A VOICE FROM OLD NEW YORK by Louis Auchincloss

Born in 1917 to a prominent New York City family – all eight great-grandparents were natives and resided within blocks of each other – Auchincloss belonged to an insular, elite group that, over the course of his 92 years, furnished him with material for some 60 books. This memoir, completed shortly before his death a year ago, was his last.

January 12, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: ,  · Posted in: Class - Race - Gender, Non-fiction

PUBLIC ENEMIES by Bernard-Henri Levy and Michel Houellebecq

Originally published in 2008 in France, the newly released English translation of PUBLIC ENEMIES: DUELING WRITERS TAKE ON EACH OTHER AND THE WORLD doesn’t quite deliver the literary death match promised in the subtitle. That is, rather than a frenzied cockfight between two writers the French love to hate – the writers in question, Bernard-Henri Lévy and Michel Houellebecq are both controversial superstars in France –this collection of letters is something far better: a measured exchange between two thoughtful (and thought-provoking) writers on a wide range of philosophical issues. And while the letters lack the intimacy and the casual, almost incidental, handling of the abstract that often characterizes published correspondence–indeed, Lévy and Houellebecq aren’t friends; the correspondence was initiated with an eye to publication, a fact that mars the book with an off-putting self-consciousness – the exploration of topics as wide-ranging as the social and political obligations of the writer, the purpose and desirability of confessional literature, our all too human need to be liked, the perils of fame, Baudelaire, Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, divine breath and the life source, the void, the nothingness, render the book fascinating.

January 11, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: ,  · Posted in: France, Non-fiction

MR. TOPPIT by Charles Elton

The first half of MR TOPPIT takes its readers for a grand ride. This debut novel, written by Charles Elton, has had quite a following in the United Kingdom and has just been released in the United States. It is a novel about speculation and conjecture, the ‘what ifs’ of life, and wishing things might have been different. Mostly though, it is about Luke Hayman and how he became immortalized in his father’s Hayseed Chronicles as the boy who eluded Mr. Toppit in the Darkwood.

December 24, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , ,  · Posted in: California, Contemporary, Debut Novel, United Kingdom


THE NAIVE AND SENTIMENTAL NOVELIST, a collection of the 2009 Norton Lectures delivered at Harvard by Orhan Pamuk, is best described as a celebration of “our journey in this world, the lives we spend in cities, streets, houses, rooms, and nature, [that] consists of nothing but a search for meaning which may or may not exist.” More specifically, Pamuk takes his subject as the novel – the art of the novel – for “each sentence of a good novel evokes in us a sense of the profound, essential knowledge of what it means to exist in the world, and the nature of that sense.” While this may sound overwrought to some, to those of us who, like Pamuk, read voraciously, “even ecstatically,” there’s comfort in such passion; for us, this book is like having a drink with a long-missed friend.

December 20, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: ,  · Posted in: Non-fiction, y Award Winning Author


I am ill-informed to speak to science fiction writing. With the reading of this book, HOW TO LIVE SAFELY IN A SCIENCE FICTIONAL UNIVERSE, the sum of my science fiction reading experience is expanded to just five book. The genre has never really spoken to me. Upon reflection, this seems odds. I am drawn to ideas, wherever I find them, but in literature, in particular. And I like complexity, again, especially in literature. Science fiction, as I understand it, romps and roams the mountains and valleys of this territory. I think ultimately, it is the required release upon common reality and the faith requirement of other-worldly paradigms that trips me up. I’m not very adept at either. set up my thoughts on this book in this fashion because I worry of being remiss in regard to Mr. Yu’s efforts here. In particular, this concerns me because I like the book very much–I like it because it is chalk-full of clever ideas and notions and it is quite dense and layered.

September 8, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags:  · Posted in: Debut Novel, Scifi, Unique Narrative

A NOVEL BOOKSTORE by Laurence Cosse

A few months ago, someone told me he’d just finished one of the most amazing books he’d ever read. He was visibly shaken by the idea that he’d found the book by accident and could so easily have missed the book altogether. “What if I went through life without reading this novel,” he mused, and this was followed by another thought, “how many other novels as good as this am I missing?” From this point, the conversation moved on to the observation that readers are saturated by publicity for some books while others are quietly published and subsequently sink and disappear without a trace. This conversation came back to me when I read A NOVEL BOOKSTORE, a book written by Laurence Cossé and translated by Alison Anderson. On the surface level, this is a mystery, but on a meta-level, A Novel Bookstore is an indictment of the cannibalizing publishing industry, the mass marketing of “taste,” and a subtle examination of fascism. All this in just around 400 pages. A NOVEL BOOKSTORE plays out just like an excellent French film–great entertainment on a surface level, but yet some deep philosophical statements resonate in the background.

August 31, 2010 · Judi Clark · One Comment
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: 2010 Favorites, France, Mystery/Suspense, Reading Guide, World Lit, y Award Winning Author