Avaland's 2011 Journey, Part 1

KeskusteluClub Read 2011

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Avaland's 2011 Journey, Part 1

Tämä viestiketju on "uinuva" —viimeisin viesti on vanhempi kuin 90 päivää. Ryhmä "virkoaa", kun lähetät vastauksen.

1avaland
Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 29, 2011, 11:22 am

2011 READING

What I'm Reading Now

NOW READING



The Last Gift by Abdulrazak Gurnah (2011, UK/Zanzibar)
African Psycho by Alain Mabanckou (2003, Congo-Brazzaville)
Bellefleur by Joyce Carol Oates (1980)
Rereading Women: Thirty Years of Exploring Our Literary Traditions by Sandra M. Gilbert (2011, essays)

BOOKS & OTHER MATERIAL READ, 2011

Novels/Novellas

The Wedding of Zein by Tayib Shalih (Sudanese,1969)
The Ice People by Maggie Gee (2008, UK, dystopian)
Penwoman by Elin Wagner (Swedish, 1910, T 2009)
Embassytown by China Miéville (2011, UK author)
Waiting by Goretti Kyomuhendo (2007, Uganda)
The Woman in Black by Susan Hill (1983, UK, audio)
The Last Brother by Nathacha Appanah (2007, T 2010 Mauritius)
Minaret by Leila Aboulela (Sudan, ...)
The Last Patriarch by Najat El Hachmi (2010, Morocco)
Hygiene and the Assassin by Amelie Nothomb (1992, T 2010, Belgian)
Five Bells by Gail Jones (2011, Australian)
The Testament of Jessie Lamb by Jane Rogers (2011, UK, dystopian)
A Palace in the Old Village by Tahar Ben Jelloun (T 2011, Morocco)
Ledoyt by Carol Emshwiller (1995, US)
A Double Life by Karolina Pavlova (novel, Russian, 1848, T 1978)
Mrs. De Winter by Susan Hill (1999, UK)
Isle of Dreams by Keizo Hino (T. 2010, Japan)
From Sleep Unbound by Andrée Chedid (T 1983, Egyptian-Lebanonese)
The Time: Night by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya (1992, T 1994, Russian)

Short Fiction/Anthologies

12 stories, 1 each from 12 anthologies, read 7/2011
1. "The Rubbish Dump" by Steve Chimombo (Malawi)
Anthology: The Heinemann Book of African Short Stories edited by Chinua Achebe and C. L. Innes (1992)
2. "The Twelfth in the Cabin" (1907) by Ragnhild Jolsen
Anthology: An Everyday Story: Norwegian Women's Fiction edited by Katherine Hanson. 1984
3. "The Crow and the Fox" (2001) by Liang Dazhi
Anthology: Loud Sparrows: Contemporary Chinese Short-Shorts selected & translated by Aili Mu, Julie Chiu, Howard Goldblatt (2006)
4. "The Triumphant Head" by Josephine Saxton
Anthology: The New Women of Wonder, edited by Pamela Sargent (1977)
5. Excerpt from The Timeless Land, Part III: 1790 (1st volume pub. 1941)by Eleanor Dark
Anthology: Macquarie Pen Anthology of Australian Literature edited by Nicholas Jose, 2009
6. "Bloody Blanche" (1897) by Marcel Schwob, translated from the French by Chris Baldick
Anthology :The Oxford Book of Gothic Tales, edited by Chris Baldick, 1992
7. "The Ariran's Last Life" by Maria Eliza Hamilton Abegunde
Anthology: The Best African American Fiction 2010 edited by Gerald Early, 2010
8. "Light Breathing" by Ivan Bunin
Anthology: The Portable Twentieth-Century Russian Reader edited by Clarence Brown, circa 1994 edition.
9. "The Library Girl" by Vishwapriya L. Iyengar
Anthology: The Inner Courtyard: Stories by Indian Women edited by Lakshmi Holmstrom, 1990
10. "Jungfrau" (2006 winner of the Caine Prize) by Mary Watson
Anthology: Ten Years of the Caine Prize for African Writing, 2009
11. "Questioning Samantha" by Guillermo Fadanelli
Anthology: Best of Contemporary Mexican Fiction edited by Alvaro Uribe, 2009
12. "Report on the Barnhouse Effect" by Kurt Vonnegut (1950)
Anthology: First Fiction: An Anthology of the First Published Stories by Famous Writers edited by Kathy Kiernan and Michael M. Moore. 1994

Poetry

Selections from Aftermath by Sandra M. Gilbert (2011, US author)
Selections from Boris Pasternak's poetry (Russian, 20th century)
Selections from Lovers of the Lost by Wesley McNair (2010)

Police Procedurals/Mysteries

Outrage by Arnuldur Indridason (2009, T 2011 Icelandic)
What is Mine by Anne Holt
Fear Not by Anne Holt (2009, T 2011 Norwegian)
The Boy in the Suitcase by Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friis (Danish, 2008, T 2010, thriller)
Blood Moon by Garry Disher (2009, Australian)
The Demon of Dakar by Kjell Eriksson (2005, Swedish)
Chain of Evidence by Garry Disher (2007, Australian)
The Cruel Stars of the Night by Kjell Eriksson (2004, Swedish, 2nd in series to be translated)
Snapshot by Garry Disher (Australian, 3rd in the series)
Kittyhawk Down by Garry Disher (Australian, 2nd in the series)
The Dragon Man by Gary Disher (1999, Australian, 1st in the series)
Woman with Birthmark by Håkan Nesser (Swedish, psychological thriller, 4th in the series)
Mind's Eye by Håkan Nesser (1993, T 2008, Swedish, 2nd in the series)
The Return by Håkan Nesser (1995, T 2007, Swedish, 1st in the series)

Nonfiction

Designing Tessellations: The Secrets to Interlocking Patterns by Jinny Beyer. (1999 art/design)
Who is Ana Mendieta? by Christine Redfern and Caro Caron (2011, graphic nonfiction)
Selected rereading from Right Hand, Left Hand:The Origins of Asymmetry in Brains, Bodies, Atoms… by Chris McManus
Selected reading from American Art Review, February 2011.

Abandoned

In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed by Carol Honoré (2004, nonfiction, Canadian)

2GCPLreader
joulukuu 22, 2010, 8:13 am

looking forward to following your thread. I love oates and atwood too! we share over 100 titles. I wonder if you are planning to read the unstarred books in your catalog. --Jenny

3avaland
Muokkaaja: joulukuu 23, 2010, 7:16 pm

>2 GCPLreader: Jenny, thanks for stopping by. Are you referring to just the unstarred Atwoods and Oates? I've read all the Atwoods but it was before LT so I didn't rate them when I entered them. I've reread 2 or 3 and kept up with her newer books. As for Oates, well, there are many of hers I've yet to read! If you mean ALL of the unstarred books, I suspect that would be impossible:-)

But tell me why you enjoy Atwood and Oates.

4GCPLreader
joulukuu 31, 2010, 9:21 am

Lois, wishing you a very happy new year! I've loved Atwood since The Handmaid's Tale made such an impact on me in my early adulthood. ever since then I've been crazy for dystopian lit. plans for her books this year include The Robber's Bride and The Penelopiad. Joyce Carol Oates is such a prolific author and every time I see her books lined up on the library shelf I just can't decide what to pick. I love her strong female characters and the excitement of the violence that often surrounds them. remembering how much I loved The Gravedigger's Daughter just a couple of years ago!

5avaland
Muokkaaja: tammikuu 2, 2011, 11:21 am

I have much to catch up on, 4 books to post about:



Doc by Mary Doria Russell
(forthcoming May 2011, US)

Mary Doria Russell has taken us in her novels to Italy during World War II, Egypt during the 1921 Peace conference which created the modern Middle East, and yes, even to the frontier of outer space. She is a gifted storyteller and clearly has a penchant for thorough research (she has a PhD in biological anthropology). Her gifts and skills combine once again to introduce us to J. H. Holliday, aka "Doc" Holliday, a notorious and mythical figure from the American West, famous for his participation in the "shootout at the OK Corral" with the Earp brothers. And let me say here that I would be unlikely to have picked up a novel with this subject matter, if Mary Doria Russell's name had not been on the cover.

One cannot be of a certain age in the United States and not know the names of Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday and so many others made mythical by the telling and retelling of tales of law and order in the American West (here is where my husband starts singing the theme song to the Wyatt Earp television series). Like so many notorious and famous figures, certain events have come to define them, and their full humanity gets lost in our appetite for drama and excitement.

With a easy-going prose style, Russell's narrator tells us the story of Doc Holliday concentrating mostly on his 20s, his time in Dodge City, Kansas; and the beginnings of his friendship with Wyatt Earp. She bookends this with the story of his childhood in Georgia and his education as a dentist, and a summation of what would come after Dodge. She succeeds masterfully in vividly bringing to life a man who was elegant, educated, a talented pianist, a card sharp and a working dentist—a man who spent his 'entire adult life' dying of tuberculosis.

It is a "Western" in that it chronicles a struggle between law & order and banditry set in the latter half of the 19th century, and there's everything you would expect: dusty streets, card games, lawmen, whores, cattlemen, and gunfights. Seducing us from the very beginning, Russell manages to create real people out of the legends and caricatures we have been hearing about for decades and decades.

Here's a bit I particularly like where Wyatt Earp is confronting Doc Holliday about whether the stories told about him are true:

Doc sat carefully, gathered the deck and shuffled, "I was never big," he said, beginning another round of dummies, "but since I got sick? I cannot keep any weight on. Doesn't matter what I eat."

He went around again with deft efficiency. Ten of clubs, flush developing. A second nine. Seven, possible straight.

"Let us consider the plight of the rattlesnake," he suggested softly, eyes on the cards. "The rattlesnake is feared and loathed, and yet he has no claws, no legs. He does not pick fights and gives fair warning if he is threatened, but if he is attacked? He cannot flee. All he has is his mouth..."

Partly, it was the fancy way he talked. Partly, it was the slow slurry sound of Georgia. Mostly, it was just that the dentist didn't think like anybody else. Wyatt looked away and back again. "I don't know what in hell you're talking about, Doc."

" 'Reputation, reputation, reputation' ," Doc recited, slapping out cards one by one. " 'It is idle and most false, oft got without merit and lost without deserving'." He looked up. "I don't believe you are gettin' enough rest, Wyatt. You look tired. Please. Have a seat."


6avaland
Muokkaaja: tammikuu 2, 2011, 11:27 am



The Moorland Cottage by Elizabeth Gaskell (1850, reprint 2010, UK)

An early short work of Gaskell's, The Moorland Cottage tells the story of young Maggie Browne and her struggle between her own desires and her duty to her family. Maggie (an 'angel in the house' type), her widowed mother, patronizing brother, and beloved servant live modestly in Moorland Cottage outside the village. Since her father's death, their mother has kept them socially secluded, but an irresistible invitation to the big house of the Buxton's (Mr. Buxton is one of her father's friends and a wealthy man with a sickly but loving wife, a handsome, kind son; and a lovely niece who is his ward) draws them out of their solitude. If one is a reader of 19th century fiction, one can more or less predict the direction of the story but despite it's predictability, and the fact that the ending is melodramic and wraps up a bit too quickly I enjoyed it nonetheless.

As the front flap suggests, it is quite possibly a template for Eliot's later novel, Mill and the Floss, there are just enough similarities to suggest it.

7avaland
Muokkaaja: tammikuu 2, 2011, 11:20 am



Continuum by Nina Cassian (2010, poetry, Romanian)

Cassian is a prominent Romanian poet, author of 50 or more volumes, many in Romanian, some in English. She was born in Romania but was exiled in the mid-80s and now lives in NYC. "Continuum" is her latest collection.

The first time I picked this collection up, I did not connect well with it, but my later forays into this volume have been more fruitful. The collection is varied and I particularly like the poems under the heading of 'homages' - about various 'greats' like Poe and Dickinson, Plath and the Greek poet Ritsos. But here is a poem from another section of the book I particularly liked:

Spring Snow

Scrounging—a barbaric word—
through my past,
I encounter dead butterflies
and stuffed animals
and the rag of infatuation,
also a piece torn from the flag
of love for humanity.
The days embrace themselves,
choke themselves,
enter the night.

Scrounging again, I find
wool, linen, pollen—
and purity.
It's like spring snow,
a paradoxical regeneration,
a lot of untouched, white silence
and, vanished, the shape of my lover
in the sheets.

Everything starts with the letter 'S'
of Snow
everything is written cleanly
in my conscience,
and everything is quiet and fresh
and there is no butchered past.

I remain pure and fresh
as at birth.

8avaland
Muokkaaja: helmikuu 28, 2011, 7:53 am



Sourland: Stories by Joyce Carol Oates (2010, US)

This is another superb collection from Oates which explores (as the blurb on it says), "the power of violence, loss, and grief to shape not only the psyche but the soul."

More than a few of these stories stick still with me: One of a young woman who recounts her involvement, in high school as a member of a group, with the death of a special education student. The students' involvement in the death was never uncovered, but the event has stayed with the woman and shaped her life. Another interesting story was told by a lonely, young girl about the retelling of an incidence of violence her mother witnesses while stuck in traffic. Each time in the girl's life, when someone is retelling the story, it's a bit different. There's a story about a librarian, a double amputee, who has an affair with a married man; and another story about a young girl who is in love with her imprisoned cousin (who, in a tustle, killed her mother's allegedly abusive lover—but actually killed the wrong one), and yet another stream-of-consciousness-like tale of Jason, a young man morbidly obsessed about dying and organ donation (the way it is written makes you really feel his obsession).

There are several which explore the power of grief—widowhood, in particular—and although these might not have been my favorites, they communicate well this deep and desperate emotional place and how it can be confused with other things.

Another great collection by literary master.

9Chatterbox
tammikuu 2, 2011, 1:05 pm

Just put in a hold request for the Oates stories at the library -- should have it by week's end! :-)

10janemarieprice
tammikuu 2, 2011, 2:59 pm

8 - How does she come up with this stuff? Every description of her books I read is really complex.

11avaland
Muokkaaja: tammikuu 3, 2011, 8:35 am

>10 janemarieprice: I think she is endlessly fascinating.

Do I have any reading goals for 2011?

*clock ticks while she thinks*

Answer: no. I'm a free-range reader, no cages, paper fed.

While one likes a sense of completion or closure, some books, such as poetry and even short fiction collections, are not always a clear cover to cover experience for me, so I'd like to be a bit better noting some of this "dipping in and out" reading.

I will probably continue with my JCO explorations as I seem to not be able to help myself (she's like a literary drug for me).

I'm thinking about cutting my reviews down to just a paragraph or two. We'll see how that goes:-)

12littlebones
tammikuu 3, 2011, 8:38 am

I've never read anything by Joyce Carol Oates, although I keep hearing her name. I've added Sourland to my "to read" list, now.

"I'm a free-range reader, no cages, paper fed." Amen. I never know what I'm going to read next until I've finished my current book.

13avaland
tammikuu 3, 2011, 8:47 am

>12 littlebones: she's not for everyone because of some of her subject matter and themes, and she is varied, so you might wish to choose carefully your "first":-)

14littlebones
tammikuu 3, 2011, 9:09 am

I liked what you wrote about Sourland, and the phrase "the power of violence, loss, and grief to shape not only the psyche but the soul" had me sold. If it's a subject matter issue, I'm certainly not worried! That sounds like exactly the sort of thing I enjoy, unless you can recommend a better starting point for Oates. :)

15akeela
tammikuu 3, 2011, 10:55 am

>11 avaland: There are worse addictions :) Enjoy!

16bonniebooks
tammikuu 3, 2011, 2:35 pm

I skipped over your review of Mary Doria Russell's new book, because I want to know as little as possible about a book I want to read, but tagged it with your name and will come back after I've read it--next year. :-)

17avaland
tammikuu 3, 2011, 9:38 pm

>14 littlebones: well, one can try it and see what you think. That phrase was a quote from the back of the review copy I had. Sometimes one just agrees with the blurb.

>15 akeela:. Oh, yes, I know!

>16 bonniebooks: bonnie, I do that too and many times I don't even read the book flaps and introductions ahead of time. There are really no big spoilers in the plot that can be revealed, as she's dealing with a person who was 'real' so the basic facts about his life are on record. It's mostly a very interesting character study. I did put an excerpt in there so that readers could get a taste of her easy going storytelling prose.

18amandameale
tammikuu 7, 2011, 7:26 am

Enjoying your reviews, Lois. As usual, I'm in awe at the diversity of your reading.

19arubabookwoman
tammikuu 8, 2011, 7:27 pm

I read a couple of Joyce Carol Oates's books each year (no way to keep up with everything she writes!). This year I have My Sister, My Love and Blonde on my shelf. Hope to get to them soon. (I've owned Blonde since it was originally published, but it's always seemed so massive.)

20baswood
tammikuu 8, 2011, 7:51 pm

#7
Enjoyed the poem from Nina Cassian's book continuum. I will look out for one of her books I believe there is a selected poems collection. Thanks

21avaland
tammikuu 8, 2011, 9:29 pm

>19 arubabookwoman: I know what you mean about Blonde! I also have My Sister, My Love in the TBR pile.

>20 baswood: you're welcome!

22avaland
Muokkaaja: tammikuu 8, 2011, 9:51 pm



The Return by Håkan Nesser (1995, T 2007, Swedish)

A decayed body is discovered, wrapped in a rug. It has no head, hands, or feet. This makes identification tough. Chief Inspector Van Veeteren, a cantankerous dinosaur of a cop (but clearly an excellent detective), is headed to the hospital for colon surgery (cancer), but he won't be out of commission long...

This was a very good mid-weight police procedural, set in a fictitious city which resembles the Swedish cities in other procedurals by Swedish authors, but seems to have a lot of Dutch names. The cast of detectives is a wonderfully ordinary one. I didn't think any of them particularly stood out among the others, except Van Veeteren. This had the effect of placing the crime and its solution at the forefront. And I have to say, in all my readings of crime fiction, I've not come across a crime novel that ended quite like this one.

Of the four books of Nesser's which have been translated, this is chronologically the third. I started the fourth but aborted it after I picked up 1 & 2 today. Books are translated by which ones publishers think are going to fly, not by any logical order. One has to watch that... it drives me crazy.

23avaland
tammikuu 10, 2011, 5:13 pm

Mind's Eye by Håkan Nesser (1993, T 2008, Swedish)

Book 1 of what has been translated thus far.

A man wakes up to find his wife murdered in the bathtub. He remembers nothing. Although he is sure he didn't do it, he does nothing to defend himself. He is convicted and sent to a mental institution. When he is murdered, the police and Inspector Van Veeteren must rethink the doubts from their original case.

Like my previous read, the story is spare and Van Veeteren and the puzzle of the case are what stands out in it. I still didn't get much of a sense about all the other characters. In this one, I had the murderer figured out very early on and when my guess was confirmed near the end of the book, a shout of "yes!" was heard in our household. I was able to do this because there were certain elements of the story that reminded me of another book, a piece of literary fiction.

I seem to be on a run of these Nesser mysteries which, as noted previous, are intriguing, mid-weight police procedurals. Not as detailed and complex in prose and story as I usually like, but a quick read and entertaining nonetheless.

24dchaikin
tammikuu 10, 2011, 6:34 pm

Lois - One of these days I'm going to find myself reading a police procedural (likely Scandinavian) and you will be fully to blame.

25fannyprice
tammikuu 10, 2011, 8:56 pm

>24 dchaikin:, Ditto. Lois is the reason I own a Henning Mankell book - still haven't read it, but I will. :D

26akeela
tammikuu 11, 2011, 1:47 am

> 24, 25 I've already bitten, and four titles (3 Scandinavian crime, 1 South African police procedural) later, I may be smitten :D

27amandameale
tammikuu 11, 2011, 7:24 am

Enjoying your reviews, Lois.

28dukedom_enough
tammikuu 11, 2011, 7:40 am

avaland@23,

Yes, you were very pleased, dear.

29avaland
Muokkaaja: tammikuu 11, 2011, 10:28 am

>24 dchaikin: - 26 Much depends what you are looking for in the books, of course.

>27 amandameale: thank you, Amanda

>28 dukedom_enough: and you are so good to put up with such passionate outbursts XXX

30rachbxl
tammikuu 12, 2011, 6:36 am

Just catching up...always good to see what you're reading.

31avaland
tammikuu 13, 2011, 4:21 pm

Woman with Birthmark by Håkan Nesser

4th of 4 crime novels which have been translated. A young woman decides at her mother's funeral to avenge a wrong done to her mother. She has a list and she intends to kill everyone on it. The first man is found just inside his front door with 2 bullet wound in the chest, and 2 bullet wounds "down below." It's up to the police to figure out the killer before they (we know it's a she but they don't) strike again.

This crime novel is formatted like a psychological thriller, very much in the vein of Barbara Vine (isn't it Vine/Rendell that introduces you to the killer first?). It's all about finding stopping the killer before they kill again. There's a bit more character development in this one than in the previous two I read, but time is spent with both the potential victims and the killer herself, so there isn't much leftover for the police. And because Nesser has set his novels in a fictitious city in a country never named, he obviously does't want us to get too attached to that either. Everything it seems is in service to the thriller storyline, which is fine if you enjoy thrillers. I find that all that suspense in a crime novel just makes me impatient. I've read 3 of these now, and I find the Inspector Van Veeteren just meh. He can't stand up to Rebus, Dalziel, Wallender, Erlander, or Winter, imo.

I'm sending these up to my sister-in-law and moving on.

32avaland
Muokkaaja: tammikuu 13, 2011, 4:46 pm



Lovers of the Lost: New & Selected Poems by Wesley McNair (2010, US).

I've been following Wesley McNair since the early 90s. He from my home state, but nationally known, albeit under-recognized by the general reading public. His poetry is clear, straightforward, thoughtful, and wonderfully-wrought. He writes about the extraordinary in the every day; beauty in a common moment, if you will. His poetry is reminiscent of that by Billy Collins. They are very much contemporaries, both born in 1941, and both writing about some of the same subjects around getting older.

I'd love to share a very funny poem that both dukedom and I thought very clever and funny titled "The Characters of Dirty Jokes," but I thought some might be offended (so, you'll have to buy the book! ha ha!). There is another one titled "Smoking", about Bogart & Bacall smoking on screen, that reminded me just a little of Billy Collins's "The Last Cigarette" - same wistfulness (it's too long to transcribe). MCNair has several poems in this collection related to hair, and the losing of it. "The Bald Spot," "On Losing My Hair," and this one:

Hymn to the Comb-Over

How the thickest of them erupt just
above the ear, cresting in waves so stiff
no wind can move them. Let us praise them
in all of their varieties, some skinny
as the bands of headphones, some rising
from a part that extnds halfway around
the head, others four or five strings
stretched so taut the scalp resembles
a musical instrument. Let us praise the sprays
that hold them, and the combs that coax
such abundance to the front of the head
in the mirror, the combers entirely forget
the back. And let us celebrate the combers,
who address the old sorrow of time's passing
day after day, bringing out of the barrenness
of mid-life this ridiculous and wonderful
harvest, no wishful flag of hope but, thick
or thin, the flag itself, unfurled for us all
in subways, office and mall across America.

Not only do I love the humor in this, but also the wistfulness and the sounds—the music of it—is just wonderful.

33amandameale
tammikuu 18, 2011, 6:35 am

I like the poem - quite touching.

34dukedom_enough
tammikuu 18, 2011, 7:30 am

Seems a little...thin...to me.

35bonniebooks
Muokkaaja: tammikuu 21, 2011, 4:00 am

That poem reminds me of how Mr. Malik's comb-over developed over time as his hair started thinning and receding. So funny, but made me understand better--and sympathize--for why and how men come to do this thing that looks so pathetic to everyone else.

36avaland
tammikuu 21, 2011, 8:36 am

>34 dukedom_enough: hahahahaha! Very punny.
>35 bonniebooks: yes, I think so.

37avaland
Muokkaaja: tammikuu 29, 2011, 6:50 am

I need to catch up on logging my reading. I'm a bit overextended these days, so will keep my comments relatively short.



The Time: Night by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya (1992, T 1994, Russian)

Anna, whose full name sounds very much like a famous Russian poet (she's practically her namesake!), is trying to make a living as a writer and poet, while keeping her family fed and under control. Her elderly mother is demented or psychotic, her daughter keeps getting pregnant by different men (Anna already looks after six year-old Tima, the oldest of her grandchildren), and her son is just out of prison (and his "friends" are looking for him - the ones that he owes money to).

In an engaging, spirited voice, laced with irony and a dark wit, Anna tells us her story, which is both familiar and foreign. She's tough, fierce, and exhausted. Published in 1992, her tale exposes the (then) contemporary struggle of many Russians, particularly women, in sitcom fashion. Yes, I found it darkly funny, but ultimately heartbreaking.

38avaland
Muokkaaja: tammikuu 25, 2011, 5:09 pm



From Sleep Unbound by Andrée Chedid (1952, T 1983, Egyptian-Lebanese-French)

A mesmerizing story of a woman driven to a desperate act. The book opens with a tale of our protagonist, who is a paraplegic, shooting her husband. But then the book tells the back story of how she came to this point, beginning when she is about 15 and in Catholic boarding school. Less a tale of overt abuse, than a tale of real oppression, on the cultural and personal level, this book reminded me somewhat of Nawal el Saadawi's Woman at Point Zero written about 25 years later. The books are similar in format (how they've chosen to tell the story) and they are both about women who have been driven to kill. And in both, the reader's sympathies are with the women.

39avaland
tammikuu 25, 2011, 5:25 pm



Madame Verona Comes Down the Hill by Dmitri Verhulst (2006, T.2010, Belgian)

A lovely short novel, told in beautiful language and with a folklorish feel, about the enduring love of Madame Verona, a pianist and legendary beauty, and her husband, Monsieur Potter, a composer. They live in a remote cottage in the woods high above a little village. As our narrator tells us the story—kind of a legend—of our couple, he also tells us some wonderful tales about the quirky village below, populated by people who seem to work and play hard - whether that be table football or making a cow an honorary mayor of the town.

The book requires attentiveness because of the language, but the rewards will be many. It reminded me a little of Aitmatov's Jamilia.

40Nickelini
tammikuu 27, 2011, 1:01 am

Love the cover of The Time: Night. Interesting title, too.

41amandameale
tammikuu 27, 2011, 7:15 am

#34 Actually, you're right. On first reading I brushed past most of it.

Oh yeah, interesting reviews Lois.

42dukedom_enough
tammikuu 28, 2011, 7:25 am

#41,

Although there is a certain shine that comes through.

43amandameale
tammikuu 28, 2011, 7:58 am

#42 Ouch!

44avaland
Muokkaaja: tammikuu 31, 2011, 7:56 am

The Dragon Man by Gary Disher (1999, Australian)

The Dragon Man is a superb, complex, character-driven police procedural set on a peninsula southeast of Melbourne.

Inspector Hal Challis and an ensemble cast of police personal are very busy these days. A young woman is abducted and later found murdered. And now, just before Christmas, another woman has disappeared. Vandals are lighting mailboxes on fire, and there is a series of residential burglaries going on. Not to mention that two police officers are getting some unwanted attention about their heavy-handed, over-enthusiastic approach to policing.

Gary Disher was writing literary fiction before he turned to crime novels, and his skills are apparent from page one. Not only does he take the time to make his characters credible and interesting, (honestly, I've worked with police officers like those who populate this book), his setting varied and equally interesting, but the central mystery became deliciously more complex as the book when on. The fact that I fingered the serial killer from very early on took nothing away from the pleasure of reading this book. While not as cerebral as some of my favorite procedurals, and certainly not of the guns-drawn, action-laden ilk, this novel portrays a somewhat more realistic experience of policing. I'm going to look forward to more of Gary Disher's work.

45lilisin
tammikuu 31, 2011, 2:49 pm

I'm looking forward to hearing what you think of "Isle of Dreams". It looks really interesting! You know me and my weakness for Japanese lit!

And as soon as I read the title of In Praise of Slowness, it reminded me of the great Kundera novel, Slowness. I know you have a lot on your plate but if you were to ever get to the Kundera, I can't recommend it highly enough!

46avaland
tammikuu 31, 2011, 4:38 pm

>45 lilisin: Seems there might have been a quote from the novel at the beginning, but perhaps I might be imagining that.

47Jargoneer
helmikuu 1, 2011, 5:20 am

What I would like to know is - is your stately progress through In Praise of Slowness an affirmation in praise of slowness?

48avaland
helmikuu 1, 2011, 6:54 am

>47 Jargoneer: ha ha. Hardly. It's more that I have only been reading before going to sleep, and nonfiction is not what I choose for these moments. As for slowness: I agree with the idea generally, but the author uses some examples that I thought didn't fit (and there's a "movement"?) He would be comforted to know that I am happy to daydream anytime.

49dchaikin
helmikuu 1, 2011, 10:37 am

Lois, that was a nice a review of The Dragon Man. Disher sounds interesting.

50avaland
helmikuu 1, 2011, 8:09 pm

>49 dchaikin: Dan, it's in the category of police procedurals which read like literary fiction. Of course, the crime level for the area is exaggerated, but that's true of all crime novels.

51rebeccanyc
helmikuu 9, 2011, 7:51 am

Just catching up with your reading!

52avaland
helmikuu 9, 2011, 6:11 pm

>51 rebeccanyc: Nice to see you, rebecca. I'm behind on my commentaries—too busy at the moment (which means the plies of to-dos will get bigger!)

53charbutton
helmikuu 10, 2011, 10:37 am

Catching up and adding nearly all the books you've reviewed to my wishlist.

54avaland
helmikuu 11, 2011, 7:41 am

>53 charbutton: that's scary!

Mysteries-particularly police procedurals-are what I turn to when I need a literary palate cleanser or have a lot going on and can't read literature that requires more concentration. I have a lot going on this winter so have indulged in these more than usual:

Kittyhawk Down and Snapshot by Garry Disher (2003 , 2005, Australian)

Admittedly, after reading Disher first book in this series (#44 above), I became temporary addicted. These are excellent character-driven police procedurals which read like literary fiction. There are usually several cases which the department is working on simultaneously, sometimes they end up being related, sometimes not. Naturally I have ordered the next two.

The Isle of Dreams by Keizo Hino (T 2010, Japanese). I will come back to comment on this when I'm feeling better.

The Cruel Stars of the Night by Kjell Ericksson (2004, Swedish)

Another very good, character-driven, police procedural, the 2nd in the series to be translated, which refreshingly features a woman lead detective. Good mystery, even though you have a sense of the murderer from the beginning.

I started reading Mrs. De Winter by Susan Hill, a sequel to Du Maurier's Rebecca, but found the voice of the novel tough to follow when moping around ill, so I switched to the mystery.

55charbutton
helmikuu 11, 2011, 8:08 am

I meant all the ones you've reviewed since last time I dropped by, which is only 5 or 6!

56arubabookwoman
helmikuu 14, 2011, 10:11 pm

I recently read My Sister, My Love by Joyce Carol Oates, and posted some comments about it on my thread. Just letting you know because I know you have a particular interest in JCO.

57avaland
Muokkaaja: helmikuu 19, 2011, 9:44 am



Isle of Dreams by Keizo Hino (T 2010, 1985, Japan)

Shozo Sakai, a middle-aged widower and engineer, is enamored with the beauty he sees in modern Tokyo. One day he wanders into another part of the city he is not familiar with, an area of reclaimed land, created by the refuse and trash of the city. He is strangely drawn to this area and finds it beautiful in its own way. It is hear that he is nearly run over by a mysterious, young woman in black leather riding way too fast on a motorcycle. She lures Shozo away from the reclaimed land to another place "far less benign."

I really enjoyed this book, first, because Shozo, on his walks through the city near where he works, really sees modern Tokyo as beautiful and his descriptive thoughts often wax poetic. "Shozo was not indifferent to the charm of the quaint and stately pre-war structures that had survived the air raids, but he was invariably struck by the beauty of contemporary buildings, sharply geometrical in form, devoid of superfluous décor, adroitly bringing to the fore a texture that was both mineral and metallic. Particularly when at dusk, the rain having lifted, he happened to see the clouds suddenly part and the sunlight break through the air like streams of golden arrows to illuminate the walls and windows of the high-rises, row upon row, he found himself, quite involuntarily, trembling with emotion.

So, it is interesting when he comes across the reclaimed land he tells an old friend: "I feel drawn to it, though I myself don't know why. Perhaps one reason is that it reminds me of the burned-out ruins of our childhood. It's just that it's wistfully familiar, as though I were taking a journey home." And even more interesting when he is nearly run down by the speeding motorcycle.

This is a contemplative story, beautifully written, which drifts into magical realism and does so in way that you almost don't notice. The book's back cover calls this a "sinister satire on urban decay" but I think it is saying much more - perhaps commentary about changes in Japanese society - though I feel I am only getting glimpses of it - like seeing the sun through the buildings as you walk down a city street.

I managed to get this read just before all the construction began in my house!

58avaland
Muokkaaja: helmikuu 19, 2011, 10:01 am



Mrs De Winter by Susan Hill

Mrs. De Winter is a sequel to Du Maurier's Rebecca. It is set 10 years after the fire at Mandalay and is told in the voice of the still young Mrs. De Winter. Maxim and she have returned to England for the first time since the fire to attend the funeral of Maxim's sister. When a beautiful floral wreath shows up on the grave with a card bearing the signature "R", and which it seems only Mrs. De Winter sees, it triggers memories, old fears and insecurities - a haunting, if you will.

This was a good story, though not a great one. While I think Susan Hill did a great job picking up with the characters and creating the right feel to the narrative, but I eventually found Mrs. De Winter's mental gerbil wheel a bit tedious. Despite a decade, it seems she is somewhat less naive but still insecure, still trying to protect Maxim from anything to do with the past. After about 200 pages, I began skimming. The book also struck me as a very 90s sort of book. Hmmm.

OK, but not Hill's best. I think I liked Beauman's Rebecca's Tale better, but it's been quite a while since I have read that, so perhaps it's not appropriate to measure one against the other.

59avaland
Muokkaaja: helmikuu 19, 2011, 10:13 am



In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed by Carol Honoré (2004, nonfiction, Canadian)

I'm afraid this is going on the 'abandoned' list. I don't think I'm his target audience.

Other than some specific stories about people involved in what he calls the "Slow Movement," he isn't telling me something I don't already know. I understand how life has 'sped up' and the need for quiet times. I'm not sure what I was expecting when I picked this book up. I like books that explore cultural trends, but I got nothing out of what I read of this one. I'm happy to pass it on to someone else though.

I've started three books this week and haven't yet settled into any of them. Our kitchen was gutted on Monday and is in the process of being rebuilt so my reading is not going to be very deep for awhile.

60janemarieprice
helmikuu 19, 2011, 7:06 pm

57 - Sounds very good. Added to the wishlist.

59 - That's a shame. The topic is interesting.

Good luck with the renovations!

61avaland
helmikuu 20, 2011, 7:37 am

>60 janemarieprice: thanks.

Chain of Evidence by Garry Disher

Another splendid Disher mystery. In this one much attention is paid to Ellen Destry, while Hal Challis is back home visiting his dying father. The author does a really good job with Ellen, both with her character in general but also with the specific challenges she faces heading the department.

62akeela
helmikuu 20, 2011, 11:32 am

>57 avaland: looks good!

>58 avaland: I wasn't a fan of Mrs De Winter either.

63avaland
helmikuu 21, 2011, 10:48 am

>62 akeela: I thought it had potential, but didn't live up to it.

64labfs39
helmikuu 22, 2011, 12:33 am

Dropping by for the first time, so I hope you'll forgive me for commenting on one of your first posts. I think Mary Doria Russell is fabulous, and I can't wait to read her newest (lucky dog for scooping an ARC). The philosophical questions raised by the diverse crew in The Sparrow were not what I was expecting in a "sci-fi" novel. Sort of like Anathem. Then I read Children of God, and my head just about spun around backwards. What a plot twist! Almost as jolting was to go from that to A Thread of Grace and then to the desert with Lawrence of Arabia. Now off to the Wild West... how does she do it?

65Poquette
helmikuu 22, 2011, 3:45 am

Hi! Can't think why I've missed your thread before this. Delighted to see that Mary Doria Russell has written another book. I'll be watching for it. I too was blown away by The Sparrow and Children of God. Doc sounds like something very different. She is an amazingly versatile writer. Thanks!

66avaland
helmikuu 22, 2011, 11:06 am

>64 labfs39:, 65 Thanks for stopping by. Yes, Russell is an interesting writer!

67amandameale
helmikuu 23, 2011, 8:00 am

Interesting reviews, Lois.

68avaland
Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 7, 2011, 9:40 am

Not getting much book reading done these days, though going through Ledoyt a chapter at a time. I'll write up some comments on the Pavlova book when I get some time, it is worthy of commentary.

Otherwise, recently sporadic reading includes:

---two articles in a recent Newsweek I picked up at a Barnes & Noble while I was waiting to meet a friend. 1. A nice little piece on Rachel Maddow 2. A piece on decision-making science/research and how a glut of information can result in poor decisions.


---Picked up a book I skimmed a few years ago Right Hand, Left Hand: The Origins of Asymmetry in Brains, Bodies, Atoms and Cultures by Chris McManus. Being a leftie, I am fascinated with research on handedness. After reacquainting myself with some of the myth-debunking towards the end of the book (Einstein has to be thought of as right-handed until there is proof he was a leftie, folks!), I reread the chapter on the genetic component in handedness which is not as simple as it sounds. After going through some of the various theories about how left-handedness occurs, McManus argues that handedness still has a genetic component despite not seeming to "breed true". For example, sometimes identical twins—who have identical genes—are not always both right-handed nor both left. He then explains it in genetic terms (it's not a simple recessive gene thing), which I cannot reproduce here without transcription. This is a great book for those interested in handedness, who don't mind a book a step up from the 'science writer' fare. McManus is a professor of psychology and medical education at University College, London.
btw, "manus' in Latin means 'hand'.

So, yes, I met with a reading friend on Saturday and among our conversation topics was 'reading nonfiction'. We both wished there were 100-page condensed versions of many nonfiction books. We agreed that there were endless topics we are fascinated with but that we don't wish to read 400 pages on each. She currently is taking a class on the "history of glass" at Brown Univ.

69labfs39
maaliskuu 7, 2011, 7:32 pm

I think you are on to something. Your next literary endeavor? I can send you a list of the ones I wish you would start with...

70dukedom_enough
maaliskuu 8, 2011, 7:21 am

As to shorter nonfiction books, apparently Amazon is on the case.

That's Amazon, but presumably digital publishing in general will follow.

71dukedom_enough
maaliskuu 8, 2011, 7:25 am

OK, some of those Amazon books look like cut-rate, longer books.

72rebeccanyc
Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 8, 2011, 8:00 am

There is also this series (I own but haven't read the volume on Time by Eva Hoffman). There is also a Brief Histories series, a Brief Lives series, and the Very Short Introductions series. I find all of these intriguing.

Edited to fix links.

73kidzdoc
Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 8, 2011, 8:19 am

I bought one of the Kindle Singles, Pakistan and the Mumbai Attacks: The Untold Story by Sebastian Rotella, but I haven't read it yet.

BTW, there was an article in the New York Times Magazine the Sunday before last about Kindle Singles:

Living Singles

74avaland
maaliskuu 9, 2011, 5:54 pm

>72 rebeccanyc: I have the Orbach from the Big Ideas series. Didn't see the Hoffman. I read her novel, The Secret - an interesting novel about identity. I think her expertise is literature, so it's intriguing that she writes about 'time'.

I'm thinking that there's probably nothing wrong with reading most, but perhaps not all, of a nonfiction book, depending on the kind of book.

75rebeccanyc
maaliskuu 9, 2011, 6:11 pm

#74, I didn't read Eva Hoffman's The Secret, but I've read a lot of her nonfiction, including Lost in Translation, which I found fascinating, although it's years since I've read it.

76labfs39
maaliskuu 9, 2011, 11:22 pm

Short non-fiction works that summarize, such as Very Short Introductions, or new works that are longer than articles but short than books are both useful. I thought that you were talking about something different in post 68. I was thinking how nice it would be to have, as you say, "condensed" versions of some nonfiction tomes. I am interested in some fields, such as astronomy, but have only a layman's knowledge. I rarely read books in the field because of the length and technical difficulty for a non-specialist. I don't necessarily want the watered down version, but I would read a shorter "here's what I'm talking about" version. Or a 20-30 minute podcast. I know Soundview offers a service like this for business books, but I've never tried it.

It's funny. I am much more open to the idea of abridged nonfiction than I am of fiction.

77dchaikin
Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 15, 2011, 12:15 pm

Have I really not visited since mid February. I've been neglecting one of my favorite threads.

added Isle of Dreams (only five copies in LT!) to my wishlist based on your review and because of my mindset which is somewhere between Barefoot Gen and the recent earthquakes and after effects.

Personally, I'm wary of condensed nonfiction books as they tend to be excuses to abbreviate the effort. Properly writing a condensed nonfiction story takes more effort than writing the long version - because the author still needs to have all the information, ideas, experiences etc. Than, on top of that, they need to add the extra step of condensing to broader theories, trends, concepts or whatever.

78AsYouKnow_Bob
Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 15, 2011, 7:44 pm

#68 We both wished there were 100-page condensed versions of many nonfiction books.

Amen to that. I typically end up going into 'high-speed' mode to plow through a lot of non-fiction - but then I don't feel that I can claim to have actually 'read' it.

Woody Allen:
"I took a speed-reading course and read War and Peace in twenty minutes.

"It involves Russia."

79Poquette
Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 15, 2011, 10:14 pm

#68 and 78 -- Wow - I know I'm in the minority here, but I couldn't disagree more. I read mostly nonfiction, and for some reason I'm attracted to the 900-page tomes. It isn't planned that way, but it just seems those books are attracted to me like flypaper. I love good fiction -- don't get me wrong -- but when I get off on a toot it's hard to tear myself away from a succession of really juicy history or biography, or whatever. Reading about the real thing is every bit as engrossing as reading an imaginary tale. Admittedly, it is unfair to compare apples and oranges because there is an important place for both kinds of reading. I wouldn't want to be deprived of either.

80dukedom_enough
maaliskuu 16, 2011, 7:16 am

I certainly wouldn't want Julie Phillips' biography of James Tiptree, Jr. to have been any shorter. It all depends on the subject.

81avaland
Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 16, 2011, 8:07 am

The nonfiction book that I'm always reminded of when I make this statement is the book Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community by Robert Putnam. I thought the first 100-200 pages were excellent-the theory and evidence presented are very interesting - snoozed and skimmed over the next 300 (he goes back over that evidence in incredible detail) and woke up for the last 40 or so.

I really should qualify my original statement. A part of me wishes there were condensed versions, and another part doesn't. Perhaps it is a type of nonfiction book that I wish I could have a condensed version of.... Still, I am unlikely to pick up a tome by John McPhee or Stephen Pinker.

>77 dchaikin: I have thought back to Isle of Dreams since the earthquake. There is nothing specific that draws my mind back, just generally Shozo's reflections. It should be read more widely and I think more than a few readers here in Club Read would find it interesting.

82deebee1
maaliskuu 16, 2011, 3:00 pm

Your mentioning Putnam's Bowling Alone put a smile on my face -- I certainly wouldn't classify it as non-fiction for general reading! Or at least not in the sense that it is the type of book that can be engrossing throughout for anybody who's not reading it for academic or research purposes anyway. I've not read the book yet but I know this was groundbreaking research which made him the grandaddy of social capital. (But will surely get to this book soon as it's relevant to the research I'm doing now.) Nothing very fun there, I suppose, for those not interested in the details of the theory building process which require data to be described in incredible detail. But I must say I admire you for picking up the book and actually finishing it!

83AsYouKnow_Bob
maaliskuu 16, 2011, 9:10 pm

(Well, infinite time for reading might be nice, too.)

Sometimes, yeah, I'm happy spending a full week with a PhD-dissertation-level doorstop of a book; and sometime I'm panicky that I have a dozen more of similar length sitting in the queue right behind it.

84bonniebooks
maaliskuu 17, 2011, 1:31 am

I skimmed over a lot more of Bowling Alone than you did, avaland. Really interesting premise, but because I wasn't reading it for a class, I really just wanted the "big ideas."

85avaland
Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 17, 2011, 7:09 am

>82 deebee1: deebee, it did become a bestselling book, so it wasn't just me:-) Actually, I enjoyed the book, but I suppose I preferred the summary of his research to the exhaustive details.

I thought it ironic that he used bowling as his overarching metaphor (people now prefer to bowl alone, instead of in leagues), because my daughter and her fellow graduate school alumni were bowling together in a league at around the time the book was out. But, then again, he was talking about broad front porch to back yard deck social changes.

It's been 10 years since it was published, I wonder what he has to say about social media.

86avaland
maaliskuu 17, 2011, 7:19 am

>83 AsYouKnow_Bob: Best you not stop to calculate your potential life span or we might have to sedate you.
>84 bonniebooks: Hi Bonnie! Thanks for stopping by.

87AsYouKnow_Bob
maaliskuu 17, 2011, 7:01 pm

I can't die, I still have books to read....

88dukedom_enough
maaliskuu 18, 2011, 7:12 am

"Consider a man - call him Sisyphus. But the Sisyphus of myth had a mere stone to roll uphill through eternity. Our protagonist must read book after book after book, a large number but ultimately finite, books he must eventually reread, again and again endlessly through the eons, here in ... the Twilight Zone."

89avaland
maaliskuu 20, 2011, 8:03 am



A Double Life by Karolina Pavlova (1848 Russian, T 1978)

A Double Life tells a story of Cecily, a young woman of Russian high society who is of marriagable age.

Despite it’s somewhat simplistic storyline, A Double Life is a facinating read on several levels.Written in 1848, the short novel tells the story of the naive Cecily, eighteen and marriagable in Russian high society. Cecily is lovely and appropriately talented; chaste and proper (did I say she had money?) —she has been brought up for this very moment. The story captures this high point in her life, the season she falls in love, her engagement and eventual marriage.

However, besides a picture of Cecily and her best friend, Olga; it is also a tale of their mothers, whose sole occupation it seems is to see their daughters married well. Olga’s mother is conniving and manipulative in a way that puts Mrs. Bennett in Pride & Prejudice in the amateur leagues. Enter on the scene various men, the choicest being Prince Victor. Olga’s mother wants the prince for Olga and fears he is attracted to Cecily.

Meanwhile, each night when she sleeps, Cecily, constructed creature that she is, expresses all that has been surpressed in her, through her dreams. The dream sequences are written in poetry. This is the double life indicated by the title.

Vera Vladimirovna was, as we have seen, very proud of her daughter’s successful upbringing, especially perhaps because it had been accomplished not without diffculty, since it took time and skill to destroy in her soul its innate thirst for delight and enthusiasm. Be that as it may, Cecily, prepared for high society, having memorized all its requirements and statutes, could never commit the slightest pecadillo, the most barely noticeable fault against them, could never forget herself for a moment, raise her voice a half tone, jump from a chair, enjoy a conversation with a man to the point where she might talk to him ten minutes longer than was proper or look to the right when she was supposed to look to the left. Now, at eighteen, she was so used to wearing her mind in a corset that she felt it no more than a silk undergarment that she took off only at night

The novel is more or less a protest to the limitations of a woman’s life at the time, of marriage being the unavoidable destiny. As a reader, one cannot help but hope that this passionate, subconscious part of Cecily finds some outer expression in her life, but the dangers of that can be seen in the author’s life.

Karolina Pavlova’s story, told in the introduction (I always read introductions after reading the book) is both heart-breaking and fascinating. Born into high society, she devoted herself to her art at a time when:

Poetry, as we have said earlier, was known to her (Cecily) mostly by heresay as something wild and incompatible with a respectable life. She knew that there were even women poets, but this was always presented to her as the most pitiable, abnormal things, as a disastrous and dangerous illness.

Pavlova suffered mightily for her art, and tragically died in the Netherlands, penniless and friendless. Pavlova was primarily a poet but also translated a large amount of Russian literature in other languages (she spoke nine), so it could be read and enjoyed by other Europeans.

There is much more that could be said about this short novel, the poetry in it, the author’s life, but I’ll leave it for your discovery.

90avaland
maaliskuu 20, 2011, 8:06 am

re #88 Dukedom made that up:-)

More books and comments to come. I'll catch up eventually.

91kidzdoc
maaliskuu 20, 2011, 9:27 am

Great review of A Double Life, Lois! I was disappointed to see that it isn't available yet as a free e-book, but I've added it to my Amazon wish list.

92dchaikin
maaliskuu 20, 2011, 10:50 am

fascinated by Karolina Pavolova. (would love Murr's input...)

93charbutton
maaliskuu 20, 2011, 11:07 am

>89 avaland:, added to my wish list - thanks for the review.

94labfs39
maaliskuu 20, 2011, 12:36 pm

#89 The passages you quote are beautifully written. I love the image of she was so used to wearing her mind in a corset that she felt it no more than a silk undergarment that she took off only at night.

95avaland
Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 20, 2011, 12:42 pm



Ledoyt by Carol Emshwiller (1995, US)

Ledoyt was recommended to me years back after I had read and enjoyed Molly Gloss’s The Jump-Off Creek, which is a story about a young woman homesteading alone on the Oregon frontier. Ledoyt is both a family story and a young woman’s coming-of-age story, set in California during the early part of the 20th century. Oriana Cochran ran away from her New England home when she finds herself pregnant after being raped by her fiance. Her daughter Charlotte, known as Lotti, is the result of that rape, an event Lotti knows nothing of. In fact, Lotti knows nothing at all of her mother’s background or her father. She fills in with her imagination where she has no facts. The two of them scrabble out a hard, but contented living together on 640 acres of scrub land. Women were rare in the American West and Lotti’s mother (“Mrs. Cochran”) had more than a few suitors, all of which she resisted until Beal Ledoyt, a hard-working, hard-drinking drifter of French blood, is hired to do some short term labor around the homestead. Lotti and Oriana both fall for Ledoyt and they end up a family. Emshwiller’s narrative, in traditional, no-frills, storytelling style, tells of this family over the course of ten or a dozen years.

We get viewpoints from both a narrator, and from Lotti, through her journal. Emshwiller does a great job with Lotti’s journal, which Lotti writes and draws pictures in beginning at fourteen, but begins her retrospective back to “the beginning”. Lotti is a wonderful character - a tomboy in modern terms. When Beal or “Old Him” (and she refers to him) arrives at the homestead, she follows him around copying what he does, and over the course of time learns a lot from the man. But because of her lack of family history, Lotti is unsure if and how she belongs to this new (and growing) family, and it will be this insecurity that drives some of Lotti’s most dramatic acts (like setting herself on fire), and certainly the climactic scenes of the novel, which I found more powerful than I expected.

While the novel won’t replace The Jump-off Creek as a favorite, it still was an entertaining and interesting novel worth reading, especially if one is interested in stories of the early Western frontier.

96bonniebooks
maaliskuu 20, 2011, 2:53 pm

There aren't that many stories about women in the West during that time, are there? I enjoyed The Jump-Off Creek (not as much as Wild Life, but more than The Hearts of Horses), so I'm interested, but...setting herself on fire?

97avaland
maaliskuu 20, 2011, 5:20 pm

>96 bonniebooks: I liked The Jump Off Creek better than Wildlife, but I wasn't all that interested in The Hearts of Horses, although I bought 2 copies of the book to support a favorite author. I also enjoyed her The Dazzle of Day (Quakers in space).

98avaland
maaliskuu 20, 2011, 5:57 pm



A Palace in the Old Village by Tahar Ben Jelloun (2009, T. 2011, Moroccan)

Mohammed left Morocco as a young man to work in an automobile plant in France. He later brought his family to France. It has now been forty years and Mohammed is now facing retirement, which he considers unimaginable. The important things in this illiterate man’s life is his faith, his family, and his work routine. As the latter comes to an end, he becomes reflective and turns towards the other two things to fill the gap. The thing is, while Mohammed has been 40 years in France, he never really has ‘left the old country’, while his children have grown-up and assimilated into the culture around them—some even obtaining permanent citizenship.

To some extent, this is a story of parents and children. Those of us with grown children know that children are not ours forever (sometimes we learn this painfully and repeatedly). Mohammed understands this, but like any good parent he worries and frets about his children (this one has married a Christian, that one never calls...etc); it’s just that there’s not just the parent-child gap here, there’s a cultural generational gap too. One cannot help sympathize with Mohammed, who is kind, honorable, old-fashioned and doomed to be disappointed.

The story is also about what his faith means to him. His culture and faith are intricately tied together and we learn about both together. As we learn about how Mohammed thinks, we understand how big the gap between him and his children really is.

Now retired, Mohammed fantasizes about returning to his old village and building a large house there, big enough for him and his wife, all of this children and their families, for a special prayer room...everything important to him. And he sets about doing this, and as he does, the story begins to drift into something less realistic and more folk tale-like.

I’m not a big fan of older-men-reflecting-over-their-lives storylines, but this was a book by Ben Jelloun, whose other works I have enjoyed. This short book is absolutely fascinating for its window into another culture very different than our own. And I think the unusual change in the nature of the narrative at the end of the story fit very nicely with Mohammed search for ‘home’.

99kidzdoc
maaliskuu 20, 2011, 6:16 pm

I've pre-ordered the Kindle version of A Palace in the Old Village after reading your review. Thanks!

100Cait86
maaliskuu 20, 2011, 6:43 pm

Great reviews, as always. Your thread is dangerous, Lois - I want to read the last three books!

101akeela
maaliskuu 21, 2011, 2:11 am

You have a knack for finding gems. Thanks for sharing them. I'm also adding A Palace in the Village to my TBR.

102avaland
Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 21, 2011, 9:51 am



The Testament of Jessie Lamb by Jane Rogers (2011, UK)

In this near future novel, the world is suffering from the sins of its previous generations. Additionally, a new disease (MDS or "Maternal Death Syndrome") which affects the brain, has infected everyone, though it is only activated in women when they become pregnant. It's fatal for the women and the unborn babies.

When we begin this novel, 16 year old Jessie Lamb is being held captive, her ankles bound, by someone we will soon learn is her father. The captivity is to prevent Jessie from doing something.

Before the reader can digest the horror of that situation, Rogers begins the backstory. Jessie and a somewhat loose knit group of friends are upset with what is going on in the world around them. There is more than a little animosity towards parents and their generation, whom the teens hold responsible for almost everything. The kids are looking to do something—make a difference in the world—and they begin to explore various groups organized around different causes, all with acronyms for names (I mention this because I had a tough time keeping the groups straight). Jessie is interested, though still somewhat directionless. She very much wants to do something, she just doesn't have a focus yet.

Jessica's father is a scientist working in the field that is trying to find a cure for MDS. As he explains to her (over the course of the novel), there are many avenues being explored, some controversial. She loves her parents, despite the fact that she blames them, generally-speaking, for all the ills of the world (so not so unlike most generations of teens, eh?). As the story progresses, Jessie's yearning grows into a desire and she, without telling her parents, volunteers to be a "Sleeping Beauty". She will be implanted with a pre-MDS embryo (frozen from past IVF treatments, and which can now can be vaccinated against MDS), put in a coma while the fetus develops to term, and after the birth, she will be cut off from life support & die—a noble sacrifice to the continuation of the human race (it is no accident that Rogers has given her the name "lamb"). Needless to say, her parents are not happy about it, nor are most of her friends.

Rogers does an excellent job creating the adolescent mindset, and I recognized in Jessie that search for identity and meaning, and the idealistic way of thinking, that so pervades adolescence. But I also understood the viewpoint of her parents, even the desperation of her father. The issue and the responses to it are complicated, as is Jessie's intended sacrifice—which makes for a very thought-provoking read. Are 16 year olds old enough to sacrifice their lives for a cause? Should they be expected to do so? Would such experiments be ethical? When does activism become domestic terrorism? (this last question pertains to some of her friends). This book would offer some great discussion in most any groups, particularly high schools, if one can get the 'sex' past the parental censors (the issue has a connection to sex, of course, and there is one 'first sex' scene between Jessie and a boy).

103janemarieprice
maaliskuu 21, 2011, 1:11 pm

102 - Ooh, sounds great, I added it to the wishlist.

104labfs39
maaliskuu 22, 2011, 2:13 pm

Thought-provoking questions at the end of your review. The book brings to mind Children of Men.

105avaland
maaliskuu 22, 2011, 5:24 pm

Yes, I did think of that, Lisa, but they are not much alike.

106PandorasRequiem
maaliskuu 23, 2011, 2:56 am

*waves to avaland* Hello there! :O)

Just dropping in to say I quite enjoyed your review of
Right Hand, Left Hand: The Origins of Asymmetry in Brains, Bodies, Atoms and Cultures by Chris McManus in post #68.

I too have always been intrigued by the subject of left/right-handedness... But in all probability my interest is due to the fact that I had a troubling incident in Elementry School wherein I was (literally) forced to stop writing with my left hand. I was naturally left-handed since birth, but after they made me learn to write "the correct way" with my right hand I became ambidextrous as a result. LOL. So now I can do everything equally with both hands except for (you guessed it) writing and drawing. :)

107avaland
Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 23, 2011, 9:02 am

>106 PandorasRequiem: Hi Pan, Well, it's just comments on my rereading of a few chapters, the book probably deserves a full review someday.

My mother was forced to write right-handed also, luckily I was not. I use my left hand for all things that require a hand/wrist action, and my right hand/arm most of the time when an arm motion is needed (thus, I bat right-handed, and throw right-handed*). I had a terrible trying to play tennis because I would switch the racket from hand to hand depending on the stroke. I switch hands when cutting meat also:-)

*It has crossed my mind that this was learned, as the only gloves available to catch with were the standard left-handed gloves for righties, so my right-handing throwing might have been an adaptation.

108bonniebooks
Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 24, 2011, 12:39 am

It's fascinating to me that teachers were so recently still forcing children to write with the other hand. Did the book discuss left-handedness in cultures that write from right to left? Because it would be an advantage to be left-handed in those cases.

109lilisin
maaliskuu 23, 2011, 4:34 pm

108- Although in Asian scripts, even though formal texts are written right to left, you still write out the strokes of the actual characters left to right.

110avaland
maaliskuu 23, 2011, 7:00 pm

>108 bonniebooks: I don't believe he did, but not absolutely sure as I've not read it cover to cover. There is a fair bit about symmetry in the body also, so not entirely on handedness per se.

>109 lilisin: That's interesting. As a leftie, I learned to write calligraphy upside down. In calligraphy (English, in my case) one pulls the pen for the strokes, which for a leftie can only be accomplished by making the strokes upside down.

111lilisin
maaliskuu 23, 2011, 7:31 pm

Upside down strokes! That would be a disaster in Asian scripts! I know that most Japanese, when growing up, will force right-handedness to write even if they are naturally left-handed.

112bonniebooks
maaliskuu 24, 2011, 12:38 am

How about some arabic languages? And now I've got to go fix my previous comment. How come I don't notice the extra/missing words until after I posted? ;-(

113amandameale
huhtikuu 3, 2011, 3:33 am

Loving your reviews! And interested in the left-handedness discussion. My left-handed son and I have been talking about this recently.

114avaland
huhtikuu 4, 2011, 9:48 am

>113 amandameale: which one is left-handed?

115avaland
huhtikuu 11, 2011, 7:52 am



Hygiene and the Assassin by Amélie Nothomb (T 2010, Belgian)

"All it takes is to have done something once—but done it deeply—in order to do it again continually, throughout your entire life" —Prétextat Tach

In this witty and satirical book, a reclusive, Nobel prize-winning writer is given a short time to live (he is dying of cartilage cancer). He decides to allow just five reporters in to interview him. Five are chosen, 4 men and 1 woman, and the story chronicles each reporter's interview with the much lauded writer.

Our world renowned writer, Prétextat Tach, is revealed to be an obnoxious and disgusting man, a racist and misogynist (to name just a few things). Reporter after reporter uncover this and make all kinds of excuses for it. I admit that I began to lose interest right around when it was the third reporter's turn and I skimmed through some pages until the fifth reporter, the woman, headed upstairs to his apartment. Her interview is tough and pointed and here the dialog is quick and snappy, and in some places laugh out loud funny. She sees through Prétaxtet and calls his bluff both on specific issues, but also generally, uncovering the truth about the man—the hygiene* and the assassin (his unfinished masterpiece is entitled, "The Hygiene of the Assassin")—before the man breathes his last (I don't want to give too much away).

This is Nothomb's first book, written in 1992 when she was in her mid-20s. It is smoothly translated here by Alison Anderson. I think this the satire has much to say about celebrity, literary or otherwise, but also about the art of writing.

*I found the use of the word 'hygiene' really interesting here. It's applied almost as a physical philosophy...

116lilisin
huhtikuu 11, 2011, 1:49 pm

This was probably one of my seconds Nothomb's I had read and it has always been a favorite! I'm glad to see that you enjoyed it as well. I'm also happy to finally see a great cover on the English translation. It really gives you the spirit of the man and mimic's the original French book.

117dchaikin
huhtikuu 11, 2011, 1:49 pm

Lois, Catching up. There are several new-to-me terrific reviews here. A Place in the Old Village sounds terrific. Hygiene and the Assassin sounds curious.

118avaland
huhtikuu 12, 2011, 7:17 pm

>117 dchaikin: interestingly, Dan, I am now reading The Last Patriarch, also set in Morocco, and also about a patriarch. Two very different books, of course, about very different kinds of patriarchs, but I find they both convey some of the same sense of cultural change, and particularly some issues around immigration, identity, and home.

>116 lilisin: So, lilisin, why do they use the word "controversial" when describing Nothomb? I do wonder what gave her the idea for this book.

119lilisin
huhtikuu 13, 2011, 1:46 pm

I've never actually heard the word "controversial" attached to Nothomb so I couldn't say as to why.

120detailmuse
huhtikuu 13, 2011, 5:09 pm

...catching up

>68 avaland: btw, "manus' in Latin means 'hand'
I love that you mentioned this! I got acquainted with nominative determinism via New Scientist magazine, and in my experience examples get amazing (and hilarious) pretty fast.

>106 PandorasRequiem:, 107
I’m the youngest in a family of mostly left-handers and remember hearing their difficulties, so switched on my own to right-handed in second grade; my parents learned about it when I failed penmanship. The only thing I notice doing left-handed still is brush my teeth. In med school in the ‘70s, my left-handed brother was required to suture right-handed.

>115 avaland:
Hygiene and the Assassin -- yay, at my library.

121avaland
huhtikuu 13, 2011, 6:08 pm

>120 detailmuse: I wonder if any leftie graded well in penmanship... I was so happy when penmanship was no longer taught (7th grade?), I immediately switched to printing, except for my signature. I'm surprised that your brother was required to do that in the 70s (of course, in the early 70s my cousin was refused entrance to several med schools because she already had a child. She was told it be the same as being disabled! So, the 70s wasn't such an enlightened era as we sometimes think (she did get into Dartmouth and became their first PhD/MD graduate).

>119 lilisin: Well, if I see her in NYC at the end of the month, I'll ask:-)

I still need to do a review of the luscious Five Bells by Gail Jones, but just haven't had time.

122Jargoneer
huhtikuu 14, 2011, 6:36 am

Re Nothomb, this is from her publishers site - Amélie Nothomb is one of Europe’s most successful and controversial authors.

Perhaps it's just me but whenever I read a sentence like that I substitute the word 'mediocre' for 'controversial'. It's rather like rock bands trying to be shocking, the only way they could shock is by producing something good.

123dchaikin
huhtikuu 14, 2011, 1:27 pm

#122 - this got my attention. I do the same interpretation as you do - when flattering adjectives are used, usually they are compensating for something.

But (perhaps in light of the clear channel suffocation) I'm not sure last comment is true...shockingly bad does happen quite a bit in music, IMO.

124lilisin
huhtikuu 14, 2011, 2:24 pm

I think when a publisher writes that, it's because they don't know how to describe someone's style and they think the word "controversial" will spark debate on their author. Whether it's to the benefit or contrary to the author.

Nothomb doesn't go for the typical subject matters so maybe that makes her controversial? She's certainly not mediocre in ideas as she's full of them but she does have a tendency to get too excited about an idea and wants to complete it immediately without putting in the extra effort to make it even more genius than it was. I wouldn't consider that controversial though. Nor would I consider it mediocre. Just, overly-ambitious sometimes? But Amélie Nothomb is one of Europe’s most successful and overly-ambitious authors just doesn't ring as well to a publisher's ear, now, does it? What if they had simply said that she was successful and ambitious; would that make you curious to read her?

125Jargoneer
huhtikuu 15, 2011, 4:59 am

>124 lilisin: - what puts me off more are the reviews, like this from the Independent -
The tone is classic Nothomb - wry, assured, teasing and with undertones of an arrogance verging on megalomania.

It is Nothomb the writer, of course, but there's a sense in which it's Nothomb the person as well. The book is billed as a "fictionalised memoir", but it's a category that would cover pretty much everything she has written. For the chief theme in the work of the literary and cultural phenomenon known as Amélie Nothomb is the life and psyche of Amélie Nothomb.


126lilisin
huhtikuu 16, 2011, 1:47 pm

I don't know. That review seems pretty spot on. Nothomb definitely is a character with and within herself. Have you read any of her works?

127avaland
huhtikuu 21, 2011, 7:48 am

>126 lilisin: I, for one, am interested in exploring more of her work. I will be very interested to hear her next week at the PEN festival. Personally, I think following up that particular Nothomb with Duo Duo's short fiction and the latest Miéville put some of my brain circuits in danger of overheating.



We watched George Clooney in "The American" last weekend after I discovered that it was based on Martin Booth's A Very Private Gentleman, which I read in 2004, after loving his previous book, Islands of Silence. The movie adaptation of course did not follow the book exactly, but did a pretty good job. I suppose they decided having Clooney paint butterflies wouldn't work, and made him a photographer instead. In the movie one knows right up front what he really does for work, but in the book you figure it out more slowly. The ending in the movie is quite different, which surprised me, but does punctuate the drama more effectively.

Islands of Silence is compelling. A man in a residential mental treatment facility has not spoken or communicated in any way for decades - this is a choice he has made. He gives the reader his backstory which includes an island in Scotland (known as the Island of Silence) and WWI.

This does remind me that I have at least one Martin Booth novel in the TBR pile that I haven't read.

And I now am behind with two reviews... (but two is not bad)

128avaland
huhtikuu 24, 2011, 8:47 pm

I am off to NYC for the PEN festival ( http://www.pen.org/page.php/prmID/1096 )on Wednesday morning. I hope to steal a little time from all the talks and panel discussions, to further explore the treasures of the garment district and maybe get to the Met for an exhibit or two before one literary event.*

The author list is impressive this year, but I'm taking special note of the women (well, it is a business trip). Amelie Nothomb, Nathacha Appanah, Leila Abouleia, Najat El Hachmi, Laurence Cosse, Susan Choi, to name a few.

I will also have 4 hours of reading or of audio books on the train down and back. :-)

*You might be wondering why I have not mentioned 'visiting bookstores' and the answer is quite simple. I spend hours and hours with my head in publishers' catalogs, sometimes—gasp!—one needs a break from books.

And when I return (and after the next issue of Belletrista is up on the web), I will try to catch up on 'reviews' for Five Bells, The Last Patriarch, Minaret and whatever else I have read and digested this week.

129labfs39
huhtikuu 26, 2011, 3:01 pm

Sounds like a fabulous trip. I am looking forward to hearing your impressions of the various authors and their upcoming works. I've been hearing a lot of buzz about Amelie Nothomb on LT lately.

130avaland
toukokuu 6, 2011, 7:51 am

I am now behind commenting on five books. Yikes! So, I will try catching up over the next few days.



Five Bells by Gail Jones

Briefly, Five Bells tells the story of four different people, all, at the moment the novel opens, are enroute to or through the Circular Quay (pronounced "key"), the hub of Sydney Harbor. And each person is lost in thought, preoccupied by memories. As Jones explores the backstories stories of each of the four, she deftly weaves, in her characteristic lyrical prose, threads between the four of them. There are reoccurring motifs like snow and Russian literature and the Sydney Opera House.

"It was moon-white and seemed to hold within it a great, serious stillness. The fan of its chambers leant together, inclining to the water. An unfolding thing, shutters, a sequence of sorts. Ellie marvelled that it had ever been created at all, so singular a building, so potentially faddish, or odd. And that shape of supplication, like a body bending into the abstraction of a low bow or a theological gesture. Ellie could imagine music in there, but not people somehow. It looked poised in a kind of alertness to acoustical meanings, concentrating on sound waves, opened to circuit and flow.

Yes, there it was. Leaning into the pure morning sky."

Each character sees the building differently, using a different metaphor. And here, I think, the author is using this particular exercise to illustrate how we remember, each of us remembering the same things but slightly different through the lens of who we are.

I loved revisiting Sydney through this book. Her descriptions are wonderful. The story though makes one, like her characters of Ellie, Catherine, James and Pei Xing, thoughtful, wistful. But then it is a book about memory.

I am a die-hard Gail Jones fan, and I don't think this is my favorite of her books, but it is another beautiful piece of literature.
And I would encourage everyone to read amandameale's review of it in the forthcoming issue of Belletrista (it should be out Monday). She elaborates on the book and on the poem "Five Bells" by Kenneth Slessor, quoted as an epigraph.

131avaland
Muokkaaja: toukokuu 6, 2011, 3:12 pm

Viestin kirjoittaja on poistanut viestin.

132dchaikin
toukokuu 6, 2011, 9:19 am

#130 - that excerpt...there is something about the sound of the worlds. Maybe it's all those 's' sounds.

133kidzdoc
toukokuu 6, 2011, 10:23 am

Great review of Five Bells, Lois; I've added it to my wish list. BTW, which novel of hers do you like best?

Did you see that Amélie Nothomb has been writing a diary about her week in NYC during the PEN World Voices Festival? Here's the link:

A Week in Culture: Amélie Nothomb, Writer

134avaland
Muokkaaja: toukokuu 6, 2011, 1:11 pm

>132 dchaikin: yes, such music!
>133 kidzdoc: no, I hadn't seen that. Thanks. And I would have to think about which of Jones's books is my favorite. I think Dreams of Speaking... (but I might change my mind...)



The American Art Review, February 2011

Besides lingering over the artwork in the advertising, two articles interested me this issue:

1. "The Art of Jenny Brownscombe" by Darlene Miller-Lanning

Jenny Brownscombe (1850 - 1936) was a farmer's daughter who aspired to have a career as an artist. She clearly was a talented artist and chose to effectively utilize "late-nineteenth-century connections between fine art and mass media to produce and promote images that were both aesthetic and marketable. After her father died leaving the 18 year old Jenny and her mother alone, Jenny taught school to pay for her stay in NYC in order to study at the Cooper Union School of Design for Women. She later entered the National Academy of Design's Antique and Painting schools. She later studied in Europe. Her painting had images both popular and domestic, Victorian genre scenes, and American historical subjects.

2. "Alexandre Hogue: An American Visionary" by Susie Kalil

Alexandre Hogue (1898- 1994) was a painter from the Southwest of the US, who, in his visually sculpted landscapes manages to convey a sense of place. He is considered a modernist and according to this author his "paintings were far ahead of their time and, as a result, provide a reminder that art can be anything an artist wants it to be, as long as it is driven by inner necessity, ruthless self-scrutiny, and a determination to make every attempt not to repeat the past." Quite honestly, while these articles can enlighten us about the artists' lives and careers, the works speak for themselves (which is probably why I don't read as many of the articles as one would assume one would).



135dchaikin
toukokuu 6, 2011, 1:18 pm

So glad you posted these paintings. Just a nice change, and I really like those last two.

136janemarieprice
toukokuu 7, 2011, 9:53 am

134 - Very interesting. I particularly like that last piece with the windmill.

137avaland
Muokkaaja: toukokuu 7, 2011, 10:11 am

>136 janemarieprice: Thanks, Jane & Dan. I have not studied American art specifically or formally (except as included under various general Art History courses), but I have always had a great interest in it, particularly in the sculpture. But it is also really interesting to look at the trends/movements in art alongside the trends/movements in literature, for often they are responding to the same things. I have a book on American literature which includes the art of each period:

Literature in America: an Illustrated History by Peter Conn (1989). I love this book for the 'illustrated' factor, even if it is extremely light on the contributions of women. I paid what I thought was alot of money at a time I didn't really have any, to have a copy of this book (you can take it out of the library only so many times...)

Now, that was a bit of a detour.

138detailmuse
toukokuu 7, 2011, 3:10 pm

>137 avaland: well that sounds interesting, yay for detours. Happy to see my library system has copies.

139Jargoneer
Muokkaaja: toukokuu 10, 2011, 6:00 am

>134 avaland: - I'm not sure of Jenny Brownscombe's work: a bit chocolate box for my tastes. I like the Hogue but my immediate reaction was 'that's like Paul Nash' (British artist most famous for his WWII paintings).



I think the reason there are two reasons for people wanting to know artists' biographers: firstly, that it will reveal the secret formula behind their art (and that the reader will be able to utilise this formula), and secondly, authenticity - does the artist have knowledge of what they are producing or is it pure imagination (it is interesting that many people find the idea of pure imagination as the lesser of the two).

140avaland
toukokuu 9, 2011, 5:26 pm

What can pure imagination be?

>139 Jargoneer: Yes, she is rather "chocolate box" - I think that's the commercial side of her work.; however, I can't help but wonder what she might have done had she not had to make a living at this so early on.

-----

Now that Belle is up, I'm hoping to catch up on reviews here. I've been reading some of Pasternak's poetry the last few nights - since we watched the first half of the newer adaptation of Doctor Zhivago (the Keira Knightley one) , given to me at least two years ago by the daughter#2, aptly named Larissa. Ok, yes, I put off watching it. As far as the movies go, the David Lean production is a far better movie, with some gorgeous cinematography (watch it on Blue-Ray; the last time I saw it in a theater was 1975) and great crowds of extras (the real kind, not the computer-generated kind). However, neither adaptation is true adapation of the rather complex book. It is so much more than a love story (it had better be to justify my little Pasternak collection).

Anywho, I have been comparing translations of the same poems and finding it fascinating. May post some here after I catch up. Returning to the new Miéville soon.

141rebeccanyc
toukokuu 9, 2011, 6:17 pm

Congratulations on the new Belle! Looking forward to reading it.

142Jargoneer
toukokuu 10, 2011, 6:14 am

>140 avaland: - perhaps pure was overkill. The debate between experience and imagination is a really interesting one, and one that readers and writers participate in all the time. How many times have you heard a writer saying "I am not my books"? or someone saying I like things set in the real world.

143avaland
Muokkaaja: toukokuu 11, 2011, 7:39 am



The Last Patriarch by Najat El Hachmi

The Last Patriarch is the story of two people: Mimoun, son of a long line of Driouch patriarchs (and the "last patriarch" of the book's title) and his daughter, who ended his reign of authority.

Narrated by the grown daughter, the story begins in Morocco with the birth of Mimoun. As he grows up, it is clear that he is different, that something is wrong with him. Whether it has an organic cause or the result of abuses by some of the men in his family, Mimoun has great rages, intense jealousies, and uncontrolled passions. While the root of his instability is not clear, it is clear through the narration that Mimoun's behavior is enabled by the women of his family who coddle him, and a culture in which patriarchal authority is supreme.

Mimoun will eventually marry, and then leave his family to go to Spain to work, coming home perhaps once a year. He lives roughly, becomes reasonably successful at business, and certainly lives more comfortably in a modern state with his mistress than his family, who he has left behind at his father's house, all of whom struggle to survive. Until, that is, his family decides the situation is not tolerable and go to Spain to join him.

There isn't anything to like in Mimoun; he's a tyrant, an abuser and often mentally unstable - but he does have a sense of responsibility that makes him settle his family and rejoin them (and keeps the mistress, one of a long line of mistresses). His reign over the family is terrifying at times, but life goes on for them. Once the family comes to Spain, the story becomes the daughter's. Nameless throughout the book, she is bright girl with much promise, who is subject to her father's authority and abuses. He claims to adore his first born daughter, so perhaps she witnesses a bit more than she experiences directly, but his stranglehold on her person in complete. She seeks refuge and comfort in the Catalan dictionary, and later when she is older, in literature. These things help her to assimilate into the Catalan/Spanish culture around her, and will be a foundation in her eventual escape from her father through one final, desperate act.

This book is difficult to read, it is full of relentless abuse of various kinds: violence, attempted suicide, attempted murder...etc.. and yet, and yet... the storytelling is exquisite, and it is the narrative voice of the daughter, who clearly is telling this story from some safe, good place in the future (and thus provides a sense of hope), and who can find humor in the most horrible of circumstances, which mesmerizes the reader, and carries one through the book to the end. It is a wonderfully detailed and vivid picture of family life, both back in rural Morocco, and then later caught between two cultures in Spain. I found that once I had closed the pages, the horror faded and it was the triumph of the daughter, the essence of that desperate act, that really stuck with me.

I had the privilege of interviewing the author in person a little over a week ago. We talked for about an hour. I found her an intelligent, articulate (considering English is perhaps her 3rd or 4th language), energetic and upbeat young woman, full of ideas and things to say. Thankfully, I was recording the interview, because I know my pen would have stopped as I listened to her. The interview will be in the July/August issue of Belletrista.

144avaland
toukokuu 10, 2011, 9:04 am

>142 Jargoneer: And how much is the audiences' perception? How much do we bring to a book, a poem, a painting?

>141 rebeccanyc: From all of us, thank you!

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

Arthur Kipps, a young solicitor, is sent to a small market town to tidy up the affairs of the recently deceased Mrs. Drablow, a seemingly friendless recluse who lived in the isolated and gothic Eelmarsh House. At Mrs. Drablow's funeral, Kipps sees a strange woman in black lurking over some of the graves in the cemetery, and despite the ominous feeling he has, Kipps rationalizes the whole incident away. The villagers are tight-lipped about Drablow and Eelmarsh house, which Arthur finds puzzling. Arthur must go to the house and sort through a reportedly untidy mess of papers and it will be here that Arthur experiences more eerie and terrifying events.

I listened to this on audio, wonderful read by a man with a delightfully precise and articulate English accent. The story is a classic ghost story with slow-building suspense, made more enjoyable for the character of the stubborn, rational and determined Arthur Kipps. The story made a long train ride quite enjoyable.

145avaland
toukokuu 10, 2011, 9:10 am

I am really, really frustrated with touchstones these days!!

Well, only three more books to review. If I do one a day...

146dchaikin
toukokuu 10, 2011, 9:29 am

Well, you know we're expecting an author interview before you review each of those three books...excellent review of The Last Patriarch, look forward to the interview.

Thinking about pure imagination - and how we rarely say exactly what we mean, much less expect an author to write exactly what they mean. That alone should obscure how we evaluate experience vs imagination.

147baswood
Muokkaaja: toukokuu 10, 2011, 7:40 pm

Great review of The last Patriarch (touchstones working again - oops no they are not) and one that I will add to my ever increasing to buy list.

148kidzdoc
toukokuu 10, 2011, 11:15 pm

Yes, that was a great review of The Last Patriarch; I'll add it to my wish list, if I can find it...

149avaland
toukokuu 11, 2011, 7:42 am

>148 kidzdoc: That's interesting that you were able to create a touchstone for the book. I go back to edit my review, it shows the touchstone is working, but when I repost it isn't activated. I've done the same thing with post #1. And I thought putting a fair number of touchstones in manually was tedious... (but now, the touchstone in #144 worked...)

150kidzdoc
Muokkaaja: toukokuu 11, 2011, 10:20 am

#149: Actually I didn't use the touchstone. I searched for the book on LT, found the book's home page, and created a link to it, similar to the way you create links to web pages.

ETA: Thanks to Tad for showing me how to do this!

151avaland
toukokuu 11, 2011, 10:23 am

>150 kidzdoc: Now that is a royal pain to do that for every title (it was bad enough to go to the book's page to get the page # ...)

152kidzdoc
toukokuu 11, 2011, 10:24 am

#151: Agreed, but I only do it for titles of books I can't otherwise link to.

153Mr.Durick
toukokuu 11, 2011, 6:40 pm

150 to 152. That has the added limitation that the book doesn't get posted in the upper right of the thread, and there is no connection back from the work pages. Repeated submissions of messages with touchstones can more often than not, but not by any means always, cure the it-should-work-but-doesn't problem.

Robert

154avaland
Muokkaaja: toukokuu 12, 2011, 5:21 pm



The Last Brother by Nathacha Appanah (2007, T 2010)

The Last Brother begins with an old man rising from a vivid dream of someone named David, and then traveling with his son to visit a grave in a Jewish cemetery on the island of Mauritius:

"And suddenly, brutally, it takes my breath away. O David!"

The grave is the last resting place of David Stein, a ten year boy whom Raj (the old man) once had a very brief, intense friendship with. And here Raj begins to tell the story from the beginning: from his early memories of living with his family in breathtaking poverty on a sugar plantation in the north of Mauritius to somewhat later when the family moves unexpectedly south and father manages to get a job as a prison guard.

It is here that Raj meets David.

"I cannot remember the precise moment when I noticed David. Perhaps it was when he walked toward the barbed wire. What I saw first was his hair, that magnificent mop of it, which floated around his head but which was certainly his and his alone, in a way that nothing has ever belonged to me, those curls hiding his brow, and his way of advancing stiffly, not limping, for all the world as if he were made of wood and iron and his machinery had not been oiled for quite some while."

I do not want to give away too much of the story, but suffice it to say, it is thoroughly engaging and carries one along as on a raft on a river, and builds in intensity. It's a powerful 164 pages, a beautiful novel of loss, longing and friendship.

I read this book on the train to NYC and came to the climax of the story just as the train pulled into PENN station. The horror of it. I had all I could do to close the book, grab my luggage and get off the train. I finished it sitting outside the Cultural Services of the French Embassy building while waiting for an event to start.

155avaland
toukokuu 12, 2011, 10:23 am

I gave The Last Brother five stars.

156dchaikin
toukokuu 12, 2011, 1:07 pm

I was surprised to find this already on my wish list. I had forgotten the title. It turns out I added it based on a review in belletrista last year. Oh, enjoyed your review here.

157lilisin
toukokuu 13, 2011, 4:50 am

133-
Thanks for that link. As a big fan of Nothomb I really enjoyed reading that.

158labfs39
toukokuu 14, 2011, 7:54 pm

Already on the list thanks to another LTer's rave reviews. Sounds fascinating. Your review brought to mind Septembers of Shiraz, which also had a young boy growing up in a prison because of his father's job, and Boy in the Striped Pajamas in which two boys meet across barbed wire.

159neverlistless
kesäkuu 1, 2011, 9:12 pm

Lois, I just wanted to say hello. Congrats on Belle! I have it bookmarked and am excited to delve into it. I can never walk away from your thread without wishlisted titles. I have added Mind's Eye to the pile that never shrinks!

160avaland
kesäkuu 3, 2011, 4:34 pm

Hi Katie. Thanks! Belle is coming up on a 2 year anniversary. Time flies! I got behind on book reviews here and then dropped into a slow motion book funk so I haven't been here for awhile (and meanwhile I'm making quilts for kids in Alabama who lost everything in the tornadoes). Thanks for stopping by!

161neverlistless
kesäkuu 4, 2011, 1:35 pm

Wow - times does fly! I have dropped out of LT-land for a while now, but I remember that you were hinting at something big coming up. This must have been it! I am enjoying all of the reviews and adding up my wishlist on Belle and cannot wait until I can focus all of my reading time on things that I can genuinely get lost in!

Good luck with the quilts - as good as reading is, sometimes it's good to get a little sidetracked with other things!

162rebeccanyc
kesäkuu 4, 2011, 1:56 pm

Wow, Lois. It IS hard to believe that Belle is going to be two! Congratulations!

163rachbxl
kesäkuu 6, 2011, 1:15 pm

Another one joins the The Last Brother fanclub! Isn't it fabulous?

164avaland
Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 10, 2011, 6:47 am

>161 neverlistless: enjoy!
>162 rebeccanyc: on behalf of all her make Belle work, thanks.
>163 rachbxl: yes! Have you read any of her others in French? This was her 4th book.

My reading is still in a slow period. Finished China Mieville's Embassytown most recently - it was very good. I'm not sure I will have much to contribute beyond dukedom_enough's earlier excellent review.

Am trying to finish up Nicola Barker's Clear: A Transparent Novel, before beginning Bellefleur by JCO, which a few of us in the JCO group are reading this summer.

165rachbxl
kesäkuu 10, 2011, 4:46 pm

I started Les noces d'Anna just before the renovation work on my house started, and it ended up in a box before I'd got very far. I also have Les rochers de Poudre d'Or. I plan to read at least one in the near future.

166avaland
Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 20, 2011, 7:37 am

Lordy! Will I ever catch up with my reviews!! Here's a quickie:



The Boy in the Suitcase by Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friis (Danish, T2011, 2008, Thriller, pub date Nov 2011)

I'm not a fan of thrillers, which I consider the literary equivalent of a roller coaster ride, although I do love a great police procedural. This book is of the former ilk, not the latter, so readers of this review should take note of my bias.

Nina, a Red Cross nurse and general do-gooder, is asked by an estranged friend to pick up something in an airport locker. While Nina is concerned about her friend and strange request, she dutifully goes to the airport, finds the suitcase and discovers a three year old boy inside, drugged but still alive. For what seems to be perfectly logical reasons to her, she does not go to the police and decides to figure this out on her own.

Meanwhile, the Lithuanian mother of the boy wakes up in the hospital in her country, suffering from alcohol poisoning (she doesn't drink) and her son is missing. She goes to the police but, dissatisfied with the pace of the investigation, starts asking questions with the clues she has.

Then we have a Danish businessman who paid for the suitcase (or thought he did) and the thug who stole the boy and is royally peeved that he hasn't gotten paid.

All of these storylines spiral around each other tightening and ratcheting up the suspense on its way to the book's dizzying climax. We see here human beings at their animal best: operating on fear, adrenaline, survival, rage, desperation...etc. and all putting themselves in incredible situations. The only character I thought was even close to being fully realized was the mother of the boy. I think Nina is supposed to be the main character but I finished the book with little sense of who she really is (and whether I cared much about her).

I admit to skimming a bit as the book went on especially as I realized that little rational thinking was going to involved in the story. The authors did add some little surprises along the way which were worth some bonus.

I gave it a 'meh' rating, but I think thriller fans will enjoy it.

167avaland
kesäkuu 20, 2011, 7:36 am



Penwoman by Elin Wagner (1910, T 2010)

I will link to my review of this when it is up, but this book—the book of the Suffrage movement in Sweden—was a runaway bestseller in Sweden in 1910. I was curious about it, thought it might be too "dated" but was pleasantly surprised to discover a captivating story about two women and their involvement in the Suffrage movement. One, a young, pretty 20-something, nicknamed Penwoman, is working as a journalist (one of the "new women"), the other, a 30-something language teacher, comes to movement slowly. The dialog is excellent and often witty as Penwoman is witty and imprudent, and has some great comebacks to some of the things people say. Of course, Penwoman falls in love and must navigate this relationship as a Suffragist (apparently in Sweden, not Suffragette). It provides a fascinating portrait of the attitudes towards gender equality a hundred years ago, and really places the reader there. I was also stunned to find some of the statements as relevant now as they were back in 1910.

168avaland
heinäkuu 3, 2011, 9:19 am



Embassytown by China Miéville (2011, UK author, science fiction)

I used to read a lot of science fiction, especially in the era of the feminist wave, but read very little these days. I now like a well-written book, that is more literature than adventure story, with plenty to think about, but I'm less interested in thinking about where physics, technology or libertarian politics are going than I am, for example, about social issues.

Still, every now and again, I read one. I read pretty much everything China Mieville writes. I really admire him as a writer. He brings to every book a red hot imagination and fiery intellect. He likes to do things differently. He is influenced by so many things - art, literature, politics, pulp fiction, and his writing process is fascinating (he tries not to overplan, overthink, over-research, for example). And he likes to have fun.

Generally, I don't have much to add to the review my husband did (dukedom_enough, 4/21/11), which you can find on the book's page or on his thread here in Club Read. In Embassytown, Miéville has turned his imagination and intellect to the idea of language and created a community where the aliens speak a true alien language, which the humans have been trying to work out for quite awhile. It's rather fascinating (I will never think at similes the same again!) and I enjoyed the book immensely (my favorite remains The City and the City though).

169avaland
heinäkuu 3, 2011, 9:36 am



Waiting by Goretti Kyomuhendo (2007, Uganda)

"At a mere 111 pages, Waiting by Ugandan writer Goretti Kyomuhendo is small gem of a novel, a portrait of an ordinary village family during the retreat and rampage of Idi Amin’s soldiers through the country in the late 1970s. We are brought into story during a family meal by the gentle and steady voice of thirteen year old Alinda. It is through her we see the emotional and physical consequences of war as they and their friends and neighbors struggle to maintain a sense of normalcy throughout."

Excerpt from forthcoming review in Belletrista, will link when issue is up.

Though not quite intense as other similar stories set during wartime in Africa and written by women (i.e. Children of the New World or Half of a Yellow Sun, this book is a worthy complement and is a "testament to the tenacity and resilence of the human spirit."

170avaland
Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 3, 2011, 10:22 am

I'm determined to catch up this morning!!!!



The Ice People by Maggie Gee (first published in 1998, 2008, dystopian, UK author)

Set in the future, our story is narrated by Saul, a older man around 60 or so, living in UK in the middle of an "ice age". Society where he is has deteriorated into primitive conditions with ragged bands of youngish people living certainly without literature, and written language. Saul is valuable to him because he can tell them stories. (Saul here reminds me a little of Margaret Atwood's "Snowman" in Oryx and Crake). Something is about to happen and Saul is desperate to tell his story, to write it down.

He takes us back to his days as a young man, when the UK was suffering from relentless hot days, and the idea of an ice age descending upon them quickly was laughable. Fertility is low and diseases (rampant HIV) still prevalent. Men and women prefer to be with their own kind, and fashion is mostly androgynous. In the absence of children, robots were developed, first for domestic uses (feathered robots, no less!), eventually they were adapted for other uses. Saul is in love with Sarah, who he met at age 25. At first they are everything to each other. They decide to go through an arduous process to have a child and eventually they succeed. Everything becomes increasingly more complicated. This is his—no, their—story.

Maggie Gee is a great storyteller. She captures your attention almost immediately and carries you through the book effortlessly. I expected a book called "The Ice People" and featuring a world first overly hot, then overly cold, to be about climate change, and although that is there as backdrop, this book is really about gender relations. Not just about this one couple but about how we define ourselves as "men" or "women" and what our society assigns to our gender roles. Take the the biology, the sex, away and do we really need each other? And how do these things affect children? In the book, what first starts as the sexes preferring the company of their own sex ("segged", it's called. For 'segregation'), becomes more militant.

This is a thoughtful, thought-provoking book, an exploration of ideas around gender, gender roles, and gender relations without a definitive verdict (maybe not the word I want here), which is to say that the story continues and ends, but we have not been told what exactly to think about these things. However, as Saul tells the story, it is his fierce love for Sarah and their son Luke that is the real story. He's finished now, the wild boys are coming for him...

171avaland
Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 3, 2011, 10:37 am



Who is Ana Mendieta? by Christine Redfern and Caro Caron (2011, graphic nonfiction)

I no longer have this book in my possession, so I may get some of the details wrong.

Ana Mendieta was a Cuban American artist know for her "Earth Body" works, who died in 1985 when she fell out our 34th floor apartment window in Greenwich Village. Although her husband was charged with her murder, he was eventually acquitted, and a mystery remains around her death.

This graphic rendering of Mendieta's story, from her being sent to the US from Cuba by her parents to her death, is necessarily simplified. The artwork by the artist is explicit, in keeping with Mendieta's themes. Despite it being more explicit than perhaps I care for, and a bit 'busy', I enjoyed this introduction to Mendieta's life, though I had to read it through twice to really digest it.

172avaland
Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 3, 2011, 10:55 am



The Wedding of Zein by Tayib Salih (1969, Sudanese)

While at the PEN festival in NYC in April, I attended the "Global Book Swap" panel discussion where authors recommended books to the audience. This book was Leila Aboulela's choice.

The Wedding of Zein is a novella, set in a town in the Sudan, and tells the story of how the "village idiot"got to marry the most eligible young woman in the town (and she agrees to marry him!). Immediately upon being born, it is said, the infant Zein did not cry but burst out laughing. He was deformed, mostly toothless, but was remarkably strong and had a notorious appetite. He always made the women laugh, and often fell in love with one of the local girls, who would then promptly marry a suitable groom. In this way he became a predictor of who would marry next.

As the story opens a rumor is going around the village that Zein is going to be married. It is met with much incredulity. And thus the story of how Zein comes to marry the most beautiful girl in the village begins.

Told with a style with oral story-telling rhythms, this is a delightful folk tale. Zein is irresistible, and the village - well, a small town is a small town anywhere in the world! Readers of Jamilia by Chinghiz Aitmatov and Madame Verona Comes Down the Hill by Dimitri Verhulst, two other "folk tale" books I've recommended, will also enjoy this.

I should mention that there were two short stories included in this book with the novella, both of which were very good.

173avaland
heinäkuu 3, 2011, 11:37 am



Fear Not by Anne Holt (2009, T 2011 Norway)

I discovered Anne Holt through the research I was doing for "The Women of Nordic Crime". I thought her resume was interesting and her books would prove to be the kind of intelligent crime novel I like. I'm pleased to say that my hopes were mostly fulfilled. One has to first get beyond the marketing screams that the cover is plastered with (Move over, Steig Larsson! 5 million sold! the Queen of Nordic Crime!...etc).

Fear Not is the 6th (?) book in Anne Holt's Adam Stubo/Johanne Vik series and the mostly recently translated into English. I usually like to start at the beginning of a series of crime novels, but this was the most readily available. It features the married duo of brilliant NCIS detective Adam Stubo (often called in to assist local departments) and criminologist Johanne Vik (an equally brilliant, but somewhat insecure professional who is apparently called "the reluctant detective" behind her back). It is Christmas eve and the bishop of Bergen, Eva Karin Lysgaard, has been found late at night, stabbed to death. Well known and universally well-loved, the crime is shocking and due to the high profile of the victim, Stubo is called in.

Without telling too much of the story, there is a fairly high body count in this book. At the halfway point people are still dying in different places, by different means. Adam is focusing on the bishop's death, the Oslo police on several other deaths, some only moderately suspicious, and Johanne is working on research into hate crimes. It will all come together.

Fear Not is an intelligent, character-driven, complex and satisfying crime novel. Vik, Stubo, their family (particular their young daughters), the Oslo detective Silje Sorensen, and other characters are rendered credibly and we, as readers, feel we are not only involved in the work they do or the crimes they are involved in, but in other parts of their lives as well. To Holt's credit, this 'domesticity' does not overtake the hard work, both intellectual and otherwise, of crime-solving, and there is also much thoughtful information given, in this case, to hate groups and hate crimes, much of it from the US, though Vik's research.

I look forward to chasing down more of Anne Holt's novels.

-----

Caught up! Hurrah!

174avaland
heinäkuu 3, 2011, 11:39 am

Well, not quite caught up. I did promise somewhere to post some of my Pasternak poetry translations. Perhaps later...

175baswood
heinäkuu 3, 2011, 2:36 pm

The ice people looks interesting and I need to catch up on the China Mieville books. Looking forward to those Pasternak translations.

176dukedom_enough
heinäkuu 3, 2011, 3:07 pm

Always a tough choice: to write the review or start the next book? I'm several reviews behind, myself.

177labfs39
heinäkuu 3, 2011, 8:48 pm

I got caught up on reviews yesterday, too. What a great feeling!

Your reading is as eclectic as ever. I never know what new surprise I'll discover.

178RidgewayGirl
heinäkuu 3, 2011, 9:05 pm

I'm glad you liked the Anne Holt. I have one of hers and will have to read it soon.

I'm currently reading another Scandinavian crime novel -- Jo Nesbo's The Redbreast and I'm pleasantly impressed.

179kidzdoc
heinäkuu 3, 2011, 10:31 pm

Uh oh, another dangerous thread. The Ice People, The Wedding of Zein, and Waiting have been added to my wish list.

180rebeccanyc
heinäkuu 4, 2011, 5:07 pm

Interesting books, Lois. Glad to read about them.

181avaland
heinäkuu 8, 2011, 4:11 pm

Falling a bit behind again, but will catch up. Meanwhile, this is what I'm planning to do during the next 12 days.



I plan to read 12 short stories, 1 a day, each one from a different anthology in the house. I will report here.

182avaland
Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 8, 2011, 5:23 pm

Day One.

Story: The Rubbish Dump
Author: Steve Chimombo (Malawi)
Anthology: The Heinemann Book of African Short Stories edited by Chinua Achebe and C. L. Innes (1992)


"The Rubbish Dump" tells the story of how Joey, a young boy who lives next to the airport, makes friends with Mazambezi, the old man with an old wheelbarrow, who takes the garbage from the planes to the rubbish dump. One cannot imagine that the two should have anything in common, certainly Joey can't, but a small gift of a broken toy airport found by the old man in the dump, brings the two together and soon they are sharing their dreams of other places faraway.

I also read "Cages" by Abdulrazak Gurnah (Zanzibar) and "Government by Magic Spell" by Saida Hagi-Dirie Herzi (Somalia)

183avaland
heinäkuu 9, 2011, 6:23 am

Aftermath: Poems by Sandra M. Gilbert (2011)

I've haven't connected well to this collection, no doubt I'm not in the proper frame of mind or perhaps I'm not in the mood for poems of grief and aging. But, that's not all that's in here, it's a mix. So, like other volumes, I will set it aside and pick it up another day. Here's one poem I did like from this read through:

The Night Mare

comes up from the field, her
nostrils twitching, her
hide jumping with fleas

She's white against black grass—
a spasm under the trees,
her hooves hearts knocking.

Old shape-shifting clop-clopper:
she carries you from the lake
to the pit where

you build the chapel
of panic, & she's the mice
chattering inside the organ, the angel

who lets drop the window
of heaven that shatters
next to the altar,

&under
a quilt of shadows she's
the thin one

who enters the pulpit & asks
how can you praise God
after the soldiers made the eyeless rabbi

dance naked in the marketplace.

184avaland
heinäkuu 9, 2011, 7:01 am

I promised some various translations of Pasternak's poetry I was indulging in back in May. I was quite obsessed with Pasternak for awhile, and collected his books and related books as I found them, and even bought a few. Pasternak's poetry rhymes in the Russian and back in his younger days it would have been meant to read out loud.

First, and excerpt of one of my favorite poems. This is 4 of it's 7 stanzas. The poet is seeing the world through a mirror in his house. It is from his collection "My Sister Life"* written during the revolution, though it was not published until 1922.

The Mirror (1917)

In the mirror is steaming a cocoa cup
A lace curtain sways, and along
The path to the chaos of garden and steppe
The mirror runs to the swing.

There swaying pines needle the air with resin;
There, fussily bending to look
For its glasses, the garden is combing the grass;
There Shade is reading a book.

And into the background, the darkness, beyond
The gate into grasslands sweet
With drugs, down the path, between snail-trails and twigs
The quartz shimmers white in the heat.

The soul can't be mined, like a seam with saltpetre,
Or hacked out, like gems, with a pick.
The huge garden shakes in the hall, in the mirror—
But the glass does not break.

From Selected Poems of Boris Pasternak (1984)
Translated from the Russian by John Stallworthy and Peter France.

And the same poem from:
Sister My Life* translated by Phillip C. Flayderman (1967)

*notice the difference in translating the title of the collection!

The Mirror

On the shelf of the hall mirror, a steaming
Cup of cocoa rests. Satin sways;
And—the mirror rushes out in a straight path
To the tumbledown chaos of swing and garden.

There the pine trees prick the air
With their resin and their swaying;
And absent-minded garden plots have mislaid
Spectacles on the grass; Shade reads a book.

Further back, in the dark, beyond the fence
To the steppe, in the odor of opiates,
And mixed with twigs and snails,
Flows a pathway of hot and glittering quartz.

The enormous garden thrashes, harasses the mirror—
And yet it does not shatter the glass!
Everything seems bathed in a gelatinous film
From the mirror to the sound in the tree trunks.

185avaland
Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 9, 2011, 7:32 am

And as a more interesting example of how translations vary, here is the first stanza of a poem from the same collection ("My Sister Life" or "Sister My Life" depending of which translation you are reading from)

The Weeping Garden
(It's Time for the Birds to Sing 5)

The awful one!—He drips and listens:
Is he all alone in the world—
He crumples a branch like lace at the window—
Or is there a witness here?

(from The Poetry of Boris Pasternak translated by George Reavey, 1959, G. P. Putnam & Sons)
------

The Weeping Garden

It's terrible: dripping and listening
If it's as much alone as ever—
Crumpling a lacy branch at the window—
Or if there's an eavesdropper.

(from the Stallsworthy/France volume mentioned in the previous post)
--------

The Weeping Garden

How horrible! It drips and listens,
Is it then the only one in the world
That pushes the branch in at the window,
Like a bit of lace in embroidery? Or someone is
watching.

(from the Flayderman volume noted in the previous post)
-------

These are translations from three different decades: the 50s, the 60s and the 80s (seems I need to find a 70s collection!). If I were to recommend a collection to start with, I would suggest the Stallsworthy/France translations in the Penguin edition which is apt to still be in print. It has a nice but not overly long introduction written by the translator that gives one just the right amount of information about Pasternak and his poetry (for a beginner).

eta: I should add that some of the translations in the Reavey collection (1959) actually rhyme in English and I can't imagine how he managed to do that. Also the Flayderman is a dual language edition, with the Russian on the left page and the English on the right.

186avaland
heinäkuu 9, 2011, 7:51 am

Here is what Pasternak said about translation:

"Translations are pointless unless their link with the original is closer than is usually the case. Textual equivalence is too weak a link to guarantee the value of a translation. Translations of this kind do not deliver what they have promised. Their pale replicas give no idea of the essential feature of the onjects which they attempt to reflect — their power. In order for a translation to achieve its aim, it must be tied to the original and the translation must be that between foundation and building, between trunk and branches. The translation myst be the work of an author who has felt the influence of the original long before he begins his work. It must be the fruit of the original, its historical consequence.

More than this; we have said that translation is inconceivable because the principle charm of a work of art lies in its unrepeatability. How then can a translation repeat it? But translation is conceivable, because ideally it too will be a work of art; sharing a common text, it will stand alongside the original, unrepeatable in its own right. And translation is conceivable because for centuries before our time whole literatures have translated one another. Translation is not a method of getting to know isolated works, it is the channel whereby cultures and people communicate down the centuries."

(Pasternak was a translator himself)

187avaland
Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 9, 2011, 9:03 am

I know this thread is getting kind of long. Do I have to create a new thread? I do so dislike breaking up my reading. What with the "jump to the bottom" and all the little "up" arrows on every post now, I would think it wouldn't be necessary to start new threads, but let me know. I guess if you are all on slower internet it might be a pain.



Designing Tessellations: The Secrets to Interlocking Patterns by Jinny Beyer. (1999 art/design)

If you ever wanted to know the secrets of M. C. Escher's work, this is the book for you. Written by textile designer (color expert & quiltmaker), this book might be a textbook, in places it comes across as such. It's a fascinating exploration of symmetry and geometric patterns, using examples from Escher to Indian latticework. Tessellations are based on mathematical symmetry and she really delves into it but keeps it digestible and usable. She shows step by step how to design repeating patterns, and tessellations like Escher's (fascinating, really). It's a complex topic made manageable. Note: although it covers quilting design, the book has much broader applications.

Many thanks to MaggieO who gave this as a gift to me. It gives me many hours of enjoyment.

188Samantha_kathy
heinäkuu 9, 2011, 1:59 pm

I have no problems if you keep going on this thread, but then my internet is pretty fast.

Love your thread, by the way.

189Poquette
heinäkuu 9, 2011, 2:08 pm

I think 250 or so is the magic number.

190Mr.Durick
heinäkuu 9, 2011, 3:54 pm

We've been happy with 400 posts in The Person Below Me thread, and the Waiting for Godot (nly Knows What) thread is at 763 posts without much trouble. Neither is heavy with links or graphics.

Robert

191labfs39
heinäkuu 9, 2011, 7:57 pm

Thank you for taking the time to type in the Pasternak verses. Do you have a favorite translator of Pasternak? I liked the John Stallworthy and Peter France versions on first reading. I can't imagine trying to translate poetry. At least Pasternak allows some leeway by saying that a translation is not the way to study a work, but a way to translate a culture. Imagine how narrow our lives would be if we did not have access to translated works!

192janemarieprice
heinäkuu 10, 2011, 5:06 pm

187 - Adding this one to the wishlist.

I can usually do around 300 posts with images before it gets grumpy.

193avaland
heinäkuu 10, 2011, 6:47 pm

>191 labfs39: Let's just say that the Penguin edition with France & Stallworthy is a well-used little volume.

>192 janemarieprice: I'm still pouring over it (I'm a bit obsessed with it at the moment). I've had the protractor and graph paper out too (though I did try to work out some designs on both Photoshop and Illustrator without much luck (I'm a bit of a tip-of-the-iceberg sort of user for PS, and a bumbling amateur on Ill).

194avaland
Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 10, 2011, 6:56 pm

Day Two
Story: "The Twelfth in the Cabin" (1907)
Author: Ragnhild Jolsen
Anthology: An Everyday Story: Norwegian Women's Fiction edited by Katherine Hanson. 1984 The Seal Press.


"The Twelfth in the Cabin" is a wry folktale-like story that tells of a family of 11 who live in a small cabin. The description of how all them fit in the small cabin to sleep is very funny. Only the oldest daughter has a bed to herself. She works in the mill. One day a 12th kind of magically appears.

I also read "The Child Who Loved Roads" (1947) by Cora Sandel. This was a sort of extended metaphor for growing up.

195janemarieprice
heinäkuu 10, 2011, 8:01 pm

193 - Illustrator is probably better for that kind of design work, but even being proficient in it, I find it a unwieldy beast.

196avaland
heinäkuu 11, 2011, 7:39 am

>195 janemarieprice: Call me old-fashioned but I'm back to large graph paper, a protractor and a small T-square. I'll scan the result and manipulate the image further on the computer (I think)...

------

Day Three
Story: "The Crow and the Fox" (2001, Translated by Dongming Zhang)
Author: by Liang Dazhi
Anthology: Loud Sparrows: Contemporary Chinese Short-Shorts selected & translated by Aili Mu, Julie Chiu, Howard Goldblatt (2006, Columbia Univ. Press)


"The Crow and the Fox" is a clever, modern retelling of the fable by the same name. You know the story: the crow has meat in its mouth and the fox, with an eye on that meat, praises the crow's singing voice and asks it to sing. Flattered, the crow opens its mouth to sing, the meat drops, and the fox runs away with it. This happens a couple of times until the crow figures out he's being duped and turns the tables. The fable is presented as a bedtime story being told by a young mother to her son (he tends to fall asleep during it, so she retells it each night). Echoing the bedtime story is the same fable illustrated by the mother getting duped by vanity publishing. The story was really well done, and, in the end, the fox gets his comeuppance.

This is anthology of Chinese flash fiction, which has apparently been all the rage in China for the last couple of decades. Some pieces are half a page, some a few pages. It's interspersed with quotes about "short shorts".

I also read:

"Last Stop, Mongkok" by Che Zhengxuan; "Postcards" by Ye Si; and "Black Umbrella" by Yi Ruofen.

197dukedom_enough
heinäkuu 11, 2011, 8:23 am

I read somewhere that short fictions read on cellphones are big in Japan - could that be the draw of flash fiction in China?

198avaland
heinäkuu 11, 2011, 8:51 am

>197 dukedom_enough: The history of "short-shorts" dates back to the 50s in Hong Kong, and the 60s in Taiwan (it says in the intro).

"While closely associated with a passion for speed—easy consumption and instant gratification—and a desire for greater diversity, the popularity of short-shorts is probably, as the Taiwanese writer Yin Di points out, a consequence of excesses:

This is an era of 'explosion,' with an excess of people, cars, plastic products, and political gestures.... The city, in particular, suffers from too much talking and too much eating. Painters paint too much, writers write too much. A sense of restraint is needed in everything we do, and minimizing is the first step towards self-restraint. That which can be said in 1,000 words had better not be said in 10,000 words"

From Howard Goldblatt's introduction. Goldblatt does suggest that "short shorts" are a literary adaptation to a "rapid process of commodification"

It's an interesting literary form (and probably a good exercise for writers) and I enjoy it well enough periodically, and in small doses (ha ha), I'm not going to become a big fan. Though, of course, these short pieces provide tiny peeks into contemporary Chinese culture and thought, and that's what I was looking for.

199avaland
Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 12, 2011, 9:35 am

Day Four
Story: "The Triumphant Head"
Author: Josephine Saxton (Anne McCaffrey?)
Anthology: The New Women of Wonder, edited by Pamela Sargent (1977)


At first, I was a bit irritated with the voice in this story, it was was odd, not quite "right," maybe a bit twee. Further in, I realized the point of this. A woman is readying herself in the morning, and in this story we get what's going on in her head during that time, an ordinary enough situation. Except, the voice in her head is somewhat detached—almost alien—from the rest of her. It's subtly done and difficult to describe. Most of us would consider ourselves holistically, all parts contributing to "me", but in this story the head is telling the story and using the body or the voice to achieve its aims. One could argue that the author is portraying an alien which has taken over this woman's body—in true SF form—but I think the intention is less overt and has a feminist reading (which isn't to say that both can't be true, but I think it is left intentionally ambiguous)

The story was first published in 1970. Lots going on for women then. This turned out to be a very thoughtful story.

200baswood
heinäkuu 12, 2011, 12:33 pm

Enjoying your short story reviews. What a good idea 12 in 12.

201avaland
heinäkuu 12, 2011, 4:20 pm

>200 baswood: It's retraining me to come in here and report what I'm reading:-) And, it's a dipping into many of the anthologies in the house, most of which I would never read cover to cover anyway.

Day Five
Story: (excerpt, in this case) from The Timeless Land, Part III: 1790 (1st volume pub. 1941)
Author: Eleanor Dark
Anthology: Macquarie Pen Anthology of Australian Literature edited by Nicholas Jose, 2009


In keeping with my intent to read authors I am not familiar with, I chose Eleanor Dark. It seems that her historical trilogy (early settlement of Australia) that this excerpt originates from, was BOMC bestseller here in the states in the early 40s. Hmm.

This excerpt finds Governor Phillip getting word that his gamekeeper had been brought back to the settlement dead, with a spear through him. What follows is the Governor's mostly internal thoughts on the matter as he wrestles between "duty and humanity" to decide what action he will take in response. Up to this point, dealings with the natives have been ok, relatively speaking. The Governor decides but then amends his decision when discussing it with Captain Tench (whose diaries the author based her creation of Governor-as-colonizer-with-a-conscience on). Despite the harsh decision (capture six, or if you can't capture them, kill six natives), the soldiers are the ones who suffer most, tromping through the bush with their weighty packs, and in their red coats, making enough noise (and the red being so easily seen) that the natives were always forwarned. The soldiers saw no natives that day, much to the merriment among the tribes, who could not believe the stupidity of these white people.

Once I settled into this, I found this wonderfully readable and enjoyable. It seems that American readers would have been primed for the arrival of Eleanor Dark's trilogy, because Kenneth Roberts' historical fiction of early American had been enjoying great success beginning in the 1930s. It also occurs to me that some of this story sounds familiar. It quite likely showed up in one of Kate Grenville's historical fictions: The Secret River or The Lieutenant.

202Nickelini
heinäkuu 12, 2011, 5:10 pm

I'm really liking your idea of dipping into anthologies. I've tried to keep track of short stories, but the project has always fallen away. Maybe I should try your method.

203avaland
heinäkuu 12, 2011, 5:18 pm

Day Six
Story: "Bloody Blanche" (1897) translated from the French by Chris Baldick
Author: Marcel Schwob
Anthology :The Oxford Book of Gothic Tales, edited by Chris Baldick, 1992


(I'm getting a little ahead—this is Weds. story—as I will be distracted later this week and this will give me some wiggle room in my little program).

de Flavy gets d'Ovrebreue to give him his 10 year old daughter in marriage, promising not to consummate the union for at least three years. He's after the girl because he wants the lands, and as soon as everyone is installed in the estate, de Flavy brutally breaks his promise. The parents of the girl die: the mother withers away, the father starves in the dungeon below. Aurbandac the bastard, distant kin to de Flavy, comes to visit and covets the land and girl. He teams up with the barber, who has been sorely abused by de Flavy, and plots to take over de Flavy's land. De Flavy is being murdered slowly (poisoned cloths put on some of his wounds), but it seems they don't have enough patience. While young Blanche is trying to suffocate him, the others cut his throat and body falls on Blanche who gets covered in his blood. Blanche is eventually helped to her feet by the barber, she then recites a little prayer in her childish voice.

I think this Victorian gem has lost a lot of its power to titillate. I thought it a bit of yawner. I was surprised though that sex was so thinly disguised—both Blanche's rape and a mention of her subsequent sexual behavior—although that could be the doings of the relatively contemporary translator.

i was also surprised how many of the 19th century contributors I knew! "Schwob" and "Anonymous" were the authors I was not familiar with.

204dukedom_enough
heinäkuu 13, 2011, 7:25 am

I don't think Josephine Saxton is Anne McCaffrey, though, @199.

205avaland
heinäkuu 13, 2011, 8:16 am

>204 dukedom_enough: I think the story listed her as copyright holder, but I'd have to double check. Just as soon as I find the book again...
----------

Day Seven
Story: "The Ariran's Last Life"
Author: Maria Eliza Hamilton Abegunde
Anthology: The Best African American Fiction, 2010, edited by Gerald Early, 2010


It was easier to find an author in this anthology who I was not familiar with as I only recognized about half the names. And, as an interesting aside, the gender parity of this contemporary anthology was pretty even.

"The Ariran's Last Life" is a riveting story of one young woman—just coming of marriageable age and looking forward to her upcoming initiation ceremony—being sold by her parents/village to slave traders. The reason is not clear, but it is suggested that she might have been the sacrifice in order to save the rest of the village. The story covers the slave traders winding route to the sea, as they round up more natives and pick up some being brought to them from the interior. "The Ariran's Last Life" is riveting, moving and powerful; in all it's horror, it quietly celebrates the tenacity of the human spirit.

In one of the author's bios online I found this: {the author is a }... "student of Ifa whose work focuses on recovering the lost voices of the Middle Passage through cellular memory."

In the story, the suggestion is that the old woman who begins the story is reaching back to an earlier life. I'm pretty skeptical about most hocus pocus of any kind, but it makes for a terrific storytelling device.

206Samantha_kathy
heinäkuu 13, 2011, 11:49 am

I love that you're dipping into your anthologies with a short story each day. I'm not one to read short stories normally, although I do enjoy Agatha Christie's short stories. What I know of anthologies and short stories is that while each short story should be self-contained, anthologies often have a theme. So I wonder, does reading an anthology cover to cover give something 'extra' to the short stories by bringing out the theme better than if you'd read the stories seperately, with big chunks of time/other stories in between?

207rebeccanyc
heinäkuu 13, 2011, 12:29 pm

I too love the idea of what you're doing; when I finish unpacking the books that are in boxes, I may unearth some anthologies and try the idea of dipping into them too. Most of the short stories I read are collections by an author I like, although I do have a lot of The Best Short Stories of . . . anthologies because they were easily findable gifts for my sweeties' relatives who like to be told what to get me.

208avaland
heinäkuu 13, 2011, 3:16 pm

>206 Samantha_kathy: That's an interesting question. I think what you suggest might be true reading an anthology cover to cover, and perhaps that is the intent; there is always something that unites the stories.

Most of the anthologies we have, we have chosen because we are already interested in the 'theme' in some way (or we were given them for the same reason). I suspect that because I come to to an anthology already having read around the theme, I don't feel compelled to read them cover to cover. Anthologies are a great way to be introduced to new authors, particularly those who may only write short fiction.

>207 rebeccanyc: Yes, I have a lot of single author collections too. Only recently, though, have I become more interested in authors I don't already know from their novels.

209avaland
heinäkuu 13, 2011, 4:02 pm

Just to join in with the statistics many are posting:

Total books read cover to cover: 37

Fiction: 30
Nonfiction: You do the math

Female author: 20
Male author: 17 (I think this might be the first year it has swung towards the women!)

# of fiction authors which were new to me: 15
# of dead fiction authors: 3
# of books read because of a recommendation from an author: 2
# of readings influenced by LT review/comments by a friend: 2, maybe 3.

Own: All of them
Bought new: 19
Bought used: 9
Gifts or review copies: 9

International authors (fiction): ALL (if by 'international' one means not of your country. Surprisingly, not one US author yet)
Number of countries (fiction): 13
Number which are translations into English (fiction): 16/30

210avaland
Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 14, 2011, 8:13 am

Day Eight
Story: "Light Breathing"
Author: Ivan Bunin
Anthology: The Portable Twentieth-Century Russian Reader edited by Clarence Brown, circa 1994 edition.


I have strayed from my reading of unfamiliar authors with this time, because back in the mid-90s I read this volume and its 19th C. counterpart cover to cover (I know, I said I tend not to do that, but apparently I did back then). This may have been part of my reading for an oral presentation I did for a class - an overview of 20th century Russian literature.

Ivan Bunin was Russia's first Nobel prize winner. He was living in exile in 1933 when he was awarded it. He is associated with the classic Russian literature of the 19th century and often compared with Chekhov.

"Light Breathing" begins at the gravesite of Olya Mescherskaya, who died tragically very young. A pretty, intelligent and lively young girl, Olya developed quite quickly into a beautiful young woman. Still a student, she has the attention of everyone, and rumors circulate. She is called into the office by the principal (a woman) and reminded that she is still just a student and, for example, she should not wear her hair in such an adult fashion. To which Olga responds that she is indeed a woman, the principal's brother made her one. A month after this incident Olya is shot dead at the train station by a man claiming she has toyed his affections. The story returns to Olya's gravesite, where her principal is hanging about, as she does every holiday (the dead Olya is the principal's latest obsession). The principal remembers a conversation she heard between Olya and her best friend, where she tells about reading one of her father's books which told what it takes for a woman to be beautiful. She recounts the list of attributes concluding with "light breathing."

My synopsis does little justice to the story, which is beautifully written. Bunin captures well the gaiety and ebullience of youth, the death of which made all the more poignant when we discover that Olya was only trying to learn how to please men.

211charbutton
heinäkuu 15, 2011, 4:10 am

I've finally caught up on your thread! I'm with the others in enjoying your short story reviews. I think I should try the one a day thing. I tend to rattle through short story collections rather than taking time to appreciate each tale.

212avaland
heinäkuu 15, 2011, 7:42 am

>202 Nickelini: yes, LT is so geared to reading and reporting on a BOOK, so much interesting reading falls by the wayside.

>211 charbutton: Thanks for visiting, Char.

213rebeccanyc
heinäkuu 15, 2011, 8:06 am

With all the Russian reading I've been doing, The Portable Twentieth Century Russian Reader sounds interesting. I read a collection by Ivan Bunin last year and had mixed feelings (don't think it included that story) but it would be a great way to get introduced to writers I haven't read.

214avaland
heinäkuu 16, 2011, 8:42 am

>213 rebeccanyc: agreed, but I suspect you would know quite a few of them.

215rebeccanyc
heinäkuu 16, 2011, 12:59 pm

I looked at the book on Amazon, which includes a list of the stories and authors: I would say it's about evenly divided among authors I've read, authors I've heard of by haven't read (although I have books by some on the TBR), and authors I've never heard of.

216Samantha_kathy
heinäkuu 16, 2011, 2:35 pm

209> Oooh, shiny numbers! I always like numbers (well, when they're about books and reading, anyway). I might see about checking my own reading like that...

217avaland
heinäkuu 20, 2011, 8:26 am

I have been completely waylaid by a convention, houseguests, painters and one tilesetter.

----------

Day Nine
Story: "The Library Girl"
Author: Vishwapriya L. Iyengar
Anthology: The Inner Courtyard: Stories by Indian Women edited by Lakshmi Holmstrom, 1990


Talat is a spirited 16 or 17 year old young woman, who after being told there would be no more schooling for her (unlike her brother), took to racing to the library before it closed each day to get books which showed her a world outside her own. The library was in a marketplace area, across from the hide shop, tucked behind curtains. The shopkeepers and neighborhood knew her and looked forward to her run to the library each day. One day her father brought her a gift of a lovely, finely made, black silk burqa (to the silent disapproval of the older women in the room). Talat put it on burqa that day and no one recognized her on her way to the library, and the library closed just before she got there.

This is an oversimplification of a much more nuanced story, clearly a feminist one. The story, told from Talat's viewpoint, is a coming-of-age one. The library books opens her to possibilities, which the burqa almost immediately begins to shut down (even in the way she views herself). It is her realization of this that is so poignant in the story.

I'm not so naive to think that every Muslim woman wants to be free of the burqa, but I found this story very moving. It was not written for the West, it was first published in a Bombay magazine in 1985.

I also read "Yellow Fish" by Tamil author Ambai (C. S. Lakshmi)

218labfs39
heinäkuu 20, 2011, 10:48 am

I'm intrigued by the image of the girl donning the burqa and standing in front of the closed library doors. To be honest, I don't usually read short stories, but I just checked, and my library has this collection. Thanks for including your short story reviews online.

219avaland
heinäkuu 20, 2011, 2:39 pm

>218 labfs39: You're welcome (though I admit I'm doing it more for myself:-)

220avaland
Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 22, 2011, 7:11 am

Day Ten (clearly, I've not been able to do this on consecutive days!)
Story: "Jungfrau" (2006 winner of the Caine Prize)
Author: Mary Watson
Anthology: Ten Years of the Caine Prize for African Writing, 2009


Told from the viewpoint of Evie, a young girl, "Jungfrau" (meaning maiden/virgin in German) tells the story of her two primary female influences, her beautiful, charming 'aunt', nicknamed the Virgin Jessica; and her mother, Annette, a tired schoolteacher of slum children. Evie resents her mother's attention to what she refers to as "her mother's children". While Jessica is charming everyone, including Evie's father, her mother is literally trying to save one of the poor children.

A virgin, Jessica tells Evie when asked what the word means, is "someone who can do God's work." "I wanted to be liked the Virgin Jessica. I wanted a name like hers," declared Evie. This story is about Evie's enlightenment.

This is another tough story to summarize.

221akeela
heinäkuu 22, 2011, 9:25 am

> 220 Was it a good story, though? Mary Watson is South African and though I've picked up this anthology several times with the intention of reading her story, I haven't yet done so.

Thanks for sharing your short story interludes with us!

222dchaikin
heinäkuu 22, 2011, 10:34 am

Lois, just posting to say I love what you're doing with the short stories. I'm hoping I can convince myself to do that same thing some time. I have numerous short story collections in books and lit reviews, so plenty to chose from. Also, per 219, i'm glad your doing this for yourself!

223avaland
heinäkuu 22, 2011, 11:51 am

>221 akeela: yes, it was a good story, I should have said that. Like many good short stories, the ending leaves you thinking.

>222 dchaikin: Of course, this means I've pulled anthologies out from all over house! Maybe I will do the same with single author collections at some point.

I was sick yesterday, 101º fever during the hottest day of the summer thus far - with no a/c because the painters outside needed the windows open. Anyway, when the fever abated, I picked up a crime novel which had come in the mail the day before:

Outrage by Arnaldur Indridason (Book 7 of his series which have been translated, Book 9 apparently in Icelandic).

Erlunder has gone off rather suddenly to the area of Iceland where he grew up to spend some time alone apparently. This book focuses on Elinborg, one of two detectives which has been his 'sidekick'. Elinborg is a middle-aged woman, wife and mother of 3, who is level-headed and approaches everything in a steady, measured way, giving it careful consideration. And so it is with this case and, I think, with the novel.

A man is found with his throat slashed in his apartment. Clues are few, but there is a woman's shawl in the room and an amount of a date rate drug. With Erlunder out of town, Elinborg is assigned to the case. One might think a crime novel about one of the sidekicks might not be all that interesting, but the case was sufficiently complex, Elinborg's investigation measured, not rushed, in keeping with her character. We also get a realistic picture of how she balances job and family, sometimes more successfully than at other times, and we get to know her much better generally. I think it was actually kind of cool that Indridason chose to focus on Elinborg for this book. This is not a thriller, but a very good, reasonably realistic police procedural where hard work and perhaps a bit of luck solve the crime.

224labfs39
heinäkuu 22, 2011, 3:26 pm

Yikes! 101 fever for an adult is not trivial. Do you think it was heat related? I hope you are feeling better. Reading a book about Iceland sounds like the perfect antidote for a fever.

225avaland
heinäkuu 29, 2011, 9:51 am

Before I forget...

Day 11
Story: "Questioning Samantha"
Author: Guillermo Fadanelli
Anthology: Best of Contemporary Mexican Fiction edited by Alvaro Uribe, 2009


I'm not sure I actually 'got' this story. A journalist is at home frustrated over cleaning the dining room windows. His boss calls him into work briefly and confides to him in great detail about the the affair he is having. His daughter's school calls and wants to see him immediately about something his 11 year old daughter (he can't imagine what it could be). When he arrives, he is told that Samantha and a boy have been caught having 'sexual relations' in the girls' bathroom. Questions ensue. Much to the dismay of the others in attendance, the journalist supports his daughter unequivocally and seems unconcerned about an 11 year old having sex. When they arrive home, he tells his daughter she must finish cleaning the dining room windows as punishment.

That's pretty much the gist of it. It was one of those stories where, after reading it, you think, 'did I miss something?'

Day 12
Story: "Report on the Barnhouse Effect"
Author: Kurt Vonnegut
Anthology: First Fiction: An Anthology of the First Published Stories by Famous Writers edited by Kathy Kiernan and Michael M. Moore. 1994


I obviously could not read a story in here by an author I did not know, so I sort of picked randomly. I bought this anthology in 1994 through Quality Paperback Book Club (part of Book of the Month Club) and read it back then, so it was really no surprise when the story felt familiar.

"Report on the Barnhouse Effect" , published in Collier's in 1950, is narrated by a former graduate student and confidant of Professor Arthur Barnhouse, known to be the most dangerous weapon on earth because of his discovery of and skill in "dynopsychism" -- the ability to control things using his mind. As suggested in the title, the story is a report and gives a history of discovery of what becomes known as "the Barnhouse Effect", explains what it is and what it does, and includes a status of the situation involving Professor Barnhouse who is now in hiding. After demonstrating his power, naturally, the military wished to use this power to aid in its various war effects, whereas Prof. Barnhouse preferred a more peaceful application. After his disappearance, he would, with his mind, destroy any armaments made known to him through publication in newspaper. Our narrator calls this a "war of tattletales." Now countries are waiting for Barnhouse to die—wherever he is—so that they can resume war-mongering. Ah, but...

I don't want to give away the ending on this tongue-in-cheek, satirical story. It was wonderfully entertaining.

Thus ends my 12/12/12 task, though 12 days was more like 17 (not counting the delays getting it logged here).