dchaikin part 2 - post mergansers

Tämä viestiketju jatkaa tätä viestiketjua: dchaikin part 1 - following Dante.

Tämä viestiketju jatkuu täällä: dchaikin part 3 - refresh?.

KeskusteluClub Read 2020

Liity LibraryThingin jäseneksi, niin voit kirjoittaa viestin.

dchaikin part 2 - post mergansers

1dchaikin
Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 11, 2020, 6:49pm



if my first thread can be thought of as pre-covid 19, I'll think of this one as post Ducks (Ellmann's Ducks, Newburyport), hence the duck coming down to land. Back to Nabakov and Dante, and on to more Booker longlist, Willa Cather and Shakespeare...that's the forecast anyway.

2dchaikin
Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 27, 2020, 9:23pm

Currently Reading   



Currently Listening to:



Titus Andronicus by William Shakespeare (started reading Jul 12)
Shadows on the Rock by Willa Cather (started reading Jul 9)
Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli (started reading Jul 8)
Over by the River : And Other Stories by William Maxwell (started reading Jun 13)
The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt, read by Patricia Rodríguez & Eric Meyers (started listening Jul 16)

3dchaikin
Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 26, 2020, 3:58pm

Themes by year

2012 - old testament
2013 - old testament and Toni Morrison
2014 - old testament
2015 - old testament, Toni Morrison & Cormac McCarthy
2016 - Homer, Greek mythology, Greek drama, & Thomas Pynchon
2017 - Virgil, Ovid & Thomas Pynchon
2018 - Apocrypha, New Testament & Gabriel García Márquez
2019 - Rome to Renaissance, James Baldwin, Willa Cather, Shakespeare, the 2019 Booker list
2020 - Dante, Vladimir Nabokov, Willa Cather and Shakespeare, the 2019 Booker list

links to all my old threads:

2009 Part 1, 2009 Part 2, 2010 Part 1, 2010 Part 2, 2011 Part 1, 2011 Part 2, 2012 Part 1, 2012 Part 2, 2013 Part 1, 2013 Part 2, 2013 Part 3, 2014 Part 1, 2014 Part 2, 2014 Part 3, 2015 Part 1, 2015 Part 2, 2015 Part 3, 2016 Part 1, 2016 Part 2, 2016 Part 3, 2017 Part 1, 2017 Part 2, 2018 part 1, 2018 part 2, 2019 part 1, 2019 part 2, 2019 part 3, 2020 part 1

4dchaikin
Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 27, 2020, 9:24pm

Books read this year:

5dchaikin
Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 17, 2020, 5:59pm

My year in audiobooks:

6dchaikin
Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 12, 2020, 5:54pm

The list of books I've read - part 1
Links go to my review post in my part 1 thread.

JANUARY

1. *** 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World by Elif Shafak, read by Alix Dunmore (listened Dec 16 - Jan 6)
2. ***½ Mary by Vladimir Nabokov (read Jan 11-12)
3. **** Frankissstein: A Love Story by Jeanette Winterson (listened Jan 7-15)
4. **** Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in 40 Questions by Valeria Luiselli (read Jan 18-24)
5. ***½ The Wall by John Lanchester, read by Will Poulter (listened Jan 16-25)

FEBRUARY

6. ***½ The Professor's House by Willa Cather (read Jan 13 - Feb 3)
7. **** The Man Who Saw Everything by Deborah Levy, read by George Blagden (listened Jan 27 - Feb 5)
8. ***** The Inferno by Dante Alighieri, translation by Jean Hollander & Robert Hollander (read Jan 1 - Feb 6)
9. **** Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson (read Jan 25 - Feb 7)
10. **½ Body Tourists by Jane Rogers (read Feb 7-13)
11. **** Survival In Auschwitz : The Nazi Assault on Humanity by Primo Levi (read Feb 13-19)
12. **½ Night Boat to Tangier by Kevin Barry, read by the author (listened Feb 6, then 13-20)
13. *** King, Queen, Knave by Vladimir Nabokov (read Feb 19-28)

MARCH

14. *** The Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare (read Jan 31 - Mar 1)
15. *** Evil: The Science Behind Humanity's Dark Side by Julia Shaw, read by Teri Schnaubelt (listened Feb 21 - Mar 4)
16. ***** My Mortal Enemy by Willa Cather (read Feb 28 - Mar 6)

7dchaikin
Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 27, 2020, 9:25pm

The list of books I've read - part 2
Links go to my review below, in this same thread.

APRIL

17. **** Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann (read Mar 1 - Apr 8)
18. ***** Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare (read Mar 8 - Apr 11)
19. ****½ The Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom, read by Bahni Turpin (listened Mar 4 - Apr 12)
20. *** The Luzhin Defense by Vladimir Nabokov, (read Apr 8 - 18)
21. ***½ Flowers of Mold by Ha Seong-nan (Read Oct 18-14, Apr 18-20)
22. ****½ The Reawakening by Primo Levi (read Apr 20-28)
23. **** The Eye by Vladimir Nabokov (read Apr 28-29)

MAY

24. ****½ Educated by Tara Westover, read by Julia Whelan (listened Apr 13 - May 7)
25. ***** Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather (read Apr 16 - May 8)
26. **** Glory by Vladimir Nabokov (read May 2-18)
27. ****½ The Dutch House by Ann Patchett, read by Tom Hanks (listened May 9-21)
28. *** Lanny by Max Porter (read May 19-22)
29. *** Antony and Cleopatra by William Shakespeare (read Apr 25 - May 25)
30. **** My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite (read May 22-31)

JUNE

31. *** Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara, read by Indira Varma, Himesh Pate, & Antonio Aakeel (listened May 22 - Jun 2)
32. **** Vladimir Nabokov (Overlook Illustrated Lives) by Jane Grayson (read Jun 1-8)
33. **** Laughter in the Dark by Vladimir Nabokov (read Jun 8-17)
34. **** Memories of the Future by Siri Hustvedt, read by Katherine Fenton (listened Jun 4-22)
35. ***** Purgatorio by Dante Alighieri, translated by Jean Hollander & Robert Hollander (read May 3 -Jun 28)

JULY

36. ***** Love's Labor's Lost by William Shakespeare (read May 31 - Jul 3)
37. **** Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in 40 Questions by Valeria Luiselli (read Jul 4-6)
38. *** Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff, read by Robin Miles (listened Jun 23 - Jul 15)
39 **** Dune by Frank Herbert (read Jun 18 - Jul 25)

8dchaikin
Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 27, 2020, 9:25pm

The books I've read this year in order of date published

1320
The Inferno by Dante Alighieri
Purgatorio by Dante Alighieri
1594 The Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare
1595 Love's Labor's Lost by William Shakespeare
1599 Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare
1607 Antony and Cleopatra by William Shakespeare
1925 The Professor's House by Willa Cather
1926
Mary by Vladimir Nabokov
My Mortal Enemy by Willa Cather
1927 Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
1928 King, Queen, Knave by Vladimir Nabokov
1930
The Luzhin Defense by Vladimir Nabokov
The Eye by Vladimir Nabokov
1932
Glory by Vladimir Nabokov
Laughter in the Dark by Vladimir Nabokov
1947 Survival In Auschwitz : The Nazi Assault on Humanity by Primo Levi
1963 The Reawakening by Primo Levi
1965 Dune by Frank Herbert
1999 Flowers of Mold by Ha Seong-nan (translated 2019)
2001 Vladimir Nabokov (Overlook Illustrated Lives) by Jane Grayson
2010 Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff
2011 Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson
2016 Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in 40 Questions by Valeria Luiselli
2018
Evil: The Science Behind Humanity's Dark Side by Julia Shaw
Educated by Tara Westover
My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
2019
10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World by Elif Shafak
Frankissstein: A Love Story by Jeanette Winterson
The Wall by John Lanchester
The Man Who Saw Everything by Deborah Levy
Body Tourists by Jane Rogers
Night Boat to Tangier by Kevin Barry
Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann
The Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom
The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
Lanny by Max Porter
Memories of the Future by Siri Hustvedt
2020 Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara

9dchaikin
Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 27, 2020, 9:38pm

Some stats:

2020
Books read: 39
Pages: 8047 Audio time: 115:49
"regular books”**: 27
Formats: Paperback 21; Audio 12; Hardcover 6;
Subjects in brief: Novel 22; Non-fiction 10; Classic 9; Memoir 5; drama 4; Journalism 3; Poetry 2; Essay Collections 2; Biography 2; Science Fiction 2; Science 1; Short Stories 1; On Literature and Books 1; History 1;
Nationalities: United States 10; England 9; Russia 6; Italy 4; Mexico 2; Turkey 1; Hong Kong 1; South Africa 1; Ireland 1; Canada 1; South Korea 1; Nigeria 1; India 1;
Books in translation: 12
Genders, m/f: 18/21 unknown: 0; mixed 0;
Owner: Books I own: 37; Library 2;
Re-reads: 3
Year Published: 2020’s 1; 2010's 18; 2000’s 1; 1990’s 1; 1960’s 2; 1940's 1; 1930’s 4; 1920's 5; 1500 & 1600's 4; 1300's 2;

"Everything"*
Books read: 1091
Pages: 281,766; Audio time: 1659:30 (69 days)
"regular books"**: 698
Formats: Paperback 579; Hardcover 238; Audio 160; ebooks 75; Lit magazines 38
Subjects in brief: Non-fiction 460; Novels 300; Biographies/Memoirs 196; History 175; Classics 145; Journalism 95; Poetry 89; Science 80; Ancient 75; Speculative Fiction 66; Nature 55; On Literature and Books 55; Anthology 45; Graphic 43; Essay Collections 43; Short Story Collections 40; Juvenile/YA 34; Drama 32; Visual Arts 26; Interviews 15; Mystery/Thriller 13
Nationalities: US 636; Non-American, English speaking 204; Other: 247
Books in translation: 189
Genders, m/f: 697/297
Owner: Books I owned 735; Library books 280; Books I borrowed 66; Online 11
Re-reads: 22
Year Published: 2020’s 1; 2010's 249; 2000's 275; 1990's 167; 1980's 113; 1970's 55; 1960's 44; 1950's 26; 1900-1949 46; 19th century 16; 16th-18th centuries 20; 13th-15th centuries 4; 0-1199 19; BCE 55

*well, everything since I have kept track, beginning in Dec 1990

**"Regular Books" excludes audio, lit magazines, small poetry books, juvenile, graphic novels, podcasts, etc. It is just meant to count regular old books that I picked up and read.

10dchaikin
Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 12, 2020, 8:50pm



17. Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann
published: 2019
format: 1040-page paperback
acquired: January
read: Mar 1 – Apr 8
time reading: 41 hr 47 min, 2.5 min/page
rating: 4
locations: Newcomerstown, Ohio
about the author An American-born British novelist based in Edinburgh, Scotland, born 18 October 1956 in Evanston, IL

This is the thousand page stream-of-conscious sentence that came out last year, making the Booker long list and getting a lot of praise, although not universally. When I decided to pursue the Booker longlist, it immediately became the most intimidating book on my shorter TBR, and, as it wasn't available in audio*, would have to wait till I had time to actually read it all. No sneaking this one in during my commute. Somehow comments in my first thread led to a (masochistic?) group read here in Club Read.

So, what is this thing? That is not an easy question to answer. First, I think the narrative is unlike what we typically associate with stream of conscious. There is no real narrative break, it's one Ohio mother-of-four, home-baker-for-income's linear thought trend over the course of a short period. The breaks are her mind association transitions. What comes out is pouring of information and anxiety that readers need to figure out to...not how to understand, that isn't hard...but how to manage. Also, while there are no periods in our unnamed narrator's mind, there are breaks, with elegant prose, covering a separate story, unknown to our narrator, of mountain lion and her cubs managing limited wilderness in western Pennsylvania and Ohio. (Yes, there are mountain lions there - a few sightings every so often. Everything in the book is factual except the narrator's and mountain lion's stories.)

The lioness makes a nice counterpoint, as we see her clear thoughts, practical concerns while in constant danger or in a fragile exposed peace. Our anxiety-ridden narrator, however, doesn't exactly tell us what is going on. That's a little hard to explain without reading it, but we only find out the book's plot as it fits in what is actually a kind of secondary thought stream of conscious. That is we aren't really getting her main thoughts, we seem to be on some other layer, a place where, after spending 1000 pages, I still haven't quite identified yet - maybe something just on the conscious side of our conscious/unconscious thought boundary...but with some kind of intentional commentary in there.

So how was it? It was both moving and horrifying, it was also exhausting, deeply memorable, and admirable. The amount of anxiety and the negative info-dives make for interesting and tough reading, her troubles compounded into regional, national, global, historical, human, political and natural bad news, heaped on top of more intense bad news, sprinkled heavily with the most gut-wrenching headlines that skitter through, appearing and then immediately disappearing in the fog of words. When I say above readers must manage this book, they must manage the relentlessness of all this disheartening information, along with numerous fascinating factoids and stories too. A little Wikipedia potpourri. But there is a real human story in here too - our narrator, her entire set of worries completely exposed here, is also dealing with her four children and husband and health problems and her family. Most moving is her memories of her now deceased mother, and her mother's health crisis that happened while our narrator was just ready to leave the nest. These human relationships and their complications make a positive counter-force, the aspect that has more expansive feelings, and that makes this book beautiful... Well, I should add, there are some striking prose bits snuggled in here too.

As a reader my relationship with the book evolved over the six weeks I read it and the few days I've now been thinking about it. In the beginning I was really intrigued and then there was rhythm I could just pick up, skipping across words to make connections. Then it starts to get a little harder to read, and I was carried on a bit by the drive to finish (thank you group read). Then it becomes apparent I can't think about the book while I'm reading. There's too much information to process on the page, too much anxiety to loosen up and feel it, and I'm just going to have to wait. Then I started to a slow down, had a moment or two of exhaustion, but some late narrative drive carried me home. That overwhelming sense of too-much-information-can't-think was, for me, the hardest part of the book. Because in my own mind, in my own sort of parallel consciousness, I'm asking myself, it this worth it, should I be reading this, what am I reading this for...and I couldn't address those questions. But now I can.

Is it worth it? For me, yes, I'm grateful to have read it. Should I have spent 6 weeks (as the world was closing due to a pandemic rife why anxious unknowns)? I think so, I mean there is no other way. What was I reading this for? Just to get the end, I guess, to get the full experience of the book. I'm not quite sure what I'm going to do with all this now. But it will hang around, snugly ensconced in my reading psyche, distinct from everything else I've read. This is a curious experiment that I'm glad I took part of.

*it is now available on audio.

11sallypursell
huhtikuu 11, 2020, 7:42pm

10. Somehow, the different reviews I have read don't seem to all add up to the same book. How intriguing. I guess I shall just have to read it myself. Thank you for this great review, Dan. I read it with great attention, and I appreciate it.

12dchaikin
huhtikuu 11, 2020, 8:01pm

>11 sallypursell: yup. I noticed too. It's that kind of book where each reader has their own experience.

13labfs39
huhtikuu 12, 2020, 3:17pm

The only Ducks in my life are the mallards swimming just off shore, driving the dog nuts.

It's good that you are glad you read Ducks, Newburyport. It would be lousy to get to the end and think, well that was a waste of six weeks!

14dchaikin
huhtikuu 12, 2020, 4:46pm

>13 labfs39: 🙂 Potential review in that case, "This was six weeks of life wasted."

I intended to be ready to bail, but, well, I also read Plutarch's Lives through and found it a bit tortuous...for 4 months! (but I'm using it all the time now. Just finished Julius Caesar and Shakespeare's source was a Plutarch.) I will say, I wish I had set a slower goal and mixed other books in regularly. I think it would have been better at 15 pages a day - plus more whenever it struck me to read more. I tried to read about 30 pages a day - and kept that up for four weeks and then kind of crashed.

15lisapeet
huhtikuu 12, 2020, 5:24pm

That was a very satisfying review, Dan, which is good because I don't think I'm going to read the book. Sometimes a review is plenty!

16dchaikin
huhtikuu 12, 2020, 5:48pm

>15 lisapeet: Thanks. I was just happy to work those thoughts out of my head. Glad the review also has this purpose.

17RidgewayGirl
huhtikuu 12, 2020, 6:32pm

>10 dchaikin: Fantastic review! I'm eager to read this one, but have to wait until my mind is a little less scattered.

18dchaikin
huhtikuu 12, 2020, 8:52pm

Thanks Kay. A good idea. Wish you a less scattered mind, regardless. Wish that on everyone, myself included.

19OscarWilde87
huhtikuu 13, 2020, 3:27am

Great review of a great feat you accomplished! Congrats!

20rachbxl
huhtikuu 13, 2020, 4:24am

Excellent review, Dan. I was quite sure I didn’t want to read this book, but a couple of reviews here in CR recently have intrigued me, and now this one of yours...

21AlisonY
huhtikuu 13, 2020, 5:06am

Enjoyed your review, Dan. Interesting reading Sally's comment that our reviews were so different it made it feel like different books. I'm not so sure that overall we came to different conclusions - perhaps just different aspects remained at the forefront of our minds by the end.

In a lovely and most fitting end to our challenge, we have 11 Mallard chicks on our pond at home. This is the first time they've nested, as the smaller but tougher Moorhens usually chase them away and set up house first. It feels most fitting after our Ducks reading marathon.

22dchaikin
huhtikuu 13, 2020, 2:20pm

>19 OscarWilde87: Thanks!

>20 rachbxl: and then mine scared you off? 😂 I wouldn’t discourage anyone from reading it. I suspect there’s nothing else quite like it.

>21 AlisonY: those darned mean moorhens. The Mallard chicks sound cute. And, yes, different emphasis, but widely different, I think. It’s a little like we each selected aspects that rang most on our mind while we were figuring out our reviews. I know I would write the review differently when thinking of different aspects of the book.

23kidzdoc
Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 14, 2020, 7:14am

Fabulous review of Ducks, Newburyport, Dan! I'm glad that you found it to be worthwhile. Thanks for setting up the group read of it; I wasn't able to participate on time, but I'll plan to refer to it when I read it this summer.

ETA: I looked for your review on the book's home page, to give it a green thumb, but I didn't see it.

24dchaikin
Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 14, 2020, 9:04am

Thanks Darryl. If you find yourself reading it, I’ll be really interested to follow. It’s funny, I had stopped putting my reviews on the book pages because I didn’t think anyone was reading them, and they don’t mean as much outside the context of my thread. But just recently I starting posting links to my threads in the reviews space, as I’ve been losing track of my old posts and that seems like a good way to find them. Occasionally I actually posted the review. This one is posted. (Link to review page: https://www.librarything.com/work/22840316/reviews/177686291 )

25dchaikin
huhtikuu 18, 2020, 6:46pm




26dchaikin
Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 18, 2020, 7:09pm



18. The Tragedy of Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare
originally performed: 1599
editors: Barbara A. Mowat and Paul Werstine, 1992, 2011
afterword “A Modern Perspective” by Coppélia Kahn
format: 300-page paperback
acquired: February
read: Mar 8 – Apr 11
time reading: 9 hr 58 min, 2 min/page
rating: 5
locations: Rome, Philippi
about the author English playwright April 23, 1564 – April 23, 1616

The latest Shakespeare in our Litsy group, with a slight twist in that I was the organizer (hence all the pictures). Thinking back to high school, when I failed to read this assignment but was exposed to it, I was worried that this might not be that great. It might be a bunch of too-formal stodgy speeches that feel ridiculous in our era. Not sure why, but I was quite pleased to see just how alive this play is. This was the play that opened up the Globe Theatre, and so was likely there to make a statement about Shakespeare's company. It apparently had extensive special effects, and a lot of action takes place on the stage that might normally only be told about in the dialog. Caesar is, of course, assassinated on the stage, stabbed by this knife-wielding co-patriot senators, leading to the plays most famous line. (I think some of the lines in the play are more famous than the play - this one, "Et Tu Brute", and "Friends, Romans, Country", and "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars / But in ourselves", "Cry Havoc and Let Slip the Dogs of War")

Anyway, enjoyed it, enjoying seeing how the bard made this happen, creating interest and drama in many layers, working in subtext, managing a major anticlimax after the main character is killed off in Act 3. And how he managed to portray a famous act of liberty and rebellion to a ruler in Elizabethan England. And, he managed all this with, possibly, very high expectations. Good stuff. (Next will Antony and Cleopatra...a nice follow-up)

27dchaikin
huhtikuu 19, 2020, 1:37pm



4121 Wilson - Sarah Broom's childhood home, the yellow house

28dchaikin
Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 19, 2020, 3:04pm



19. The Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom
reader: Bahni Turpin
published: 2019
format: 14:18 audible audiobook (376 pages in hardcover)
acquired: March 4
listened: Mar 4 – Apr 12
rating: 4½
locations: New Orleans East (And Denton, TX, New York City, Burundi and a few other places)
about the author American author from New Orleans East, LA, born December 31, 1979

New Orleans East is so far off the regular New Orleans map that I had never heard of it, despite my four years of college in the city. A drained swamp that probably should never have been built, it was a 1960's develop project of a few investors in an expanding city, and was designed to be a nice suburb of New Orleans. It was severely flooded in 1964(?), resulting in never-again promises of flood protection. As economy shrunk in New Orleans, New Orleans East became lower and lower income, and also less white. When Katrina hit, the area had a second massive flooding, this time wiping out neighborhoods and scattering residents across the country, permanently. Impoverished New Orleans East was one of the hardest hit areas in all of New Orleans.

Sarah Broom's family was one of those impoverished families. The youngest of 12 siblings and half siblings, she was raised by a single mother with limited income, and handful of older brothers and sisters in what was probably supposed to be her mother's starting house. Her mother never left, though, and house simply trended toward a dilapidated decline during her childhood. Sarah, herself, would leave home for college in Texas (without any guidance) and later pursue a career as a writer. She was writing for O magazine in New York City when she Katrina hit, and when, later, she got a call that their house was gone, torn-down post-Katrina without proper notice by what appears to have been some kind of runaway wrecking crews. This was what she remembers as the yellow house, on 4121 Wilson, along an edge of New Orleans East.

I was a little surprised by how much this was an extensive family history, largely before Sarah was born. I didn't mind, although I did prefer the sections about her own life. But, first, very noticeable, she is a very eloquent writer, able to set up and lay out a captivating story, able to capture and bring to life each of her bundle of siblings, plus some of her extensive family, even the family she never knew, like her father. Naturally a journalist, she attacks her own life kind of the same way a journalist would, interrogating her family for details, and then doing research to confirm or undermine them. I was really struck by her take of the especially dark days in New Orleans in 1994, when crime was rampant and the NOPD was seriously compromised, the year one NOPD officer was arrested to hiring a hit on a mother of two, because she "anonymously" reported something strange he did. I was in New Orleans that year, and the rampant crime then, the stories of people I knew getting held up at gun point, or of friends of friends getting shot, form a strong part of my impression of the city. She was 14 that year.

A different history of New Orleans comes out of this book, of a family without the accent, outside and somewhat disconnected the main city, neglected by the city, and of a family scattered across the country by the storm. At one point, having returned to New Orleans to work for the mayor after Katrina, Sarah would be the only one of her siblings living in New Orleans. Most of her siblings would not return Louisiana.

This book of course won the National Book Award and so has its on own PR. I can also recommend it highly. A terrific book and terrific alternate look at this city and its storm and aftermath.

29dchaikin
Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 19, 2020, 6:30pm



20. The Luzhin Defense by Vladimir Nabokov
translation: from Russian, by Michael Scammell, with the author, 1963
published: 1930
format: 256-page paperback
acquired: December
read: Apr 8-18
time reading: 8 hr 8 min, 1.9 min/page
rating: 3
locations: pre-revolution St. Petersburg area, and contemporary 1920's Berlin, mainly
about the author April 22 1899 – July 2 1977. Russia born, educated at Trinity College in Cambridge, 1922, later lived in Berlin (1922-1937), the US (1941-1961) and Montreux, Switzerland (1961-1977).

Nabokov's 3rd novel, inspired, according to him, while collecting butterflies in the Pyrenees in 1929. That's notable because he's a little famous for the hobby and also because it's not a Great Depression novel, but was mostly written before that happened (in Wiemar Berlin).

The story is about Alexsandr Ivanovich Luzhin, a Russian child Chess savant who has grown up. He's still famous, a masterful player appreciated most by those who know the game. But he also hasn't matured. Helpless, unhealthy, unkempt, unaware, driven in his obsession but otherwise harmless, there is a pathetic likable aspect to him. His fame and harmlessness attract a wife to him, a soft-hearted sympathetic Russian exile like himself who commits herself to his care. It works out OK until Luzhin begins to see the world more and more like a Chess board, and those around him more an more like players to outmaneuver. Readers will notice playful imagery with squares everywhere.

It's also, IMO, a very limited novel. Playing interesting games, no doubt, but a little tiresome between its highlights, well to me at least. I just didn't love how its structured, how artificial and clean the construction is. It felt to me like there was some distance between it and the author and I didn't care for that. Maybe "impersonal" is the right word. (I much prefer Mary, his more personal 1st novel). Anyway, I felt it dragged in places.

Overall, I liked the characters, I like the view of Russian exiles (and of one Soviet patriot on a shopping spree!!) in this era, and I liked the ideas, but didn't love the book. I wouldn't recommend it. (Chess enthusiasts may feel a need to overrule me.)

(As I was writing this review, I stumbled a cross a movie based on the book, released in 2000. It's a romantic drama.)

30RidgewayGirl
huhtikuu 19, 2020, 8:52pm

Gorgeous review of The Yellow House. I'll have to read it.

31lisapeet
huhtikuu 19, 2020, 9:04pm

>28 dchaikin: I'm really looking forward to this one—I loved the New Yorker excerpt. And that was a terrific review, Dan.

32AlisonY
huhtikuu 20, 2020, 7:33am

Great review of The Yellow House. I expect there are many similarities between it and Random Family, but Katrina probably gives this a different angle.

33dchaikin
Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 20, 2020, 10:10am

>30 RidgewayGirl: >31 lisapeet: >32 AlisonY: thanks for these comments. They mean a lot.

>30 RidgewayGirl: hope you get here.

>31 lisapeet: she can simply write. I hope she has some plans for the next book.

>32 AlisonY: I just read your review if Random Family. Instead of similarities, what struck are the differences. This family here, while poor, have some income. They are not ground down in poverty. Several of the kids go to college, and they all have careers of some sort. There are drugs, and other abuse, but it’s not universal. There is hope and dynamism within the challenges. The yellow house was itself and odd safe place, well, at least a place to tether to. I didn’t put any of that in my post. Well, wasn’t thinking about it then.

34kidzdoc
Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 20, 2020, 10:17am

>26 dchaikin: Nice comments about Julius Caesar, Dan. I absolutely hated reading Shakespeare in English class in high school, and as a result I didn't see my first Shakespeare play until April 2013, when I saw the Royal Shakespeare Company perform Julius Caesar in the Brooklyn Academy of Music with an all black cast, which was set in Africa:



I absolutely loved it, and that was the jump start I needed to see his other plays. Speaking of which, Shakespeare's Globe Theatre is offering free viewings of several of his plays on their YouTube channel, for two weeks each. Romeo and Juliet starts today.

https://www.shakespearesglobe.com/watch/

>28 dchaikin: Great review of The Yellow House! I'm glad that you enjoyed it as much as I did. The images you posted in >27 dchaikin: were very helpful in showing where the bulk of the damage from flood waters took place. If I look at Uptown New Orleans on the top image, assuming that I'm reading the map correctly, the three east-west streets running from south to north are Tchoupitoulas, St Charles and S Claiborne Avenues; if that's right it's easy to see why Tulane's campus, and most of the French Quarter, Garden District and Uptown escaped the worst of the flood waters. I had no idea that Chalmette and Meraux were nearly as badly stricken as New Orleans East, Gentilly and Lakeview were, although I didn't have any friends or family who lived in those suburbs, probably because essentially all of my closest friends at Tulane were (and still are) fellow African American students. That map also explains why the home of my ex-girlfriend's parents wasn't as badly damaged as I would have expected; they lived off of St Bernard Avenue, in an area shaded green just northeast of Mid-City. When I was reading The Yellow House I used Google Maps to locate the house (1265 Foy Street), and I was surprised and pleased to see that it was in such good condition, and that it was how I remembered it. I don't think that any of the Watkins are currently living there, though.

Regarding New Orleans East, at least when I lived in the city from 1978-81, the neighborhoods that were the furthest north, and closest to Lake Ponchartrain, were much nicer than ones closer to the Intercoastal Waterway, which forms the East's southern border. One of my closest friends from Tulane lived in a very nice neighborhood between Hayne Boulevard and Morrison Road, the two northernmost east-west streets in your top image, which was mainly populated by professional upper middle class — and very light skinned — African Americans like Tia, whose freshman adviser at Tulane disparagingly asked her why she was dating a black guy (her high school sweetheart and current husband, Glenn, who was a premed student at Xavier at the time and is now an OB-GYN in your city); according to her he turned several shades of red after she informed him that she was a black Creole! The neighborhoods south of I-10 were far poorer than the ones to the north, which I found out as a result of taking city buses to visit Tia's and Glenn's families in New Orleans East; the Hayne, Morrison and Read (Boulevard) buses passed through lovely well manicured neighborhoods, whereas the Chef Menteur (Highway) bus went through industrial areas and blighted houses on streets that I didn't dare walk on (not that I had any business doing so). The Yellow House is located just south of Chef Menteur Highway (US Route 90, which is the east-west road highlighted in yellow in your second image.

As I mentioned on my thread after I reviewed The Yellow House New Orleans was a very different and much safer place when I lived there, and it wasn't until 1980 or 1981 that it started to become a more dangerous place to live. I never saw anyone robbed or held up, and can't think offhand of anyone I knew who was the victim of a crime.

It's been at least three years since I've been to the Crescent City, and I'm long overdue for a return visit, hopefully this coming autumn.

35AlisonY
huhtikuu 20, 2020, 11:21am

>33 dchaikin: Then it does sound like quite a different book - one with hope, at least. I didn't find much hope in Random Family. At times the characters searched for it, but very quickly life would get in the way and they'd forget to keep looking.

36dchaikin
huhtikuu 20, 2020, 2:28pm

>34 kidzdoc: i’ve seen a few stage performances of Shakespeare, including one at the Alley in Houston that was terrific (Othello). What you saw sounds wonderful and I’m glad you’re eyes were opened to what he can do. Actually JC has a lot of Shakespeare’s strengths in play construction.

What you wrote about New Orleans East is fascinating to me. Consistent with what I read in the YH and adds to it. The maps clarified a lot for me to, especially what happened to her sister who was hit by a car along Chef Menteur. (As for your friend Tia - what an ass she had for an ob-gyn.)

>35 AlisonY: crzy, about Random Family. In a book I read called The New New Journalism a chapter is dedicated to interviewing LeBlanc and she talks about what she did with RF, how she would leave her tape recorder with family members for them to talk to when they wanted, by themselves, and how some of her best material came from that. They would just pour themselves out into these tapes. It sounded quite beautiful, in a way.

37kidzdoc
Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 20, 2020, 6:54pm

>36 dchaikin: Right, Dan. Other than the RSC performance of Julius Caesar at BAM all of the other plays by Shakespeare I've seen were in London. The three that stand out were Othello at the National Theatre in 2013, starring Adam Lester as Othello and Rory Kinnear, one of my favorite British actors, as Iago; Imogen, a modern interpretation of Cymbeline at Shakespeare's Globe in 2016, which was written by Matthew Dunster and was set in a tough neighborhood in a council estate in modern day East London (the end was set to hip hop music and was absolutely stunning!), and Sir Ian McKellen as King Lear on the West End (Duke of York's Theatre) in 2018, in what may have been the great actor's last role on stage.

Actually Tia's advisor was the racist asshole; her husband is an OB-GYN, and he's a great guy!

38kidzdoc
Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 20, 2020, 6:54pm

YouTube comes through again! Here's a three minute video of the hip hop dance scene at the end of Imogen: https://youtu.be/6b8NQyAWPg0

The mostly young audience went wild at the conclusion of that dance number...but so did Debbi Welch, her husband Joe (both members of the 75 Books group, from Chicago), and I, despite our late middle age!

Several fight scenes looked as if they were taken from The Matrix, as you can see in this short video: https://youtu.be/TMHvEHksHIM

39dchaikin
huhtikuu 20, 2020, 7:21pm

>37 kidzdoc: misread the comment. Yes, the advisor = 💩. (Sorry to the ob-gyn)

I’ll checkout the videos! Thanks

40dchaikin
Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 26, 2020, 4:53pm



21. Flowers of Mold by Ha Seong-nan
published: 1999
translation: from Korean by Janet Hong (2019)
format: 212-page paperback from Open Letter Books
acquired: May 2019
read: Oct 18-23, Apr 18-20
time reading: 6 hr 56 min, 2.0 min/page
rating: 3½
locations: South Korea
about the author South Korean from Seoul, born June 28, 1967

Ha is looking at the two faces of urban South Korea - on one hand the shining advertisements and hopes and dreams, and on the other hand all the trash and filth on the ground, and all the limitations in life; and she's looking at how people live within these contrasts, how it damages them and impacts how they act. There is a lot of false face, of humble inappropriate flirtation and manipulation, of careless risk-taking and self-destruction. There is a lot of moldy trash.

This is a 1999 collection of short stories, only translated last year. I don't know how to explain, but it feels like the 1990's. The stories, each about 20 pages, each took me almost exactly 40 minutes to read.

I would like to tell you how wonderful these are, that they are as beautiful as the cover, but I struggled with them and the negative energy, I struggled to see the hope or play. (And they certainly are not beautiful.) That's why I put it down in October. Ultimately a few caught my attention, especially a playful one near the end, called Early Beans. This one covers the really bad day one young man has on his girlfriends birthday, where 1st everything goes wrong in his frivolous plans, and then he optimistically makes it much worse.

41dchaikin
Muokkaaja: toukokuu 3, 2020, 6:49pm



22. The Reawakening by Primo Levi
translation: 1965, from Italian by Stuart Woolf, with an afterword translated by Ruth Feldman in the 1980’s
published: 1963
format: 1995 edition paperback
acquired: February
read: Apr 20-28
time reading: 8 hr 2 min, 2.2 min/page
rating: 5
locations: Poland, Belarus, Romania, Hungary, Germany, Italy
about the author Jewish author from Turin, Italy, July 31, 1919 –April 11 ,1987

After finished Levi's first memoir, Survival in Auschwitz, I picked up a copy of his sequel, thinking I might just read through his major works. The Reawakening picks off exactly where the other book leaves off, as Levi sees the first Russians approach the camp on horseback and finds himself, surrounded by corpses, a bit hesitant to say anything. The book then follows Levi's long, winding, confused road home within the Soviet sphere. It's a very strange experience, with Levi living in a series of displaced person's camps along with people from numerous nationalities, speaking an assortment of languages. Communication is tricky as everyone strives to find a common language or method of communication. (And everyone is afraid to speak German). He has one conversation in Latin. These camps were ragged affairs, loosely run, generally neglected, with no real medical care and irregular food. Sometimes he was just wandering, without a camp, without any food or shelter. Midway through the book he gets on a train (while sick) with a crew of Italians and ends up not in Italy, but on the open plains in Belarus, where he would spend a summer.

All this wandering makes for a somewhat directionless memoir, as he captures that he has no idea where he's going next or when. But, what struck me is that this isn't a sad reflective book. It‘s essentially a series of stories, and they‘re entertaining, capturing this unstructured mixture, full of strikingly outlandish and memorable personalities. The sense he gives is of nostalgia. He will, for example, develop a lot of affection for the series of disorganized Russian crews in charge of these camps.

I'm giving it fives stars because, in way, it's just really out there. Such a mixture of stuff and all of it off the beaten path of normal or historical life. Thousands and thousands of people experienced these camps in different ways, ending far away from home and often without a home to go back to. And, while I've heard of it, I've read about these Holocaust survivors who end up in rather uninspiring displaced persons camps, and I picked up that sense of how disappointing of a liberation this was, I've never read about the experience itself in the camps.

42dchaikin
Muokkaaja: toukokuu 3, 2020, 6:50pm



23. The Eye by Vladimir Nabokov
translation: from Russian, by Dmitri Nabokov, with the author, 1965
published: 1930
format: 107-page Paperback
acquired: February
read: Apr 28-29
time reading: 2 hr 36 min, 1.5 min/page
rating: 4
locations: Berlin
about the author April 22 1899 – July 2 1977. Russia born, educated at Trinity College in Cambridge, 1922, later lived in Berlin (1922-1937), the US (1941-1961) and Montreux, Switzerland (1961-1977).

Nabokov‘s 4th novel is short one and this time it was good fun from the opening line. There is a playful sense to it, as the narrator, maybe with a touch of Dostoyevsky‘s instability, does an assortment of seeming ridiculous things, while he obsesses at spying on his closest friends. It has a clever structure. Nothing too profound, but a well crafted little book.

43arubabookwoman
huhtikuu 30, 2020, 10:11pm

Just catching up on your thread. Great review of Ducks! I’m ashamed that I’m still stuck at about 30%, even though I was liking it a lot. I think the stall is the result of a combination of my finding that it required a lot of concentration on my part, and my natural inclination to resist reading something I’m “supposed” to be reading. That being said, I’m trying to keep up with your Cather reads on Litsy, and though the Litsy Proust read seems to have petered out, I’m continuing tor read 20-25 pp of Proust a day on my own, and enjoying it.

I loved The Yellow House too. Having lived in NO so long, I was well aware of NO East, but (maybe because my husband is an architect) always thought of it as a swamp. There were a couple of secretaries in my office (who were white) who lived out there, and a law school classmate with whom I was friendly (who was black) who also lived there. During our time in NO we lived mostly Uptown. The first house we owned (1978-83) was on Chestnut off Napoleon, and the second house we owned was out by the Lake, in Lake Vista. We left before Katrina, but our former home Uptown had no hurricane damage whereas our Lake Vista home was under 10 feet of water.

I read an excellent novel a few years ago about a black family in New Orleans, partially set in NO East, A Kind of Freedom by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton.

44dchaikin
huhtikuu 30, 2020, 10:34pm

Thanks Deborah, for the Sexton recommendation. I'm interested. (LT's search is down, so I had to look it up elsewhere.) A lot there in your brief post. I'm thinking, first off...if you had held on to that Chestnut house, phew, what an investment it seems now. What a wonderful location to live.

I was wondering about the Litsy Proust read. I was sad I didn't join. Glad you still churning your way through. Some time ahead I'll have a Proust year and make it all the way through. For Ducks...I think it's a tough time to read Ducks, maybe it will call to you when the right time comes. I am glad your enjoying Cather. I'm so happy to be rereading DCftA. It's a different experience this time and I'm able to begin to structure my admiration. It's a special book...even for Cather. I didn't fully appreciate that last time, because it was the first of her books I read.

45avidmom
toukokuu 1, 2020, 3:32pm

Just catching up (finally!)

Loved your musings on Julius Caesar. I was an instructional aide in a high school sophomore English class that was reading this particular play. The kids loved it. So did I. The Nobokov & Levi book look really interesting.

46labfs39
toukokuu 3, 2020, 10:03am

>41 dchaikin: Although I've read several books by Primo Levi, this is one I have missed. It sounds like it might be a more hopeful or at least less dismal follow-up to Survival in Auschwitz.

>42 dchaikin: Your review is a reminder to get to the unread Nabokov I have on my TBR list. And your thread in general is a reminder of all the other great books out there that I would like to get to. Thanks for the inspiration

47dchaikin
toukokuu 3, 2020, 12:34pm

>46 labfs39: - awe, thanks Lisa! Regarding Primo Levi, I’ve only read his first two, so I don’t know how they compare to his other books but The Reawakening is quite a contrast with SiA. SiA is probably a far more important book, and which I noticed I gave only 4 stars. 🙂 I’ve ordered The Periodic Table.

48labfs39
toukokuu 3, 2020, 1:15pm

>47 dchaikin: The Periodic Table was less interesting, or perhaps I should say more difficult, for me. I'll be curious what you, as a scientist, think of it. I liked If Not Now, When? the most of the few I've read.

49sallypursell
toukokuu 3, 2020, 6:43pm

>44 dchaikin: Dan, which Cather is DCftA?

50dchaikin
Muokkaaja: toukokuu 3, 2020, 6:52pm

>48 labfs39: I've heard that, and I've imaged dry (SiA often has a dry tone, but that's almost an intentional contrast with what it's describing.) Noting your comments on If Not Now, When?. That's one his last books, I think.

>49 sallypursell: DCftA was my lazy way of typing Death Comes for the Archbishop

51rocketjk
Muokkaaja: toukokuu 4, 2020, 11:57am

Hi, Dan. I've finally landed on your second thread. The Yellow House looks wonderful. I will go looking for that as soon as we can go into bookstores again. The maps of New Orleans during the post-Katrina floods were sobering. As you know, I lived in New Orleans during the 1980s. Most of that time was spent living and working in Gentilly, so I was familiar with New Orleans East, too. But Gentilly was also awash, as those maps clearly show.

Regarding Julius Caesar and Shakespeare, I was introduced to Shakespeare relatively early. I grew up in suburban north Jersey. My mother had been an English major at Rutgers and my father was a reader as well. They would often take my sister and me into New York City when we were kids to experience all kinds of things: ballet, Gilbert & Sullivan, Broadway shows and Shakespeare. For the Shakespeare, my mother would read us a plot synopsis on the way into NYC while my father drove, so we would already know the story line and would not get lost during the performance and therefore bored. Very smart of her. In 8th grade English class we read As You Like It, which didn't particularly move me, I must admit. Especially as we were made to memorize the "All the world's a stage" speech and recite it, one after another, in front of the class. In 10th grade we read Julius Caesar which I liked much better, my interest being hampered a bit by having a mediocre English teacher that year. In 11th grade, though, I hit the jackpot in the form of a stupendously good English teacher who introduced us to Macbeth. It was like having the door to the treasure cave finally opened wide! Another highlight was a fabulous Shakespeare class in grad school at San Francisco State.

Cheers!

52dchaikin
toukokuu 4, 2020, 2:06pm

>51 rocketjk: I only looked up the maps as I was thinking about the review post. Wish I had looked them up earlier while reading, it would have helped.

That’s really cool about your broadway experiences and how your parents handled it. And you had a better HS Shakespeare experience than me. Mine wasn’t negative, but was forgettable. Macbeth has so much stage potential, what a wonderful work.

53AlisonY
toukokuu 6, 2020, 7:54am

Dan, Nabokov's memoir Speak, Memory was listed in the 20 best memoirs this week in The Times. Just in case you've not come across it yet - might be interesting.

54dchaikin
toukokuu 6, 2020, 2:27pm

>53 AlisonY:. Cool. It’s definitely on my Nabokov list (for May 2021, to be precise 🙂). What else was on that Times top 20 list...??

55kidzdoc
toukokuu 6, 2020, 7:08pm

>54 dchaikin: Can I join you in reading Speak, Memory next May? My copy has been sitting on my shelves, unloved and unread, for years.

56dchaikin
toukokuu 6, 2020, 8:38pm

Ok, Darryl, May 1. We’re on!

57kidzdoc
toukokuu 7, 2020, 4:54am

>56 dchaikin: Perfect!

59dchaikin
toukokuu 7, 2020, 8:25am

Ooh, fun list! I’ve read five (Levi, Bryson, Vance, Didion and, just now, Westover) and otherwise heard of only the Nabokov and Graves. So, 13 new titles for me. I have liked all five I read, but they are on different levels.

( i would have added The Liars Club and Just Kids to my personal list. )

60rachbxl
toukokuu 13, 2020, 3:44am

Great review of The Yellow House. I hadn't heard of it, but it's gone on my wishlist.

61dchaikin
toukokuu 13, 2020, 5:40pm

>60 rachbxl: thanks! hope you enjoy it, if you get there. If you do audiobooks, the reader is terrific.

62avaland
toukokuu 15, 2020, 3:02pm

>40 dchaikin: I have Flowers of Mold somewhere here in my many piles. Good review, I will keep it in mind.

I also wish to say how impressed I am with your efforts to list your books/reading in different ways in those first 9 posts or so of this thread. It is truly ...something.

63rachbxl
toukokuu 16, 2020, 8:04am

>61 dchaikin: I sometimes wish I did do audiobook, but I don't. My mind wanders. I think it's because I listen for a living, so whenever I don't have to, I switch off.

64dchaikin
toukokuu 16, 2020, 3:39pm

>62 avaland: Thanks Lois. Something, indeed. A small manifestation of the list-obsession that infects a lot of us here. 🙂 Flowers of Mold is beautiful to look at, but a little energy depriving to read.

>63 rachbxl: attention is the challenge with audiobooks. We're probably more forgiving of ourselves with podcasts (if you do those). I take it as it comes, attention-wise, convinced I have taken in some element of the book when I listen. And sometimes the audio adds a dimension I could never have picked up in the text. Actually, despite my imperfect attention, many of my favorite book experiences over the last several years have been audio and, generally, in part because the format. Regardless, Broom's a nice writer. If you get to her in text, I think you'll be pleased.

65dchaikin
Muokkaaja: toukokuu 16, 2020, 4:58pm



24. Educated by Tara Westover
reader: Julia Whelan
published: 2018
format: 12:20 audible audiobook (334 pages in hardcover)
acquired: April 13
listened: Apr 13- May 7
rating: 4½
locations: Idaho, University of Utah, Cambridge, Harvard
about the author born in Clifton, Idaho, September 2?, 1986

This one has a pair of draws—the strange world of the Tara's Westover family in Idaho and her introduction to the real world, outside the shelter of her family's warped world. Both are thoroughly entertaining, the former full of outrageous disturbing elements. I knew this when I sampled the audio, what I didn't expect is how immediately it grabbed my attention. Westover is a far better writer than I anticipated.

In the Trump era, Westover's family could be viewed as a kind of extreme version of American exceptionalism. Illogical religious and conspiracy theories drove her parents to try become survivalist, to go completely off the grid and be independent of the rest of the world, to be ready when the world collapsed, or when the "Feds" attacked, and to find justification in their own style of Mormonism. It helped they had their own land in Idaho, inherited, and that it wasn't particularly productive on its own, commercially. But this was a evolving kind of thing that got more extreme over time. Tara was the youngest sibling of seven. She, along with some of her younger siblings, did not have a birth certificate, did not attend any public school and did not have any official documentation of her existence for the first several years of her life. Her parents don't even know her actual birthday. And, in lieu of actual home-schooling, she worked for her parents, either in her father's scrap yard or with her mother making homeopathic concoctions.

It's over-simplified to call this a story of abuse and neglect, but it's also the simple accurate summary. Her home was not without love, and her family was not entirely delusional or anathema to education, although they had a strange way of kind of/kind of not embracing it - in her case she felt she simply was not educated. Her parents submitted her and her siblings to lot of insanely dangerous stuff, with no safety precautions and a weird devout anti-medical establishment thing. It meant she and her siblings got hurt, seriously, or just barely not-seriously, and their healing was dependent on mom's medicine. That is abusive. But also her oldest brother physically abused her regularly, and would eventually threaten to kill her. He becomes an unresolved third main subject of the book.

The story of her education, of how, for example, she raised her hand in a large college class and asked if her professor could explain to what the world "Holocaust" means, is, on the other hand, a really fun success story, full of stumbling mistakes, outright grit and an evolving awareness. She excelled, became a PHD and is now a professor. But also, even when she talks about what she wrote her various papers on, pulling, as she did, from the divide between her parents views on the world and the new evolving reality she begins to see, it's still actually really fascinating.

One curiosity is that while it's fun to see her describe her school-adjustment foibles, it's horrifying to see her mishandle the abuse she received from her brother, determined to be family-loyal and not only help cover it up, but convince herself things were actually fine.

I won't say the book evolved all that much, in quality, from the opening that initially captured me. It sort of maintains that level of interest, but in the context of continually fascinating story. I guess, to sum up, this is a kind of horrible-fun book that combines great storytelling with some great, or maybe awfully great, personal source material. You don't need to read it, but, if you haven't (it was like an 18-month bestseller) and try it out, chances our you will like it.

66dchaikin
toukokuu 16, 2020, 5:38pm



25. Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
published: 1927
format: 300-page Vintage paperback from 1971
acquired: from my in-laws, who probably bought it in 1971
read: Apr 16 – May 8
time reading: 7 hr 34 min, 1.5 min/page
rating: 5
locations: Santa Fe, NM and around
about the author American, born near Winchester, VA, later raised in Red Cloud, NE. December 7, 1873 – April 24, 1947

The latest in the Litsy cather buddy-read. This is a re-read for me and I reviewed it last year HERE

The first time I read this I dwelled on Cather playing with religion and cultural superiorities, most of which turned out to be not something to worry about. First of all, Cather isn't Catholic. But, anyway, this time I could relax and read it without my guard up, and just enjoy what she's doing. So, I was able to embrace the other-worldly feel she immediately provides the reader (after a preface), putting us not so much in New Mexico in the 1850's, and in all its abrasive cultural complexities, but somewhere both quite beautiful and detached from all normal concerns. And I got a lot more out of the book this time. But it's a difficult book to capture, or to define exactly what she's doing. A lot of this is the way her writing has evolved and the way she can do things to the reader without our awareness.

On Litsy I posted:
"While I‘m in the midst of this, I think it‘s Cather‘s best - reflective (perfect for now), and so subtly, magnificently complex and simple at once. A living look at landscape and gently fraught spirituality. Having finished, I find it a very hard book to mentally categorize. It‘s both like and completely unlike all Cather‘s other works. Recommended."

67AlisonY
toukokuu 20, 2020, 4:04pm

>65 dchaikin: Why did I think you'd already read Educated ages ago, Dan? No matter. I found it a page-turner too, but I ended up loathing Westover. I felt her to be an unreliable narrator, who wished to evoke much more pity than many other misery lit authors. I've no doubt she didn't have the best of upbringings, but certain aspects of her story didn't add up for me, and I felt she glossed over parts that didn't suit her 'poor me' thread.

Interesting book. Certainly people seem to fall staunchly into one camp or the other over her.

68dchaikin
toukokuu 20, 2020, 10:08pm

>67 AlisonY: it’s interesting that while I listened I wasn’t skeptical. I heard her question her own memory and took that as a sign of integrity. Her brother, Tyler (the one she seemed to like the most) wrote a review on amazon- I think. I read it elsewhere as quoted and I don’t recall where. Anyway, he tells, briefly, his experiences, carefully avoids overlapping parts. The implication is she dramatized a bit on things like the anti-education sense in the family - that that was her perspective but not the feelings of all her siblings, that for him it was accepted that he sought education and encouraged, and that the events she highlights where her parents worked against his education were true, but we’re exceptions. What I’m trying to say is probably you’re spot on in that she glossed over whatever didn’t fit her theme. I’m not sure I minded because I was never reading to learn the truth...which I think leaves me either without a camp or in a 3rd one in a different line of thought.

69lisapeet
toukokuu 21, 2020, 7:40am

>67 AlisonY: I think I fell a bit in the middle on that one too. I was very entertained by the book as a whole and read it in a state of fairly suspended disbelief—I think she wrote very well, and that kept me from stepping out of the flow. In retrospect, I do think she probably skewed her narrative toward the dramatic... as many memoir writers do, though maybe with lower stakes. Anyway, I didn't necessarily buy it as gospel but didn't have huge beefs with it either. (But I definitely enjoy reading reviews that fall on both sides.)

70rachbxl
toukokuu 21, 2020, 8:13am

>67 AlisonY: I suppose I'm with Dan and Lisa in the middle ground too, in that I really enjoyed the book, but I don't feel that I necessarily got from it the truth about Westover's earlier life, which doesn't bother me.

71labfs39
toukokuu 21, 2020, 9:01am

72RidgewayGirl
toukokuu 21, 2020, 9:49am

I found the earlier parts of Educated easier to believe than the later parts. There are a ton of blogs and websites where those who experienced similar upbringings congregate and the stories are often much more shocking that Westover's. Instead, I was a little envious at the ease at which she proceeded with her education.

73dchaikin
toukokuu 21, 2020, 5:13pm

>69 lisapeet:, >70 rachbxl:, >71 labfs39:, >72 RidgewayGirl: Interesting to see everyone's perspective on what is fact and what is fiction

>70 rachbxl: Is it the middle ground, or the sidelines?

>72 RidgewayGirl: I found it fascinating how she managed her college years, especially grad school. No clue if it was believable or not, but it makes sense that if you're really driven, you will push through all those challenges. And it seemed to make sense that this kind of upbringing led the siblings who went that route to be driven. It was, if nothing else, a curious experiment in how to raise a child.

74SassyLassy
toukokuu 21, 2020, 7:07pm

>66 dchaikin: I remember your review of this the first time round. So glad you went back to it and that it worked out for you this time. As you say, it ...subtly, magnificently complex and simple at once.

75dchaikin
toukokuu 21, 2020, 10:03pm

>74 SassyLassy: Thanks. Death Comes for the Archbishop was really worth the reread and, you know, especially in the confused, distracted state a lot of us are, it's a nice book to settle the mind, be reflective a bit. It was kind of perfect for me.

76dchaikin
Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 20, 2020, 2:24pm



26. Glory by Vladimir Nabokov
translation: from Russian, by Dmitri Nabokov, with the author, 1971
published: 1932
format: 211-page 1971 hardcover
acquired: 2011, from my in-laws
read: May 2-18
time reading: 7 hr 43 min, 2.2 min/page
rating: 4
locations: Yalta, Athens, Switzerland, Cambridge, Berlin, southern France
about the author: 1899 – 1977. Russia born, educated at Trinity College in Cambridge, 1922, lived in Berlin (1922-1937), Paris, the US (1941-1961) and Montreux, Switzerland (1961-1977).

Seems Nabokov drifted away from his own world in his writing, and then began to return, focusing on the Russian exile community with the Luzhin Defense and The Eye, and here focusing on young exiles in the 1920's, his own milieu. And, here, finally, it makes for a terrific book.

Martin Edelweiss is half-Swiss, grew up in St. Petersburg, but he begins the book as a teenager with his divorced mother, leaving Yalta to maybe places unknown. He ends up in Switzerland with an uncle, and later in Cambridge with other Russian students and an English student named, provocatively, Darwin. And there's an unrequited love interest, a Russian exile in London. Nabokov focuses on Martin and his narrow perspectives, emotions, and responses to the world around him. There are politics in the periphery, but mostly Martin isn't thinking about that. He is a coming of age hormonal, intelligent and athletic college student. I enjoyed Nabokov focusing more in on his own life experiences, in a way kind of humbling himself more than in his previous novels to what knew. There is a sense of integrity to the novel. Martin has his trials, pushing himself on the brink of Swiss cliffs, jumping off trains in unknown places, and struggling with a disappointment he cannot quite understand.

This is Nabokov's 5th novel, and, as I read through them, this was easily my favorite so far. It's finally driven me to be curious enough about his life to check out some books. After I finished I ordered a short biography by Jane Grayson, and a longer biography of his wife, Vera, by Stacy Schiff. Not exactly one to recommend, as it's not a wow kind of novel, but definitely one you might enjoy, if you're interested, and I think will reward the effort.

77dchaikin
Muokkaaja: toukokuu 23, 2020, 8:20pm



27. The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
reader: Tom Hanks
published: 2019
format: 9:53 audible audiobook (337 pages in hardcover)
acquired: May 9
listened: May 9-21
rating: 4½
locations: Outside Philadelphia, New York City
about the author born Dec 2, 1963 in LA, raised in Nashville, TN

I find this one a tough book to review because while there is a plot and one some people will find of interest, it hardly captures what this book really is. It's a novel about place, a house in all its history and architectural oddity, and one bitterly stolen too. And a book about a life, a younger brother telling his own life, growing up without his mother and losing his father to a heart attack, but really he is writing about his older sister. It's, in a way, a love letter to that strong-willed sister who somehow filled-in as a mother figure. This is a nice story, but it's not what makes this book so special to me. But how to capture what does?

This is my fourth Patchett book, 3rd novel and I've learned to appreciate her effortless clean prose that carries a story largely by filling in all the stuff that isn't happening with some self-driven thought space and with atmosphere. Here it feels like someone on role, it's a very natural feeling book. As best I can see it, Patchett has captured a pacing, one that takes its time, builds room for space and time, that can bring that reader into that moment without any need to carry on. She brings in some detail that would grab my attention...not my interest exactly, but my attention, I'm listening and I'm wanting to know more about then, and there. And then within that set-up our narrator, Danny, tells his bittersweet story of a normal life with some striking odd scars, like a missing mother and a lost house, one he and his sister miss so much that they spend time together in a car on the curb outside the house they don't live in or own.

There is another element here of the author of The Patron Saint Liars (a book i haven't read). Patchett seems to thinking hard about sainthood, as in the Catholic tradition, or really all traditions. Danny, and his sister Maeve have a living mother they don't know, and they keep being told she is a saint. How can a saint leave their family? But, flipping through the imaginary pages of history, what saint hasn't abandoned their family? It's a curious thing that comes in the novel as a late addition that makes you realize afterward it was there, as a theme, throughout the entirety of the novel. Sainthood, self-sacrifice, selfish sacrifice. Does selflessness always come with a self-interest? And it makes for some interesting comparisons and contrasts, especially between mother and daughter - the daughter whose life defines the book that maybe isn't about a house.

Anyway, that last paragraph is idle thought. I enjoyed this book a great deal because of the storytelling and how I was always involved and because of how much I looked forward to listening to more of it. And it doesn't hurt that Tom Hanks reads on audio, and becomes over the course of the book the only voice Danny could possibly have. I do recommend this one to anyone interested.

78rachbxl
toukokuu 24, 2020, 1:03pm

>27 dchaikin: Nice! Interesting thoughts about sainthood. I keep coming back (there's no connection with saints) to the way Danny was kind of force-fed education in an attempt to bleed the trust fund dry before Andrea's daughters could benefit from it...and then one of them became a doctor, and Danny didn't. What are the others by Patchett that you have read?

79dchaikin
Muokkaaja: toukokuu 24, 2020, 2:54pm

>78 rachbxl: it's a book with a lot of curious pairings and duplications - the sister servants, the portraits of the same person young and old, two sets of children. The two doctors are another element. Years ago* I read Bel Canto and adored it in a way I'm almost embarrassed to admit now. Was it really that good? I read her essay collection, This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage, in 2014 and found it terrific. It opened me up to who she is and got me much more interested in her writing. On audio I listened to Commonwealth in 2017. It was not as good as The Dutch House, but I thought it was still really well written, with characters you come to embrace and are happy to have spent time with. And, since it actually comes very close to her own life, there is a sense of authenticity that I appreciated.

*ETA in 2007. Pre-Club Read.

80dchaikin
Muokkaaja: toukokuu 24, 2020, 3:01pm



28. Lanny by Max Porter
published: 2019
format: 213-page hardcover
acquired: February
read: May 19-22
time reading: 4 hr 5 min, 1.2 min/page
rating: 3
locations: England (a village outside London)
about the author born 1981 in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, England

I think the opening sentence sets the reader up for this a bit:
"Dead Papa Toothwart wakes from his standing nap an acre wide and scrapes off dream dregs of bitumen glistening thick with liquid globs of litter."
It's telling the reader up front that some variation of a child's boogeyman and obscure local myth will play a role. Lanny is child in a village an hour train ride outside London, his father a London commuter. Porter is maybe playing with the contrast of village and city life, or with tradition and modern life. Or he's just taking a turn on an unfortunate story. Regardless, reader should be open to adapt, maybe relax and open up our association with meaning.

Unfortunately, I never reached the right wavelength for this short book and its odd structure. I could call it a little gimmicky or a little lacking in self-awareness, but probably that's just me rationalizing why I didn't link into it (and projecting blame onto the author). But, anyway, I never got in tune. A miss.

This my twelfth book from the 2019 Booker long list. I have one to go.

81AlisonY
toukokuu 25, 2020, 3:00am

>77 dchaikin: Great review of The Dutch House. I keep forgetting about this one when I've been ordering new books lately - I think it'd definitely be up my street.

>80 dchaikin: shame Lanny didn't hit the mark. Have you read Grief is a Thing With Feathers by him? I wonder how they compare in writing style.

82lisapeet
toukokuu 25, 2020, 7:37am

>80 dchaikin: Dan, have you read Russell Hoban's Riddly Walker? I haven't, or Lanny either, but I listened to a great podcast last year with Max Porter and sf author Una McCormack, with whom I wasn't familiar, about the two books. It was on Backlisted, which is a wonderful podcast about, as you would guess, backlist books, out of the UK. I haven't listened very deeply into the podcast but I've really enjoyed the episodes I have heard—there's a real rollicking enthusiasm to them that is contagious. I loved the one on The Book of Ebenezer Le Page, an old favorite, even though it was at the Guernsey Literary Festival and the sound leaves a little to be desired. Anyway, the discussion of Lanny and Riddly Walker made me want to read both, vernacular and all.

And oh look, the episode just before that was on A Journal of the Plague Year, which might be worth a listen right about now.

83japaul22
toukokuu 25, 2020, 8:33am

>79 dchaikin: I also really love Patchett's writing. I avoided her for a long time for some reason and now will read anything she writes. You've not read my favorite, though, State of Wonder. I highly recommend!

84dchaikin
toukokuu 25, 2020, 1:10pm

>81 AlisonY: I haven't read Grief is a Thing with Feathers. I read some comments that seem to imply the stylistic games of Lanny are consistent with that one. Unfortunately, for me, that's not a draw. As for the The Dutch House, on one hand I'm convinced everyone will like it, on the other hand I have very iffy recommendation record. But I think you would enjoy it. Hope you can give it a try.

>82 lisapeet: I've caught a few episodes of Backlisted (care of mention by Wandering_star) and I loved them. And if I were a podcast listener I would have listened to many more. It's a great show. I have never heard of Riddy Walker and I'm trying to remember what i know about Russell Hoban, if anything. I should check out that podcast again.

>83 japaul22: I'm highlighting State of Wonder. That maybe we be a great next audiobook.

85BLBera
toukokuu 26, 2020, 6:04pm

Dan: I've been catching up on your reading here. You are having a great year in books!

You liked The Dutch House more than I did. The choice of narrator didn't really work for me. I wonder if I would have liked it more listening to it?

I loved Death Comes for the Archbishop, one of my favorite Cathers.

And, of course, Shakespeare. I need to finish my reading of the complete works. Maybe I'll get to a couple of plays this summer.

86dchaikin
toukokuu 27, 2020, 12:05am

>85 BLBera: I liked your review of The Dutch House. You picked up, better than me, that Danny isn’t really all that likable. I think it’s Maeve we actually like. As for Cather, I’ve come to like her so much I’m almost afraid to read the next book, as if one bad one might ruin it. I found Death Comes for the Archbishop just brilliant on this reread. And Shakespeare, I follow a group on Litsy that casually gets me focused and committed (and then bewildered, as we just finished Antony and Cleopatra and I found it a tough play.)

thanks for spending some time here.

87wandering_star
Muokkaaja: toukokuu 29, 2020, 10:10am

>84 dchaikin: so glad you enjoyed them. I agree with >82 lisapeet:, it's the knowledgeable enthusiasm which is so appealing. I often get bored quickly with podcasts which are a few group of friends talking, but this one carries me along.

88dchaikin
toukokuu 29, 2020, 1:32pm

>87 wandering_star: I just need a way to fit this podcast (Backlisted) in. I started to listen to the latest, got about 15 minutes in and it was as inspiring and fun as I remembered. But then life interfered and I haven’t gotten back to it.

89rhian_of_oz
Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 6, 2020, 11:04am

>83 japaul22: and >84 dchaikin: Chiming in late to second the recommendation for State of Wonder which is my second favourite Patchett after Bel Canto.

90dchaikin
kesäkuu 6, 2020, 12:00pm

>89 rhian_of_oz: >83 japaul22: I tried a sample of State of Wonder, and the tone in that sample was so close to The Dutch House I was afraid to get it just now. It’s not that I mind the tone, but that I don’t want to spend the whole book overanalyzing it because of the similarities. So, i’ll give some space between the two books. But thanks for the recommendation. I do plan to get to SoW.

91dchaikin
kesäkuu 6, 2020, 3:17pm

92dchaikin
Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 6, 2020, 4:39pm



29. Antony and Cleopatra by William Shakespeare
first performed: 1607
format: 343-page Signet Classic paperback (and this website: http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/antonyscenes.html )
acquired: the paperback came May 13, after I had read through Act 3 online
read: Apr 25 – May 25
time reading: 16 hr 48 min, 2.9 min/page
rating: 3
locations: Alexandria, Rome, Athens and other places
about the author April 23, 1564 – April 23, 1616

Other contributors: Book editor: Dr. Barbara Everett, Signet series editor and Shakespeare biographical sketch: Sylvan Barnett. Source: Plutarch (translated by Sir Thomas North). Commentaries: Samuel Johnson, A. C. Bradley, Janet Adelman, Marianne Novy (on gender and acting) and S. Schoenbaum (on stage history)

One of the wilder plays I've read from Shakespeare. He made an effort to capture the chaotic state of world as Marcus Antony and Octavius Caesar maneuvered in their uncertain power struggle, and that chaotic state is reflected in the complicated portrait of Cleopatra. The play races around the Mediterranean empire, from Alexandria to Rome to Greece to a couple other places, and a large assortment of characters fill in key roles, managing an attempt at some historical reality, pulling in a few historically somewhat subtle key points, like the importance of advisers to the various key players.

Whatever the real history may be, Shakespeare pulled from Plutarch, extensively. Plutarch's life of Antony covers the fall of Antony as long and twisted story, and while Shakepeare didn't follow Plutarch to precision, he does honor enough plot twists to make them weigh heavily on the play. It seems that to make it work, to get all the parts in, the bard resorted to extensive short scenes. Whereas a typical Shakespeare play will have 3 to 5 scenes per act (And almost all his plays have 5 acts), Act 3 here clocks in at 13 scenes, and Act 4 tops it at 15 scenes. These are typically 100 lines or less, making for a rapidly altering setting and quick work of much of the dialogue. The combination overwhelmed my casual read through. The plot was too crazy, the lines quick and difficult and just zoomed by me as I tried to keep up with the plot twists. So a miss for me this time, a play that needs to be reread.

Some things of interest I did pick up, or think I did:

- Somewhere in there is the famous erratic, manipulative heroin. This is no feminist work. She is shredded, consistent with Plutarch and probably Octavius's PR story, as a frail, unstable, self-destructive woman, who flees the battle scene, but is dangerously manipulative in person. There is no sign of this child of the most cultured city in the world, with the most famous library ever, or the intellectual impressions she left on Cicero, for example, or of the many languages she mastered in her empire. There is a sense of parochial Rome, but only in eastern ostentation that contrasts with and blesses Rome's mythical virtue of material restraint; and not in the sense of Rome's comparative lack of intellectual sophistication.

- Another theme is the contrast this makes with Romeo and Juliet. The young lovers in R&J are full of pure devotion. Antony and Cleopatra more closely resemble the lovers of mid-life where where affection and practicality are given more equal weight and are not always aligned. Their affection bristles with tension, doubt and manipulation.

- An overarching theme seems to be that Antony's doom is firmly set in the opening lines, where two soldiers discuss Antony's distraction by Cleopatra. Plutarch, in the North translation, tells us how Antony, "yielded himself to go with Cleopatra into Alexandria, where he spent and lost in childish sports (as a man might say) and idle pastimes the most precious thing a man can spend, as Antiphon saith, and that is time." The first lines of the play show us this precious time has already been lost, that therefore Octavius already has sure mastery; that the lovers are already doomed, and the rest just plays out the drama of it. That is, there is no uncertainty in all that plot. But this is not something I picked up while reading it.

- One thing I did pick up while reading was curious variations of key advisors and how they are handled. Octavius's first lines to Antony are, "I don't know/Maecenas; ask Agrippa." History has told us of Octavius's dependence on Agrippa. Here he has immediately deferred to two of his advisors. Antony's own advisor is Enobarbus, one the play's best characters (albeit barely mentioned in Plutarch). He is handled harshly by Antony in this same scene. After Enobarbus speaks up some witty wisdom, Antony tells him, "Thou art a soldier only; speak no more." (To which Enbarbus immediately replies, "That truth should be silent I had almost forgot."). The point seems to be two fold, first that these men are dependent on their advisors, and second the Octavius uses them well, Antony poorly. It's, if nothing else, an interesting color, giving some sense of depth to the real history.

Anyway, overall this one just didn't settle in for me. I'm telling myself it will be better next time I read it, I'll have the plot twists down and that then I‘ll be able to spend more time wondering about the language, the themes and the doomed pair. I'm giving it 3 stars for a first read.

93dchaikin
kesäkuu 7, 2020, 5:10pm



30. My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
published: 2018
format: 226-page paperback
acquired: February
read: May 22-31
time reading: 3 hr 23 min, 0.9 min/page
rating: 4
locations: Lagos
about the author born in Lagos in 1988, raised in Southgate in north London.

My Litsy review:
"Men suck.

Seriously, that‘s the main take away. Also the book is kind of brilliant. Simple and playful and fast paced with a warped confidence, and yet also restrained and patient. This is a quick book, but there‘s room in there for the reader to think a bit.
"
I would kind of like to say more, since I really enjoyed this. Maybe I could add that there is some step-back reflection and some terrific force of character. Maybe I could say more about the Lysol-level of emotions and defiance. I'm reading how Nabokov was strictly non-political, despite the insane living history he lived through, and I'm tempted to try to apply a similar kind of detachment to the writing here...and how well it works.

94baswood
kesäkuu 7, 2020, 7:22pm

>92 dchaikin: Difficult to enjoy Shakespeare with a quick first read especially if you are trying to get the plot sorted out (its in there somewhere) Hope you enjoy your re-read - I quite enjoyed the Taylor Burton film that I caught on TV recently - its not Shakespeare but it is definitley "something else"

95dchaikin
Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 7, 2020, 7:47pm



31. Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara
readers: Indira Varma, Himesh Patel, & Antonio Aakeel
published: 2020
format: 9:39 audible audiobook (368 pages in hardcover)
acquired: May 21
listened: May 22 – Jun 3
rating: 3
locations: unspecified metropolitan India
about the author: journalist from Kerala, southern India, currently a doctoral student at the University of East Anglia, Norwich

My Litsy review:
"The horror of the destitute Indian basti, shown in Behind the Beautiful Forevers, is here captured through the fictional eyes of a 9 yr old trying to investigate as children start going missing. Anappara reported on these neighborhoods, and she captures the contrast between our hopeless view and that of children growing up in the Basti. I thought it was a little slow, and plain, but had some terrific elements, especially the opening section."
I'll note that I had just finished an audiobook I had really gotten into (The Dutch House) and kind of needed something that I could listen to at a little more distance. But what actually happened is I found this on the Women's Prize list and listened to the sample, which is the opening section. I thought that sample was fantastic, effortlessly generating a collage of thought-provoking visuals, with an elegant prose. So I got it from Audible, and then found the rest of the book never equaled that opening section. It definitely has some highlights, like where her narrator steals some money and takes a train to another part of town, or the various short sections with different narration. But her main narrator, 9-yr-old Jay, doesn't speak in elegant prose. He's a kid who plays detective, giving us a tour of his basti and its various characteristics, which has value and interest, but, as I mentioned in the Litsy review, his telling is slow and plain.

ETA - this is my first book published in our current decade.

96dchaikin
kesäkuu 7, 2020, 7:44pm

>94 baswood: yeah, that's what I'm finding with Shakespeare. Sometimes it rolls off the page (I say, a reader instead a viewer), and sometimes it takes several different looks before it comes alive. I think I will follow this up with Stacy Schiff's Cleopatra: A Life at some point this year.

97tungsten_peerts
Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 8, 2020, 1:13pm

Viestin kirjoittaja on poistanut viestin.

98labfs39
kesäkuu 8, 2020, 10:38am

>92 dchaikin:, >97 tungsten_peerts: I'm curious: what do you think of the claims of varied authorship of the "Shakespearean" plays? In particular the role of Christopher Marlowe? Do you think it's an accurate claim? How does that influence your reading? (Forgive me if you addressed this topic in a previous post. Feel free to direct me there, if that is the case.)

>96 dchaikin: I loved Schiff's Cleopatra. Fascinating story and very readable, I thought. I'll look forward to your impressions.

99thorold
kesäkuu 8, 2020, 10:55am

>92 dchaikin: I think I mentioned in the Questions thread recently that I went from school to see Glenda Jackson in Peter Brook's 1978 Stratford production. Naturally I hadn't read the play to prepare, so I was very confused as to what was going on, but it was a wonderful experience watching her absolutely dominate that huge theatre. It was very seventies, all the sets were giant sheets of cloth draped in different directions and of course Cleopatra got wrapped up in them at key points.

Later on it was one of the plays I studied for my degree, but I don't remember very much about that now.

100dchaikin
Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 8, 2020, 1:15pm

>97 tungsten_peerts: cool about your theater connections. Hercules was the mythical family ancestor of Marcus Antony and the God he is most closely associated with and was a big deal when we was the most powerful man in the world. The scene is where, finally, even his god has abandoned him and emphasizes how far he has fallen. The music comes down merely as a stage direction (“ Music of the hautboys as under the stage”)

101tungsten_peerts
Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 8, 2020, 1:12pm

Viestin kirjoittaja on poistanut viestin.

102dchaikin
kesäkuu 8, 2020, 1:14pm

>98 labfs39: regarding Shakespeare’s authorship: Personally I find these theories of authorship most interesting in how outrageous they are. I assume Shakespeare’s main concern was profit and influence and so I assume the writing was for the performance. And I assume there was an element of group authorship, with the Bard being the main writer. They freely stole from other works without our sense of plagiarism. Actually they probably saw their role akin to movie adaptations of books today (without worrying about buying the rights). But the idea that his company would pay for someone else’s work and the conceal their identity doesn’t make any sense to me. In my eyes is seems most likely they would rather write it themselves for free and have full control over all the written copies to protect others from stealing it.

But the above theories do affect my reading. Shakespeare didn’t intend to become sacred. He wasn’t the best, most educated writer out there. (Well, ask Baswood.) He was probably exceptionally well educated and had a wonderful poetic and dramatic sense and he could churn these plays out. And, he had a remarkably high-end audience for some of these performances, including the queen. But the plays vary in quality from play to play and sometimes from scene to scene. And it’s fun to wonder what was going on here or there, to wonder when he just had to come up with a quick solution, force something that wasn’t working, or use a tool of sort (Falstaff?) just to pad out the play. And it’s fun to wonder about when he felt everything just clicked into place perfectly (The Tempest?) and maybe imagine him wondering at his own creation.

103dchaikin
kesäkuu 8, 2020, 1:18pm

>99 thorold: sounds wonderful, Mark. Cool you studied A&C and funny if you really have forgotten so much. Not that I could tell you anything about my university analysis papers...

104thorold
kesäkuu 8, 2020, 2:21pm

>103 dchaikin: I found the draft of the essay I wrote: it seems to be all about Antony's perceived "transgression of gender roles". I don't think my tutor was very impressed, I was citing all sorts of trendy queer studies stuff I'd been reading and she obviously thought I was showing off and not paying proper attention to the basics, which may well have been true. But it was the nineties!

105baswood
kesäkuu 8, 2020, 8:39pm

>98 labfs39: >102 dchaikin: I agree with most of what you say Dan. As to the idea that Christopher Marlowe wrote the plays the timelines don't stack up. Marlowe died in May 1593 and the bulk of Shakespeare's plays were written after that date, probably just a few of his plays were being performed before Marlowe's death and certainly none of his more famous plays

In my opinion no other early contemporary playwright comes close to Shakespeare, although Marlowe and Kyd have their moments and they were forerunners to the bard. I have read all the available plays attributed to Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Kyd, George Peele, Robert Greene and John Lyly who were Shakespeares early contemporaries. Shakespeare's ability to say and imply so much in each line of verse was evident from the start, he was something absolutely special, although as Dan says some of his early plays were uneven, but he exercised more skill and control of his work as he progressed. It is also true that playwrights at the time collaborated with each other as a matter of course and there has been much ink spilled in teasing out who wrote what in some of the plays attributed to Shakespeare. I have not the academic/scholarly skill to get into the who wrote what scenario and so my criteria is how much satisfaction I get from reading the plays or seeing them performed. Much of what is attributed to Shakespeare are the plays that I enjoy most, because of that special quality of the language and verse that I see in the text.

Shakespeares plays were only published after his death, collected together by his company of actors in the first instance and printed under his name. There is no example of a manuscript signed by him, and so there would have been plenty of scope for changes to have been made before they were eventually printed. There is also plenty of scope to argue over who wrote the plays especially as Shakespeare the man remains a mystery, because he never wrote anything about himself and there is only some scanty evidence from contemporaries and information that can be gleaned from the plays themselves. For me this is not important because when I have a copy of the text in front of me with Shakespeares name on it I can make my own judgements and can find plenty of critical analysis to aid my enjoyment.

106raton-liseur
kesäkuu 9, 2020, 2:17am

Finally reading through your second annual thread! Interesting reads and reviews, I am enjoying lurcking around, although with some delay!

107dchaikin
kesäkuu 9, 2020, 1:22pm

>104 thorold: Antony’s perceived "transgression of gender roles" - interesting and entertaining, Mark. Especially as how the play seems to actively criticize Antony taking on “feminine” attributes. And, wow, that you found your essay.

>105 baswood: glad I mentioned you and got this response. Thanks for this post. I appreciate, especially, your take on Shakespeare in relation to his contemporaries.

>106 raton-liseur: thanks for stopping by.

108auntmarge64
kesäkuu 9, 2020, 2:00pm

So many interesting reviews, Dan. I'm especially interested in Levi's "Reawakening" and Broom's The Yellow House. (I haven't read the Levi account of the concentration camp - I'll never get it out of my head if I do, and I certainly don't need convincing of how montrous it was.)

Oddly, I don't remember ever reading Shakespeare in school. Maybe I hated it and blocked it out. I'm not sure I've ever actually read one of his plays at all, although I love the productions I've seen. I enjoy reading your comments, though. Even Dante sounds intriguing, so I downloaded a sample, but especially these days I rather doubt I'll be that ambitious. I wonder if all the scientific reading you do makes Shakespeare, Dante, and other easier for you to digest.

109dchaikin
Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 9, 2020, 10:07pm

>108 auntmarge64: Those are two really good ones. Interesting about Shakespeare. I don't do much scientific reading. When I have to read a paper, I do as little "reading" as possible, going straight to the key figures or data of interest. I might work my way through the abstract and introduction and roll my eyes at the conclusions. I just have no tolerance for filler, which is what most of scientific papers are, IMO. The data is usually the point. I should defend the academic world enough to note I'm not in it, and read papers typically to understand the project at hand. But, anyway, that has no impact on how I read Shakespeare, which I read purely for fun, or Dante, which has turned out to be a terrific set of long peaceful reading experiences. I recommend both strictly for enjoyment purposes. My history with Shakespeare was, after years of intimidation, to read A Midsummer Night's Dream, and be blown away with how much fun the author was having with his story and wordplay. Really, I was wowed. Had no idea. (this was 2002, I was out of school, but not 30 yet).

110dchaikin
Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 13, 2020, 4:26pm



32. Vladimir Nabokov (Overlook Illustrated Lives) by Jane Grayson
published: 2001
format: 140-page hardcover
acquired: May
read: June 1-8
time reading: 4 hr 0 min, 1.7 min/page
rating: 4
locations: St. Petersburg, Cambridge, Berlin, Paris, Wellesley College, Cornell, Montreux, Switzerland, etc.
about the author as of publication, was a Lecturer in Russian at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University of London.
"What a curious literary figure. Exceptionally cultured and well-read as an upperclass teenager in St Petersburg, marched through history, exiled by the Russian revolution, lost his father to assassination, fled from Hitler‘s Germany, and he responded by remaining aloof and focused on literature where, despite changing languages, he was outsized in his confidence. This is a nicely written short bio, full of great photos."
That was my Litsy review, 251 characters or less. And this book is a nicely written short biography, a life of contrast between one caught in the spokes of history and mostly emotionally aloof from any politics. He was an odd character, but he was human. His writing pines for things lost without any of the drama. He captures in detail his family's country house outside Russia, or his Russian girlfriend, left behind, in some of his writing. Actually, what really caught my attention here was how much of his life is reflected in the books I've already read. The main character in Glory is actually Nabokov, even when he plays goalie in Cambridge, or works as a tennis trainer in Berlin, or studies Russian, his own language.

A short book like this just gives you glimpses. So, while Grayson writes a lot about what went into his Russian novel, The Gift, and the efforts he put into Lolita (which he tried to publish anonymously), almost every other book he wrote gets just a mention, barely. So, she captures a bit of his childhood privilege and culture. His parents owned thousands of books in many languages and he read more as teenager than at any point later in his life. His father was actually a liberal politician. So, when they left as Russia became the USSR, they didn't even have a side in the Russian civil war of monarchists and communists. He father was assassinated by emigre monarchists (although he hadn't been their target). And Grayson captures a little of his relationship with his wife, Vera, a Russian emigre who was Jewish. And how Nabokov stayed in Berlin long after the mass of Russia emigres had abandoned its financial crash and fascism. With a Jewish wife and son, he stayed till 1937, having a least one prominent extra-marital affair. And Grayson captures a little of Nabokov's defeat in coming to the US, and of giving up the Russian he had refined so carefully. He was a terrific lecturer in the US, but hated his colleagues, especially in Cornell. As a refined Russian and English writer and Russian/English translator, he had become one of the the foremost English-Russian language experts in the world, and one of the most literary cultured American citizens. Grayson mentions how his writing changed from Russian, where it was careful and precise, to English where it attacked the language, playing with it, making up words. I haven't read anything he wrote in English yet, so that comment was tantalizing. Alas, once Lolita was successful (Grayson characterizes it as an attack on America), he bolted teaching and the US. Despite promising to return, he lived the rest of his with his wife in Switzerland. When complimented on his success, after Lolita, he told one person it should have happened 30 years ago.

A few of Grayson's expressions caught my attention. Explaining his early writing she says, "Nabokov's theme was loss. His medium was memory. His instrument was the Russian language." And she summarizes a speech he gave in Paris, while living in Berlin, “...Nabokov delivered his profession de foi, declaring that the artist‘s duty, no matter how great the temptation to speak out, is to remain aloof from tragic events of his time, ‘even if the clamour of the times, the cries of the murdered victims and the growling of the brute tyrant reach his ears‘.” That political aloofness is a really curious aspect of his life. Even late in his life, he would be criticized for how uninvolved he was in criticizing the Soviet Union's mistreatment of its intellectuals.

Anyway, I got a lot out of these 140 picture-filled pages. I'm ready to read more by him and I'm interested in reading more about him. Seriously thinking about the 2-volume biography by Brian Boyd.

111dchaikin
kesäkuu 10, 2020, 2:15pm

I wrote the above in a rush and then posted without proof reading. I made one awkward error. It is the book that is a nicely written short biography, not my Litsy post... 😐 I fixed to clarify that, but other typos will have to wait a bit.

112lisapeet
kesäkuu 10, 2020, 4:32pm

Aw, and here I thought you had major Litsy pride going on... But seriously, that's a great review and makes me want to read the book, if just to get an overview of Nabokov's life. I've heard bits and pieces but never read a bio.

113dchaikin
kesäkuu 13, 2020, 4:00pm

You're kind, Lisa. 🙂 The bio is perfect for an overview.

114dchaikin
Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 20, 2020, 5:31pm



33. Laughter in the Dark by Vladimir Nabokov
translation from Russian by Nabokov in 1965
-- English translation history: first translated as Camera Obscura by Winifred Roy in 1936, then as Laughter in the Dark by Nabokov in 1938. And then updated by Nabokov in 1965.
published: serialized in Sovremennye zapiski in 1932, published as Kamera Obskura (Камера Обскура) in 1933
format: 286-page paperback
acquired: February
read: Jun 8-17
time reading: 5 hr 11 min, 1.2 min/page
rating: 4
locations: Berlin, Germany, France and Switzerland
about the author 1899 – 1977. Russia born, educated at Trinity College in Cambridge, 1922, lived in Berlin (1922-1937), Paris, the US (1941-1961) and Montreux, Switzerland (1961-1977)
"Once upon a time there lived in Berlin, Germany, a man called Albinus. He was rich, respectable, happy; one day he abandoned his wife for the sake of a youthful mistress; he loved; was not loved; and his life ended in disaster."
Nabokov was known to call all fiction essentially fairy tales, but his takes it to the extreme with this playful opening paragraph. I was wondering how he could follow up on it, and I kept wondering for another 100 pages as creates a somewhat stereotypical 17-yr-old semi-prostitute and a somewhat stereotypical the middle-aged married clueless and generally harmless Albinus who falls in love with her. But then the book begins to hit its stride, and once it does, it begins to do a lot of different things, becoming a terrific read that I flew through. It's notably a visual book, with an art critic, cinematic ties, and constant descriptions of the atmosphere, light, and characters. And there is, in contrast, layered themes on blindness. First the blindness in the darkness in the cinema, then the blindness and selfishness of love, and then actual blindness. When a character loses their sight, the book for me took on a mythological feel - everything becomes simplified, surrounded by unknowns, because everything we "saw" is missing. If you're thinking of Plato's cave, you're on the right track.

It was after I read this that I came across an article on the Tolstoy references. Albinus is a 1930 male counterpart to Anna Karenina, and the books visuals play off Tolstoy's, and its themes off Tolstoy's in playful ways. It is, in a sense, an ode to Tolstoy, a wonderful one.

This becomes my favorite Nabokov. Recommended to anyone interested.

115labfs39
kesäkuu 21, 2020, 9:13am

>114 dchaikin: Interesting. You hooked me. It's not a Nabokov that I own, but I'll look for it.

116dchaikin
kesäkuu 21, 2020, 2:30pm

>115 labfs39: I didn’t like the first four novels I read of his all that much (only one I really disliked, just wasn’t crazy about them) so I’m happy they’re getting better. Every book is more ambitious and he’s finding himself up for the task (with Vera’s help)

117AnnieMod
kesäkuu 21, 2020, 3:24pm

>116 dchaikin:

That's the beauty in reading an author in order, isn't it? You see them growing up as an author and even imperfect novels make a lot more sense when put into a sequence.

118dchaikin
kesäkuu 21, 2020, 5:31pm

>117 AnnieMod: Yes, it's fascinating, and it makes the lesser books far or more interesting. This partially because they become a part of an author's narrative development.

119baswood
kesäkuu 22, 2020, 4:14pm

>113 dchaikin: Laughter in the Dark sounds great Dan and a good front cover.

120dchaikin
kesäkuu 22, 2020, 10:29pm

Bas - I find the cover creepy. : )

121dchaikin
Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 4, 2020, 7:57pm



34. Memories of the Future by Siri Hustvedt
reader: Katherine Fenton
published: 2019
format: 12:38 audible audiobook (318 pages in hardcover)
acquired: June 4
listened: Jun 4-22
rating: 4
locations: New York City
about the author born 1955 in Northfield, MN

My Litsy post 5-days ago:

Wish I could capture this. Playful and clever like Ali Smith, but more philosophy, Hustvedt is just really enjoyable to spend time with. Here she talks to her 23 yr old self alone in New York City in 1978, beautiful, intelligent, awash in poetry and philosophy, disregarded for her gender, writing a failed novel, flashing a switchblade. Somewhere I saw this described as a rage against the patriarchy. It‘s also fun. Really happy I finally read her.

Now it's even worse. I wish I could capture just that, above. Instead I'm drifting into thinking about an author's self-awareness - awareness of what they are doing with their writing, and what they are not doing and can't do, and how they manage and acknowledge this. It's not new. Shakespeare shows it in his plays. But I've personally begun to see I really want this in my authors and Hustvedt here gives us a joyful contemporary master course on this, working on many layers.

This is the story of a failed novel - Hustvedt's first real attempt. The sort of preface here is that as Hustvedt was going through her mother's stuff, her mother's increased dementia requiring a move and downsizing, when she discovered a long lost and deeply missed journal from roughly the school year of 1978 and 1979. Hustvedt was 23 in 1978. She had just moved to New York City after growing up in a small-town in Minnesota. She was hungry to write and learn and experience New York City and she had a year before starting post-graduate classes in Columbia. Her novel, sitting in this journal, began as a play on Sherlock Holmes, and this author embracing the initials, SH, that they shared.

As she goes through this journal, she wonders about her younger self, she struggles to reacquaint herself with her, to remember who she was. She talks to her, criticizes her, berates her. The nostalgia of this lost vibrant world of a crime-ridden, hopping, AIDS-free, hyper-sexual New York City combined with this fascinated young woman, oozing with youthful intelligence, wafting down contemporary philosophy super charges and charms the background. Mind you there's a foreground too - her philosophical but also silly novel running away from her, and her ranting crying neighbor who she can hear through the paper thin walls of her tiny flat. The sleuth uses a stethoscope, a real medical one from her MD father, to improve her spying. She mixes with all types, some dangerous. When a friend calls her cold and beastly, she embraces the characterization as a personal goal. Later in the book she will have a moment where she tells us she felt "cold and beastly" and it was "wonderful" (the switchblade was out).

Hustvedt's first major success as an author was her novel, What I Loved, which came in 2003 - 25 years after the failed novel in this journal. This is the underlying and unspoken tragedy in this book. Hustvedt, a very talented writer, was beaten down, and she blames the patriarchy, the men who disregarded her, who found her beautiful and wanted to impress or control her, but who also presumed she could not offer any serious contribution to intellectual life. She includes maybe the best fainting scene I've ever read as she rants and tears apart of Columbia professor. (Could it possibly have been true? Seems too perfect...and this is a novel, and it does play on the unreliability of memory.)

I certainly won't tell anyone this is a great novel, or tell anyone they must read this and will love it. It's actually a strange thing that still works. But, this is a terrific author doing terrific stuff and gives us window view into something that was really special, or at least I found it so. It's within that context I would recommend it.

122dchaikin
heinäkuu 4, 2020, 7:58pm

Interesting, there are 5 English-language reviews of this book on LT. Three are from Club Read (and another is by Caroline_McElwee, who does show here occasionally)

123thorold
heinäkuu 5, 2020, 5:08am

>122 dchaikin: Three are from Club Read
I hope that wasn't entirely my fault! I see the one Dutch reviewer didn't like it ("story jumps about ... nothing to hold on to"), whilst the Spanish one looks suspiciously like back-cover blurb.

A fantastic book. Probably interesting on audio, as well.

124dchaikin
heinäkuu 7, 2020, 1:01pm

>123 thorold: Oh, I’ll grant you a healthy level of blame for my part. But we have some other fans here in CR who can share the blame.

125japaul22
heinäkuu 8, 2020, 7:55am

>121 dchaikin: Ah, one of those reviews was mine! I had to look back to see what star rating I gave - 3.5. I will read anything that Siri Hustvedt writes because she always makes me think and always pushes the envelope with her writing. I still love The Blazing World best of the four books I've read by her.

126dchaikin
heinäkuu 9, 2020, 2:13pm

>125 japaul22: The Blazing World is available through audible. It might be my next audiobook. (Next Booker lost comes out about July 24. I might pursue that too)

127BLBera
heinäkuu 11, 2020, 12:05pm

I'm trying to catch up here. I skimmed over your Hustvedt comments because I want to read this one soon. She is one of my favorites.

I was interested in your comments on My Sister Serial Killer and Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line. My reactions to the books were kind of opposite. I didn't see much depth to the former. I keep thinking I missed something because of all the rave reviews. I loved Djinn Patrol because it showed how vulnerable and disposable kids are in such an engaging way.

Isn't it fun to share differing views?

128dchaikin
heinäkuu 12, 2020, 11:23pm

Beth - yes, it is fun. I definitely appreciate the different views and perspectives. Wider the better. Although I do completely agree with you that Djinn Patrol "showed how vulnerable and disposable kids are." It's horrible stuff. Hustvedt is fun.

129AlisonY
heinäkuu 14, 2020, 7:32am

I missed that you'd read My Sister the Serial Killer. I went to see Braithwaite at one of the Cheltenham Literary Festival talks, but somehow I've still not been convinced enough to read this book. I have a completely unsubstantiated expectation that this book will be readable but instantly forgettable.

130RidgewayGirl
heinäkuu 14, 2020, 10:14am

>126 dchaikin: The Blazing World is the only novel by Hustvedt that I've read, but I found it extraordinary. Memories of the Future, for some reason, struck me as sounding like a dystopian novel and I wasn't interested, but this sounds fantastic, although I have a copy of What I loved on hand, but I really should get back to her.

Beth and Alison, I think that My Sister the Serial Killer works on both levels. It's superficially the novel the title promises, but as you peel back what is happening and why, it's a deeper look at how the patriarchy and misogyny works in Nigeria, and indeed in the entire world. It's more chilling than just a slightly homicidal sister. In the ToB discussion last spring, readers were pretty much evenly split on how they had experienced the book.

131dchaikin
heinäkuu 14, 2020, 1:42pm

Kay - excellent description of MStSK.

Alison - I read MStSK with high skepticism and it still worked and was still fun. But, of course, better to read it without any expectations, if you can manage that.

Kay (again) - I’m about to finish my current audiobook and I think i’ll do The Blazing World next. Certainly Memories of the Future is not at all dystopian... well, i mean unless you consider our current world and its patriarchy dystopian. Anyway hope you have a chance to read more Hustvedt.

132RidgewayGirl
heinäkuu 14, 2020, 3:22pm

>131 dchaikin: It was just my instant assessment given the title. So many literary authors are writing dystopian novels and I am just not in the right headspace for that given the current state of things.

133sallypursell
heinäkuu 16, 2020, 2:38am

>32 AlisonY: I just finished reading The Real Lolita, a book about the influence of a story he learned of from newspapers, about the real-life Sally Horner, who experienced Lolita's story, but in real life. According to this book, Nabokov had struggled for years to build a story that would be a scaffold for a novel about pedarasty, especially the kind in which a mature man fell for a 9-14 year-old girl, and interpreted her frightened acquiescence as seduction and temptation. During his lifetime he would not agree that the Sally Horner story had anything to do with Lolita, but his notes and his letters make plain this connection. It was a very convincing book. I always found the novel brilliant but revolting, as it didn't seem fair to the girl to cast her as the seductress, even if he was an early "unreliable narrator".

134sallypursell
heinäkuu 16, 2020, 2:56am

As usual, Dan, I enjoyed reading your comments, and despair to ever write such good reviews.

135dchaikin
heinäkuu 17, 2020, 6:17pm

>133 sallypursell: I'm interested in this. Glad you posted because I had forgotten the title. I'll get to Lolita next year...that's the plan. Thanks for the nice compliment. And you are too hard on yourself. I enjoy your commentary on your thread.

136AnnieMod
heinäkuu 17, 2020, 6:39pm

>135 dchaikin:

Dan, if you had never read Lolita before, I strongly recommend to listen to Jeremy Irons' reading of it in the Random House Audio audiobook -- there is something that clicks just right in that reading. I would also recommend it to anyone that had read Lolita before I think - if they are okey with audiobooks anyway...

137dchaikin
heinäkuu 17, 2020, 6:48pm

>136 AnnieMod: Thanks for that recommendation. Probably I will want to read it first. But I might check out Irons afterwards.

138AnnieMod
heinäkuu 17, 2020, 7:14pm

>137 dchaikin:

I'd go the other way around if I were you - or at least make sure you give Irons a chance even if the reading does not go very well :)

139dchaikin
heinäkuu 17, 2020, 7:34pm

noting your enthusiasm, Annie. : )

140ELiz_M
heinäkuu 17, 2020, 8:42pm

>136 AnnieMod: Or even if you think you're not good with audiobooks. This is the audiobook that convinced me that I could listen to and enjoy them. It is phenomenal.

141sallypursell
heinäkuu 17, 2020, 10:45pm

>140 ELiz_M: I frankly never expected to read Lolita again, and I'm not fond of audiobooks, but you have tempted me.

142dchaikin
heinäkuu 18, 2020, 5:36pm

>140 ELiz_M: (and Annie) - I appreciate these suggestions and where they're coming from. Thanks!

143dchaikin
heinäkuu 18, 2020, 5:57pm



Dante as the poet of the Divine Comedy by Domenico di Michelino. 1465. Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, Florence.

144dchaikin
Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 18, 2020, 7:15pm



35. Purgatorio by Dante Alighieri
translation and notes: Jean Hollander & Robert Hollander
published: 1320, translation 2003
format: 827-page Paperback, with original Italian, translation and notes
acquired: September
read: May 3 – Jun 28
time reading: 38 hr 6 min, 2.8 min/page
rating: 5
locations: Purgatory (antipodal to Jerusalem)
about the author Florentine poet, c. 1265 – 1321

I read this in such a pleasant way, every morning reading the Hollander summary, then the Canto itself, then going through the Hollander notes while reading the Canto a second time. There was ritual aspect to it. Then I finished and had nothing I felt I needed to say. This is and was so strange it's stumped my ability to write anything at all about this. So below is more a report than a review.

Purgatorio is nothing like Inferno in its impact. Here nothing is permanent, and the tragic aspects are not only a whole lot milder, but also are subsumed by Dante's own purging and entering into Garden of Eden. Dante can and does create and build on the sense of adventure, fascination, or narrative space and dimensions he created in Inferno, but he couldn't possibly duplicate the wonderful awfulness of his first book, and yet Inferno leaves its lingering presence here. Its enough.

Like he did with Hell, Dante here definitively defined the idea of Purgatory for the rest of history. Even more so here, as he had no artwork or narrative to work with. Purgatory was only defined by the Catholic church in 1274, at the Second Council of Lyon, a place in the afterlife for purging of sinful but uncondemned lives, especially for those who came back to Christ at the last moments before death, and after an otherwise sinful life. It's a loose idea to work with. Unlike Heaven and Hell, Purgatory has a time element. Souls pass pass through. And they have a goal, a purpose to weather whatever challenges this world throws at them.

Dante creates an ante-purgatory, and entry place for the souls on the right side of the razors edge, but who still haven't managed entry into Purgatory proper. They are welcomed with a surprise, the Roman Cato, a hero of the lost Republic. His cohorts, Brutus and Cassius, were especially selected, along with Judas Iscariot, for the most prominent position in the lowest level of hell, in the mouth of Lucifer, eternally gnawed on. So it's a mystery as to why Cato has so much better an outcome. I think its, in a way, a kind of statement by Dante that he's in charge of this world and it follows his rules. The second surprise of a sort is that Virgil has to figure out where to go. Dante's fearless guide in Inferno, who had travelled and knew the whole length of that world, even though he resided in the relatively pleasant Limbo space, has never made it this far. He's out of his element, and has to find his way, and he is worse off then everyone around him. Purgatory is a place of hope, of sustained pain accepted, even embraced, as the price of entry into Heaven. Virgil, condemned to Limbo, has no such hope.

Once in Purgatory, our pair wander through the seven sins (Pride, Envy, Wrath, Sloth, Avarice, Gluttony and Lust), each a layer with its own entry, and messages that are either visual or made of voices that just come out of the air, its own purging punishments appropriate for that sin, and each with an exit. They will meet famous characters with mixed records, and deceased and flawed one-time associates from Dante's life, and they will deal with their own challenges, exhaustions, uncertainties and visions. They will even meet one who has completed the process and is now saved, the Roman Poet Statius, author of the Thebiad and the unfinished epic, the Achilleida. Statius was devoted to Virgil's work, and saw him as the great poet. Unlike Virgil, Statius lived long enough to learn of Christ. Dante allows him a secret late saving conversion.

Statius hangs around and the three poets enter the Garden of Eden together, the earthly heaven. They are met first by a mysterious beauty, Matelda, then Beatrice herself, Dante's guiding light, and finally a heavenly procession with symbolic virtues, a Christ-like griffin and so on. What takes place is play of Dante with love and sex (and knowledge) contrasted with the ideal and purified sexless divine experience. Dante will characterize these non-sexual ladies with sexually charged poetic references, and go through a series of marriage-references with his Beatrice. He tells us, "desire upon desire so seized me.” It's a playful fight with Dante learning to gain control over his own will. Virgil will bless him as master of his will, a success, and then Virgil will fade away. Beatrice shrugs off the loss of our guide, merely commenting, famously, "Dante, because Virgil has departed”, and carries on. That line is considered the climax of the whole Comedy and of this book.

Dante, of course, is not done. He will be led by Matelda through the river Lethe, forgetting his sins, and be rewarded, especially, with the famous smile of Beatrice. "And then I shared the temporary blindness of those whose eyes have just been smitten by the sun, leaving me sightless for a time." Beatrice is not a bride, but more of a Christ-like figure, or maybe a Christ-bride. She gives Dante a prophecy and an order to record his experience. Finally Matelda leads him though the second river in the garden, the River Eunoe. This is Dante's own creation, and the river strengthens his memories of his good deeds. And so it ends.

145dchaikin
heinäkuu 18, 2020, 8:22pm

146dchaikin
Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 18, 2020, 8:46pm



36. Love's Labor's Lost by William Shakespeare
editors John Arthos & series editor Sylvan Barnett
Essays afterward Walter Pater, Northrop Frye (“The Argument of Comedy”), Richard David, Robert Shore
originally performed: c1595
format: 176-page Signet Classic paperback
acquired: May
read: May 31 – July 3
time reading: 11 hr 32 min, 3.9 min/page
rating: 5
locations: Navarre, Spain
about the author April 23, 1564 – April 23, 1616

On a lighter note, a Shakespeare play on Love's Warriors flinging and deflecting sonnets, with calls to arms. As one character puts it, "Assist me some extemporal god of rhyme, for I am sure I shall turn sonnet.” Beware.

The premise is the King of Navarre (not Henry, but a reference to the then current French King) takes three friends and founds an ascetic community dedicated entirely to knowledge. No women are allowed in to distract. Alas, a princess visits on business, attended conveniently by three ladies. Four love matches spontaneously develop and the ascetic rules the king set up get deeply tried.

Love's Labour's Lost has some stage trouble because of the difficulty of the language. But it works wonderfully on the page and probably also on the stage when done well. Essentially there are three short clever but lingually difficult acts, then an Act 4 of ridiculous love sonnets, four long ones. But these sonnets are surficial and their silliness is the point. The last act, Shakespeare's longest, drops everything, plot and language, down to an easier level, includes an entire play within a play who purpose is to mock to actors. It offers a conclusion that roughly, and appropriately, shows all was for naught, hence the title. Thoroughly enjoyable and recommended with a touch of caution. Not everyone in the group I read with liked it.

147baswood
heinäkuu 19, 2020, 12:17pm

Two superb reads above Dan, thanks for the commentary.

148lisapeet
heinäkuu 19, 2020, 3:36pm

Great reviews, Dan, thanks! You may have inspired me to give Purgatorio a try (someday).

149dchaikin
heinäkuu 20, 2020, 1:55pm

>147 baswood: >148 lisapeet: thanks both. I appreciate the comments. And, Lisa, go for it! (well, take in Inferno first...)

150OscarWilde87
heinäkuu 21, 2020, 3:34am

>144 dchaikin:
I read this in such a pleasant way, every morning reading the Hollander summary, then the Canto itself, then going through the Hollander notes while reading the Canto a second time. There was ritual aspect to it. Then I finished and had nothing I felt I needed to say. This is and was so strange it's stumped my ability to write anything at all about this. So below is more a report than a review.
I just love that! This is what reading should be, shouldn't it? Pure pleasure that leaves with nothing left to sa because you liked it so much! Great review!

151dchaikin
heinäkuu 21, 2020, 9:47am

>150 OscarWilde87: I should be easier on myself for this because I did enjoy the reading experience, but I admit it was frustrating. I suspect part of what happened was that I was taking notes and therefore got stuff out of my head by writing it down...or after I wrote it down I just let it go. But I’m not sure. (I went through my notes before writing the review and that brought a lot back.) In any case, thanks for offering another perspective.

152OscarWilde87
heinäkuu 21, 2020, 1:29pm

>151 dchaikin: I rarely take notes when reading, although I sometimes think I should. Just recently I read Reservoir 13 and I am sure notes would have eased the reading process. You are right, though, sometimes when you write things down they just leave your head. Same for me.

153dchaikin
Muokkaaja: elokuu 2, 2020, 2:43pm

The Booker Long List came out yesterday. I went through the whole 2019 list, mostly on audio, and I really enjoyed that. Of course I want to do it again. No promises, mind you.

2020 list
https://thebookerprizes.com/booker-prize/news/2020-booker-prize-longlist-announc...

The list as I need it - with audiobook book times, and sorted from longest to shortest

Hilary Mantel (UK) The Mirror & The Light (4th Estate, HarperCollins) 76:50 (trilogy: Wolf Hall 24:14, Bring Up the Bodies 14:34, Tmtl 38:12)

Douglas Stuart (Scotland/USA) Shuggie Bain (Picador, Pan Macmillan) 17:30

Maaza Mengiste (Ethiopia/USA) The Shadow King (Canongate Books) 16:09

Colum McCann (Ireland/USA) Apeirogon (Bloomsbury Publishing) 15:20

Diane Cook (USA) The New Wilderness (Oneworld Publications) 12:46 (release Aug 11)

Tsitsi Dangarembga (Zimbabwe) This Mournable Body (Faber & Faber) 11:32 (trilogy: Nervous Conditions, 1988, 224 pages , The Book of Not, 2006, 246 pages)

Kiley Reid (USA) Such a Fun Age (Bloomsbury Circus, Bloomsbury Publishing) 9:58

Brandon Taylor (USA) Real Life (Originals, Daunt Books Publishing) 9:25

C Pam Zhang (USA) How Much of These Hills is Gold (Virago, Little, Brown) 9:08

Avni Doshi (USA) Burnt Sugar (Hamish Hamilton, Penguin Random House) 7:29 (release July 30)

Anne Tyler (USA) Redhead by The Side of The Road (Chatto & Windus, Vintage) 4:50

Sophie Ward (UK) Love and Other Thought Experiments (Corsair, Little, Brown) 256 pages, no audio

Gabriel Krauze (UK) Who They Was (4th Estate, HarperCollins) 304 pages, unavailable on amazon in any format

154lisapeet
heinäkuu 28, 2020, 1:31pm

It's a neat list, though I wonder a bit what Anne Tyler's doing there... nothing against her, but she doesn't seem to fit in with the rest. Not that she needs to or anything, just thinking out loud (or whatever this is called).

155dchaikin
Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 28, 2020, 1:55pm

Here is my personal quick summary of the 2019 list - with the date I finished them

Favorite
1. Valeria Luiselli (Mexico/Italy), Lost Children Archive 11:16 November

Others that were terrific for me (in order)
2. Deborah Levy (UK), The Man Who Saw Everything 6:05 February
3. Jeanette Winterson (UK), Frankissstein 7:10 January
4. Chigozie Obioma (Nigeria), An Orchestra of Minorities 18:08 September
5. Salman Rushdie (UK/India), Quichotte 16:01 October
6. Oyinkan Braithwaite (UK/Nigeria), My Sister, The Serial Killer 226 pages May
7. Lucy Ellmann (USA/UK), Ducks, Newburyport 1040 pages April

I liked these, but not as much (in order)
8. John Lanchester (UK), The Wall 6:43 January
9. Bernardine Evaristo (UK), Girl, Woman, Other 11:06 December

Didn’t like
10. Kevin Barry (Ireland), Night Boat to Tangier 5:40 February (Blame the audio, I didn’t like the author’s voice)
11. Max Porter (UK), Lanny 213 pages (lots of white space) May
12. Elif Shafak (UK/Turkey), 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World 9:11 January
13. Margaret Atwood (Canada), The Testaments 13:19 November

So, seven terrific books, plus two others I liked a lot, and four misses that still left me feeling a little more in tune with the world. Not bad.

I notice the books on this list are a lot shorter than those on the 2020 list.

156dchaikin
heinäkuu 28, 2020, 1:51pm

>154 lisapeet: gives me a good excuse to read Anne Tyler, anyway.

157avaland
heinäkuu 31, 2020, 1:59pm

Whoa, I can't believe how far behind I was in your reviews! All caught up now. You write great reviews, Dan. They reflect the thoughts of a wonderfully thoughtful and engaged reader.

158dchaikin
heinäkuu 31, 2020, 9:18pm

Thank you Lois. Very kind and a compliment I'll embrace. I need to catch up myself, seems I drifted off again in July and now the group thread shows me all these growing double-digit unread messages.
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