The Middle Ground - Margaret Drabble
Kate is appealing, complex and quirky; she not only came alive, she was someone I wanted as a friend. She interacts with a wonderful (and varied) cast. The book has a pleasing density, and though not every character or situation or idea was fully developed, it didn’t matter; loose ends are allowed, because they’re part of life. That’s what Drabble captures – life in both its light and dark shades, with its humor and sadness. She had the right character to pin everything onto, and she went at her story with verve and style and skill. *
Nightmare Abbey - Thomas Love Peacock
This is an inside joke, a send-off of a type of literature; not being acquainted with the literature (or manner of thought) being parodied, much was lost on me. In fact, I often felt lost. Peacock didn’t help matters by using esoteric vocabulary as a humorous device. Still, I got enough of the gist of things to be somewhat entertained. And the oddity of the characters was amusing. The book was mercifully short, under a hundred pages; I don’t believe I could have stayed with it for much longer.
The Farmers’ Daughters - William Carlos Williams
Most of these stories involve Williams’ practice as a doctor among the poor immigrants of urban New Jersey, so illness and its treatment is a main element. The “ugliness” that’s depicted (with a no-nonsense bluntness) is merely a part of life. What’s inside people – their character – is what matters. Williams comes across as intelligent and tough, sane and solid. He uses a jumpy, shorthand style of prose; actually, he states that the stories weren’t done with much care – he would “bang out” one in a break in his busy medical practice. Most aren’t really stories – they’re sketches or fragments. The much-anthologized “The Use of Force” is the standout success; it rises up from the subconscious, and I wonder if Williams knew that he was writing about a sexual assault.