Thursday, December 31, 2015

December (second half) 2015 Reading

According to Goodreads I more than met my goal of 200 books this year (read 209). Nice, but not too difficult--I do love retirement! The other goals, the challenges, reviews, blog entries, etc. pretty much fell by the wayside. I'm not especially concerned about that. I don't feel compelled to review or otherwise blog about every book I read. But I do try to make some brief comments. When I look back at this blog for March through June of this year, I'm sorry that I didn't say something about all those books. Spring was difficult this year. Sigh.

On to my final reads of the year and a kind of New year resolution: When I really like the cover art, I will try to give the artist credit and a link (if I can find one).

25246901Paris Nocturne; Modiano, Patrick;Phoebe Weston-Evans (Translation) 
After the Circus; Modiano, Patrick; Mark Polizzotti (Translation)
Not going to attempt any mini-review or comment other than it's Modiano and Modiano's Paris, which I love.
Library books.
Left Cover Photo:  Ghislain & Marie David de Lossy/Stockbyte/Getty Images; Right Cover illustration: Paris at Twilight. Getty Images  Mel Curtis

22542595 My Documents; Zambra, Alejandro; Megan McDowell (Translation)
Short stories. I liked most of them. "I Smoked Very Well" is a gem. "Thank You" is a quirky tale about a kidnapping and theft in Mexico City.  The final story was the one I liked least, a good story but the sex element was too graphic. Library book.

Contents: Part 1. My documents -- Part 2. Camilo -- Long distance -- True or false -- Memories of a personal computer -- Part 3. National institute -- I smoked very well -- Part 4. Thank you -- The most Chilean man in the world -- Family life -- Artist's rendition.
An appropriate cover design by Sunra Thompson

 Blue Bamboo: Tales, Dazai Osamu; Dazai, Osamu; Ralph F. McCarthy (Translator)
The stories are good. Many are based on folk tales and other traditional literature--including a retelling/continuation of Rapunzel. My copy, from publisher via a win on Tony Malone's 2013 January in Japan event. It's about time I got around to reading it. Actually I started reading it in August; I often set story collections aside to intersperse with other reading.

Cover: 'Bamboo and chrysanthemum under the moon' by Hara Zaichū (1750–1837); Ota Collection, Fukuoka Art Museum.
Why does it bother me that the cover of a book with "blue" in the title is green? See note under online reading below.


Postcards from the Past; Willett, Marcia
After their respective marriages end, a brother and sister return to their childhood home to a comfortable retirement near friends. Their contentment is disrupted when postcards start arriving from a half-brother they haven't seen or heard from for 50 years. A nice story about good people facing unpleasant memories. There are also some nice dogs and maybe too much description of trivial objects and peripheral characters. Library book.

This charming cover is by Vitali Komarov, a Russian born artist who lives in the Czech republic.

Newport; Morrow, Jill
I didn't get much of a sense of place or time with this. It is set in Newport, Rhode Island during the 1920s but it could have been set in any wealthy enclave at any time. Secrets, seances, sinister siblings, and a few surprises. An OK read. Library book.

Cover has a soft gold sparkle which doesn't show up in the web image.  Photograph by Hungarian photographer Peter Zelei /Getty Images


Infinite Home; Alcott, Kathleen
I had no idea that I wanted to read this book. I picked it up from the library new book shelf the other day and devoured it! Perfect! Well developed characters and elegant writing. I am tempted to end my year with this one, but I picked up several other books that day and....Library book.

Jacket design by Alex Merto

6488280Istanbul Noir (Akashic Noir); by Ziyalan, Mustafa (Editor), Spangler, Amy (Editor)
As with many anthologies some of these stories are better than others, but they all give a sense of place. Of course, because it's noir, the place can be bleak, scary, and downright creepy. I've had this book on my Kindle for over a year, reading it in various waiting rooms. Finally finished it the other day while my car was being serviced. This series is great waiting room stuff--makes the time go quickly. 
Contents: Lust & vengeance. The tongue of the flames / İsmail Güzelosoy; Hitching in the Lodos / Feryal Tilmac; The stepson / Mehmet Bilâl; An extra body / Bariş Müstecaplioğlu; Pushing limits, crossing lines. The smell of fish / Hikmet Hükümenoğlu; All quiet / Jessica Lutz ; Around here, somewhere / Algan Sezgi̇ntüredi; The spirit of philosophical vitriol / Lydia Lunch; In the dark recesses. One among us / Yasemin Aydinoğlu; Black palace / Mustafa Ziyalan; So very familiar / Behçet Çelik; The bloody horn / Inan Çetin; A woman, any woman / Tarkan Barlas; Grief & grievances. Ordinary facts / Riza Kiraç; Burn and go / Sadik Yemni; the hand / Müge İplikçi.
Cover Photo: Deniz Oğurlu Other Daughter; Willig, Lauren
Rachel, a young Englishwoman, is trying to make ends meet as a governess in France. Called home when her mother dies, Rachael discovers that she is not who she thought she was. She takes up a disguise in order to meet the man who she believes deserted her and her mother. Everything backfires but, of course, it all works out in the end. A pleasant, undemanding diversion with some interesting twists. A little bit better than the other book I read by this author (That Summer). Library book

23341590 Day Four (The Three #2); Lotz, Sarah 
I liked this, but not as much as I liked The Three. The cruise setting was great for a horror story (almost as good as the Ikea-like setting for  Horrorstör).  This is more a paranormal/disaster story than it is horror, but the whole genre thing is a mishmash of definitions. Another novel set on a drifting, lost ship is George Barr McCutcheon's West Wind Drift (1920, available on Project Gutenberg). A very different kind of story, but there are a few parallels--enough to make me think of it whilst reading this one.

Library book. 

didn't get cover info

 Non Fiction

Schubert's Winter Journey: Anatomy of an Obsession; Bostridge, Ian
This is an amazing discussion of a Schubert song cycle, about the meaning of the words (by Wilhelm Müller), the music, and the Romantic movement.
Library book.
25733877Jacket design is by Peter Mendelsund -my favorite cover designer.

Building Art: The Life and Work of Frank Gehry; Goldberger, Paul
Interesting, but not critical either of Gehry's life or his work. Author is a friend of Gehry.
Library book.

Cover:  Photograph by Lionel Bonaventure/AFP/Getty; Drawings by Frank Gehry early sketch of Walt Disney Concert Hall; Cover design by Peter Mendelsund

Online reading 

The next two were read in conjunction with reading The Art of Flight by Sergio Pitol (George Henson Translator), which has a critical essay, "The Great Theater of the World," discussing the Galdós novel. The next essay is on Chekhov, it may take me a while to finish this book--one thing leads to another.

The Court of Charles IV: A Romance of the Escorial; Pérez Galdós, Benito; Clara Bell (translation).
Read online at the Internet Archive

The Young Lady's Consent  Translator/Author: Christopher O. Kidder; Publication: University of New Orleans Theses and Dissertations a translation of El sí de las niñasis a play by the Spanish playwright Leandro Fernández de Moratín.This translation is the only one I could find. It has problems, but at least it gave me an idea of what Pitol and Galdós are talking about.

From the BBC a fascinating piece on archaeology in the Orkney islands:  Were These Remote Wild Islands the Centre of Everything? Illustrated with beautiful photographs. Makes me want to go there.

My question about the cover of Blue Bamboo led me to this Wikipedia entry:  Distinction of blue and green in various languages

Arabic Literature (in English) offers links to some poetry in translation: 
A Holiday Gift: Ten Poems from Iman Mersal 

Stories from post World War II japan always interest me. Here from From The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus  is Muddy River by Miyamoto Teru; Translated and with an introduction by Andrew Murakami-Smith. This story won the Dazai Osamu (s Blue Bamboo, above) literary award in 1977. It is set in Osaka in the 1950s. The 1981 film Doro no kawa (Muddy River), directed by Oguri Kōhei, is based on it. There is a discussion of the film (illustrated with stills) on Cinema Talk. I'd like to watch this film, but it doesn't seem to be available with English sub-titles. It is on YouTube in Japanese. There are sub-titles available separately online, but coordinating them with a video is not ideal.

 New (to me) words:  
kintsuba: a regional name for a sweet treat made of a batter and filled with sweet bean past (or other sweet filling). More general term: Imagawayaki.
ragworms:  Nereididae, a family of polychaete worms, about 500 (mostly marine) species. They may be commonly called ragworms or clam worms. Used as bait.

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