As we all are aware, the new year is stock-taking, list-making time. I have kept my own running list of books I’ve read since 2009, and have endeavored to write about them in my book journal, but as I’m expanding my platforms, I thought I’d give a summary of books loved (and hated) in 2010. Due to the volume and the desire to do justice to (or take revenge on) each, the posts will be grouped by month.
1. From Here, You Can’t See Paris– Michael Sanders
Loaned by my aunt, who shares an interest in French food and life. An enjoyable chronicle of the changing seasons and accompanying food rituals in a small French hilltop town, focusing on a small restaurant but encompassing visits with local who still hunt for truffles and make foie gras. Don’t read this book hungry!
A look at one of Max’s most important lifelong friendships. Max lets his guard down more with Will and is seen to be more sentimental than reflected in other writings. I found it enjoyable, but it is probably only for the die-hard Max fans (if there are any besides me). If you are interested in a more diverse collection of Max’s wonderful letters, I highly recommend Letters, 1892-1956, edited by Rupert Hart-Davis. It includes selections of letters to famous acquaintences like George Bernard Shaw, but also delightfully unknown ones such as a series of letters from Max to an ardent admirer of his brother, rebuking her affections, which are simply hilarious.
3. The Golden Pot and Other Tales – E.T.A. Hoffmann
A wonderful collection of Hoffmann’s stories, which I was compelled to read after loving Tomcat Murr so much in 2009. This volume has two of his best known stories, “The Golden Pot” (wonderful, mystical, strange) and “The Sandman” (truly chilling). “Princess Brambilla” is a rollicking confusion of mistaken identities, pride, and Carnival, but not a masterpiece. Unexpectedly, I truly enjoyed “Master Flea,” the fourth story in the collection, which you really have to read – no description can do it justice. Personally, I can do without the last story, “My Cousin’s Corner Window,” which was written much later and moves away from the Romantic style which Hoffmann makes so delightful. Even with that inclusion, this is still a really enjoyable collection of Hoffmann’s tales.
4. Joy in the Morning – P. G. Wodehouse
Just the names alone in a Wodehouse story make me smile. Steeple Bumpleigh (home to the dreaded Aunt Agatha), Boko Fiddelworth (one of Bertie’s legion of unfortunately-named pals), and Stilton Cheesewright (who is out to get Bertie). The normal machinations of a Wodehouse novel are further complicated by the pernicious “good deeds” of an overzealous boy scout. Definitely a contender in the race for top of the line Bertie/Jeeves books.
I had previously read and enjoyed a selection of the Lyttleton Hart-Davis latters and found that Rupert Hart-Davis shared a love of Max Beerbohm (as evidenced by entry #2 above), so I was enticed enough to read a biography of his. It was certainly interesting to get a perspective on the publishing business (publish what makes money or what you yourself would want to read?) and mid-century (upper class) British life, but I didn’t end the book with an overwhelming fondness for R. Hart-Davis, the man. Probably not for everyone.