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Structured reading

My reading habits are pretty random. I'll finish one book but won't have any inkling of what to read next until I've thoroughly scanned my shelves at home. But that will change, at least momentarily, over the next month or so.

Reading Caleb Crain's fine essay on the Depression's impact on art, I first became aware of Edmund Wilson's American Jitters: A Year of the Slump, a collection of magazine articles written by Wilson which documented his 1930-31 travels around the country surveying the Depression's impact on everyday people. I located the book in my local interlibrary system and put a hold on it, and was just now notified it has arrived at my library. So I've decided to read Wilson's book first, followed by two other Depression-themed books that I own: William Leuchtenberg's Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal (mentioned here) and then Jack Conroy's proletarian novel The Disinherited, which I bought five years ago after years of hunting, only to let it languish unread on my shelf ever since. Conroy was a friend and even a mentor to my hero Nelson Algren, and it's inexcusable for me to have avoided his well-regarded novel this long.

So there you have it - three books that look at the Depression in greatly varying perspectives. I'm hoping each book will inform and illuminate the others while I read.

October 13, 2009 in Books | Permalink


Conroy's "Monkey's Nest Mine" in that novel was based on an actual mine in northern Missouri (a place not too far from another place called Illinois). Missouri "claims" that novel, but as I recall, not much of the story actually takes place in the Show Me State.

My reading is generally pretty random as well. When I'm active in a reading group, I know in advance at least one book I'll be reading in coming weeks, and I sometimes get a book from the library that I'm eager to start on, but beyond that, I pretty much go with whatever way the wind blows. I am working my way through all of Iris Murdoch's novels, but I have to intersperse them with other works lest I become overwhelmed by her characters.

Have you ever heard of/tried ABE Books to find books? It's an online service that shows the inventory of participating used bookstores all over North America (and many in Europe). I just looked and found 70 copies of The Disinherited available, starting at $1.00 (plus shipping).

Posted by: Paul Lamb at Oct 14, 2009 6:07:17 AM