Tag Archives: Theodora Keogh

Books Acquired Recently: Holiday Edition

I’ve acquired a number of books over the past few weeks. Most of them (the ones without their provenance listed) have been gifts, though a few I’ve bought for gifts to myself to read over the semester break.

Ballard, J.G. Cocaine Nights. 1996. Washington, D.C.: Counterpoint, 1998.

Ballard is an author that I love to read in my spare time because of his fiction’s cynical view of society, which I tend to share. I’ve never attempted a systematic investigation of his oeuvre (which is rare for authors that I enjoy as much as I enjoy him), but I buy one of his books every once in a while when I come across them and am never disappointed.

This and the books by Cha, Rechy, Rhys, and Walker were acquired with a gift certificate that I received to DogStar Books in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Cha, Theresa Hak Kyung. Dictee. 1982. Berkeley: U of California P, 2001.

I remember reading about this book, which is classified as poetry, in a book about postmodern fiction at some point. It has all sorts of visual elements–photographs, facsimiles of handwriting, drawings–that I love in text-based books. My knowledge of Asian American literature is also lacking, so I am excited to read it.

Keogh, Theodora. Street Music. 1952. N.p.: Olympia, 2009.

I love Keogh’s fiction because of its subtle queer bent, but haven’t had the time to read any of her novels in a while, thus I was glad to receive this as a gift.

Kuper, Simon. Ajax, the Dutch, the War: The Strange Tale of Soccer During Europe’s Darkest Hour. New York: Nation, 2012.

Growing up in the 1990s as a soccer fan in the U.S. I always felt the lack of available books on soccer history (and especially European soccer history) keenly. I am happy that with the sport’s recent rise in popularity here this lacuna is being filled.

Kushner, Tony. Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes. Rev. ed. New York: TCG, 2013.

Angels in America is my favorite play, and I teach it often. I just recently discovered that a revised edition has been published, which, frankly, worries me (what if Kushner’s meddling with the play is along the lines of George Lucas’s with Star Wars?). However, it is an essential enough text that reading the new version at least once is a necessity.

This and Miller’s Eyes at the Window were acquired from amazon.com’s network of independent sellers.

Mass, AJ. Yes, It’s Hot in Here: Adventures in the Weird, Woolly World of Sports Mascots. New York: Rodale, 2014.

Mass used to be Mr. Met. I read an excerpt of this memoir when it came out a few months ago and enjoyed it, so decided to put it on my wish list.

Miller, Evie Yoder. Everyday Mercies. Milton: Big Girl, 2014.

I’ve been asked to review this novel for Mennonite Quarterly Review. I had heard of Miller, but have not read any of her fiction before. It is good to see more Mennonite writers from the U.S. working in the genre.

—. Eyes at the Window. Intercourse: Good, 2003.

I bought this book to read to get a sense of Miller’s work before I read Everyday Mercies.

Rechy, John. Bodies and Souls. New York: Carroll, 1983.

I have enjoyed the couple of Rechy’s novels that I have read, and he is a foundational queer Latino writer, so I was excited to buy this book when I found it in my browsing at DogStar.

Rhys, Jean. Jean Rhys: The Complete Novels. New York: Norton, 1985.

I have been wanting this volume since 2005 when I saw a graduate school classmate’s copy during a discussion of Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea. I have looked for it in used bookstores since then and was thrilled to finally find a copy. I have grown a fondness for twentieth century female British-ish writers (Muriel Spark, Doris Lessing, etc.) over the past year or so, and look forward to reading Rhys’s corpus as a furthering of this interest.

Walker, Alice. In Love & Trouble: Stories of Black Women. San Diego: Harcourt, 1973.

I wrote about this excellent book in my dissertation, but did not actually own a copy. I’ve been looking for it in used bookstores recently and was happy to find a copy in very good condition for only $4.00.

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Books Acquired Recently: Last Names Beginning With K Edition

Keogh, Theodora. The Other Girl. 1962. N.P.: Olympia, 2009.

I read a number of Keogh’s books last summer and have been wanting to read more of them, but hadn’t had the time. I plan to rectify that this summer.

Klosterman, Chuck. I Wear the Black Hat: Grappling With Villains (Real and Imagined). New York: Scribner, 2013.

Klosterman is one of my favorite writers because he thinks in ways that I have never encountered before about a wide range of subjects, including sports and all facets of pop culture. He’s one of the few authors whose books I buy automatically whether they sound interesting to me or not because they inevitably are, and this one sounds quite fascinating. Klosterman writes essays considering a long list of villains, mostly men. Some of the ones I am most excited to read are those on Nancy Botwin (from Weeds), Michael Stipe, Ice Cube, Al Davis, Darth Vader, and Patrick Bateman (from Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho). You can read an excerpt from the book here.

Both books bought on amazon.com.

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And Now for Something Completely Different: Books Acquired Recently

D’anna, Lynnette. RagTimeBone. Vancouver: New Star, 1994.

This is yet another of D’anna’s books that have been trickling in over the past few weeks. I am waiting until they all arrive to begin reading them. Summer is a great time for reading a writer’s oeuvre straight through because of the extra time off. I used to spend extended periods of time with authors (Chaim Potok, Philip Roth, Samuel R. Delany, and Louise Erdrich, to name a few) a lot, but, with the exception of a brief Theodora Keogh phase last summer, my reading over the past two years has been rather piecemeal. I’m looking forward to re-encountering the luxurious feeling of being enveloped in a writer’s voice for several weeks on end.

Hill, Lawrence. Someone Knows My Name. New York: Norton, 2007.

A colleague told me about this book recently. It’s a neo-slave narrative told from a Canadian perspective, which should be fascinating.

Both books bought via amazon.com’s network of booksellers. These are the last two books I will acquire before I move to New York next week. I pity the movers having to carry all of my books and bookcases!

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Theodora Keogh’s My Name is Rose

Theodora Keogh’s 1956 novel My Name is Rose is, like her 1954 novel, The Fascinator, about a married woman having an affair. However, unlike the earlier book, where the story builds up to the affair and the woman is not punished, My Name is Rose depicts a woman whose actions drive her to madness because of the guilt she feels (the narrator’s voice does not seem to condemn her). It takes place in postwar France, with all of the stereotypical touchstones one might expect from such a setting–the poor artistic neighbors, the husband who works on a literary magazine, the American expatriate (Rose herself), the clandestine meetings in cafés, et cetera. But Keogh’s brilliance lies in how affecting, how sharp, how uncanny her books are despite their simple plots. She makes us care for Rose and hope for her happiness, hope that she will realize her husband, who is so modest that he refuses to see her naked, will always make her unhappy. Keogh does this by switching back and forth between first and third person, with Rose’s sections in the form of journal entries. These entries get more and more frenzied even as Rose’s affair makes her happier and happier. Her fatal flaw is that she is only able to take what she wants via action rather than also in spirit–she never commits to doing what she needs, instead letting men use her like a pawn. Rose’s inability to love herself is her undoing. Keogh thus creates another profound proto-feminist text, showing that women must grab control of their own lives.

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Theodora Keogh’s The Fascinator

Theodora Keogh’s 1954 novel The Fascinator is a stylistic departure from many of her other novels in that it follows numerous characters closely instead of one or two, and in that the climax occurs on the very last page rather than allowing room (sometimes too much room) for a denoument. The book is a slow, languid description of the build-up to an affair between a young Manhattan housewife and an older Yugoslavian sculptor. The reader knows almost immediately that they must end up having sex at some point, but the brilliance of the book is in putting this event off for so long (and thus constantly surprising the reader for the last 200 of the novel’s 250 pages) that it becomes unexpected when it finally occurs. The Fascinator is subversive like Keogh’s other works because the reader is rooting for Ellen and Zanic to consummate their flirtation even though they are both married. The mysterious magnetism between them affects us, too. The first third of the book is much clumsier than Keogh’s other writing–it takes her some time to figure out how to juggle all of the characters–but once the reader is hooked in to anticipating the sex scene and its aftermath (the latter which we never get, though it will almost certainly lead to the dissolution of Ellen’s marriage) the book is difficult to put down.

Once again Keogh does an excellent job of describing the desperation felt by her female characters in the pre-feminism 1950s. The women (even Ellen’s four-year-old daughter!) are skillful politicians, adept at wounding one another because it is the only power they have. Their viciousness is stunning because it is completely believable rather than being exaggerated, and the horrible thing is that the men are too clueless to have any idea that it is occuring.

 

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Books Acquired Recently: Theodora Keogh

Keogh, Theodora. The Fascinator. New York: Farrar, Straus & Young, 1954.

—. My Name is Rose. 1956. New York: Signet, 1958.

—. The Tattooed Heart. 1953. New York: Signet, 1954.

Theodora Keogh is my latest literary obsession, so I’ve been buying her out-of-print books on amazon.com as I find them (several of her novels have been reprinted by Olympia Press, thus I have been focusing on acquiring the out-of-print ones first). I love the look of old pulp fiction, and these editions are still in good condition because Signet was smart enough to produce them with colored page edges (I’m sure there is a technical term for this, but I don’t know it, which is terrible) to help protect the pages. I remember my elementary school librarian, Charles Kolataze at P.S. 97 in the Bronx, teaching us that books with this feature would last for years and years, but books without it would maybe only last for ten. Now, it is ridiculous to say that any book, even one being handled often by grubby children’s hands, will only last for ten years–see Nicholson Baker’s excellent exposé of this and other ridiculous librarian myths, Double Fold: Libraries and the Assault on Paper–but it is true that books with protected edges stay in good condition.

The first edition of The Fascinator (great title!) is also, well, fascinating, as it gives a glimpse into Farrar, Straus and Giroux’s (Why don’t they use the Oxford comma??? Arghhh.) early history. That third partner slot was apparently an unstable one, as The Fascinator has Young as the third partner and My Name is Rose notes that it was first published by Farrar, Straus & Cudahy.

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Theodora Keogh’s Meg

I just finished reading Theodora Keogh’s 1950 novel Meg, which is about the eponymous protagonist’s struggles with her entrance into womanhood in the year before she turns thirteen. I am generally not a fan of books that are primarily about children (two major exceptions are Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close and Miriam Toews’s The Flying Troutmans), but Meg is a thought-provoking, well-written book. It is a cross between Judy Blume and Lolita, with the salacious bits just titillating enough to keep the reader’s attention without causing them too much worry about Meg’s fate, and the more innocent parts genuine enough as to not verge into sappiness.

What impresses me most about the novel is how prescient it is about the enforced conformity of the decade that followed its publication. Nothing much scandalous happens (There are constant hints that something will–Will Meg be seduced by her best friend’s father? Will she be kidnapped by a child molester? and so on–but the only time the book lives up to its luridly suggestive cover is when Meg loses her virginity to a slightly older boy, an experience that is neither pleasurable nor traumatic for her. Her description of the experience is beautifully profound: “‘What did it feel like?’ She thought a moment as she buttoned on her blouse. ‘Well, it was as if there was no place and you were making one, only you never quite got to make it.'” [95]), but the book feels subversive simply because it portrays characters who are unsatisfied by the roles society assigns them and want something more. Unfortunately, as is par for the course in most 1950s pulp fiction, most of the characters are punished for their differences. The prostitute Miss Tracy is murdered by her pimp, and Meg blackmails her history teacher when she finds out that she is a lesbian in order to get a passing grade. Aside from this one act, though, the reader roots for Meg, and she happily gets through the book relatively unscathed, albeit wiser, and the reader knows that she won’t grow up to be the kind of adult drone which the novel writes against.

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