Passing by Nella Larsen
It’s hard to find other Clares in real life. Oh, you get your Claires and your Clairs, but never have I found another person also named after fair County Clare, home of the Cliffs of Moher. (An arbitrary choice on my mother’s part—the McBrides are from County Donegal, on the north bit of Ireland. County Clare’s the westmost county.) I have some better luck in fiction, in that they exist. Part of the reason I’m loathe to read Lolita is that the second pedophile is a gent named Clare. Awkward. But the first other Clare I ever met was Clare Kendry, of Nella Larsen’s Passing, and she’s sort of stuck with me for that honor.
Beowulf translated by Seamus Heaney
How does one exactly review Beowulf, the epic poem that kicks off so many an English curriculum? It’s poetry instead of a novel or a short story, and it was written to be sung to an audience vastly different than myself. (There’s a reason I don’t review poetry!) I can’t review it as I would review a novel written after, well, the invention of the form in the Middle East and Asia. However, I can talk about why I personally like the poem, its construction and the characteristics of its verse, and J. R. R. Tolkien’s landmark 1936 essay, “Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics”. (Because if there’s a way to tie it back to Tolkien, I will do everything in my power to do so.) This isn’t a traditional review, but a sort of casual overview about what I’ve been learning about the text.
The Sultan’s Seal by Jenny White
I always seem to find myself reading the first book in a series because a book farther along in the series looks interesting. Being a completionist, I need to start at the beginning. The Sultan’s Seal followed this pattern, in that I ran across one of the sequels in Publishers Weekly and promptly added The Sultan’s Seal to the list. I was expecting a fairly interesting detective series set in the late Ottoman Empire, but The Sultan’s Seal is much more than that. I think I’m going to need to add the rest of the series to the old list soon…