Staff Holiday Picks: From the Director

John Donatich—

This year I loved reading books that couldn’t help but get tangled in the web of presidential politics.  Mickey Edwards was both prophetic and prescriptive in The Parties Versus the People: How to Turn Republicans and Democrats into Americans, carefully reviewing the symptoms of a political system effectively paralyzed by bi-partisanship, providing a diagnosis of the holistic effect on our culture and then offering effective and practical ways of treating the syndrome.  Paul Starr won both Pulitzer and Bancroft Prizes for his definitive history, The Social Transformation of American Medicine, which he updates and mobilizes in our book, Remedy and Reaction: The Peculiar American Struggle over Health Care Reform.  Starr is busily updating his prognosis about medical care during President Obama’s second term in the forthcoming paperback edition.


Leaving aside current events (and medical metaphors), I love the novel Blindly,by Claudio Magris and translated into English by Anne Milano Appel. Hailed as a masterpiece when published in Italy, it’s a quite challenging novel, told in many voices, a voyage through time and space told by a single narrator whose voice is embodied by at least two characters, the voice of a pazzo lucido, a lucid madman.  The book is part shifting choral monologue, part confession under physical torture, part psychiatric session in a mental hospital; it is personal testimony as confession, history, lying, truthtelling — all of it adding up to single scream representing the horrors and hopes of the 20th century.  Claudio Magris has written a singular novel, a book that dramatizes a fluid voyage through time and space – a travel diary of human consciousness.  Not an easy book but its very difficulty, its indeterminacy of narrative voice is exactly the experience that carries the reader.

John Donatich is Director of Yale University Press.


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