Saturday, February 18, 2017

February (third week) 2017 Reads

More short stories, a mystery, a foodie, a writer's journal,

Library books...  

Can't and Won't: Stories by Lydia Davis
I could read Lydia Davis all day.
In fact, I did read Lydia Davis all day.
(Except when there were other things I had to do)
I didn't finish the book today.
I may read Lydia Davis all day tomorrow too.
If this were my book I could read Lydia Davis whenever I wanted.
I finished the book by Lydia Davis.
I should buy a book by Lydia Davis.
I returned the book to the library.

So I went online and read a January 2008 Interview with Lydia Davis

The Risen by Ron Rash (Kindle ed)
An OK read, a swift moving narrative, with some suspense, part mystery, part puzzle. What brothers will do for each other.  All the characters in this book are flawed but they all stay within character.

Slipping: Stories, Essays, & Other Writing by Lauren Beukes
Twenty-one short stories and six essays from a South African writer. Many of the stories are futuristic and/or scifi. In the introductory blurbs Beukes is compared to Stephen King. I don't know about that because I've read very little King. I do know that I liked most of these stories even though several were the sort of thing I don't usually read (giant menacing hair balls, super powers, weapons gadgetry). In both the fiction and essays, Beukes deals with social issues--particularly those dealing with the status of women. This is one of those books that makes me want to read everything else she has written.
Good news--my favorite library has a couple of her novels

Rice, Noodle, Fish: Deep Travels Through Japan's Food Culture
by Matt Goulding
This was interesting reading, but it didn't make me want to go to Japan to experience the upscale food culture. This makes it seem more cultist than culture. The parts I found most interesting were when he talked about the post WW2 changes to the Japanese diet during the American occupation.
I didn't enjoy this book as much as I enjoyed Goulding's Grape, Olive, Pig: Deep Travels Through Spain's Food Culture

The Journals: Volume II: 1966-1990 by John Fowles, Charles Drazin (Editor)
My requests for these journals got filled in backwards order, but I couldn't wait for Volume I (which is still on its way). Fowles is always good reading and this is some of his best writing. He's gossipy at times, very opinionated (and I don't always agree), very human. I liked the background of the various literary and film-making processes. I loved the back scenes of the judging process for the 1971 Booker Prize. But the real meat of this is his reflections on his marriage and his and his wife's bouts of depression. It's amazing that they stayed together, especially when they seemed to be surrounded by the disintegrating marriages of many of their friends.

from my "owned-but-unread" shelf...

The Anger Meridian by Kaylie Jones
Merryn has problems--her husband, Beau, was a philanderer who died in a car wreck leaving his wife and daughter in a financial and social mess. They flee to Mexico where Merryn's mother lives. Merryn tries to rebuild her life, but her mother is an abusive schemer, the FBI shows up with lots of questions about Beau's business dealings, and Merryn's daughter also has some difficult questions. There's plenty here to keep you reading...and it is all told against a backdrop of San Miguel de Allende, one of Mexico's loveliest settings.

Advance review from publisher via  LibraryThing Early Reviewers program.

Gutenberg finds...

London at Night by Frederick Carter
A fun sketchbook from 1914.
Twenty-four London scenes. Love the automobiles in some of these.

A Sketch-Book of R. Caldecott's by Edmund Evans [engraver and printer] and Randolph Caldecott [artist]

Over forty sketches  grouped by seasons of the year. Many in color, they are delightful.

 “Deal Me In 2017!”
This week's story...   Bird man by Kaja Malanowska (in Best European fiction 2015)
A young girl in a Polish village is fascinated by an outcast who lives in a ramshackle hut outside the village with his "deviant" parents. The girl imagines him as a bird.

This week's card: Jack of Spades
This unbelievably obvious selection is from a British artist and student:

Crow Playing Card (Jack of Spades) by JackSephton
His gallery is neat to browse. Cards are just a small part of his work.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

February (second week) 2017 Reads

This week, among other things, I read about printing in Venice, journeying through the Bardo, sailing with Conrad, and a new fictional look at a California institution. There was a little poetry, some short stories, and much less online surfing than usual.  For the Deal Me In 2017 short story challenge, I drew...The King of Clubs.

Why is it that when we have a storm predicted we feel the need to go to the library and stock up on reading material? A dozen shelves of "owned-but-unread" books aren't enough to tide us over for a couple of days? Nope, Wednesday was a massive safari to three libraries...and a used bookshop in one of them.

from my "owned-but-unread" shelf...

The Freedom in American Songs: Stories by Kathleen Winter
An enjoyable collection from a Canadian author. Part 1 is set in Newfoundland, the rest are scattered around Canada and the rest of the world. My copy from a blog win at The Quivering Pen.

Contents: Part 1. The Marianne stories. A plume of white smoke -- The Christmas room -- Every waking moment -- Part 2. The freedom in American songs -- Of the fountain -- You seem a little bit sad -- The Zamboni mechanic's blood -- Anhinga -- Madame Poirer's dog -- Flyaway -- Knives -- His brown face through the flowers -- Handsome devil -- Darlings' kingdom. (My favorites are highlighted.)

The Arbitrary Sign by Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé
Twenty-six short poems from a Singaporean. It has a sort of subtitle "The Most Misunderstood Alphabet Book in the World," so I won't say I understood it. It's difficult to say I've "finished" it, because if I like a poetry collection I keep going back to it and never really finish it. I've been reading this little book for over two years.

Bardo or Not Bardo by Antoine Volodine, J. T. Mahany (Translator)
Nine somewhat related stories of souls wandering in the Bardo--the Tibetan Buddhist after-life sphere. These souls are confused, some not even aware that they are dead, and the living who are speaking to guide them are not always in control. It is both touching and, at times humorous.

Bound in Venice: The Serene Republic and the Dawn of the Book by Alessandro Marzo Magno; Gregory Conti (Translator}
Venice as the center for the early book publishing business, where the Serene Republic was the first in a number of printing and distribution innovations. This is a bit dry at times, but mostly it is an interesting study.

From the library

Monterey Bay by Lindsay Hatton
Not sure what to say about this one. It's a highly fictionalized account of Monterey California, some of its well known characters (marine biologist Ed Ricketts & John Steinbeck), and the eventual founding of the Monterey Bay Aquarium. I enjoyed it as a novel, but is takes a lot of liberties with historical detail. But, then again, Cannery Row and Sweet Thursday aren't exactly true stories either.

Ourika by Claire de Duras; John Fowles (Translator and Foreword); Joan DeJean and Margaret Waller (Introduction)
Originally published in France in 1823, this short novel tells the story of a black woman raised by an aristocratic woman in Paris during the late 1700s.
When Ourika is about fifteen years old, she realizes that there is no place for her in the society she has grown up in. She falls into a deep melancholy.
The introduction gives an interesting account on how the book came to be written, the attitudes toward race on France at the time, and the book's remarkable reception.

Everything I Don’t Remember by Jonas Hassen Khemiri; Rachel Willson-Broyles (Translator)
Memory is strange. In this novel people seem to be remembering their friend Samuel, who died in a car accident. But are their memories true? Samuel claimed he had a terrible memory, but did he understand just how selective memory is? The narrator is a writer interviewing Samuel's friends and family. How does he chose which memories to share? I really enjoyed this book.

Project Gutenberg find... 

The Mirror of the Sea: Memories and Impressions by Joseph Conrad
Musings on the sea, seamen, and ships. Writing worth reading.


No Direction; drama by Miguel Alcantud, Santiago Molero; Sarah Maitland, translator
"...the mysterious call-and-response of a nameless man and the woman who appears to be holding him captive." Mysterious? It's downright puzzling...and re-reading makes it even more of a puzzle.

A Link to the music mentioned in the play Coque Malla - No puedo vivir sin ti (I cannot live without you).

This week's card: 

Since the story is translated from the Spanish, I looked something related to Spain. I found this card designed by Salvador Dali in 1972.

Because the play has a repetitive element, I wanted a reversible face card. I love that this isn't exactly a reverse image.

It's perfect! Surrealism is the right fit for this micro-play.

The Diver by Chris Beakey
A former athlete, suffering from illness, contemplates giving it one more try. Author Chris Beakey (novel Fatal Option to be released 2/21/17) has this and other of his stories freely available on his blog A Heartbeat Away.

Saturday, February 04, 2017

February (first week) 2017 Reads

While there was still a little bit of January left I tried to trim my "owned-but-unread" shelf but too much came in the mail. Actually the shelf now has 409 books which is exactly one less than it had on the First of January.

I read my fifth short story for the  “Deal Me In 2017!” challenge; in fact, I ended up reading the entire collection that contained it. I also picked up a couple of library books, surfed a bit, and started a couple of books.

From the library...

Mister Monkey by

The Tree by


Party Headquarters by Georgi Tenev; Angela Rodel (Translation) 

My copy via a subscription to Open Letter Books.

On the Run with Mary by Jonathan Barrow
Read halfway through...skimmed the rest...not going to spend any more time on this. Overkill, a little bit was kinda amusing (almost), but 100+ pages of shit in the face? No thanks. (The same way I felt about  Paul Beatty’s The Sellout.)

My copy via subscription to New Vessel Press.

Whispers from the Tree of Life by

The Collini Case by Ferdinand von Schirach; Anthea Bell (translator)
An excellent read. The mystery in this crime novel isn't who did it, we know that from the beginning. But, even though he confesses, the murderer refuses to provide a motive. A novice lawyer is assigned to the case as public defender. He is able to discover the motive, but there is a larger question: it has to do with German law, war crimes, and the statute of limitations--all still serious concerns in today's Germany.

My copy from a library book sale

 “Deal Me In 2017!”
This week's story:  Night drive by Rubem Fonseca (The Taker And Other Stories) Clifford E. Landers (Translator)
Once again I unknowingly selected a very short story. It is only two pages but it is complete with an interesting character, some suspense, and a dark surprise. I originally chose it because it is the first story in a collection I own.

Since the story was so short, I read the next story--the title story. It is about a rather vicious killer and I found it extremely unsettling (think American Psycho without the brand names--only this is set in Brazil).

I, somewhat reluctantly, read on thinking "I paid for this book!" The next story, Betsy, about a gentle death was easier to take. In Angels of the Marquees a lonely man tries to help homeless derelicts with dire consequences. In Enemy another lonely man seeks out his old high school buddies. It is both funny and sad. Account of the Incident concerns an accident between a bus and a cow. Pride is about a man who refuses to die because he has a hole in his sock. Notebook is a tale of seduction, with an amusing twist. Eleventh of May is the name of a terminal facility for the aging. In Book of Panegyrics a man becomes a live-in caregiver to a dying man in order to use the place as a hideout, but we don't know exactly what he is hiding from. Trials of a Young Writer is the story of a man more interested in his press image than he is in his writing or his live-in girlfriend. In Other a busy man is harassed on the street by a beggar. Things got (more) violent again in Happy New Year; Dwarf is about an unemployed bank clerk with woman trouble; and Flesh and the Bones didn't make much sense to me.
All in all, it turned out to be a varied collection, most on the dark side, some macabre, some noir, all very readable. I'm not sorry I bought it. I've highlighted the ones that worked best for me.
This is also from my "owned-but-unread" shelf.

This week's card - Nine of Spades is from Oracle - Mystifying Playing Cards created by Chris Ovdiyenko. I found it on their Kickstarter Page  but  the sale of their cards is on Dead on Paper. The Oracle deck seems to be sold out, but they have other interesting decks and also prints, books, and specially designed coins.

I selected this card because it is dark and mysterious like Fonseca's stories.

Continued auditing Modern Japanese Architecture: From Meiji Restoration to Today. This course is from Tokyo Tech.

A suggested reading from the above course:

Kiyonori Kikutake: Structuring the Future by Mark Mulligan
"In the postwar decades, young Japanese architects confronted the challenge of rebuilding the devastated nation. Kikutake was one of the most gifted." Mulligan looks at two of Kiyonori Kikutake's masterpieces: the Izumo Grand Shrine Administration Building and the Hotel Tōkōen.

The Record Company Headquarters that Revived 1950s Hollywood with Iconic Architecture by Alan Hess
Some background on the design and building of the Los Angeles landmark.

Essays from The Destruction of Cultural Heritage project
Artfare: Aesthetic Profiling from Napoléon to Neoliberalism by Kirsten Scheid
The Thing We Love(d): Little Girls, Inanimate Objects, and the Violence of a System by Talinn Grigor
Modernity as Perpetual War or Perpetual Peace? by Esra Akcan
Appendix: A Selection of News Articles on the Destruction of Cultural Heritage in the Middle East by Pamela Karimi

Saturday, January 28, 2017

January (fourth week) 2017 Reads

This week I found time for a little net surfing, some Gutenberg browsing, more MOOC, and some real books too starting with...
                                                ...four goodies from my "owned-but-unread" shelf

The Death of Napoleon by Simon Leys, Patricia Clancy (Translation)
A delightful piece of alternative history as Napoleon escapes from exile in a plan carefully constructed by his loyalists. The plan goes awry and he must make his way alone. Once in Paris, he finds that he has changed so much that he is unrecognizable and he must improvise and try to accept that his days of glory are past.
My personal Copy.


The Story of a Brief Marriage by Anuk Arudpragasam
This compelling story of  love and death among Tamil refugees during the Sri Lankan Civil War is told in a time defying style that makes the reader momentarily forget what a short period of time actually passes. Stunning.
Free copy from publisher through Goodreads First Reads program.

An Amorous Discourse in the Suburbs of Hell by Deborah Levy
A completely different kind of love from the above book. A fun to read she said/he said dramatic poem. Sly, witty, sharp. Something to read and re-read.
My copy from a subscription to & other Stories Publishing.

The Madonna of Notre Dame (Père Kern et Clarie Kauffmann #1) by Alexis Ragougneau, Katherine Gregor (Translation)
There has been a murder in the great cathedral and in its aftermath a great cast of characters is introduced. The suspect, an angelic looking young pervert; Clair, a young deputy magistrate haunted by memory; a bad cop and his good cop colleague; a homeless drunk Pole; and a host more. I'm glad to see this is a series as Père Kern is both engaging and ill so it's good to see that he will have another adventure. The delightful cover is designed by Liana Finck. (See below in Online section for link to interview with her.)
My copy from my subscription to New Vessel Press.

Then a couple of library books...

We Live in Water by

Anything helps -- We live in water -- Thief -- Can a corn -- Virgo -- Helpless little things -- Please -- Don't eat cat -- The new frontier -- The brakes -- The wolf and the wild -- Wheelbarrow kings -- Statistical abstract for my hometown of Spokane, Washington.

Image is table of contents page, not cover
 Grape, Olive, Pig: Deep Travels Through Spain's Food Culture by Matt Goulding
Matt Goulding's Spain barely resembles the Spain I saw in the late 1970's. Yes we saw great sights, ate fine meals, and thoroughly loved the place, but at that time it was not the gourmet paradise described in this book. Then again, only once did we have to have a reservation for a restaurant.

This is a beautiful book filled with pictures and descriptions of foods I will never eat (and a few, very few, that I wouldn't want to eat). What I liked as much as the descriptions of the meals, was the background of the foods, the way they are produced. Goulding is a sort of insider/outsider--a foreign food writer married to a Spaniard--so he has a lot of experiences not available to most tourists. A top notch food appreciation tour. Library book.

A Project Gutenberg discovery

Armenian Legends and Poems
Compiled, illustrated, and translated by Zabelle C. Boyajian.

(Illustration on right: The Wedding)
"It rained showers of gold when Artashes became a bridegroom.
It rained pearls when Satenik became a bride."

This book should keep me busy for a while--Not the sort of thing to read all at once. I confess to be drawn to the illustrated entries, there are about a dozen. Just delightful. Originally published in 1916, the book (with illustrations) is available several places on the Internet--Google the title or author to find.

 “Deal Me In 2017!”  This week's story

Train by Alice Munro (in The Best American Short Stories, 2013; Kindle ed.) First published in Harper's Magazine, April 2012, and included in Dear Life: Stories by Alice Munro. According to my records, I read Dear Life back in December of 2012. However, this story of a Canadian soldier returning from World War 2 jumping off a train before he reached his home stop seemed entirely fresh to me when I read it this week. Maybe I skipped it when I read the collection? Since it was a borrowed book I might not have had time to linger over, or even read, all the stories. Whatever the reason, I'm glad I found it. Now I can linger over it and ponder its meaning since it's in an anthology I own. (I haven't read all the stories in the anthology either since I tend to dip into the Kindle sporadically, mostly when I'm in waiting rooms.)

This week's card for Deal Me In 2017! is the Six of Hearts. This design is from  Jami Goddess Art. I selected it for several reasons:
  1. The elusiveness of Monro's protagonist--his inability to stay settled down--is like the flight of the birds on the card.
  2.  The card appears to be in rough shape like Belle's house was when Jackson first lit there.
  3. I really like Jami's art work. She hasn't posted on her blog recently (the card is from July, 2014) but she also has a Facebook page with more recent posts. Her photo section has a neat chess set among other fun artwork.


Finished auditing two online courses  Visualizing Postwar Tokyo, Part 1, and Visualizing Postwar Tokyo, Part 2. Lecturer: Shunya Yoshimi; Professor, Interfaculty Initiative in Information Studies, The University of Tokyo. A very interesting series. 

Started auditing Modern Japanese Architecture: From Meiji Restoration to Today. This course is from Tokyo Tech.

Interview with Liana Finck  by Rachel Morgenstern-Clarren See The Madonna of Notre Dame, above, for a little sample of Fink's work. See the interview for a discussion and some illustrations from her first book, a graphic novel,  A Bintel BriefI'm happy to see that my library has a copy because the interview makes me want to read it.

Portugal's Unexpectedly Heroic Custard Tarts: The Portuguese have twice turned to the humble pastry to solve economic problems. by Karla Pequenino

Essays from The Destruction of Cultural Heritage project
    Exhibition and Erasure/Art and Politics by Annabel Wharton
    Memento Mauri: The Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba by Michele Lamprakos
    DNA Damage: Violence Against Buildingsby Sussan Babaie
    Iconoclasm beyond Negation: Globalization and Image Production in Mosul by Thomas         Stubblefield

and now for something completely different...
                                                                        ....a couple of videos...
Manabu Himeda’s trippy animation takes us on a colourful car ride

Check out the first Eurovision entry to be performed in Belarusian

Saturday, January 21, 2017

January (third week) 2017 Reads

Not as many entries this week as I had for the previous two weeks because I read one very long (880 page) book, did one MOOC course and half of another, and I finished all the Pushkin material I had on hand.

As much as I liked 4 3 2 1, I felt a real need to read something really different when I finished it. So I went for the delights of a foodie in Spain and a book of short stories. That's how Grape, Olive, Pig: Deep Travels Through Spain's Food Culture by Matt Goulding  and We Live in Water by Jess Walter jumped to the top of my reading stack for next week.


4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster
Superb! All 880 pages. Some of it was painful to read as it covers the unrest of the student and civil rights activities of the 1960's and Auster doesn't pull any punches. The structure of the book--taking one character and giving him four alternate lives to lead worked very well.
Advanced Reader Copy 

More Pushkin: (for a full list of the contents of the volumes I've been working with see my post Pushkin - Contents notes)
From: The works of Alexander Pushkin : lyrics, narrative poems, folk tales, plays, prose; selected and edited, with an introduction, by Avrahm Yarmolinsky.  (Random house, 1936)
   Kirejali (p 590-598) translated by T. Keane
  Folk Tales (p 315-329) The Tale of the Pope and of His Workman Balda, translated by Oliver Elton;  The Tale of the Golden Cockerel, translated by Babette Deutsch
  The Captain's Daughter (p 599-741) translated by Natalie Duddington
  Unfinished Stories p 745-891): The Negro of Peter the Great; Dubrovsky; Egyptian Nights, all three translated by T. Keane
  Boris Godunov (p 333-411) translated by Alfred Hayes
  Introduction  As I often do when reading classics, I read the introduction last. 

The Little Tragedies; by Alexander Pushkin; translated and with introduction and critical essays by Nancy K. Anderson.  (Yale University Press, 2008)
I originally pick this up because I wanted to read A Feast During the Plague which is not included in the Random House edition (above). However, after finishing the entire Random House book, I decided to read more in this volume to see how a different translator worked with the material. The opening essay The Little Tragedies in English: an Approach addresses this question and was an informative discussion. As to the plays themselves, at times I preferred this 2008 translation over Keane's 1936 translation, although in a few places I felt hers was a bit too modern. I'm glad I read both.
Her critical essays really added to my appreciation of the plays. I'm glad I went to the trouble of tracking down a copy of her book.

Auditing another online course Visualizing Japan (1850s-1930s): Westernization, Protest, Modernity 
This one is self-paced and I tried to avoid going too fast, but it was so interesting that I finished it in a week. It is part of a series so I moved on to Visualizing Postwar Tokyo, Part 1. I'm not moving as fast on this one, but I'm finding the material fascinating.

 “Deal Me In 2017!”

This week's story: Fish Spine by Santiago Nazarian
(in The Future Is Not Ours: New Latin American Fiction)
In this story  a young man who helps his parents in the market. tries to wash the smell of fish from his hands before spending an evening with his friends.


This week's card for  “Deal Me In 2017!” is the Ace of Spades. I thought in honor of the story's setting I would try to find a Brazilian card. I found a brief illustrated essay on Playing Cards in Brazil one of their examples is this scenic Ace of Spades made by Azevedo, Recife, Brazil, c.1925.

This is part of a large web site, The World of Playing Cards, which has information on all kinds of cards and card collecting. They also sell cards.

13 of the Most Fascinating Public Sculptures This is from Architectural Digest and I'm not posting a picture--but they really are fascinating!