11/25/11 Vladimir Nabokov's first novel was Mary, written and published in Russian in Germany in 1926 and translated by the author and published in English in 1970. Mary was an adolescent love; like all of Nabokov, it rewards with brilliant, ecstatic prose.
12/8/11 A birthday resolution (of nearly six months ago) was to have every third book be a re-read. Last week's was The Great Gatsby, last read (and apparently very quickly!) as a senior at UCSC. Not as great as remembered or reputed, but very 1920s and very American. Disquieting in its focus on obsession, shallowness, and vice, but ultimately rewarding.
12/15 I've been a life-long fan of Joan Didion's prose. Didion, a Sacramento native, is a tough-minded cultural critic and a writer of lean, unadorned, often bleak, fiction and non-fiction. Her latest, Blue Nights, sets a new standard for bleakness (the NY Review of Books review was titled "Elegy to the Void"), exploring the dynamics of loss, memory, aging, and grief.