Lisa's literary musings--labfs39 in 2011, pt. 2

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Lisa's literary musings--labfs39 in 2011, pt. 2

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1labfs39
Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 12, 2011, 7:19 pm

Welcome to the continuing saga of my reading adventures! For previous discussions see Part 1.

Around the Bend

July
60. The Liberated Bride by A.B. Yehoshua
61. The Last Brother by Nathacha Appanah*
62. Rascal by Sterling North* (audiobook)
63. Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson
64. The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic--and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World by Steven Johnson
65. From the Land of the Moon by Milena Agus*
66. The Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West*
67. Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes*

*An asterisk means I would recommend this book above the others.

2labfs39
Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 4, 2011, 12:50 pm

Huffing and Puffing to the Finish Line

3labfs39
Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 6, 2011, 9:11 pm

Hitting my stride

June
51. Gulag: A History by Anne Appplebaum* (Pulitzer Prize)
52. Partitions by Amit Majmudar*
53. Brodeck by Philippe Claudel*
54. The Twin by Gerbrand Bakker
55. Empire of the Sun by J.G. Ballard (Booker Prize shortlist)
56. An Imperfect Lens by Anne Roiphe
57. The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell
58. The Translator: A Tribesman's Memoir of Darfur by Daoud Hari*
59. The Pathseeker by Imre Kertesz (Nobel Prize winning author)

May
43. Strawberry Fields by Marina Lewycka*
44. The Sound and the Fury by Willaim Faulkner*
45. Radioactive: A Tale of Love and Fallout by Lauren Redniss
46. The Age of Orphans by Laleh Khadivi
47. The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey by Candice Millard*
48. Mornings on Horseback: The Story of an Extraordinary Family, a Vanished Way of Life, and the Unique Child Who Became Theodore Roosevelt by David McCullough*
49. Tsar: The Lost World of Nicholas and Alexandra by Peter Kurth*
50. Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks

April
34. Gate of the Sun by Elias Khoury
35. White Masks by Elias Khoury
36. The Elected Member by Bernice Rubens (Booker Prize)
37. The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi*
38. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
39. Your Republic is Calling You by Young-ha Kim
40. The Dream Life of Sukhanov by Olga Grushin*
41. April in Paris by Michael Wallner
42. My Forbidden Face: Growing up under the Taliban: A Young Woman's Story by Latifa

4labfs39
Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 4, 2011, 12:44 pm

Off the Starter's Block

January
1. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak*
2. The Betrayal by Helen Dunmore* (longlisted for Orange Prize)
3. The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
4. Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly
5. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand*
6. The Night Bookmobile by Audrey Niffenegger
7. City of Veils by Zoe Ferraris
8. To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis* (Hugo Award winner)
9. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell* (Booker Prize shortlist)
10. Mariel of Redwall by Brian Jacques (audiobook)
11. The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer* (longlisted for Orange Prize)
12. The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis* (Hugo and Nebula winner)
13. Blackout by Connie Willis

February
14. The Septembers of Shiraz by Dalia Sofer
15. The Unloved: From the Diary of Perla S. by Arnošt Lustig
16. All Clear by Connie Willis
17. The Waitress was New by Dominique Fabre*
18. A Bed of Red Flowers by Nelofer Pazira
19. Joseph the Bellmaker by Brian Jacques (audiobook)
20. The Line by Olga Grushin*
21. Ali and Nino by Kurban Said
22. I Shall Not Hate by Izzeldin Abuelaish*
23. Sisters of Sinai: How Two Lady Adventurers Discovered the Hidden Gospels by Janet Soskice*
24. Spring Tides by Jacques Poulin*

March
25. Doc: A Novel by Mary Doria Russell*
26. Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson*
27. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese*
28. Heat and Dust by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala (Booker Prize)
29. Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout (Pulitzer Prize)
30. Scribbling Women: True Tales from Astonishing Lives by Marthe Jocelyn
31. Travels in the Scriptorium by Paul Auster
32. Emergence: Labeled Autistic by Temple Grandin
33. A Stone in My Hand by Cathryn Clinton

5labfs39
Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 7, 2011, 1:36 am

This is a completely subjective list, classifying books by the author's ethnicity, not by the country in which they are currently living. I'm creating it in an attempt to ensure that I am reading globally and not only from the US, Britain, and Australia.

Afghani:
A Bed of Red Flowers by Nelofer Pazira
My Forbidden Face by Latifa

Azerbaijani:
Ali and Nino by Kurban Said

Czech:
The Unloved: From the Diary of Perla S. by Arnošt Lustig

Dutch
The Twin by Gerbrand Bakker

Ethiopian:
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

French:
The Waitress was New by Dominique Fabre
Spring Tides by Jacques Poulin
Brodeck by Philippe Claudel

Hungarian
The Pathseeker by Imre Kertesz

Iranian:
The Septembers of Shiraz by Dalia Sofer
The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
The Age of Orphans by Laleh Khadivi

Israeli:
The Liberated Bride by A.B. Yehoshua

Italian:
From the Land of the Moon by Milena Agus

Korean:
Your Republic is Calling You by Young-ha Kim

Lebanese:
Gate of the Sun by Elias Khoury
White Masks by Elias Khoury

Mauritanian
The Last Brother by Nathacha Appanah

Palestinian:
I Shall Not Hate by Izzeldin Abuelaish

Russian:
The Line by Olga Grushin
The Dream Life of Sukhanov by Olga Grushin

Sudanese:
The Translator by Daoud Hari

Ukrainian:
Strawberry Fields by Marina Lewycka

6labfs39
Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 8, 2011, 12:43 pm

TIOLI Challenge

July
Challenge #2: Read a book whose title ends with your middle initial
Journey to the River Sea

Challenge #11: Read a themed anthology
How to Fit a Car Seat on a Camel

Challenge #12: Read a book with a “direction” in the title
From the Land of the Moon

Challenge #21 : Re-read a book that you first read before age 21
Rascal

June: 3

May: 4

April: 3

March: 4

February: 5

January: 12

7labfs39
Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 28, 2011, 1:45 pm

Phew! Got everything in before the first visitor. I'm now open for business. :-)

8Trifolia
maaliskuu 28, 2011, 1:57 pm

found you, starred you !

9ffortsa
maaliskuu 28, 2011, 2:05 pm

Continuing the discussion of short stories combined into novels from your last thread:

Faulkner did that, with a collection of short stories turned into Go Down, Moses. It includes at least one of his most famous stories, 'The Bear', and other stories arranged more or less in chronological order about the same people. Some book club members thought it didn't work - I liked it, but then, I wasn't surprised by the structure.

10detailmuse
maaliskuu 28, 2011, 2:25 pm

I love creative structures, changes in perspectives and sideways looks at things, so collections of linked short stories are my current favorite. All the better when they combine into an arc of a novel. I've even partly mapped out a collection to write myself. "Tricked" !! I'll be sure to give fair warning :)))

11detailmuse
maaliskuu 28, 2011, 2:44 pm

About Gawande’s books (from your previous thread) -- they're collections of incredibly readable essays about healthcare topics, usually using a clinical case-study as a jumping-off point into history, sociology, medicine, etc. They have medical detail, sometimes somewhat graphic.

I read two of them pre-LT so can only go by my ratings, but their order of publication and my preferences happen to match:
Complications 5 stars
Better 4.5 stars
The Checklist Manifesto 4 stars (I did review this one here)

I think Complications is more general and recommend starting there.

12labfs39
Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 28, 2011, 2:50 pm

# 9 I guess it's always hard to classify those works that cross things like genre and format. To me, the books we've been discussing are collections of related short stories, not novels. But the actual literary definition is fluid and could encompass both.

As you say, it helps if you're not surprised, and, I think, if you like short stories.

A similar conundrum for me is the definition of a graphic novel. Does it include comic strips that have the same characters and some sort of progression? Oh, say, a Doonesbury collection about a particular election campaign? I would say not, but I think an argument could be made either way.

ETA that this message is in response to post 9.

13labfs39
maaliskuu 28, 2011, 2:48 pm

#10 *giggle* Well, if you do write it, I'll make an exception and be sure to read it!

#11 Thanks, I'll look for Complications. I think that may have been the one Bonnie was talking about too.

14labfs39
Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 29, 2011, 11:22 pm



30. Scribbling Women: True Tales from Astonishing Lives by Marthe Jocelyn

Canadian author, Marthe Jocelyn's, latest book is a collection of eleven short biographies of interesting women, some popularly known, others not. The premise is that these women all felt compelled to write and "wrote it down, passed it along, told us they were here, and took the time to illuminate their worlds."

The first woman showcased is Sei Shonagon, a lady-in-waiting who lived from 965-1010 in Japan. Her journal, known in English as The Pillow Book, sounds fascinating from the few snippets of poetry, lists, and gossip we are given. There are also chapters on Margaret Catchpole, an Englishwoman accused of stealing a horse and transported to Australia to serve her sentence; Mary Hayden Russell, whose letters to her sister were written on board a whaling ship; Ada Blackjack, an Inupiat who was the sole survivor of an Arctic exploration team; and Dang Thuy Tram, a communist doctor on the front lines of the Viet Nam war. Published authors include Harriet Ann Jacobs, Isabella Beeton, Mary Kingsley, Daisy Ashford, and Doris Pilkington Garimara.

The women profiled are all unusual in some way, and the excerpts included are tantalizing. At the close of each chapter, I was left wanting more: my interest was piqued. But unfortunately, I was also frustrated. Jocelyn’s mini-biographies contained little in the way of new information or insights, and, in some chapters, very little of the source material was included. Such a format would have been understandable if there had been opening or closing chapters that brought the biographies together in some way and addressed issues such as public versus private writing, how the format influences our perceptions of the writer, or the impact women’s writings as a whole have on our view of history. Without ideas to unite the biographies in some way, I felt as though I were reading entries in a women’s history encyclopedia. In sum, an unremarkable book about remarkable women.

Please note that at this time, touchstones are not working for either books or authors.

15KiwiNyx
maaliskuu 29, 2011, 11:47 pm

That's a pity, the book started off sounding amazing. I am intrigued to source The Pillow Book now though.

16labfs39
maaliskuu 30, 2011, 12:13 am

#15 My thoughts exactly. The section on Sei Shonagon was only five pages long; I kept looking for an appendix or something so that I could read more than the tiny snippets included. I would also like to read Dang Thuy Tram's journals, Last Night I Dreamed of Peace.

17detailmuse
maaliskuu 30, 2011, 10:11 am

>14 labfs39: I remember that one from Early Reviewers so am glad to read your review; I'll pass. But after your comments about I Shall Not Hate, I requested it this month and won, looking forward to it.

About touchstones, I hear they're being enhanced as part of an upgraded Talk that's in progress. Touchstones aren't being added for "new" works until the new Talk goes in ... :( weeks or months from now?

18labfs39
maaliskuu 30, 2011, 4:06 pm



31. Travels in the Scriptorium by Paul Auster

Part puzzle, part mystery, and part postmodern commentary, I loved how this book kept me guessing until the very end when my head spun around so fast I had to go to the chiropractor. It's not your everyday straightforward narrative, but it's also not so esoteric that you start to snooze just from reading the jacket flap. It would make a great group read, because it's a book begging to be discussed.

Interrupt all you like. We're involved in a complicated story here, and not everything is quite what it seems to be.

An old man wakes up to find himself alone in a small room with complete amnesia. The only clues are stickers conveniently labeling "wall", "lamp", "desk"; and a pile of photographs and several manuscripts on the desk.

He can't remember how long he has been here or the nature of the circumstances that precipitated his removal to this place. Perhaps he has always been here; perhaps this is where he has lived since the day he was born. What he knows is that his heart is filled with an implacable sense of guilt. At the same time, he can't escape the feeling that he is the victim of a terrible injustice.

In an existential kind of way, the old man begins to explore his physical and psychological boundaries. I don't want to give away too much, so I'll just say it's a fun read.

19baswood
maaliskuu 30, 2011, 6:15 pm

I like Auster's writing so I know I will like this after your excellent review

20labfs39
maaliskuu 30, 2011, 9:53 pm



32. Emergence: Labeled Autistic by Temple Grandin

Temple Grandin is a fascinating woman. Diagnosed autistic as a child, Grandin went on to become a PhD holding animal behavioralist who has designed a third of all the livestock-handling facilities in the U.S., including those used by McDonalds. She is a passionate advocate for the humane treatment of livestock, and she also lectures worldwide on autism, both from her own perspective and as a researcher. She has written five books, of which Emergence: Labeled Autistic was the first, published in 1986 and reissued in 2005.

Emergence is an autobiography focusing primarily on her childhood and youth: how she was diagnosed, her mother’s advocacy for her, and the difficulties she encountered, particularly in adolescence. Nine years later, Grandin wrote a second autobiography Thinking in Pictures, and I found that to be the more interesting of the two. Thinking in Pictures reflects not only a more mature writing style, but also describes her thought processes and how she understands the people and animals around her. It includes the salient points from Emergence, so reading both is superfluous. Do read Thinking in Pictures, however, if you haven’t already. Her story transcends autism, the treatment of animals, and the Oscars, and adds another page to the story of humanity.

21KiwiNyx
maaliskuu 31, 2011, 12:32 am

The Paul Auster book looks really good. Wasn't Temple Grandin the person who the film was made about recently and it won and academy award for something?

22labfs39
huhtikuu 1, 2011, 5:10 pm

#17 I Shall Not Hate is a moving and timely book. I'm glad you got an ER copy.

Thanks for the info about touchstones. I was driving myself crazy trying to get them to work.

#19 Thank you. What other works by Paul Auster would you recommend?

#21 Yes, it's a made for tv movie simply called Temple Grandin. It won 7 Emmys, including best movie and best leading actress, Claire Danes. I'm on a very long list at the library for it. Does Blockbuster even exist anymore? I could try and rent it. I don't have a NetFlix account.

23labfs39
huhtikuu 1, 2011, 11:14 pm



33. A Stone in My Hand by Cathryn Clinton

Malaak is an eleven year old girl living in Gaza City in 1988 during the first intifada. Her father has left for Israel, hoping to find work, and Malaak spends hours on the roof of her house watching for his return. Waiting with her is a small bird she has named Abdo. As the days pass, Malaak stops talking and at times she feels her consciousness soar with Abdo.

Silence flutters down on us. It feels like Abdo lighting on my shoulder. This is safe. This slight moment, this space of rest, feels larger than now.

Most of the time, Malaak lives in fear. She thinks that with Abdo's eyes she can see her father in prison. Malaak's mother and sister bustle around the household protectively, but they are hiding something. And Malaak's beloved older brother, Hamid, and his friend, Tariq, have become shababs, or young activists, and even attend a meeting organized by the Islamic Jihad.

I look at Hamid. He is eager. He eats these words. His mouth opens and shuts. He clenches and unclenches his fists.

"We will not dishonor our heroes, our martyrs, by forgetting them. We honor the martyrs today. They are willing to sacrifice their lives to free people from the occupation. There are people all over the world today who are fighting against oppressors. Some will die. Every revolution has its martyrs."

Tariq stands there, unmoving. He doesn't even blink. I wonder if he hears anything. Maybe he is part stone already. A stone for someone to pick up and throw at a soldier...


Malaak spends her youth balancing between trying to keep her family safe and withdrawing into a mystical and silent world of her own. Poetic, yet sparse, the language of the book is hypnotic, and I, too, felt the seduction of withdrawal. It's a beautiful book, written for young adults, but I would recommend it for anyone interested in the Palestinian situation.

24labfs39
huhtikuu 2, 2011, 3:25 pm

Currently I'm reading Gate of the Sun by Elias Khoury. I had started it a while ago, but gave up about 30 pages in. I should have stuck to the 50 page rule, because the book got much easier to read after page 44. Now I'm enjoying it, although I am continually reminded of my ignorance of Palestinian politics and military alliances from the 1930s onward. I really need to read A History of the Arab Peoples, not just try to cherry pick from it.

25bonniebooks
huhtikuu 2, 2011, 5:23 pm

Hi, Lisa! I just watched Temple Grandin, as a matter of fact. Really good movie, though I think it would be even better if you haven't read the book, since it follows her story so closely. Claire Danes certainly deserved her Oscar!

Your Auster review was really tempting, but I'm going to read the one I already have by him before I add any more. Still, it sounds like a perfect book for mr, especially since you label it as "fun" rather than terrifying.

26brenzi
huhtikuu 2, 2011, 7:10 pm

Found you again. I have read nothing at all by Paul Auster but have been wanting to. Would this be a good place to start? It certainly sounds good.

27baswood
huhtikuu 3, 2011, 4:45 am

#22 Hi Lisa, My favourite Paul Auster novel are Moon Palace and I also like Leviathan, Paul Auster. Both novels are well written and have an original viewpoint.

28msf59
huhtikuu 3, 2011, 7:58 am

I'm with Bonnie (Brenzi), I have never read Auster, (ridiculous I know) and I have several of his books in the stacks!

29labfs39
huhtikuu 3, 2011, 1:44 pm

#25 Did one of the other reviewers call Travels in the Scriptorium terrifying? Huh, the setting is perhaps a bit Orwellian with constant surveillance, for instance, but to me the characters seemed more confusedly benign than scary. I think Monica (JustJoey) was the one I got the recommendation from, so when I saw it at TPB for 1/2 price on my Thingaversary, I treated myself.

#26 Travels was my introduction to Auster, so I'm not much help, but Barrie gives some good recs in post #27.

#27 Thanks, Barry, for the recommendations. I would like to try some more of his books. Travels in the Scriptorium was so creative.

#28 I'm even more ridiculous than you, Mark, because I had never even heard of Auster before Monica's review. I'll look forward to seeing your reviews when you get to him in your stacks.

Plugging away on Gate of the Sun still. It's a challenging read, plus it's depressing. I find I can only read in small doses.

30TadAD
huhtikuu 4, 2011, 11:22 am

>29 labfs39:: Have you tried Khoury's White Masks, Lisa? It was spectacular (imo)! I have, but have not yet read, Gate of the Sun. Darryl was after me to read it for a while but I just haven't managed to get it up to the top of the list.

On the Auster front, you should all try Auggie Wren's Christmas Story when the holidays roll around. It's quite short and very well done.

31detailmuse
huhtikuu 5, 2011, 9:18 am

I've only read Auster's The Red Notebook, stories about coincidences, but am eager to read more. Happy to find the recommendations here.

32labfs39
huhtikuu 5, 2011, 10:30 am

#30 I haven't read White Masks, Tad, and maybe I'll try to find it before I give up on Khoury. I have his Yalo, and I gave up on that one completely. Done as a series of monologue confessions to an interrogator, and every confession is a different rambling version. I had no idea what was doing on. Gave up twice. Perhaps, like Gate of the Sun, I should have perservered and more would have become clear.

#31 It sounds like this is lots more Paul Auster reading to be done in my future!

33TadAD
huhtikuu 5, 2011, 11:47 am

>32 labfs39:: Maybe Khoury just isn't for you. I've got authors like that—everyone raves about them and I just can't hack my way through them. I've only read the one, so I'll have a firmer opinion once I tackle Gate.

34arubabookwoman
huhtikuu 5, 2011, 1:35 pm

I'm a fan of Paul Auster too, although I didn't like his latest, Sunset Park, which I received as an ER book.

I really liked The New York Trilogy. I also really liked Timbuktu, and since you are a "dog" person you might like it too. I don't usually like books that are narrated from the pov of a dog, but I thought this book was exceptional.

Have you considered starting a thread on the Reading Globally group to keep track of your global reading?

I have Last Night I Dreamed of Peace on my wishlist too. I was surprised (don't know why) to find that KCLS has a copy.

35labfs39
huhtikuu 6, 2011, 3:20 pm

#33 Perhaps you're right and Khoury will go on the list with Melville and Hemingway as authors I don't enjoy. I'm still absorbing Gate of the Sun and perhaps by the time I write my review, things will have solidified one way or the other. I read a LT review of Yalo last night that detailed the entire plot. Now that I know what is going on, maybe I can give it another try. Yalo is not a very likeable character, being a murdering rapist (I did get that far), but perhaps I can focus on finding underlying commentary on Lebanese society.

#34 Auster is definitely on the list. Thanks for the suggestions. I don't know if I'll start a thread on Reading Globally or not. I just reactivated my 75 book challenge thread because I missed some of the folks that don't come to Club Read. Plus I created a Goodreads account, just to see what that is all about. So far it sees more like Facebook, and less like the types of communities and discussions we have here, but I'm still exploring. I doubt I'll keep that account active though, once I scope it out. I would rather have one good thread, and with RL being what it is, I think one may be all I can handle.

36labfs39
huhtikuu 6, 2011, 3:25 pm

Sadly I drove by the Borders in Lynnwood today, and it is one of the stores being closed. I'm not a huge fan of mega-bookstores, preferring Indies, but a bookstore is a bookstore, and I hate to see it close. I wandered in while I was waiting for an appointment and picked up a couple of books at what I thought was 50% off. When I got to the checkout counter they said 90% off, and when the register didn't work, said just take them. Well, I couldn't do that, so I handed them some money and slunk out. I felt like a voyeur at a trainwreck--taking advantage of their misfortune. Being me though, I did want to go back and pick up a couple of others that I had seen, now that I knew what the prices were, but I felt too guilty.

I did get Pat Conroy's My Reading Life and Your Republic is Calling You by Young-Ha Kim.

37labfs39
huhtikuu 7, 2011, 1:14 pm

#33 Tad, you won't believe this, but I saw White Masks at my Indie bookstore, and said, well, if Tad likes it... So I sat down and read the first 25 pages. I am completely hooked! It has a plot and some intrigue and different voices. After 500+ pages of rambling, recursive internal monologue in Gate of the Sun, it's manna from heaven. I bought it and plan to go home and read away. Thanks!

38TadAD
huhtikuu 8, 2011, 10:31 pm

>37 labfs39:: You're welcome!

39dchaikin
huhtikuu 8, 2011, 11:03 pm

#36 Lisa - I just read My Reading Life, and really enjoyed it.

40labfs39
Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 10, 2011, 10:40 pm



34. Gate of the Sun by Elias Khoury

The reviews of this book have been so laudatory that I began reading fully expecting to be swept away. Unfortunately, the only thing to be swept was the book, as I pushed it aside for something more readable. Months later, I began again and ground my way through the first forty pages, refusing to give up. The book did get easier to digest; it’s not a book I will read again, however.

Why so difficult? Khoury wrote the book as a stream of consciousness narration, with all the associative leaps and bounds of human thought. Stories are interrupted by other thoughts, the past and the present become interchanged, and the reader is left with a montage of images formed by the onslaught of storytelling. After a certain point, Khoury’s writing stabilizes a bit, and the reader has pieced together enough of the story to be able to follow along. Some stories are then told in a linear fashion, but those of the two main characters spiral around never ending and never seeming to find resolution.

The book is comprised of a young man’s internal monologue as he sits at the bedside of his aged mentor and father figure, Yunes. Khalil talks aloud, hoping that his voice will bring the old man out of his stroke-induced coma. He talks about what is happening in his life and reflects on how he ended up living in a derelict hospital, afraid he will be killed if he leaves, yet knowing the situation cannot continue indefinitely. But mostly Khalil tries to put together the things that he knows about Yunes, in an attempt to create a story that explains the old Palestinian freedom fighter’s life and his relationship with his wife. Along the way, Khalil tells the stories of countless others: the Palestinian midwife living out her life in a Jordanian refugee camp, a Jewish woman living in a house taken from the Palestinian woman who visits her, French actors who visit the camp hoping to improve a play they are doing on the massacre that took place there, the young Gazan fighter who learns his mother is Jewish.

The stories loosely hang together by themes which appear and reappear throughout the book. Primarily it is a book about the inanity of war and the cycles of violence that perpetuate a situation in which neither side can win. War is examined from both the general sense and the particulars of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Why do young men fight and die for a country in which they have never lived? Why does Yunes risk his life over and over to visit his family, rather than bring his family to Jordan? Why do Jews treat the Palestinians in ways that eerily resemble 1930’s Germany?

Others may find the patchwork of discombobulated stories a fascinating look at the situation of Palestinian exiles in Jordan and the themes a literary treasure hunt. Personally, I found the book exhausting. It was like reading Ulysses without a concordance. My recommendation? Read Khoury’s later book, White Masks, instead.

Edited to fix image.

41dchaikin
huhtikuu 10, 2011, 10:48 pm

Lisa - Interesting. You've made it sound like a book I'd like to read, although it also sounds quite challenging.

42labfs39
huhtikuu 10, 2011, 11:08 pm

Good luck. My opinion is that Khoury was trying to hard with this one. Instead of just telling the amazing stories he collected in the refugee camps, he tried to create a literary masterpiece. Many think he succeeded. I feel as though it could have been a better book, and reach a larger audience, if he had been less obtuse.

I do think I would have been a happier reader if I had read his books in reverse chronological order, beginning with White Masks and ending with Yalo. I would have eased into his style of writing instead of beginning with his harder books. Knowing more about Jordanian history would also have been a big help, with all of his books. That's my own fault.

I don't see a review of Gate of the Sun by Darryl, but I think you said he highly recommends the book. I would be interested in hearing his view.

43baswood
huhtikuu 11, 2011, 4:32 am

Lisa, excellent review of Gates of the sun which I have not read yet, but intend to in the future. I note your "health" warnings, which I think are useful for potential new readers. I now know what to expect.

44dchaikin
huhtikuu 11, 2011, 9:45 am

#42 - Sometimes those "obtuse" books appeal to me, not always. regarding your last sentence - wasn't me. I think it was TadAD (post #30)

45labfs39
huhtikuu 11, 2011, 10:34 am

#43 Thanks, Barry. "Health warnings"--I like that! Khoury is an important writer and a voice for the region, but I do think it helps to know what is coming. Forwarned and all that.

#44 You're right, Dan. And you should definitely read Gate, it was just a difficult book for me at the time. An Amazon reviewer is calling for Khoury to get the Nobel Prize.

46labfs39
Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 11, 2011, 1:44 pm



35. White Masks by Elias Khoury

White Masks is a murder mystery told from the perspective of six different characters, and each account raises the possibility of one or more possible perpetrators. Statements by the narrator, a self-described disinterested party who is merely curious about this unusual murder, bookend the six versions. But this genre plot is merely a device for social commentary on the Lebanese Civil War and its effects on the ordinary people of Beirut.

Khalil Ahmad Jaber is a simple man, a minor civil servant in the post office, who derives a great deal of self-respect from the fame and then martyrdom of his son, Ahmed. Obsessed with his son’s death, Khalil gradually becomes benignly insane, wandering his neighborhood whitewashing the poster covered walls of the city. His death seems inexplicable. Who would want to torture and then murder this obsessed but harmless old man?

The narrator, a travel agent originally trained to be a journalist, becomes interested in the case and interviews the victim’s wife, a gossiping architect well-known in the neighborhood, the wife of the deceased caretaker of a local building, the garbage man who discovered the body, a young militiaman who witnessed the victim being brought in for questioning, and the deceased’s daughter. Also related is the story of the doctor who performed the autopsy. Each interview is not only another perspective on Khalil, but also the story of their life and, from their diverse experiences, a picture of life in an ordinary Beirut neighborhood is formed. Corruption, compromise, and crime form the backdrop against which these people try to survive.

I found it hard to put this book down, despite my usual avoidance of the murder mystery genre, and that is because the book is more about people caught in a vise of violence than it is about who killed Khalil. I was caught up in the lives of these people and in the theme Khoury weaves about the inanity and uselessness of war and violence in general. Parts of the book made for grim reading, but I was also inspired by the resilience and fortitude of these ordinary people. I would highly recommend White Masks as an introduction to the literature of Elias Khoury.

Edited to fix double paste

47dchaikin
huhtikuu 11, 2011, 1:55 pm

Excellent review, I'm fascinated.

48labfs39
huhtikuu 11, 2011, 2:11 pm

You should read Tad's review. He gets it just right.

49baswood
huhtikuu 11, 2011, 5:04 pm

I am definitely going to read those two Elias Khoury books, but first I plan to reed The Great War for Civilisation The conquest of the Middle East by Robert Fisk to give myself some background. Unfortunately the Fisk book is over 1200 pages short and so I may be some time.....

50brenzi
huhtikuu 11, 2011, 5:36 pm

Wow same author, entirely different results. "Hard to put down" books are also hard to resist. Thanks Lisa for two excellent reviews.

51msf59
huhtikuu 11, 2011, 8:59 pm

Lisa- Good review of White Masks. That looks like one I would like. Thanks! BTW- Ann & Michael, from BOTNS, were wonderful. It's no surprise that they have received this type of attention. They deserve it all.

52TadAD
huhtikuu 12, 2011, 11:05 am

>48 labfs39:: Thanks, Lisa. That's a very nice thing to say.

53labfs39
huhtikuu 12, 2011, 3:52 pm

#49 I wish I had done something similar, Barry. I've got History of the Arab Peoples by Hourani sitting here, and it would have been helpful to read it first. All I know about the Lebanese Civil War, I've picked up from novels. Pretty pathetic.

#50 Thanks, Bonnie. I did have different reactions to the two books, but mostly on a format/style issue. Both have important stories to tell about the Palestinians and Lebanese.

#51 I think you would like White Masks, Mark. Although every time I give a recommendation, I immediately begin to worry that the other person won't like it! It's amazing that Ann and Michael do BOTNS in addition to their jobs at Random House. How do they manage? I'm still working my way through their old podcasts. Even though some are dated, there are gems too.

#52 And true to boot! Every time I post a review and then read a review you've written on the same book, I sigh and hope that someday I'll be able to say what I think as eloquently as you. Even though we may have different things to say. ;-)

54bonniebooks
huhtikuu 26, 2011, 11:39 am

Wow, it seems so long ago (both in time and in terms of the kinds of wars that have gone on since) that I read Thomas Friedman's book about the wholesale destruction of Lebanon (well before The World is Flat, but don't see the title listed). It seemed like such a unique and awful war, but since then there's been the break up of Yugoslavia, and the siege of Sarejevo, then Iraq, Afghanistan, and all the never-ending wars in Africa. The Lebanese civil war sadly doesn't seem very unique any more.

55labfs39
huhtikuu 26, 2011, 2:52 pm

Well, I'm back from another busy vacation and once again didn't get in as much reading time as I would have liked. Tired now, and dreading catching up on reviews. Here's what I have on the to review list:

36. The Elected Member by Bernice Rubens (Booker Prize)
37. The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi*
38. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
39. Your Republic is Calling You by Young-ha Kim

Tried to read The Everglades: River of Grass since I visited them, but just couldn't get through much at all. Every time I started to read, my eyelids would begin to weigh more and more until I was nodding and rereading the same sentence as I drifted off. What little I did read had interesting facts, but the old style prose was just too hard for me to concentrate on this trip. It's going back to the library unread.

Currently I'm reading The Dream Life of Sukhanov, which is nearly as good as Grushin's second book, The Line. The only negative is that I feel as though she is trying too hard to be poetic, instead of just letting it happen.

I'm also currently listening to my daughter read Igraine the Brave aloud to me, and I must say, I am quite involved in the plot of this children's novel. I wish my daughter read larger chunks at a time!

56dchaikin
huhtikuu 26, 2011, 8:04 pm

too bad RoG didn't work for you, but also glad you have decided not to torture yourself with it. I had trouble keeping at it sometimes - especially those 1st 50 pages. I overcame that with lots of coffee, a strange determination to understand the Everglades, and another book to read, when my full attention wasn't there. :)

57labfs39
huhtikuu 26, 2011, 10:21 pm

#54 I have From Beirut to Lebanon on my shelf too. I should read it, and A History of the Arab Peoples for a broader understanding. How odd, the touchstone for Friedman's book leads to The Locust and the Bird by Hanan Al-Shaykh. I have no idea how that happens.

#56 She writes beautifully, but in a style that is rather old-fashioned, if you know what I mean. The facts she imparts were very interesting, and I too would like to understand the glades better. A ranger recommended The Swamp: The Everglades, Florida, and the Politics of Paradise by Michael Grunwald. Have you read that one?

58labfs39
huhtikuu 26, 2011, 11:16 pm



36. The Elected Member by Bernice Rubens

Bernice Rubens is an author I learned about on LibraryThing, and since The Elected Member is a Booker Prize winner (and I liked the cover), I started with it. Unfortunately the copy I received from the library had a different cover, but I managed to like the book anyway.

Norman Zweck is an intelligent, talented lawyer who has a nervous breakdown of sorts after becoming addicted to drugs. The reasons for his breakdown are numerous, but they all stem from the same source: his family. Much of the book is told from Norman’s perspective as he tries to deal with his peculiar afflictions, such as his disgust and hatred of silverfish which he sees everywhere when on the “white”. I have an irrational fear of silverfish myself, so I sympathized. But the heart of the story is the slow uncovering of layers of family relationships that have poisoned Norman’s psyche. His parents and siblings have made him the “elected member” of the family to bear the weight of all their thwarted hopes and dysfunctions.

They could not bear to make him miserable, though if she were honest, it was her own pain and her father’s that was unsupportable. And so they had both entered Norman’s derangement, making it workable, tidying it even, making it all ‘nice’.

Although a bit dated now, I can see why The Elected Member won the Booker Prize. The characters are complex and their relationships convoluted. Just as you start to like a character, another layer of family secrets is uncovered, and you must reevaluate your impressions. Using the family’s sad and codependent histories and the claustrophobic setting, the author was successful in making me uneasy yet involved. I marked many pages for further thought and will definitely look for more Rubens once I have fully digested this one.

59dchaikin
Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 26, 2011, 11:25 pm

#57 Lisa - Grunwald's book is excellent. It lead me to River of Grass; and also to Their Eyes were Watching God & Cross Creek. I have a (practically unread ?) review: http://www.librarything.com/review/12852796

ETA - I enjoyed your review in #58

60labfs39
huhtikuu 26, 2011, 11:26 pm

#59 Great review, Dan. Based on it, I think I would read parts one and two and maybe skip three. I'm curious: how does it tie in to Their Eyes were Watching God? Forgive me if it is obvious, I haven't read Their Eyes in a very long time, but I remember liking it. I haven't read Cross Creek.

61dchaikin
Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 26, 2011, 11:38 pm

It covers the 1928 hurricane - the one that killed thousands when it caused Lake Okeechobee to break through it's dike and flood the low lying farms and mostly black farmers - but not the famous one - that was 1926. Hurston was a magnificent writer and the way she captured it is unique and beautifully done...and accurate. She was able to interview many of the survivors while their memories were fresh.

I just read Cross Creek, but haven't been able to review - I didn't really like it. :}

62labfs39
huhtikuu 27, 2011, 12:05 am



37. The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

I am new to graphic novels, with the exception of the Maus books which I read long ago. Persepolis renewed my appreciation for the genre and blew me away with its delivery. My only regret is that I read an edition that combined Persepolis I and II in a rather unattractive presentation.

Marjane Satrapi was born in Iran, and her family experienced the tyranny of the Shah and the effects of the Islamic Revolution. The first book is about her family’s history, the politics of her parents, and her growing understanding of how a dream of freedom led to a fundamentalist State. The Satrapi family is interesting in that it teeters on the edge of many contradictions. Connections with the Shahs’ reigns conflict with her parents’ ardent communism and participation in the protests leading to the Revolution. Her parents’ professed political values conflict with the luxury and privilege that Marjane experiences. And yet I think the family is typical in its disappointment in the usurpation of the Revolution and the decline of modern Iran into a repressive state. At the age of fourteen, Marjane is sent alone to Austria in an effort by her family to give her a better life, and the second book deals with her experiences there. Isolated by her inability to speak the language, as well as the nature of her childhood experiences, Marjane loses her sense of self. It is only reconnection with her family and her country that saves her.

Marjane is amazingly candid, and her story is extremely compelling, but what really blew me away was how much the format of the book affected my reading experience. Her illustrations convey an emotional intensity that would be hard, if not impossible, to recreate in words. I had a visceral response to some of the frames and instantly understood exactly what she meant in others. Her ability to tell a story through pictures is exceptional, and Persepolis has become a personal benchmark for judging other graphic novels. Highly recommended.

63dchaikin
huhtikuu 27, 2011, 12:55 am

Lisa - Apologies for posting here so much, but glad you enjoyed Persepolis - it's one of the best things I've "read" this year.

64baswood
huhtikuu 27, 2011, 3:37 am

Lisa, excellent review of The complete Persepolis. Here in France graphic novels are big business and I find them useful for learning French. I am going to read Persepolis after your review

65TadAD
huhtikuu 27, 2011, 6:40 am

Hi Lisa. Stopping by to say hello.

That's a nice review of Persepolis. I think I'll try to pick it up this week.

66msf59
huhtikuu 27, 2011, 7:00 am

Lisa- Good review of Persepolis. I'm a big fan too! Try to find the film version. They did a terrific job.

67labfs39
huhtikuu 27, 2011, 10:16 am

#63 You can never stop by too often, Dan. I enjoy our conversations. Thanks for the follow up info on The Swamp and Their Eyes Were Watching God. I really need to go bad and read that one; I obviously have forgotten/missed a lot.

#64 Thanks, I hope you enjoy Persepolis. It's one of my favorite reads of the year so far. I remember reading Asterix when I was studying in France. Too many odd historical terms in that one, but I can see how other graphic formats would be really helpful.

#65 I'll look forward to hearing your perspective, Tad. In rereading my review just now, I realized I used the same phrase twice. Now why didn't I see that last night? Urgh.

#66 Hi Mark! You and all the chatter on your thread are the reasons I chose to read it, of course. Thanks for a great suggestion. I saw on the cover of the book that the film version won the 2007 Cannes Film Festival Jury Prize. Is the movie in a graphic format as well?

68bonniebooks
huhtikuu 27, 2011, 10:49 am

Nice review, Lisa! I once rented that movie, but decided after a few scenes that I'd rather read the book. Haven't done it yet, but eventually I'll get to it.

69labfs39
huhtikuu 28, 2011, 8:55 pm

#68 Thanks, Bonnie. Maybe once you read it, we can have a movie night and popcorn with Deborah. :-)

In honor of Harper Lee's birthday today, I added her to my list of favorite authors. I usually only add authors when I've read several of their books, but since she only wrote one, I think I can make an exception!

70labfs39
huhtikuu 28, 2011, 9:06 pm

On Dan's thread we've been talking about Pat Conroy's "writer's manifesto" from My Reading Life. I wonder what a conversation between Pat Conroy and Alistair MacLean would be like? I heard this bit of commentary on The Writer's Almanac today:

Alistair MacLean wrote testosterone-heavy thrillers, but unlike his contemporary Ian Fleming, he didn't include any sex or romance in his books, because he felt they got in the way of the action. "I'm not a novelist," he said, "I'm a storyteller. There's no art in what I do, no mystique."

It's interesting to think about the difference between a storyteller and a novelist. Do you think MacLean meant that he simply wrote down a preconceived story as opposed to creating one? If so, I'm not sure I agree with that.

71msf59
huhtikuu 28, 2011, 10:30 pm

Lisa- The film version of Persepolis is animated in the same style as the graphic. Very impressive.

72dchaikin
Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 28, 2011, 11:50 pm

#70 - I don't know where to go with that one. I think A-McL was just trying to dodge some criticism...and maybe trying to be macho.

I think somewhere in the back of my mind I have assumed a novelist is first a storyteller...kind of like I see an visual artist as first someone who makes pictures. But, I haven't ever challenged these preconceptions.

73Mr.Durick
huhtikuu 29, 2011, 3:35 pm

John Gardner, whose literary declarations are sometimes thought to be inflated, said that a novelist first should have a story to tell. Having read novels somewhat after reading that I agree, although I usually find a novel devoid of serious characterization an empty exercise (there are romances and a few others which merit exception), so I think MacClean's posture needs more than revelation to remain upright.

Robert

74labfs39
huhtikuu 29, 2011, 4:28 pm

#72 It's very unfair to take a single sentence out of context and assume we know what MacLean meant. Yet I do think his juxtaposition of novelist and storyteller an interesting one. In my mind, storytelling is linked with an oral tradition. Although novelists do, of course, tell stories, I feel that writing a novel is not a passing on of a simple story, but a self-conscious construct. I wonder if MacLean meant that he simply wrote an action-packed story with little self-conscious creation of allusions, allegories, serious characterization, and all the rest. That would make the antithesis of one of MacLean's thrillers Joyce's Ulysses, or more recently for some of us, David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas.

#73 So although MacLean had a story to tell, without the "serious characterization", that Robert brings up, it is less like a novel than a story.

75janemarieprice
huhtikuu 29, 2011, 6:11 pm

62 - Great review!

76baswood
huhtikuu 29, 2011, 6:55 pm

#70
I think we all know what Maclean means. He will tell a story from start to finish in a clear and progressive narrative style. Nothing gets in the way of the story. I for one think there is an art to story telling: there are certainly good and bad story tellers. Edgar Rice Burroughs (whom I used to love reading) always seemed to be described as the "prince of storytellers" on the dust jackets of his paperbacks, and a storyteller needs to set the scene, provide background, create tension, and sometimes atmosphere to make people want to read the stories.

Genre writing for example: crime, romance, fantasy, science fiction, historical fiction, contains more storytelling aspects than anything else. It is when they are considered to have literary merits as well that they morph into novels. I have no problems with the point Maclean was making.

77labfs39
toukokuu 2, 2011, 2:32 pm



The Everglades: River of Grass by Marjory Stoneman Douglas

I am not counting this book in my 75 Book Challenge because I came no where near to finishing it. Not because there wasn't interesting information tucked away in the book, put because I literally could not keep my eyes open for more than ten minutes whenever I picked up the book. I'm rather disappointed, as I was visiting the Everglades at the time and keen to learn more about them.

Here is a paragraph from chapter one, part three:

The saw grass stands drying to old gold and rustling faintly, ready, if there is a spark anywhere, to burst into those boiling red flames which crackle even at a great distance like a vast frying pan, giving off rolling clouds of heavy cream-colored smoke, shadowed with mauve by day and by night mile-high pillars of roily tangerine and orange light. The fires move crackling outward as the winds blow them, black widening rings where slow embers burn and smolder down into the fibrous masses of the thousand-year-old peat."

78rebeccanyc
toukokuu 2, 2011, 2:51 pm

Lisa, have you read Shadow Country by Peter Matthiessen? It is a magnificent, complext portrait of the of the Everglades in the early 20th century, with all its natural grandeur and human scheming.

79labfs39
toukokuu 2, 2011, 2:58 pm



38. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

Hearing the buzz about the book on some of the threads, I requested it from the library for my vacation. I'm glad I didn't buy it. I didn't actively dislike the book, although I found the ending very frustrating, rather I was left completely indifferent.

Jimmy is a bright kid from a slightly dysfunctional family who becomes friends with the new kid in school, a cool geek everyone calls Crake. The story of Jimmy's childhood and early adulthood and relationship with Crake are told in flashbacks, as the real-time Jimmy struggles to survive in a post-apocalyptic world. The author manages the transitions back and forth in time deftly, and the two threads come together at the end with a similar dilemma in each. Oryx, the other title character, is a child prostitute and porn star with whom both boys fall in love, with predictable results.

The strident message of the book concerns the moral quandary facing genetic scientists when the world has devolved to a violent and degenerate society whose members struggle to survive on the earth's depleted resources. The warning of "this could happen to you" is felt throughout. Both are typical themes of apocalyptic novels, and I was rather disappointed that I didn't find some special twist or flash of originality, which I expected from an Atwood novel. When the novel ends, or rather, doesn't end, I was left feeling like "so, what? Did I miss something?"

80labfs39
toukokuu 2, 2011, 3:05 pm

#78 I haven't read Shadow Country, thank you for the recommendation. Your review is very intriguing. A ranger in the park also suggested The Swamp: The Everglades, Florida, and the Politics of Paradise by Michael Grunwald.

81labfs39
toukokuu 2, 2011, 3:45 pm



39. Your Republic is Calling You by Young-ha Kim (translated from the Korean by Chi-Young Kim)

I have been reading some nonfiction lately trying to educate myself about the Korean War and the subsequent North Korean regime. This novel was a different look at the complex situation existing between North and South Korea, and the preconceptions held by each of the other.

On the surface Ki-Yong is an ordinary South Korean businessman and content husband and father. But just below the surface are tangled relationships and allegiances, for Ki-Yong is also a North Korean agent. One day he receives a message that turns his world upside down: North Korea wants its sleeping agent back. Ki-Yong has one day to decide if the message is real, whether fellow agents have received the message, and how he is going to respond.

I was intrigued by the premise of the book, and for the most part, it delivered. Twists in the plot kept it interesting, and there were some gems of description whose images lingered:

He looked like a man who had seen all of his dreams and hopes sputter and managed only to survive, powered by the few drops of cynicism left in the bottom of his fuel can. Ennui dripped down his plant legs with his every step.

A cross between a spy novel and a social commentary, I found the combination entertaining with a few moments of reflective pause.

82bonniebooks
toukokuu 2, 2011, 7:22 pm

A slightly different version of the stories in Shadow Country was presented in separate books a few years back. I read those and they were dark, but outstanding, and the history of Florida was so incredibly interesting.

83labfs39
toukokuu 2, 2011, 10:58 pm

#83 Yes, it sounds like it was originally a trilogy that got paired down into this one book. I've added it to my TBR list.

84dchaikin
toukokuu 2, 2011, 11:01 pm

(78/80/82/83) - I'm planning to read Shadow Country (the single volume version) next, once I finish The Lacuna.

85labfs39
toukokuu 2, 2011, 11:10 pm

Stopped by the library today to pick up some books on hold and swung by the book sale shelf as usual. I was amazed to see eight or nine pristine Franklin Library classics. I brought some up to the counter and asked how much they were. The usual of $1 per hardcover, the librarian told an astonished me. She also told me that there were a few more in the back room, did I want them too? All together I got 14 books and to ease my conscience, made a donation to the Friends of the Library. I was very excited! Some I didn't own, and I only had terrible paperbacks of others, either yellowed with age or with miniscule print (Anna Karenina).

Crime and Punishment
Anna Karenina
The Sound and the Fury
The Scarlet Letter
Pride and Prejudice
Vanity Fair
David Copperfield
The Magic Mountain
Jane Eyre
Paradise Lost
Wuthering Heights
Canterbury Tales
Tom Jones
Faust

86labfs39
toukokuu 2, 2011, 11:11 pm

Stopped by the library today to pick up some books on hold and swung by the book sale shelf as usual. I was amazed to see eight or nine pristine Franklin Library classics. I brought some up to the counter and asked how much they were. The usual of $1 per hardcover, the librarian told an astonished me. She also told me that there were a few more in the back room, did I want them too? All together I got 14 books and to ease my conscience, made a donation to the Friends of the Library. I was very excited! Some I didn't own, and I only had terrible paperbacks of others, either yellowed with age or with miniscule print (Anna Karenina).

Crime and Punishment
Anna Karenina
The Sound and the Fury
The Scarlet Letter
Pride and Prejudice
Vanity Fair
David Copperfield
The Magic Mountain
Jane Eyre
Paradise Lost
Wuthering Heights
Canterbury Tales
Tom Jones
Faust

87bonniebooks
toukokuu 2, 2011, 11:40 pm

Wow, Lisa! That's really fantastic! I normally prefer paperbacks, but when they're classics like that, I would love to have those hardbound copies. I bet the librarian was so happy that they went to a real booklover who would appreciate them. Are you going to put them on their own special shelf?

88labfs39
toukokuu 3, 2011, 12:01 am

You are right, the librarian said exactly that. She could see how excited I was and that I wasn't a reseller. No I'll interfile, but they sure are pretty all lined up on my desk right now. :-) I agree that paperbacks are sometimes easier to read being more malleable, but between yellowing and print size, I would have had a hard time reading some of them. Since I missed SPL's sale, where you made out well, this was a nice treat.

89msf59
toukokuu 3, 2011, 7:25 am

Wow, you were so excited you posted it twice!! Great haul of classics. Pristine too? Nice!

90rebeccanyc
toukokuu 3, 2011, 8:30 am

#83 Matthiessen himself edited the trilogy into one volume and explains why and how in the introduction. I hope eventually to read the trilogy too.

91labfs39
toukokuu 3, 2011, 10:17 am

#89 Whoops! I was excited. I was like a kid on my birthday.

#90 Interesting. I added Shadow Country to my TBR list. I'm getting curiouser and curiouser. I think I saw that the condensed version won the National Book Award. I wonder if that has ever happened before.

92ffortsa
toukokuu 3, 2011, 11:05 am

Unbelievable that the library would sell those books for a buck a piece! Glad they are in an appreciative home now. They're the kind of books you read in your high-backed chair, with a cognac on the side table and the light coming over your shoulder.

at least, that's my fantasy.

93bonniebooks
toukokuu 3, 2011, 1:57 pm

I don't think Matthiessen considers the new book a condensed version. He added to the three stories as well. He considers it a rewriting and a whole new book, but really much different can it be?

94brenzi
toukokuu 3, 2011, 3:36 pm

Hi Lisa, just want to add my two cents to the Metthiessen comments. I loved Shadow Country and it was in my Top Ten a couple years ago. I haven't read the three separate books, though I could be tempted.

Lucky you, getting those wonderful books from the library sale.

95rebeccanyc
toukokuu 3, 2011, 5:35 pm

I agree that I don't think he considers it condensed; I think he wanted to make it more powerful, and it certainly is powerful. "Book" 2, which he says he cut the most, was still the one that worked the least for me, although I was completely impressed by the work as a whole. I doubt that it is a "whole new book" but my copy is currently boxed up and I can't check his introduction to see how he described his intent.

96KiwiNyx
toukokuu 3, 2011, 7:54 pm

Congratulations on such an amazing score, what an impressive book haul.

97labfs39
toukokuu 3, 2011, 10:08 pm

#92 Hi Judy, sigh, my fantasy too. As it is, it's more likely to be me squashed on the end of the couch with the lab shedding on my blanket, my daughter explaining to me for the nth time why she needs the snails to live in the house, and a cup of cold tea neglected at my elbow. :-| But it's nice to dream!

#93-95 I'm tempted to read the introduction at the bookstore until I have time to check out the book. I am curious as to his reasons and methods for the rewrite. Three books to one is a significant change.

#94, 96 Thanks Bonnie and KiwiNyx. I am enjoying my new books immensely, and today I started one, The Sound and the Fury, which I haven't read since college.

98labfs39
toukokuu 6, 2011, 3:19 pm



40. The Dream Life of Sukhanov by Olga Grushin

Olga Grushin is my newest favorite author. Although she has only written two books, The Dream Life of Sukhanov and The Line, they are both are so superb that I am convinced that anything she writes will be good.

Anatoly Sukhanov is a successful art magazine editor with a beautiful wife, an ambitious son, and a rebellious teenage daughter. At fifty-six, Anatoly has mastered the ability of writing about art without ruffling Soviet ministerial feathers: which topics to avoid, which names to redact, and whose opinion to follow. The key is not to think too much and definitely avoid remembering a different time, when he had different dreams, during the heady days of the Khrushchev Thaw. But overnight Sukhanov’s world is turned upside down. An uncomfortable meeting with an former friend, colleagues who talk about a new freedom to express themselves, and cracks within the comfortable routine of his home life, all come together to shake Sukhanov’s vow not to remember the past. Memories begin to leak into his mind until they become a torrent, and he finally has to face a decision he made many years before and its repercussions.

Grushin’s prose has a dream-like quality that perfectly suits the mood of the novel. Although the descriptions and phrasing seem a bit forced in the beginning (a first-time author trying too hard?), Grushin finds her voice, resulting in beautifully constructed images and descriptions. Equally impressive is how she is able to portray the life of an ordinary, long-time Soviet official suddenly faced with glasnost. Although too young to have experienced it herself, she was born in Moscow in 1971, Grushin is able to authentically portray the internal confusion of a man who made difficult choices in order to survive repressive regimes and is now faced with an openness that seemingly condemns those choices. It is a situation millions of Russians faced in the late 1980s, and the consequences of that internal dislocation have contributed to the backlash against free market democracy and the rise of a modern repressive state. Grushin does a nice job of creating a character that is fascinating on his own and yet representative of an entire generation.

Highly recommended.

99KiwiNyx
toukokuu 6, 2011, 9:51 pm

Great review. I'm reading a history of the last Tsar at the moment so the Russian theme is already in my head. This one looks good and I will keep an eye out for this author now.

100TadAD
toukokuu 7, 2011, 6:15 am

Hi, Lisa. The Dream Life of Sukhanov sounds interesting but I went and read your review of The Line and it sounds even more appealing, so my inclination is to try that one first. What do you think?

101labfs39
toukokuu 7, 2011, 2:16 pm

#99 Thanks to Linda's thread, I picked up Tsar: the lost world of Nicholas and Alexandra by Peter Kurth and hope to get to it soon. Which one are you reading?

#100 I did like The Line better, although I enjoyed both. Dream Life was her first book, so it had the feel of being written by a new author, at least in the beginning. I thought The Line was brilliant in the premise and well executed. According to her website, she's working on a third book, and I look forward to seeing where she goes next.

102labfs39
toukokuu 7, 2011, 2:41 pm



41. April in Paris by Michael Wallner

I'm a sucker for novels of daring-do by the French Resistance, so I enjoyed April in Paris in this vein. It's not particularly well written (it is Wallner's first book), and the plot becomes extremely, almost irritatingly, far-fetched. Despite this it was a fun one night stand.

Corporal Roth is a rather placid young German working as a translator in occupied France. When he is transferred to work for the SS translating the interrogations of French Resistance suspects, Roth begins to show signs of stress. So he decides to escape the pressures by changing into a suit and wandering Paris as Monsieur Antoine. In this guise he meets and falls in love with a beautiful young women named Chantal. I'm sure you can guess at the rest of the plot.

The book reminded me of another, slightly more thoughtful examination of lovers from opposite sides of a conflict. The Girl Who Played Go is set in Manchuria during the Japanese occupation, and the action is a little more subtle.

103brenzi
toukokuu 7, 2011, 6:54 pm

Hi Lisa, I'm enjoying all the reviews you're writing lately. I had already added The Line and am just waiting until I can get my hands on it.

104KiwiNyx
toukokuu 8, 2011, 4:55 am

#101 Hi Lisa, yep I've got the Peter Kurth volume as well and have almost finished it. It's quite a behemoth of a book but well worth the effort. And yes, it was Linda's thread and review that got me to order it from the library. A dangerously good thread that one. ;)

105labfs39
toukokuu 8, 2011, 2:03 pm

Good times this weekend. Yesterday my husband gave me 2.5 yards of comPosted dirt. Yea! My herb garden and flower beds needed some love. Today my seven year old daughter gave me a book she had picked out for me herself: River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey. She's got good taste.

So I'm sitting in bed enjoying my tea and reading Age of Orphans, which is turning out to be a little disappointing so far. None the less, a very nice morning.

Happy Mothers Day!

106msf59
toukokuu 8, 2011, 5:02 pm

Happy Mother's Day Lisa! Your daughter has excellent taste. River of Doubt has been on my WL. I've heard very good things. Hope you are having a great day.

107labfs39
toukokuu 8, 2011, 11:35 pm

#103 Hi Bonnie, thanks for stopping by. I finally got caught up on your thread. Wow! Lots of good reading. I'm glad The Line is on your list. After a warm-up period, I was impressed, intrigued, and definitely interested in reading more by Grushin. If you like it, I think you will like Dream Life of Sukhanov as well.

#104 I look forward to reading your review. The pictoral format is a nice change from some of the other chunksters about Russian history.

#106 Thanks, Mark! Glad you had a nice time at the movies. I definitely need to get Water for Elephants off the shelf. To tell you the truth, the reason I haven't before now is kind of silly. I read Modoc and was quite moved, then learned that the author had duped everyone by calling it a memoir when it's autobiographical fiction at best. Silly not to just enjoy it, whether nonfiction or not, but I was peeved and haven't read about elephants since!

108labfs39
toukokuu 9, 2011, 12:14 am



42. My Forbidden Face: Growing up under the Taliban: A Young Woman's Story by Latifa

In the past year I've been trying to read more authors from the Middle East and books about Middle Eastern history. During the process, I have gravitated toward women's memoirs from the region. I picked up My Forbidden Face months ago for this reason, as well as for the arresting cover photo.

Latifa is the pseudonym of a young woman, born in Kabul in 1980, who grew up during the Soviet occupation of her country and the subsequent struggle for power by rival factions. She was sixteen when the Taliban took control, ending the continuous battles and shelling she was used to, but completely changing her life with their fundamentalist policies. She now lives in Paris.

It is a story that we, as Americans, have become more familiar with in recent years. After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, the plight of Afghan women became a mainstream topic in the media, and more books by Afghan women were published as a result. Some authentically describe the demeaning and brutal treatment of women under Taliban rule. Other books seem to me to be tools used to sway public opinion about the war in Afghanistan. Unfortunately I felt as though My Forbidden Face, was one of the latter.

Latifa’s story is touching and at times thought provoking in its unexpected honesty, such as when she says she would not choose to wear the chador, unless of course her husband desired it. But throughout I was conscious of her collaborator and translator, Shékéba Hachemi. As the Founder of Afghanistan Libre, Shékéba has an obvious agenda, and I felt manipulated by her control over Latifa’s story. Even though I agree with Shékéba ‘s desire to improve the lives of Afghan women and girls, I didn’t like trying to find Latifa’s voice within a more educated, polished, and pointed narrative. Latifa’s story is an important one, I just wish I could have read or heard it in her own words.

109baswood
toukokuu 9, 2011, 4:00 am

Interesting thoughts about My forbidden face. I wonder how much Latifa knew/knows about the final text of her book. Presumably Latifa speaks French.

110dchaikin
Muokkaaja: toukokuu 9, 2011, 9:01 am

Lisa - duplicating baswood's comment, interesting review. I wonder to what degree the flaws were a result of an effort to just get the story out there and published (which is maybe admirable, considering the topic) and how much was an effort to manipulate for an agenda.

111kidzdoc
toukokuu 9, 2011, 1:37 pm

Nice review of My Forbidden Face, Lisa.

112labfs39
toukokuu 9, 2011, 4:37 pm

The lastest issue of Belletrista is out. Now you can read more about the great new Mary Doria Russell book, Doc, which I was fortunate enough to get to review. I'm also ecstatic that MDR is coming to my local Indie bookstore to speak next Monday. Then Geraldine Brooks on Weds. A plethora of riches.

Mark, you'll love Doc!

113labfs39
toukokuu 9, 2011, 4:48 pm

#109 and #110 Perhaps I'm too sensitive. For instance, I felt similarly, although to a lesser degree, about The Aquariums of Pyongyang. It's so hard to know how much of what is being written is coming from the subject and how much from the writer/translator. My discomfort when reading My Forbidden Face comes from the occasional passage or statement that seemed out of kilter with the rest. I felt as though these fragments were truly Latifa, and they didn't necessarily jive with the rest of the book. The dichotomy between the two was what led me to wonder about the motivations in publishing the book. Doesn't make the story less important, but it does effect how I think about the book.

#111 Thanks, Darryl

114labfs39
Muokkaaja: toukokuu 10, 2011, 10:46 pm



43. Strawberry Fields by Marina Lewycka

Strawberry Fields, published as Two Caravans in the UK, is the rollicking, bawdy, heart-touching, and socially charged story of a group of migrant workers who meet while picking strawberries on an English farm. Chance has thrown them together in very tight quarters, and when Irina, an innocent nineteen-year-old Ukrainian girl, arrives with her sponsoring agent, a hulking “person of minimum culture”, the delicate balance existing among them is broken. With a cast of characters based loosely on those in Canterbury Tales, the story follows the travails of Irina and fellow immigrant Andriy as they try to navigate the undercurrents of illegal immigrant life.

Marina Lewycka is a quirky writer, and I can see how she may not appeal to everyone. I, however, laughed heartily at A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian and looked forward to reading this, her second novel. Although as humorous and unconventional as ever, Lewycka shows a darker side as she probes how agents bring illegal immigrants into a country, often confiscating their passports upon arrival, and how the bright dreams of the immigrants are dashed when reality falls far short of the easy money and social advancement they are promised. In addition, she takes a detour through a chicken processing plant guaranteed to make you think twice the next time you buy a plump breast. Nominated for the Orwell Prize, Strawberry Fields blends a fun story with social commentary and a look at the stereotypes we all have about one another.

Recommended for those looking for something a little different.

Edited to try and fix touchstone.

115kidzdoc
toukokuu 11, 2011, 8:22 am

Nice review of Strawberry Fields, Lisa. I'll add this to my wish list.

116dchaikin
toukokuu 11, 2011, 8:52 am

Lisa - great reviews of Doc and Strawberry Fields. Going back to posts 93/95/97, I just started Shadow Country this morning. In his introduction PM says that it took him 6 to 7 years to re-write the trilogy into one book...so, a litte more was done than a simply condensing the trilogy.

117labfs39
toukokuu 11, 2011, 10:39 am

#115 Thanks, Darryl. It's a quick read and fits into this month's Orwell Prize TIOLI.

#116 Interesting, Dan. I'm looking forward to reading that introduction as much as the book! Does he say why he decided to do a rewrite? Easier accessibility, tighter story line, better chance of a Prize ;-)

118dchaikin
toukokuu 11, 2011, 12:58 pm

Well, he says it better than I can. He intended it to be one very long book (1500 pages*). As three books, the second book fails, but yet is essential (to him, I haven't read them). So, he wasn't happy with that. He thought it would take a year to re-work it back into one book, but ended up re-doing everything.

*Final book is 892 pages in my edition.

119rebeccanyc
toukokuu 11, 2011, 1:37 pm

The second "book" is still not quite up to the other two, which are stunning, at least in my opinion.

120baswood
toukokuu 11, 2011, 6:10 pm

I will look out for Strawberry Fields; it sounds good from your review even if it's not Strawberry Fields Forever.

121labfs39
toukokuu 12, 2011, 12:01 am

#118 Wow, that's a labor of love. 892 pages, huh? I'll need to set aside more time to read this. It can be my July project.

#119 You tempt me to read the trilogy, or at least books one and two, but I think I'll stick to the latest version. Since you've read the trilogy, you should read the one book version and tell us how they compare. ;-)

#120 Hee, hee. Nice one, Barry!

122labfs39
toukokuu 14, 2011, 7:46 pm

I have a million posts to catch up on (LTers sure are prolific) and four reviews to write, but I wanted to pop in and recommend The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey by Candice Millard. Despite a horrible week (car accident-everyone ok, hellacious meetings, etc.), I couldn't put this book down. I even took it to the collision repair shop just in case I had a minute (I didn't). It was so fascinating that I plan to start Mornings on Horseback next. I hope it is as good.

123avaland
toukokuu 14, 2011, 9:43 pm

>108 labfs39: You may be interested in checking out the Afghan Women's Writing Project

"The Afghan Women’s Writing Project is aimed at allowing Afghan women to have a direct voice in the world, not filtered through male relatives or members of the media. Many of these Afghan women have to make extreme efforts to gain computer access in order to submit their writings, in English, to the project."

124labfs39
toukokuu 15, 2011, 4:06 pm



44. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner

So much has been written about this classic of Southern literature, that I feel I have little to add to the conversation. So instead of a review per se, I am going to reflect on the introduction to The Sound and the Fury written by Robert Penn Warren in 1979, the fiftieth anniversary of the novel.

What we now think of as an American classic was met with skepticism in 1929, as illustrated by one review entitled "Signifying Nothing", says Warren. For many the book was "at first glance unreadable, idiotic, precious, or tricky." The idea of a book being unreadable or tricky is a subject that always comes up with books like Ulysses and more recently in our LibraryThing group read, Cloud Atlas. I find myself wondering how much of the difficulty is a result of self-conscious gimmicks on the part of the author, and whether the author did it deliberately to try and create a book that, as a result, is seen as intellectual. If it is a ploy of some sort by the author, does that make the book less valid, important, or enjoyable?

I don’t think any reader enjoys being mocked by the author, but in many cases I think the author is simply stretching the boundaries of what we consider proper literature. Until we become comfortable with the new boundaries, readers are ill at ease and left wondering if they are being duped. Hence, Warren’s “unreadable, idiotic, precious, or tricky”. Once the book has settled into the public’s consciousness, it becomes a signpost in the development of literature and is often then called a classic. That doesn’t always happen within the author’s lifetime.

In the case of The Sound and the Fury, Faulkner seems to have been struggling with inner demons and with how to exorcism them through his writing. Warren quotes him as saying, “So I, who had never had a sister and was fated to lose my daughter in infancy, set out to make myself a beautiful and tragic little girl.” What made the book “idiotic” to early readers was that Faulkner couldn’t find the right voice in which to tell Caddy’s story, and so ends up telling it in several: none of which is Caddy’s. To muddy the waters further, Faulkner wrote several versions of each point of view, and editors have differed on the definitive selections. From Warren’s introduction it seems that Faulkner may have been trying to write the story in one voice, but couldn’t decide which worked best. Wouldn’t it be ironic if one of today’s literary icons were actually a compilation of pieces never really intended to be a single work, but pieced together by default? Perhaps the real trick was played on Faulkner himself.

125labfs39
Muokkaaja: toukokuu 16, 2011, 12:46 am



45. Radioactive: A Tale of Love and Fallout by Lauren Redniss

Not being an artist or a frequent reader of graphic novels, I approach the genre with hesitation, almost as though it is not meant for me. Occasionally, I will be captivated by a story and how it is enhanced by the illustrations, other times I feel as though I'm looking for a cucumber in the cereal aisle. Such was my reaction to Radioactive.

The plot line was fascinating: the lives of Marie and Pierre Curie and their work as scientists. I immediately wanted to go out and get a more comprehensive memoir. This one is almost like a dream sequence or fable of their lives, although seemingly well-researched. The illustrations are bright and large, often covering both facing pages, and are interspersed with photographs. Although both text and art were good, together it felt a bit busy, and I enjoyed it more when I read and looked at pictures separately.

Recommended for fans of the genre and for those wanting a colorful introduction to the Curies.

126rebeccanyc
toukokuu 16, 2011, 7:28 am

Lisa, someone gave me Radioactive: A Tale of Love and Fallout and I haven't had a chance to read it yet. Thanks for your review.

127dchaikin
toukokuu 16, 2011, 10:10 am

Lisa - Radioactive is now on my wish list...although, for the record, i'm looking for graphic novels and one on Marie Curie just sounds naturally interesting.

Very interesting post on The Sound and the Fury, encouraging... and a terrific post.

And, just to mention, I've thought about River of Doubt for awhile and wondered whether it was really as good as it sounded like it could be. Happy to know you enjoyed, look forward to your review.

128detailmuse
toukokuu 16, 2011, 10:11 am

>124 labfs39: Faulkner may have been trying to write the story in one voice, but couldn’t decide which worked best. Wouldn’t it be ironic if one of today’s literary icons were actually a compilation of pieces never really intended to be a single work, but pieced together by default?
I love this possibility. It'll stay in my mind when I finally tackle The Sound and the Fury.

>125 labfs39:
I've read just a few graphic novels (actually, all are memoirs) but far prefer the unstructured format (e.g. Stitches especially; Blankets) to the panel (comic strip) format (e.g. Maus, Persepolis, and currently Barefoot Gen). I just put Radioactive on inter-library hold but when I see it I suspect I'll have to buy it!

129labfs39
toukokuu 16, 2011, 10:34 am

#123 The Afghan Women's Writing Project is a great resource. Thank you!

#126 I hope you like it when you get to it. Have you noticed that the cover glows in the dark? Nice touch given the subject.

#127 Hi Dan. I'll look forward to your reactions to Radioactive. And I highly recommend River of Doubt. I think you will appreciate the information about plants and animals, as well as the main story. The author's not a naturalist, but what's not to find interesting in the rainforest!

#128 How funny! My favorites so far are Maus and Persepolis! In that case, I think you will like Radioactive very much. :-)

130janemarieprice
toukokuu 16, 2011, 2:20 pm

Nice review of The Sound and the Fury.

131KiwiNyx
toukokuu 16, 2011, 4:24 pm

Excellent review for Radioactive and I had no idea it is a graphic novel - it is reserved at the library so I'll see for myself soon enough. I also enjoyed your write-up for The Sound and the Fury, altough it sounds like a confused book and I can't decide whether to add it to the list or not.

132msf59
toukokuu 16, 2011, 6:51 pm

Hi Lisa- Loved your review of The Sound and the Fury. I read it, many years ago, but I'm due for a re-read. I also enjoyed your comments on "Radioactive". I was more satisfied with it, overall, than you, but I'm glad you are turning more people on to it, over here. It deserves it. Was tonight, the night you were hearing MDR? That's great. I'm jealous.

133bonniebooks
toukokuu 16, 2011, 6:52 pm

I want to read Radioactive too, and don't know whether I'll like it more or less for it being a graphic novel. Count me as one of the LT-ers who loved Still Alice.

134labfs39
toukokuu 16, 2011, 11:17 pm

I'm so excited! I just heard Mary Doria Russell speak about her new book, Doc, and she is the funniest, most down to earth person. It was great fun, and she was very gracious during the book signing when I plugged our LT community. ;-)

For those interested in the inside scoop about Doc, I'm going to write more tomorrow, as well as what she says about the possibility of a sequel. So stay tuned MDR fans!

135brenzi
toukokuu 17, 2011, 4:20 pm

Yay it seems I tuned in to your thread just in time Lisa. I will finish Doc: A Novel tonight and will be anxiously awaiting your continued writing on the subject. Is she going to go on to Tombstone I wonder??

136labfs39
Muokkaaja: toukokuu 17, 2011, 10:44 pm

Mary Doria Russell is one of my favorite authors, and one of the most versatile. She has written about, "Jesuits in space", in The Sparrow and Children of God. As well as two 20th century historical fiction novels: A Thread of Grace, about Jews and resistance fighters in fascist Italy, and Dreamers of the Day, about the 1921 Cairo Peace Conference. In Doc, her fifth and most recent novel, she writes a fictionalized biography of John Henry Holliday and his one healthy summer, the summer of 1878.

Last night MDR started her book tour to promote Doc at our very own Indie bookstore. She is a small feisty person with a raucous sense of humor and a tell-it-like-it-is style. Her family is from Chicago where her grandfather did time for armed robbery and her father rebelled by becoming a cop. She grew up around guns, and she believes in honest cops, all facts which play into her writing about Wyatt Earp, in particular.

She says it’s embarrassing, but true, that she gets a lot of her ideas from TV. When Fess Parker died in March 2010, she thought about writing about the character he portrayed on TV, Davy Crockett. Once she began researching, however, she realized that “his political life was an analog of Sarah Palin’s. He liked good clothes and was a jackass and proud of it.” She couldn’t write about someone she couldn’t be in love with.

Then she happened to watch the movies Tombstone (Kurt Russell) and Wyatt Earp (Kevin Costner). At the same time, she was serving on her city council’s planning committee and was asked to research gun laws around the country. She realized that the issues facing her town were not that different from those of Dodge City: vice (topless bars) and gun control. When she was asked to participate in a film series, she chose Tombstone as the movie she wanted to review and lead a discussion on (which led others to say, “really?”)

What impressed her most was how young Doc and Wyatt were, and how little they wanted fame and notoriety. She began reading biographies, and “He (Doc) broke my heart.” She decided to tell the story of Alice Holliday’s son. “Read it and weep,” she advised the audience.

Some random facts from the ensuing Q and A:
Emilio Sanchez, from The Sparrow, is based on three people in her life with a heavy dose of her father’s childhood. The plot came from the question: what would I do if I were a 57 year old gay Jesuit? (Not a question I would have thought to ask myself!)

She doesn’t read much fiction, likes her own imaginary friends better. Reads a fair amount of science nonfiction, watches HDTV, and reads magazines.

The fictional characters in Doc each illustrate a facet of society that she wanted to tie in. Johnnie came about because she was thinking of writing a murder mystery at one point, and decided to work one into Doc, where he would identify the corpse from the dental records. Although Johnnie Sanders is fictitious, the story of his parents is true.

After getting her PhD, she taught gross anatomy at a dentistry school, giving her another tie to Doc.

Believes that people can only focus intently for three hours at a time. Gets up in the morning and rereads everything she wrote the day before. She is a “relentless, constant, obsessive reviser”, both as she goes along and then after she finishes when she reads the manuscript several times through.

At her publisher’s insistence, she now has a blog and Facebook page. Her “dignity died” the day she had to sign up for a twitter account. Says it is a “cognition vampire.”

137labfs39
toukokuu 17, 2011, 11:32 pm

***May be considered a mild spoiler for Doc***

Margaret Mitchell was John Henry Holliday's cousin. Supposedly Gone with the Wind is heavily based on the Holliday clan. The character of Melanie Wilkes is based on Doc's cousin, Martha Anne, whom JH was supposed to marry. When Martha Anne entered the convent, she chose the name Sister Melanie. Although bred to be a John Wilkes, his life too “cracks in half", and he ends up despised by his family and social class for being a professional gambler (like Rhett Butler). Only Melanie continues to believe in him. When JH's father found out that he was making a living at the tables, he vowed never to speak JH’s name again. Like Rhett, JH seeks solace in the arms of a prostitute.

MDR considers the chapter "Wild Card" to be the keystone of the book. JH’s life was balanced by two possibilities: marrying a girl in town much like himself and living out his (and her) few remaining years in respectability, or staying with Kate and ultimate betrayal.

“This book is so much about music. Yet not one reviewer wrote about it. Did they read the book?”

And finally: YES she is working on a sequel, “The Cure for Anger,” and it will cover the Tombstone debacle. She says Doc is her Odyssey and the Tombstone book will be The Iliad. She feels that she “has a bead on these guys” and has more to say about them. Her love affair with Doc is not yet over!

138labfs39
toukokuu 17, 2011, 11:46 pm

Phew, now that that is off my chest!

#130 Thanks, Jane. The Sound and the Fury has been reviewed a bizillion times, so I thought something different might be in order.

#131 Hi KiwiNyx. That's so funny that you didn't know Radioactive: A Tale of Love and Fallout was a graphic novel. I hope I didn't spoil the surprise for you! (P.S. The only way I can get the touchstone to stick is to type out the whole title. Annoying.)

#132 Thanks for stretching my reading boundaries, Mark. I have enjoyed the experience, even if some of the books aren't my favorites. It has challenged me to explore new worlds!

I too had read The Sound and the Fury as a student. I remembered it as being impossible to follow. I found it easier, though not easy, this time.

#133 I thought I might bump into you at TPB last night, Bonnie. Not an MDR fan? I'll look forward to your thoughts on Radioactive: Love and Fallout. (Ooohh, I got away with typing less that time and the touchstone took.) Sorry, missed the Still Alice reference?

#134 So what did you think of Doc, Bonnie no. 2? Are you glad she's writing a sequel, or do you think she's missed the mark?

139Whisper1
toukokuu 18, 2011, 1:59 am

I was so very haunted by The Sparrow that I haven't read any of her other books. Thanks for the comments regarding her discussion at the bookstore. I'm very tempted to try this book.

140TineOliver
toukokuu 18, 2011, 2:30 am

Lisa - nice review of the Sound and the Fury, which I've recently finished reading myself. I think there's a 'readability' conversation to be had generally and this novel is a good starting place for such a discussion. Setting aside reading for educational purposes (which I approach differently to reading for pleasure and it may be the same for others), I always wonder whether readers struggle because they want to understand everything right away, are too busy trying to figure out in advance where the narrative is going, are stressing about their memory or are concerned based on preconceived ideas that a particular book is going to be difficult to read, instead of trusting the author to tie it all together in the end. I have to admit having no idea what was going on when reading the first section (narrated by Benjamin) - i.e. that there were two Quintens, etc.

Some of the best books I've read have similar non-linear narratives, in many of which I'd argue that the underlying 'story' itself (by which I mean the series of events if you set them out chronologically) is not as important as individual incidents, the way in which the story is told and/or the how individual incidents relate to each other. Examples that spring to mind: Catch-22, The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

At the far end of the spectrum, you have books like The Book of Flights, which have no discernable narrative at all.

I'll also be reading Cloud Atlas shortly, so I'd be interested to hear your thoughts!

141baswood
toukokuu 18, 2011, 8:00 am

Lisa, enjoyed your post about Mary Doria Russell and her book sounds interesting . I have added it to my to buy list. I am intrigued by the mix of fact and fiction.

142bonniebooks
toukokuu 18, 2011, 11:01 am

Lisa, I am a fan of MDR. Loved The Sparrow and Thread of Grace, but was bored/annoyed with Dreamers of the Day. I was just at TPB on Friday, and didn't notice that she was going to be there. I haven't read The Doc yet, but want to. Sounds like she was super fun to listen too. Great details about her life and her books, and how they interconnect, Lisa!

143dchaikin
toukokuu 18, 2011, 1:20 pm

#140 - TineOliver - I think you've just come very close to diagnosing one of my reading problems. I have trouble starting most books, because stressing about whether I'm reading it correctly...(this would be big problem with something like The Sound and the Fury.)

144brenzi
toukokuu 18, 2011, 1:59 pm

OMG Lisa. I finished my review last night and will post it when I get a chance but the music was so important and I included that in my review and actually listened to Beethoven's Fifth Piano Concerto as I wrote the review! I can't believe the professional reviewers didn't pick up on that.

I loved, loved the book probablyt even a little more than A Thread of Grace my previous favorite. I'm going to print out your synopsis of her presentation and stick it in the book because I will definitely reread this one. I also felt like I was having a love affair with Doc.

How lucky you were to see her. I'm very jealous;-)

145TineOliver
toukokuu 18, 2011, 7:39 pm

143: I used to be the same - I'd be someway into a book and be saying "I have no idea what is happening here! I must have missed something/be reading this wrong!", but after reading a quite a few of that type of novel, I've started trying to relax and trusting the author to get me there in the end. I guess it requires both trust (of yourself and the author) and patience. (That said, I don't know how I'd feel if I didn't 'get it' in the end - some books, the Sound and the Fury being one of them, have the tendancy to feel like some grand literary test!)

I've also just read your review of Radioactive: I especially love your comment about "looking for a cucumber in the cereal aisle". Such an apt way to describe that feeling!

146ffortsa
toukokuu 19, 2011, 12:52 pm

Some books do resolve themselves with patience, but some are just not that good. We need to allow ourselves the opinion that not every published (and praised) book is smarter than we are.

For instance, The Broom of the System by David Foster Wallace. I would not wish that on anyone. I finished it for a book club - otherwise I might have put it down after the first third.

147TadAD
kesäkuu 1, 2011, 3:50 pm

Hi Lisa,

Regarding our conversation of a while ago, I just read Autumn Rounds by Jacques Poulin and I'm happy to say his earlier work seems to be as enjoyable as his newer.

148labfs39
kesäkuu 1, 2011, 7:50 pm

Sorry I haven't been responding to your comments as of late. In the last two weeks, real life caught up with me with a vengance. I was in a minor, but stressful, car accident. Then in the middle of the Girl Scout camping trip (I'm the troop leader), I received a call that my aunt, who had been diagnosed with cancer the week before, was dying. So we scrambled to get back to Maine (from Seattle) in time. Then Friday (36 hours after returning to Seattle) I had my hip surgery. I'm trying to get caught up now, but I don't have a laptop, and I'm supposed to change positions every 20 minutes. So if I don't respond to your comments right away, please know that I am reading them, and will get back to you when sitting isn't such a pain in the... hip.

149labfs39
kesäkuu 1, 2011, 7:51 pm

#139 I recommend you try Doc, Linda. I think it is much more your cup of tea than The Sparrow, which is haunting indeed.

#140 Hi Christine, thanks for coming by. I like your comments about readability and whether readers try too hard to understand everything right away. It made me think of One Hundred Years of Solitude. After reading about a hundred pages, I started over again, this time keeping a list of who was who. I couldn’t stand the ambiguity of not knowing who was being described and which generation we were in. Perhaps if I had been able to let go and trust GGM to wrap it up for me, I wouldn’t have needed my cheat sheet. And perhaps by keeping a list, I lost some of the otherworldly atmosphere GGM was trying to create. I just couldn’t do it though. I’ve reread it several times now and have carefully preserved my list through each reading.

I’ll be interested to hear what you think of Cloud Atlas. To my mind, it is highly structured and unambiguous. Some LTers did a group read of it a while back, and if you are interested, I can try to find the thread we kept for it, as some really interesting ideas came up and were discussed.

#141 Hi Barry. I too am interested in the line between fact and fiction in Doc. In fact, I had the chance to ask MDR a question, and that’s what I asked about. I read a lot of historical fiction, but the question of what the novel brings to the experience that could not have been gotten by the nonfiction is always on my mind.

#142 Thanks, Bonnie. I’m sure an autographed copy of Doc will show up on the TPB used books table soon!

#143 I’m curious, Dan. How do you know when you are reading a book correctly? Do you mean as the author intended? That too is an interesting question: should you read a book as the author intended (i.e. what would the author have known about x when writing the book) or as you experience it (I know about x and think about it when reading the book)? Gosh, that’s garbled, but do you know what I mean?

#144 I can't believe the professional reviewers didn't pick up on that. You are a great reviewer, Bonnie! A post-retirement career perhaps… I’m glad you are as in love with the book and a gunslinger as I am. ;-)

#145, 146 Ah, patience, not my strong suit. And you know, I think I’ve gotten better about saying I didn’t like a book since joining LT. I’ve started writing reviews of books I didn’t like as well as the keepers.

#147 Hi Tad. Another thumping good review. I’ve added Autumn Rounds to my sooner-rather-than-later list. I usually don’t go online to buy books, trying instead to support my local Indie bookstore and library. I think I’m going to have to make an exception for Poulin, however. He’s just too hard to find otherwise, and I know I’ll want to keep and reread his books.

150labfs39
Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 1, 2011, 8:00 pm



46. The Age of Orphans by Laleh Khadivi

I was supposed to receive this book as part of the Early Reviewer program, but the book never came, so I picked up a used copy.

This is one of those books which I expected to like more than I did. I have been reading more books set in the Middle East of late and found the dust jacket of this one intriguing. A young Kurdish boy is captured in a battle between his rugged Kurdish kin and the soldiers of the newly-founded Iran. Given a new name, that of the Shah, Reza learns to survive by becoming the soldier’s soldier and grows up virulently anti-Kurdish. At the apex of his impressive career, Reza marries and is given the captaincy of a new post on the edge of Kurdish-held territory. Who better to fight the Kurds than one of their own? But memories of his childhood come back to him, and he feels a sense of belonging to both the mountains and the people.

Sounds great, right? Unfortunately the book and I never clicked, so although I don’t dislike the book, I don’t feel compelled to rave either. I found Reza to be an annoying and unlikable character from the beginning and was therefore unable to empathize completely with his situation. Although his life as a servant in the army is horrible, there is also something a bit off in his character from the beginning. The trappings and insignia of success were always a siren song for him, and I don’t think I would have liked him even if he were never captured.

The theme of an identity crisis compelling a person to confront her past is always an interesting one. Certainly there is a long way for Reza to go to reconcile the person he has become with the child he was. But, once again, it just didn’t click for me. The crisis is described by Reza’s actions, not his thoughts, and I think I would have been more empathetic if I had known what he was thinking.

So I recommend the book to those who enjoy this setting, as they may have a completely different emotional reaction, but I’m in no hurry to chase down the next two volumes in this proposed trilogy.

151KiwiNyx
kesäkuu 2, 2011, 4:58 am

Hi Lisa, wow you've had so much happen recently. Take care of yourself. Does the surgery recovery plan include a lot of reading?

152msf59
kesäkuu 2, 2011, 7:27 am

Lisa- Sounds like RL has been dealing you some heavy blows! Hope everything works out well for you. Take it slow, we'll be here when you get back. Hugs!

153detailmuse
kesäkuu 2, 2011, 10:08 am

Hope your hip feels better every day!

>TineOliver: readers struggle because they want to understand everything right away {...} instead of trusting the author to tie it all together and Lisa: I lost some of the otherworldly atmosphere GGM was trying to create
Great comments! I'm exercising my tolerance for being befuddled, am up to the length of eg a novella and love it when the underlying (and often unwritten) narrative develops. Definitely the case with Faulkner and often with works told in vignettes such as Touch and The Incident Report. Or Bartleby & Co, which I claimed to have abandoned half-read but reshelved instead; it keeps calling to me and your comments inspire me to get back to it :)

154labfs39
kesäkuu 6, 2011, 7:28 pm

Thanks, everyone for the well wishes.

I like your exercise regime for your tolerance for being befuddled, MJ. Too often I shluff off that type of book as being too contrived and self-conscious. I don't like feeling as though the author is deliberately trying to be pretentious or too cutesy with the literary tricks. But I'm sure I miss out on some interesting works with my impatience and prejudice.

155labfs39
kesäkuu 6, 2011, 7:28 pm



47. The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey by Candice Millard

Hang on to your hats! The Bull Moose is loose in the Amazon!

Having just lost his third run for president, Theodore Roosevelt was feeling uncharacteristically hurt and adrift. A man of unusual energy and drive, he was lost without the constant clamor of politics around him. When he receives a letter from a museum in Argentina asking him to come and speak, he decides to combine post-presidential duties with a visit to his 23-year-old son, Kermit, who was working in Brazil. This combined with an encounter with a fellow adventure seeker and a nod from the American Museum of Natural History set Roosevelt on the path of his most physically arduous trek in a life of arduous treks: to do a first descent of a rapids-filled river through a huge swatch of uncharted Amazon filled with unknown tribes. In true Roosevelt fashion, he and Kermit survive a harrowing adventure filled with starvation, attacks, illness, drowning, and murder, and with the expert partnership of Brazilian explorer, Candido Mariano da Silva Rondon, change the map of South America.

I received this book as a gift and felt compelled to begin reading it right away. Within a chapter, I was spellbound. I'm not a reader of presidential memoirs in general, but the combination of excellent writing, larger than life characters, and an unbelievable storyline kept me flipping pages like I was looking for a plumber in the phone book. The author weaves politics, natural history, and the story of Brazilian relations with native peoples into a tapestry that explains and augments the journey without dragging it down. So intrigued did I become with facets of Roosevelt's character, that I picked up another Roosevelt memoir as soon as the last page of this one was turned. Candice Millard is a storyteller, and she picked a good story to tell. I hope she finds another soon, because this was a great read.

156dchaikin
kesäkuu 7, 2011, 12:02 am

Lisa - you've been through a lot since I last visited here. Hope your feeling better and healing well. Great review of River of Doubt.

Going back to #149 - I never know if I'm reading a book "correctly"...actually, it's worse than that, I'm pretty sure I never read one correctly...ever. :) As for whether we should read the book the way the author intended...Isn't interesting that you ask that question and also that the first answer that comes to my mind isn't yes...instead I'm thinking about it. Not sure what that means...

157baswood
kesäkuu 7, 2011, 3:28 am

Hi Lisa, The river of doubt sounds fun I will look out for it - might be a good book club read.

I can't resist putting in my two pennyworth on Dan's point about the correct reading of a book. I don't think there is such a thing. We have the text of the book in front of us which we read and interpret as we wish. Now we might have read reviews, we might even have read interviews with the author which will colour our thoughts, but at the end of the day it is left to the reader to make decisions on what the book says for him. Even if we are clear what the authors intentions are and then we interpret the text differently who is to say that we are wrong.

This is a huge issue when reading poetry, which is often open to various interpretations. It may be that we read things in a poem that the author did not intend, we might pick up on a particular prejudice for example which might or might not enhance the poem for us. It's all in the text and it's all in our heads.

158dchaikin
kesäkuu 7, 2011, 9:20 am

Barry, I agree, there is no one single correct way to read a book, regardless of the author's intentions. But there are wrong ways, or, at least, less valuable ways. I say this becuase I'm personally in a funk where I'm reading mechanically, taking words without really experiencing them, without seeing that I'm missing something. This isn't why I read. It is better than being stuck, unable to read. But, I want to be engaged in the text, taking in something of value, seeing beyond just simply the words. So, what I mean by correct is some vague notion that i'm getting it...well, part of "it".

Eek, Lisa, sorry for the hijak.

159labfs39
kesäkuu 7, 2011, 10:15 am

Not at all, Dan. I think it's an interesting question. For me, the only time I feel as if a book is being read "incorrectly", if that is even the right word, is when the reader injects into the book ideas that the author would never have been exposed to or known about. How can the author be alluding to The Iliad, if he had never read it? I listened to a podcast interview with David Mitchell and was shocked at how little of what our group read of Cloud Atlas considered so interesting, he had actually intended. Of course, you can argue some may have been subconscious, a la Barry's comment about prejudice. But it was rather shocking that what we thought so clever was unplanned on his part. It rather lessened his aura.

160ffortsa
kesäkuu 7, 2011, 11:18 am

"lessened his aura"

Writers do bring all that they have read and seen to their work, whether they mean to or not. I'll have to take a look at the group read for Cloud Atlas to see what others gleaned from this work.

161labfs39
kesäkuu 7, 2011, 12:23 pm

The example I was thinking of was the comet birthmark. We spent hours discussing it's meaning, it's placement on the body, when it was mentioned, etc. I had to laugh when in the podcast David Mitchell was asked about it and he said he included the birthmark kind of as a joke with his wife because he has it on his knee. He couldn't even remember where he put it on characters or if all of them had it. Did it lessen my enjoyment of the book? No. But I stopped thinking I was missing some deep meaning that he had constructed. We came up with the deep meaning ourselves. :-)

162baswood
kesäkuu 7, 2011, 12:38 pm

Oh that's a good story about the birthmark

163brenzi
Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 7, 2011, 12:51 pm

Hi Lisa, I hope you are starting to feel some relief from the hip pain. The River of Doubt sounds like something I would like as much as you did so onto the teetering tower it goes.

164ffortsa
kesäkuu 7, 2011, 1:11 pm

Well, whatever he thinks he meant by it, it does link the characters together across the timeline.

165KiwiNyx
kesäkuu 7, 2011, 5:56 pm

River of Doubt sound fantastic, and your review has made me want to read my first ever presidential memoir. Interesting discussion about reading, interpretation and context. It reminds me of viewing art when they say 'art is in the eye of the beholder'. I wonder if we could say something similar about reading, perhaps 'reading is what you choose to make of it'?

166labfs39
kesäkuu 8, 2011, 11:29 pm

I am soooo far behind in my reviewing! Just so you know what I've been up to since River of Doubt:

Mornings on Horseback by David McCullough (my second ever presidential memoir). Also very good. Covers Teddy Roosevelt's life through age 28.

Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks. Disappointing. Like with her book about the plague, Year of Wonders, I had real problems with the narrator.

Tsar: The Lost World of Nicholas and Alexandra by Peter Kurth. Wonderful photographs, so-so history.

Gulag: A History by Anne Applebaum. Amazing, fresh look at the history of the Soviet gulags with meticulous research including in newly opened archives.

Partitions: A Novel by Amit Majmudar. An Early Reviewer book about the 1947 partition of India to create Pakistan and the cruelty that forced roughly 14 million to become refugees seeking to cross the newly created border. Impressive first novel. Not an easy read.

167msf59
kesäkuu 9, 2011, 8:36 am

Lisa- Thanks for sharing "The Loon" poem. It was beautiful. I have to find a copy of River of Doubt. It sounds perfect.

168labfs39
kesäkuu 10, 2011, 3:04 pm

#167 Thanks, Mark. I'm glad you liked the poem. My grandparents had a cabin on a lake up in Northern Maine that I went to all the time as a kid. Your trip reminds me of that time and place. Sadly the cabin was sold, and I feel as though a piece of my childhood went with it. My grandfather didn't like to take me fishing though, as he said I talked to much and scared the fish!

I think you will like River of Doubt.

169labfs39
Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 10, 2011, 4:41 pm



48. Mornings on Horseback: The Story of an Extraordinary Family, a Vanished Way of Life and the Unique Child Who Became Theodore Roosevelt by David McCullough

Although a frequent reader of memoirs, I’ve never been drawn to presidential ones. Recently, however, I was recently given a copy of River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey by Candice Millard and, aside from the personal merits of the book, I was intrigued by the enormous personality of Teddy Roosevelt. In particular, some comments in the book about TR’s childhood struggles with asthma and his drive to overcome his physical weaknesses interested me. So a natural follow-up read was Mornings on Horseback which covers the childhood and youth of TR up to the age of twenty-eight.

Winner of the National Book Award and penned by the acclaimed social historian, David McCullough, I was not surprised that the book was well-researched and well-written. Mornings on Horseback begins with TR’s parents, interesting people in their own right, and widens to include not only the extended Roosevelt clan, but also the ideology of an entire class of people into which TR was born. McCullough blends this social history with the personal story of a boy who could have been a brilliant natural historian and subsequent young man who strives to meet his father’s expectations, a man he idolized for his compassion and strength. Where I think McCullough goes beyond a run of the mill biography is in his analysis of how TR was both a victim and a manipulator of his asthma; his relationship with the women in his life, especially his sister, Bamie; and the effect the idea of the West had on TR’s imagination.

Although not the page turner of River of Doubt, Mornings on Horseback was an enjoyable read, especially for a novice reader of presidential memoirs.

(Edited to fix touchstone)

170labfs39
Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 10, 2011, 8:30 pm

Finished another amazing book today: Brodeck, also published as Brodeck's Report, by Philippe Claudel. Started The Twin by Gerbrand Bakker.

Edited to add: interestingly I noticed that my last several books have all been one word titles: Tsar, Gulag, Partitions, Brodeck, The Twin. Too bad it wasn't a TIOLI challenge this month!

171labfs39
kesäkuu 10, 2011, 8:42 pm



49. Tsar: The Lost World of Nicholas and Alexandra by Peter Kurth

This lovely coffee table sized book contains hundreds of archival photographs taken by Nicholas and his family, as well as modern day shots of many of the residences and other locations related to the tsar. The text focuses on the personalities of Nicholas and Alexandra, the out of touch nature of Nicholas’ rule, and the tragic imprisonment and execution of the royal family. Not particularly well-researched, the text should serve as an embellishment to the photos, not as an authoritative history. But the beautiful photographs make the book well worth picking up, even if only to browse for an afternoon.

172labfs39
kesäkuu 10, 2011, 10:55 pm



50. Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks

He is coming on the Lord's Day. Though my father has not seen fit to give me the news, I have the whole of it.

Thus begins Geraldine Brook's newest novel, and therein lies a hint to my problem with the book: a female narrator from an earlier historic period that has implausible and impossible knowledge and modern insight. This same problem plagued her earlier novel, Year of Wonders.

Caleb's Crossing is based on a scrap of historic evidence: a letter written in Latin by Caleb Cheeshahteaumuck, the first Native American to graduate from Harvard College in 1665. This basis for an historic novel is thin, but interesting. How would a young man of the Wampanoag Tribe from Martha's Vineyard end up at Harvard? What would his experience there be like? How would he navigate the enormous social, cultural, and religious differences between his past and present?

Unfortunately, the author chooses to tell this story from the perspective of a young Puritan girl, Bethia. She becomes the vehicle through which the reader tries to hear Caleb's voice. In order to facilitate knowledge of Caleb's life with his tribe, the author has to engineer unlikely free time for a strictly raised Puritan girl to wander the woods, form a relationship with Caleb, and spy on Native ceremonies. Then when Caleb leaves the Island for Cambridge, the author again has to devise an unlikely situation in order for the narrator to stay with the subject. It is awkward and unbelievable. Equally so is Bethia's prodigious ability to learn languages and memorize lessons while eavesdropping from the scullery and her ability to keep a lifelong secret diary written in a most modern voice.

So although Geraldine Brooks has a good ear for story and an interest in historical research, I am becoming less and less impressed with her ability to convey a compelling narrative. Is People of the Book to remain her most accomplished work?

173janemarieprice
kesäkuu 15, 2011, 12:48 pm

Lisa, I hope you are feeing better after all your ordeals. I enjoyed your reivews of the Roosevelt biographies. I have The Wilderness Warrior on my shelves and am looking forward to it.

174labfs39
kesäkuu 17, 2011, 11:03 pm



51. Gulag: A History by Anne Applebaum

I can’t say enough good things about this book. Anne Applebaum has taken advantage of recent archive openings in Russia and conducted thorough and detailed research of the newly available material. Her findings are changing the way people think about the Soviet Gulag system. In the past, most historians had to rely on survivor memoirs and the classic history, The Gulag Archipelago, by Alexander Solzhenitsyn for their information. I think this caused a bias toward the point of view and experience of dissident writers. Applebaum’s use of newly opened archives allows her to uncover the government’s agenda, statistics, and methods; as well as prisoner records, including those of criminals, non-political prisoners, and collaborators who were less likely to share their stories. The result is a new perspective, one that Applebaum thoughtfully and articulately explores.

The first and last sections are chronological in structure, but in the middle section, Applebaum chose to break her material into topics, such as punishment and reward, guards, and women and children. These sections are particularly descriptive and evocative of life in the camps. In addition, I found her comparison of Nazi concentration camps and Soviet labor camps concise and convincing. Her explication of the Gulag as a deliberate and organized economic system was eye-opening: the extent to which the Soviets were willing to go to create and maintain such a system, even in the face of obvious losses, was shocking. I also learned how erroneous I was in my preconception that the Gulag was populated primarily by political prisoners.

Although I found the introduction to sound a bit like a graduate student’s paper, the rest of the book was engrossing and highly readable. I only wish there had been more photos, especially of some of the Central Asian camps. In any case, I highly recommend this Pulitzer Prize winning book.

Thanks to Rebecca (rebeccanyc) for the recommendation.

175labfs39
kesäkuu 17, 2011, 11:25 pm

#173 Hi Jane, thanks for your message. It sounds like The Wilderness Warrior would fill in an important gap in my current knowledge of TR--all his work advocating for and creating national parks.

I'm sorry to hear your rabbit passed away. We had to take my daughter's guinea pig to the vets today. His teeth are preventing his being able to eat. Poor little guy. We had his front teeth filed. Hopefully that will help.

176labfs39
kesäkuu 17, 2011, 11:59 pm



52. Partitions by Amit Majmudar

On August 15, 1947, British India became partitioned into two states: the Dominion of Pakistan (which then included modern day Bangladesh) and the Union of India. The birth pangs of these two nation states were violent and sectarian, displacing 12-14 million people, and killing hundreds of thousands. As Muslims headed one way across the new border into Pakistani territory, Hindus and Sikhs fled in the opposite direction. Atrocities were committed on all sides, and even neighbors and friends grew suspicious, if not outright hostile. The effects of this volatile partition are still felt today in the hostility between the two countries.

In this, his first novel, Amit Majmudar seeks to personalize this enormous tragedy by focusing on the fates of a few: Shankar and Keshav, two Hindu twins, who become separated from their mother while trying to cross the border; a young Sikh girl named Simran, whose father would rather see her dead than dishonored; and a Muslim pediatrician, Ibrahim Masud, who quietly continues to treat the needy without reference to their religion. It is a novel of great beauty and power. Majmudar is a poet, and the images he creates with his words are at once sad and hopeful, sweet and brutal. Although a difficult book to read, it is an important one for giving insight into the mindset that creates revenge and generational conflict.

…for all his personal loyalty to Dr. Masud, there is a part of Gul Singh, too, that believes what is happening is necessary. Some killing must be done. It is a form of communication, the only kind that can cross the partitions between this country and its neighbor, between this world and the next. Their enemies must hear the deaths and know fear; their dead must hear the deaths and know rest.

Highly recommended.

177baswood
kesäkuu 18, 2011, 4:46 am

A second glowing review of Gulag: A History and Partitions as well looks right up my street. Two more books on the to buy list. Thanks for those excellent reviews.

178msf59
kesäkuu 18, 2011, 6:48 am

Lisa- 2 more good reviews and 2 more potentials! Nice job! Have a good weekend.

179labfs39
kesäkuu 18, 2011, 12:09 pm

#177 Thanks, Barry. I was on a streak for a while with really good books. I should have put in my review that Partitions was an Early Reviewer book.

#178 Hi, Mark. Of my recent reads, I think you will like River of Doubt best, but these two were excellent as well.

Supposed to rain all weekend here. Seattlites are molding. Will spring/summer never come?!

Precipitation for the year is running 4.36 inches above normal... May's 2011 weather for Seattle brought below normal temperatures, sunshine, clouds, and rain after a very wet and record breaking cold April. There were three days in May with sunny sky conditions...

I'm four or five chapters into Thousand Autumns and enjoying it! I hope to get to the thread today.

180KiwiNyx
kesäkuu 18, 2011, 6:36 pm

Already had those on the list but your reviews made me want to add them again.

181avaland
kesäkuu 20, 2011, 7:34 pm

Cripes, what a lot of great reading you've been doing. Just catching up and a bit overwhelmed with two months of posts here. Thanks for your MDR reportage. Of course, I hosted MDR before and she is indeed exactly as you describe. I love to hear her talk about her books and I loved hearing she paid attention to Fess Parker (I thought he was dreamy back in the 60s but I watched him in Daniel Boone more than I did Davy Crockett). Her comments on the Crockett/Palin comparision are priceless.

Hope you have recovered well from your hip surgery.

182brenzi
kesäkuu 22, 2011, 10:07 pm

Hi Lisa, this is such a dangerous thread for me because well, you read so many great books. I might pass on the Brooks book (for now) but I'll definitely be adding Partitions and Gulag. Was that an ER book that I foolishly passed up?

183TadAD
kesäkuu 23, 2011, 7:02 am

Both Gulag and Partitions go onto the list. You've got a good reading streak going!

184labfs39
kesäkuu 23, 2011, 4:14 pm



53. Brodeck (originally published as Brodeck's Report) by Philippe Claudel

Is collaboration in wartime an act of self-preservation or an opportunity to let out one’s secret distrust of The Other? Is collusion a collective, social act or a collection of single, personal decisions? How do you live with betrayal?

These are some of the questions explored in Philippe Claudel’s book, Brodeck’s Report. In a fairy tale village in the woods, a stranger has been murdered. Brodeck, a man recently returned from the camps, is asked to represent the village and write an official report of what occurred. At the same time, Brodeck writes a secret report, in his own voice, about what he learns and about his own life and the decisions he has made. The book begins:

I’m Brodeck and I had nothing to do with it.
I insist on that. I want everyone to know.
I had no part in it, and once I learned what had happened, I would have preferred never to mention it again, I would have liked to bind my memory fast and keep it that way, as subdued and still as a weasel in an iron trap.
But the others forced me.


From the first lines, before the reader even knows what has happened, she is asked to take sides. Is Brodeck innocent? Should some memories be allowed to fade away, or is there a moral imperative or human compulsion to share the truth?

I loved this book for the very ambiguity that makes the answers to these questions so difficult. In haunting imagery and beautiful language, Claudel leads Brodeck to the brink of the abyss and asks the reader to join him in looking in. A Holocaust novel without ever saying the words, Brodeck’s Report is easily one of the best books I’ve read this year, and I recommend it for its plot, its language, and most importantly for its ability to make me think.

185rebeccanyc
kesäkuu 23, 2011, 5:20 pm

Sounds like a winner, Lisa. I think I looked at this in a bookstore and didn't buy it, but now I will.

186labfs39
kesäkuu 23, 2011, 8:14 pm

#180 Dodged those book bullets!

#181 Thanks for dropping by, Lois. Meeting MDR was fun, not least because she completely shattered the mental image I had of the author of The Sparrow and the others. For one thing, she's really funny, but she tends to write serious books.

#182 Partitions was a ER book. I'm a lucky duck with that one. As for Caleb's Crossing, it passed the day, but was nothing to run right out and look for (like I did). Sigh. Don't you hate it when you love one book by an author so much that you read everything else she's ever written or will write hoping for another wowzer? And not finding it?

#183 Hi Tad, I was on a great reading streak with several best of 2011 books, but it ended after Brodeck's Report. I hit a dry spell, but I'm so far behind in reviews that it looks like I'm having a good reading week. :-)

#185 I hope you do get it, Rebecca. It's one of those books that if I had borrowed it from the library, I would have needed to go out and buy a copy as soon as I were done.

187KiwiNyx
kesäkuu 23, 2011, 8:20 pm

Definitely agree, it sounds great. It's always high praise when you read it is one of your top reads of the year.

188labfs39
kesäkuu 23, 2011, 11:48 pm



54. The Twin by Gerbrand Bakker

Translated from the Dutch by David Colmer, The Twin is the story of a middle-aged man in limbo. Helmer spends his days tending to his invalid father and to his father’s dairy farm. His entire life is a direct consequence, he feels, of the death of his brother thirty years before. Forced at that time to leave university and take care of the farm, Helmer nurses a grudge against his father for favoring his brother, Henk, and a conflicting sense of guilt and anger toward his dead brother. The book begins with a change, Helmer moving his father upstairs, and this small change leads to another and another until Helmer is able to make the biggest change of all.

Although I appreciated the deft way in which the author, Gerbrand Bakker, depicts the quiet angst of an emotionally frustrated man, I was not drawn into the story the way I usually am with a well-written book. Perhaps I was unable to empathize adequately with Helmer, being younger, female, and more decisive. Or perhaps the quiet, slow moving book was simply not meshing with my reading mood. The result is that although I could appreciate the book, I couldn’t like it. I have no doubt, however, that others will find it compelling.

189labfs39
kesäkuu 24, 2011, 12:27 am

55. Empire of the Sun by J.G. Ballard (Booker Prize shortlist)

I dislike books that claim to be autobiographies, but are actually fictionalized memoirs. I’m sure we can all think of a couple that have made headlines in recent years. In the forward to his book, the author, J.G. Ballard, writes:

Empire of the Sun describes my experiences in Shanghai, China, during the Second World War, and in Lunghua C.A.C (Civilian Assembly Center), where I was interned from 1942 to 1945. For the most part this novel is an eyewitness account of events I observed during the Japanese occupation of Shanghai and within the camp at Lunghua.

The story that he goes on to tell is heart-rending, yet inspirational. As a boy, Jim grew up in the luxurious world of a British ex-pat in Shanghai. Then, on the same day as the bombing of Pearl Harbor, eleven-year-old Jim’s life shatters. Separated from his parents in the chaos of the Japanese takeover, Jim lives in the houses of the international district until he joins forces with Basie, a lowlife who admits to trying to sell Jim and yet becomes a father figure that teaches him how to survive in this new world. Eventually caught and sent to Lunghua concentration camp, Jim works the system as he was taught, but is also helped by a friendly fellow captive, Dr. Ransome. When the war ends, danger continues to lurk as Jim strives to find his parents.

Action-packed, heart-rending, and inspirational, the story makes for a page-turning read. Unfortunately, my enjoyment of the book was tainted by the knowledge that J.G. Ballard was never separated from his parents and sister and lived with them in Lunghua. The difference that this one fact makes is enormous. Although I can’t discount the vivid descriptions that Ballard gives of wartime Shanghai and Lunghua, neither can I believe them, as I am constantly wondering where the line between fact and fiction lies. Give me an autobiography or give me a historical novel loosely based on the author’s experiences, but please don’t try to pass one off as the other.

190msf59
kesäkuu 24, 2011, 6:10 pm

Lisa- the Twin has been on my WL for a long time! I read Empire of the Sun way back in the late 80s and was crazy about that book, but I always thought it was a fictionalized account of Ballard's childhood. It is to bad, that he has tangled up your thoughts. Yes, one way or the other. I agree.

191StevenTX
kesäkuu 25, 2011, 9:20 am

#184 - I was wanting to order Brodeck's Report a few weeks ago, but could find only out-of-print editions. Thanks to your review, I now know that it is also published just as "Brodeck," so I'll have better luck next time.

#188 - That's a useful review of The Twin. Being old and male, maybe I'll appreciate it more than you did when I read it.

#189 - I read Empire of the Sun earlier this year and enjoyed it. I didn't take it to be the author's literal experiences, so it didn't bother me as much that it wasn't strictly true. Coincidentally, I am now reading The Painted Bird by Jerzy Kosinski, which is a similar story--set in Europe--with a similar controversy. The author implied originally that it was autobiographical, then, in the introduction to the edition I am reading, backtracked and said it wasn't.

192labfs39
kesäkuu 25, 2011, 11:12 am

#190 Hi, Mark! I hope you do try The Twin. It is well-written, and Tad liked it, which is always a good barometer for me. ;-) I know, I know. I need to just enjoy the story and not get all worked up about false claims of truth. I hate feeling duped, however. This happened to me recently with another "nonfiction" book. Can't think which one right now.

P.S. Hope Bailey does okay next weekend. Our lab hates the fireworks/noise too, and we have some teenagers in the neighborhood who do plenty starting a day early. Poor Strider wedges himself between the bathtub and the toilet in the only room in the house without a window. The vet gave us some pills, but I hate to have the poor dog become a junkie! Let us know how the thundershirt works out.

#191 Thanks for stopping by, Steven. I too was stymied by the Brodeck's Report vs Brodeck title change. Seems like an odd thing to do, but then I'm not a publisher. Perhaps they thought people would buy both, thinking they were different books!

I hope the comment I made about not emotionally identifying with The Twin due to my age and sex didn't come off in the wrong way. I feel that most of the time, men and women can relate to books equally, but sometimes there is something about a book that makes me think I'm missing something that a guy might have gotten more readily.

Empire of the Sun was a good read, no doubt about it. I just went in with certain expectations, reinforced by the author's foreward. I have a hard time looking back on a book fondly, when I learn that I was duped. For instance, I thought James Frey's book, A Million Little Pieces, helped me understand the draw of addiction for the first time. Finding out it was a hoax made me give the book away. Silly, huh? And I was similarly angered to find out that Modoc was doctored.

I wonder if I relate to books differently depending on whether they are fiction or nonfiction? Fiction books afford a certain level of emotional projection. Anything can happen, but I'm protected because I know it isn't true. With nonfiction, there isn't that out. I'm not sure...

193labfs39
kesäkuu 25, 2011, 7:44 pm

Today was our local Indie bookstore's 40% off all used books (which are 50% off original price). Not only did I get some books from my wishlist, but I met up with Deborah (arubabookwoman)! It was my first LT in RL meeting. I wore my LT t-shirt in honor of the occasion, but forgot to take a picture of us. :(

Here are my finds in no particular order:

The Last Brother by Nathacha Appanah (rec by Tutu)
Number 9 Dream by David Mitchell (Booker Prize finalist)
The Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West (classic, rec by brenzi)
All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque (classic, rec by brenzi)
Shadow Country by Peter Matthiessen (National Book Award, recs by rebeccanyc and bonniebooks)
Little Bee by Chris Cleave (Seattle Reads book)
The Wind-up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami (group read with msf59)
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (National Book Award, local author)
The Crazed by Ha Jin (because I loved Waiting and War Trash)
The Liar by Martin A. Hansen (rec by arubabookwoman)
Tinkers by Paul Harding (Pulitzer Prize, rec by bonniebooks, Maine)
Almost Dead by Assaf Gavron (rec by arubabookwoman)

194StevenTX
Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 25, 2011, 8:01 pm

#192> I probably should have put a :) after my "old and male" comment to indicate it was at least somewhat tongue in cheek. I don't think age or gender matter to our appreciation of a book aesthetically (except to the extent that age means more reading experience). It does matter a lot, though, as do other personal factors, in whether we can empathize with a particular character.

195labfs39
kesäkuu 25, 2011, 8:31 pm

#192 Well put. Although I would change "age means more reading experience" (not necessarily) to "age means more life experience". I see The Twin in your library. Have you read it?

Btw, I have bookshelf envy. Are the books in your profile picture mostly books you haven't read (per your profile)? We share 323 books, but I don't know how many of them are actually ones we've both read. I think we must have similar tastes though.

196StevenTX
kesäkuu 25, 2011, 9:10 pm

#195 - I said "reading experience" only in reference to being able to appreciate the aesthetics of a book. I agree that "life experience" is more relevant in general. Both increase with age, but not necessarily at the same rate in all persons, of course.

No, I haven't read The Twin. I bought it earlier this year to complete my collection of winners of the IMPAC Dublin Award. I'm not sure when I'll actually get around to reading it.

The books in that picture are (or were--I suppose I need to update it), mostly ones I haven't read. I should confess that I am a compulsive book buyer. Every month I read about 10 books, and probably buy at least 20 (mostly used and cheap). To make room for the books I haven't read, those that I have read either go back to the used book store or to less accessible shelves. I've read only about a fourth of the books in my LT library. I'm just in the process, though, of inputting books I read before 2000. It looks like most of the books we share are more recent works that I haven't read yet.

197brenzi
kesäkuu 25, 2011, 10:40 pm

Oh, oh, oh add me to the list of people who LOVED Shadow Country Lisa. Impressive haul.

198baswood
kesäkuu 26, 2011, 6:14 am

#193 What an excellent selection of books you have come away with. I have got All quiet on the Western Front on order which has been recommended by" brenzi" and "katie" and so I am looking forward to reading that.

199rebeccanyc
kesäkuu 26, 2011, 9:57 am

Glad you got Shadow Country, and loved The Last Brother too.

200labfs39
kesäkuu 26, 2011, 10:56 am

Grrr... just lost my whole message...

#196 My problem is that I can't bear to part with any of my books. Occasionally, if I get a dup, one will go to the library's used book sale, and if I hate a book (I can think of one or two), I actually recycle them so that the drivel does not continue to spread its inanity. I am constantly in need of more bookshelves, and my husband despairs of ever keeping up the supply with the demand.

#197 Oh, well, then I'm sure to love it!

#198 Thanks, Barry. I read All's Quiet back as a teenager, but that was many moons ago. I'm looking forward to a reread.

#199 After all the discussion about the trilogy versus the new version, I had to try Shadow Country. Looking forward to reading The Last Brother, perhaps next after I finish The Liberated Bride by Yehoshua.

201labfs39
kesäkuu 26, 2011, 1:33 pm



56. An Imperfect Lens by Anne Roiphe

I picked this book up on a whim as the plot seemed intriguing. Louis Thuillier, a young protégé of Louis Pasteur, is sent to Alexandria with a French team of scientist trying to locate the source of the cholera epidemic of 1883. In a race against time to beat the Germans in isolating the organism causing the disease, and to save lives, the team members each deal with the situation differently. Louis falls in love. The object of his affection is a beautiful, intelligent, Jewish woman, whose family would never consider his suit.

The broad outlines of the novel are historically accurate. Louis, Émile Roux, and Edmond Nocard were real scientists sent on the mission, and Robert Koch is the German microbiologist with whom they had a scientific rivalry. The love story is fictitious. The author, Anne Roiphe, was inspired to write the novel in honor of her brother, a hematologist and laboratory scientist, who died of AIDS.

I would have loved to read a nonfiction account of the epidemic and of Louis and his teammates. This is one time when, in my opinion, the fictitious treatment did not add to the story. I found the love affair to be forced, and the setting wasn’t described as compellingly as it could have been. Never do the scientists seem concerned about, or even notice, the people dying around them, which struck me as a little odd. Cholera microbes are treated almost as a character in the story, with descriptions of where they are living and how close they come to infecting various people. It was interesting at first, but got a little old after the umpteenth time they wriggle within millimeters of someone’s hand or mouth.

Final verdict: fascinating episode in history, but writing falls short. Not recommended.

202ffortsa
kesäkuu 26, 2011, 2:39 pm

Have you read The Ghost Map? It's about the cholera epidemic in London that resulted in discovering the source of cholera (if not the organism) by the brilliant idea of mapping the instances of the disease. It's a very compelling look at the beginnings of genuine public health investigation.

203labfs39
kesäkuu 26, 2011, 5:46 pm

Thank you for the recommendation. It sounds fascinating, and I've put a hold on it at the library.

204labfs39
kesäkuu 26, 2011, 11:14 pm



57. The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell

David Mitchell is a versatile writer willing to take chances on different literary devices and genres. In The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, Mitchell tries his hand at an historical novel. Having spent eight years in Japan as an English teacher, he is familiar with the landscape and culture and presumably the language. Certainly, Mitchell is able to play his usual linguistic tricks, despite representing both Dutch and Japanese in English. His ability to catch one’s ear with an unusual phrase is a trademark of his writing, but in this novel, he also explores the difficulties and misunderstandings that occur when two cultures and languages collide.

In 1799 Jacob de Zoet arrives on Dejima, an island connected to the mainland by a foot bridge and the only port foreigners, by treaty the Dutch, are allowed in the Japanese Empire. Jacob is the clerk assisting in the investigation into alleged mismanagement of funds, an uncomfortable position to hold when everyone on the island is involved in profiteering to some extent. Jacob too is hoping to make his fortune while on his five year contract, so that he can marry the woman he loves back home. Fate intervenes when he meets and is intrigued by a young Japanese midwife who is in the unique situation of being allowed to study with Dr. Marinus on Dejima. The results of this meeting have drastic and long-lasting effects for many on both sides of the bridge.

Mitchell divides his book into three parts: the first and last are told primarily from the point of view of Jacob. The middle section switches point of view to that of the midwife, Orito, and a Japanese translator named Ogawa. The middle section also switches writing style, becoming much more plot driven, whereas the Jacob sections are more about dialogue and verbal intrigue. Personally I preferred the Jacob sections, where I think Mitchell’s strengths as an author are played out: clever language and the exploration of language, in this case as the vehicle for cultural exchange.

The result is a solid historical novel that brings to light the moment in time when the Dutch Empire’s influence in Asia is waning, the British Empire’s is rising, and the Japanese are poised to make a fateful decision about engagement with foreign cultures. Mitchell’s writing is always fun to read because of its one-line zingers and language play. My one complaint is that his plot needed work. The middle section seemed out of place with its plot overtones of The Handmaid’s Tale crossed with Ronin. It felt disjointed from the rest of the book, almost as though he were inserting a myth into the middle of the story. It didn’t work for me. Overall, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this book unless you are particularly interested in Mitchell’s writing.

205baswood
kesäkuu 27, 2011, 5:13 am

Enjoyed your review of The thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. The sting in the tail came in your last sentence where you say you wouldn't necessarily recommend it. I have not read it yet but hope to get a copy soon. Although I enjoyed Cloud Atlas I did feel the separate parts of the book did not always hang together or complement each other and so when you describe the latest novel as being in three part with the middle part "out of place" my immediate thoughts are "Oh dear here we go again"

Interesting Lisa.

206detailmuse
kesäkuu 27, 2011, 8:54 am

>189 labfs39: I dislike books that claim to be autobiographies, but are actually fictionalized memoirs.
Count me in on disliking exaggeration and emotional duping. I think there's a lower bar in what's considered amazing in a real life vs a character's life, so when real-life approaches fiction, wow. I also wonder if it's a sign of authorial ego -- wanting the story to be bigger than life while keeping claim to it as his (or her) life.

207labfs39
kesäkuu 27, 2011, 10:56 am

#205 Perhaps I was two harsh with that last sentence; I just meant that there are a whole lot of other historical novels I would recommend first. The middle section has some of the same characters as the rest of the book, whereas the characters in Cloud Atlas changed with each section until you passed the halfway point. Personally I liked CA much more, it was clever and a deliberate literary challenge. Thousand Autumns is just a mediocre historical novel, IMO.

#206 I have a hard time separating author's from their works. When the author is a schmuck, I have a hard time enjoying the book. A slightly different example is Orlando Figes. I loved The Whisperers, but once I found out about the whole Amazon fiasco and lying to everyone then putting the blame on his wife, well, my respect dried up. Do you think reader's should consider works separately from their authors? Perhaps I need to try harder to enjoy a work for its own sake, regardless of the author's truthfulness in the book or in real life.

208labfs39
kesäkuu 27, 2011, 11:33 am

I'm closing up shop on my 75 Book Challenge Thread: it's just too time consuming to maintain both threads. I did, however, want to share one of qebo's comments from that thread before ending it:

"I had something of the same reaction to part 2 of The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet: http://www.librarything.com/topic/104898#2781800. It was a page-turner, and I cared what happened to the characters, but I was weirded out by the cult plopped into the ostensibly historical novel. Since a Japanese shrine is an unknown entity to most westerners, I would've preferred a more realistic portrayal, partly for the information, and partly because it's troublesome that that the mysterious Other was made into the bad guy.

And here's my response: "Thank you for sharing your review, qebo. I think your point about the shrine being treated as a cult, while European religions are treated respectfully, is a good one. To add to your point, I think Mitchell trivializes the role of the samurai as well. His portrayal in part two is like a Hollywood ninja movie. And thanks for pointing out which characters were based on history."

209rebeccanyc
kesäkuu 27, 2011, 4:43 pm

Glad you're staying here, Lisa. I enjoy your thread -- the books you're reading and your thoughts about them.

210msf59
kesäkuu 27, 2011, 7:03 pm

Lisa- I loved your review of Thousand Autumns. I wish I could write so concisely. I'm envious. Sorry the book didn't work for you. Despite the novel's flaws, I really enjoyed this book. I appreciate your insightful comments on the Group Read. you should post your review over there.
I'm glad you are going to one Thread. I was never sure which one to post on.

211labfs39
kesäkuu 28, 2011, 2:50 pm

benitastrnad was fortunate enough to be about to chat to Abby at ALA about authors who misrepresent themselves. I thought some of you might be interested as it related to my problems with Empire of the Sun and our subsequent discussion. Here is a link to the post on Mark's thread.

212qebo
kesäkuu 29, 2011, 8:57 am

208: Sorry you've departed 75 books (again!) though I completely understand the difficulty of maintaining multiple threads. I had your thread starred there, will try to keep up with you here.

213bonniebooks
kesäkuu 29, 2011, 4:17 pm

Hi, Lisa! Came on to LT and guess whose thread was at the top? :-) I hope to get back in the swing of things and start reading more books (rather than educational stuff and my iPad) and have more things to talk about. Good haul from TPB. Maybe in the fall, you can come over to the Seattle Public Library Sale. Hopefully your hip will be much better by then. I've caught up with your whole thread, but realized I don't actually have time to discuss books right now. Next time! ;-)

214labfs39
kesäkuu 29, 2011, 4:38 pm

#209 Thanks, Rebecca

#210 I'm not sorry I read Thousand Autumns, in fact, I picked up Number9Dream at the book sale. Thanks for organizing group reads, Mark. You've got quite a following.

#212 I'm glad you are going to visit me at Club Read, qebo. Sorry for waffling so this year on 75 Books.

#213 I've missed having you around LT, Bonnie, and I'm super sorry to have missed you at TPB. If you remind me of when the SPL sale is, I would love to join you. And I'll look forward to your return and comments!

215labfs39
Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 30, 2011, 12:30 pm



58. The Translator: A Tribesman's Memoir of Darfur by Daoud Hari

Daoud Hari is a Zaghawa tribesman born in a village in Darfur, who, at an early age, showed an aptitude for languages. As an adult he lived abroad for a while, but was remanded to Sudan after violating a visa requirement. Shortly after he returns to his village, it is attacked and destroyed by one of the militia groups that terrorized the Darfur regions throughout much of the last decade. Members of Hari’s family are killed and others are separated. Hari decides to join the line of displaced persons heading for a refugee camp in Chad and walks with the others to the border. Once in Chad, his facility with languages soon lands him jobs as a translator for reporters eager to enter Darfur and report on the atrocities being committed. Hari was exceptional at safely leading reporters through the most dangerous parts of Darfur, giving them a firsthand look at the horrors destroying his country. His knowledge of languages, his charming personality, and his daring helped reporters from organizations like The New York Times, the BBC, and the United Nations acquire the evidence needed to declare the conflict in Darfur genocide.

Although a bit dated due to recent political developments, I still think The Translator has relevance. Hari’s experiences as a translator bring to mind stories coming out of Iraq, Afghanistan, and other places where the U.S. is relying on native translators, drivers, and facilitators of meetings and interviews. This memoir captivated me because of the edge-of-your-seat stories and Hari’s open, friendly style of writing. Despite the tragedies he describes, he is optimistic about the fate of his country and trusting that people are basically good. I have read some books about Sudan and Darfur that left me emotional exhausted and depressed, but this one left me hopeful. For that reason alone, I’m glad I picked it up.

Edited to remove a sentence for which I had no support.

216cushlareads
kesäkuu 30, 2011, 9:38 am

I'll keep following your thread over here and can imagine that having 2 got difficult. I've added The Translator to my WL - haven't read anything about Darfur yet.

217detailmuse
kesäkuu 30, 2011, 10:37 am

>207 labfs39: Do you think reader's should consider works separately from their authors?
I've been struggling with this since you wrote it :) For me, a book = what’s “on the page” + what’s “in the reader” (same goes for other art forms eg film, painting, music). Nonfiction isn’t journalism, but embellishment (in memoir) or not walking-the-talk in personal life (of what one promotes in an advice-giving book) makes the page a lie.

Then there's this:
>215 labfs39: A bit of a boyish rogue, I suspect some of Hari’s stories may be padded for literary impact.
It sounds like it didn't bother you as much here. Maybe because he prepped you for it in some way? Maybe it's the surprise (duping, betrayal) that offends us?

I think authorial context can deepen a reading. I’d like to find some literary criticism about the role of context in approaching a work.

218labfs39
kesäkuu 30, 2011, 12:29 pm

#216 Thanks, Cushla, I would hate to lose you!

#217 Good questions about my reaction to The Translator. I thought a lot about that sentence before I wrote it. First, I have no evidence that the book has been exaggerated, it may not have been. I was made curious, however, by the last paragraph of his introduction:

The story I am telling here is based on my memories of a time of great difficulty and confusion. I have done my best to capture the details of my experiences, and to set them down here accurately and to the utmost of my recollection, and I am grateful to those who have helped me focus and occasionally correct my account. Of course, no two people can view the same event in the same way, and I know that others will have their own tales to tell. Surely these collective tales will add up to the truth of the tragedy in Darfur.

It made me think that the question of authenticity had been raised. On the other hand, there are well-known reporters named in the book, and they have not only not quibbled about events, but worked on his behalf to extract him from the country.

You know, after thinking this through as a result of your questions, I think I am going to remove that sentence. As I have no evidence to the contrary, it is rather defaming. I quess I am so sensitive now about memoirs and the truth that I suspect everyone.

Thanks for making me think about it more.

219labfs39
kesäkuu 30, 2011, 11:47 pm

Oh, what the heck:

Favorite childhood book: The Witch of Blackbird Pond
What are you reading right now? The Liberated Bride, Journey to the River Sea
Bad book habit: Buying more books, when I haven’t read all the ones I have on my shelves
Do you have an e-reader? Nope. Can’t put e-books on my shelf to look at and fondly remember.
Do you prefer one book at a time or several at once? One to myself and one to my daughter
Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog? No blog
Least favorite book you read this year: Revolution
Favorite book this year: Can’t give only one. Nonfiction: Gulag, Unbroken, River of Doubt, Persepolis. Fiction: Doc, Brodeck’s Report, The Line
How often do you read out of your comfort zone? More often thanks to Mark’s graphic novel suggestions. Thanks, Mark!
What is your reading comfort zone? International fiction, memoirs
Can you read on the bus? Bus yes, car no
Favorite place to read: In bed or in the couch recliner
What is your policy on book lending? Depends on who is asking!
Do you ever dogear pages in your books? *gasp in horror at the notion*
Do you write notes in the margins of your books? Not unless it’s a textbook
What is your favorite language to read in? English
What makes you love a book? Being so immersed that I lose sense of time and it’s hard to “wake me”
What will inspire you to recommend a book? If I liked it, and especially if I would reread it
Favorite genre: International fiction, memoirs
Genre you rarely read (but wish you did): I wish I read more science books than I do
Favorite biography: So many I can’t begin to list
Have you ever read a self-help book? I don’t know. Do parenting books count?
Most inspirational book you've read this year: Unbroken
Favorite reading snack: Peanut butter on Ritz crackers
How often do you agree with critics about a book? It varies from person to person and book to book
How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews? I feel bad when other people love a book, and I don’t
If you could read in a foreign language, which language would you choose? Russian
Most intimidating book you've ever read: Ulysses
Most initimidating book you're too nervous to begin: The Decameron
Favorite poet: Robert Frost (I’m from NE and he does NE very well)
Favorite fictional character: Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird
Favorite fictional villain: Hmmm, I don’t know... Raskolnikov?
Books I'm most likely to bring on vacation: Field guides for the flora and fauna of where I’m going and as many other books as I can without going over the 50lb suitcase limit
The longest I've gone without reading: A few days
Name a book that could not/would not finish: Yalo, Seeing-I’ve tried more than once with each...
What distracts you easily when you're reading: LibraryThing!
Favorite film adaptation of a novel: BBC version of Pride and Prejudice
Most disappointing film adaptation of a novel: Oh, lots... Masterwork Theater’s Mansfield Park?
The most money you've ever spent on books: I try not to think about it.
How often do you skim a book before reading: Never
Do you like to keep your books organized? Yes
Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once you've read them? Keep them, though occasionally dups go to the library book sale, and rarely the recycle bin if I think the book is so toxic that I don’t want to be responsible for its continued contamination
A book that made you angry: On Becoming Baby Wise
A book you didn't expect to like but did: Persepolis
A book you expected to like but didn't: The Age of Orphans
Favorite guilt-free, pleasure reading: Can’t say, or then I would feel guilty!

220Donna828
heinäkuu 1, 2011, 10:26 am

Starring you over here, Lisa. It's good to venture out of the 75-Book arena occasionally and see how the other people are... reading. Loved your answers to the meme. I can't resist doing those questionnaires that pop up on LT and it's always fun to compare answers.

I see you will also be doing the Group Read of The Wind-up Bird Chronicle. This will be my second Murakami book. I definitely need a support group to read him.

221cushlareads
Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 1, 2011, 10:52 am

Enjoyed reading your answers.

Heh heh- the Baby Wise book... I haven't read it but have read excerpts, and have strong opinions on it! The British equivalent, only not quite as bad as Babywise for scheduling, is Gina Ford's Contented Little Baby Book. We tried it with our son for a few weeks (you MUST eat breakfast at 8 am! You MUST not feed the baby before XX! If desperate feed the baby only one side then back to bed) We tried it for a few very bad days before I realised our baby was not the baby in the book and if Gina gets mentioned in our house even now it's her and in jest.

222Trifolia
heinäkuu 2, 2011, 7:34 am

Hi Lisa, I'll follow your thread wherever you choose to put it. I enjoy your reviews too much:-).

223labfs39
heinäkuu 2, 2011, 10:41 am

#220 Hi Donna, thank you for coming by my thread. I love the photos of Haley; she reminds me so much of my daughter. I even had to look up her medical record card. At 9 months, she weighed 28.5 lbs! Now she is tall and slim and very active at 8 years old. Haley has much more hair than my daughter did though. We called her peach fuzz until she was two.

#221 A friend of my husband's gave us a copy of the book when our daughter was born, and I was horrified. I asked our family doctor about it, and he said babies have actually come in dehydrated as a result of the advice in Baby Wise. Yikes!

#222 Thanks, friend! Sorry to be so indecisive this year.

Well, stop the presses! I finally mangaged to finish The Liberated Bride by A.B. Yehoshua last night. I really struggled to finish this one. It was ssslllloooowwww. More when I write my review, and I have only one book in the queue ahead of it. I'm finally getting caught up! Woo hooo!

224labfs39
heinäkuu 2, 2011, 4:08 pm



59. The Pathseeker by Imre Kertesz

This short novella by Nobel Prize winning author, Imre Kertesz, is a different approach to the question of responsibility and guilt in the 20th century. The story begins with "the commissioner", the only name by which we are to know him, interviewing the owner of a hotel about an incident that happened nearby. The hotel owner has lived in the town since boyhood and volunteers information rather feverishly. In fact, he seems relieved to be able to confess his "small part in universal evil", and furthermore to explain his inaction since then. But the commissioner has not come to absolve the hotel owner, rather his intent is to visit the nearby site of the incident, and then continue on his way to a seaside resort with his wife.

The visit to the unnamed site turns out to be a disappointment, however. Nothing remains as it was, and the

Tourists were like ants, diligently carrying off the significance of things, crumb by crumb, wearing away a bit of the unspoken importance investing them with every word they spoke and every single snapshot they took. He should have realized that this was precisely the sort of opportunity they would not leave unexploited.

The commissioner does not find the evidence he is seeking here.

He does, however, spot a veiled woman in the distance with whom he is later to have an unexpected conversation. The woman is mysterious and accusatory. When the commissioner protests that he was only at the site by chance, the woman replies, "There's no such thing as chance. Only injustice." Now it is the commissioner's turn to protest his innocence; but the veiled woman is as uninterested in his excuses as the commissioner was in the hotel owner's.

Finally, spurning his confused but supportive wife, the commissioner seeks to complete his mission by visiting the factory. Finding the factory still working, he feels a brief moment of hope, but then realizes that he has still failed, because all that remains are objects. What is the truth he seeks?

These objects here were holding their peace; like uncommunicative strangers, they were complete and sufficient unto themselves, they were not going to verify his existence. Let him find it in chance or seek it within himself, accept it or reject it-that was now, as ever, a matter of utter indifference to this pitiless landscape and to these obtusely different objects here.

As he waits for the train back to town, he picks up a paper and reads an article about a recent suicide. With that, the commissioner has a moment of panic, but "surely he couldn't be looking for his accusers?" His mission, however, appears complete, and he continues forward, in seeming indifference to all that he has experienced in the last few days.

Kertesz is masterful at exploring the themes of responsibility and guilt without ever becoming specific. By doing so, the unnamed places and people can stand for everyone, for each of us. We all have a role in the story be it spectator, victim, survivor, or tourist. Vague, confusing, and surreal, the story prods the reader to identify with the scenario and ask hard questions of ourselves. Although I can't say I enjoyed this novella, it did make me uncomfortable, and that, I think, is the point.

225baswood
heinäkuu 2, 2011, 5:15 pm

The Pathseeker sounds intriguing Lisa. Excellent review

226labfs39
heinäkuu 2, 2011, 6:55 pm



60. The Liberated Bride by A.B. Yehoshua

Wanted: Editor for 568 p. book. Must like minute by minute personal accounts and family drama. Action seekers need not apply.

I wanted to enjoy this book, but after 300 pages, I realized that would not happen in this lifetime. It took another lifetime to finish the book. Besides desperately needing to be edited, the story meanders for 500 pages and then tries to make the plot come together in the last couple of chapters. I started off thinking that Yochanan Rivlin, the main character, was charming, but after reading about his every move (including urination), thought (even the drivel), and action (usually inane) for several hundred pages, I was ready to strangle him and make this a murder mystery.

Yochanan is obsessed. His son, Ofer, was abruptly divorced five years ago, and neither son nor daughter-in-law will divulge why. Yochanan cannot let it go, and despite injunctions from his wife, his daughter-in-law’s family, and his son, he continues picking at it. When not busily pestering people about the divorce, Yochanan hangs around his office at Haifa University, unable to finish the book he is working on, and refusing to buckle down and write a paper for his elderly mentor’s jubilee publication. Although incapable of finishing his own writing, he refuses to give a recalcitrant Arab student her degree until he knows the intimate details of her life, family, and loves.

Yehoshua can write a good line and is insightful into the day to day interactions between Arabs and Jews. What I couldn’t seem to find in this book was a point. It was a struggle to finish, and I’m not sure why I pushed on. My recommendation: don’t bother with this one.

227TadAD
heinäkuu 3, 2011, 12:40 pm

>215 labfs39:: I read The Translator last summer. Despite some uneven pacing at times, I liked it, especially because I was relatively unfamiliar with what was going on in Darfur. I do recall having some of the same niggling doubts you had—much the same (though less intense and definite) as when I read Beah's A Long Way Gone the year before. Still, I ended up giving Hari the benefit of the doubt (though I didn't with Beah).

228Trifolia
heinäkuu 3, 2011, 1:28 pm

I wishlisted The Pathseeker. It seems to be just the kind of book I'll like. Thanks for the excellent review.

229kidzdoc
heinäkuu 4, 2011, 2:12 am

Excellent review of The Pathseeker, Lisa; I've added it to my wish list.

230avaland
heinäkuu 4, 2011, 8:28 am

Just catching up over here, Lisa. I was interested to read your take on The Twin. I like to pick off the most interesting books off the Impac Dublin Award longlist; the winners are usually very intriguing fiction, craftwise. Still, I have not been drawn to this one. I suppose I'm a bit *^$%ed that they have not awarded to woman in over 10 years now.

231labfs39
heinäkuu 5, 2011, 1:10 am

#227 I enjoy reading memoirs, but I've become increasingly suspicious with each new authenticity scandal. After reading The Translator, I googled Daoud Hari and found nothing damning. I think that since he names reporters from prominent organizations in his stories, someone would have complained if he grossly exaggerated.

Regarding Beah, I found this passage in an ABC news report from 2008:

Wilson {The Australian reporter who broke the story} insisted that his reporting was not an attack on Beah and the obvious trauma of the young man's experience but rather an attempt to expose Beah's publishers and handlers for allowing the book to be published as nonfiction.

"The fact that they're still passing this off as nonfiction -- are there no standards?" he asked. "This is a matter of him gradually exaggerating the story at every step of the way and his handlers encouraging him. They should have protected him from himself. They wanted to believe it."


I find these very interesting questions. Are there standards for nonfiction versus fictionalized autobiographies? What motives might publishers have for blurring that line? Why do readers "want to believe it"?

Personally, I think that unfortunately sensationalism sells and that accounts for a good portion of it. But, as I mentioned when discussing my reaction to My Forbidden Face, I think that there are also "handlers" who manipulate a story in order to promote a particular agenda. As a reader and world citizen, I want to read about the experiences of people such as Hari and Latifa, in order to inform myself. But as with media, I am finding it harder and harder to know whom to trust. Sad.

232labfs39
Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 5, 2011, 1:27 am

#228, 229 Thanks for stopping by Monica and Darryl. I think you would both appreciate The Pathseeker. I came across it as part of a publisher's series called "The Contemporary Art of the Novella." I may try to explore more in the series.

#230 I was so surprised about the 10 year drought you mention, that I had to go see for myself. How odd given that there are a fair number of women authors in the longlists. I wonder what the organization would say if asked about it. Now I'm curious. If I email them, I'll let you know what I hear.

Edited to say I meant shortlists, not longlists.

233Trifolia
heinäkuu 5, 2011, 2:54 am

Well, regarding the woman author-issue... I've been wondering... most prizes do not take gender into account, some are specific for women. I wonder, are there any prizes specifically for male authors? And isn't the fact that there are prizes for specific groups implying that these groups are (regarded as) discriminated and/or to be protected and/or second-rate?
I would like to see that for every specific group, there would also be a counterpart, in order not to imply that any group should think of itself as "the standard" or the measure. E.g. for every prize for women authors, there should be one for male authors as well, for every group of young authors, there should be one for old authors too, for every black prize, there should be a white prize. Because sometimes I feel that all those prizes meant to stop discriminating just have the opposite effect, despite the good intentions (which I'm not questioning).
Mutatis mutandis, I think the same applies for most interest groups that focus on gender or race, etc. I think putting everyone in boxes, is discriminating. A human being is so much more than his or her gender, colour, descent, nationality and by putting a label on them, we take away a lot of the personality.
If ever I would become a writer, I think I would be offended if I got a prize based on my gender. What's gender got to do with writing a good book (unless you're V.S. Naipaul)?
... gets off the pulpit...

234labfs39
Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 7, 2011, 11:08 pm



61. The Last Brother by Nathacha Appanah (translated by Geoffrey Strachan)

Nine-year-old Raj knows little of the world beyond his tiny dirt-poor village on the edge of a sugar plantation. Life revolves around his family: his brutal, abusive father; his mother who can cure with her herbs; and, most importantly, his two beloved brothers. When tragedy strikes the family, they move so that his father can take a position as a prison guard. Raj deals with his trauma by becoming increasingly withdrawn and takes to lying motionless in holes and muttering to himself. One day, as he is lying under a bush watching the mysterious prison courtyard below him where his father works, a boy wanders near and, hunched into his knees, begins to cry. The simple act of wordlessly sharing grief creates a bond between the two boys. When Raj and David both end up in the prison hospital, they become inseparable friends, and they find the joy of childhood amidst the chaotic adult world. When the Jewish internees revolt and force a standoff with their guards, Raj vows to save David, and the two run away, heading for Raj’s old village. But with only the vaguest of ideas as to where his village is, the two wander in circles until it is too late, and tragedy strikes again.

The book’s plot is vaguely reminiscent of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas: a boy on each side of a fence becoming friends and coming-of-age in a violent and chaotic time. But there the similarities end. Raj is a beautiful character faced with tragedy after tragedy in his life, but resilient as only a child can be. His grave innocence is not only believable, but compelling. Based on the true story of a boatload of Jews fleeing the Holocaust, which ends up marooned on Mauritius, the book is a Holocaust story writ small, far from the Nazis and the war. I loved the story’s gentle tone and matter-of-fact depiction of hard lives. By telling the story in flashbacks, the author is able to show the persistence of grief and love despite the passage of time and the continuation of life. I highly recommend this book for its story and its writing, but especially so that you, too, can meet brave and loving Raj.

(Edited to fix two embarrassing typos.)

235labfs39
heinäkuu 7, 2011, 7:18 pm



62. Rascal by Sterling North

Things are pretty quiet in rural Wisconsin in 1917, unless, that is, you are eleven-year-old Sterling North. An avid naturalist, Sterling raises a variety of unusual pets: Poe, the crow, two skunks, a drooling St. Bernard named Wowzer, and assorted cats. His inseparable best friend, though, is Rascal, a young raccoon. Sterling relates the tales of his and Rascal's misadventures over the course of a year. From the unfinished canoe in the living room to the fenced off Christmas tree, life in the North household is unconventional, but warm and radiating that sense of childhood innocence in nature that often feels absent in today's less rural world.

I listened to the audio of this book with my eight-year-old daughter, and she immediately began trying to tame a crow (raccoons being verboten near our chickens). Jim Weiss has a rich, warm voice and narrates the story beautifully. I think I actually preferred listening to this one rather than reading it, although it's been many years since I first read it. My only reservation with the book is the manner in which Sterling acquires Rascal; but the ending compensates. Well-deserving of the Newbery Honor.

236msf59
heinäkuu 7, 2011, 7:44 pm

Excellent review of The Last Brother. You have a gift my friend. I'll have to add that one to the ridiculously large WL.
BTW- I have the audio of River of Doubt all locked and loaded. Plan to get to it, next week.

237labfs39
heinäkuu 7, 2011, 9:59 pm

Thanks, Mark. The Last Brother makes my top 5 fiction of the year, not higher only because I've read some really great books this year. I am excited to hear your thoughts about River of Doubt. I think you'll enjoy it--I just hope the narrator is good.

238labfs39
heinäkuu 7, 2011, 10:56 pm



63. Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson

Maia is a wealthy orphan from Victorian England who is sent to live with unknown relatives in the Amazon. Accompanying her is a stern, but book-loving governess named Miss Minton. Maia dreams of adventures and a loving family to welcome her. Unfortunately, the Carters are only after her money. But there are adventures to be had with a half Indian boy heir to an unwanted fortune in England, a child actor who longs to return home to the land of bread puddings, and a lovable natural history museum curator.

I read this book to my daughter, and at first I was charmed, although there were shades of The Secret Garden hovering about the book. (Why are there so many orphans in children's literature? This book had three.) Unfortunately I didn't feel as though we learned as much about the Amazon as about the more detestable aspects of British classism. Also, I wish that Maia had been a stronger female character. Much of the time she is a pawn for others, and I wish she had shown more initiative in going after her dreams of exploration. Although there were exciting moments, it was a big of a slog to get to the end. I have not given up on the author, however, as I hear some of her other books are better.

239labfs39
heinäkuu 8, 2011, 6:17 pm

I have been intrigued by the statistics I have seen on some LTers' threads. So shamelessly plagiarizing the concept, here are my first half of the year stats:

Total number of books: 59

Fiction: 44
Nonfiction: 15

Female author: 33
Male author: 26

Own: 42
Borrowed: 17

International authors (see post 5 for more): 21
Number of countries: 14

I'm happily surprised that my ratio of female to male authors is 56% female. I'm unhappily surprised that only 25% of my reading is nonfiction. I thought it would have been higher.

240rebeccanyc
heinäkuu 9, 2011, 10:56 am

Lisa, I loved The Last Brother too and reading your review of Rascal reminded me that I had loved that decades ago as a child. So nice to think about it again.

241ronincats
heinäkuu 10, 2011, 12:12 am

Nice summary.

242labfs39
heinäkuu 10, 2011, 1:25 pm



64. The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World by Steven Johnson

Cholera periodically swept through London, and other major cities, into the middle of the 19th century, killing thousands. People blamed it on things like the weather, digging near graveyards, or poor ventilation, and felt that personal fortitude and moral integrity, based on class, would determine whether you lived or died. Actually, cholera is spread when drinking water is contaminated with sewage. Because the poorer parts of London had the worst sanitation, the disease tended to strike hardest in these areas. The public’s conclusion, however, was that the poor brought it upon themselves. As to how the disease was spread, even public health officials agreed that it spread through the air or miasma, and especially through noxious smells.

All smell is, if it be intense, immediate acute disease; and eventually we may say that, by depressing the system and rendering it susceptible to the action of other causes, all smell is disease. –A statement by Edwin Chadwick, head of the General Board of Health, to a parliamentary committee in 1946.

Therefore, they felt that the solution was to get rid of the smell by routing all the sewage into the Thames and letting the river carry it away. Unfortunately, the Thames supplied drinking water to the majority of the city (unless you could afford your own well or got your water from a tributary).

When the 1854 epidemic broke out in their neighborhood, two men stepped up to try and find the cause. The first was Dr. John Snow, a preeminent anesthesiologist and scientifically-minded loner. The other was a gregarious and well-known clergyman in the neighborhood, Henry Whitehead. Snow focused on proving that the cholera was coming from the water supply, and Whitehead, at first opposed to the waterborne theory, eventually came to support it and even to find the index case for the epidemic. As a result of their work, sanitation and public works became a priority, not just in London, but other large cities as well.

Although the book is quite repetitive, if it had ended here, I would have been a satisfied reader. Unfortunately, once the author moved beyond the historical, the book became a monologue on the author’s personal theories. These theories cover a wide range of topics, including the ecological and social networking advantages to living in cities; the possible threats to urban areas, such as terrorism and global warming; and why we will come to happily reside on a “planet of cities” despite these threats. My recommendation would be to skip the last two chapters of the book and stick with the 1854 epidemic.

243labfs39
heinäkuu 10, 2011, 1:34 pm

#240 Thanks, Rebecca, I think I got the recommendation for The Last Brother from you!

#241 Hi Roni. I can't take credit for the idea of a mid-year summary, but it was fun to do.

I started Matterhorn last night in advance of our LT group read. Karl Marlantes is going to be coming to our local Indie store's book club in two weeks, and I want to make sure to have time to finish before then. I'm sure the book club meeting will be packed, but I'm looking forward to hearing him answer questions.

244bonniebooks
Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 10, 2011, 3:02 pm

I just read Matterhorn last week. I won't be able to attend the meeting, so I want to hear all about it. All great reviews up above, btw. I still want to comment on some of them, but am going to wait until I'm at my laptop.

245janemarieprice
heinäkuu 10, 2011, 5:21 pm

242 - Sounds interesting and nice review.

246labfs39
heinäkuu 10, 2011, 5:57 pm



65. From the Land of the Moon by Milena Agus

From the Land of the Moon is a beautifully written ode to love. Love in all its manifestations: infatuation, lust, married conviviality, familial caring, patriotism, even an all-consuming passion for music. And it’s a story about the consequences of love’s absence, the desperate desire to fill the void with something: sex, kindness, even a lonely sort of madness.

And she stayed at his pace, her beautiful fur-lined shoes in step with those ugly ones of grandfather’s, because she wasn’t angry with him—on the contrary, she was so sorry she didn’t love him. She was so sorry, and it pained her, and she wondered why God, when it comes to love, which is the principal thing, organizes things in such a ridiculous way: where you can do every possible and imaginable kindness, and there’s no way to make it happen, and you might even be mean, as she was now, not even lending him her scarf, and yet he followed her through the snow, half frozen, missing the chance, lover of food that he was, to eat the local potato ravioli and porchetto on the spit. During the trip home she was so sorry that in the darkness of the bus she leaned her head on his shoulder and sighed, as if to say “Ah well.”

Grandmother, the only name by which we know the main character, has suffered greatly for love and lack of love. Her parents beat her for failing to catch a husband, her eventual husband loves only the perverse sexual pleasure she can give him, and the one true love of her life is an elusive, ephemeral encounter that lingers unseen in her mind. She worries that there is something about her that causes love to flee, even as she stretches her hands for it. Her granddaughter thinks that perhaps there is a reason:

If at night we sleep without nightmares, if papa and mamma’s marriage has always been free of bumps, if I’m getting married to my first boyfriend, if we don’t have panic attacks and don’t try to kill ourselves, or throw ourselves into garbage bins, or slash ourselves, it’s thanks to grandmother, who paid for everyone. In every family there’s someone who pays the tribute, so that the balance between order and disorder is maintained and the world doesn’t come to a halt.

Milena Agus is a wonderful writer capable of capturing the longing for love that is fundamental to human relationships and turning it into a delicately woven story reminiscent of a folk tale. I would never have guessed that this was a first novel, and I fervently hope it is not her last.

247TadAD
heinäkuu 10, 2011, 6:10 pm

>234 labfs39:: I can't tell you how many times I've looked at that book (The Last Brother), trying to decide if it was the next book to read. I heard her speak at the PEN Festival (a trifle disappointing), duly got a signed copy of her book because it really did look interesting, and stuck it on my TBR shelf. When I'm in the middle of something else it sounds interesting but, when push comes to shove, my hand goes somewhere else. It's a very odd feeling. I think I got over-Holocausted a few years ago and there are still some lingering effects.

I'm so glad you enjoyed the Agus. I always cross my fingers when I love a book and someone else embarks upon it.

248qebo
heinäkuu 10, 2011, 6:34 pm

242: Other reviewers had a similar reaction to the end of Ghost Map. I still intend to read it, read Emergence some time ago and The Invention of Air this year. I'm more interested in the historical specifics too, but I don't mind a rambling monologue for context. As he put it in , his goal is to "cross multiple scales and disciplines". Doesn't mean that he necessarily succeeds in illuminating the connections, but I tend to appreciate the attempt.

249baswood
heinäkuu 10, 2011, 7:16 pm

Excellent review of From the land of the Moon which really makes me want to read it

250kidzdoc
heinäkuu 10, 2011, 10:14 pm

Great reviews of The Ghost Map and From the Land in the Moon, Lisa. I have the first book, but haven't been that eager to read it, although the story is very interesting to me from a public health standpoint.

251rebeccanyc
heinäkuu 11, 2011, 8:01 am

I'll have to move From the Land of the Moon up on the TBR after reading your review!

252labfs39
heinäkuu 12, 2011, 7:47 pm

#244 How did you like Matterhorn, Bonnie? I just finished it today. Too bad you can't make the Marlantes talk. I'll be sure to write it up.

#245 Hi Jane, thanks for stopping by. Yes, I did find Ghost Map interesting, just a bit repetitive and then the ramblings at the end. Have you read The Great Influenza? I thought it particularly well done.

#247 I can understand being over-Holocausted, Ted. You might try The Last Brother, however. The war and the Holocaust are only referenced very vaguely, as Raj himself becomes aware of them. It's much more about brotherhood, friendship, and growing up. The nice thing about books is that they will be there when you are ready for them. :-)

#248 So you know his style then, qebo. I hadn't realized he had written so many books. I thought he was primarily a journalist.

#249 Hi Barry, I think you would like From the Land of the Moon. The language is lovely, and the ending made me think.

#250 The Ghost Map is rather interesting from a public health and sociological point of view. How do scientific ideas spread through a society, and how do you change those ideas when they are proven wrong? But there are the noted drawbacks to the book.

#250-251 I think you would both like From the Land of the Moon. It is a quick read, and my suggestion would be to read it in one go in order to enjoy it best.

253msf59
heinäkuu 12, 2011, 7:56 pm

Hi Lisa- I will be starting River of Doubt this week. I also won an ARC of her latest book The Destiny of the Republic. It's about the assassination of James Garfield. Looks good.

254labfs39
heinäkuu 12, 2011, 8:09 pm

I have been rather neglectful of threads this week because my desktop computer died, and I spent hours upon hours on the phone with HP customer service. Not a pleasant experience. This is the second time I've had a problem and HP has given me the run around. Unfortunately the call center in India does not allow their employees to do other than follow a specific script of steps. Being decently tech savvy, it is extremely frustrating to feel as though you are not being heard. After days of torturous and dropped calls, I finally reached someone with the authority to allow me to send the computer to the factory for a complete overhaul. I wish I could either get my money back or get a new machine, since the it is still under warranty, but this is better than nothing.

The time away from LT was well-spent in that I read Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes. I have heard lots of chatter about this novel, and I'm often leery of or disappointed with extremely popular books. I wasn't steered wrong on this one though (thanks Mark!). I will try and write my reviews of both The Return of the Soldier and Matterhorn soon.

255labfs39
heinäkuu 12, 2011, 8:13 pm

#253 Speak of the devil! Thanks again for the recommendation to read Matterhorn. It was a genre stretcher for me, but I enjoyed it. Quite a page turner.

I didn't realize Candice Millard had a new book coming out. I'm glad, because I thought River of Doubt riveting. Did you get the ARC through LT? Because I totally missed seeing it if you did. I'll look forward to hearing if you think it as good as her first.

256msf59
heinäkuu 12, 2011, 8:20 pm

Glad you enjoyed Matterhorn. As you know, it was my favorite read of last year.
I subscribe to Shelf Awareness and I think I landed the Candice Millard through there. I've landed some excellent books through that site.

257labfs39
heinäkuu 12, 2011, 9:02 pm

I'll have to check it out...

258rebeccanyc
heinäkuu 13, 2011, 7:55 am

#254 I sympathize with your computer problems, Lisa. About 3+ years ago, I had problems with my Dell laptop and I got the same kind of idiotic runaround from Dell, after 10+ years of happy experiences with them, so much so that I lost confidence in them. (Especially when they sent me a box to send the laptop back to them and asked me to include a description of my problem with the computer: Hello! Didn't they have a complaint stored in their computer system with a reference number? Shouldn't they have included some kind of document with that reference number in the box?) That's when I decided not to send it back to them and heed my brother-in-law's advice and get a Mac. It took a little getting used to but I've never looked back and I can can highly recommend them (especially now that you can run Windows virtually on them so you can keep using programs that don't have an Apple equivalent).

259TadAD
heinäkuu 13, 2011, 8:58 am

>258 rebeccanyc:: Unfortunately, only on the more expensive ones. The less expensive Macs aren't up to it or, at least, weren't up to it last time I looked. The emulation is simply too slow.

What I really want is for Intuit to port a full version of Quicken over to the iPad..."full version" being something that includes the online bill pay. I'd stick the stuff that needs horsepower such as compilers or databases onto an external drive and use my work laptop to drive it. Then I'd switch to the iPad for light-duty home use such as browsing, and things like email and paying bills where I don't want the data going anywhere near an outside machine. Unfortunately, Quicken seems to have relegated the Mac community to permanent second tier status.

260ffortsa
heinäkuu 13, 2011, 9:11 am

The Quicken problem was one of the reasons I didn't get a Mac this time around. By a rather fortuitous route, I bought a Lenovo laptop instead, and so far I'm favorably impressed - it's been about a year, I think. The Lenovo has a very large keyboard for a laptop - about 98% of a standard desktop keyboard.

Before this I had an HP laptop - what a headache. The last time I brought it in to fix, my repair guy just about refused to let me spend money on it. But I thought the desktop HPs were better. Sorry you're having trouble with yours.

261rebeccanyc
heinäkuu 13, 2011, 10:36 am

I am using a program called VMWare to run Windows on my Mac (bought 3+ years ago), not the Mac's own system. (I think it has to do with what operating system the Mac is using, not the price, but I could be wrong about that.) I use it mainly for Quicken and for a publishing program I use. It is fine, maybe a little slow if I have too many other programs running on the Mac part, but it is perfect for my needs. My brother-in-law told me if it was too slow I could go to the Apple store and have them increase my laptop's memory.

262TadAD
Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 13, 2011, 11:00 am

>261 rebeccanyc:: I use VMWare at work a lot so that I can emulate different versions of Windows on a single machine. It works well for some things but, unfortunately, not for everything I do.

ETA: There's also another piece of software, Parallels, that puts up a Windows virtual machine on a Mac. I need to find someone who has tried it and get some feedback. Has anyone here tried it?

I'll have to do something soon...my current home laptop is slowly dying. It's now a "portable" rather than a "laptop" since the battery went. New batteries are no longer available from the manufacturer and the after-market ones for this particular model are receiving horrendous reviews ("occasionally overheats your machine and causes it to seize up..."). I'm torn because I really don't want to spend money on a new computer now given there are two or three other things I'd really like to buy.

263labfs39
heinäkuu 13, 2011, 11:33 am

When I first had my hip surgery, sitting at the desk was painful, so I got a small laptop that I could set on my lap. I looked at the iBooks, which are quite glamorous but rather disappointing under the hood. For almost half the money I was able to get a Toshiba Protege which has twice the memory and twice the hard drive and weighed only 3 oz more than the iBook Air. Even the Mac rep admitted that the only advantage to the iBook was that its "guts" are one piece, supposedly slightly faster, but with no way to repair or replace a single piece. It's all or nothing. I adamantly refused to look at an HP laptop simply because of the customer service experiences we have had with them.

I was a Mac user in college, back when print jobs were sent to the mainframe room to be picked up later, and we sent messages using gopher. The screen was about 4"x6" and green. Since then my Mac experience has been limited to my new iPhone. It would have been nice to get the iBook, but I just couldn't justify the cost vs memory, etc. Now we are stuck with the HP from h***.

264labfs39
heinäkuu 13, 2011, 11:54 am

After finishing Matterhorn, I read a short interview with the author at the end of the book. In it Marlantes says his book is "drawn directly from another epic: the myth of Parzival and his knightly voyage through manhood in search of the Grail." I found that idea quite intriguing, so I reread parts of Parzival last night, as well as an interesting article about masculinity and Parzival, and several YouTube videos of Marlantes talking about his book. The parallels between the book and myth are well done, and not only add dimension, but explain a few oddities. Once I've gathered my thoughts on this new development, I'll post.

For a change of pace, I picked up a Europa Edition novel recommended to me in an older thread by Kerry (avatiakh). It's Cooking with Fernet Branca, and, although I'm not much of a cook, so far the story is quite funny. It's about a British "gent", as he calls himself, who buys a house on a mountain in Italy, and is immediately visited by a neighbor who interrupts his solitude in very funny ways. It was a Booker nominee in 2004.

265TadAD
heinäkuu 13, 2011, 12:13 pm

>264 labfs39:: I found the Fernet Branca quite funny. However, I've been told that the sequels are rather disappointing. I have no first hand experience to know if this is true...I stopped with the first.

266rebeccanyc
heinäkuu 13, 2011, 12:27 pm

I am really looking forward to reading Matterhorn although I'm not sure when I'll get to it. On the other hand, I started Cooking with Fernet Branca and I just couldn't read it; there's a particular kind of British humor that just rubs me the wrong way.

267avatiakh
heinäkuu 13, 2011, 9:30 pm

I've also recently read and enjoyed From the Land of the Moon. And agree with Tad, no matter how much you enjoy Cooking with Fernet Branca do not venture to the sequels. I read the second book and it was quite weak, the third book is set in England.
Hope your computer troubles resolve.

268labfs39
heinäkuu 14, 2011, 12:39 am

#265, 267 It's such a letdown when a sequel fails to deliver. I enjoyed Elegance of the Hedgehog very much, but haven't yet read Gourmet Rhapsody, despite having had it on my shelf for well over a year. I'm just afraid that if I don't enjoy Gourmet, it will tarnish my impressions of Hedgehog. This is a long way of saying thanks, Tad and Kerry, for the warnings on the Cooking with Fernet Branca sequels.

#266 I think I know what you mean. Although I find many parts of the book very funny, I am having trouble with some of the jokes about homosexuality. They just sort of stick in my throat on the way down. The privy flying over the edge of the porch was a hoot, however.

He does the unreliable narrator very well. I was completely taken in by Gerard's opening impressions and was quite thrown when he switched to Marta's perspective and I realized how prejudiced I was being.

269labfs39
heinäkuu 14, 2011, 1:04 am

I've picked up three books in the last couple of days, each for $2 or less, which all sound interesting, despite being completely different from one another.

So Vast the Prison by Assia Djebar is a novel of a woman's life which also covers aspects of the history of Algeria and the oppression of women. I am interested in her particular perspective because she is Algerian, with Berber roots, and was educated in France. That triangle of languages, religions, and cultures has been the root of much of the problems of the last century there.

Travels in West Africa by Mary Kingsley will be a nice follow up to Sisters of Sinai which I read last year. The Kingsley travelogue was originally published in 1897 and is reprinted here by the National Geographic Society.

Novels in Three Lines by Félix Fénéon, a NYRB book, is extremely unusual. It is a collection of over a 1000 news items he wrote anonymously while a journalist for Le Matin; each item referencing a true crime. No longer than three lines, each piece has been chosen and arranged by the author to tell a story.

Between my serendipitous finds and recommendations from LT friends, my pile is growing exponentially. Fortunately, I am 516th in line for one of the books at the library, so that one at least will be put off for a while!

270labfs39
Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 16, 2011, 8:34 pm

Whoops! Time for a new thread. Hope to see you there!