Baum on Books

What could seem further from our polarized, diverse world and abbreviated social-media discourse than Virginia Woolf’s 1925 stream-of-consciousness novel Mrs. Dalloway with its, aristocratic title character Clarissa Dalloway consumed with giving an elegant party, and its author’s long periodic sentences, full of metaphors, allusions, parentheses and interior hesitations? And yet, in a recent essay in The New York Times Book Review Yale University senior lecturer in creative writing, Michael Cunningham provides an introduction to a new issue of Woolf’s book that is so compelling it commands attention.

101 Arabian Tales: How We All  Persevered in Peace Corps Libya should be required reading for all Peace Corps volunteers and administrators once the 60-year-old federal agency resumes activity — it shut down because of COVID. Meanwhile, the book should also be recommended reading for everyone for what it says about an increasingly important and volatile region of the world.

Book Review: Nemesis

Feb 12, 2021

Nemesis by Philip Roth, published in 2010, eight years before he died, has got to be one of the most subtly instructive elegiac novels written about a widespread raging disease. In this case, polio.

In Greek mythology Nemesis was the goddess of indignation and retribution, typically against pride. And yet Roth’s tale is about a young man who is just the opposite of proud.

Nemesis is set in the stifling hot summer of 1944 when polio struck this country with renewed vengeance, especially in the Northeast — this was 11 years before the Salk vaccine and 16 before the Sabin.

It’s not every day that a 95-year-old-man comes out with an engaging memoir that looks back 80 years to trace the start of a successful theatrical career and a rewarding personal life as a gay man.

Prize-winning fiction writer, journalist, and witty, celebrated British bad boy of novels and cultural criticism Martin Amis, 71 now, and a resident of Brooklyn and East Hampton, has just come out with Inside Story.