I read Satan in Goray by Isaac Bashevis Singer — and left it in Illinois for my mother when I was visiting. She suffers from serious dementia, but expressed excitement about this book and wanted to read it. It’s set in 17th-century Poland — during the aftermath of a catastrophic massacre of the Jews. Messiahs and Devils abound in this book amid the 17th century music Singer has miraculously composed. My mother was born in a similar place in this vicinity. My mother told me her mother died of fear. They were all terribly mad.
Charles Shields made waves in the literary world this year with his biography of Harper Lee, Mockingbird, and he is now researching his next project, a biography of Kurt Vonnegut. In the meantime, however, he sent along the best books he read this year:I have two books tied for first place, but they excel for the same reasons: Elizabeth Gaskell’s Life of Charlotte Bronte, and Lord David Cecil’s The Stricken Deer (the life of the poet William Cowper). An unforgettable biography weaves together a subjects’ characteristic traits, physical appearance, conflicts, and signs of self-awareness. Mrs. Gaskell and Lord Cecil are masters of the craft.Thanks Charles!