Alan Bennett's annual diary of the year before arrived with the Jan. 5 London Review of Books.
The old boy's 2016 had a few amusing turns, including a trip to Venice in which he was taken aback by the boorish breakfast habits of other travelers. He also found that a favored Venice restaurant was not the way it was back in the day.
Depression and shock set in with the British passage of Brexit and the American election of Trump. Hang in, Mr. B. We want to read more next year about your English garden, old churches, aches and pains and British literary gossip.
Also started "Algren," Mary Wisniewski's new bio of the proletarian Chicago writer Nelson Algren.
Where are the Algrens of yesteryear? Not on the shelves of the Fulton-Atlanta Public Library. Guess all of his books took a walk on the wild side.
Speaking of Algren, he had a celebrated spin with Simone de Beauvoir. The French existentialist philosopher and feminist also plays a major part in Sarah Bakewell's "At the Existentialist Cafe: Freedom, Being and Apricot Cocktails with Jean-Paul Sarte, Simone de Beauvoir, Albert Camus, Martin Heidegger, Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Others."
I must need a few more apricot cocktails to get into this one. Bakewell's book is hard going. That de Beauvoir must have been quite the hottie; she also was Sartre's sweetheart.
A few years ago, I did read de Beauvoir's "The Second Sex," finding it quite a better book than "The Existentialist Cafe." Back when I was a young and callow fellow, I also liked Satre's novel, "Nausea," and play, "No Exit," but couldn't comprehend his philosophy. Later, I took a bourbon-soaked dose with Walker Percy's "The Moviegoer" and "The Last Gentleman."
In those carefree days, I loved everything I could find by Camus, always the model for the dashing philosopher/journalist/writer and Paris resistance fighter.
To paraphrase Cole Porter, I don't want to accuse you-all of being existent-ual.
J.K. Elliott's captivating article "Beyond the Bible" in the Dec. 14 Times Literary Supplement made a convincing case that "apocryphal" books excluded from the New Testament by the early church still had a major influence in the culture of the Middle Ages and beyond.
The banished books included popular narratives of Mary's life and Christ's childhood and ministry, contributing to enduring conceptions of Christianity. I was fascinated to learn about a series of "Acts" books about individual early Christians, such as "The Acts of St. Peter" and "The Acts of St. Paul." Some of that material ended up in the included "Acts of the Apostles."
According to Elliott, several of our enduring images of Paul come from his "Acts," including the apostle's inverted crucifixion.
The TLS remains vital under recently installed editor Stig Abell, staying at the forefront of covering emerging writers and cultural changes while giving authoritative commentaries on the literary establishment and traditions.