Monday, 26 September 2022

№ 32 reading list: Woolf, Hardwick & new books

№ 32 reading list: The cover of The Element of Lavishness: Letters of Sylvia Townsend Warner and Williams Maxwell, 1938-1978 · Lisa Stefan


Here is the reading list I promised. Perhaps I should have combined two lists into one because I have started reading books that will be on my next one. And I confess that I'm already looking longingly at books that will be on the list thereafter. One of those is Letters of Leonard Woolf. That would be the husband of Virginia, the man to thank for the access to her personal material, letters, diaries, etc. I enjoy reading letter collections, especially literary ones. Warner and Maxwell's letters on the new list, and in my image above, are gold. Each letter is well crafted and shining through is the mutual respect these writers and friends had for one another.

№ 32 reading list:

1  The Years · Virginia Woolf
2  Virginia Woolf · Hermione Lee
1  A Room of One's Own · Virginia Woolf [rereading]
3  The Uncollected Essays of Elizabeth Hardwick · edited by Alex Andriesse
4  A Splendid Intelligence: The Life of Elizabeth Hardwick  · Cathy Curtis
5  De Profundis and Other Prison Writings · Oscar Wilde
7  The Element of Lavishness: Letters of Sylvia Townsend Warner and
William Maxwell 1938-1978  · edited by Michael Steinman

On my new list is Hermione Lee's biography of Virginia Woolf, which I'm about to finish and can highly recommend to all Woolf fans. Unfortunately, I cannot recommend Woolf's novel The Years. More on that disappointment later. My blog readers know that Elizabeth Hardwick is a favourite; on the list is a new essay collection and the only available biography of her. Now, let's look at a different list, my wish list.

The cover of Memoirs, the autobiographical writing of Robert Lowell
The cover of Come Back in September by Darryl Pinckney

Left: The autobiographical writing of poet Robert Lowell was published in August;
right: Elizabeth Hardwick on the cover of Darryl Pinckney's new book

The wish list keeps getting longer and I would like to mention two new additions. Come Back in September by Darryl Pinckney comes out in October. The book is about his friendship with Hardwick and the editor Barbara Epstein. Both founded the literary magazine The New York Review of Books and were best friends and neighbours on W 67th Street in New York. Memoirs came out in August, a collection of the autobiographical writing of poet Robert Lowell (he was Hardwick's ex). Critics have highly praised it.

My coffee table with books appearing on my next reading list · Lisa Stefan
A nod to my next reading list

images mine, appeared on Instagram 03/08/22 and 17/09/22



Monday, 29 August 2022

Bookshop magic

The cover of Dichter im Café by Hermann Kesten (ars vivendi) · Lisa Stefan


Recently I went to a bookshop to buy two books on my wish list and took a moment to browse. As one does. Suddenly my eye caught something on a low shelf in the plays & poetry corner, the black & white café photograph on the book cover in my pic above. I saw the German title, Dichter im Café (Poet/Poets in the Café) and for a split second read the author’s name as Hermann Hesse before realising it was Hermann Kesten. I had never heard of Kesten, or not that I could recall. I picked it up, turned it over and read:

Das Kaffeehaus - legendärer Treffpunkt
des literarischen Austauschs, Umschlagplatz
revolutionärer Ideen, Bühne des Lebens.

These words on the back cover could be literally translated: The coffee house - legendary meeting place for literary exchange, a hub for revolutionary ideas, the stage of life.

I brought the book to the seating nook, where the magic happened. Well, it had started when I spotted the book but continued as I sat reading the preface. I understood everything; if I didn't understand a single word the context was always clear. The second sentence read: 'Das Kaffeehaus is ein Wartesaal der Poesie' (The coffee house is the waiting room of the poetry) and as I continued I knew I had to buy this book, the only copy left in the bookshop.
My coffee table · Lisa Stefan


My silence on the blog can be explained by a move to the heart of Linz this summer, which you may have seen on Instagram, and various assignments. The beauty of the new location is having a bookshop within a short walking distance - browsing before doing the groceries gives life new meaning. I will be back soon with a new and long overdue reading list.

images mine, the 2nd appeared on Instagram 04/08/22 | cover photo: Horst Friedrichs



Tuesday, 26 April 2022

№ 31 reading list: the letters of Bishop & Lowell

My № 31 reading list: The letters of Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell · Lisa Stefan


Adding Swann's Way to my last reading list (№ 30) was an excellent idea. I'm still reading Proust and cannot understand why I waited so long to read him. His rich prose requires slow reading and I find it best to read 8-10 pages at a time, preferably in the morning. I start my day by reading; I wake up very early with my son, who has to cross Linz and its suburbs by tram to get to school. When he leaves - most people are still asleep - I sit down with coffee, toast and books. These days I start with the poets Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell, with the letters they wrote to each other, before turning to Proust and other writers. My routine ends with whatever German fiction I'm reading at the moment.

№ 31 reading list:

1  Words in Air: The Complete Correspondence Between Elizabeth Bishop
and Robert Lowell  · edited by Thomas Travisano & Saskia Hamilton
2  Upstream: Selected Essays  · Mary Oliver
3  Speak, Memory  · Vladimir Nabokov
4  Personal History  · Katharine Graham
5  Ein ganzes Leben  · Robert Seethaler [German]

I'm still reading Der Untergeher (The Loser, № 30), my third book by the Austrian writer Thomas Bernhard. He is such a witty storyteller. I want to read everything by him in German (I think most of his novels and plays have been translated into English). I have never read anything by his countryman Robert Seethaler and now it's time for Ein ganzes Leben which I bought last summer (A Whole Life, trans. by Charlotte Collins).

Cherry blossoms, Antwerp, spring 2011 · Lisa Stefan
Cherry blossoms, Antwerp 2011

My current bedtime reading is Personal History, the memoir of the late Katharine Graham, the publisher of The Washington Post. It won the Pulitzer Prize in 1998. I started the book a long time ago but held off adding it to a reading list until now. I knew she had devoted many chapters to her family story and upbringing (it's the part of biographies that least appeals to me), so I wanted to get through them first. When her story finally took off I often found it hard to put the book down, but more on that in my next reading journal entry.
On my № 31 reading list: Nabokov's autobiography · Lisa Stefan


images mine, 01 and 03 appeared on Instagram 12/04/21 and 24/04/21