Storing E-books on my electronic device allows me to keep several going at the same time, returning to one or another as the fancy strikes. Some of them have taken me a year or more to finish. Some will sit there for years, never reaching the burgeoning cloud archive where I send finished books to their well-earned eternal reward.
I've also increased the number of e-magazine subscriptions. I would have considered this a heresy years ago, but I really like getting the New Yorker in the e format, without having the print issues stack up and gather dust. Alas, I find the New Yorker's articles less and less compelling, although I still like most of its critics. Maybe the Trump era will revitalize the old mag.
Also cutting back on the clutter with e-arrival: The New York Review of Books, Jazz Times, Sports Illustrated, the Oxford American and Keyboard.
Old-fashioned snail mail still brings me the London Review of Books and the Times Literary Supplement, both of which I toss into the big blue recycling bin after finishing. That's also the final resting place of the daily Atlanta Journal-Constitution, New York Times and Wall Street Journal.
The Atlanta-Fulton County library does a fairly good job acquiring new books, although my Sandy Springs branch had fallen into a slump recently until coming through with Zadie Smith's "Swing Time" and Colson Whitehead's "The Underground Railroad." I'm surprised I snatched them from the new fiction shelves before they headed into "on hold" limbo.
All of which is a roundabout introduction to a compendium of recent reading and listening:
"The Underground Railroad," Colson Whitehead.
Reviews of Colson Whitehead's novel didn't entice me, but I decided to give the slave-era narrative a try when I saw the book at the library on the same day Whitehead won the National Book Award. (His speech about how to survive in the Trump years was one of the best pieces of that type I've seen.)
Whitehead's fast-paced style hooked me from the first paragraph, and I'm fascinated by his vision of the South's repressive antebellum society and the courage and ingenuity of slaves seeking freedom. A longer review will come. For now, Whitehead's balancing of slavery's horror and the slaves' humanity highlights that Trump and his racist henchman must not be allowed to erase America's history of progress.
"The Younger Girl" and other songs, John Sebastian and the Lovin' Spoonful.
I caught bits and pieces of a '70s retrospective show Sebastian did for XM/Sirius Satellite Radio, and his warm, rueful voice led me to reappraise him as one of the '60s central figures.
His hits as the leader of the Lovin' Spoonful always brightened my adolescent angst, but I never saw him and the Spoonful as reaching the level of '60s heroes like Bob Dylan, Neil Young, the Band, Buffalo Springfield, the Jefferson Airplane and Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys.
Then I heard the Spoonful's "The Younger Girl" on the satellite radio '60s channel, and was impressed as how much complex emotion and narrative depth Sebastrain expressed in a few lines.
A few other old Spoonful hits made me see Sebastian as the American Paul McCartney, without the post-Beatles kitsch. As well as the Beach Boys' Wilson, Sebastian created a wistful and enduring American coming of age narrative, albeit sunnier than the era's social turmoil.
Not so hot
"Swing Time," Zadie Smith. As with Whitehead, I was slow to read Smith's work, missing her lauded earlier novels. I really liked her novel "N.W.," and some of her essays, which led me to give "Swing Time" a try. I found the beginning chapters slow going, but I'll try to persevere.
"Against Everything," Mark Greif. Critics loved this essay collection by one of the co-founders of N +1, but I found his insights trite and his writing pedestrian. Greif tries too hard to match Mencken's young curmudgeon role and can't muster Didion's world-weary bite. Orwell is in a zip code far, far away. Greif cites Thoreau as an exemplar, but doesn't march to a different drummer.
The Year of Kent, James Shapiro. This might be the most disappointing of all. I liked Shaprio's previous books on Shakespeare, and I relish glimpses of Shakespeare's life and times. Shaprio gives an in-depth portrait of Shakespeare's era, but the writing lacks Shaprio's usual spark. With the book hanging on in my e-book library, I'll eventually finish it by soldiering through a few pages at a time. It seems as much as a grind as Lear in the wilderness.