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July 30, 2009

Summer Reading List

Michael Kurtianyk

Ah! The joys of summer! As the days get longer and I am busy with work, I love beginning the day (6 A.M.) with a cup of coffee, The Frederick News-Post (Washington Post on Sundays), and then a chapter or two of a book I am currently reading. So, I’d like to share with my readers my summer reading list:

The Scarecrow, Michael Connelly. I liked this book (mostly). There are three plots interwoven in his latest novel: the relationship between the newspaper reporter Jack McEvoy and Rachel Walling; the demise of the newspaper print business; and the criminal deeds of the villain known as the “Scarecrow.” Of the three, the strongest is the one regarding the demise of the newspaper. Mr. Connelly does a great job with dissecting, from an insider’s point of view, how big business cuts their loyalties with veteran writers (many of the Watergate era) and turn their resources over to young, Internet and technology-savvy writers, who blog and manage information well, but keep them at a superficial level. My one issue with the novel has to do with the subject matter of crimes – too much like James Patterson for my taste. I am eagerly awaiting his new Harry Bosch novel (Nine Dragons, release date scheduled for October 13).

Musicophilia, Oliver Sacks. I had the good pleasure some years ago to sit in on a lecture by Oliver Sacks, and was blown away by his intelligence and his storytelling. He can take abstract, esoteric medical issues and brings them to the personal level for all to understand. This collection of how people around the country have been affected by “short circuits” in the brain and the role of music. For example, one doctor who was struck by lightning, and did very little with music, suddenly took up, and became successful with, classical piano. The stories are fascinating, and the reading enjoyable.

How It Ended, Jay McInerney. What a great collection of short stories from one of the masters of the genre! A product of the esteemed Syracuse University Creative Writing Program (my alma mater), Jay McInerney put together 26 stories in this collection. His is best known for Bright Lights, Big City, and this collection sees him looking at relationships, both personal and professional, in today’s America.

Our Story Begins, Tobias Wolff. A former faculty member at Syracuse University’s Creative Writing Program (again, my alma mater), Tobias Wolff’s new and collected stories shows him to be at the height of his powers. He, along with Raymond Carver, has reinvigorated the short story form. Mr. Wolff’s writings, to me, typically center on the moral issues characters face, the choices made, and the subsequent consequences. Mr. Wolff’s gift is to allow the reader to make his/her own judgments about the characters, and think about the choices we would make in similar situations.

Looking back on the previous two choices, I see that the collection of short stories I’ve been reading are just right considering how busy I am each summer. My work has me toiling long hours, and the short story form allows me to read a short story each morning. The shorter form, poetry, is also a great way for me to keep my literary muscles working, and there are two recent books of poetry that are worth mentioning.

Ballistics, Billy Collins. Having appeared at the Weinberg Center earlier this year, Bill Collins has been a favorite of mine for years. His latest collection, many of which appeared in various magazines, show Mr. Collins as continuing to be a post of the people. To me, he has taken up the mantle left by Carl Sandburg: plain-speaking vernacular with profound messages.

Averno, Louise Gluck. Released in 2006, I finally got around to reading this collection. She’s an established poet and well-respected. This collection explores the myth of Persephone and others. Just a brilliant sequence of poems.

So, what does the rest of the summer hold? My thoughts now turn political. I picked up a copy of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals. I am very eager to dive into this one. After that it will likely be Chuck Todd’s book How Obama Won. After that, we’ll see.

Email me what you’re reading these days.

Yellow Cab
The Morning News Express with Bob Miller
The Covert Letter

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