Autumn's here, bringing a burst of new books. Thanks to the library, where I now write this blog after the library lady found a replacement for the missng computer mouse, I have accumulated a stack of last season's books on the floor besides my rocking chair. Thousands of pages, proliferating like fall leaves. I also have books and magazines backlogged on the Nook library.
Brenda Wineapple's "Ecstatic Nation" takes a comprehensive look at U.S. history from 1846 to after the Civil War. She gives a fresh look at familiar material, and uncovers much new stuff, such as a horrible factory disaster at a New England textile factory in 1860. A fine writer known for a biography of Emily Dickinsen, Wineapple possesses the gift of making history come alive. Her examinations of matters such as Stephen A. Douglas' popular sovereignty doctrines wander a bit into the weeds, but she generally clarifies complex matters. How sobering to see how far the Republican Party has diverged from its roots. Her look at the 19th century illuminates our present political and social conflicts.
A jewel of much smaller scope is Peter M. Wolf's memoir of growing up in an upper class Jewish family in New Orleans and venturing to Yale, New York City and elsewhere. "My New Orleans, Gone Away" looks at the old city's faded grandeur. A similar look at Louisiana family and community roots unfolds in Rod Dreher's memoir about his sister's death and his return to his native small town near St. Francisville, "The Little Way of Ruthie Leming." Also on the stack: Scott Berg's big bio of Woodrow Wilson and Robert Pinksky's "Singing School," a look at the craft of poetry.
Based on past experience, I hope Thomas Pynchon's "Bleeding Edge" and other novels wash up on the stacks. Sometimes, such books surface quickly, although several months are usually required. Now, the fiction section has such hits from last year as Hilary Mantel's "Bringing Up the Bones" and "The Art of Fielding."
As I finish these books, I'll give more in depth reviews. Or perhaps I'll move on to others.