August 2023

Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Lady Audley's Secret
Classic sensation novel. Not as good as those of Wilkie Collins, but interesting for how strong a sense of her reading public Braddon has, with lots of references to other literary works, frequently satirical, that color her descriptions of various characters. Reaction 2023/08/10
Matthew Lewis, The Monk
One of the best Gothic novels I've read. Recapitulates the development of storytelling, as it features narrative poems that recall medieval lais, oral narratives (which blend genres such as the bandit story, the courtly romance, the ghost story, the Wandering Jew legend), and the most well-developed story, which is a blend of Shakespearean drama and novelistic techniques (analepsis, multiple focalization, interior monologue). Truly a one-of-a-kind reading experience.
Eric Hobsbawm, Bandits
Classic historical study of bandits. Read for background on the bandit episodes of German Romanticism.
Marie Mulvey-Roberts, ed., The Handbook to Gothic Literature
Contains multiple references to Matthew Lewis and situates the Gothic as becoming a substructure of German Romanticism.
James Hogg, The Confessions of a Justified Sinner
Classic Gothic novel. I didn't find this as gripping as The Monk, but the multiple perspective generated by the editor's narrative and then the memoirs creates a highly unstable situation with regard to what might be considered 'true' in this tale. Gets progressively more exciting as it approaches a climax, and the way the final section frames the discovery and publication of the memoirs is highly satisfying.
Sir Walter Scott, Guy Mannering (or The Astrologer)
The second of the Waverley novels, which I intend to read in order. Unlike Waverley, this novel has a strong Gothic flavor and centers on a character, Brown, who does not know his true identity, as he sleepwalks towards a destiny which unknown friends and villians seek to facilitate or frustrate by turn.
Sir Walter Scott, The Antiquary
One of the novel's Scott rated as his greatest achievement, but I found it much less successful than Guy Mannering. No real plot, no suspense, and too many flat characters, with the exception of Oldbuck and Edie Ochiltree, magnificent creations.
James Baldwin, Giovanni's Room
Somewhat overwritten short novel concerning an American man in Paris whose struggle to accept his homosexuality reaches a crisis point after a 3-month affair with an Italian man during his fiancees absence. Interesting because Baldwin is a black man writing a novel where the cast is white, a move that broke with the logic of his day that the principal task of a 'Negro author' was delineating the African-American experience/character. Today, Baldwin might well find his novel being objected to, given the 'write what you know' / 'stay in your lane' / accusations of cultural appropriation that have become part of literary culture in the Internet age.
Dr. Rana Awdish, In Shock: My Journey from Death to Recovery and the Redemptive Power of Hope
Very strongly-written physician-patient illness narrative. Review 2023/09/01
Tsitsi Dangarembga, Nervous Conditions
First novel published in English by a black woman from Zimbabwe (which is Rhodesia of the 1960s in this Bildungsroman). Better than Jamaica Kincaid's Annie John which treads similar post-colonial ground. The writing is of higher quality (though there is some weak writing in Chapter 6).

Critical works
Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Between Men
Reread chapter on Hogg's Confessions of a Justified Sinner