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Books 1-10.
Books 11-20.
21. The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. Le Guin.
22. Rebellion at Christiana by Margaret Hope Bacon.
23. American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang.
24. This Sweet Sickness by Patricia Highsmith.
25. Sandstorm: A Forgotten Realms Novel by Christopher Rowe.

26. The St. Paul Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald, edited by Patricia Hampl and Dave Page. The truth is, despite growing up in St. Paul and currently living in the very neighborhood where Fitzgerald was born and spent much of his early life, the only thing I've read by him is The Great Gatsby, and that was in high school, if I recall correctly. So I don't have a firm grounding in his work, and reading this I wished I did. It would make it easier to contextualize--for example--the throwaway bits of racism, which really bothered me, and not just in a well-you-have-to-consider-the-period kind of way. There's also (and I don't think this is news) the class thing; Fitz was an acute observer of the boundaries of class, of who is allowed to cross them and why, but behind that sharp eye there's . . . perhaps not envy, exactly, but an attitude of "Those people are awful, aren't they? But they sure know how to live." The stories in this particular collection fall largely into a sort of formula of young love found and lost. That sounds a bit dismissive, and I really don't mean it to be; this is smart stuff, and occasionally a line just jumps right off the page and stops you. There's this bit, from "Bernice Bobs Her Hair": "People over forty can seldom be permanently convinced of anything. At eighteen our convictions are hills from which we look; at forty-five they are caves in which we hide." And for all his legendary disdain for his hometown, Fitz has a gift for describing its rhythms. In "At Your Age" he writes:

It was a long winter, even in a land of long winters. March was full of billowy drift, and when it seemed at last as though the cold must be defeated, there was a series of blizzards, desperate as last stands. The people waited; their first energy to resist was spent, and man, like weather, simply hung on. There was less to do now and the general restlessness was expressed by surliness in daily contacts. Then, early in April, with a long sigh the ice cracked, the snow ran into the ground, and the green, eager spring broke up through.

He could be talking about this winter right now. Anyway, I intend to read more Fitzgerald, including a revisitation of Gatsby, and hopefully he will impress me a little more.
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April 2011

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