Wednesday, April 01, 2020

March 2020 Reading & Other Things

I've been reading a lot but not finishing much.

Practicing Social Distancing (which I started before the governor started closing things) should give me more time to read but, as also reported by many others, I'm having my attention span problems. I am rotating through two books of poetry, some books of short stories, and several novels. I seem to be better with finishing biographies and nonfiction than fiction. No duds in what I finished but it's hard to rate anything. In reviewing the list, with the exception of Elderhood, I see lots of escapism.

Self imposed distancing log (thank goodness I'm not totally alone, my daughter lives with me):
Tuesday March 3: last Mahjong game
Friday March 6: last water exercise class (gov closed gyms on March 16)
Sat March 7: last time in a store
Thursday March 12: last library trip (library closed March 15; closed curbside pickup & book drop on March 21)
March 26: A walk in the woods & a trip to Aldi (I stayed in the car while my daughter shopped)
March 29: Short drive around the neighborhood to make sure the car would start.
Other than these activities I've walked around the yard, done a very small bit of weeding (ugh!) and taken some pictures of spring flowers.

What I finished reading:
Night Boat to Tangier by Barry, Kevin

Lady in Waiting: My Extraordinary Life in the Shadow of the Crown by Glenconner, Anne
My Penguin Year: Life Among the Emperors by McCrae, Lindsay
A Bookshop in Berlin: The Rediscovered Memoir of One Woman's Harrowing Escape from the Nazis by  Frenkel, Françoise
If These Walls Could Talk: Boston Red Sox by Remy, Jerry

Elderhood: Redefining Aging, Transforming Medicine, Reimagining Life by Aronson, Louise

Online: I've been online a lot. Besides the news, I've looked at a lot of pictorial stuff  for example:

A Solitary Stroll: Paris Under the Lens of Erieta Attali 

From the inside out — 10 scenes from the artist’s window

Other stuff:
Although I'm not in the market for real estate I've spent a lot of time on Zillow and Ditto with fine art at Christies and Sothebys. And then lots of games at and

Saturday, February 29, 2020

February 2020 Reading

I'm feeling lazy on Leap Day so I'm not sorting these much. The books are grouped somewhat in the order of my reading satisfaction with the three duds at the bottom. (I'm not mentioning the two I returned to the library unread.)

The Neighborhood by Tavares, Gonçalo M.  This sent me Googling to refresh my memory of the authors I already knew and learning (see below) a lot about one who was new to me.

Jerusalem by Tavares, Gonçalo M.This Brilliant Darkness: A Book of Strangers by Sharlet, Jeff
Death in Her Hands by Moshfegh, Ottessa  I went to the library and checked out two more books by her
American Fictionary by Ugrešić, Dubravka
A Registry of My Passage upon the Earth: Stories by Mason, Daniel

Run Me to Earth by Yoon, Paul

The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II by Kiernan, Denise
Born to Be Posthumous: The Eccentric Life and Mysterious Genius of Edward Gorey by Dery, Mark
Condé Nast: The Man and His Empire -- A Biography by Ronald, Susan

A Long Petal of the Sea by Allende, Isabel
Blue Flowers by Saavedra, Carola

Naked Earth by Chang, Eileen (books like this are what made me drop my NYRB subscription)

House of Trelawney by Rothschild, Hannah
Creatures by Van Meter, Crissy
Physical Intelligence: How the Brain Guides the Body Through the Physical World by Grafton, Scott.  Disappointing. too much of the author's personal experience--too much "I...."

Online reading (including Gutenberg finds):

Five Poems by Henri Michaux, translated from the French by George Dillon
    Response in Unhappiness
    A Girl of Budapest
    On the Road to Death
    But You, When Will You Come?

Ma Vie
   In the original French with a  translation into English by Valerie Smith and James Bushnik

Un homme paisible
   In the original French with a translation into English by Pier Morton

More of Pier Morton's translations of Michaux: Les Nuits de Michaux’s Nights
  This includes several pieces, plus commentary by Morton, several photographs, an audio recording of the poem Le Grand Combat (in French, there is an English text provided), some short videos (one, in German, is a tour of an exhibition of Michaux's art*), a biography, and other material.
 *Henri Michaux (7. September – 24. November 2013) Kunst Museum Winterthur | Beim Stadthaus

The Tate has a couple of Michaux artworks online plus a delightful portrait of Michaux by Jean Dubuffet: Monsieur Plume with Creases in his Trousers (Portrait of Henri Michaux) (1947)

MoMA has twenty Michaux works online.

In August 2001 The Guardian published Journeys into the abyss
  "Can hallucinogenic drugs lead to profound spiritual experiences? In an article published for the first time in the UK, the Nobel prizewinner Octavio Paz reflects on experiments with mescaline undertaken in the 1950s by the French poet and artist Henri Michau." 
  "This is an edited extract from Octavio Paz's 1967 introduction to the Miserable Miracle by Henri Michaux [translated by Helen R Lane] published in a new edition this month by New York Review Books" 
One thing leads to another. a search for "Michaux" on Gutenberg brought something totally unrelated (except a shared surname).

The Cruise of the Catalpa  by John J. Breslin

Trees You Want to Know by Peattie, Donald Culross

The Most Audacious Australian Prison Break of 1876 by Gilbert King

Generations of Handwritten Mexican Cookbooks Are Now Online, by Nils Bernstein led us to take a closer look at the source material: UTSA Libraries: Mexican Cookbooks

Cold Remedies Before the Modern Era: The Posset by Lauren Gilbert

Friday, January 31, 2020

January 2020 Reading

I kept going back and forth on the star ratings for the seven novels.... They all seem to fall in the three,  three and a half, to four star range. I enjoyed them while I read them, but they didn't stay with me. Listed loosely in the order of what I liked best to what I liked least.


The Man Who Couldn't Die: The Tale of an Authentic Human Being by Slavnikova, Olga; translated from the Russian by Schwartz, Marian; Introduction by Leiderman, Mark
Little Gods by Jin, Meng
Honey, I Killed The Cats by Masłowska, Dorota
The Playground by Shemilt, Jane
Broken Man on a Halifax Pier by Choyce, Lesley  
All the Winters After by Halverson, Seré Prince
The Stationery Shop by Kamali, Marjan

Decals: Complete Early Poems by Girondo, Oliverio; translated from the Spanish by Galvin, Rachael and Feinsod, Harris.
 This is the only January read that I gave five stars.

Not a bad bunch, but all were flawed in one way or another...
How Buildings Learn: What Happens After They're Built by Brand, Stewart
  best of the nonfiction bunch
Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Larson, Erik  
  too much stuff about President Wilson's private life

Underland by Macfarlane, Robert
  too many expeditions, too much "I"

Before and After: The Incredible Real-Life Stories of Orphans Who Survived the Tennessee Children's Home Society by Christie, Judy
  to much about the authors, really not a book length story here.

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

December 2019 Reading

A mixed bag for December. Sometimes it takes me a while to come down from a really great book like Dicks Newburyport (which I read in November). So perhaps some of these ratings are a little too harsh (especially the Ali Smith Seasonals). Unless otherwise noted, these were all from the public library.

The Innocents by Crummey, Michael  5 of 5 stars    
Iza's Ballad by Szabó, Magda; translated from the Hungarian by Szirtes, George 5 stars
 My copy, a nice gift from my daughter
Invented Lives by Goldsmith, Andrea 4 stars   
 Advance review copy from LibraryThing giveaway
The Revisioners by Sexton, Margaret Wilkerson  4  stars
The Z Murders by Farjeon, J. Jefferson  2+ stars
 Advance review copy from Poisened Pen Press Not as good as others I've read in the British Library Crime Classic series.
The German House by Hess, Annette; translated from the German by Lauffer, Elisabeth 3 stars

Autumn (Seasonal, #1) by  Smith, Ali 4  stars
Winter (Seasonal, #2) by Smith, Ali  3+ stars    
Spring (Seasonal #3) by Smith Ali 3+  stars

Short Story Collections:
Joytime Killbox by Wood, Brian W. 5  stars
 my personal copy purchasd from publisher
Flowers of Mold by Seong-nan, Ha; translated from the Korean by Hong, Janet 5 stars
 my copy, purchased from publisher
Public Library and Other Stories by Smith, Ali 2 stars
Sudden Traveler: Stories by Hall, Sarah 1 star
  advance review copy from LibraryThing. 

The Kindness of Strangers by Viertel, Salka 4+ stars
 Informative without being too gossipy -- amazing considering she knew everybody.
This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession by Levitin, Daniel J.  3+ stars
  Lots of neuroscience here and a very educational read. Interesting to read about the various approaches in research. As for the music: this neither increased nor decreased my appreciation of music. Nor did it fundamentally change the way I listen to and think about music. For me this was a brain appreciation exercise.
Salt & Straw Ice Cream Cookbook by Malek, Tyler 4 stars
 If I ever decide to make ice cream again, this is the book for me.
Wild about Weeds: Garden Design with Rebel Plants by Wallington, Jack 3 +  stars
 Nice reading, pretty pictures. However, it seems to me that when you purposely design weeds into a garden plan you're going to work as hard maintaining them as you would work trying to get rid of them. But I'm not a gardener--I just have a "lawn" of mown weeds and "flower beds" of whatever comes up--if I like it, it stays; if not, zap!

For children:
The Land of Lost Toys by Juliana Horatia Gatty Ewing;  Little, Brown, and Company, 1900. on Project Gutenberg

Partially read (on Project Gutenberg): Our National Parks by John Muir
I read only one chapter, but I enjoyed it so I may read more.
Among the Animals of the Yosemite
A Cinnamon Bear.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

November 2019 Reading

Ducks, Newburyport
Some really great reading this month! And all, except the astronomy one, were from public libraries.

Ducks, Newburyport by Ellmann, Lucy 5+ stars
This would be at the top of my "Best of 2019 List" if I made such lists. Fun discussions on the Two Month Review podcast. I had to read ahead of the group because the library wants it back.

Five Stars:
Olive, Again by Strout, Elizabeth
Olive Kitterage: do you love to hate her? or is it the other way around?
The Parisian by Hammad, Isabella
Shedding light on Palistine between the two world wars...
The Man Who Saw Everything by Levy, Deborah 

Four Stars:
10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World by Shafak, Elif
What it's like to live on the fringe in Turkey.  (would have another star except for the slapstickish bit toward the end)
It Would Be Night in Caracas by Sainz Borgo, Karina; translated from the Spanish by Elizabeth Bryer

Three Stars:
The Confession Club (Mason, #3) by Berg, Elizabeth
I needed something like this to break the intensity of Ducks and this worked but it's just a little too sweet.

Two Stars:
Agent Running in the Field by le Carré, John
So what does a Cold War specialist do when the Cold War is gone? He creates a has been spy who is just as confused and uncertain in his loyalties. He's like an athlete who plays one match too many before retiring.
The Girl Who Reads on the Métro by Féret-Fleury, Christine; translated from the French by Roz Schwartz.
Maybe this should have been titled "The girl who pretended to read on the train and got into a mess."

The Movie Musical! by Basinger, Jeanine
Loved this film history. Give it 5*
The Yellow House by Broom, Sarah M.
Memoir of a family displacement from Hurricane Katrina. 4*
Starlight Detectives: How Astronomers, Inventors, and Eccentrics Discovered the Modern Universe by Hirshfeld, Alan W. 4*
Much of the technical detail was a bit over my head (not sorry for the pun) but I enjoyed the historical overview and the biographical information. Free finished copy from Publisher as an extra from a LibraryThing giveaway. 


The day the Crystal Lake dam breached by Jordan Fenster
A bit of local history.

The world's oldest-known recipes decoded by Ashley Winchester
 When I was reading the list of ingredients for one of the recipes I came across  "1 c rocket, chopped." I've often come across "rocket" in my reading and realized from content that it was some sort of green. I never bothered to look it up but this time I did and found out that it is Arugula, or, Eruca vesicaria.  

On Project Gutenberg...

The Book Of The Bayeux Tapestry: Presenting the Complete Work in a Series Of Colour Facsimiles; The Introduction & Narrative by Hilaire Belloc; Chatto & Windus; 1914

The Cubies' ABC by Mary Chase Mills Lyall; illustrated Earl Harvey Lyall, 1913, Putnam
This send-up of the Cubists was a response to the Armory Show which introduced the movement to the USA. Here's a sample (original spacing & size not retained):
 ’s for Kandinsky’s Kute “improvisations”—
The Kubies abound in delight for his art:
They say there’s a Klue to his Kryptic Kreations.
By means of Picabia’s deep ratiocinations
Some day we may really decipher his heart.
—K’s for Kandinsky’s Kute “improvisations.”