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This Week's Reading

Staff Picks: Bathtub Reading, Germaine Tailleferre

December 23, 2011 | by

“Is it dreamed,” Jude asked Teddy, “or dreamt?” From the first sentence of Ten Thousand Saints, you know you’re dealing with a real novelist. Eleanor Henderson’s debut, about a Vermont stoner in 1980s New York, slipped under my radar. (Apparently no one else missed it—it appears on every best-of list from The New York Times to O.) If only I owned a bathtub, I’d be reading it there right now.  —Lorin Stein

What a thrill to discover that Spotify has all of Germaine Tailleferre’s piano works! The only woman in the group of French avant-garde composers knows as Les Six, Tailleferre’s engaging, inventive compositions make for perfect winter listening. —Sadie Stein

It took me weeks, and several recommendations, to sit down and read Zach Baron’s fifteen-thousand-word article on Hunter S. Thompson (“a savant at … writerly failure”), the self-loathing of journalism, traffic jams, desert hackers, and the depressing truth of Las Vegas, but I’m glad that I did. It’s territory that could be trite but here feels both thoughtful and fresh. —Deirdre Foley-Mendelssohn

I think I’ve discovered literature’s best (literal) snake: Kaa, from Kipling’s Jungle Book—specifically at the end of the chapter “Kaa’s Hunting.” After barreling into a terrified throng of monkeys and bashing through a stone wall with his head, the massive rock python begins coiling and uncoiling his more than six feet of body in a mesmerizing slow dance that lures all who watch into his deadly grip. Chilling! —Nicole Rudick

Last summer I read Perry Anderson’s wonderfully synoptic essay on the historical novel in The London Review of Books, but the winter is my season for door-stoppers. Last week I raced through Joseph Roth’s The Radetzky Marchempire has never declined so speedily—and I’m now making my way through Walter Scott’s Waverly. Some people say Scott is only of interest to literary historians. Don’t believe them. Waverly contains the nineteenth-century novel in embyro, but it’s also a great story. —Robyn Creswell

There hasn’t been much coverage of Tropical Storm Washi, but these stunning photographs from The Atlantic show just how devastating the deadliest storm of the year was when it hit the Philippines last week. —Natalie Jacoby

I am following my best friend Elaine’s recommendation this week, that of Dorothy Whipple’s Someone at a Distance. As she put it, “Excellent if you are looking for a comfortingly English (but ultimately kind of depressing) postwar domestic story—a tiny bit Pym-ish, if only in the domestic details.”—S .S.

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