Worth Reading #4: Abbreviated but Worthy

I have been meaning to write these reviews for months. These two books have been sitting on the shelf, and my original plan was to review them along with a third book. Needless to say, I still haven’t finished that book (Sena Jeter Naslund’s Ahab’s Wife – just lovely!), and it’s time to return these two to the library. First, brief reviews, with links to much more informative pieces about each book.

Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell. I love Karen Russell. I’ve read her two previous books (St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves and Swamplandia!), and her elegant writing style and rich imagination are inimitable. In Russell’s world, dead presidents return as horses (“The Barn at the End of Our Term”), and vampires haunt sun-warmed Italian lemon groves (“Vampires in the Lemon Grove”). In “Reeling for the Empire,” young girls are transformed into silk-spinning worms. The only story I didn’t find compelling was “Dougbert Shackleton’s Rules for Antarctic Tailgating.” I skimmed this tale and moved on to the next. Otherwise, another wonderful collection by a masterful writer. I look forward to her future releases.

For Joy Williams’ review of Vampires, please see here.

The Fiddler on Pantico Run by Joe Mozingo. Again, kudos to TheRumpus.net for introducing me to another fantastic author. Autobiography, memoir, genealogy, history, travelogue—this book is a little bit of everything adeptly woven together to form a compelling story. “My father’s family landed in 1942 Los Angeles as if by immaculate conception, unburdened by the past,” writes Mozingo. His last name intrigues him. What are its origins? Is it Italian? Basque? It turns out that the name Mozingo originated with a freed slave from Virginia, and every Mozingo in America is descended from him. Joe Mozingo embarks on a fascinating journey, exploring former plantations in Virginia, meeting distant cousins in Indiana, and finally traveling to Africa to find the earliest traces of the Mozingo line.

Here is the interview with Joe Mozingo.

Next on my reading list: Stoner by John Williams and A Jane Austen Daydream by Scott D. Southard.

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