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All through 2012 and into 2013 I kept a list of the books I hoped to write about for Bubba’s Book Club.

The title refers to aging — how an old man’s every third thought is of death, quoting Prospero in when he is planning to return to Milan, “Where every third thought shall be of my grave.” The main character is an elderly author who remains upbeat and energetic, reflecting, “That still gives First and Second Thoughts to get stuff done in.” The irrepressible John Barth chronicles life’s late stages with the same crafty sleight-of-hand and bawdy gusto he brought to portraying youth — when it might be said that every third thought was of another end. His writing is accomplished in stolen hours, with the aid of earplugs and amphetamines.) John Barth blossomed into his own mature style with in 1960 — highly intelligent and deeply learned, yet somehow warm and friendly, darkly comic and satirical — and always with a light-hearted carnality that might be dubbed “satyrical.” Since then Mr.

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Despite his obvious self-serving bias, though, Rank’s unfolding delusions are entertaining, and expressed with admirable skill.

Male writers have sometimes been congratulated for portraying believable female characters, sympathetic and not, and Lynn Coady seems to have an astonishing grasp of masculine patterns of thought — the peculiarly male insecurities, codes, and hormonal drives. Douglas Coupland (2004) Another Canadian writer, but closer to the middle generation of the authors under discussion (born 1961), Douglas Coupland is an artist who has also “triumphed over success.” Meaning that success, if it arrives too early, or proves insufficient, is generally something a real artist has to “get over.” Too much attention and praise can be a psychological pitfall, and the artist has to come to terms with “expectations” — his or her own, and those of utter strangers. (Actors, musicians, and authors alike.) However, those who do come through that fire are often purified, ennobled, and freed of any temptation to compromise their work for public approval.

In addition, I notice with surprise and delight that every single one is by a living author, all but one published within the last decade.

That says a great deal about my feelings toward the state of modern fiction. But still, that is a daunting number of books to face up to writing about.

Over two hundred years ago, the great scholar and wit Dr.

Johnson said, “No one but a blockhead ever wrote except for money.” However, he spent nine years working on the first great dictionary of the English language, and he didn’t do for money. ) My list of the past year’s literary favorites now numbers twenty-one titles, nearly all of them novels.

And yet, whatever techniques and preoccupations they employ to tell their stories, their accomplishment is the same — they spin a good tale, and delight the reader.

And not only reader, for in most cases these titles were well-reviewed and even fairly widely read.

(The key word was “hoped.”) Unlike most book reviewers, I have the luxury of choosing to read only books that I expect to enjoy.

Because unless you’re getting paid to be glib about stuff you don’t like, why bother?

But there is also the simple motive of wanting to “share the love.” On this occasion, a couple of reflections encouraged me to attempt it.

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