like. However, Enright brings something new to these familiar subjects: a female protagonist. Furthermore, she invests her with a deity-like ability to hearken forward and backward across the "real time" of the novel, recalling moments both from her own childhood as well as her grandparents' with a command as fantastic as it is affective. (I was reminded of Faulkner's As I Lay Dying, where certain narrators are given the ability to describe they couldn't have possibly witnessed as if they were, in fact, right there.) Though the narrative's momentum (perhaps due to its constant jumps through time) lags at points, what emerges is a vivid portrait of the horrors of family, the powers of memory, and the inevitability of repetition and return. I remember this novel being a controversial pick when it won the Booker Prize in 2007, but I was continually impressed by its power to render old themes in a new way while simultaneously feeling representative of its cultural and literary roots.
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(4 of 9 readers found this comment helpful)

For the Time Being by Annie Dillard
For the Time Being

Elizabeth L, January 20, 2010

This book was less immediately affecting than The Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, but it combines Dillard's intense curiosity for scientific fact (particularly anomalous cases) and religious history into a lyrical and beautiful prose style that seems to truly reflect the wonder and awe she finds in nature and life. I imagine Dillard as the sort of writer who spends hours pouring over really dense histories and scientific textbooks, only to pull out exquisite details which she renders into poetic insights into the human condition. Even if this isn't how she works, what is certain is the amount of herself Dillard injects into her prose. She wants readers to confront her uncertainties as well as her convictions, and she lays them bare. She also succeeds in the careful craftsmanship such lyrical writing demands. Here, she uses 7 chapters (hardly a coincidental number given how invested this book is in ideas regarding creation, birth, and existence). She divides them each into topic headings, beginning (always) with "birth" and ending (always) with "now." It is an incredible way to organize such vast swaths of information, and to allow the reader to glimpse patterns that may not have emerged otherwise. I recommend this, and Pilgrim at Tinker Creek even more highly. Annie Dillard is one of my favorite writers. Reading her truly feels as if you are encountering someone who has to write in order to make sense of her world.
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The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession by Alison Bartlett
The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession

Elizabeth L, January 18, 2010

Bartlett's book is a joy to read, and as someone who has been studying and inhabiting the world of rare books for the past two years for her own research, I can attest to how well she describes it as well as identify with how she relates to it. I was further impressed, having spoken with a few book dealers who suggested the book was controversial due to its sympathetic portrait of a book thief, with how even-handed Bartlett was in her account. She certainly gave Gilkey (the thief) his due, but was actually more judgmental of his actions than the narrative might demand. In either case, I appreciated the sense of self-reflection she brought to the project as it rendered itself into some lovely passages that consider the relationship between books and their collectors, as well the distinctions between collecting and appreciating or accruing books.
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(2 of 7 readers found this comment helpful)

Cadillac Jack by Larry Mcmurtry
Cadillac Jack

Elizabeth L, January 18, 2010

I can't help but feeling like this is a book that might have been great, but was really just fine. I was left with the same impression after reading McMurtry's recent memoir ("Books"), so it may well be that McMurtry is an author who is good, but not great. What's problematic in that assessment, is that his books (at least the two that I've read) veer toward greatness such that readers want/expect more. To be fair, McMurtry writes in the preface to this novel that he's never been entirely satisfied with it. It's a fictionalized account of his knowledge of the book scouting industry, except its titular character is an antique scout (who very rarely deals with books). On the whole, the novel fulfills McMurtry's stated purpose: to explore the relationship between a man and his material objects. And it does so in a way that is entertaining, and true to the realities of this social world (Cadillac Jack never succumbs to the temptation to value people/relationships more than objects). Perhaps it is the resolute nature of Cadillac Jack that makes it fall slightly flat. A novel that refuses to fully imagine an emotionally invested character will, in all likelihood, feel less than whole. But, I get the sensation there's something larger that makes this book feel unsettled. At any rate, I'm interested enough to want to read one of McMurtry's better-known novels.
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