Category: Reading

When you need upbeat fiction

When my book group chose its next novel, someone suggested Albert Camus’s The Plague for its current relevance. The rest of us wanted something less depressing in the present circumstances, so we’re reading Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. Wanting something less depressing is nothing new for me. Back in the 1990s, I... Read more »

In the minority about Little Women ending

Had I not read that Jo marries Laurie in an upcoming Little Women spinoff, I may not have admitted that I’m one of the readers who want that ending. Ours isn’t the enlightened position today. In author Louisa May Alcott’s day, it was the majority wish. Now, you can find plenty of online comments that... Read more »

Why I prefer novels to nonfiction

When I was sick for several days recently, I caught up on the New York Times Sunday Review and the New York Times Magazine. As usual, the exceptional writing impressed me. But after a few days, I craved a novel. I needed to immerse myself in a story and get to know its characters. I... Read more »
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Say it ain’t so, Atticus

So, all lovers of To Kill a Mockingbird — I know there are a lot of us; it placed first on PBS’s Great American Read last fall — did you realize that not everyone admires Atticus? Learning that Atticus Finch, the book’s hero, has critics came as a surprise after I finished my umpteenth reread... Read more »

Book group gives Moby-Dick a go

Ah, Moby-Dick. Revered by many as the Great American Novel. Reviled by perhaps as many as unreadable. My book group was split down the middle about reading Herman Melville’s 1851 novel: Half of us were interested, the other half ambivalent at best. At our discussion last week, one person said she gave up about halfway... Read more »

Can Chicago still claim to be skyscraper's birthplace?

Number 82 in Chicago By the Book: 101 Publications That Shaped the City and Its Image (2018) is Carl W. Condit’s The Chicago School of Architecture, first published in 1964. A comment that UIC architectural historian Robert Bruegmann makes in his essay about the book dumbfounded me: Condit’s claim that Chicago was the birthplace of... Read more »
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No apologies for learning about Navajos through Hillerman mysteries

Last week the Art Institute announced it was postponing an exhibit on Mimbres pottery of the ancient Southwest because it wanted more input from Native people. As I read about that appropriate action, my thoughts soon turned from art to literature and the late author Tony Hillerman. Far from being accused of cultural appropriation as... Read more »

Are you advising relatives about college applications?

College application season is under way. Though the topic seems ill suited for a blog titled Retired in Chicago, you may have children or grandchildren you’re advising about college.  Having worked at universities for 30 years, and having recently observed my two nieces’ experiences, I have opinions about applying to colleges. (Apologies to my nieces... Read more »

Searching for the next read: three literary mysteries disappoint

A rap against mystery fiction — indeed, against any so-called genre fiction — is that it follows conventional formulas and is lacking the depth that would qualify it as literature. Although I don’t see a clear line separating all genre fiction from literary fiction, I have closed many a mystery novel feeling that the plot... Read more »
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More Austen literary heirs: back to the 19th century

Note: This continues an occasional series about Jane Austen’s literary heirs. Where do you stop when looking for Jane Austen’s literary heirs? In previous posts I wrote about Barbara Pym, Elizabeth Bowen, Penelope Fitzgerald, Elizabeth Taylor, Anita Brookner, Angela Thirkell, E. F. Benson, Georgette Heyer, and Miss Read. In her book The Heirs of Jane... Read more »