Cotkin's latest book is Feast of Excess: A Cultural History of the New Sensibility.
Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
I really wasn’t prepared to make the commitment. The hoopla about the book had been substantial, but I felt immune to it. Then one day, while wandering a bookstore’s isles, I came upon it. Take a peek; no problem. Within a couple of pages, I was hooked. The 900 page plus book was now my constant companion. Even if it sagged a bit in the middle, Garth Risk Hallberg’s City on Fire was compelling in many ways, especially for a first novel. The characters were numerous and diverse, intersecting ingeniously, with personal and political themes interwoven. City on Fire was, in the end, about living in New York City at a particular historical moment, when punk rock was rocking and the investment sector was both reaping it in and being swept down below.Learn more about Feast of Excess at the Oxford University Press website.
Benjamin Taylor’s Proust: The Search is a brief book about a much longer work, In Search of Lost Time, and its author, Marcel Proust. Although I have never finished Proust’s opus, the book’s author has always fascinated me. Taylor is a sure-footed guide, knowledgeable about Proust, his work, and cultural context. His writing style is elegant and direct, blossoming throughout with insight.
In a very different vein, I read The Groucho Letters. I had recently viewed, via YouTube, Groucho on the Dick Cavett Show. He had all of his humorous marbles, even at age 79. To prolong the Groucho experience, I turned to his letters – agog with wit, puncturing pretensions (his own and others), and commenting on the world. He was self-educated, sometimes conservative in his tastes, but intellectually alive.
Philosopher Richard Polt’s The Typewriter Revolution: A Typist’s Companion for the 21st Century is only in part a nostalgia trip – and a delightful one at that. The book is a manifesto in favor of using a typewriter as a more thoughtful and slow mode of writing - a shift key into a freedom denied us by the computer screen. With humor and depth, Polt also gives us a finely tuned history of the machine, and much more. The book is lavishly illustrated and even includes an embedded bookmark that looks like, what else, a typewriter ribbon, without any danger of smudging.
The Page 99 Test: Dive Deeper.
The Page 99 Test: Feast of Excess.