henning mankell quicksand
June 4
Quicksand by Henning Mankell

Quicksand by Henning Mankell is a sublime and extraordinary read.

Only a person with rich, adventurous and diverse experiences, a person who has traveled widely, a person with the time to think  and read deeply about the world could have written this hybrid of essay and memoir.

The stories are comprised of sixty-seven short vignettes that are both profound and revealing. Mankell covers ancient cave paintings, running off to Paris at sixteen, reading books to understand where came from in Greece, Pina Bausch, a church buried in sand, Africanizing Aristophanes in war-torn Mozambique, nuclear waste and I could go on and on.

Mankell wrote Quicksand after being diagnosed with cancer. Sometimes it takes a person who is dying to write about life and being human. His great soul shines throughout this wonderful gift to the world.

Learn more or purchase Quicksand by Henning Mankell.



March 13
The Summing Up by W. Somerset Maugham

 W. Somerset Maugham, a brilliant writer and thinker, sums up his life vision.

The Summing Up is a wise and candid memoir. I now know why Orwell said this about Maugham: “The modern writer who has influenced me the most.”

“Autobiographical without being an autobiography, confessional without disclosing his private self, The Summing Up, written when Maugham was sixty-four, is an inimitable expression of a personal credo. It is not only a classic avowal of a professional author’s ideas about style, literature, art, drama and philosophy, but also an illuminating insight into this great writer’s craft.”

Click to learn more or purchase The Summing Up by W. Somerset Maugham


January 13
Oscar Wilde Reminiscences by Andrew Gide

I loved this short memoir.

Oscar Wilde Reminiscences by Andre Gide captures his experiences with Oscar Wilde and gives us a portrait of Wilde that is fascinating and intimate.

“André Gide, a towering figure in French letters, draws upon his friendship with Oscar Wilde to sketch a compelling portrait of the tragic, doomed author, both celebrated and shunned in his time. Rather than compile a complete biography, Gide invites us to discover Wilde as he did—from their first meeting in 1891 to their final parting just two years before Wilde’s death—all told through Gide’s sensitive, incomparable prose.

Using his notes, recollections, and conversations, Gide illuminates Wilde as a man whose true art was not writing, but living.”

Learn more or purchase Oscar Wilde Reminiscences by Andrew Gide



January 13
Peeling the Onion by Gunter Grass

Peeling the Onion by Gunter Grass is a fascinating memoir by a Nobel Prize winning writer. 

“In this extraordinary memoir, Peeling the Onion, Nobel Prize-winning author Gunter Grass remembers his early life, from his boyhood in a cramped two-room apartment in Danzig through the late 1950s, when The Tin Drum was published.

During the Second World War, Grass volunteered for the submarine corps at the age of fifteen but was rejected; two years later, in 1944, he was instead drafted into the Waffen-SS. Taken prisoner by American forces as he was recovering from shrapnel wounds, he spent the final weeks of the war in an American POW camp. After the war, Grass resolved to become an artist and moved with his first wife to Paris, where he began to write the novel that would make him famous.

Full of the bravado of youth, the rubble of postwar Germany, the thrill of wild love affairs, and the exhilaration of Paris in the early fifties, Peeling the Onion — which caused great controversy when it was published in Germany — reveals Grass at his most intimate.”

Learn more or purchase Peeling the Onion by Gunter Grass



January 13
The Interior Circuit A Mexico City Chronicle by Francisco Goldman

The Interior Circuit by Francisco Goldman is an extraordinary memoir.

I particularly loved the way he weaved the loss of his wife throughout the book that made his loss even more poignant. Goldman’s insight into Mexico’s politics was riveting. I now understand how difficult it is for the country to get its act together when one of the parties, the Right, is so corrupt.

“The Interior Circuit is Goldman’s story of his emergence from grief five years after his wife’s death, symbolized by his attempt to overcome his fear of driving in the city. Embracing the DF (Mexico City) as his home, Goldman explores and celebrates the city, which stands defiantly apart from so many of the social ills and violence wracking Mexico. This is the chronicle of an awakening, both personal and political, “interior” and “exterior,” to the meaning and responsibilities of home. Mexico’s narco war rages on and, with the restoration of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (the PRI) to power in the summer’s 2012 elections, the DF’s special apartness seems threatened. In the summer of 2013, when Mexican organized crime violence and death erupts in the city in an unprecedented way, Goldman sets out to try to understand the menacing challenges the city now faces. By turns exuberant, poetic, reportorial, philosophic, and urgent, The Interior Circuit fuses a personal journey to an account of one of the world’s most remarkable and often misunderstood cities.”

Learn more or purchase The Interior Circuit A Mexico City Chronicle by Francisco Goldman


January 13
Memoirs of Hadrian by Marguerite Yourcenar

Roger Straus stated that Memoirs of Hadrian by Marguerite Yourcenar is his favorite book that Straus of Farrar, Straus and Giroux ever published.

An amazing statement considering FS&G is one of the finest US publishers of quality nonfiction and fiction. Now that I’m reading Yourcenar’s amazing tale of a Roman emperor, I understand why he said that.

“Both an exploration of character and a reflection on the meaning of history, Memoirs of Hadrian has received international acclaim since its first publication in France in 1951. In it, Marguerite Yourcenar reimagines the Emperor Hadrian’s arduous boyhood, his triumphs and reversals, and finally, as emperor, his gradual reordering of a war-torn world, writing with the imaginative insight of a great writer of the twentieth century while crafting a prose style as elegant and precise as those of the Latin stylists of Hadrian’s own era.”

Learn more or purchase Memoirs of Hadrian by Marguerite Yourcenar

January 13
Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell

Homage to Catalonia is how Orwell became, in my view, the most important writer of the 20th century.

Homage to Catalonia is perhaps George Orwell’s most important work. It’s one of Bill Clinton’s favorite books.

‘Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic Socialism as I understand it’. Thus wrote Orwell following his experiences as a militiaman in the Spanish Civil War, chronicled in Homage to Catalonia. Here he brings to bear all the force of his humanity, passion and clarity, describing with bitter intensity the bright hopes and cynical betrayals of that chaotic episode: the revolutionary euphoria of Barcelona, the courage of ordinary Spanish men and women he fought alongside, the terror and confusion of the front, his near-fatal bullet wound and the vicious treachery of his supposed allies.

A firsthand account of the brutal conditions of the Spanish Civil War, George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia is a must read.”

Learn more or purchase Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell



January 13
Just Kids by Patti Smith book review by Noovella

Just Kids by Patti Smith book review by Noovella

There has always been an intensity and love for Patti Smith from other artists that is rare. She lays her life all out in a compelling and beautiful memoir of her friendship and life-long love affair with Robert Mapplethorpe. They are lovers and brother and sister and best friends. There is mystical trust between them from the time they met in 1967 until 1989 when Robert died of aids.

The title Just Kids comes from an older woman who asked her husband if they should take their picture because they were artists, and the husband replied that they were “just kid.”

Patti grew up in a loving Irish family. She had a baby at nineteen with a boy who didn’t mean much to her. She gave the baby up to a fine family and moved to New York where she lived in the streets. It was at Brentano’s bookstore where she first laid eyes on Robert Mapplethorpe, who later, out of the blue, appeared on the street to save her from an uncomfortable dinner date she had accepted because she was starving. It turns out they were both homeless, and from that moment on, and as she said many times, they took care of each other.

One small episode symbolized them in these years. They saw a Bonnie and Clyde movie poster and Robert admired the tagline: “They’re young. They’re in Love. They rob banks.”

They save enough for an apartment that they decorate with found objects and Robert’s painting. Patti is the breadwinner throughout their relationship. Robert doesn’t have the ability to hold a regular job.

The relationship that seemed so beautiful started to unwind. Mapplethorpe turned bizarre and withdrew. Patti secured a job at Scribners and decided to break up with him. He tried to get her to take him back and threatened that if she didn’t that he would start sleeping with men. It was over.

Patti traveled in Paris and visited the graves of Rimbaud and Jim Morrison. Robert moved to San Francisco and came back with a boyfriend. They continued to be close friends and eventually their relationship was renewed, and they were back together.

Mapplethorpe had come from a family with an authoritarian father, and I trace that relationship to many of his issues. He became immersed in the homosexual underground, including S&M.

They hit rock bottom when Robert became very sick with a terrible case of Gonorrhea, and they lived in a rundown hotel for junkies that they had to sneak out of because they couldn’t afford to pay up, but even there, she found beauty and friendship.

The most disturbing aspect and the parts that might make you wince are Robert’s obsession with dark or evil forces. He seemed to be searching or open to a Faustian pact.

Life changed when they moved into the Chelsea Hotel where they met other artists, including William Burroughs, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Robert Rauchenberg, Allen Ginsburg…. They hung out at Max’s Kansas City with members of Warhol’s factory and others. Robert thought if he could meet Andy Warhol that he would see Robert as an equal.

To make money Robert along with Jim Carroll hustled their bodies to men. Robert didn’t know if he did it for money or pleasure.

Their relationship could not survive Robert’s obvious preference, but they remained each other’s “artist and muse” during their fascinating ascents as their careers began to blossom.

One of the many treasures of this book is that it is so intimate. This is a breathtaking story of two special people in the iconic period of the ‘60s and ’70s in Manhattan.

Learn more or purchase Just Kids by Patti Smith