Daniel Goldin is the proprietor of Boswell Book Company. For more of his paperback recommendations, please visit the Boswell book club recommendations page.
We once treated punctuation as an art, but much the way the prescriptives triumphed over the descriptives in dictionaries, the grammar police created absolute rules for semicolons, and in that way, made them almost as rare as the iterrobang. Watson, historian, philosopher of science, and faculty member of Bard College’s Language and Thinking program, argues for the mark’s comeback, referencing the work of great semicolon users such as Herman Melville, Raymond Chandler, and Rebecca Solnit, and showing how artistic license can lead to a more joyfully nuanced reading life.
After reading Sea of Tranquility, a novel that veers from a hundred years in the past to almost 300 in the future, I wondered if a new reader to Emily St John Mandel would love it as much as I did. I decided they would, with a caveat that they might have to stop everything and read the author’s previous novels. But for folks who’ve read Station Eleven and The Great Hotel, with both references that tie the story together and laugh-out-loud meta-commentary (you’ll know it when you get to it), the rewards are mind-blowing.
Finally, after hearing about this biography for almost a year, it’s available in the United States, and I couldn’t be happier. Byrne chronicles the life of one of my favorite writers, whose work was acclaimed in the 1950s, couldn’t get published in the 1960s, and then was rediscovered in the late 1970s. The text flows in short, punchy chapters - you’ll discover that many of the excellent women (and not quite so excellent men) came from Pym’s own life - one that had more than its share of bad romances and a penchant for stalking people who captured her interest. I don’t think ‘spinster’ quite captures her! And even if you’ve read A Lot to Ask or A Very Private Eye, you don’t know the whole story - her longtime friend Hazel Holt offered readers an expurgated life (minus the Nazi boyfriend, for example). If you don’t know Pym’s work but you’re a Jane Austen fan, you’ll understand by the end why there are so many cross-over fans.