dchaikin part 3 - refresh?

Tämä viestiketju jatkaa tätä viestiketjua: dchaikin part 2 - post mergansers.

KeskusteluClub Read 2020

Liity LibraryThingin jäseneksi, niin voit kirjoittaa viestin.

dchaikin part 3 - refresh?

heinäkuu 31, 2020, 9:51pm

just a nice image I found to ponder the unknown, and of course uncertain, road ahead.

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 2, 1:09pm

Currently Reading   

Currently Listening to

84598::A History of London by Stephen Inwood (read half Dec 11-31, 2019, picked it up again Dec 25)
23215367::Real Life by Brandon Taylor, read by Kevin R. Free (started listening Dec 22)

heinäkuu 31, 2020, 9:52pm

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, 2020 part 2

Muokkaaja: joulukuu 31, 2020, 6:48am

Books read this year:

Muokkaaja: joulukuu 22, 2020, 10:08pm

My year in audiobooks:

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 31, 2020, 9:57pm

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


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)


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)


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)

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 31, 2020, 9:57pm

The list of books I've read - part 2
Links go to my review post in my part 2 thread.


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)


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)


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)


36. ***** Love's Labor's Lost by William Shakespeare (read May 31 - Jul 3)

Muokkaaja: joulukuu 31, 2020, 11:42pm

The list of books I've read - part 3
Links go to my review below, in this same thread.

JULY (continued)

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)


40. **** Shadows on the Rock by Willa Cather (read Jul 9 - Aug 2)
41. **** The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt, read by Patricia Rodríguez & Eric Meyers (listened Jul 16 - Aug 10)
42. ***** Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli (read Jul 7 - Aug 15)
43. ***** Titus Andronicus by William Shakespeare (read Jul 12 - Aug 16)
44. *** Despair by Vladimir Nabokov (read Aug 15-19)
45. **** Journey to Armenia & Conversation about Dante by Osip Mandelstam (read Aug 20-29)


46. *** Over by the River : And Other Stories by William Maxwell (read Jun 13 - Sep 4)
47. ***½ Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart, read by Angus King (listened Aug 14 - Sep 9)
48. **** The Book of Illusions by Paul Auster (read Aug 20 - Sep 22)
49. **** The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare (read Aug 25 - Sep 30)


50. ****½ Lucy Gayheart by Willa Cather (read Sep 8 – Oct 1)
51. ***½ The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste, read by Robin Miles (listened Sep 11 - Oct 8)
52. **½ We of the Forsaken World... by Kiran Bhat (read Aug 31 - Oct 23)
53. **** Apeirogon by Colum McCann, read by the author (listened Oct 9-29)


54. ***** Paradiso by Dante Alighieri translated by Jean Hollander and Robert Hollander (read Sep 1 - Nov 9)
55. **** Henry V by William Shakespeare (reading Oct 9 - Nov 13)
56. ***** Invitation to a Beheading by Vladimir Nabokov (read Nov 14-19)


57. **** Roadside Geology of Texas by Darwin Spearing (read Nov 22 - Dec 3)
58. ***½ The New Wilderness by Diane Cook, read by Stacey Glemboski (listened Oct 30 - Dec 5)
59. **** Sapphira and the Slave Girl by Willa Cather (read Nov 30 - Dec 15)
60. **** Timon of Athens by William Shakespeare (read Nov 18 - Dec 19)
61. ***½ Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid, read by Nicole Lewis (listened Dec 7-21)
62. ****½ The Gift by Vladimir Nabokov (read Nov 25 - Dec 23)
63. *** Circe by Madeline Miller (read Dec 3-5, 24-29)
64. **** The Enchanter by Vladimir Nabokov (read Dec 30)

Muokkaaja: joulukuu 31, 2020, 6:46am

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

The Inferno by Dante Alighieri
Purgatorio by Dante Alighieri
Paradiso by Dante Alighieri
1592 Titus Andronicus by William Shakespeare
1594 The Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare
1595 Love's Labor's Lost by William Shakespeare
1597 The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare
Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare
Henry V by William Shakespeare
1605 Timon of Athens by William Shakespeare
1607 Antony and Cleopatra by William Shakespeare
1925 The Professor's House by Willa Cather
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
The Luzhin Defense by Vladimir Nabokov
The Eye by Vladimir Nabokov
1931 Shadows on the Rock by Willa Cather
Glory by Vladimir Nabokov
Laughter in the Dark by Vladimir Nabokov
1933 Journey to Armenia & Conversation about Dante by Osip Mandelstam
1934 Despair by Vladimir Nabokov
1935 Lucy Gayheart by Willa Cather
1936 Invitation to a Beheading by Vladimir Nabokov
1937 The Gift by Vladimir Nabokov
1939 The Enchanter by Vladimir Nabokov
1940 Sapphira and the Slave Girl by Willa Cather
1947 Survival In Auschwitz : The Nazi Assault on Humanity by Primo Levi
1963 The Reawakening by Primo Levi
1965 Dune by Frank Herbert
1977 Over by the River : And Other Stories by William Maxwell
1991 Roadside Geology of Texas by Darwin Spearing
1999 Flowers of Mold by Ha Seong-nan (translated 2019)
2001 Vladimir Nabokov (Overlook Illustrated Lives) by Jane Grayson
2002 The Book of Illusions by Paul Auster
2010 Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff
2011 Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson
2014 The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt
2016 Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in 40 Questions by Valeria Luiselli
Evil: The Science Behind Humanity's Dark Side by Julia Shaw
Educated by Tara Westover
My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
Circe by Madeline Miller
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
Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli
The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste
We of the Forsaken World... by Kiran Bhat
Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara
Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart
Apeirogon by Colum McCann
The New Wilderness by Diane Cook

Muokkaaja: joulukuu 31, 2020, 6:58am

Some stats:

Books read: 64
Pages: 13,572 (time reading: 489 hours)
Audio time: 202 hours
"regular books”**: 46
Formats: Paperback 36; Audio 18; Hardcover 9; ebook 1;
Subjects in brief: Novel 39; Classic 15; Non-fiction 12; drama 8; Memoir 5; Journalism 3; Essay Collections 3; Poetry 3; Biography 2; Science Fiction 2; On Literature and Books 2; Short Stories 2; Science 2; History 1;
Nationalities: United States 21; England 13; Russia 11; Italy 5; Mexico 3; Ireland 2; Turkey 1; Hong Kong 1; South Africa 1; Canada 1; South Korea 1; Nigeria 1; India 1; Scotland 1; Ethiopia 1;
Books in translation: 18
Genders, m/f: 34/30 unknown: 0; mixed 0;
Owner: Books I own: 62; Library 2;
Re-reads: 4
Year Published: 2020’s 5; 2010's 23; 2000’s 2; 1990’s 2; 1970’s 1; 1960’s 2; 1940's 2; 1930’s 11; 1920's 5; 1500 & 1600's 8; 1300's 3;

Books read: 1116
Pages: 287,291; Audio time: 1745 (72 days)
"regular books"**: 717
Formats: Paperback 594; Hardcover 241; Audio 166; ebooks 76; Lit magazines 38
Subjects in brief: Non-fiction 462; Novels 317; Biographies/Memoirs 196; History 175; Classics 151; Journalism 95; Poetry 90; Science 81; Ancient 75; Speculative Fiction 66; On Literature and Books 56; Nature 55; Anthology 45; Essay Collections 44; Graphic 43; Short Story Collections 41; Juvenile/YA 34; Drama 36; Visual Arts 26; Interviews 15; Mystery/Thriller 13
Nationalities: US 648; Non-American, English speaking 211; Other: 262
Books in translation: 195
Genders, m/f: 713/306
Owner: Books I owned 760; Library books 280; Books I borrowed 66; Online 11
Re-reads: 23
Year Published: 2020’s 5; 2010's 254; 2000's 276; 1990's 168; 1980's 113; 1970's 56; 1960's 44; 1950's 26; 1900-1949 54; 19th century 16; 16th-18th centuries 24; 13th-15th centuries 5; 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.

heinäkuu 31, 2020, 10:05pm

37. Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in 40 Questions by Valeria Luiselli
introduction: Jon Lee Anderson
translation Lizzie Davis –expanded essays
published: 2016 in English, then translated to Spanish and expanded by Luiselli. The extensions were then translated back to English in 2017 by Davis
format: 104-page Paperback (I didn’t read the sources this time)
acquired: January
read: Jul 4-6
time reading: 2 hr 10 min, 1.3 min/page
rating: 4
locations: New York City, with references to central American refugee migration trail
about the author Mexican author born in Mexico City (1983), who grew up in Madison, WI, Costa Rica, South Korea, and South Africa

A rare re-read for me as part of our loose group read. But I've frozen up and don't know what to say about it except its awful and a huge portion of my country, well over 100 million people, don't care and want to be thought of as good people.

I wrote a more coherent review the first time I read this, in January: https://www.librarything.com/topic/315313#7047369

heinäkuu 31, 2020, 11:54pm

38. Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff
reader: Robin Miles
published: 2010
format: 14:16 audible audiobook (369 pages in hardcover)
acquired: Jun 22
listened: Jun 23 – Jul 16
rating: 3
locations: Roman Empire
about the author born 1961 in Adams, MA

Cleopatra is famous because, well... because of the men who fathered her children and because she is history's great seductress who first conquered Julius Caesar, and later wooed Mark Antony to his ruin. That's the myth, the one in Roman accounts, and in Shakespeare's play and in Elizabeth Taylor's movie. The crazy-sexualized-lady-who-ruined-everything myth—which, I imagine, is the one most of us know and believed at some point; and treasured as fascinating. Schiff here tries to get around all this to the true historical figure.


For some perspective, the Ptolemaic empire founded after the death of Alexander the Great in 323 bce, came to end here, with this queen, as Octavius Caesar strolled into Alexandria on August 1, 30 bce. At Cleopatra's birth the City of Alexandria was the world's leading cultural center, and probably by far the richest city in the world. And it had, of course, the most famous library in history. Rome, an empire based on constant pillaging, was parochial in comparison, a cultural back water. The Ptolemy's, Macedonian, not Egyptian, controlled and overshadowed a wide assortment of cultures and wealth. Power stakes were high and the royal family was awash in brutal gruesome power politics and, with no other comparable power figures to mingle with, a kind of regimented inbreeding where siblings were routinely married to each other. Strange stuff. But the royal family was also exceptionally well educated, hired the best scholars in their known world as educators and had pretty good access to some reading material. Cleopatra would have learned to speak several languages fluently and learned to banter with whatever intellectuals came around. When she became queen of Egypt, she became the richest person in the world. To put it simply, she would have been far more cultured and sophisticated than the Roman leadership. The point is, the myth is impossible.


Some facts. Cleopatra used Julius Caesar and his army to win her throne and become queen of the wealthiest kingdom in the world, and she had his children. She came to Rome and bantered with Cicero. When Caesar was assassinated, his will left his inheritance to his great nephew, Gaius Octavius, and not to his half-Ptolemaic children by Cleopatra. Cleopatra fled Rome. As the Roman Republic went through its final death spasm, she sided with Mark Antony and had his children and funded his army. Apparently seeing an impossible military situation they had stumbled into, they abandoned their army at the battle of Actium, saved the money and ran for Alexandria, making a probable military defeat catastrophic. They lost the Roman civil war and both committed suicide as Octavius entered Alexandria. Cleopatra's oldest child by Julius Caesar was murdered. Her children by Mark Antony were brought to Rome and raised as full Roman citizens. Octavius, of course, became Augustus Caesar, the first Roman emperor.


Some other facts. There is not much else. After Octavius won, he controlled the narrative and used it, overwriting the true story with his a kind of propaganda version. The real historical Cleopatra and all her records are lost and buried under Roman myth.


I enjoyed this but I wasn't crazy about what Schiff does. Certainly it's well grounded in the solid facts available and her end note makes clear just how much scholarship went into this. But, there is a but. The book is challenged because it sticks to the evidence and there isn't much of a record of Cleopatra, the person. It's lost. This means the biography is kind of missing a subject. Schiff handles this in a variety of ways and I found the changing approaches mixed and a little frustrating. The way I put it in my Litsy review was that Schiff's "guidance through all the unknowns felt unsatisfying".

elokuu 1, 2020, 6:39pm

>12 dchaikin: I have sometimes thought I might get Schiff's book on Cleopatra and so it was good to read your comments.

elokuu 1, 2020, 9:02pm

>13 baswood: Thanks. Despite my criticisms at the end, I think the book is worth the time and was a nice follow up to Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra.

elokuu 2, 2020, 5:14pm

Muokkaaja: elokuu 2, 2020, 10:58pm

39. Dune by Frank Herbert
published: 1965
format: 884-page 2010 Ace premium edition with 2005 Afterword by Brian Herbert
acquired: May
read: Jun 18 – Jul 25
time reading: 23 hr 8 min, 1.6 min/page
rating: 4
locations: planets Caladan and Arrakis
about the author 1920-1986, west coast American author born in Tacoma, WA.

A reread and a detour from my current regular reading. My daughter read this as prep for the movie and so I read I'm following behind. She's reading Dune Messiah now.

My Listy review, posted with the picture above: Sand worms! Oh, and religion, a variation of environmentalism, political maneuvering (albeit non-Democratic), heavy handed mythology, some blue stained eyes, and an author very very passionately devoted to his odd biblical-ish creation. Sorry, nothing profound to say here. Fun stuff, even if I might be a little more bemused than really taken in. This was a reread, last read in 1991.

I'll leave it there.

Muokkaaja: elokuu 2, 2020, 6:11pm

>16 dchaikin: I read Dune when I was about 14, and that's all I remember of it. But I really like your collage, and wish those were stamps.

elokuu 16, 2020, 7:11am

>17 lisapeet: What a great idea of lisapeet's! They would make fabulous stamps. Have either of you read Going Postal by Terry Pratchett? Wonderful! The protagonist is Moist von Lipwig, the wonderful.

elokuu 16, 2020, 4:08pm

>17 lisapeet: & >18 sallypursell: maybe we should contact the USPS.🙂

Sally, I'm pretty sure I have encountered Moist, but I haven't read Going Postal. I have read The Truth, so I must have met him there.

Muokkaaja: elokuu 16, 2020, 10:07pm

40. Shadows on the Rock by Willa Cather
published: 1931
format: 280-page 1971 Vintage Books paperback
acquired: 2009 (from in-laws)
read: Jul 9 – Aug 2
time reading: 7 hr 21 min, 1.6 min/page
rating: 4
locations:1697-98 Quebec City
about the author born near Winchester, VA, later raised in Red Cloud, NE. December 7, 1873 – April 24, 1947

This is the 9th novel by Willa Cather that I've read as I work through her novels with a group on Litsy. I find it a little fascinating to watch her themes and style evolve. The classic Prairie trilogy in the 1910's evolving into bitter social criticisms in the early 1920's, turning to a place far away in time in the mystical Death Comes for the Archbishop. With Shadows on the Rock she goes even farther away. The novel takes place over the course of 1697 and 1698 in Quebec city - the old city still somewhat intact today, and now a World Heritage sight.

The novel explores the city, creating something of a mural of this time and little place. She traces the year though a 13 year old girl, Cécile, a happy child without a mother. Her father is an apothecary working in an almost feudal fashion for the ruling French count, Comte de Frontenac. It's a peaceful stable household. From there Cécile observes, taking in the various characters, organizations and events that make up the city and its surrounding frontier. Her direct experiences are limited, influenced by the heavily religious community, but the stories that come to her way vary over a wide range of old and new world problems, each with some striking aspect.

It's a nice story, wrapped up in some beautiful prose, sometimes palpable. "...the tarnished gold of the elms, with a little brown in it, a little bronze, a little blue even—a blue like amethyst, which made them melt into the azure haze with a kind of happiness, a harmony of mood that filled the air with content.

But there is limited bite in this one. Her city, despite her magnificent prose, is simplified, idealized. Her ideas subdued. She creates a frontiersman, Pierre Charon, maybe the most colorful character in book because of his irreverence and passion and general goodness. He's named after historical characters of the time, after the mythical ferryman Charron, but most importantly, after a 16th century philosopher and follower of Montaigne. The philosopher focused on the limitations of human knowledge and his ideas come down to, roughly, living responsibly. The city itself, carved out of the wilderness, a small fortress of culture amidst the frontier chaos, can be viewed as a real life representation of his ideas. I can't take this nearly as far as Cather would like. But the bottom line is it's subtle, subdued. Whatever societal criticism or anger she had in previous novels is pretty much washed out, this from an author who had always made a point of fierce integrity. Her 17th-century Quebec City is both historically accurate and also impossibly sanitized - a mythical bastion of culture and consideration.

It worth noting that in real life Cather was having serious personal trouble, including declining parents. She also, interestingly enough, began to be viewed in the 1930's as conservative and detached from contemporary realities, and she was heavily criticized by younger, more liberal critics.

I have come to adore Cather and I enjoyed this perspective on this historical place, especially her wonderful prose. But, also, it‘s the 1st time she hasn‘t wowed me.

elokuu 16, 2020, 7:48pm

>18 sallypursell: Love Moist von Lipwig. Hi figures in Going Postal and Making Money as well as Steam, which I read for the first time this summer.

elokuu 16, 2020, 7:50pm

Hi Dan,

I really need to read a biography of Cather now that I've read several of her novels. My memory of Shadows on a rock is that it was pleasant, but the content remains vague.

elokuu 16, 2020, 8:08pm

>19 dchaikin: Oh, do read Going Postal! I would love to hear what you would say about it.

elokuu 16, 2020, 9:12pm

>20 dchaikin: I had a sudden flash of an odd idea that Cather, rather than being less amazing in this book, instead had strayed into a type of mythic depiction of the city, that it was magic realism, that people were not ready for it. I know that was merely a fancy of mine, sprung as a fantasy, entire, but it was sweet and it glimmered in the shadows.

elokuu 16, 2020, 9:52pm

>21 markon: Steam was lovely and elegiac, and tied up a great many of the threads of this leggy group of intertwined novels. Still, it was sad to see that fizzing brain in eclipse. It simply lacked the "bite" of the earlier ones, although it was always a loving bite. My favorite satirical authors can satirize with a noticeable affection for the targets of their satires. Think of The Pickwick Papers, and much of Vonnegut. And what about the Discworld's book on The Patrician's background, training as an assassin? Vetinari is the finest character in the Discworld, although there are so many.

elokuu 16, 2020, 10:03pm

>21 markon: >25 sallypursell: I do own Going Postal. My next Discworld book was supposed to Pyramids... but it's been a while since I picked one up. Maybe I should jump to GP. (Timely, no?)

>22 markon: I need a good autobiography too! There are a handful of decent choices, but not sure which to choose from. Not surprised Shadows remained vague...

>24 sallypursell: definitely not. : ) Think more like Laura Ingles Wilder. Life and adventure without all the unpleasant human elements.

elokuu 16, 2020, 10:23pm

>26 dchaikin: Pyramids is a really good one. But I vote for Going Postal! I do get a vote, don't I?

elokuu 30, 2020, 4:50pm

41. The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt
reader: Patricia Rodríguez, Eric Meyers
published: 2014
format: 14:46 audible audiobook (368 pages in hardcover)
acquired: July 16
listened: Jul 16 – Aug 13
rating: 4
locations: New York City
about the author: born 1955 in Northfield, MN

This was terrific. The only problem is how much of all the distinctive things it had me thinking about I can still recall 2 1/2 weeks later. The story is about fictional artist Harriet Burden, a kind of feminist. Her frustration with the lack of interest in her work from the critical art world first leads her to stop showing her art, and then to have men given a major show of her work, but present it as their own. She would stay anonymous until she was ready to reveal what had done. Her purpose was to embarrass the sexist art critics, but also more nuanced. She wanted to look into the nature of perception and how context affects it.

Hustvedt approaches this through an art critic who began a posthumous look into Burden and her career. Burden left behind many works that were never shown, and set of 25 notebooks about her work, each identified by a letter in the alphabet, the only letter missing being, appropriately, "I". The book is a series of interviews, quotations from the notebooks and from other sources - a kind of variation of the epistolary theme. What comes across is a bitter story that did not work out at all as Burden intended. She had three major shows, her combined work calls "masks". They were critical successes, but she found her work becoming influenced by the male presenter and that the work had unintended impacts on these men. The last presenter refuses to acknowledge her work at all, but claim sole responsibility and received credit for it from the art world. So, what happened? What went wrong? What was Burden trying to do, and how did these human elements interfere and change things? Why does this end up being so full of disappointment. As I put it, compressed, on Litsy, "Burden‘s sort of feminist crusade is also part brilliant, part ego, part need for revenge, part psychological complexity and part bitter disappointment, making for a complicated text."

My second book by Hustvedt and second one I really enjoyed. They are both heavily philosophical in approachable ways, and very playful. I like what's she's exploring, and the nuanced way she goes about expressing what I imagine is her own frustration.

elokuu 30, 2020, 5:23pm

42. Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli
published: 2019
format: 357-page paperback
acquired: May
read: Jul 7 – Aug 15
time reading: 11 hr 32 min, 1.9 min/page
rating: 5
locations: road trip - New York City to Arizona, and Mexico
about the author Mexican author born in Mexico City (1983), who grew up in Madison, WI, Costa Rica, South Korea, and South Africa

I listened to this in November, mesmerized the by author, who mostly reads it herself. This time I decided to read it. It's a beautiful text, but I found it excruciatingly hard to read. Somehow it got heavy. Early in the book she generates the impression of flipping through books, reading bits here and there, testing out the sense and texture, noting quotes out of context. I started trying to read this in that kind of way, in different contexts, with different goals, without thinking about progress, just toying with the text. It was how I stumbled, here and there, through most of the 1st half of the book. This is not naturally how this book should be read. It's a nicely written road-travelling kind of narrative.

Her prose is wonderful and leaves interesting quotes.

"They're like anthropologists studying cosmogenic narratives, but with a touch more narcissism."

"...how our rational, linear, organized world dissolves into the chaos of children's words"

My sense of this book now is of the various strained faults running through it. Things aren't broken in pieces, but there are cracks that go deep within things that should be whole, but instead lie uncomfortable side-by-side. Borders, languages, cultural perceptions, failing marriages, similar but incompatible philosophies, people, the relationship of the present to history, of a history to perception, of the elusive need to capture something that is lost.

She plays with her role in this book : "This book presents truth-telling as a commodity, and it questions the exchange value of truth presented as fiction, and conversely, the added value of fiction when it's rooted in truth."

And she captures her husband's focus on recording echoes: "The inventory of echoes was not a collection of sounds that have been lost—such a thing would in fact be impossible—but rather one of the sounds that were present in the time of recording and that, when we listen to them, remind us of the ones that are lost."

Of course I adore this book, i just didn't fully appreciate how difficult it can be. I wrote a more coherent and normal review in November, link here: https://www.librarything.com/topic/312033#6980483

elokuu 30, 2020, 6:21pm

>29 dchaikin: Interesting comments. Sally has recently finished this too and seemed to find it very emotional to read. I've been looking forward to reading this, but I'm not in the frame of mind for a 'difficult' read at the moment that requires a lot of close reading, so perhaps I need to keep it on the back-burner for now.

elokuu 30, 2020, 6:25pm

>30 AlisonY: You might consider trying out the audio

elokuu 30, 2020, 6:34pm

I just picked it up on sale. Too late for the discussion, maybe? I guess I can chime in when I do read it (and I won't be doing the audiobook because audiobooks and I don't mix).

elokuu 30, 2020, 7:45pm

>32 lisapeet: the discussion is a very muted affair. You can come anytime and glance through and maybe post. I posted a link there of Luiselli reading if you’re curious just to listen to her cadence and accent.

elokuu 30, 2020, 8:55pm

>29 dchaikin: I really need to finsih this, failing moserably to understand good of a book it is while being utterly and throughly depressed by it. I can't seem to bring myself to read the the boys observations of the whole thing. Not sure why but seeing it all play out from his point of view is a gut a punch. Still I need to finish and figure out what to say. Didn't help I feel down my usual I need to be angry at creationist rabbit hole, but that adventure is nearly done.

elokuu 30, 2020, 10:20pm

>34 stretch: I feel you pain on this rabbit hole. People on strange in frustrating ways. Of course, I feel your pain with Luiselli, but also you're in a good place. The son narrates a lot, which is a little awkward, but also that's where she mixes most the Elegy of Lost Children, the book within a book. The best parts are ahead.

Muokkaaja: elokuu 30, 2020, 11:40pm

From a Japanese performance if Titus Andronicus, all done with ribbons.

Muokkaaja: elokuu 30, 2020, 11:34pm

43. Titus Andronicus* by William Shakespeare
editor: Sylvan Barnet
commentaries: H. T. Price, Richard David, Alan C. Dessen &, The History of Titus Andronicus (an anonymous brief history in prose of unknown origin)
1st performed: 1591? (an early play)
format: 160-pages in Signet Classic paperback that includes Timon of Athens.
acquired: May
read: Jul 12- Aug 16
time reading: 10 hr 39 min, 4 min/page
rating: 5
locations: later empire Rome
about the author April 23, 1564 – April 23, 1616

T. S. Eliot called Titus Andronicus “one of the stupidest and most uninspired plays ever written”. It is Shakespeare's most macabre play. It's not just that a lot of people die, including most of the main characters, which would put it along the lines of Hamlet or King Lear, it's the manner the human body is treated. It opens with an execution by dismemberment off stage, and family murder on stage. But it also involved heads, and severed hands cut off on stage, cannibalism, a rape where men cut off the hands and tongue of their victim and then make fun, on stage, of her inability to communicate. It's a play that involves a march to display body parts. It's awful, it's also—well it can be—great fun.

There is a lot of King Lear in the set-up. Titus, a Roman general obsessed with honor, gallantly turns down an offer to become emperor of Rome in return for having his daughter marry the new emperor. In a blink this decision of giving up power becomes disastrous. His daughter Lavinia is carried off, Titus has killed his own son, and the new emperor marries Titus's captive goth - the mother of captive he just executed by dismembering him. This new empress, Tamora, will have her revenge. Honor and vengeance and their endless cycle, have reign. Throw in Tamora's barbaric Goth sons and her lover, the Moor Aaron - who is both a racist stereotype of evil and sharp maneuverer, and well there's a lot to come. Ovid is not only a reference, but directly cited. A copy of Metamorphoses appears on stage, the characters flipping through the book and discussing the gruesome rape of Philomena by Tereus. Ovid had a thing for macabre humor, most extreme his battle of the Centaurs and the Lapiths at a wedding. This one story is simply a series of more spectacular and gruesome and more ridiculous deaths in the riot. The point is gruesome humor, although I'm not sure anyone reads it that way today. Shakespeare makes a direct reference to it. It felt to me like this was what Shakespeare had in mind...that he wanted us to see the humor.

It hard to explain why this play works—except, like for T. S. Eliot, and, well, for anyone who else kept their decency, where it doesn't. But somehow this does work. The language is toned down, the plot sequence is the driver. And there is enough here to think about to allow that an element of fascination to thrive in us, and in such a way as to allow us to the separate the spectacle on stage from the kind of judgement we use in reality. To put it another way, I loved it.

Makes you wonder, though. I put it this way on my compressed Litsy post: "It‘s not that I enjoyed this so much or how it works with the jammed together mixture of gore/shock gamed with concerns of calculation vs mistakes, it‘s what it says about art in relation to our finicky sense of what‘s ok. This macabre can do the magic, can work. We can laugh at it, our fascination thoroughly dominating over our sense of need for decency. But have to wonder about our programming."

Obviously not a play for everyone.

*the link is bad a the moment. It should go here: https://www.librarything.com/work/337773

elokuu 31, 2020, 12:01am

>37 dchaikin: The Julie Tamor movie with Anthony Hopkins is worth a look. It balances the dark comedy with gruesomeness with absolutely gorgeous art direction.

elokuu 31, 2020, 2:35am

>38 janemarieprice: I’ve been eyeing that. Glad to get your recommendation.

elokuu 31, 2020, 6:49am

>36 dchaikin: That's a fabulous image.

elokuu 31, 2020, 1:49pm

>40 lisapeet: I find it stunning. I led a Litsy discussion and needed a bunch of images, and put a (pretty gory) collage together. But this one was by far the most memorable. It's so stylized and yet you're still forced to confront it. Someone said it looks "beautiful, haunting".

syyskuu 2, 2020, 7:50pm

I enjoyed you review of Titus Andronicus I am looking forward to "getting to grips with the gore" before the end of the year. Glad it appealed to you Dan and yes that's a great image >36 dchaikin:

syyskuu 3, 2020, 1:19pm

Thanks Bas. Your post on this will be something to look forward to.

Muokkaaja: syyskuu 5, 2020, 8:58pm

44. Despair by Vladimir Nabokov
translation: from Russian in 1965 by the author
published: 1934 (Serially)
format: 214-page paperback
acquired: June
read: Aug 15-19
time reading: 7 hr 6 min, 2 min/page
rating: 3
locations: Berlin mainly
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).

Hermann strains the reader up front - his arrogance combined with his twisting of grammatical limits, his claims of how boring this all is...it's all very forced and uncomfortable for the reader, and also, of course, still readable and captivating enough. First he tells us how brilliant he is, then tells us about his double he found - a lookalike. That a Russian émigré living in Berlin would find a lookalike in a Czech hobo should immediately catch our attention.

As the book evolves, the reader of course will see more and more what Hermann doesn't. His marriage, for example, is nothing like he thinks. And as he kicks his dark plan with the hobo into gear, we have to wonder at all he hasn't worked out. This is a kind of reverse Crime and Punishment, and the references to Dostoyevsky and his Raskolnikov is heavily handed. The sort of self-destabilizing self-psychoanalysis in C&P is here too, but here it's a game, nearly a caricature. Nabokov was notoriously critical of Dostoyevsky and I suspect this book is a playful attack on him and his thinking and style.


some extra notes:

The overall spite—of Hermann our narrator, but also, maybe, of the author, casts a heavy impression on all the other things this book is doing. As a reader, I felt a little beat up by it all. For example, it opens: "If I were not perfectly sure of my power to write and of my marvelous ability to express ideas with the utmost grace and vividness...So, more or less, I had thought of beginning my tale." Now imagine 200 pages of that.

I've read several of Nabokov's 1930's novels now. Written in and often taking place in Berlin, they don't give me the slightest impression of the economics or politics of the time. Which is curious. They do, however, give me a wonderful impression of the technology of the era. The cars, phones, elevators, buses etc and how they are used and the assumptions made about all this. The world was a little more technologically advanced that I realized.


Overall I think this books is doing a lot of. But, I definitely didn't pick up on all that much of it. Just felt that impression. Not my favorite Nabokov, but an interesting book and enjoyable enough.

Muokkaaja: syyskuu 5, 2020, 10:27pm

45. Journey to Armenia & Conversation about Dante by Osip Mandelstam
translation: from Russian 1977
published: 1933
format: 185-page Notting Hill 2011 hardcover
acquired: 2019 (with kidzdoc)
read: Aug 20-29
time reading: 6 hr 12 min, 2 min/page
rating: 4
locations: Armenia
about the author: Polish-born Jewish Soviet poet who grew up in St. Petersburg, and died in a gulag. 1891-1938

Three parts:
'Mandelstam and the Journey' by Henry Gifford, 1979
'Journey to Armenia' translated by Sidney Monas, 1977
'Conversation about Dante' translated by Clarence Brown & Robert Hughes, 1977

A tough and somewhat random book for me. I know very little about this Jewish Soviet poet and his strained and eventually fatal relationship to his state. These essays were written in 1933 when he was sort of politely exiled to Armenia. The main essay, ‘Journey‘, is about Armenia with much extra going on in the subtext. It includes a mixture of classical Greek and Christian references, and a criticism of Darwin in favor Jean-Baptiste Lamarck. It kind of all went right by me. A second essay on Dante was really fascinating about Dante and poetry and, I think, has some interesting embedded criticism of the then Soviet Union.

"If a physicist should conceive of the desire, after taking apart the nucleus of an atom, to put it back together again, he would be like the partisans of descriptive and explanatory poetry, for whom Dante represents, for all time, a plague and a threat."

Muokkaaja: syyskuu 6, 2020, 4:07pm

46. Over by the River : And Other Stories by William Maxwell
published: 1977 (stories from 1941-1977)
format: 242-page first edition Knoff hardcover
acquired: from my neighbor in 2006
read: Jun 13 – Sep 4
time reading: 7 hr 43 min, 1.9 min/page
rating: 3
locations: New York City and vicinity, Lincoln, IL, France
about the author 1908-2000, born and raised in Illinois, fiction editor of The New Yorker magazine 1936–1975

I read this with a buddy on Litsy at a pace of one story a week. There are twelve. They are overall gentle on the surface, maybe too gentle, but then with layers and layers within. Once we started thinking about them and discussing them we found there was a lot more going on than we originally realized.

Maxwell was a fiction editor at The New Yorker from 1936 to 1975. These stories were originally published from 1941 to 1977, quite an interesting expanse of time. There is nothing here on the Civil Right era or the Vietnam War, and he touches on the World War II only obliquely (in a terrific story). They are mostly set in and around NY City, but also include two memorable ones on American tourists in France and several based on his fictionalized version if his birthplace, Lincoln, IL. Maxwell is most known for these stories based on his childhood in Lincoln, IL, and often touching on his life after the death of his own mother to the 1918 flu when he was ten. He left me with the impression of a nice guy looking back.

My tepid recommendation: I didn't love this even as there is nothing particularly bad about it. I've been looking at this book for 14 years, as it was part of a large collection of books my neighbor left me when was downsizing. He was no slouch reader. I liked this book, and his layers and human relationships, and I appreciated how he seemed to get better the closer he approached his real life, and the less dramatic the story lines became. Some of these stories got me excited. (And I really enjoyed the online discussion through Litsy.) It's hard to put my finger on it, but generally the stories somehow just didn't really grab me.

syyskuu 6, 2020, 5:34pm

>46 dchaikin: I was just reading about Maxwell and his mother's death in The Great Influenza, when he touches on some of the literary legacies of the 1918 flu—not many, it turns out, compared to the war. His tossed-off theory is that it might have been more engaging to write about man's inhumanity to man than nature's inhumanity to man... and who knows, that could be part of it.

Apologies if you mentioned it like, three posts up, but have you read So Long, See You Tomorrow? Gorgeous little book, I think my favorite of his.

syyskuu 7, 2020, 1:13pm

Thanks Lisa. This is my first encounter with Maxwell. I’ll note So Long, See You Tomorrow. My reading buddy really liked his letters with Eudora Wealty - What there is to say, we have said.

syyskuu 12, 2020, 5:34pm

47. Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart
reader: Angus King
published: 2020
format: 17:30 audible audiobook (448 pages in hardcover)
acquired: Aug 13
listened: Aug 14 – Sep 9
rating: 3½
locations: Glasgow
about the author: Born in Glasgow, Scotland, lives in New York City.

Litsy summary:
Deep into impoverished hopeless 1980‘s Glasgow during its kind of industrial collapse. This Booker longisted debut novel took ten years to write and compaction was not struggle. It‘s not expansive so much as long and slow and directionless as we watch Shuggie‘s mother get deeper and deeper into alcoholism. It works overall, characters are alive in their failures and flair and I finished attached to all. But - oye, long.

syyskuu 15, 2020, 7:25pm

>36 dchaikin: I love this image, and would have preferred the Titus movie to have been done this way. I hated it.

syyskuu 15, 2020, 7:39pm

Just catching up, Dan. I am slowing down for some books, something I rarely do, but I think it has something to do with CoVid and Trump... who are making me crazy.

syyskuu 17, 2020, 3:46pm

>50 sallypursell: I’ve been thinking of checking that movie out. Honestly I get the feeling Titus has got to be a tough play to get right. Has to be gory and also funny. And yet funny without being funny, without undermining the actors seriousness. So somehow gory, funny and also not at all funny. At least I think so.

Hope the world will let us get comfortable again sometime. If we can extricate the cheeto, if would be a start.

Muokkaaja: syyskuu 17, 2020, 10:34pm

>52 dchaikin: My daughter has been calling him "Emperor Cheeto" for several years now.

You know, I never eat them, but Cheetos are too good to be Trumps nickname.

Muokkaaja: syyskuu 19, 2020, 6:16am

Just finished a good, long catch-up on your thread, Dan. I enjoyed your discussion of Dune and the continuing discussion of Cather. I read Dune in the 80s and liked it well enough until the 3rd? book which I thought quite awful. Gosh, your daughter is a teen now....

I also enjoyed your comments on the William Maxwell and your willingness to read the book in the first place. Noted Lisa's follow-up comments. I was recently reading an article about how TB "fueled" the 1918 Influenza, and I will also note that polio was also around during this time; Brooklyn had a outbreak of 27,000 in 1916, Vermont in 1917 (and apparently there were outbreaks every summer until the 40s & 50s when it worsened until it finally ended with the vaccine). Each era seems to have its horrors.

Muokkaaja: syyskuu 19, 2020, 7:07pm

>53 sallypursell: Imitation cheeto? : )

>54 avaland: Thank you Lois. Interesting about TB. Maxwell has interested me since that curious book and author came out of the boxes of books my neighbor left me. Lots still to get to. As for Dune, my daughter is in high school and has read book 2. I'm supposed to, but have it on the TBR stack...which might be my way of avoiding it. I'm looking forward to the movie.

Last note. Thanks for catching up. I've felt insecure about what I've written here lately. I have some goals and a lot of things I want to avoid, and I feel I get it backwards in the moment, doing exactly the opposite of these things. I guess I worry these reviews aren't readable and or don't flow well. I know, supposed to be fun. Anyway, I'm glad and grateful you were able to get through these posts.

syyskuu 19, 2020, 7:57pm

>54 avaland: That's an interesting article. The hunt for a tuberculosis cure also fueled the momentum for the search for the flu virus and vaccine. One thing I really liked about The Great Influenza was how much history of medicine, and of medical education, he included. It made for a good background.

syyskuu 20, 2020, 8:55pm

Hey, Dan, the latest "question for the avid reader" is about reading about religion/spirituality. I think you might be the king of this, so I wanted to give you a head's up ;-)

syyskuu 21, 2020, 10:43am

Thanks Lois.

lokakuu 3, 2020, 4:47pm

48. The Book of Illusions by Paul Auster
published: 2002
format: 321-page paperback, given to me by a coworker in August
read: Aug 20 – Sep 22 (8 hr 20 min, 1.6 m/p)
rating: 4
locations: mainly Vermont and New Mexico
about the author: American author from Newark, NJ, born 1947

What if it‘s all for nothing?

David, our narrator gets obsessed with an obscure 1920's-era silent film star Hector Mann, who made 12 silent comedies and then disappeared in 1928, as in he was a missing person and was never to found. David chases down and studies all his films and then publishes a book on them. Some time later, after the book is published and made a small number of sales, he gets a letter by someone claiming to be Hector's wife inviting him to meet Hector Mann in person, who is living incognito in New Mexico as Hector Spelling. Is this real? David's uncertainty leads him to explain himself, how this books hurts him, how his whole obsession happened in the midst of his kind of collapse after losing his wife and kids in a airplane crash while he remained in his Vermont home. And we learn that apparently Hector has continued to make movies, except he wants them all destroyed at his death and he's dying and no one has seen them.

This is terrific storytelling, a continual pouring out of captivating story facts. It's easy enjoyable reading (that I was able to put it down for long periods of time says more about me than the book). And there is a lot going on. Auster, I think, makes full use of Mann's name and his later life in New Mexico...Hector, the father, warrior, slain by Achilles, and it's direct meaing of hectoring man...a man or all humanity (perhaps with intentional sexist intent?). The book then comes to an uncomfortable end. There seems to be an unclear but distinct point. I think readers who effortlessly hummed through will feel suddenly uncomfortable. Left me that way. Wondering. Also, I suspect there is a commentary on nuclear annihilation here, highlighted by the New Mexico setting, the location of the WWII atomic bomb testing sites. That is, Hector's movies represent man's accomplishment and their destruction and the pointlessness of it all is, eventually, inevitable.

This is the first Paul Auster I've read. It was a really enjoyable book, one I can safely recommend to anyone interested and even to those a little resistant.

Muokkaaja: lokakuu 4, 2020, 4:56pm

49. The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare
Originally performed: ~1597
format: 207-page Signet Classic paperback, acquired in May
read: Aug 25 – Sep 30, 7 hr 47 min, 2.4 min/page
rating: 4
locations: Venice & Belmont
about the author April 23, 1564 – April 23, 1616

Editor: Kenneth Myrick 1965
Other contributors: Sylvan Barnett - series editor and author of an essay on the stage and screen history, 1998, Nicholas Rowe -from ‘The Works of Mr. William Shakespeare’, 1709?, William Hazlitt - from ‘Characters of Shakespeare’s Plays’, 1818, Anonymous from The Saturday Review, 8 Nov, 1879 - 'Henry Irving’s Shylock, Elmer Edgar Stoll - from ‘Shylock’, 1911, Linda Bamber - The Avoidance of Choice: A Woman’s Privilege, 1982, Alexander Leggatt - The Fourth and Fifth Acts, 1974, Robert Smallwood - The End of The Merchant of Venice: Four Versions, 1996

Shakespeare's infamous nuanced but still disturbing antisemitism. This is actually a terrific play that quickly generates stage drama has a really powerful scene in the first act where the targeted Jew, Shylock, and the main good guy, a notably kind and sad hero, Antonio, tell each other their hatreds and make their deal within this context of mutual hatred.



What should I say to you? Should I not say
'Hath a dog money? is it possible
A cur can lend three thousand ducats?' Or
Shall I bend low and in a bondman's key,
With bated breath and whispering humbleness, Say this;
'Fair sir, you spit on me on Wednesday last;
You spurn'd me such a day; another time
You call'd me dog; and for these courtesies
I'll lend you thus much moneys'?


I am as like to call thee so again,
To spit on thee again, to spurn thee too.
If thou wilt lend this money, lend it not
As to thy friends; for when did friendship take
A breed for barren metal of his friend?
But lend it rather to thine enemy,
Who, if he break, thou mayst with better face
Exact the penalty.

Shylock is a problem as he is a caricature of the bad Jews of Renaissance Europe, one who is fully obsessed about money and has limited other deep feelings or concerns. But what is most disturbing from modern perspectives is that the play celebrates the tormenting of this Jew, and how that deep dislike provides a kind of common bond for all the other characters. It's Venice society against Shylock. There is room for performances to take this different ways. The text does play at undermining Christian practices and manages to actually undermine every character. The quote above is kind Antonio admitting he spits on Jews. And Portia, the super clever heroine and savior, is exposed for her many commonplace biases.

I'm happy to have read this and see how the plot actually plays out and what makes this play important. And I came away with lot. Shylock‘s no nonsense directness holds a natural dignity no matter his dark purpose. And Portia is compromised no matter how clever she is or who she saved. A lot depends on actor interpretation and, if we believe the commentary in the after essays, the performance of these two characters seems to make or break the play. Modern audiences want nuance, whereas historically these characters might be exaggerated one way or another, successfully.

I don't think I can really recommend on Shakespeare, but you have to be open to what this play is to be able to appreciate it. If you're oversensitive to the antisemitism, that might ruin the play. Of course, it would also be justified.

lokakuu 5, 2020, 12:34pm

>59 dchaikin: I've not read any of Auster's work. You've intrigued me, Dan.

lokakuu 6, 2020, 8:36am

Enjoyed reading your thoughts on The Merchant of Venice. It would seem in many of the plays that the text turns on how the actors/director interpret the speeches and the action. However one can well believe that an Elizabethan audience would have been pleased to witness the 'baiting' of the Jewish characters.

lokakuu 6, 2020, 12:22pm

>61 AlisonY: good. I need encouragement to read more - a lot more. 🙂

>62 baswood: Jews were not allowed in London during Shakespeare’s lifetime, but after I finished I learned that there were Jewish communities, just not openly Jewish. And that this play was written in the shadow of the execution of a Jewish royal physician. I suspect audiences cheered. Shakespeare was so focused on character perspective, his own sense gets obscured, but clearly he was within the mindset of the era.

Muokkaaja: lokakuu 11, 2020, 5:41pm

50. Lucy Gayheart by Willa Cather
published: 1935
format: 195-page Vintage Classic paperback
acquired: June
read: Sep 8 – Oct 1
time reading: 5 hr 2 min, 1.6 min/page
rating: 4½
locations: early 20th century Nebraska and Chicago
about the author born near Winchester, VA, later raised in Red Cloud, NE. December 7, 1873 – April 24, 1947

I'm running out of Cathers. I was worried based the previous book, Shadows on the Rock and the contemporary criticism of conservativism in her later novels that she was running low at the end. Then here she immediately generates a wonderful character in Lucy Gayheart to open this novel. Lucy‘s vitality comes off the page in this prose. Her aura, her existence - it‘s beautiful and attractive. Maybe sexy. And there is a Chekhov element as we open not with Lucy exactly, but with memories and with the failure of photographs to capture her living energy, her “gentle glow”, a “bird flying home”. Cather has cast her magic.

Fate seems to play a role. Cather lays out this way:

In the darkening sky she had seen the first star come out; it brought her heart into her throat. That point of silver light spoke to her like a signal, released another kind of life and feeling which did not belong here. It overpowered her. With a mere thought she had reached that star and it had answered, recognition had flashed between. Something knew then, in the unknowing waste: something had always known, forever! That joy of saluting what is far above one was an eternal thing, not merely something that had happened to her in ignorance and her foolish heart.

The flash of understanding lasted but a moment. Then everything was confused again. Lucy shut her eyes and leaned on Harry‘s shoulder to escape from what she had gone so far to snatch. It was too bright and too sharp. It hurt, and made one feel small and lost.

The novel takes us from small town Nebraska pettiness to a mix of Chicago's anonymity and its high music culture in earlies days of the 20th century. I really enjoyed spending time with Lucy and worried about the ominous implications of fate. It's tightly knit, clean novel that offers its unique little literary spark, even if it revisits some well tread Cather themes.

Muokkaaja: lokakuu 11, 2020, 6:57pm

51. The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste
reader: Robin Miles
published: 2019
format: 16:09 audible audiobook (448 pages in hardcover)
acquired: September 11
listened: Sep 11 – Oct 8
rating: 3½
locations: Ethiopia
about the author: Ethiopian-born American, born 1974

This was interesting. A take on the second Italo-Ethiopian war, or, if you like, the second failed invasion of Ethiopia by Italy. This one was led by Mussolini in 1935. It's a cool topic and made more interesting as it's told partially through the eyes of the women Ethiopian soldiers. But I never did take to the style, so I can‘t say I personally liked it all that much. Actually I found it annoying on audio. If there weren't so many interesting comments on this, I would have called it a failed poetic prose, but there is some personal preference on that. I know very little about this place or war or Haile Selassie, so it was rewarding just to learn a bit.

I have thoughts on the the shadow king himself as a play on Dante‘s shades in Inferno.

I'll add that this is another contemporary book that dwells on making the reader physically uncomfortable with the descriptions of injuries, brutality and messed up sex. (I would add Shuggie Bain to that list.) I don't like that aspect, but it has its point.

Anyway, not my thing. YMMV.

lokakuu 22, 2020, 7:12am

>59 dchaikin: Lots of great reading going on here. Thanks for putting Auster back on my radar. I have read several, but I haven't read the Book of Illusions yet.

lokakuu 22, 2020, 7:24am

Tämä käyttäjä on poistettu roskaamisen vuoksi.

lokakuu 22, 2020, 2:47pm

>66 OscarWilde87: hi and thanks. Auster is now on my list of authors to make my way through. I maybe should add it’s an idealistic list. Do you have favorites of his books?

lokakuu 23, 2020, 7:40am

>68 dchaikin: I loved both the New York Trilogy and 4 3 2 1 but I think the latter is not a good start as it is very long so I'd really recommend the New York Trilogy first. That should also give you an idea if you still like Auster. And hey, aren't all our to-read lists a little idealistic? ;)

Muokkaaja: lokakuu 23, 2020, 9:28am

>69 OscarWilde87: ironically two I don't have. I have 12 of his books (I was recently give 10). And yes, I hope there is an idealistic aspect to most of our reading plans.

Here is a link to the books in my catalogue: Austers

lokakuu 23, 2020, 1:03pm

Nice review of The Merchant of Venice, Dan. I haven't seen that play yet. I learned that Jews were banned from London until the mid 17th century during a London Walks guided tour of The Old Jewish Quarter that I attended along with Joe & Debbi Welch from the 75 Books group several years ago. The walk included a tour of the Bevis Marks Synagogue, the oldest one still in existence in the UK, which was built in 1701.

I definitely liked The Shadow King better than you did, although I enjoyed Apeirogon from the Booker Prize longlist considerably more.

lokakuu 23, 2020, 7:29pm

>71 kidzdoc: I would have liked to see that synagogue when we were there in December (unfortunately it was a rough trip with my daughter sick in bed 5 days.). Glad you enjoyed The Shadow King more than I did. I'm nearly 3/4 through Apeirogon. It's oddly distancing with all the numbers despite the moving story. The speeches (parts 500) were magnificent and powerful and, of course, awful.

Muokkaaja: lokakuu 23, 2020, 9:55pm

52. We of the Forsaken World... by Kiran Bhat
published: 2019
format: 177-page Kindle ebook
acquired: August 31
read: Aug 31 – Oct 23
time reading: 6 hr 27 min, 2.2 min/page
rating: 2½
locations: fictional but based on real places
about the author: born and raised outside Atlanta, he claims about 17 homes, and highlights Bombay.

Bhat has a interesting introduction where we presents himself, born in the US in Georgia, as an international personality looking for a kind of international kindness. He tells us he knows something like 12 languages and has visited something like 100 countries (that's not an exaggeration, just rounding down). He seems young but tells us in the afterward he has been writing this novel since 2011 based on a writing binge and long culling and refining process.

He gives us four locations and 16 characters and each has a voice, each story is in first person. The places are (1) something like an Amazon River tribe, (2) a small town in what is probably central Africa, (3) a big city that has lot in common with Jakarta, although it's fictionalized, and (4) a place distinctly reminiscent of current Bhopal, in southern India, site of the huge industrial disaster that took place there and killed and permanently injured thousands of people. I thought there was also a reference to Northern India, but probably was just confused. Actually I spent a lot time a little confused.

Not all locations are equal, and southern India has clearly the most love. As it evolves into a family narrative, it stands out as lowkey, the most intimate, least outrageous and just feels the most real. I was moved when a young boy narrator takes his younger sister to put a wishing lantern on the polluted but still beautiful lake that they cannot touch. Actually the entire scene leading up was interesting and complexly in construction. I'm glad it was there and it allowed to relax a bit after finding this tough going. I had gone long periods without picking it up. But once I read that section, I was able to skate through better.

On the whole I never took to Bhat's efforts. Just not my thing. I got a little tired of the first person narratives and the crazy situations that narrator seemed always to need to normalize. (Stephen King does this and I don't like it there either. So there is a taste aspect.)

Bhat contacted me on Goodreads asking for a review. His request was so kind that it led me to look it up. It was a dollar on amazon. I'm happy he was able to get his writing out there and wish him well.

lokakuu 24, 2020, 10:58am

>72 dchaikin: Although I liked The Shadow King I enjoyed Apeirogon considerably more. I'll try to write a review of it sometime next week.

I'm sorry that We of the Forsaken World... was a disappointing read. It would be nice to support another local author (he's from Jonesboro, GA, a few miles south of the ATL airport), but your low rating makes me hesitant to read it.

lokakuu 25, 2020, 10:15am

>75 dchaikin: I just read your review of The Shadow King. I think structurally it’s fascinating, but the way it’s written is difficult. Your review does a nice job of laying out that structure. (I’ll catch up with the rest of your thread over the next few days)

I can’t recommend We of the Forsaken World ... but Bhat seems like a really nice person.

lokakuu 29, 2020, 9:17am

>70 dchaikin: You seem to have a lot of Austers in your catalogue. I hadn't know that there was a graphic novel version of City of Glass. I liked City of Glass a lot. It's part of the New York Trilogy.

lokakuu 31, 2020, 3:52pm

>76 OscarWilde87: I picked that graphic novel up at a library book sale, knowing nothing about it. Actually I would rather read the book than the GN, especially after your comments above. But the GN might be a fun follow up.

Muokkaaja: lokakuu 31, 2020, 11:04pm

53. Apeirogon by Colum McCann
reader: the author
published: 2020
format: 15:20 audible audiobook (463-pages in hardcover)
acquired: Oct 8
listened: Oct 9-29
rating: 4
locations: Palestine, Israel
about the author: born in Dublin in 1965, lives in New York City

An Israel-Palestine story. Palestinian Bassam Aramin and Israeli Rami Elhanan are real people. They each lost a young daughter. Rami's 13-yr-old daughter Smadar was killed in a suicide bombing on Ben Yehuda street in Jerusalem in 1997. Bassam's 9-yr-old daughter Abir was killed by a rubber bullet walking out of a candy shop in 2007. She was shot in the back of the head by an 18-yr-old Israeli soldier. Bassam also spent 7 years in an Israeli prison, arrested at age 17 for throwing a grenade he and his friends had found (seems it didn't explode). His years of prison involved constant beatings and several hunger strikes and one close friendship with an Israeli guard that he maintains today. Bassam and Rami met at a Combatants for Peace meeting and developed a friendship through that organization. Their friendship became tragically closer after Abir was killed.

The nonfictional aspect to this book is tragic, powerful, sad, and beautiful. It's an important story. But I'm not sure McCann had much to add to that story. He tries to make this more interesting, breaking his story into 1001 parts and otherwise tying into 1001 Nights, bringing curious historical and natural details, spending time on the birds that pass through this area, connecting and comparing this Israeli-Palestinian conflict with that in Northern Ireland, and doing as much as he can to bring these and other related characters alive. He does it all with a straight simple language, facts only please, which might be a little odd since McCann is somewhat known for his poetic prose. This telling creates a distance between reader and story, and that is a little unusual for such an emotional story. It's readable. I liked it. I'm glad I read it. But I also thought the single tone really limited this from a literary standpoint.

It's the kind of good book that I would not really recommended, but would want not discourage you either.

marraskuu 7, 2020, 2:03am

>77 dchaikin: I will try to check out the graphic novel at some point. I have never read a graphic novel before, so why not make this a first?

>78 dchaikin: Very good review of Apeirogon. The book has been on my radar for quite a while now. I'll wishlist it now. The adjective that came to my mind after reading the first paragraph of your review was 'powerful'. Your second paragraph relativizes that a little, but I'm still interested in reading it, especially as I also think that the topic is highly important.

marraskuu 7, 2020, 4:55am

>53 sallypursell: You've piqued my interest too, despite being reluctant to overly recommend it. It's an interesting setting.

I see on some other Amazon reviews the occasional reader also echoing your views that he spoiled a good story by trying to pad it out with irrelevant and unnecessary tangents.

marraskuu 7, 2020, 5:27am

Tämä käyttäjä on poistettu roskaamisen vuoksi.

marraskuu 7, 2020, 9:08am

>79 OscarWilde87: thanks. The story itself is powerful and the two main characters are strikingly speakers. I certainly don’t want to discourage you. : )

>80 AlisonY: I don’t think the tangents hurt anything. They’re interesting enough. And he should have tied into Northern Ireland because the parallels and contrasts are fascinating - they are not the same as all similar conflicts have nothing in common - so to speak. I felt he restrained what he said about all these side topics - they are more like seeds for thought than discursive pursuits.

marraskuu 7, 2020, 9:17am

On thought seeds: in the What Are You Reading Now thread I posted this on my Booker 2020 reading so far after finishing Apeirogon :

So far 3 Booker long list books down and I'm not loving them. Last year at this point I was impressed with how dynamic and interesting these books were that I otherwise would not have read. So far these have been three monotone books - all one voice, all one thing told at length. I honestly can't say my life is better for having read these. But...that is interesting in its own light.


Those three books are Shuggie Bain, The Shadow King, and Apeirogon.

I’ll add the The New Wilderness breaks this trend a bit, adding, i think, a heavy understated humor. I’m really happy to have that change - although at 25% through I’m not exactly sure the humor is intentional or not. ☺️

marraskuu 24, 2020, 7:27am

>83 dchaikin: There was definitely a seam of dark humor running through The New Wilderness. Not sure it was quite light enough to leaven the generally angry tone of the characters, though. Come the apocalypse we're all going to be pretty bitter, I guess.

marraskuu 25, 2020, 6:18pm

>84 lisapeet: I'll have to hold off on my opinion until I finish, but I was definitely hoping something was going on that apparently isn't.

Muokkaaja: marraskuu 27, 2020, 5:08pm

54. Paradiso by Dante Alighieri
translation and notes: Jean Hollander & Robert Hollander
published: 1320, translation 2007
format: 956-page Paperback, with original Italian, translation and notes
acquired: September 2019
read: Sep 1 – Nov 9
time reading: 53 hr 53 min, 3.4 min/page
rating: 5
locations: 😇
about the author: Florentine poet, c. 1265 – 1321

A very different feel to this than Inferno or Purgatorio. There is a lot less narrative, and especially a lot less personal narrative. The short entertaining personal biographies are replaced with long, idea heavy speeches on theological issues, with philosophical explorations and a close look at St. Thomas, who is somewhat personified by Beatrice. It's also oddly all a little impersonal. When Dante sees what is essentially God, his questions are on the physics of the place. But curiosity drives all and book ends by Dante essentially saying the wheels of his mind are still churning.

This is a kind of science fiction as Dante travels through space - to the moon, Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn in that order. (Each is a reference to a virtue. They are, in order, faith, hope, love, prudence, fortitude, justice and temperance.) The sun is a highlight and includes a somewhat famous dance of the stars. Whereas Saturn is mostly silent, as a place of contemplation. Each is a higher level of heaven. From Saturn Beatrice takes Dante to the starry sphere, in a way, outer space, and then up the Jacob's ladder to a crystalline sphere and then finally to Empyrean, a place where the saved souls of heaven reside in a kind of rose and listen to heavenly music. Here angels travel from God to the souls, acting like bees, bringing the nectar of god's love to the rose of saved souls. But when Dante turns to ask Beatrice about this, this Beatrice, "my sweet beloved guide", who has become more beautiful with each stage of the book, to points were Dante cannot handle her beauty, he finds in her place in old man. Beatrice has completed her mission with him and taken her own place in the rose. Dante will complete his own mission with this St. Bernard.

A few of these cantos have been criticized down the ages as essentially non-poetic philosophy, and some as outright dull. The many references within references are so obscure that some took hundreds of years to decipher and some remain mysterious making this some work. (Although the Hollander notes did all the work for the reader and it was more than enough and well appreciated. I found it interesting that Hollander argues Paradise probably needed more refinement and Dante ran out of time.) But it has many more meaningful moments than dull ones. Dante's prayer to Beatrice and St. Bernard's prayer to Mary near the end standout as quite beautiful and elegantly constructed.

Purgatory was Dante's mastery of his will. Paradise is where he learns mastery of his intellect. The desire of god and knowledge combined to one, the truth inseparable, expressed in a variety of ways, including ones that are sexually charged: “for drawing near to its desire, so deeply is our intellect immersed that memory cannot follow after it." But Dante is on a serious mission. He is trying to reason out the contractions of free will and an all knowing god, obsessed with justice not found on earth, and the contradiction of Christ's crucifixion (using his predecessors as guides). When he writes "the glory of the vengeance for His wrath” - the reference to is to Christ's sacrifice, and to the justice of it! Dante's world explains that this crucifixion was the only possible way to resolve Adam's original sin.

As in all these books, Paradise is heavily political for Dante and his age. And there are many personal elements. His ancestor prophesizes his exile, telling him “you shall learn how salt is the taste of another man’s bread and how hard is the way, going down and then up another man’s stairs." The down and up the stairs a reference to hoping for better news of his exile and failing to find it. He mentions in backhanded way that he personally prays to Mary twice day. And he always wonders about his world. Looking down from space, he see “the little patch of earth that makes us here so fierce”, and late in the Paradise asks God to “look down upon our tempests here below”. Rapture is had, even if Dante can't capture it because (1) he wasn't able to take it all in, (2) he isn't able to remember all of what he experienced and (3) he isn't able to express what he remembers in words. But it left him thinking.

But now my will and my desire, like wheels revolving
with an even motion, were turning with
the love that moves the sun and all the stars

Muokkaaja: marraskuu 27, 2020, 4:36pm

55. Henry V by William Shakespeare
Originally performed: 1599
format: 240-page Signet Classic paperback
acquired: Oct 4
read: Oct 9 – Nov 13
time reading: 10 hr 50 min, 2.7 min/page
rating: 4
locations: France mostly
about the author April 23, 1564 – April 23, 1616

Other contributors:
John Russell Brown -Editor, 1965, 1998
Sylvan Barnet – series editor and general introduction, 1963, 1998
Raphael Holinshed - from Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland (1587 edition)
William Hazlitt – from Characters of Shakespeare’s Plays, 1818
W. B. Yeats – from Ideas of Good and Evil, 1961
E.M.W. Tillyard – from Shakespeare’s History Plays, 1944
Jonathan Dollimore and Alan Sinfield - History and Ideology: The Instance of Henry V, 1985
Diana E. Henderson - ”Enter Queen Isabel”: The Difference it Makes, 1997

Within the series of Shakespeare's history plays this is the only one with a real hero. It follows up on the political intrigue and wars of Richard II, and Henry IV parts 1 and 2. And it should lead to the failures of Henry VI, captured in three different plays, parts 1-3 (which I haven't read).

One of the afterward essays calls this one of Shakespeare's second rate plays - which i think means nice lines but many weaknesses. The main weakness might be drama, or lack of it. Or maybe the mythical glorification of a problematic king and his problematic wars and their problematic consequences is the biggest weakness - if you're looking for that kind of accuracy. I like think Shakespeare needed a plot counter point for his other history plays, and perhaps had some other needs too for his new theater, the Globe. Anyway, I've now read it.

marraskuu 27, 2020, 4:49pm

Congratulations on reading Paradiso Enjoyed reading your review, but I am still not tempted to read it, even though there may be a case for listing it as an early science fiction novel.

marraskuu 27, 2020, 4:54pm

56. Invitation to a Beheading by Vladimir Vladimirovich
translation: 1959 from Russian by Dmitri Nabokov with the author
published: 1936
format: 223-page Vintage paperback
acquired: June
read: Nov 14-19
time reading: 6 hr 41 min, 1.8 min/page
rating: 5
locations: unspecified prison
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).

We open as Cincinnatus is condemned to death and brought weak-kneed to his prison cell where he looks around. It took me a moment to realize that when he went waltzing with the guard I wasn't supposed to accept this at face value as actually happening. Cincinnatus, both respected and criticized by this guards, spends his last days in and out of reality, craning to see outside his prison fortress, desperate to see and embrace his comically unfaithful wife, reading voraciously but unable to write as he doesn't know his execution date and doesn't know how long he has. Alas, how to manage? Is there a Soviet commentary here?

I‘m really enjoying working through Nabokov‘s novels, even if I‘m behind my planned schedule. This goes down as the best and most beautiful so far and one of my favorite books of the year. Nabokov plays with fabric of reality while barely leaving a prison cell inside a fortress, and it works wonderfully.

marraskuu 27, 2020, 4:56pm

>88 baswood: I was curious where you might stand on that. : ) Inferno is good fun. While Paradise is a bit of work, although less work than much of what you have been plodding through recently.

marraskuu 29, 2020, 6:20am

>87 dchaikin: Odd, I've got a 1985 essay collection on Political Shakespeare edited by Dollimore and Sinfield, but they don't include that one! Not that it's hard to imagine how enthusiastic they would be to cry God for Sir Larry, England and St George... :-)

Muokkaaja: marraskuu 29, 2020, 2:02pm

>91 thorold: interesting. The essay was published in Alternative Shakespeare, a collection edited by John Drakakis. Sadly it’s essay that I don’t remember well. Its a confusing one that I think roughly argues Shakespeare meant what he wrote - meaning they don’t think he was undermining the monarchy.

marraskuu 30, 2020, 3:40pm

Congratulations on completing Paradiso!

Invitation to a beheading sounds intriguing, though I don't know if I'd enjoy the anxiety of being in prison and wondering when the execution date is coming. I haven't read any Nabokov yet, one of those authors that I intend to read but haven't got to.

Thanks for stopping by my thread. I did enjoy Who will write our history? and Grammar of God.

joulukuu 1, 2020, 7:37am

>93 markon: thanks. Invitation to a Beheading is playful enough that anxiety isn’t really felt by the reader. More bemused, maybe. I mean we do get to like the condemned, so maybe a little anxiety. (Note, it’s not plot driven.) I think it’s not a bad intro to Nabokov if that interests you.

joulukuu 6, 2020, 2:47pm

Palo Duro Canyon State Park

Muokkaaja: joulukuu 6, 2020, 4:22pm

57. Roadside Geology of Texas by Darwin Spearing
published: 1991
format: 391-page paperback
acquired: 1999 ?
read: Nov 22 – Dec 3
time reading: 11 hr 17 min, 1.8 min/page
rating: 4

A little bit of driving lately got me through a lot of this book. From our Houston suburban home, a year ago we made it to Big Bend National Park. Then, in the covid world we found an isolated house near Fredericksburg, TX, in the Texas Hill Country, and did some driving around the ancient rocks exposed around Llano, TX. Then recently snuck off to Canyon, TX to hike Palo Duro Canyon state park. Suddenly I have read a lot, and learned a lot. What I imaged as a state of (Cretaceous) flat limestone running off into Tertiary hills and coastal flats has a chunk of the Paleozoic Ouachita fold belt (one-time mountain range) poking out in Marathon, where it intersects the younger Rocky Mountains trend that brings up Precambrian rocks outside El Paso. And all this is surrounded by massive basin and range volcanics centered on Fort David, Tx - the Davis Mountains. And that doesn't cover the Pennsylvanian and Permian plains and the step up to the Llano Estacado - preserved by the little river call the Pecos - the edge generating cliffs and one of the largest canyons in North America - Palo Duro Canyon. And there's that little hill southeast of Austin that was once explosive volcanic dome and island, or the Permian reef eroded almost back to it's original shape in the Guadalupe Mountings. If you can't follow all this, then maybe this is a good book for you. There is more to Texas than Hill Country and dinosaur footprints.

While I don't know anything about Darwin Spearing, I thought he did a nice job covering all this. He captures the big picture and local gems, and manages the balance of giving enough visuals and info to have a lot offer without getting bogged down into too much detail. Fun stuff, much of it I found surprising. It works best to read entire chapters instead of just individual highway sections.

joulukuu 6, 2020, 3:59pm

>95 dchaikin: Awesome Vista!

>96 dchaikin: okay, I'm convinced. Time to get over my allergic reaction to flunking and learn something new about the ground I traverse daily.

joulukuu 6, 2020, 4:41pm

>96 dchaikin: Darwin Spearing Oh, dear! With a name like that you must spend your whole life listening to variations on the same bad joke.
As P G Wodehouse was fond of pointing out, there's a lot of dirty work done at the font.

joulukuu 6, 2020, 4:48pm

I love the fact that people are named Darwin. Two very good natural history writer off the top of my head—Darwin Tuttle, who wrote The Secret Lives of Bats: My Adventures with the World's Most Misunderstood Mammals, and Darwin Sheldrake, who wrote Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Shape Our Futures. The bat book is very good—I read it when it first came out—and I have Entangled Life sitting on my desk right now. I probably have a soft spot for Darwins since I worked with the Darwin Manuscripts Project years ago, but it doesn't seem to have steered me wrong.

joulukuu 6, 2020, 9:31pm

>99 thorold: & >100 lisapeet: - I was entertained earlier this year when Nabokov named an English character Darwin in Glory. It is entertaining that it's a first name in use...and apparently you have to become some kind of scientist if you have been subjected to such naming. "Charles" doesn't have such career weight.

joulukuu 10, 2020, 8:41pm

A little Hanukkah treat for myself 🙂

joulukuu 10, 2020, 10:13pm

>102 dchaikin: That's a lovely stack of books. I have Nervous Conditions on my list of books I'd like to read.

joulukuu 10, 2020, 11:07pm

Happy Hanukkah, Dan! And happy reading, too, it looks like.

joulukuu 11, 2020, 4:25am

>102 dchaikin: Still ambitious for 8 days.

joulukuu 11, 2020, 5:19am

Happy Hanukkah, Dan! I own both books by Hilary Mantel, and Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga, so I approve this book stack.

joulukuu 11, 2020, 5:46am

It's a nice stack... Happy Hanukkah!

joulukuu 11, 2020, 9:54am

Happy Hanukkah! That stack is ambitious.

Muokkaaja: joulukuu 11, 2020, 1:00pm

Thanks all

>103 RidgewayGirl: impressed you could make that title out. I’m definitely looking forward to Nervous Conditions. Very curious

>104 lisapeet: hope so ☺️

>105 baswood: i might give myself a little extra time

>106 kidzdoc: well, your approval is duly noted! (Of course we’re both pursuing the Booker trilogies. 🙂)

>107 Dilara86: thanks 🙂

>108 stretch: part of the 2021 plan 😁 Might kick off 2021 with the Petrarch bio. It’s a beautiful edition with full color images of Petrarch’s annotations in margins of this or that text. (I have another bio of Petrarch on the way - one Mark mentioned a few days ago).

joulukuu 12, 2020, 12:57pm

Nice new book stack! Happy Hanukkah, and happy reading.

joulukuu 12, 2020, 3:40pm

>102 dchaikin: Yikes! Where do you start? Great selections.

What I see of the menorah looks lovely, echoed by the plate.

joulukuu 12, 2020, 7:49pm

Happy Hanukkah! Nice treat. 🙂

Muokkaaja: joulukuu 13, 2020, 11:53am

Happy Hanukkah!

I'm waiting for an online book group to decide on the January book. Nominations include both Nervous Conditions and This mournable body.

joulukuu 14, 2020, 1:38pm

>110 AlisonY: >112 VivienneR: thanks!

>111 SassyLassy: the Menorah was a surprise wedding gift from a friend of my wife who I have never met. Erica, my wife, did not grow up Jewish and converted before our wedding. The gift came from possibly her only Jewish college friend. We use it every year. Oh, and I think I start with Petrarch. 🙂

>113 markon: i plan to read the full trilogy. But as I understand it’s ok to read The Mournable Body first.

Muokkaaja: joulukuu 14, 2020, 2:01pm

Wow! How did I get so far behind on your thread?

>60 dchaikin: Great review of The Merchant of Venice. One perspective I heard during a radio conversation about the Al Pacino movie version (which I thought was good), is that thinking about the levels and manifestations of the antisemitism in the play is a more modern phenomenon. In its day, so went this explanation, the Merchant of Venice was seen as a comedy about a nasty Jew who gets what's coming to him. This would mesh with Darryl's note that Jews weren't even allowed in London at the time when Shakespeare wrote the play.

>59 dchaikin: Hey, you got to Illusions! You were one I was pestering about that book a ways back, yes? Or am I thinking of someone else? Either way, I'm glad you liked it. I agree with you about the ending, though.

>102 dchaikin: Happy Hanukkah to you, too! I sent away for a bunch of LPs for myself that haven't arrived yet.


joulukuu 16, 2020, 9:33pm

>115 rocketjk: Thanks for the visit. Enjoy your now retro-tech LPs. And I think you mentioned Book of Illusions on the What are you reading thread, seems familiar. A friend handed to me and that led me to read it. A terrific start with Auster. As for MoV, I like to think the Bard separated himself a little from the general perspective, but, you know, a heavy dose of wishful thinking. Jews were not allowed in London in Shakespeare's time, but there was community there that didn't practice openly, and around the time this was written a royal physician who was Jewish was publicly executed - leading to endless speculation on the connections between this and that.

joulukuu 16, 2020, 9:36pm

My second and last Hanukkah batch. 🙂

Muokkaaja: joulukuu 16, 2020, 10:45pm

>114 dchaikin: Yes, This mournable body can be read as a standalone and I understand royalties from the first two novels are tied up in red tape.

joulukuu 18, 2020, 5:26am

>117 dchaikin: Looking forward to hearing what you think about Hot Milk. I really loved it - very heady with atmosphere - but if I remember rightly not everyone in CR felt the same about it.

Similarly I did a bit of Christmas self-book gifting the other day. I'm very glad I did, as Amazon have already said that deliveries to N. Ireland will be delayed from 1st January because of the Brexit mess of new customs controls into NI from the rest of the UK, and we're also entering a new full lockdown on 26th December for 4-6 weeks. January isn't my favourite month of the year at the best of times, but I feel January 2021 is going to be particularly pants.

joulukuu 18, 2020, 1:46pm

>119 AlisonY: Oh right, Brexit disaster. (Creating problems out of nothing?) Wishing you well in January. Sorry. I’m worried every month will be longer and longer until finally I have both covid vaccine shots and am past the wait period window. Just this past week 7 people I know caught it, 5 in my immediate neighborhood (including a family a four. One child picked up in college and came home sick. Before he got home, the rest of the house caught it from separate source!)

I’m looking forward to it too. 🙂 I really enjoyed The Man Who Saw Everything. It’s short but you have to read it twice before it clicks.

Muokkaaja: joulukuu 24, 2020, 7:27pm

58. The New Wilderness by Diane Cook
reader: Stacey Glemboski
published: 2020
format: 12:46 audible audiobook (416 pages in hardcover)
acquired: Oct 9
listened: Oct 30 – Dec 5
rating: 3½
locations: future unspecified, but Oregon-ish
about the author: lives in Brooklyn

My fourth book from the Booker longlist book. I was intrigued, then bored, then I think I liked it, but also it‘s not really memorable.

This book does an odd, maybe accidental, thing of promising a lot of fun it‘s not going to offer. We open in some weird wilderness where a woman, Beatrice, clearly with some awareness of civilization, gives stillbirth by herself in a desert area, then returns to her cave with her partner and her daughter. We learn there's a group, and then we learn there are rangers - rangers that live in the "normal" world. I was thinking this sounds like a variation Jumaji and was kind of intrigued. Slowly the outside world is revealed in way just enough so that we understand it's bad, and these "Jumanji" people came here by choice and live as nomads under enforced rules. That is this is a future where all land is exploited except this one carefully preserved, very Oregon-like, wilderness. Our group of about 20 live in this wilderness by choice as nomads under strict rules, enforced by wilderness rangers. The rules are followed even as the group is exposed to great danger, and some of them are killed in various accidents. And no one wants to leave this wilderness. So the rest of the world must be pretty bad.

At this point in the novel, having picked up this curious setting...and set my mind on Jumanji...I was expecting some other weird stuff, some crazy world building or something of that sort. But the setting doesn't really evolve much from there, and the story just story of stumbles along. The book slows down, and as a listener, I was forced to re-evaluate what is going on. There was a lot of time to do this, to the point my interest really wound down. The end comes with some touching moments and an exploration of motherhood from a daughter's evolving awareness. I did like that, and I can see now how the whole book was structured for that aspect, but it's not what I set out thinking about, or what I was thinking about through, say, 90% of this.

I stalled on how to review this because after a lot of disappointment I actually really liked how it ended and I figured I need to think about this a while. Well, nothing has really come of that except that I've started to forget things and don't feel bad about that.

Recommend only for Booker completists.

Muokkaaja: joulukuu 27, 2020, 5:01pm

59. Sapphira and the Slave Girl by Willa Cather
published: 1940
format: 295-page paperback (2010 Vintage)
acquired: June
read: Nov 30 – Dec 15
time reading: 5 hr 49 min, 1.2 min/page
rating: 4
locations: 1850’s rural Virginia, near Winchester, Va
about the author born near Winchester, VA, later raised in Red Cloud, NE. December 7, 1873 – April 24, 1947

Cather's final novel has the affect of a nostalgic look at slavery. I really don't know how else to put it. This book is largely a non-critical exploration of a well run Virginia planation house with twenty slaves. The master of the house is wheel-chair bound Sapphira, who inherited her twenty-odd slaves. Her husband married in, is against the idea of slavery, but generally keeps to the side of these things. The slaves all have a role, set partially by conditioning, partially temperament. There is a level of comfort and security in these roles. And when everything is going well, there is a kind of mutual affection between owner and slave, even pride. This is all...well, really disturbing.

Cather seems very interested in roles, and in how rigid this whole system is. There is no simple way to mess with things if you're against slavery, and there no benefit to try if you're enslaved. Freedom is not a ticket to a better life, but a fragile existence severed from family and the basic life security the planation provides. When Henry offers to buy a slave and free him and set up in a profession, the slave, a skilled miller, balks at the problems this will cause and the loss of his family. Sapphira herself is actually trapped in her role of master - although she may not see it that way exactly.

This all takes place in 1856 Virginia, very close to the town of Winchester, where she was born in 1873. That is, this, what she is describing, is the world her parents' grew up in.

I liked this novel. It's clearly not her best work, but whatever its flaws and limitations, and there are many, it has Cather's voice and her integrity. She is not re-writing history, or white washing crimes. This is her view of how this world could have been, and therefore part of how we got wherever we are now. And, thinking it through, this theme of people trapped within their world, living lives within larger forces, is actually one that kind of pervades through all her work. It's just more foregrounded here.

I'm gratefully not done with Willa Cather yet. Next year I plan to read through her short stories, and the one novel that I missed, her first, titled Alexander's Bridge.

Muokkaaja: joulukuu 27, 2020, 4:23pm

60. Timon of Athens by William Shakespeare
composed: c 1605
format: 227-pages in Signet Classic paperback that includes Titus Andronicus.
acquired: May
read: Nov 18 – Dec 19
time reading: 11 hr 34 min, 3.1 min/page
rating: 4
locations: Classical Athens
about the author April 23, 1564 – April 23, 1616

other contributors
Maurice Charney - editor – c1965, 1989, 2005
Sylvan Barnet – series editor – c1963, 1989, 2005
Lucian – Timon (100’s), translated from Greek by Lionel Casson (1962)
Plutarch – excerpts from Lives from Antony & Alcibiades (c 120), translated from Greek by Sir Robert North (1579)
William Painter – from The Palace of Pleasure (1566)
William Richardson – On the Dramatic Character of Timon of Athens (1785)
Roy Walker – from Unto Caesar: A Review of Recent Production (1958)
David Cook – Timon of Athens (1963)
Susan Handelman – Timon of Athens: The Rage of Disillusion (1979)
Maurice Charney – Timon of Athens on Stage and Screen (1965/2005)

This was the last Shakespeare of the year for the Listy group I follow, and another where I led the discussion. (It included a misanthropic theme song challenge.)

Timon is a classical misanthrop story, a rich man in Athens who ran out of money and became a hater of all humanity. He's credited with many sly remarks, such as, before cutting down a tree used for hanging, offering anyone in Athens a last chance to hang themselves before he cut it down. A second century satire by Lucian about him is preserved, and Plutarch references him twice, once in the life of Athenian general Alcibiades (who appears in this play), and the other in the life Mark Antony, who is compared to Timon at one point when he secluded himself near the end of his life.

This play was never supposed to be preserved and was probably not finished or preformed. Apparently when the First Folio of Shakespeare was getting printed there was some kind of legal issue over the inclusion of Troilus and Cressida, and pages were left blank in the tragedy section. Eventually those pages were partially filed-in with this play, and partially left blank, since this play is shorter. (Also, eventually, T&C was included). So, what was this filler text?

This is not a perfect play, but despite some heavy criticism, it's a very interesting and heavily worked piece. The play opens with Timon a rich man, flagrantly spreading his wealth in crazy events, or dramatically helping someone in need. Timon sees his followers as friends, and they see him as a source of money. First Timon runs out of money, then he sends his servants to borrow money from all his "friends", who turn him down in a variety of humorous ways. Distraught at his treatment and debt Timon flips from philanthropist to misantrop, abandons Athens for the woods, cursing the city and its inhabitants profusely (in creative ways Shakespeare excelled at). Alas, naked, angry and alone, Timon, digging for roots, strikes gold. But his misanthropy is set and he uses his gold only to undermine Athens, funding an attack on the city by the spurned Athenian general Alcibiades. Athens at his mercy, Alcibiades halts only on learning Timon has died and left a bitter epitaph. Alcibiades goes a difference route, finds mercy and most of Athens is spared.

Among the plays best parts is the cynic Apemantus. When Timon is wealthy, Apemantus humorously shreds his false impression of those who appear to praise him. But he criticized everyone and is seen as a misanthrop. Timon ignores his prophecy of poverty. When Timon is alone in the woods, Apemantus confronts him in a long conversion between misanthrop and spurned cynic. It's a terrific part of the play and it's funny in the overall sense in how Apemantus approves of Timon's poverty and hatred but blasts him for the narcissistic aspect of his misanthropy.

The play has some oddities and doesn't entirely work, and it may well have been abandoned because of its problems, yet it makes a curious and entertaining work and provides a lot of think about. It manages to be one of those things that seem to get more impressive when you're not reading it (or watching it?), and just thinking about it.

Muokkaaja: joulukuu 27, 2020, 12:06pm

61. Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
reader: Nicole Lewis
published: 2019
format: 9:58 audible audiobook (310 pages in hardcover)
acquired: December
listened: Dec 7-21
rating: 3½
locations: Philadelphia
about the author: born in LA 1987, grew up in Arizona, lives in Philadelphia.

My latest from the Booker longlist.

Strange that this is on that list. It‘s fun, definitely, but not exactly substantial. Simplified characters in entertaining settings, plus some forced plotting. The theme of the well-meaning racism gives the book bitterness and its of-the-moment feel and significance, leaving things to think about.

The novel is about the interaction between super-rich white mom Alix and her young adult black baby-sitter Emira, who has a white love interest. I was confused early on. An hour and half in I posted on Litsy: "Trying to listen to this, but getting a little tired of the constant auto-creation of contemporary stereotypes." That post actually helped me, because it got that out of my system, and made me realize I'm applying the Booker longlist nomination to the book. So I started to accept the book as-is, or as I saw it - which is as a literary equivalent of a television sit-com. Place canned characters in funny situations and see what happens. These are the race episodes. Anyway, the book reaches its moments, especially when it seems to ask some unanswerable questions about how to respond to race in a non-racist way in a world of racism. And it was fun to listen to once I switched gears.

joulukuu 27, 2020, 2:53pm

Nabokov in Berlin, 1930's

Muokkaaja: joulukuu 27, 2020, 4:51pm

62. The Gift by Vladimir Nabokov
Translation: from Russian, by Michael Scammell, with the author, 1963
published: 1937
format: 391-page paperback
acquired: June
read: Nov 25 – Dec 23
time reading: 17 hr 45 min, 2.9 min/page
rating: 4½
locations: Berlin
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).

This is slow, but good stuff. As I work through Nabokov‘s novels, this was easily the weighty-est so far. There is a lot in here, like everything - poetry, Pushkin, Gogol, a complete biography of Chernyshevsky (!), literary commentary, critics, death, love, language, commentary on Nazi Germany - all here. It was also his last Russian language novel.

The novel is about a young Russian émigré author who just published his first book in Germany, a book of Russian poetry that sells a few dozen copies. He works as a language tutor, mostly for Germans learning English, which gives him just enough money, when he's responsible, to rent a room. As our book progresses, he interacts with literary émigrés in Berlin, meets a girl, Zina, who loves his book of poetry and falls for him and helps him write a biography Nikolay Gavrilovich Chernyshevsky. What? You haven't heard of Chernyshevsky? He was part of the Russia intellectual community in the 1860's, an era of reform in Russian, and when all that great Russian literature was appearing. Chernyshevsky was a proto-Communist, noted by Marx, and highly regarded by Lenin. Despite his caution, he was arrested, given a mock execution and sent to life-long exile in different parts of Siberia. Our protagonist is maybe less than reverential of his subject, making for some curious reading (the entire biography of Chernyshevsky is contained within), and ruffling many features throughout the fictional émigré community. His sales go up.

But this is just the surface. This book itself becomes an introspective look at misunderstood poetry, and at language, a love letter to certain era and mentality in a lost Russia, and a love story - all this with parallels to Nabokov's own life, even if he strongly denies the resemblance in his introduction. The opening chapter, a long musing on poetry, is some work for the reader to hack through. But then he switches to the narrator's lost father, a disconnected obsessive butterfly collector. This is also slow, but beautifully written and rewarding as his admiration pores out. Later the love story makes for simply great reading. Nabokov, in his translation introduction, claims a heavy influence from the Russian greats. He calls one chapter "a surge toward Pushkin", another a "shift to Gogol", and he claims the book's "heroine is not Zina, but Russian Literature." (with a capital 'L').

When one his favorite older émigré acquaintances dies, Nabokov goes uncharacteristically almost spiritual talking about death and life. On death:
"Fear gives birth to sacred awe, sacred awe erects a sacrificial altar, its smoke ascends to the sky, there assumes the shape of wings, and bowing fear addresses a prayer to it. Religion has the same relationship to man‘s heavenly condition that mathematics has to his earthly one: both the one and the other are merely the rules of the game."
And on life:
"...the unfortunate image of a “road” to which the human mind has become accustomed (life is a kind of journey) is a stupid allusion: we are not going anywhere, we are sitting at home. The other world surrounds us always and is not at all at the end of some pilgrimage. In our earthly house, windows are replaced by mirrors; the door, until a given time, is closed; but air comes through the cracks."
If you read that last quote, you might take a moment to note my generic picture at the top of this thread.

This book mostly closes the chapter on Nabokov's Russian literary output, and it seems to know that, as it practically seems to take everything he neglected to put into his previous novels and collect it all in place here, a document of writer's life to this point (if not his protagonist's). Highly recommended for Nabokov enthusiasts, but for others I can only recommend this to the brave and those willing to hack through the slow stuff to find the beauty within. But it really does reward. I enjoyed this.

joulukuu 27, 2020, 5:51pm

What a way to finish the year Dan with some excellent reviews. I didn't know anything about Timon Of Athens and so it was good to read about the history of its publication. Glad you took something from it.

It seems that The Gift was worth the time you took reading it. Enjoyed your review.

joulukuu 28, 2020, 1:39pm

>127 baswood: thanks. Might have one more coming...possibly two, but except that working all week does get in the way. 🙂

joulukuu 31, 2020, 7:21am

My year is done. I finished two more books, but doubt I will review either today. A kind of summary - my book list in categories.


Booker long lists

2019 Booker – audio
*** 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World by Elif Shafak (listened Dec 16 - Jan 6)
**** Frankissstein: A Love Story by Jeanette Winterson (listened Jan 7-15)
***½ The Wall by John Lanchester (listened Jan 16-25)
**** The Man Who Saw Everything by Deborah Levy (listened Jan 27 - Feb 5)
**½ Night Boat to Tangier by Kevin Barry (listened Feb 6, then 13-20)

2019 Booker – text
**** Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann (read Mar 1 - Apr 8)
*** Lanny by Max Porter (read May 19-22)
**** My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite (read May 22-31)

2020 Booker – audio
***½ Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart (listened Aug 14 - Sep 9)
***½ The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste (listened Sep 11 - Oct 8)
**** Apeirogon by Colum McCann (listened Oct 9-29)
***½ The New Wilderness by Diane Cook (listened Oct 30 - Dec 5)
***½ Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid (listened Dec 7-21)

***** The Inferno, translation by Jean Hollander & Robert Hollander (read Jan 1 - Feb 6)
***** Purgatorio, translated by Jean Hollander & Robert Hollander (read May 3 - Jun 28)
**** Journey to Armenia & Conversation about Dante by Osip Mandelstam (read Aug 20-29)
***** Paradiso, translated by Jean Hollander and Robert Hollander (read Sep 1 - Nov 9)

***½ Mary (read Jan 11-12)
*** King, Queen, Knave (read Feb 19-28)
*** The Luzhin Defense (read Apr 8 - 18)
**** The Eye (read Apr 28-29)
**** Glory (read May 2-18)
**** Vladimir Nabokov (Overlook Illustrated Lives) by Jane Grayson (read Jun 1-8)
**** Laughter in the Dark (read Jun 8-17)
*** Despair (read Aug 15-19)
***** Invitation to a Beheading (read Nov 14-19)
****½ The Gift (read Nov 25 - Dec 23)
**** The Enchanter by (read Dec 30)

Willa Cather
***½ The Professor's House (read Jan 13 - Feb 3)
***** My Mortal Enemy (read Feb 28 - Mar 6)
***** Death Comes for the Archbishop (read Apr 16 - May 8)
**** Shadows on the Rock (read Jul 9 - Aug 2)
****½ Lucy Gayheart (read Sep 8 – Oct 1)
**** Sapphira and the Slave Girl (read Nov 30 - Dec 15)

*** The Comedy of Errors (read Jan 31 - Mar 1)
***** Julius Caesar (read Mar 8 - Apr 11)
*** Antony and Cleopatra (read Apr 25 - May 25)
***** Love's Labor's Lost (read May 31 - Jul 3)
***** Titus Andronicus (read Jul 12 - Aug 16)
**** The Merchant of Venice (read Aug 25 - Sep 30)
**** Henry V (reading Oct 9 - Nov 13)
**** Timon of Athens (read Nov 18 - Dec 19)


Text – new/gift/library
**** Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in 40 Questions by Valeria Luiselli (read Jan 18-24, re-read Jul 4-6)
**** Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson (read Jan 25 - Feb 7)
**½ Body Tourists by Jane Rogers (read Feb 7-13)
****½ The Reawakening by Primo Levi (read Apr 20-28)
**** Dune by Frank Herbert (read Jun 18 - Jul 25)
***** Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli (read Jul 7 - Aug 15)
**** The Book of Illusions by Paul Auster (read Aug 20 - Sep 22)
**½ We of the Forsaken World... by Kiran Bhat (read Aug 31 - Oct 23)

Text - TBR
**** Survival In Auschwitz : The Nazi Assault on Humanity by Primo Levi (read Feb 13-19)
***½ Flowers of Mold by Ha Seong-nan (Read Oct 18-14, Apr 18-20)
*** Over by the River : And Other Stories by William Maxwell (read Jun 13 - Sep 4)
**** Roadside Geology of Texas by Darwin Spearing (read Nov 22 - Dec 3)
*** Circe by Madeline Miller (read Dec 3-5, 24-29)

*** Evil: The Science Behind Humanity's Dark Side by Julia Shaw (listened Feb 21 - Mar 4)
****½ The Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom (listened Mar 4 - Apr 12)
****½ Educated by Tara Westover (listened Apr 13 - May 7)
****½ The Dutch House by Ann Patchett (listened May 9-21)
*** Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara (listened May 22 - Jun 2)
**** Memories of the Future by Siri Hustvedt (listened Jun 4-22)
*** Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff (listened Jun 23 - Jul 15)
**** The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt (listened Jul 16 - Aug 10)

Muokkaaja: joulukuu 31, 2020, 8:13pm

More year-end summaries - a list of discoveries

These are books I read or listened this year that I either discovered this year, or knew about, but something here nudged me, this year, to finally look them up.

- Evil: The Science Behind Humanity's Dark Side by Julia Shaw
- The Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom
- The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
- Memories of the Future by Siri Hustvedt
- The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt
- Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff
- The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste

These are books I purchased this year, but have not read, and that, like above, I either discovered this year or knew about, but something this nudged me to pick them up.

- The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa
- Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk
- The Eighth Life by Nino Haratischwili
- Hot Milk by Deborah Levy
- Summer by Ali Smirh
- My Struggle by Karl Knausgaard
- Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler

joulukuu 31, 2020, 8:12pm

And this is the list of ideas I kept. I added titles, or just authors, as they struck me, typically from reviews or discussions here:

- Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson
- The Children’s Book by A S Byatt
- Muriel Spark
- Eudora Welty
- Old in Art School by Nell Painter
- Reading Like a Write by Francine Prose
- Robert Bolaño (I have By night in Chile)
- Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell
- Black and British by David Olusog
- Barbara Pym
- If Then: How Simulmatics Corporation Invented the Future by Jill Lepore
- stories of John Cheever
- stories by Raymond Carver
- Elizabeth Taylor
- The Natural by Bernard Malamud
- Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson
- Optic Nerve by María Gainza
- The Malayan trilogy (Time for a Tiger 1956, The Enemy in the Blanket 1958, Beds in the East 1959) by Anthony Burgess
- Fascism: A Warning by Madeline Albright
- The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
- Charlie Chan mysteries by Earl Derr Biggers
- Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
- Sing Unburied Sing by Jesmyn Ward
- The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea
- Life in the Garden by Penelope Lively
- The Empire Trilogy (The Siege of Krishnapur, Troubles, The Singapore Grip) by J.G. FARRELL
- Weather by Jenny Offill
- Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill
- Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell
- A Children’s Bible by Lydia Millet
- Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich (her first book)
- Arturo's Island by Elsa Morante
- State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
- Tenth of December by George Saunders
- 1491 by Charles C. Mann
- Washing of the Spears by Donald R. Morris (1965, on Zulus)
- Rough-Hewn Land: A Geologic Journey from California to the Rocky Mountains by Keith Heyer Meldahl
- Begin Again by Eddie S. Glaude Jr. (on James Baldwin)
- Veniss Underground by Jeff VanderMeer (2003)

And this stuff I noted... but by now I've forgotten what it is or why i noted it.
- The King at the Edge of the World by Arthur Phillips
- Fever dream by Samanta Schweblin
- Jonathan Dee
- Herkunft by Saša Stanišic
- Stakes Is High: Life After the American Dream by Mychal Denzel Smith
- Earth by Stephen Marshak

Muokkaaja: joulukuu 31, 2020, 8:29pm

2020 oddities for me:

It's not a good year for me to note favorites. Maybe I'll think about that some more. But as i go over my stats (See >10 dchaikin: ) some oddball numbers that stand out. I read and listened to 62 books this year, which is about on par with my average the last ten years. 18 were audiobooks. I read 39 novels this year, my most ever, and conversely only 12 nonfiction books, my least since 2010. I read only 1 book I considered a history book this year (Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff). Usually I read around ten or more. The last time I read only one was in 2006. I read 30 books by female authors - that's the second most I've ever read (I read 33 in 2014). I read only 2 library books, my least since 2003. I hadn't read less than 10 in a year since 2010. I read 18 books published in the first half of the 20th century (largely because of my focus on Willa Cather and Vladimir Nabokov). I had never read more than 6 in one year before, and that was last year. Before that I had never read more that 3 in one year.

Muokkaaja: joulukuu 31, 2020, 10:58pm

63. Circe by Madeline Miller
published: 2018
format: 393-page hardcover
acquired: 2019
read: Dec 3-5, 24-29
time reading: 11 hr 0 min, 1.7 min/page
rating: 3
locations: Aiaia – a mythical island along the west coast of Italy.
about the author: born 1978 in Boston, and grew up in New York City and Philadelphia

A TBR book that's been hanging around even though I really wanted to read it. It was ok. I like Miller. She writes nicely, plays with the mythology, but really doesn‘t do much else here. Circe is the goddess who turned Odysseus's crew into pigs, and then became his lover, helped him find the underworld and then advised him how to get past various dangers and get back home. She plays a brief role in the Argonautica too, where she confronts Jason and Medea fleeing her brother, Medea's father. She has some interesting siblings and interesting relationships with them. Miller makes Circe mournful witch, trapped on her island and sick of the cretin male raiders who seem to constantly wash up on her shore. Despite turning men into pigs in scores, she comes across as both likable and trying to do the right thing. I thought it made for thin novel.

joulukuu 31, 2020, 11:36pm

64. The Enchanter by Vladimir Nabokov
translation: from Russian by Dmitri Nabokov, 1985
published: written 1939, found in the 1980’s
format: 113-page paperback
acquired: October
read: Dec 30
time reading: 2 hr 53 min, 1.5 min/page
rating: 4
locations: Paris and French Riviera
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).

My latest Nabokov and his last Russian language effort in long fiction. This is a kind of precursor to Lolita (which I haven't read). It's also a pedophile story, written in 1939 in France (as WWII kicked off) in perfect Russian prose, apparently shared around a little, but it wasn't published and all copies and versions were lost. A single manuscript was rediscovered in the early 1980's, and was translated in 1985 by Vladimir Nabokov's son, Dmitri. It runs 77 pages in this paperback.

It's a terrific little story, funny on the surface, obviously pretty dark underneath. There is a lot of play in the way the story works out. The unnamed pedophile is crafty but doesn't really seem to think anything through. He tries to reason with himself, using the phrase "providential sophistry" brilliantly. (I had to look up both words). Then he stumbles upon what he sees as a golden opportunity - a beautiful pre-teen girl whose mother is a terrible mother, widowed and dying. He explores a bit, and then marries the dying mother, intending to inherit his victim. As the book works it out, he almost accidentally becomes a good person, supporting the lonely dying mother. He always stays decent outward, while entirely an animal on the hunt inside. He gets very frustrated and bitter with each piece of good news, as the mother stays well for a bit. Alas, things start to work out except that this story can only end it disaster.

Nabokov has many tricks here. I liked that the man first sort of plays god, manipulating everyone, but then suffers as he become subject to fickle fate. Things go his way and then they undermine him in humorous patterns, seriously messing with his patience and, well, his sense. It's such a playful touch, you almost forget all the harm he intends. The end feels a little rushed and convenient, but who knows which draft this was. An entertaining novella to end the year.

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 1, 12:46am

Looks like that's a wrap for 2020. 2021 begins here: https://www.librarything.com/topic/328037