edwinbcn 2023 (Part 1) - Finding my way

KeskusteluClub Read 2023

Liity LibraryThingin jäseneksi, niin voit kirjoittaa viestin.

edwinbcn 2023 (Part 1) - Finding my way

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 2, 10:08 am

My name is Edwin and I have been a member of Club Read since 2011.

I lived in China for 22 year, and moved back to the Netherlands last August. In China, I mainly worked as a teacher and textbook author. Currently, I am looking for a job in the Netherlands.

I read books in English, Dutch, German, French and Spanish, through most in the first three languages. I read a lot, and like hiking, visiting a museum, and writing letters. I am not so happy to spend a lot of time on line, emailing or chatting.

I am mainly interested in classics, novels and poetry, from 1800 - 1960 and I like reading biographies, letters and books about natural history.

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 2, 10:09 am

Participation & Progress with Group Reads

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 2, 10:12 am

New books read by me by Nobel Prize winners.

So far, I have read 181 books by 39 Nobel Prize winners. I will try to read books by some writers new to me, as well as books by any of the Nobel Prize winners.

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 19, 10:15 am

Currently reading

joulukuu 30, 2022, 8:20 am


joulukuu 30, 2022, 8:20 am

Tämä käyttäjä on poistettu roskaamisen vuoksi.

tammikuu 2, 6:24 am

For some time I have felt that my reviews are not a long and as well-written as before, due to difficulties with access to LT and having less time. After all, I am not retired and at least prior to August I had a busy job.

Since my return home, I have been unemployed, and I am busy looking for a job. However, that does not mean I have more time to look for a job. Reconnecting with friends and looking for a job take a lot of time. In addition, with the much more temperate climate, I go out for long walks much more often than in China, and have so far managed to shed 30 pounds. Thus, my average reading speed over the past four months was below my regular speed (10 versus 16 books per month). Over the first haf year, I read much more than my regular habit, as I tried to finish as many books before leaving China, knowing I wouldn't be able to bring them all.

I also have the impression that most other members are not so interested in reviews of obscure Dutch books, and have therefore felt little motivation to write long reviews of Dutch books *which I did not appreciate myself*. On the other hand, I do enjoy writing long reviews of Dutch books I like.

To balance all that, I jave looked for a different format of my posts. When I started posting to Club Read in 2011, I modeled my posts after StevenTX, a member who is now no longer active. With my new model, I follow Joyce (Nickelini). What I like about her format is providing some information as how I come to read a particular author or book at a particular time, and some information about the source. The latter also because I have recently started reading eBooks.

tammikuu 2, 6:47 am

Hi Edwin, happy to see you posting here and happy new year.
I may not have been active on your thread but I did follow it last year and will do so again in 2023. And believe it or not, I really am interested in your reviews of obscure Dutch books.

tammikuu 2, 10:07 am

>8 Trifolia: Thanks, Monica. I know there are a few other members in the Netherlands and Belgium, and even other members who can read Dutch or who are interested in Dutch Literature.

tammikuu 2, 10:16 am

I am so happy I finished the work on my Club Read 2022 thread on time. In previous years, I often had a very long back log. Now, I am quite ready to start fresh with Club Read 2023.

Last year, I read 217 books. That went way over my long-term annual average.

My target for this year it more modest, aiming for 180 book in 2023.

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 2, 10:32 am

Over the past 10 years, there have been two major changes in my reading habits.

The first is that I no longer enjoy reading plays, and threw out all TBR books with plays, while since 2012 I have increasingly enjoyed reading poetry. This renewed interest in poetry has been partly due to the Poetry thread on Club Read, so I am very happy to see that Diane/dianeham has set up a thread for Poetry on Club Read 2023.

The other big change is that I have finally seriously started reading ebooks. I bought a Kindle in 2012, and read two books on it, just enough to discover that an ereader is pleasurable, but I did not develop the habit. I was sad to discover that I could no longer rekindle my Kindle device after 10 years dry storage in a drawer. But in November I bought a new mobile phone with a bigger screen, and I discovered that it is great for reading. The actual reason for doing so is the fact that my bedroom has been really chilly since late October, with an average temperature of 8 - 10 degrees Celsius. I can read on my mobile phone under the bed covers. In one month, I read 10 ebooks.

I China, major sites for ebooks and librivox were all banned. I now mainly download eBooks from the following sources:

Project Gutenberg
DBNL (Digital Dutch Library)

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 2, 12:13 pm

>7 edwinbcn: >8 Trifolia: Yes, please go on with the “obscure Dutch books” — I may not often follow your leads, but your reviews have been an education!

tammikuu 2, 5:54 pm

>11 edwinbcn: I acquired my first e-reader this month and am learning all the ins and outs. I started reading a book on my phone, then switched to the Kindle, which was much easier for me. I've started another e-book now and can see that this will easily replace books I would have otherwise had to request through the library. I read four e-books on my phone or laptop in 2022, but I expect that number will go up significantly this year.

>12 thorold: And I agree with Mark, reading your reviews has been an education for me, a non-Dutch speaking, non-European.

tammikuu 3, 10:01 am

Wish you a great new year and happy ebook reading. I’ve started picking up more ebooks specifically so I don’t have a physical book to discard after I’m done.

tammikuu 8, 11:55 am

>11 edwinbcn: If you'd like to explore e-reading further, you might want to check out KoboPlus, which is available in the Netherlands, Belgium and Canada and offers you a free, no-obligation month to give it a try.

tammikuu 8, 3:36 pm

Looking forward to your reading again this year, Edwin. Good luck with the job hunting. I changed jobs at the end of 2021 and found it to be an exhausting and frustrating process.

180 books as a target is fantastic - not sure I'll ever reach even the 100 mark!

helmikuu 6, 10:38 am

001. Het onverbreekbaar zegel
Finished reading: 1 January 2023

Review: H. van Grevelingen published two novels, one of which rather short and a novella of equal length shortly after the war in 1946 /7 and then died in 1947 at the age of 37, leaving a modest oevre behind of another novella, some short stories and literary criticism, altogether a few hundred pages in print. Although his work was well-received by some writers at the time, it generally failed to impress and was soon forgotten. The publication of his collected works in one volume in 1999 has not changed much there.

Het onverbreekbaar zegel (1946) was his debut novel, but should be understood to consist of three novellas. Each novella would work well on its own, but the proposed unity of the three is strained, with the former two somewhat closer together, while the final novella seems to bear little connection with the rest.

Source / edition: This edition is contained in the Verzameld werk edition by Van Oorschot (1999).

Why I read this now: Over the past five years I have been reading various omnibus editions of collected works of Dutch authors. I had read the first novella and part of the second in 2020, and started over to finish reading the whole.


Muokkaaja: helmikuu 6, 12:08 pm

002. Von den Gärten der Erde. Ein Buch der tiefen Stille
Finished reading: 3 January 2023

Review: In her eighties, pestered by the Nazis, Elisabeth Dauthendey desisted writing and publishing to avoid attracting attention to herself. For decades she had been a successful writer advocating women's rights. Although mainly remembered for her fairy-tales, written for children, she also wrote an essay about lesbian love, the novel Of the New Woman and Her Love: A Book for Mature Minds (1900) and a collection Erotische Novellen.

Von den Gärten der Erde. Ein Buch der tiefen Stille (1917) has some semblance to Leopold Andrian's Der Garten der Erkenntnis (1895), but Elisabeth Dauthendey's work is much more sensuous.

You could say that Von den Gärten der Erde. Ein Buch der tiefen Stille is the ultimate garden book. It isn't clear whether Dauthendey describes real gardens and parks, but her knowledge of flowering plants and trees is astonishing, and for most part books reads like a sensuous, voluptuous dream of gardens. In fact, the descriptions are increasingly dreamlike, until in the end the borders between the garden landscape and the soul fade. The book has 17 short chapters and is followed poems.

Why I read this now:I came across this while I was looking for work by her half brother Max Dauthendey.


Muokkaaja: helmikuu 9, 8:39 am

003. Rebels en beminnelijk. Brieven van Belle van Zuylen-Madame de Charrière 1740-1805 aan Constant D'Hermenches, James Boswell, Benjamin Constant en anderen 1760-1805

Finished reading: 6 January 2023


Belle van Zuylen was a Dutch aristocratic woman who lived in the Eighteenth century. However, as was customary at that time, she wrote in French and she is also known under her (married) French name Isabelle de Charrière (1740–1805).

From an early age Belle wrote letters in French. This books presents a selection of her letters written between 1760-1805. Among her correspondents are many well-known Eighteenth century writers, such as Constant D'Hermenches, James Boswell, and Benjamin Constant, while there are also references to other famous figures of the Enlightenment, such Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Voltaire. Belle van Zuylen had met James Boswell during his visit to the city of Utrecht.

The letters in this edition were selected and translated by Simone DuBois, and first published in 1971. Regretfully, it is a very modest selection. It also seems the letters were selected to show the mind of their author, her personal development rather than the historical times. There are very sparse references to the French Revolution, which must have affected many of her friends and correspondents tragically.

Why I read this now: I chanced upon an edition, and had long wished to read the letters.


helmikuu 8, 1:21 pm

004. Spel zonder inzet

Finished reading: 7 January 2023

Review: A short novel by the Dutch author H. van Grevelingen. Well-written and interesting to read, but not remarkable in any way.

Source / edition: Included in het Verzameld Werk van Van Grevelingen.

Why I read this now: Part of reading the collected works.


Other books I have read by H. van Grevelingen:
Het onverbreekbaar zegel

helmikuu 8, 3:32 pm

>19 edwinbcn: I have never heard of Belle van Zuylen, but she sounds like a fascinating person. I made note of her name as I see that some of her work (including her letters) have been translated to English.

Muokkaaja: helmikuu 8, 5:17 pm

>19 edwinbcn: >21 MissBrangwen: There’s a lot about Belle van Zuylen in Boswell in Holland, that’s what first made me curious about her. But I still haven’t got much further than downloading a couple of her books to my e-reader.

Not that it matters, but I think it’s the rather smaller and prettier Zuylen Castle on the Vecht that she’s usually associated with, not Kasteel de Haar, which belonged to another of the many branches of the family and was more or less a ruin until it was inherited and Disneyfied in the 1890s by a baron who had married into Rothschild money.

helmikuu 9, 8:28 am

>21 MissBrangwen:

Some English translations of the letters of Belle van Zuylen aka Isabelle de Charrière can be found on the author page on LT.

The Royal Dutch Library (KB.nl) lists two biographies in English:

The Dutch divinity : a biography of Madame de Charriere, 1740-1805 by Dorothy Farnum / Jarrolds / 1959.


Isabelle de Charrière (Belle de Zuylen) : a biography by C.P. Courtney Voltaire Foundation, Taylor Institution / 1993.

helmikuu 9, 8:37 am

I don't know how to answer to two people in one post.

I made some suggestions to Mirjan (MissBrangwen) above. However, I suppose, you read equally fluently in Dutch, Mark.

The editor of the selection, Simone DuBois also published a biography. A few years later a second biography in Dutch came out which is usually listed as written by her husband, Pierre H. DuBois. Pierre was a famous literary author who also wrote literary criticism. Although Pierre is listed as the first author, I would assume that most of the work was done by Simone.

Ad yes, you are right about the ancestral castle. I wrote the review first and checked the website later. Following your correction I have edited both the review above and on the work page.

helmikuu 9, 12:07 pm

>24 edwinbcn: Thanks, the library seems to have both the Dubois books, all I need now is the time to read one of them…

I went round Zuylen castle a few years ago, it was very interesting. Worth seeing (quite apart from everything else, they have some pieces of furniture allegedly made for them by Gerrit Rietveld when he was still an apprentice in his father’s shop). I think we ended up taking an hour and a half longer on the guided tour that we were supposed to. We had a rather informative volunteer guide and maybe encouraged him a little too much with questions.

helmikuu 10, 7:47 am

>25 thorold: Knowledgeable volunteer guides are the best.

helmikuu 12, 12:07 pm

005. Maid Marian
Finished reading: 8 January 2023


Maid Marian by Thomas Love Peacock was one of the first Robin Hood novels that started appearing from the start of the Nineteenth Century. Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe (1820) is taken to be the first, although Peacock had written and finished his book all but 3 chapters in 1818, and Maid Marian was published in 1822. Contemporary readers saw it as a parody of Ivanhoe.

Apart from the fact that they are interesting reads in their own value, both novels form the cornerstone of the popular culture that started developing around the figure of Robin Hood, although neither mentions him in the title. The way we see Robin Hood is probably based on having absorbed stories and images from various children's books and Disney animation films. It was in the early Nineteenth Century that Robin Hood became associated with a number of stock characters in prose tales and novels.

In 1795, Robin Hood : a collection of all the ancient poems, songs and ballads now extant relative to that celebrated English outlaw was published. Prior to that the figure of Robin Hood was only recorded in various Fifteenth Century ballads. However, the identity of Robin Hood, the characters he is now usually associated with, particulars about his descent, and the circumstances of his life and deeds varied greatly in these ballads. It even wasn't clear in which epoch the character was supposed to have lived, let alone tie him to any real persons.

The Sixteenth, Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries saw the compilation of various collections of ballads. Between the 15th and 17th centuries some plays had been written and staged about Robin hood, for example Robyn Hod and the Shryff off Notyngham in 1475 or Robin Hood and his Crew of Soldiers (1661). Prose accounts started to be written in the 16th and 17th centuries. Perhaps Sir Walter Scott and Thomas Love Peacock took their inspiration from Robin Hood : a collection of all the ancient poems, songs and ballads now extant relative to that celebrated English outlaw published in 1795. Nonetheless, the first Robin Hood novel was written in 1791, but not published, while the first Robin Hood novel to be published, Robin Hood: A Tale of the Olden Time appeared anonymously in 1819. So, obviously, something was buzzing, and the works of Peacock and Sir Walter Scott are among the earliest Robin Hood novels.

Maid Marian by Thomas Love Peacock is interesting because although the story is quite familiar, the characters, their names and identity and their actions are quite different from let's say the Disney version. For instance, Maid Marian never appears in the medieval ballads, while the character Maid Marian who appears in the novel by Thomas Love Peacock seems to have derived from a particular source, namely the Elizabethan playwright, Anthony Munday who presents her as Matilda, daughter of Robert Fitzwalter. Various other details, such as Robin Hood's identity as a nobleman, and the interrupted marriage at the beginning of the novel seem to have derived from various sources, put together by Peacock.

Thomas Love Peacock's novels are never very long, and this short novel Maid Marian can be read as a short, refreshing version of the Robin Hood legend. In fact, Maid Marian is much more accessible to modern readers than the shorter novels that Thomas Love Peacock is mostly remembered for, although on the other hand it lacks the originality of those novels. Still, I think this mostly forgotten novel is quite worthwhile for the perspective ot offers on the gestation of the popular novelistic tradition around the figure of Robin Hood before the age of film.

Source / edition: This was a free downloaded ebook from Project Gutenberg.

Why I read this now: Since two years I have been reading the works of the writers around Percy Bysshe Shelley


Other books I have read by Thomas Love Peacock:
Nightmare Abbey
Crotchet Castle
Gryll Grange

helmikuu 13, 7:20 am

>27 edwinbcn: Enjoyed reading your history of the Robin Hood Legends.

helmikuu 13, 9:43 am

>28 baswood: Thanks, Barry. For the past eight years it was difficult to write longer, informative reviews, not only as a result of limited access to LT but especially the blocking of sources such as wikipedia. These problems are now behind me.

helmikuu 13, 11:18 am

>27 edwinbcn: I too enjoyed your explanation of the history of Robin Hood. My only exposure has been The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle, and the ubiquitous Disney, of course. Unless you count a dull Lady of the Forest : A novel of Sherwood by Jennifer Roberson.

Muokkaaja: helmikuu 14, 5:16 am

006. The mystic masseur
Finished reading: 13 January 2023


V.S. Naipaul's first novel, The mystic masseur, is short and very readable, and is often cited as a humurous or comical story. Like his much of his early work it is set in Trinidad. The novel describes the life, or more particularly, the career of Ganesh Ramsumair. It soon becomes clear that his career is serendipitous and as a person he is a loafer. Early in the story his mother takes him to a masseur, who is more of a quack doctor. At some stage of the story, Ganesh thinks of becoming a masseur himself, although he doesn't. In fact, the story has very little to do with physical massage. It has much more to do with 'ego massage' particularly by Ramlogan, a local, illiterate shop owner who venerates Ganesh.

Hilarious as it may sound, the story seems to suggest that no matter how lazy Ganesh was bound to succeed through the unrelenting believe Ramlogan has vested in him. Even if you don't believe in yourself, success will come if at least one person believes in you.

Why I read this now: I picked up this book because Lisa started the new LT group Nobel Laureates in Literature Challenge


Other books I have read by V.S. Naipaul:
Half a life
The Middle Passage. Impressions of five colonial societies
The loss of El Dorado. A colonial history
India. A wounded civilization
The suffrage of Elvira
Mr Stone and the Knights Companion
A flag on the island
The night watchman's occurrence book. And other comic inventions
Literary occasions
The masque of Africa. Glimpses of African belief
A writer's people. Ways of looking and feeling
Reading and writing. A personal account
Among the believers. An Islamic journey
Beyond belief. Islamic Excursions among the converted peoples
Miguel Street
Between father and son. Family letters

helmikuu 13, 7:10 pm

>31 edwinbcn: Goodness, I'm glad you were inspired, but the group is called Nobel Laureates in Literature Challenge, it's not named after me, lol.

I've only read one book by V.S. Naipaul, A House for Mr. Biswas, and I didn't care for it. The protagonist was so irritating. I was disappointed too that there was little sense of place, as I had been hoping to learn more about Trinidad. I have Beyond Belief on my shelves, but haven't been motivated to read it. You've read so many of his books, is there one that you would recommend if I did give him another go?

helmikuu 14, 12:34 pm

>32 labfs39: Haha, I changed it.

helmikuu 14, 1:52 pm

007. Lingam. Zwölf asiatische Novellen
Finished reading: 13 January 2023

Despite considerable lapses of time, selections from the works of Max Dauthendey (1867–1918) are reprinted by modern German publishers. Together with Richard Dehmel and Eduard von Keyserling, he is considered among the most important impressionist writers. Dauthendey was active both as a poet, a writer and a painter. Unfortunately, most of his paintings were lost during the bombing of Dresden.

Many European writers and painters were inspired by the far East. Even though Germany did not have colonies in Asia, German writers and painters traveled and lived in British India and the Dutch Indies. It is notable how many writers and readers were lulled to a dream-like interest in eastern culture, philosophy and literature. It was because of Dauthendey's interest in the far east that the Nazis suppressed his work, but it is likely this aspect of his work that is the reason for renewed interest in his work each time.

Max Dauthendey had already published five volumes of poetry, two plays and a novel when he undertook his first trip around the world. In half a year he traveled to Egypt, India, China, Japan and the United States. In India he found inspiration to write Lingam. Zwölf asiatische Novellen.

Lingam is a collection of 12 short stories, all set in India. Each presents a rich description of temples, alleys, flora and fauna, and the masses of often poor people. Some of the stories are set in Malaysia of other countries in the Far East. Many stories have a chute or twist that results in a different insight or unexpected outcome of the story.

In 1914 Dauthendey made a second trip around the world. When the First World War broke out he found himself stranded and interned in the Dutch Indies, even though the Netherlands remained neutral during the war. He died from Malaria on Java, shortly before the end of the war, at the age of 51. Two books were published during these years, while several more, as well as four volumes of letters appeared posthumously.

Source / edition: I downloaded this book from Project Gutenberg.

Why I read this now: I first read about Max Dauthendey while reading the autobiographical work Doppelleben. Zwei Selbstdarstellungen by Gottfried Benn


helmikuu 16, 8:49 am

008. De witte wingerd van Frankrijk
Finished reading: 15 January 2023

Although this small book runs up to 93 pages, since there isn't much text on each page I think we may safely conclude that "The White Vine of France"" is more like an essay about white wines in France. The first 45 pages are devoted to the history and wine making in the Elsas. The white wines from this part of France, Riesling, Pinot, Sylvaner, and Traminer are also my favourite wines. The second part of the book is mainly about white Burgundies, particularly about quality wines from Merseult and Chablis. Dutch fans of these white wines will enjoy reading this book.

The book was first published in 1951, and wine years that are discussed range mainly from 1939 - 1945, but there is much more information about the area, and tradition of each region and the overall quality of the wines.

Source / edition: Downloaded from DBNL

Why I read this now: This book was promoted through the monthly newsletter of DBNL


Muokkaaja: helmikuu 19, 10:15 am

009. Doppelleben. Zwei Selbstdarstellungen
Finished reading: 17 January 2023

Doppelleben. Zwei Selbstdarstellungen by the German author Gottfried Benn contains two critical, autobiographical texts and a long critical introduction. The two texts are juxtaposed to contrast Benn's position before and after the Second World War.

In 1933,Gottfried Benn (1886 - 1956) was 47 years old and at the height of his career as an author. He was enthusiastic about the rise of the Nazis and encouraged others to embrace the Nazi state, as he expressed in a lecture, Der neue Staat und die Intellektuellen. The following year, he published Lebenweg eines Intellektualisten defending himself and taking sides with the Nazis. This is the first of the two texts in this book. After the war, in 1950, he published Doppelleben, the second text, to reflect on the past period, and his relation to the Nazis during that period.

Although the critical introduction by Ulrike Draesner was very informative, and helpful, the two texts by Benn remain very difficult to read. Basically, I only really understood the first part in which he distances himself from Jewish people, and his attack on Klaus Mann. Lebenweg eines Intellektualisten is difficult to understand because large parts of the text require knowledge of Benn's previous work, particularly through the way he juxtaposes the two characters Rönne and Pameelen. Besides, Benn's literary style is philosophical and hard to understand.

Despite Benn's enthusiasm for the Nazis as they rose to power during the 1930s, they did not warm to him. Gottfried Benn was a medical doctor, and worked as a doctor in the army. However, in his literary career he initially belonged to the Expressionist movement. His early poetry and prose had characteristics of the absurd, such as poems about corpses and experimental prose texts lacking logical grammar, including non-existing words, or simply expressing unclear proposition, such as Gehirne (1916). This type of art was detested by the Nazis, who grouped him together with other artists they labeled entartete Kunst. From 1938, they forbade Benn to publish. In fact, despite his initial enthusiasm in 1933-34, Benn distanced himself from the Nazi ideology and rulers after 1934.

Gottfried Benn was quickly rehabilitated after the war, and his early romance with the Nazi ideology was accepted as an error of judgement.

Source / edition: Klett Cotta (2011)

Why I read this now: I bought this book in 2014 and chose to read it as this month's choice of German literature.


Muokkaaja: helmikuu 19, 1:26 pm


helmikuu 19, 1:27 pm

011. Jade, jaspis en de jitterbug. Wijsheid en schoonheid uit het leven van baron Van Stralen op rijm
Finished reading: 20 January 2023

Ton Ven is a pseudonym of the Dutch author F. Bordewijk (1884–1965). Jade, jaspis en de jitterbug. Wijsheid en schoonheid uit het leven van baron Van Stralen op rijm is a small volume of poetry of mainly free verse. Several poems are interconnected through the fictive character baron Van Stralen. The tone of all poems is very light and humorous, making me laugh out loud several times.

Source / edition: Downloaded from DBNL.

Why I read this now: This volume was promoted in the January newsletter of DBNL.


Other books I have read by F. Bordewijk:
Karakter. Roman van zoon en vader

helmikuu 19, 5:38 pm

Hey! I just checked into your thread for the first time this year. Lots of interesting reading. Thanks for all the reviews. Cheers!

helmikuu 22, 4:10 am

>27 edwinbcn: Ivanhoe has been on my shelf for years, so I read this review with interest. I have little knowledge about the literary tradition around Robin Hood, so I learned a lot from your post.

>34 edwinbcn: I have not heard of this author but made a note.

>36 edwinbcn: Another great review!

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 2, 8:47 am

010. Essays on early ornithology and kindred subjects
Finished reading: 20 January 2023

Thousands upon thousands of authors are forgotten, inaccessible as their works are hidden in libraries and repositories all over the world. Perhaps, one day in the future, all of their works will be available on line, but by then there would be no way for us to read them (all). AI could read them for us, but AI could not appreciate them the way we could.

In 1911, James Roxburgh McClymont published a poem, "A Returning Colonist" which he probably wrote a few years earlier, possibly around 1907. At the age of 27, McClymont had migrated to Australia. He lived there for about 26 years, and then he moved back to Europe. During the years leading up to the Great War he seems to have resided in England, but after the war he may have traveled or lived in France or Spain.

A naturalist, geographer, historian and poet, James Roxburgh McClymont (1854 - 1936) published a volume of poetry in 1878, Songs and Popular Chants, with Other Verses, before setting sail for Australia. He lived in Tasmania for more than 20 years, where he presented several papers to the Royal Society of Tasmania. Whilst living in Tasmania, McClymont may have visited various parts of Australia and New Zealand. Upon his return to England he published several volumes of poetry in 1911, 1912 and 1913. Many of these poems were collected in his book Metrical Romances published as late as 1933.

Not much is known about James Roxburgh McClymont but his trail can be followed through his publications. Thus A List of Butterflies Collected by James R. McClymont in Spain and Italy in the Years 1916 - 1924 suggests extensive stay in Italy and Spain, and likewise A Scot in Spain (1921). More poetry was published in 1925.

McClymont's vast interests and knowledge are shown by some of his other publications such as about the Portuguese navator who discovered Brazil, Pedraluarez Cabral (Pedro Alluarez de Gouvea): His Progenitors, His Life and His Voyage to America and India (1914) , and the captain of the Niña, the Spanish navigator Vincente Anes Pincon and Essays in Historical Geography, published in 1921.

In 1920, James Roxburgh McClymont published Essays on early ornithology and kindred subjects. It is a smallish volume, of just 32 pages. "Early ornithology" should be understood as prior to McClymont's time. In fact, the six short essays are each about misconceptions and incorrect ornithological observations. The first essay is about "the rukh" a mythical bird that appears in the travelogue of Marco Polo. This is followed by an essay about bird observations in the journals of Columbus and Vasco Da Gama. While the essays about Marco Polo's rukh is mainly about the mythological, the second essays shows how idiosyncratic spelling has led to wrong or inaccurate assumptions about wild life. The essay also shows how historic descriptions of observations about nesting materials deviate from modern observations and description. There is another essay about the etymology of the Emu, showing possible origins of the name pointing to words in Arabic and Portuguese. The final two essays are about "Australian birds in 1697" and "New Zealand birds in 1772". In these essays McClymont demonstates how Dutch navigators would often refer to birds in Australia as if they were birds in the Netherlands. For instance, they mention that a nightingale was heard, whereas in fact there are no nightingales in Australia. McClymont suggests it is more likely they heard the Long-billed Reed Warbler. The author gives several other examples of Dutch bird names which later caused confusion in deciding what type of bird had really been observed.

In writing his essays McClymont seems to have made abundent use of Spanish, Portuguese and Dutch language sources. He explores and re-examins natural-historic expeditions and the journals of travellers and navigators for mistakes they made in their observations of the natural world from an historical point of view, and a fine erudition.

Highly recommended as a short diversion for readers with an interest in natural history, particularly the Pacific Ocean and Oceania.

Source / edition: This came as a free download from Project Gutenberg, unfortunately lacking bibliographical information.


helmikuu 27, 8:59 am

>41 edwinbcn: What an interesting little find. How did you happen upon it?

helmikuu 27, 7:22 pm

The Project Gutenberg is a wonderful source.

helmikuu 28, 12:46 pm

>43 baswood:

Project Gutenberg is great, although regretfully until recently bibliographic information about the editions used was missing, and it is often difficult to assess how many pages a book had.

There are several other websites for free downloads that nicely complement PG. I also often go to Archive.org for books.

helmikuu 28, 12:47 pm

>42 labfs39:

I am not sure how I came upon this book. I think I was looking for books by or about Walt Whitman on Project Gutenberg, when I came across this book.

maaliskuu 2, 1:11 pm

012. Revelaties. Gerard Reve over zijn werk en leven
Finished reading: 21 January 2023

For more than 50 years, Gerard Reve was known as one of the three grand old men of Dutch letters, and he was the most controversial. Openly homosexual and deeply religious, which sceptical Dutch people long held for mockery, Reve was the center of scandal.

A three-volume biography of Reve was published between 2009 - 2012. Before that there were numerous small publications about aspects of his work. In 1982 25 interviews were selected and published. Revelaties. Gerard Reve over zijn werk en leven should be considered a second collection of interviews. However, unlike the 1982 publication, this book also contains a lot of material which was previously unpublished. Tom Rooduijn has collected interviews over a period of 25 years from 1975 to 2000. These interviews have been edited and stylistically altered to create a continuous text, rather than a collection of separate interviews. Although some of Reve's most controversial actions took place in the period before 1975, they are referred to and explained in the running text.

Gerard Reve was 77 years old when Revelaties. Gerard Reve over zijn werk en leven ("Revelations") was published, and lived another six years, with another 3 years before the volumes of his biography started to appear. Thus, for nearly 10 years Revelaties provided the most coherent biographic narrative of Gerard Reve, beside a large number of monographs and articles.

Why I read this now: Over the past three years I have been reading the six volumes of Collected Prose by Gerard Reve, as well as several monographs on aspects of his work and life. This book fit well with that reading effort.


maaliskuu 2, 1:40 pm

>24 edwinbcn: "I don't know how to answer to two people in one post."

I don't think anyone caught up on this so: Type > followed by the number of the post you are responding to without a space. The Talk software catches the > and connects to the number of post after it, adding a link and the name of the poster automatically.

You had been reading interesting things :)

maaliskuu 2, 2:04 pm

013. Shirley
Finished reading: 21 January 2023

There is only about 30 years between the time of Jane Austen and that of Charlotte Brontë, and yet the economic outlook for women was entirely different. Shirley was only Charlotte Brontë's second novel. Many readers and critics consider it a less successful novel, but this seems a bit unfair.

Shirley ends with a double marriage, but they aren't marriages of romantic love. In Austen's novels attraction between men and women is often compared to manneristic dance movements, in Shirley it remains unclear to the very end which pairs are formed, an outcome quite unexpected.

In the time of Jane Austen, women from less well-to-do families set their eyes on marrying a man of wealth or at least a parson. In Charlotte Brontë's time this is very different. First of all, women could go out and work as governesses and provide for themselves. This is what one of the main characters, Caroline Helstone intends to do, although there is some doubt as to her abilities. Half-way through the novel, Caroline is spared this fate, as Mrs Pryor seems willing to care for her in exchange for companionship. Her motivation seems to be purely out of sympathy, although it is later revealed that she is actually Caroline's mother.

The other main character in the novel is a very different kind of woman. Where Caroline appears meek, Shirley Keeldar is entrepreneurial, a very strong woman. The prominence of Shirley in the novel also gives the novel a feminist characteristic.

Although large parts of the novel, and surely the first 400 pages make for fast and exciting reading, the final 200 pages seem a bit tiresome. Part of the excitement of the novel is the late introduction of Shirley Keeldar, who doesn't appear until after about 250 pages. The last 250 pages of the novel give meticulous descriptions of a large number of other characters who appear on the sidelines of Caroline's life. Instead of a novel of manners, it seems to be a study of character.

The historic setting of the novel is appealing and interesting, in the sense that it indicates a transition from a rural economy with landed gentry to the beginnings of the industrial revolution. The plot of the novel is situation at the moment where the industrial revolution is about to begin, and country folk rebel against it, trying to stop its development. Perhaps in describing the rustic characters Charlotte Brontë was trying to capture a world that was about to vanish, while she welcomed the new age with the strongest characters, recognizing that the new age would usher in many new developments that would in the end benefit women toward more independent lives.

Besides description of character, Shirley is also a novel of exquisite description of the landscape in western Yorkshire.

Source / edition: I have two editions of this novel, the OUP Classics and Penguin Classics, I read the latter. The Penguin Classics edition had a long introduction by Andrew and Judith Hook, which I found confusing and unhelpful.

Why I read this now: I had started reading Shirley in the year 2000, and abandoned it on page 300 as I went to China. In Beijing I bought the OUP edition, and later brought over the Penguin edition, but didn't touch them for more than 20 years. I started reading the novel again in 2022 in China, going back to the beginning again, and finished reading it in Holland.


Other books I have read by Charlotte Brontë:
The professor
Selected letters of Charlotte Brontë
Jane Eyre

maaliskuu 2, 4:10 pm

A bit late, but welcome back, Edwin! I look forward to stopping in to see what you are reading.

maaliskuu 3, 4:32 am

Interesting to read your thoughts on the social differences of society between Jane Austin's writing period and Charlotte Bronté. I enjoyed your review of Shirley which I have not read.

maaliskuu 3, 5:07 am

Tämä käyttäjä on poistettu roskaamisen vuoksi.

maaliskuu 3, 10:12 am

>49 avaland:

Thanks, Lois.

I still enjoy Club Read, although I do not have as much time as six or seven years ago to chat in the group. Club Read has become very big, and it seems many people here have a lot of time to chat with others.

The other thing is that I am no longer buying any new books, at least not at the moment. I am only reading classics and modern classics, and I am out of touch with what is being published nowadays.

At least I don't have to worry about logging onto LT, except for available time.

maaliskuu 3, 10:43 am

014. Goena-goena. Een geschiedenis van stille kracht
Finished reading: 31 January 2023

The Dutch Indies -- now Indonesia -- were the most prized among the Dutch colonies, and while the Dutch West Indies are an ongoing influence on Dutch art and literature, the influence of writers who had a connection with the Far East is fading.

In the mind of Dutch people, Louis Couperus is the great novelist associated with the Dutch Indies. However, this impression is somewhat incongruous with the facts. Couperus wasn't born there and only lived there in his childhood for about six years. Besides, Couperus wrote only one book which is directly connected to the colonial period, namely The Hidden Force. Therefore, Couperus experience of the Dutch Indies is mainly based on intuitive experience and hearsay.

P.A. Daum, on the other hand, moved to the Dutch Indies for work as a journalist at the age of 29 or 30 and lived there for about 10 years. His experience is much more that of life and work in the colonial society, observing life as it was.

Goena-goena. Een geschiedenis van stille kracht is a novel about the life of a Dutch family in the colony. The novel, which is only about 200 pages, seems an uneventful story, portraying a typical lifestyle of Dutch people in colonial society and in line with customs and norms of the mid- to late Nineteenth century. However, at a deeper level, this novel is connected with Couperus's novel De stille kracht (The Hidden Force, as these words also appear in the secondary title of the novel.

That socalled "stille kracht" (hidden force) is deemed to be a form of power of resistance that the local people exerted over the colonizers in order to repel them or drive them away. In the novel by Louis Couperus, it takes the form of a ghost and inexplicable magic, spreading fear. In the novel by Daum it is more subtle, but a very clear albeit apparent manifestation.

The novels of P.A. Daum often simply describe colonial family life, lacking very dramatic plot events. However, the end of the novels often end with an unexpected chute, a sudden realisation that puts the whole story on a slightly different footing.

Source / edition: This edition of the novel was included in volume III of the collected novels of P.A. Daum.

Why I read this now: Last year I read many books by Louis Couperus, but I had never read any by Daum.


maaliskuu 3, 11:09 am

015. De kat achterna
Finished reading: 2 February 2023

De kat achterna, published in 1977, was Doeschka Meijsing's third novel. The novel loosely tells the story of a young woman's youth, particularly the tug-and-pull relation with a schoolfriend, another young girl. Parts of the story do not seem to fit so well together, at some stage I was wondering whether it is a novel or a collection of tied-in short stories. Perhaps the first part of the story, about the young woman's return from Canada, her ease and luck finding a new home, and her reminiscences about children's toys are a reflection that set her off to think about her childhood.

The title of the book (running) "After the cat" De kat achterna seems to suggest that the main character is very impulsive, as her Canadian adventure was a good example. However, the story of her relation with the other girl has a compulsive element in it. Inexplicable anger, and unstoppable attraction, suggest that this relation was much more than a simple children's friendship.

Source / edition: This was a cheap hardcover book club edition, which I picked up at a thrift store.

Why I read this now: I bought a pile of books for next to nothing at the thrift store.


Other books I have read by Doeschka Meijsing:
100% chemie. Een familieverhaal
De tweede man
Utopia, of De geschiedenissen van Thomas

maaliskuu 3, 1:27 pm

016. Specimen days in America
Finished reading: 2 February 2023

Walt Whitman is mainly known as a poet, and hardly known for his prose writings. Specimen days in America, published in 1882 is his second work of prose that was published in his lifetime. In the 1830s the young Whitman, as a teenager, working as a printer's assistant, started contributing articles to newspapers, and in 1838 he founded a newspaper and worked on it as its first editor. He continued working on various other newspapers. Whitman is known to have been seriously writing poetry during the second half of the 1840s, but it wasn't until 1855 when his first volume of poetry was published, a slim volume of just 12 poems entitled Leaves of Grass.

In fact, Whitman wrote a lot more prose, but some of that wasn't discovered until 2016. Walt Whitman wrote a novel, Life and Adventures of Jack Engle, which was serialized in 1852. He also wrote a series of articles Manly Health and Training, literally "Man's Health". In 1877, he published Democratic Vistas, a book partly about America and partly literary criticism.

Specimen Days is likewise hard to pinpoint. What kind of book is it, really? It seems to be a bit of everything, some parts are most likely diary entries, and some are memoirs, some are essay-like meditations. Whitman wrote that he first wanted to call it "Cedar-Plums Like" and he describes it as "a melange of loafing, looking, hobbling, sitting, traveling—a little thinking thrown in for salt, some literary meditations, some of my own caprices, meditations, egotism (...).

The first entry or first passage of Specimen Days seems to be an editorial note by Whitman. It is dated July 2nd, 1882, and observes that the work before us is "incongruous and full of skips and jumps (...) a huddle of diary-jottings, war-memoranda of 1862-'65, Nature-notes of 1877-'81, with Western and Canadian observations". On the whole, the work seems very spontaneous, as free of restraints as the best parts of Leaves of Grass. However, the work as a whole is thoroughly edited, as is shown by the extensive notes that are provided. They are called "end notes", but they aren't collected at the end of the book, but rather at the end of each passage. The touch of the editor is also noticeable in the first section of the book, which appears to provide a chronological early life of the author, describing his hometown.

The collection of prose fragments is a bit of a jumble, although it does seem to be in chronological order. It doesn't have "parts" as I suggested above. In as far as there are portions or sections distinguishable in the work, these segments do not have a length that is representative for the period they refer to. The first portion is devoted to his youth is relatively long, but there is one short passage that seems to sum up all operas Whitman saw or remembered during a period of almost ten years in his life.

The whole book consists of "jottings" short prose entries or passages that are usually only about 200 or 300 words long. In some cases they are dated, but usually only with the day and the month, it often isn't clear which year.

For all the quirks and oddities of the work, Specimen days in America is a wonderful work to read. Regardless of whether it is really about Walt Whitman (although it seems to be), it gives a great impression of life in America during the mid to late nineteenth century, with intense descriptions of Whitman's experiences visiting the wounded soldiers during the American Civil War, and later his lyrical descriptions of nature.

Published late in his life, it seems Whitman was aware that his strength lay in spontaneous, unedited works. It seems he wanted to publish these diary jottings as pure as possible. In many ways, Walt Whitman seems to have been a truly free man, who would not let him be bound or tied down by convention. This unhemmed freedom is strongly felt in Leaves of Grass and it is equally strongly present in Specimen Days.

Source / edition: This text of Specimen Days is included in Complete Prose Works. Specimen Days and Collect, November Boughs and Good Bye My Fancy (1910) and downloaded from Project Gutenberg.

Why I read this now: I am reading wider around Walt Whitman in preparation for reading Leaves of Grass.


maaliskuu 4, 5:02 am

Specimen days in America looks to be an interesting find.

maaliskuu 4, 6:21 am

017. Een leeg huis
Finished reading: 5 February 2023

Een leeg huis, translated as An Empty House is another novel by the Dutch writer Marga Minco. Written and published after the Second World War, it describes how two young women cope with life after the war. During the last part of the war, the two Jewish girls, Sepha and Yona, were in hiding in the north of the Netherlands, and the first episode of the story is about their return to Amsterdam.

The idea is that they would be going home, but in Amsterdam they find many empty houses. Sepha moves in with her boyfriend, while Yona has no place to go. The story mainly follows the life of Sepha in three episodes, each moments in time. Yona also appears in each episode.

In each episode, Sepha is on the move. She cannot really settle anywhere, nor can she really settle with Mark. She has a place to stay, a house, but no home. She seems happy to follow her impulses. Yona is less fortunate. An unlucky fall into a canal during the first episode, has an eery echo with her fall out of a train, in the last episode. These two cases of falling leave you wondering whether they happened with intent or were they accidental.

The idea of "falling" as a motive and a link to coincidence and misfortune also plays an important role in Minco's novella De val.

Source / edition: First edition, paperback.

Why I read this now: Although I bought this book on a visit in 2013, I kept it in my home in the Netherlands, and started reading it upon my return.


Other books I have read by Marga Minco:
De glazen brug
De val
Verzamelde verhalen, 1951-1981
Nagelaten dagen

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 4, 8:35 am

018. Grace and truth
Finished reading: 5 February 2023

We have only recently gone through a period in which many things could be said that were impossible to articulate for many centuries before us. And with this openness came the realisation that many problems can be found among people of all classes, races and backgrounds, or as Friedrich Nietzsche would say Mensliches, allzumensliches (Human, all too human).

Jennifer Johnston writes mostly slim novels about just such topics, and the end of her novels always present the issue with reference and dignity. Her novels portray people from a sense of deep interest, and deep understanding. Johnston's novels are often set in Ireland. Stories and characters find themselves set back, reaching out for humanity and warmth.

Grace and truth is one of those stories, gentle and warm.


Other books I have read by Jennifer Johnston:
The gates
Fool's sanctuary
The old jest
The gingerbread woman
The railway station man
This is not a novel
How many miles to Babylon?

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 4, 10:06 am

019. Gehirne. Novellen
Finished reading: 9 February 2023

Gottfried Benn's prose debut Gehirne. Novellen (1916) is mentioned as belonging to some of the most important early prose texts of German Expressionism. As early as 1912, Benn had already shocked readers with the Morgue und andere Gedichte, or "morge poems", describing the sick, repulsive and disgusting.

In one of the first chapters we find a description of Rönne often looking at his hands, sometimes smelling them, and moving them as if he lifted a large fruit from its rind. In another passage Rönne reflects on the hundreds or thousands of heads he has held in his hands, now only using his hands to hold his own head. He wonders what he could have been like if the forceps (Geburtszange) had pressed a bit stonger on his head.

The title Gehirne. Novellen is somewhat deceptive. The German word "Novellen" means "novellas", which are usually longer prose texts of between 20 - 80 pages long. For about a hundred years, the great German writers, such as Theodor Storm, Joseph von Eichendorf among many others were mostly loved for the novellas they wrote. But Benn's small book aren't novellas. Regardless of whether Gehirne. Novellen itself is a novel or a novella, it consists of a number of chapters or sections, but not of a collection of novellas.

The text of Gehirne. Novellen does not make much sense. In some ways it does, and in many ways it often doesn't. It is experimental prose, and scholars have pointed out several techniques of truncation and omission that Benn used to create a type of truncated syntax, by leaving things out, metaphor, etc. creating sentences that are particularly hard to understand or seem to have no meaning at all.

I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone, unless you are interested in German expressionist literature.

Source / edition: Free download from Project Gutenberg.

Why I read this now: In January I read Gottfriend Benn's autobiographical texts Doppelleben. I felt I should read some of his work to get a more complete idea of the author.


Other books I have read by Gottfriend Benn:
Doppelleben. Zwei Selbstdarstellungen

maaliskuu 4, 10:48 am

020. Nummer elf
Finished reading: 11 February 2023

P.A. Daum was a Dutch writer who moved to the Dutch Indies for work as a journalist at the age of 29 and lived there for about 10 years. His experience is that of life and work in the colonial society, observing life as it was.

Nummer elf is a romantic and tragic story of true love. The novel describes the two sides of love and marriage in colonial society. On the one hand it must have been difficult for the white colonial staff to find a suitable marriage partner, as choice and available partners were limited. In as far as a partner was to be found exclusively among the Dutch colonials who resided in the colony, partners were sometimes chosen regardless of age, or love. This was also true of the homeland, but the lack of choice was perhaps more strongly felt in the colonies. On the other hand, there were illicit relationships, often merely sexual relationships that white colonial rulers held with local women. They also often had children with local women. In all these relationships the line of division was race.

As with some of the other novels by Daum, the meaning and significance of the title isn't revealed until the very last page, although contemporary readers who had knowledge of life in the colonies might have known. For the enjoyment of the novel it isn't important, although it does leave the reader with a stronger impression at the end.

Source / edition: In: Verzamelde romans, Vol. III by P.A. Daum (1998), Hardcover, 1027 p.

Why I read this now: This is the second novel in volume III of the collected novels by Daum.


Other books I have read by P.A. Daum:
Goena-goena. Een geschiedenis van stille kracht

maaliskuu 4, 11:01 am

021. De zoon van de levende stad
Finished reading: 11 February 2023

Gerrit Krol (1934–2013) is the author of mainly fairly small novellas. De zoon van de levende stad is a novella or short novel that expresses the feeling of the 1960s. It describes how a young man doles around the city of Amsterdam while longing for his girlfriend who has gone to Paris.

It was enjoyable to read, as many places in the city could easily be recognised.

Source / edition: Free download from DBNL.


Other books I have read by Gerrit Krol:
'n Kleintje Krol

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 5, 1:07 pm

022. Rambles with John Burroughs
Finished reading: 11 February 2023

It is not difficult to see that John Burroughs and Walt Whitman were kindred spirits.They were contemporaries, Burroughs being just 10 years younger, they shared an intense love of nature and the natural world, and they were truly free spirits. Moreover, they both wrote, Whitman mostly poetry, and Burroughs mostly prose.

John Burroughs was one of the first to recognize Whitman as a great writer. In fact, before publishing any of the books about natural history which have become Burroughs main genre, he wrote and published Notes on Walt Whitman as Poet and Person in 1867. Burroughs' enthusiasm for Whitman was based on his reading of Leaves of Grass, which was long the only work Whitman had published up until 1865. Between 1855 and 1867, Leaves of Grass went through several editions, each time adding more poems, from a slim volume of 12 poems in 1855, to 178 poems on 456 pages by 1860. In 1865-1866 Whitman published Drum-Taps and Sequel to Drum-Taps, which were later added to Leaves of Grass. In fact, John Burroughs wrote two books about Walt Whitman, Notes on Walt Whitman as Poet and Person in 1867 and Whitman: A Study in 1896, after Whitman's death in 1892.

Although John Burroughs wrote more than 25 books about natural history, he never rose the the eminence and esteem of John Muir, another great naturalist and writer of the period. Both Burroughs and Muir went camping with President Teddy Roosevelt. John Muir guided the preseident in Yosemite, while Burroughs spent time with Roosevelt in Yellowstone,. Both trips took place in 1903.

John Burroughs' biographer Edward Renehan characterizes Burroughs as less of a scientific naturalist and more of "a literary naturalist with a duty to record his own unique perceptions of the natural world." This freedom and sense of ideosyncracy is also characteristic of Walt Whitman, whose close friend John Burroughs was for more than 30 years.

Rambles with John Burroughs is a biography of John Burroughs by Robert John Henderson De Loach. With Whitman taking up such an important place in Burroughs' life, there is mention of Whitman in most chapters and one chapter in De Loach's book is entirely devoted to their relationship.

The first five chapters focus on John Burroughs choice of a simple life. Descriptions of his homes show simple dwellings, while he mostly chose an old barn or hut near his home as the pace to do most of his writing.

De Loachs writing is as fresh and enticing as Burroughs' own, with ample detail about nature, plants and birds. It is not a biography in the formal sense, and does describe life and work in too much detail. Rather, it is about Burroughs time spent outdoors, nature and wildlife that John Burroughs loved.

The book is illustrated with a large number of B/W photos of John Burroughs, places he lived and landscapes. Spiritually, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Walt Whitman and John Burroughs were all very near. They knew each other and enjoyed each other's works, and hence there are numerous references to these other naturalists in this very enjoyable book.

Source / edition: A free download from Project Gutenberg.

Why I read this now: I downloaded this book because it has a chapter about Walt Whitman.


maaliskuu 4, 4:05 pm

>48 edwinbcn: Fantastic review! Shirley was one of the novels I wrote my final thesis about back in the days, but I never really thought about the fact that this world is so close to Jane Austen's time.

>59 edwinbcn: I felt similar about this when I read it and have not felt inclined to read more Benn. I like some of the poems of German Expressionism, but definitely not these prose texts.

maaliskuu 5, 1:28 pm

023. Styles of radical will
Finished reading: 13 February 2023

Six collections of essays by Susan Sontag have been published in new editions as Penguin Modern Classics. The first in the series was Against interpretation and other essays which includes the famous essay "Notes on Camp" (1966). The second volume was Styles of radical will which appeared in 1969.

Styles of radical will is the fruit of the 1960s and perhaps even more than the previous volume shows where Sontags interests lie, namely foremostly with film. The essays are grouped in three sections, a first section about culture in more general sense, a second section with essays about film and the theatre and a third section with writing about political events.

As in the first volume, the essays are fairly long, around 30 pages, but Sontag does not seem entirely confident about this length, and some essays are belaboured or contain repetitive information, particularly the essay "The Pornographic Imagination". By the way, this essay is mainly about literature, not film. The essays "The Aesthetics of Silence" seems much too cerebral. Although this does characterize Sontag's style, they essay is not very readable.

From a historical point of view the final two essays are most interesting, "What's happening in America", written in 1966, and "Trip to Hanoi". These essays are descriptive and emblematic for their time.

Source / edition: Penguin Modern Classics.

Why I read this now: Packing up and moving, I discovered this unread copy, while I read four other collections of essays by Susan Sontag in quick succession about 10 years ago.


Other books I have read by Susan Sontag:
As consciousness is harnessed to flesh. Diaries, 1964-1980
Reborn. Early Diaries, 1947-1963
The complete Rolling Stone Interview
Against interpretation and other essays
Regarding the pain of others
Under the sign of Saturn. Essays
Where the stress falls
Illness as metaphor
Illness as metaphor & AIDS and its metaphors
AIDS and its metaphors

maaliskuu 5, 1:53 pm

024. Beemdgras
Finished reading: 13 February 2023

Beemdgras is a volume of poetry by the Jewish writer Judith Herzberg. There are 70 poems in this volume, mostly short poems of less than a page. Beemdgras belongs to the early work of the writer, it was published in 1968. In these early poems, war and deportation do not play an important role. Most poems are written using free verse.


maaliskuu 9, 9:04 am

025. De zaak Beukenoot
Finished reading: 14 February 2023

De zaak Beukenoot was the book week present (Boekenweekgeschenk) of 1950. The story is fairly simple and can be readily understood from the cover illustration. An inebriated, middle-aged man breaks a shop window, stumbles in and reappears with a women's bra in his hands or pocket. Brought up by the police he is incoherent and can't even remember his own date of birth. This leads to a very severe treatment which ends with long detention and a conviction. In the mean time it aspires that Mr Beukenoot is lowly educated and a member of the proletariat. The novella which borders on the absurd is read as a complaint against class justice.

De zaak Beukenoot was the last book published by Marianne Philips (1886 - 1951), who was active from 1929 - 1950. The publication of the novella was part of a contest where readers had to guess the identity of the author. The novella, its theme, style of writing and the world it describes are a bit of a curiosity.

Source / edition: Free download from DBNL.

Why I read this now: The book was promoted by DBNL.


maaliskuu 9, 10:08 am

026. Democratic vistas
Finished reading: 16 February 2023

Some great minds and writers of the mid-Nineteenth century like Ralph Waldo Emerson and John Burroughs instantly recognized the greatness of Walt Whitman. This greatness lay in the merciless honesty and absolute, pure originality of Whitman in his life and in his work.

By the early 1850s Whitman was dabling as a newspaper editor. He had neither found his voice nor his style. Although Leaves of Grass only consisted of 12 poems when it was first published in 1855, American and British poets saw that a new voice, and a new man had emerged. Whitman's experience at the front during the American Civil War helped him mature his character and he saw the disparity between his inborn, natural character and other people. Between 1855 and 1860 and 1871 Leaves of Grass went through six or seven revisions, and was each time expanded to include large numbers of new poems. Also in 1871, Whitman published the long prose volume Democratic vistas.

Both Leaves of Grass and Democratic vistas are the fruit of the ripening and maturing mind of Walt Whitman between 1855 and 1870. They are like mirror images, one in poetry and the other in prose, of Whitman's insight and offer an extended mental view (vista) of the power of democracy based on the belief of the goodness of man, which in Whitman's mind encompassed all of society men, women and coloured people. Both texts offer readers a clear view of the New Man, a distinct picture of what the best Americans can be.

It is baffling to see how little attention this important text seems to get. Democratic vistas should be read by every American, and it should be included in every syllabus of political theory. It is a pity that a text like this is not available in a critical edition, which I think it requires, as the text is both about Whitman's outlook on people, American society and literature.

Source / edition: In: Complete Prose Works. Specimen Days and Collect, November Boughs and Good Bye My Fancy (1910)

Why I read this now: I read this as part of my reading around Walt Whitman in preparation for reading Leaves of Grass.


Other books I have read by Walt Whitman:
Specimen Days in America

maaliskuu 10, 11:22 am

>64 edwinbcn: Great review of the Sontag. You might like the book I'm finishing up now: The Selected Works of Audre Lorde a contemporary of Sontag's. (includes speeches, poetry...etc)

maaliskuu 10, 6:55 pm

>67 edwinbcn:. Democratic vistas should be read by every American, and it should be included in every syllabus of political theory.

Enjoyed your review

maaliskuu 11, 9:46 am

>66 edwinbcn: Too bad I don't read Dutch or that there isn't an English translation

>67 edwinbcn: Good review. Noted

maaliskuu 11, 10:54 am

>68 avaland: Thanks for the suggestion. I think, I might like that. I much enjoy reading a lot around writers and their work. I much enjoyed the Norton edition of selected works (prose and poetry) of Adrienne Rich, and think The complete Rolling Stone Interview of Susan Sontag and Jonathan Coe was very interesting, as was, for instance, Trouble. Evolution of a radical. Selected writings 1970-2010.

I had not heard of Audre Lorde.

maaliskuu 12, 10:03 am

027. The charmers
Finished reading: 18 February 2023

Stella Gibbons wrote some 26 novels altogether, butnone were as successful as Cold Comfort Farm. Gibbons has a clear personal style, which can be recognized throughout her novels. Her work is of high quality, arguably higher than many authors during the same period. Cold Comfort Farm stands out among her novels, but not because it is qualitatively some much better. What most readers will remember about the novel is its irony. Cold Comfort Farm is a parody of older literature, and it is hilariously funny. In her subsequent novels, Gibbons could never achieve the same. It probably couldn't be done, the novel was a one-time hit. Even in Conference at Cold Comfort Farm which is a kind of "Cold Comfort Farm Revisited" she could not pull it off. Thus, Cold Comfort Farm remains a lonely peak among Stella Gibbons 26 novels.

However, the same type of irony or sarcasm is found in her other novels, although it works more subtly. Another difference is that there isn't much to ponder about Cold Comfort Farm, whereas her other novels need some digestion, and improve on rumination.

The charmers is one of her later novels. It was published in 1965. It is a gloomy novel, only brightened up by Gibbons irony. It breathes the heavy, gloomy atmosphere of the late 50s to early 60s. The charmers is foremostly a novel about class.

Aged 53, an old spinster, Christine Smith, fired from her office job, takes up a position as a housekeeper in a community of older artists, mostly people of around her same age. She moves in with them to run the household. It doesn't take long to get laid off, and not because she wounldn't do. The whole affair is an eye-opener for Christene. The people she looked up to turn out to be petty, while she now sees the people of old in a different light.

The story is enjoyable and funny because of the strain of irony that runs through all of it, but the story is uneventful, and I had to reread large parts thinking I had missed out on parts.

Source / edition: Published in Vintage Classics


Other books I have read by Stella Gibbons:
Cold Comfort Farm
Conference at Cold Comfort Farm

huhtikuu 1, 9:34 am

028. Notes on Walt Whitman as poet and person
Finished reading: 18 February 2023

John Burroughs was one of the first to recognize Whitman as a great writer. In fact, before publishing any of the books about natural history which have become Burroughs main genre, he wrote and published Notes on Walt Whitman as Poet and Person in 1867. Burroughs' enthusiasm for Whitman was based on his reading of Leaves of Grass, which was first published in 1855, and reissued in revised and expanded editions several times between 1860 and 1865-1866. John Burroughs and Walt Whitman became friends in 1863. Whitman encouraged Burroughs to write about natural history. Their friendship, and Burroughs admiration for Whitman and his work led him to write a book about Whitman and his poetry. In fact, John Burroughs wrote two books about Walt Whitman, Notes on Walt Whitman as Poet and Person in 1867 and Whitman: A Study in 1896, after Whitman's death in 1892.

From 1860, John Burroughs wrote and published essays, and after 1863 Whitman encouraged him to develop his writing about natural history. Notes on Walt Whitman as poet and person was Burroughs's first book publication. At the time, Burroughs was only 30 years old. Nowadays, this book seems to find very few readers, but it is worthwhile because John Burroughs was a good writer, and as a friend and contemporary of whitman he had a unique perspective. Besides, the book seems to be the fruit of his genuine admiration and recognition of Whitman's genius, and the sense that Whitman was really onto something new, blazoning an entirely new spirit of being American. Few books of literary criticism are written with such genuine enthusiasm.

Notes on Walt Whitman as Poet and Person is a short work of about 100 pages. It is divided into two parts. The first past consists of seven short chapters about different aspects of Leaves of Grass. Part 2 contains a biographical sketch and a review of Drum-Taps. Burroughs writes about his reservations including a biographical sketch of Walt Whitman, considering it unusual to write about a living poet with a short career. Drum-Taps was a volume of poetry Whitman published separately in 1865. It was later integrated into a revised edition of Leaves of Grass.

Source / edition: I read the second edition, published in 1871. It can be freely downloaded from the Internet Archive.

Why I read this now: I am reading this as part of the reading theme Leaves of Grass.


Other books I have read by John Burroughs:

huhtikuu 1, 11:34 am

029. De jacht op de vlinder
Finished reading: 19 February 2023

De jacht op de vlinder is een kort verhaal, of een korte novelle. Het is geschreven in de vorm van een Chinees sprookje. Stijlelementen zoals Chinese namen, de Zoon des Hemels, aanduidingen zoals Lou-Men, en beschrijvingen lijken te duiden op navolging van of goede bekendheid met Chinese cultuur en literatuur.

De strekking van het verhaal vertoont gelijkenis met Phillips' novelle De zaak Beukenoot waarin een gewone man een verboden terrein binnendringt (een etalage van een warenhuis), en vervolgens buitensporig wordt gestraft. De buitensporige strafmaat lijkt vooral voort te komen uit standverschil.

Evenzo is het in De jacht op de vlinder, waar een eenvoudig bakkertje een tuin binnengaat en achteraf beschuldigd wordt van verkrachting van een keizerlijke prinses, en ter dood wordt veroordeeld.

Door de vervreemde stijl en de Chinese elementen doet het verhaal wonderlijk aan. Het is wel te begrijpen, maar verwarrend, hoewel de schrijfstijl mooi is. De titel en het slot zijn echter moeilijk te begrijpen.

Source / edition: This was a free download from DBNL.

Why I read this now: This author was recommended to me.


Other books I have read by Marianne Phillips:
De zaak Beukenoot

huhtikuu 2, 9:43 am

030. Madame de Treymes
Finished reading: 20 February 2023

Madame de Treymes is perhaps Edith Wharton's most Jamesian novella or short novel. Set in early Twentieth century Paris, it tells the story of a young American who becomes intrigued by a young American woman, married to a French aristocrat. He is aware that he had known her as a youth friend, Fanny Frisbee, but at that time he had no interest in her. However, when he encounters her in Paris she proves to be irresistable. He falls in love with her, hopes to achieve her divorce, so he can marry her. The key to this plot is Madame de Treymes, Fanny's sister-in-law.

As the title indicates, the novella is mainly centered on Madame de Treymes. Like James, Wharton seems to suggest that the psychology of the ancient, French aristocrats is much more sophisticated, and devious than that of the relatively simple American, while the latter's motives are more pure. As in James, Madame de Malrive in this novella is unhappily married to an impoverished aristocrat, however, the reasons for staying with him are quite different. Madame de Treymes reads like a light version of The Portrait of a Lady.

Highly recommended.

Source / edition: This was a free download from Project Gutenberg.

Why I read this now: I was inspired by Daniel (dchaikin)'s reading of the works of Edith Wharton.


Other books I have read by Edith Wharton:
The age of innocence
Old New York
Ethan Frome, and other short fiction
The custom of the country
Ethan Frome

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 2, 10:33 am

031. La Grosse Fifi
Finished reading: 25 February 2023

La Grosse Fifi is a collection of four short stories by Jean Rhys published in the series of Penguin Mini Modern Classisc. The four stories were taken from the short story collection Tigers are Better-Looking by Jean Rhys, published in 1972.

Short stories collections usually take their title from the longest story in the collection. In this case, that would have been Vienne, but this title might have been considered too short, and too unappealing. Besides, Vienne is an uninspiring story. On the other hand, La Grosse Fifi is an usually colourful story that leaves readers with a strong impression.

Three of the four stories, including La Grosse Fifi belong to Rhys's early work, and were first published in 1927. They were probably written at the time while she lived in Paris and started out on her writing career.

Source / edition: This Penguin Mini Classics edition was published in 2001.


Other books I have read by Jean Rhys:
After leaving Mr. Mackenzie
Good morning, midnight
Voyage in the dark
Wide Sargasso Sea

huhtikuu 2, 11:02 am

032. The chequer board
Finished reading: 28 February 2023

In recent years the novels of Nevil Shute have come into the public domain, so a reprint was timely, making them available again in crisp paperback editions shortly before free versions could be found in many places on the Internet. It seems unlikely that all of Shute's novels will remain in print, or will be canonized, as a fairly large number of them nowadays have a very outdated feel to them, just like many of the adventure stories of John Buchan, and, in fact, a little bit like Stella Gibbons whose The Charmers I read recently. While Gibbons's novels seem old-fashioned because of their emphasis on class in British society, Buchan's novels because of their exaggerated portrayal of communists, Shute's novels breathe the atmosphere of the late 1940 - 50s with their emphasis, also, on class and racism. Nonetheless they are all very well-written books that tell a good story well, and can be immensely satisfying, as indeed The chequer board proved to be a moving story.

The novel tells the story of an army man, who, in the last months of his life due to an injury sustained in the war has a limited time to live. His wish is to set things right (in his mind at least), and therefore wishes to re-engage with three men who shared the same ward with him at the military hospital. His wound or injury is rather telling, as it can be seen as a flaw or scar in his brain. Besides, his former judgement was blind, so to speak, as his head was bandaged while he was in the hospital, nonetheless the issue seems to be he did not do them right.

The structure of the book is cleverly constructed to avoid a boring or repetitive narrative of three quests. As the story progresses it turns out that he had misjudged each of these three men, and that the actual circumstances were entirely different from what they seemed. The issues at hand are class, race and matrimony, which were all at the forefront during the late 1950s.

As I said, The chequer board is an interesting and moving novel about seeing this black or white, but it will no longer be considered palatable or readable by everyone due to its dated and old-fashioned style, and, for instance, the frequent use of the n-word (even retained in the 2009 reprint).

Source / edition: This was the 2009 Vintage Classics edition.

Why I read this now: It seemed a good choice to fit with my recent reading of John Buchan and Stella Gibbons.


Other books I have read by Nevel Shute:
What happened to the Corbetts
A town like Alice
So disdained
Slide rule. The autobiography of an engineer
Round the bend

huhtikuu 2, 12:54 pm

033. Stilte om een paleis
Finished reading: 1 March 2023

In 1949, posthumously, the short historical novel Stilte om een paleis by the Dutch author H. van Grevelingen was published. This historical novel is set at the court of Catherine the Great and is about a courtier who falls out of favour. It is beautifully written and ties in with themes that occupied its author about the meaning of life.

Source / edition: Reprinted in the collected works 1998 edition.

Why I read this now: I have been reading the collected works of this author.


Other books I have read by H. van Grevelingen:
Spel zonder inzet
Het onverbreekbaar zegel

huhtikuu 2, 1:08 pm

034. Verzameld werk
Finished reading: 2 March 2023

J.W.C. Verhage (1910 - 1947) published under the name H. van Grevelingen. During the period he was active as a writer and musician, playing the violin, he ran a doctor's practice in the east part of the Netherlands, near the German border. His work was noticed and for some years he stood in contact with some literary figures who encouraged him to write.

H. van Grevelingen published two novels, one of which rather short and a novella of equal length shortly after the war in 1946 /7 and then died in 1947 at the age of 37, leaving a modest oevre behind of another novella, some short stories and literary criticism, altogether a few hundred pages in print. Although his work was well-received by some writers at the time, it generally failed to impress and was soon forgotten. The publication of his collected works in one volume in 1999 has not changed much there.

Het onverbreekbaar zegel (1946) was his debut novel, but should be understood to consist of three novellas. Each novella would work well on its own, but the proposed unity of the three is strained, with the former two somewhat closer together, while the final novella seems to bear little connection with the rest.

This edition of the collected works also contains two novellas, Spel zonder inzet and Stilte om een paleis. Finally, there is a long essay about Time must have a stop by Aldous Huxley. This essay was previously unpublished.

Source / edition: The 1998 edition of the collected works.


Other books I have read by H. van Grevelingen:
Stilte om een paleis
Spel zonder inzet
Het onverbreekbaar zegel

huhtikuu 2, 1:44 pm

I'm glad you've had a series of good reads after the Phillips.

huhtikuu 3, 3:48 am

>80 labfs39: Yeah, well it is obvious that works that have been mostly forgotten are not among the highest rated books. It also helps to see how books gradually become less attractive to read, as in the books by Nevil Shute, Stella Gibbons etc. Besides, many great writers who produced several great works, also produced very mediocre books, eg. Joseph Conrad and Robert-Louis Stevenson.

Still, I like to sample all such books, good en less so. I am also very critical, which means that I couldn't give high rates to all books I read. Sometimes, it also depends on yourself, and as in the case of The Charmers and that book by Phillips, I have to read a book twice to make sure for myself I read carefully enough.

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 3, 4:20 am

Enjoying stepping back into the past with you. The John Burroughs book looks worth a look.

huhtikuu 8, 10:45 am

I hadn't read much of Nevil Shute beyond On the Beach which I read as a teenager devouring books about the aftermath of nuclear war, and A Town Like Alice which I read after seeing the BBC adaptation, but a couple of years ago I read Trustee From The Toolroom, found it a very good "feel-good" book, and I would like to read more.

heinäkuu 18, 2:03 pm

035. Judith Paris
Finished reading: 7 March 2023

Judith Paris is the second volume in the family chronicle of the Herries family, another big book of well over 600 pages. However, this isn't felt as the book reads swiftly. The second volume is not as impressive as the Sturm-und-Drang character of the first volume, but still a major, broad-sweeping story. It reads seemingly so fast because of the tremendous pace of the story. Almost every chapter represents a jump in time of about ten years.

The opening chapter is surprisingly well able to bring back the memories of Volume One, which I read more than 10 years ago. It opens with a classical King's drama of a newly born baby in a castle surrounded by persished family. Subsequent chapters tell of her maturing, and her tempestuous marriage to the wild George Paris, a story that remotely mirrors that of her father, who is a presence looming over the first half of the book.

The second part of the book also introduces and connects to the various other family members and branches of the Herries family, which is a bit confusing, because it wasn't part of the first volume. As I was reading an ebook, the family tree diagram at the back of the book wasn't clear, but would have been very useful.

While the first volume, Rogue Herries was set against the historical backdrop of the Jacobite succession, particularly the 'Old Pretender', the second volume introduces romance in the form of various references to the Romantic poets Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, as part of the story is set in the Lake District, and later, more dramatically, reflects how the French Revolution was felt across the Channel.

The sweep of the story, the fascinating backdrop and the magnificent writing style of Hugh Walpole make Judith Paris a very interesting historic novel to pick up.


Other books I have read by Hugh Walpole:
Jeremy and Hamlet
Jeremy at Crale. His friends, his ambitions and his one great enemy
Rogue Herries

heinäkuu 19, 10:47 am

I am afraid I dropped under the radar again, for a while.

When i came back to Holland, I first thought my chances of finding a job were nil. I soon found out that post-corona, my chances weren't that bad, particularly since I have a teaching license, but then my job-finding skills were outdated. So, I did some workshops, writing a letter, writing a motivation, restyling my resume, and so on, and guess what from the end of March each application was bingo, except I wasn't always the person they ended up hiring. I was hired on my second (new) application letter. (On the first letter I was invited for an interview, but not hired.)

I started working from May 1, and it has been a rather busy two months. The first job was part-time with a contract for 3 months, and now the contract has been renewed and changed to a one-year contract, fulltime, with placement for a post-graduate course, while I also work as a volunteer.

Yesterday, the school holiday started, so I am off till the beginning of September. Time to catch up.

heinäkuu 19, 3:14 pm

>85 edwinbcn: Congratulations on the job! Sounds like a pretty good reason for not posting much. And fijne vakantie gewenst!

heinäkuu 24, 7:19 am

>85 edwinbcn: I've a AWOL myself, but for less reason. Congrats! What are you teaching?

heinäkuu 26, 11:04 am

>87 labfs39: I teach Dutch to immigrants, some of whom are analphabetic, some even in their own language.

heinäkuu 26, 6:24 pm

Congratulations on the job! And I suspect your own experiences living in foreign lands will be of help in understanding your students, despite their lower academic achievements. Back in 2015 and 2016, I took the classes required to become a German citizen and the best part of those classes was in getting to know my classmates, who often had pressing and urgent reasons that they needed to pass the classes in order to stay in Germany.

heinäkuu 27, 7:48 am

>88 edwinbcn: Have you taught these types of classes before? I used to teach (as a volunteer) similar classes in Indiana then Seattle. Sometimes students would be in the country illegally, sometimes they were analphabetic in any language (as you mention), others had been living in country for many years but unable to read, some had just arrived and didn't speak a word. And they would all be in the same class! I really enjoyed it and still remember some of my students fondly. I often ended up teaching American customs and practices as well. How to fill out a job application, eye contact, handshakes, etc. Are you teaching at a school/university or through an organization? I would love to hear more.

heinäkuu 27, 11:17 am

>89 RidgewayGirl: Thanks, Kay.

Most of my students now must study Dutch language as part of a legal obligation due to their residential status as a refugee. If they do not come to school they may incur penalties such as a reduction of their social benefit or they may forfeit the right to naturalisation. This is at the school where I am employed as a teacher.

In the future, I may also teach students who voluntary take the same course, or Dutch citizens whose proficiency in Dutch is low.

At the same time, I also work as a volunteer at a refugee center where I teach Dutch to rufugees who do not yet know whether they may stay. They take my course on a voluntary basis.

Basically, my job is very similar to the work I did in China, except that I switched from teaching English and German, to teaching Dutch language.

heinäkuu 31, 9:01 am

I've been remiss in following much of LT this year (and last), but I'm happy to have finally caught up here.

>27 edwinbcn: Having read Ivanhoe, and being a fan of Scott's, Maid Marian looks like a fun read. Enjoyed your review of the development of the legend.

>31 edwinbcn: A Naipaul book that is new to me. It sounds like a good one to read for tracing the change in his writing from Trinidad to later writing in England.

>41 edwinbcn: James Roxburgh McClymont sounds like someone who should be researched given the brief bits of his life which can be deduced from the titles, as you say.

>84 edwinbcn: After reading this review, I think I will have to track down the Walpole Herries chronicles.

I always enjoy reading reviews of older books, as it is often difficult to discover new titles by lesser known authors. I always discover some when reading your thoughts on nineteenth century books.

It's also interesting reading about Dutch writing, even if I can't read it, as the writers often say much about the country, even if it's not their main focus in any given book. I don't think I realized how far back the book week presents go.

Congratulations on your new teaching position. It sounds very rewarding.

heinäkuu 31, 10:27 am

036. Penseeldier, een passie. Gedichten
Finished reading: 9 March 2023

Theo van Os is both active as a poet and a novelist, although since his three novels have appeared he seems to write (or publish) less poetry. In his poetry he represents a very raw, shockingly honest voice in writing about homosexual love and sex practice. While his novels aren't mainstream, they are not as shocking as his poetry.

Penseeldier, een passie. Gedichten is a volume that has a wide range of poetry, some even very lyrical. There is a variety of topics and multiple sources of inspiration and reference. There are both longer and very short poems.

Source / edition: First edition.

Why I read this now: I had kept this in the Netherlands and read it upon my return.


Other books I have read by Theo van Os:
Zonde van begeerte

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 31, 10:44 am

037. Thousand cranes
Finished reading: 11 March 2023

Yasunari Kawabata's novels hark back to a lost period of decorum and suppressing culture. The short novel contrasts the fleeting with what remains, the shortness of a lifetime with the longevity of objects, culture and ceremony. This is brought to the forefront in the tea ceremony and the use of age-old teaware, tea cups and other ceramics which have had a long history and were used by different people in the family. The stark contrast between the cherished heritage also highlights the pettiness of strive between people.

Kawabata is one of Japan's Nobel Prize winners, and the high quality of his writing, while transcending the specific Japanese cultural background to embrace universal life experience is proved by this short novel.

Source / edition: Penguin Modern Classics.

Why I read this now: I brought this back with me from China. I read this as part of participating in a group on LT.


Other books I have read by Yasunari Kawabata:
Beauty and sadness

Muokkaaja: elokuu 1, 10:18 am

038. Paradijs verloren
Finished reading: 12 March 2023

I do not this Cees Nooteboom is particularly gifted as a novelist. His strength is really with travelogues. This short novel starts on a journey, but is lost on loose threads without a clear story, and without a clear central character.


Other books I have read by Cees Nooteboom:
Berlijn 1989 - 2009
Het volgende verhaal
Van de lente de dauw. Oosterse reizen
Mokusei !
In de bergen van Nederland
De omweg naar Santiago
De koning van Suriname
De verliefde gevangene
De verliefde gevangene. Tropische verhalen
De ridder is gestorven

Muokkaaja: elokuu 1, 10:16 am

039. De Boeddha achter de schutting aan de oever van de Chaophraya
Finished reading: 19 March 2023

Cees Nooteboom is a world traveller and many of his books are set in overseas parts. This short novella is set in Bangkok, Thailand. It is still well-written and of interest, but perhaps only because part of the attraction of the story lies with its exotic backdrop. Nowadays, when so many people visit Thailand, and we have access to media such as TV and the Internet, these travel stories that seem to throw up a clamor of colour and bustle are no longer very spectacular or remarkable.


Other books I have read by Cees Nooteboom:
Paradijs verloren
Berlijn 1989 - 2009
Het volgende verhaal
Van de lente de dauw. Oosterse reizen
Mokusei !
In de bergen van Nederland
De omweg naar Santiago
De koning van Suriname
De verliefde gevangene
De verliefde gevangene. Tropische verhalen
De ridder is gestorven

heinäkuu 31, 11:33 am

040. Een deerne in lokkend postuur. Persoonlijke kroniek 1999
Finished reading: 30 March 2023

Maarten 't Hart is a writer with broad interests. He was trained as a biologist, but is mostly known as a novelist. Besides this, his life-long passion for the music of Bach has made him an expert on his music. He also wrote a biography of J. S. Bach.

In the 1990s 't Hart surprised many people by dressing up and appearing in public as a woman. People's weren't as much shocked as surprised and it drew mostly smiles, as it was considered another eccentric folly in the cultural scene of the Netherlands. The title of this volume of autobiographical writings refers to that.

The book is conceived as a personal diary. It describes all personal and professional topics as they occurred in the life of the writer in 1999. There are long passages on music and the work on the Bach biography, as well as observations on the author's ventures in drag.

The book gives a nice glimpse into life around the turn of the century, the work and personal views of its author.

Source / edition: Prive-Domein series nr 236.


Other books I have read by Maarten 't Hart:
Het psalmenoproer
De ortolaan
Laatste zomernacht
Verzamelde verhalen
Een vlucht regenwulpen
Ik had een wapenbroeder
Stenen voor een ransuil

Muokkaaja: elokuu 1, 10:09 am

041. Onder ijsbergen
Finished reading: 26 March 2023

Ever since I first started reading novels, I have been attracted to the work of Jan Bernlef. Still, when I review the ten novels I have read so far, I usually rate then at three point five. Then, too, the novels stay with me for a long time.

In many of Bernlef's works, as in Onder ijsbergen, the main characters are unable to see what is in front of them. The obstruction is often suggested through the imagery of snow or ice, or a blur, whereas in the story the oversight is often caused by (mental) inability to see or realize, often due to not understanding or misunderstanding others.

Onder ijsbergen belongs to the early work, so this theme is still fairly literal. A Danish inspector of the police investigates a murder case on Greenland. The novel creates a dazzling mirror of wondering whether the inspector is deceived or whether the deception originates in himself. The title seems to simulaneously suggest that "the truth" is buried under "a heap of ice", or as one says, we can only see the tip of the iceberg, while the larger part is obscured beneath.


Other books I have read by Jan Bernlef:
Buiten is het maandag
Doorgaande reizigers
De witte stad
Meneer Toto-tolk
De pianoman
Verbroken zwijgen
Publiek geheim

Muokkaaja: elokuu 1, 10:21 am

042. Eilandgasten
Finished reading: 28 March 2023


Is Eilandgasten by Vonne van der Meer a novel of a collection of short stories? The book consists of five chapters each describing a different lodger or family staying at a holiday chalet in a Dutch seaside resort. It is a kind of kaleidoscope of different experiences that are connected by the fact that they take place in the same house. The book is published as a novel, but I find it definitely lacks depth and development as we traditionally find in novels. On the other hand, each chapter could not stand alone as a short story, they simply lack the strength as such.

Therefore, on the whole, this is a weak book, and unfortunately, as I have seen, the author has used this as a concept to write several more books in the same way.


elokuu 1, 10:31 am

043. A place I've never been
Finished reading: 7 April 2023

Most of the stories in A place I've never been are tediously long and dragging. Although in most of these stories the main character is gay or lesbian, it feels as if the author tries to avoid foregrounding this. Given the fact that these short stories are very long, they do not present enough action of fascination to keep you interested.


Other books I have read by David Leavitt:
Florence. A delicate case
Italian pleasures
While England sleeps
Arkansas. Three novellas
Equal affections
The lost language of cranes

elokuu 1, 10:37 am

044. Kreuzersonate
Finished reading: 10 April 2023

A boring short novel.


Other books I have read by Margriet de Moor:
De kegelwerper
Eerst grijs dan wit dan blauw

Muokkaaja: elokuu 9, 1:55 pm

045. Le musée de la Sirène
Finished reading: 24 April 2023

Le musée de la Sirène ("The Mermaid Museum") is a surrealistic or even absurd novel. It is fascinating how the author goads the reader on to accept mounting levels of ridicule in a totally absurd story. While a classical feature of prose or novellistic writing has always been suspense, i.e. the ability of the writer to keep the reader interested to keep on reading, Cypora Petitjean-Cerf clearly tests your credulity or willingness to keep going with a story that starts out crazy and becomes increasingly ridiculous. She manages to do this by creating a clever mix of genre familiarity and empathy, so that the reader feels comfortable to go on reading. The manipulation of the reader even leads you to accept and appreciate the development of the role of the great bogeyman in the story, i.e. the role of the Chinese.

I wouldn't say this is a great novel, but when read as an experiment, and given the effect of the novel upon the reader as described above, I would still say it is a remarkable novel that deserves attention. In as far as you can accept the story, it is both entertaining, funny, and at a certain level moving.

Source / edition: First edition.


elokuu 1, 11:24 am

046. Make Room! Make Room!
Finished reading: 5 May 2023

In spite of its reputation as the source for the film Soylent Green this is a very boring book.

Source / edition: Penguin Modern Classics


elokuu 1, 11:52 am

047. Le jeune homme
Finished reading: 18 May 2023

Le jeune homme by Nobel Prize winner Annie Ernaux is a totally compelling and sweet work of prose. It must be said that it is very short. In my Gallimard edition just 26 pages, but in any standard pocket book it would probably fit on less than 10 pages. But with world-class literature, obviously, length is no criterion.

Annie Ernaux writes from her own experience in a way that is recognisable to a very large readership. I think with this work, Le jeune homme, it helps if you have ever fallen in love with a person more than 30 years younger than yourself, but even if you haven't Le jeune homme can be read and appreciated in various ways. For instance, the book obviously in some ways resembles Thomas Mann's Death in Venice, and part of the splendour are slight references to Venice and Capri.

The story suggests that this romance is a folly. There is some element of ridicule in the desire of the young man, and the mixture of seriousness and amusement on the part of the woman.

While the main character in the book is a lover, the story is also a reflective observation of young people. The obvious egoism of the young man is described without really condemning it (or him).

Whether it is justified or not to assume that the author is also the main character, the author suggests that the initiative lies with the woman, as one could say in terminating the relationship, and terminating the story, which could still mean the woman and the author are different people.

Source / edition: Gallimard (first edition?)

Why I read this now: Annie Ernaux won the Nobel Prize in 2022.


Muokkaaja: elokuu 1, 12:56 pm

048. Paris echo
Finished reading: 22 May 2023

Paris echo is a very messed-up novel. It brings together various people, ideas and strands of stories in a way that might resemble life, messy and disorganized. The first part of the book is a quick and enjoyable read, but it seems the author lost interest with his own story, and the later parts of the story are ill-connected, sentimental, and a mishmash of material that you might expect from a writer such as Faulks, e.g. by bringing in a lot of unsorted, unclear historical material about the French resistence. The story if often so unclear that I lost what I was reading, and the connections between the main characters are highly unlikely.

This novel cannot even stand in the shadow of Faulks earlier novels.

Source / edition: Vintage Paperback.

Why I read this now: I read On Dolphin Street not long ago.


Other books I have read by Sebastian Faulks:
On Green Dolphin Street
Jeeves and the wedding bells
Faulks on fiction
The Girl at the Lion d'Or
A week in December
Charlotte Gray
The fatal Englishman. Three short lives

Muokkaaja: elokuu 9, 1:00 pm

049. First love, and other novellas
Finished reading: 28 May 2023


This volume contains four novellas by Samuel Beckett: "The End", "The Expelled", "The Calmative" and "First Love". In 1977 they were first published by Penguin Books as Four Novellas. Then, in from 1980, Penguin Books published these four novellas as The Expelled, and Other Novellas. This edition, which came out in 2000 with a new introduction, written by Gerry Dukes now bears the title First love, and Other Novellas, but they are still the same, short, four novellas.

Around 2010, Penguin Books also published a series of Penguin Mini. In that volume three novellas were published unde the title The expelled, the same novellas, only "The Calmative was left out". Besides, the mini-series came without introduction and notes.

I bought the mini edition in October 2012, and read it in 2017, unaware that I had already bought the Penguin Modern Classics edition, i.e. this edition, First love, and other novellas, in November 2011. I didn't like the three novellas when I read them in 2017, but decided to reread all of them while reading this edition.

However, I still do not like these novellas. For all the awe expressed in the introduction and the admiration others have for Beckett, I fail to appreciate these stories. I cannot grasp really what they are about or why they are special.

Source / edition: Penguin Modern Classics


Other books I have read by Samuel Beckett:
The expelled
Waiting for Godot
The Beckett trilogy. Molloy, Malone dies & The unnamable

Muokkaaja: elokuu 9, 1:00 pm

050. Eigen welzijn eerst. Hoe de middenklasse haar liberale waarden verloor
Finished reading: 28 May 2023

This is a very wel-written and very well-argued book about the way right-radicalism continues to erode progressive and liberal ideals that shaped our society. The roots for this ongoing process can be traced back to the early 80s and the liberal "trickle-down" economic theories. Throughout the 20th century the Netherlands was governed by Christian and / or socialist idealism driven coalition governments, but in the late 90s saw this was eclipsed by the liberal party, which has had a domineering influence particularly over the past decade. During this time, the general idea about society changed from caring for the weak to fending for oneself. The author describes how the welfare society changedc to a bastion trying to defend welfare for the few from sharing with those in need.

In my opinion the author puts too much emphasis on the role of the international movement, particularly of QAnon on the developments in the Netherlands, but still her argument is very convincing.

Source / edition: First edition


Muokkaaja: elokuu 9, 1:00 pm

051. Hôtel du Nord
Finished reading: 28 May 2023

A well-written novella or short novel about a writer who seeks isolation to resolve a problem but is found or discovered by the press, and thus prematurely driven to go home.


Other books I have read by Remco Campert:
De Harm en Miepje Kurk story
Een liefde in Parijs

Muokkaaja: elokuu 9, 1:00 pm

052. Het bittere kruid. Een kleine kroniek
Finished reading: 28 May 2023

Marga Minco is one of the Jewish survivors of the Holocaust whose writing strikes a cord. Much of the power of her stories lies in what is not said, or, in the case of Het bittere kruid. Een kleine kroniek, widely considered her masterwork, in the simple observations of a child, without the insight or explanation of the adult writer. This short novel tells the story of survival in hiding.


Other books I have read by Marga Minco:
Een leeg huis
De glazen brug
De val
Verzamelde verhalen, 1951-1981
Nagelaten dagen

Muokkaaja: elokuu 9, 1:01 pm

053. The Burning Library. Writings on Art, Politics and Sexuality 1969 - 1993
Finished reading:

I was blown away by this collection of essays by Edmund White. The Burning Library. Writings on Art, Politics and Sexuality 1969 - 1993, edited by David Bergman, has been in my possession for a very long time before I came round to reading it this summer. It is no exaggeration to compare this collection of essays with the work of Susan Sontag.

First of all, White's essays cover a very broad field, extending to all the major writers of the Twentieth century. Through his familiarity with European culture, being able to read French, White has truly profound knowledge and understanding of French culture and writers with long essays on Roland Barthes, Michel Foucault, and Jean Genet. Then, too, Edmund White lived through most exciting times, witnessing the heights in the sexual liberation and emancipation of gay people between 1969 - 1993, as well as the lows during that period of the devastating AIDS epidemic. There are essays on Herve Guibert, Juan Goytisolo and Pier Paolo Pasolini.

Edmund White knew or met many of the people he writes about. They were all there in it: Christopher Isherwood, Robert Mapplethorp, Truman Capote, William Burroughs, and Tennessee Williams.

Besides essays dedicated to writers there are several comtemplative essays on movements or the period. All essays are fabulously well-researched, and very well-written, I would never have guessed from mainly knowing Edmund White as a novelist. However, it should be remembered that he started his career as a non-fiction writer.

Highly recommended!

Source / edition:


Other books I have read by Edmund White:
A boy's own story
City boy. My life in New York during the 1960s and 1970s
Fanny. A fiction
My lives. An autobiography
Chaos. A novella and stories
The married man
The Farewell Symphony
Nocturnes for the King of Naples
The beautiful room is empty

elokuu 9, 1:29 pm

054. Irundina
Finished reading: 1 June 2023

Hella S. Haasse is the grand old dame of Dutch letters. Irundina is a small novella written in her final years. It was published in 2016, and relatively unknown.

Haasse is, of course, known as a very gentle writer, with a true gift for spotting small detail, which turns out to encapture the whole. Haasse's debut was a novella called Oeroeg, which, although superficially just about interracial friendship, it came to stand for the whole colonial conflict between the Netherlands and Indonesia.

Likewise, Irundina superficially seems to be a soppy story about Haasse's housekeeper, but looking back to the year it was published, in 2016, we can now wonder with what foresight Haasse wrote such a novella that is so exemplary for the fate of many young people from countries all over the mediterranean and further afield to flock to Europe to find refuge and find means of earning a livelihood to support themselves or their loved ones at home.

Source / edition: First edition


Other books I have read by Hella Haasse:
Het tuinhuis
Een handvol achtergrond. 'Parang sawat', autobiografische teksten
Mevrouw Bentinck. Onverenigbaarheid van karakter & De groten der aarde
De groten der aarde, of Bentinck tegen Bentinck
Mevrouw Bentinck of Onverenigbaarheid van karakter
Uitgesproken, opgeschreven. Essays over achttiende-eeuwse vrouwen, een bosgezicht, verlichte geesten, vorstenlot, satire, de pers en Vestdijks Avondrood
Lezen achter de letters
Dat weet ik zelf niet. Jonge mensen in boek en verhaal
Ogenblikken in Valois
De meermin
De wegen der verbeelding
Cider voor arme mensen
Het dieptelood van de herinnering
Een gevaarlijke verhouding, of Daal-en-Bergse brieven
Een doolhof van relaties
De Meester van de Neerdaling
Een nieuwer testament
Berichten van het Blauwe Huis
De tuinen van Bomarzo
De verborgen bron
Zwanen schieten

elokuu 9, 1:45 pm

055. Dryocopus
Finished reading: 1 June 2023

Dryocopus is already the fourth novel by the Dutch author Owen Donkers. It is a short novel in which four strands of narrative seem to vie attention. At first this is confusing, more so because of the writing style in ultra-short sentences, but toward the end of the story the four narrative lines come together, satisfactorily.

Source / edition: First edition

Why I read this now: Curiosity for a new author.


elokuu 10, 1:47 pm

056. Vrienden, vriendinnen en de rest van de wereld
Finished reading: 2 June 2023

I have read three short novels by Remco Campert and Vrienden, vriendinnen en de rest van de wereld is the first collection of short stories. Perhaps some of these short stories should be considered as micro-fiction. The short stories have a length of between half a page up to about five-and-a-half pages. Most of these stories are humorous, and most are about people, particularly about their particularities. Campert has his own kind of humour, which is not always evident.

This collection is an enjoyable read, very easy-going, but a bit too light to entertain me.

Source / edition: First edition


Other books I have read by Remco Campert:
Hôtel du Nord
De Harm en Miepje Kurk story
Een liefde in Parijs

elokuu 12, 10:35 am

057. Zo hoog de zon stond
Finished reading: 5 June 2023

Other than her name seems to suggest Simone Atangana Bekono is a Dutch writer who grew up in the Netherlands. She is one of the most promising new talents, who has already won several prizes for her new poetry and prose work. Her first novel was short-listed for the most prestigious literary proze in the Netherlands, the Libris Literatuurprijs, in 2021.

Zo hoog de zon stond is a short novel. It has an immediate, gripping start. As the simple storty enfolds, there is a dwindling confusion, which is central to the story. Dream-like states and alternative states of reality are pack and parcel of fiction throughout literary history. Still, Atangana Bekono approach seems totally original and new, as her story seems to be set in a virtual reality, although this is never explicitly stated.

What makes this short novel so great is that she catches just the right tone to make the excitement, or even addictive attraction to virtual reality real, almost tangible. The novel also catches the tension between of the gap between reality of growing up or living in the Netherlands and a seemingly more glamorous reality elsewhere, although once again there might no be such a gap, all is subtle suggestion.

This was my first reading of a work by Simone Atangana Bekono and I will certainly read more.

Source / edition: First edition

Why I read this now: Exploring new writers.


elokuu 12, 11:02 am

058. Retour Grenoble. Anthony Mertens in gesprek met Hella S. Haasse
Finished reading: 9 June 2023

Anthony Mertens was younger than Hella S. Haasse and obviously admired her tremendously. Hella s. Haasse was already an established writer, aged 28, when Mertens was born. He was an academic and a literary critic. In his capacity as an editor for the Querido publishing house, he was in charge of the publications of A. F. Th. Van Der Heijden and Hella S. Haasse.

Retour Grenoble. Anthony Mertens in gesprek met Hella S. Haasse was published in the year Mertens had a stroke, although he lived several more years, and even Haasse, then 85, outlived him by two years. However, with the publication of all of Haasse's work in a hardcover unified edition, Haasse's standing in the literary landscape had become more appreciated than ever. For many decades, Haasse had stood in the shadow of the so called 'Great Three', Wolkers, Hermans and Mulisch. Even Van Der Heijden as a rising star since the 70s almost eclipsed her. Then, by the early 10s the appreciation for Haasse peaked. But there was no biography. Therefore, perhaps, this volume was compiled.

Retour Grenoble. Anthony Mertens in gesprek met Hella S. Haasse consists of interviews and conversations between Mertens and Haasse, about her life and her work. However, I did not find the publication very convincing or interesting.

Source / edition: First edition


elokuu 12, 11:13 am

059. Poet's Pub
Finished reading: 13 June 2023

Generally, I am very interested in literature from the 1930s, and I had already read a novel by Eric Linklater but I couldn't really get into it. I am not sure why. Perhaps because the novel is so much about the literary scene at that time, and I cannot get the jokes and quips that are supposed to spice up the story. The story just stands too far from us.

Source / edition: Penguin Classics


Other books I have read by Eric Linklater:
Private Angelo

elokuu 21, 1:03 pm

060. In India
Finished reading: 16 June 2023

The Dutch author Hans Plomp belongs to the generation of authors who shone during the late 60s and 70s, fully embracing Flower Power. They formed the artistic branch of the squatter movement, by occupying de small village Ruigoord, and thereby preserving it till today. In his early novels Plomp celebrated the use of soft drugs, and like American authors of the Beat Generation, he flirted with hard drugs and mysticism.

In India is Plomp's travelogue of his journey to India. And yes, despite the fact that there are numerous such books, I feel that Plomp has a different perspective, and his essays or columns are well worth reading. Written and published in the early to mid-90s, the book doesn't stand that far apart from his early work, although the author does appear more mature and balanced.

I haven't read anything by Plomp for 38 years (since 1985), and it was surely interesting to pick up the old thread.

Source / edition: Rainbow Pockets.


Other books I have read by Hans Plomp:
Gedroomde reizen met vrouwen
Brigadier Snuf rookt stuff
Huize De slapeloze nachten
Het Amsterdams dodenboekje. Een strooibiljet
De ondertrouw. Een somber herenboek
In de buik van moeder natuur

elokuu 21, 1:11 pm

061. De zomer van de zwarte jurkjes
Finished reading: 19 June 2023

De zomer van de zwarte jurkjes by the Dutch author Remco Campert is another collection of short stories. Like the short stories in Vrienden, vriendinnen en de rest van de wereld these short storiesshould be considered as micro-fiction. The short stories have a length of between half a page up to about five-and-a-half pages. Most of these stories are humorous, and most are about people, particularly about their particularities. Campert has his own kind of humour, which is not always evident.


Other books I have read by Remco Campert:
Vrienden, vriendinnen en de rest van de wereld
Hôtel du Nord
De Harm en Miepje Kurk story
Een liefde in Parijs

elokuu 21, 1:15 pm

062. Onbepaald vertraagd
Finished reading: 19 June 2023

Well-written but not memorable.


Other books I have read by Nicolaas Matsier:
Gesloten huis. Zelfportret met ouders

elokuu 21, 1:29 pm

063. De wording van Gerrit Komrij. Een biografisch portret
Finished reading: 24 June 2023

De wording van Gerrit Komrij. Een biografisch portret is a short biography of the Dutch author Gerrit Komrij. It describes only five years of the life of Komrij, between 1963 to 1968.

As for the literary side of Komrij's development during this period, the book describes how Komrij wrote and published his early poetry. There is also mention of the writing of his first novel, De lange oren van Midas and his failure to find a publisher.

Remarkably, Komrij met his lifelong partner, Charles Hofman, very early after his arrival in Amsterdam. The book describes how they became estranged and separated for about a year, while Komrij lived on the island of Crete, where he completed his first novel, and how they came back together upon his return to Holland.

The book is also of interest to readers interested in the history of gay life in the Netherlands during the early years.


elokuu 21, 1:42 pm

064. Zonder genade
Finished reading: 4 July 2023


Other books I have read by Renate Dorrestein:
Het hemelse gerecht
Het perpetuum mobile van de liefde

elokuu 21, 1:55 pm

065. Meeuwen
Finished reading: 25 July 2023

An impressive, short novel that long stays with you. Bernlef's style is simple and factual. Although the novel is about an unsolved murder, Meeuwen does not belong to the genre of crime fiction. It is a novel about psychology. The main events in the novel may not be connected. The book offers no explanation, although it does suggest that the main character is not guilty. His motive must have been perception, or, as the title of the book suggests perspective. The reader may only reach their conclusion through helicopter view, like the seagulls viewing the island and its people from above.

This must be one of Bernlef's best novels.


Other books I have read by Jan Bernlef:
Onder ijsbergen
Buiten is het maandag
Doorgaande reizigers
De witte stad
Meneer Toto-tolk
De pianoman
Verbroken zwijgen
Publiek geheim

elokuu 23, 9:33 am

066. Groeten van Rottumerplaat
Finished reading: 28 July 2023

For more than 30 years Jan Wolkers was seen as one of the three major Dutch writers. He was mainly active as a novelist, but over the past 15 years until his death a number of his diaries were published.

In 1971 he wrote Groeten van Rottumerplaat which first appeared in a magazine, and was later published in book form. Wolkers had a very macho style and in some ways resembled Hemingway. This is particularly the case with this small book. For the purpose of writing a diary, Wolkers was dropped on the uninhabited island called Rottemerplaat. Instead of hanging in and reading a few books, Wolkers presents himself as a restless wanderer, crossing the islet on foot and recueing and caring for a young seal pup and a bird. Without proper tools and the right type of supplies, caring for the animals is presented as a fight for survival in the style of Robinson Crusoe. Entirely as in his novels and other fiction, the descriptions are very plastic, with a lot of detail about shit and slime, tears and despair.

The Wadden Islands, also known as the (West) Frisian Islands stretch from the peninsula of North Holland, north-east along the Dutch, German and Danish coast. The Dutch Wadden islands consist of five larger, inhabited islands, three small, uninhabited islands and some sand banks.


Other books I have read by Jan Wolkers:
Het vroege werk
De kus
Dagboek 1967
Dagboek 1969 - 1971
Dagboek 1972
Dagboek 1974
Dagboek 1976
De walgvogel
Turks fruit
Horrible tango
Terug naar Oegstgeest
De hond met de blauwe tong
Een roos van vlees
Wegens sterfgeval gesloten
Gesponnen suiker
Kort Amerikaans
Serpentina's petticoat
Mattekeesjes of de zielenreiniging van de Nederlandse klamboemaatschappij
Ach, Wim, wat is een vrouw?

elokuu 23, 9:54 am

067. Winter-bloei. Jan Wolkers over zijn liefde voor de natuur
Finished reading: 29 July 2023

Each year, since 2006, a book is selected and freely distributed through public libraries as a "national reading experience". In 2019, this book consisted of a selection of the writings of Jan Wolkers. It consists of a number of letters, pieces of prose and a full version of Groeten van Rottumerplaat. The work of
Wolkers is preceded by two introductions, a general introduction by Ronald Giphart and a more specific introduction to the work by the Wolkers biographer Onno Blom. There are a few small contributions by other writers.

The general introduction by Giphart is peculiar in the sense that he suggests these fragments were chosen to fit the overall theme of sustainability. This is really stretching the point, because none of Wolkers's writings are about sustainability of conservation. Giphart also calls Wolkers one of the best Dutch writers about nature and natural history, and this is obviously not true. Why else would the editors have so much difficulty to put together such a thin volume of just over a hundred pages?

It is true that Wolkers has a eye for the natural environment, and includes some detail about plants and animals that other writers might miss, but Wolkers is no great naturalist. Then, too, Wolkers studied biology or intended to study Biology as a young man, and in his final years, after having retired from writing he lived close to nature, painting and drawing and contributing small publications about his garden and his cats, but to suggest that he is one of the greatest writers about nature is really far-fetched.


Other books I have read by Jan Wolkers:
Groeten van Rottumerplaat
Het vroege werk
De kus
Dagboek 1967
Dagboek 1969 - 1971
Dagboek 1972
Dagboek 1974
Dagboek 1976
De walgvogel
Turks fruit
Horrible tango
Terug naar Oegstgeest
De hond met de blauwe tong
Een roos van vlees
Wegens sterfgeval gesloten
Gesponnen suiker
Kort Amerikaans
Serpentina's petticoat
Mattekeesjes of de zielenreiniging van de Nederlandse klamboemaatschappij
Ach, Wim, wat is een vrouw?

elokuu 23, 10:23 am

068. Mijn beter ik. Herinneringen aan Simon Carmiggelt
Finished reading: 29 July 2023

Mijn beter ik. Herinneringen aan Simon Carmiggelt is a memoir about the extra-marital relationship that Renate Rubinstein had with Simon Carmiggelt, both Dutch writers. The book consists of narrative in the form of a memoir, letters, including facsimile illustrations, and diaries, in which Renate Rubinstein describes how their relationship started, developed and sizzled out.

Simon Carmiggelt was 16 years older than Renate Rubinstein. According to Rubinstein, she and Carmiggelt had oblique contact during the period 1962-1976, as Carmiggelt encouraged her to become a writer. Their relationship started in 1977, around the time Rubinstein was diagnosed with ML, and lasted for several decades until the late 80s. While Rubinstein was never married, Carmiggelt had been married with his wife Tiny since 1939. Their relationship was kept hidden from his wife. Carmiggelt died in 1987, and the memoir was compiled and written during the years after his death. It was published after the death of Rubinstein. She died in 1990, and the first edition came out in 1991.

The memoir is a warm description of the nearly ten years of their contact, both in exchanged letters, as in visits. Sexuality is hinted but not explicitly mentioned.

Sylvia Witteman en Thomas van den Bergh (1998) cast doubt on the veracity of Rubinstein's memoir in their short biography of Carmiggels, S. Carmiggelt. Een levensverhaal. They suggest that Rubinstein exaggerated and that the relationship mainly existed in her mind, rather than in reality.

Source / edition: First edition.


elokuu 23, 11:40 am

069. Je ziet mij nooit meer terug
Finished reading: 1 August 2023

Sonja Barend is a household name in every Dutch family. She has been dubbed the 'Queen of Interviewers'. For many years she had interview programs on Dutch television. Je ziet mij nooit meer terug is her autobiography.

In her interviews, Sonja Barend always very sincerely put other people first. She appeared sincerely in others, while she herself remained totally modest and natural. The same happens in her autobiography. Reading Je ziet mij nooit meer terug we learn a lot about Sonja Barend, her youth, her education and her early career, especially also before her work in the media, but autobiographical detail about herself almost always appears after writing about others. The first chapters about her eraliest youth are preceded about a chapter about her present-day partner. Particularly, the book is very much about her father whom she has never known. The title which freely translates as "You will never see me back" turned out to be profetic. After his arrest and deportation by the Nazis her father was never again heard of.

Throughout the book Barend appears natural and modest. The gradual revelations about the humble background of her father are welcomed more than just accepted. She writes with gratitude about growing up in Alkmaar, in a foster family, essentially in hiding as a half-Jewish girl.

Je ziet mij nooit meer terug is not an intellectual book to create some fantastic foil. It is a very humble and human story about herself, her father and her family.


elokuu 23, 11:53 am

070. Oesters
Finished reading: 3 August 2023

Rasha Peper was a Dutch author who died early, aged 62, while most of her 18 books were published in the two decades between 1990 and 2014. With such a short career as a writer, her reknown already seems to be receding. However, during her lifetime her achievement as a literator was obvious in the form of several very successful novels.

Oesters is about the daring theme of love between a younger woman for an older man. To the dismay of her parents, the 20-year old Olga falls in love with a man who is 20 years older than she. The novel describes their love and how she is finally won over by a younger man.


Other books I have read by Rasha Peper:

elokuu 23, 12:53 pm

071. Appen is het nieuwe roken
Finished reading: 9 August 2023

Appen is het nieuwe roken is a popular science edition of what the author presents as the mental health risc posed by spending too much time using mobile telephones. While the title is funny, there is actually a chapter that compares the risc of overusage of the cellphone and smoking. Although the book was written and published in 2017 is is still fairly accurate and concurrent, although some apps have changed.

The author is an academic, but the style of the book is, while factual, not as dry as an academic monograph. The book is packed with data and many interesting facts. Still, since much of the information is self-evident, or likely known to readers through the media or, actually, social media on their phones, the book seems too long. Several chapters seem drawn out, and some of the information is repeated. The worst is that the final chapter is extremely long, namely 40 pages on a total of 150. Where one would expect a powerful, short summative final chapter, the last chapter is a real drag.


elokuu 23, 1:07 pm

072. Tender is the night
Finished reading: 10 August 2023

The novels and short stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald seem to vary much in quality. I also wonder whether different readers favour different works. For instance, I loved The beautiful and the damned and This side of paradise, but I hated most short stories, and The last tycoon. Unfortanately, Tender is the night joins the works that I dislike.

While superficially the novel seems to be well-written, no story emerges in my mind. I cannot follow the story from page to page, nor from chapter to chapter, and the structure of the book remains a mystery to me. I couldn't even tell what the book is about.

I have now read ten books by F. Scott Fitzgerald, most of which I did not like. I wonder how I will appreciate The Great Gatsby which I may read later this year.

Source / edition: Penguin Popular Classics


Other books I have read by F. Scott Fitzgerald:
The last tycoon
This side of paradise
A short autobiography
The curious case of Benjamin Button, and six other stories
On booze
The curious case of Benjamin Button
Flappers and Philosophers
The diamond as big as the Ritz and other stories
The beautiful and the damned

elokuu 23, 1:26 pm

073. Gedachten over onze tijd
Finished reading: 10 August 2023

I was pleasantly surprised by the high-quality writing of these short essays by Tommy Wieringa. These short essays should rightly be called columns, and were written as a weekly contribution to the NRC, a daily newspaper in the Netherlands. The columns appeared between October 2018 and January 2021, each about 3.5 pages long, a total of 315 pages for the book as a whole.

The three years from 2018 to 2021 were very turbulent. There were major polotical issues which led the the fall of a coalition government, and many of the most importent political issues, such as global warming, the energy transition, decline of biodiversity, the protection of nature at the cost of farmer's interests and immigration came to maturation. Two radical politicians rose to prominence, one of whom with pronounced right-extremist leanings. The times were further troubled by the outbreak of COVID-19 and thr troubling polarization following conspiracy theorists.

Normally, I wouldn't be very interested to read political commentators, but these columns were a very good window on the most recent political developments in the Netherlands. The author has demonstrated excellent writing skills and a broad philosophical basis for tuning in on such a broad perspective of current issues.

Source / edition: First Edition.

Why I read this now: Getting reconnected with current political and social history in the Netherlands


Other books I have read by Tommy Wieringa:
Dit zijn de namen
Joe Speedboot
Alles over Tristan

elokuu 23, 1:40 pm

074. Hygge. De Deense kunst van het leven
Finished reading: 13 August 2023

Essentially, this is a spiced-up coffee table book. The concept of hygge is as hip and easy to understand as fengshui and still made more mysterious. It is all very obvious what makes people feel good.

The author refers to herself as a "happiness researcher" and the book is all about well-being and what makes people feel comfortable. The concept is linked to warmth and cosiness, and clearly pronounces that oysters are not hygge.

One does get the feeling that the author was uder some stress to make the book thicker, as the concept is approached from different angles, such as throughout the seasons. In such sections many things are repeated, as in tables and other statistics.

Recipes for meals and drinks also seem to be fillers.


Muokkaaja: elokuu 24, 5:20 am

075. De perzik van onsterfelijkheid
Finished reading: 15 August 2023

De perzik van onsterfelijkheid is a novel that I would consider typically Dutch and typical for Jan Wolkers. It is typical for Dutch literature in the sense that it is extremely banal, with a lot of base humor. It is typical for Wolkers, particularly for his middle period through the focus on dirt, shit, slime or other filth, in this case dog shit.

Otherwise, the novel is a pleasant, and fluent read, with detail for environment and location. Like many modern novels, it is based of a very thin story, or hardly any.

I have also wondered whether the structure, the tendency of being preoccupied with certain motives and the relative absence of a story line has anything to do with the way Wolkers wrote his books. According to the diaries, he would work very methodically. Every morning he would write just one page. And that's the way it feels, as if each page is a new beginning. But this interpretation may be deceptive because the diaries do not mention revision or other editorial work.

Source / edition: First edition


Other books I have read by Jan Wolkers:
Winter-bloei. Jan Wolkers over zijn liefde voor de natuur
Groeten van Rottumerplaat
Het vroege werk
De kus
Dagboek 1967
Dagboek 1969 - 1971
Dagboek 1972
Dagboek 1974
Dagboek 1976
De walgvogel
Turks fruit
Horrible tango
Terug naar Oegstgeest
De hond met de blauwe tong
Een roos van vlees
Wegens sterfgeval gesloten
Gesponnen suiker
Kort Amerikaans
Serpentina's petticoat
Mattekeesjes of de zielenreiniging van de Nederlandse klamboemaatschappij
Ach, Wim, wat is een vrouw?

elokuu 24, 5:35 am

076. Omtrent Kapelaan, en andere verhalen
Finished reading: 15 August 2023

Omtrent Kapelaan, en andere verhalen is a collection of six short stories by Willem van Toorn. The first story, also the longest, Omtrent Kapelaan is immediately recognizable and captivating, about a teacher who is inspiring while being a rather eccentric person. Other than other teachers, fully original, great with students and a disaster for the school administration, this is the type of story and the type of character that many people enjoy reading (about). However, like some of the longer stories in Pestvogels, Van Toorn cannot maintain the arc of the story, and essentially the story is too long. The story is unsuccessful because other characters and blended in and the story meanders through other ideas, blurring both meaning and intent of the story.

At least until about 20 years ago, short story collections had an overarching theme that connected each of the stories in the collection. This is clear for some of the stories in this collection. The idea to what extent eccentricity is accepted in society, and how much freedom we are allowed can be discerned in several of the stories in this collection, worked out in entirely different stories.


Other books I have read by Willem van Toorn:
Pestvogels en andere verhalen
Leesbaar landschap
Twee dagreizen

elokuu 24, 5:49 am

077. De tewaterlating van een theorie. Herinneringen, reisverhalen & beschouwingen
Finished reading: 15 August 2023

Louis Th. Lehmann (1920 - 2012) is a writer on the fringe of Dutch letters. He wrote poetry, and, mostly, short prose, some of which in the form of fiction, and some essays. Much of his work was written under various pseudonyms. He had very broad interests, as is evident in this small collection of essays about Latin-American music and dance, and travelogues about Latin-America and South-West Germany.

Professionally, Louis Th. Lehmann was internationally renowned as an underwater archaeologist. During the 1960s-70s he published about prehistoric pottery and later about the history of ship archaeology.


Other books I have read by Louis Th. Lehmann:
Tussen Medemblik en Hippolytushoef

elokuu 24, 8:28 am

078. Brieven uit Alvites
Finished reading: 16 August 2023

Brieven uit Alvites is a posthumous publication of letters or prose fragments about Gerrit Komrij's life in Portugal from 1984 to 1988. According to the title, these are letters, but the texts are published without the formatting of letters, such as dates, place and addressee, etc.

Gerrit Komrij was a very productive writer, and having his residence in Portugal meant that he did not often appear in the media for interviews or other personal engagements. In 1990, he published the novel Over de bergen, which describes an unpleasant experience living in Portugal. The title of the book is the name of the mountains, near Komrij's residence.

In 2008, Komrij published Vila Pouca. Kroniek van een dorp. This is not a novel, but a somewhat bland autobiographical description of the village in Portugal where he lived at the time. Komrij lived there from 1988 till his death in 2012.

Brieven uit Alvites should be seen as a companion volume to Vila Pouca. Kroniek van een dorp, and it largely explains the background to the novel Over de bergen. In 1984, Komrij and his partner moved to Portugal taking up residence at a manor in Alvites. They expected to purchase the manor, and the sale was effective, but in the months prior to actually taking possession of the house, the local people turned against them. This is not explained in the book, but the book does mention that the villagers claim that Komrij's behavior had changed after the sale had been concluded. The situation and the whole experience were so upsetting that they decided to leave Alvites and relocate to another place in Portugal, namely Vila Pouca. The novel Over de bergen is the fictional treatment of this disappointment.

As a book, I found Brieven uit Alvites much more readable, and much more pleasant than Vila Pouca. Kroniek van een dorp. It is a very interesting publication because it sheds light on this important part of the life of the author. It would have been nicer to know more precisely whether these texts actually are letters or not. In this sense I find Dutch editors often too invasive or negligent. Otherwise, I would definitely recommend this book.

Source / edition: First edition


Other books I have read by Gerrit Komrij:
Humeuren en temperamenten: een encyclopedie van het gevoel
Over de bergen
Niet te geloven. Een prieelgesprek
De loopjongen
De pagode
Een zakenlunch in Sintra, en andere Portugese verhalen
Vila Pouca. Kroniek van een dorp
De klopgeest
De buitenkant
Verwoest Arcadië

elokuu 24, 8:35 am

079. Leif, mijn lief
Finished reading:

I might have appreciated this book better or justly if it had been put forward as "young adult literature" or 'children's literature'. However, if is is supposed to be regular fiction, it smacks of amateurism and bad taste. Many of the jokes are far-fetched or utterly banal. The writing isn't bad, but the idea is banal and superficial.


elokuu 24, 1:22 pm

080. Niemand op heel Vlieland
Finished reading: 16 August 2023

Niemand op heel Vlieland is a novella by the Dutch writer Vonne van der Meer, published in 2006. Van Der Meer broke through in 1999 with the novel Eilandgasten that was set on one of the Wadden Islands or West-Frisian Islands that are part of the Netherlands.

The novella Niemand op heel Vlieland is also set on one of the West-Frisian Islands, namely on Vlieland. Personally, I found this novella much more interesting than any of the short that form Eilandgasten. Unlike the chapters in the novel, the narrative structure of the novella is self-contained, while the story is centered around a topic and a theme that has gained increasing interest in Western Europe, namely human rights and the story of refugees. The location of the island emphasises the isolation felt by the refugee, while the setting suggests that this issue will eventually effect everyone, a profetic view of our current situation for a novella written 17 years ago.

Source / edition: First edition


Other books I have read by Vonne van der Meer:

elokuu 24, 3:54 pm

>99 edwinbcn: - >137 edwinbcn: I lost track of your thread for a couple of weeks and I’ve missed nearly forty reviews :-)

A lot of interesting stuff there, some I knew about and a lot I didn’t. I should read some more Bernlef. And probably most of the other names you mention. (Maybe not Jan Wolters, though!)

elokuu 27, 11:34 am

>138 thorold:

I was busy with work over the past three months, so I had to catch up on writing reviews during the summer holiday. Actually, I still have 20 to go.

I particularly like Bernlef's early work, and I think he is a little bit better as a novelist than with short stories.

Since I have come back to the Netherlands, I have started reading a lot of Dutch literature. I never read a lot of Dutch literature. At university I read English literature. Only in recent years have I started reading more in Dutch.

I wholly agree you can leave out Wolkers, although, despite my dislike, I will probably just go on with the rest of his work.

elokuu 27, 11:45 am

Having repatriated, coming back to the Netherlands, I read a lot of Dutch literature at the moment.

I have discovered that there are so many thrift stores that sell Dutch books at prices less than 4 euro, and often much less, that I can't stop buying loads and loads of books. The other day I came away from a sale with 34 books. I also regularly pick up free books from mini libraries.

I took about 1200 books with me from China, so I am still well-stocked.

To economize on buying new Dutch books, I have joined a public library, although to meet my needs I had to buy the most expensive subscription at about 90 euro per year.

Unfortunately, the German bookstore, Die weisse Rose, in Amsterdam has closed down, but Amsterdam now has a French bookstore.

I recently found a job as a teacher, so I could apply for a teacher discount at the American Book Center (ABC) in Amsterdam. I had a discount card there as a student in the 1980s.

I am also happy that the Book Exchange on Kloveniersburgwal in Amsterdam is still in business.

Unlike China, where I had very limited choice, I could buy or order any book in Holland, and I really have to set limits. I also found I still really prefer paper books over e-reading.

Muokkaaja: elokuu 27, 1:26 pm

081. The rainbow and the rose
Finished reading: 17 August 2023

When it comes to fiction, readers are willing to accept the most fantastic and supernatural, but this willingness has a lot to do with the genre. We can accept almost anything in Fantasy or Science-Fiction that we could not accept in psychological fiction. This is more or less the case with The rainbow and the rose.

Like many of Nevil Shute's novels The rainbow and the rose is set in the world of aviation. More than other novels, The rainbow and the rose describes a lot of bravoura and daring-do, even to the point where endangering others is discussed by characters in the novel. To see what people are willing to do for others, the true test of friendship and loyalty, are an important theme in the novel. Some of the norms and values in Shute's work are now quite distant to us, and start feeling quaint. Although The rainbow and the rose is one of Shute's final novels, first published in 1958, Shute's moral framework belongs firmy to the 1920s - 40s. Still, unlike much other fiction from that period, the novels of Nevil Shute are still very readable because they are so well-written.

What is a bit difficult about The rainbow and the rose is the jumping perspective. The narrator who for the most part is the main character sees the past through they eyes of another character. When this first happens, the circumstances seem very natural, as the narrator, Ron Clake, is deadly tired and stays the night in the home of the other character, John Pascoe. However, throughout the novel this happens a few more times, really stretching the reader's willingness to go along in this. Toward the end of the novel the narrator even has a moment that by the end of the novel is explained or supposed to have happened around the time Pascoe died. Still all in all this is a powerful and memorable novel.

Source / edition: Vintage Classics


Other books I have read by Nevil Shute:
The chequer board
What happened to the Corbetts
A town like Alice
So disdained
Slide rule. The autobiography of an engineer
Round the bend

elokuu 27, 1:44 pm

082. Passion simple
Finished reading: 19 augustus 2023

Although it would be naive to equal the narrator with the author, the suggestion that the work of Annie Ernaux is autobiographical is strong, and it is interesting to see that the narrators in Passion simple and Le jeune homme respond similarly to comparable situations. In both novels the narrator is attracted to a very selfish lover. While in Passion simple the narrator passionately desires this relationship, in Le jeune homme she is simply surprised and amused.

The writing style of Ernaux is very direct and very close to the skin. Probably since we have either experienced the theme and topic of the novel some time ourselves, or have seen or read it so many times in films, novels or pop songs, the experience in the novel is deeply recognizable to anyone, and the literary style of Ernaux seems to transcend gender, so that you can recognize yourself in her story.

These are the first two shorter works of fiction that I have read by Annie Ernaux and I am really looking forward to reading Les Annees (The years). Her other works also seem to pick up themes which are important to all of us, making for universal literature. Absolutely world-class literature.

Source / edition: Gallimard pocket.


Other books I have read by Annie Ernaux:
Le jeune homme

elokuu 28, 7:55 am

>142 edwinbcn: I agree with your conclusion that Annie Ernaux writes world class literature and that her literary style seems to transcend gender.

syyskuu 23, 7:23 am

083. Ravelstein
Finished reading: 19 August 2023

As noted by other reviewers, the novel Ravelstein consists of a very well-written first part followed by a boring, much less inspiring part. Basically, the second, larger part of the novel is so uninteresting that the reader feels lost, and the novel has little appeal. On the other hand, the first section of the novel reads very pleasantly, and from this part (retrospectively) the reader can glean that the novel is about Allan Bloom. However, in the remainder of the novel references or hints that the book is, or might be based on Bloom are so sparse or so specific, that that remains unclear. In as far as this is relevant to the story, Bloom as the main character of the book is not clear to the general readership.

I have had to read other novels by Bellow twice to understand them, but with the marked difference in quality between the first and second parts in the case of Ravelstein, I may have to read this one again, too.

Source / edition: Penguin Modern Classics


Other books I have read by Saul Bellow:
It all adds up. From the dim past to the uncertain future. A nonfiction collection
Seize the day
The Dean's December

syyskuu 23, 1:19 pm

084. Broer
Finished reading: 21 August 2023

Broer is an interesting novella, in which two families and two characters are juxtaposed and compared. What seems to be lacking in one, is matched by a lack in the other on a different plane. The sister obviously deems her brother deficient, whereas to the reader the brother is the hero in his optimism, his positive life attitude and his empathy, qualities the sister is all lacking. Thus the book is quite a comedy of manners.

The book is also a comment on modern society as exemplified by the lifestyle of the brother and the sister and the way they relate to others, and their views of life and work.


syyskuu 23, 1:49 pm

085. De edelman / Volg je eigen weg
Finished reading: 21 August 2023

Isabelle de Charrière (1740 – 1805), in the Netherlands better known as Belle van Zuylen published her first novella or short novel in 1763. The publication was deemed scandalous so her parents tried to buy up and destroy all copies. In many ways, the small book expresses the rebellious ideas of its author.

The short novel was a satire against the nobility and proposed free marriage. As such it was considered unacceptable.

It is a good thing this early work was re-translated from its original French and made available in a new edition, together with an essay on this work and a long afterword, both reflecting on the significance of this work, and its place in the oevre of its author.


Other books I have read by Isabelle de Charrière:
Rebels en beminnelijk. Brieven van Belle van Zuylen-Madame de Charrière 1740-1805 aan Constant D'Hermenches, James Boswell, Benjamin Constant en anderen 1760-1805

syyskuu 23, 2:01 pm

>140 edwinbcn: Seeing you being faced with far easier access to books now reminds me of when I moved back to the US after years in Germany, back when English language books there were priced at double the cover price and only to be found in a few places. In the US, there were not only used bookstores and charity booksales and libraries, but a thriving book exchange community on-line. It was a lot of fun to have too much choice.

I hope your summer break was good. You certainly got a lot of fine reading in.