Tuesday, June 30, 2020

June 2020

 Books in the Time of Quarantine
Durham, Connecticut, June 2020

Even though the state is slowly reopening I continue, because of my age, to self quarantine. It's been warm and humid so I haven't been getting much exercise. Outings have been limited in June. Two for library curbside pickup which I combined with a trip to a farm market. Another was also a produce run combined with a stop at a fish market. Then, on the most comfortable day weather wise, we had a picnic!


Lots of good books this month...

On Lighthouses by Barrera, Jazmina; translated from the Spanish by MacSweeney, Christina - 3 stars
I enjoyed these essays but this didn't give me much that was new to me.

Gathering of Waters by McFadden, Bernice L. - 4 stars
I liked this a lot but not as much as her The Book of Harlan which I read in 2016. I think when interlibrary loan opens up I'll be reading more of her work. I also enjoy following her tweets. 

b, Book, and Me by Kim Sagwa; translated from the Korean by - 4+ stars
A kind of  "almost coming of age story." It's worth a re-read.

Big Machine by LaValle, Victor - 5 stars
The Craft Is All the Same: A Conversation with Victor LaValle; Ayize Jama-Everett interviews Victor LaValle. Another author to add to my list of writers to read.

Conjure Women by Atakora, Afia - 5 stars
A Conversation with Afia Atakora, Author of Conjure Women

Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions (Auntie Poldi #1) by Giordano, Mario; translated from the German  by - 4 stars
Fun, but not sure about following the series...

Sharks in the Time of Saviors by Washburn, Kawai Strong - 5 stars
How Kawai Strong Washburn Opened Up the Legends of Hawaii for Mainlanders author interview with Anderson Tepper (Vanity Fair)

The Man in the Red Coat by Barnes, Julian - 4 stars
Dr Samuel Jean Pozzi was the man in the portrait but this gossipy book is about so much more...

Berkeley Noir edited by Thompson, Jerry -  4 stars
One of the better anthologies in the Akashic Noir series.

Seven Samurai Swept Away in a River by Jung, Young-moon: translated from the Korean by Jung Yewon  - 4 stars
Korean writer Texas culture.


Rayuela by Hugo Passarello Luna
"This is a series of portraits, taken in Paris, of friends and readers of Argentine writer Julio Cortázar to celebrate the 100th anniversary of his birth.

Depicting Writing
This was a double treat: a fine, nicely illustrated essay AND my discovery of The Crews Project! Thanks to The Literary Saloon (29 June 2020 blog) for leading me there.

Whonamedit? - A dictionary of medical eponyms
I found this when I was looking for more information about Dr. Pozzi. (See The Man in the Red Coat in my reading list above.)

New World Writing
I'm finding lots to like at this lit magazine.

A new online site featuring narrative essays.

Breaching the Levee of Rage
A moving piece on taking a knee at a peaceful George Floyd protest/vigil. By David Abrams.

Joie de Vivre in Joyce's Garden
Another private garden tour by Jana Milbocker. This one, in Natick Massachusetts, is especially colorful.

Providence Pedestrian Bridge
A place I want to visit when I'm ready to expand my circle of comfort...

Collecting Guide: Wayne Theibaud
Theibaud turns 100 in November! That calls for cake and ice cream!

Monday, June 01, 2020

May 2020 Reads

Still in "Stay Safe at Home" mode. Read nine books four of which I found engrossing, three were pleasant enough to distract me from the news, and two fall into the "boring but I sort of finished them" category (there was much skimming involved).

Other than the five walks listed below, I left the house only for a curbside pickup of a produce box.

5 stars
The Dreamed Part (Trilogía las partes #2) by Fresán, Rodrigo; translated from the Spanish by
Spiritual Choreographies by Labbé, Carlos; translated from the Spanish by

4 stars
Night School: A Reader for Grownups by Bán, Zsófia; afterword by translated from the Hungarian by Jim Tucker

3+ stars 
The Better Liar by Jones, Tanen

3 stars
Redhead by the Side of the Road by Tyler, Anne
The Sun Down Motel by St. James, Simone

2 (generous) stars
Simon the Fiddler by Jiles, Paulette
New Waves by Nguyen, Kevin

4+ stars
Hell and Other Destinations: A 21st-Century Memoir by Albright, Madeleine K.

Online stuff:

A fun Basketball Shot on Twitter

A lovely Massachusetts garden Boulderwoods: A Celebration of Rhododendrons

Readings from all 15 finalists for the 2020 Best Translated Book Awards! BTBA 2020 Readings
  (This was originally done on Zoom and was my first time using the Zoom App.)

Socially Distanced Out-of-the-House Exercise:
5/2 walked 2.7  miles (neighborhood)
5/5 walked 1.5 miles (Crystal Lake)
5/11 walked 1.2 miles (River Highlands)
5/13 walked 1 mile (Haddam Meadows)
5/19 walked 1 mile (Long Hill Estate) 

Friday, May 01, 2020

April 2020 Reads

Another month of voluntary quarantine. I left the house only 6 times during April, three times for produce (almost all other food is delivered),  once for curbside pick up of a few groceries, once for a short drive, and once for a short walk I must do that more often).

I spent a lot of time online AND I finally managed to concentrate on some reading. I read some good things from my library's Overdrive Collection. I tried to make a dent in my Owned-but-unread pile but I think I added more than I read. I didn't read as much in translation as I usually do.

Here's April's list: 

5 Stars:
Deacon King Kong by McBride, James
 This was so much fun! A real escape from the current news. (Library Overdrive)
Sonnets to Orpheus by Rilke, Rainer Maria; Christiane Marks (Translator)
 I  glad this is my own book because I'll keep going back to it. One never really finishes reading a book of poetry.

4 Stars:
The Mountains Sing by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai 
 (Library Overdrive)
Plainsong (Plainsong, #1) by Haruf, Kent
 my copy
Homesick for Another World by Moshfegh, Ottessa
 (Library hard copy)
In Five Years by Serle, Rebecca
 (Library Overdrive)
The Lost Future of Pepperharrow by Pulley, Natasha
 (Library hard copy)
Mama Hissa's Mice by Alsanousi, Saud; Sawad Hussain (Translator)
 my copy

3 Stars:
Greenwood by Christie, Michael
 (Library Overdrive)
Searching for Sylvie Lee by Kwok, Jean    
 (Library Overdrive)

2+ Stars:
Coastliners by Harris, Joanne
 my copy  

A lot of my online time was spent looking at art, watching YouTube nonsense, playing games, and just wandering about.  Here are a few of the more noteworthy things I found.

Some selections from the Plague Diary of Gonçalo M. Tavares; Translated by Daniel Hahn
Plague Diary: March covers March 24-30
Plague Diary: April covers April 7, 13, 20, 28
Plague Diary: A Week covers March 27, April 1, April 3

A musical diary by clarinetist Ben Goldberg Plague Diary
 Really good listening!

Keukenhof without visitors. Photographs by Albert Dros

Bill Reynolds site is fun to explore. I found his site when I was researching the song "South Coast." His article on the song, titled  The Lion Still Rules The Barranca, is just one of many interesting pieces on Western Americana topics.

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 Realtor.com. Ditto with fine art at Christies and Sothebys. And then lots of games at Pogo.com and Sporcle.com.

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