Friday, December 30, 2016

December (second half) 2016 Reads

I  read a few things Christmasy which I note in a separate post: Christmas Reading.

I continue to work on my owned-but-unread stack but I also added to it with some nice Christmas gifts (I've already started the first three.):
Girlfriends, Ghosts, and Other Stories; Robert Walser, Tom Whalen (Translator)
Long Belts and Thin Men: The Postwar Stories of Kojima Nobuo; Nobuo Kojima, Lawrence Rogers (Translation)
Estuary: Out from London to the Sea; Rachel Lichtenstein
The Naked Eye; Yōko Tawada, Susan Bernofsky (Translator)    
Africa39: New Writing from Africa South of the Sahara; Ellah Wakatama Allfrey (Preface), Wole Soyinka (Editor)

Also received a couple of ARCs and some subscription books. So the following reads didn't make much a dent--but still, only one library book.

A Greater Music by Bae Suah, Deborah Smith (Translator)
In the wandering of memories time has no real meaning and this is a novel of memories. It's difficult to follow the sequence of events as the narrator, a young Korean novelist, house sits in Berlin for her sometime boyfriend and recalls her relationship with the mysterious M--a woman who was her German tutor and lover. The writing is eloquent, especially when she thinks about music. I look forward to reading more by this author. My copy from a subscription to Open Letter Books; which will be publishing another Bae Suah book next fall. (Deep Vellum also has a Bae Suah book coming in the spring of 2017)

A Rogue by Compulsion by Victor Bridges
A classic spy story (and a good read) first published in 1915. Set mostly in London and the Thames Estuary although it starts out in Dartmoor Prison. Available free from Project Gutenberg, Amazon and others. 

Calligraphy Lesson: The Collected Stories by Mikhail Shishkin, Marian Schwartz (Translation), Leo Shtutin (Translation), Mariya Bashkatova (Translation), Sylvia Maizell (Translation)
This collection includes both fiction and essays. Shishkin talks about writing in exile, the inadequacies of language, and the impossibility of translation. Some of the material is memoir about growing up in the "slave state" that was the USSR. My copy via subscription to Deep Vellum press.  
Contents:  The half-belt overcoat / translated by Leo Shtutin -- Calligraphy lesson / translated by Marian Schwartz -- The blind musician / translated by Marian Schwartz -- Language saved / translated by Marian Schwartz -- Nabokov's inkblot / translated by Mariya Bashkatova -- Of saucepans and star-showers / translated by Leo Shtutin -- The bell towers of San Marco / translated by Sylvia Maizell -- In a boat scratched on a wall / translated by Marian Schwartz.

The Secrets of Flight  by Maggie Leffler
Secrets and lies are revealed as an eighty-seven year old women and a fifteen year old girl forge a friendship. They meet in a writers group and the young girl agrees to help the woman write a memoir about her time as a pilot during World War 2. I like the smooth way the narration moves between present events and the memories of the past. There are some surprises and some not-so-surprising revelations. As the older woman tries to unburden herself of what she once felt were necessary lies, the younger is getting caught up in her own "necessary" lies. An interesting cross generation story with perhaps one too many twists, but a nice read.  Advance review copy courtesy of the publisher.

Things We Lost in the Fire: Stories by Mariana Enríquez (translated from the Spanish - by the author?)
Superb collection of eerie short stories, some are frightening -bordering on  horror. Domestic violence, hallucinations, ghosts, serial killers, etc. Not for the faint of heart. Wonderfully creepy. Terrific writing. Free advance reader copy (EPUB) from Penguin First to Read program.

Contents: The dirty kid - The inn -The intoxicated years - Adela's house - Spider web - End of term - No flesh over our bones - The neighbor's courtyard - Under the black water - Green red orange.

A Barcelona Heiress by Sergio Vila-Sanjuán; (translated from the Spanish, no translator credit given)
A sometimes confusing novel set in a confusing time just before the Spanish Civil War. Billed as "A historical detective story set against the social and political tumult of 1920s Barcelona and based on the real events...," it is more historical than detective. It's also very difficult to follow, but it does shed some light on Spanish history. Title and cover are a bit misleading--it's really more about the lawyer/journalist narrator than it is about his heiress friend.

The Cossacks by Leo Tolstoy; Louise Maude (Translator), Aylmer Maude (Translator)
To escape boredom (and his debts) a young Russian enlists as a cadet and secures a post in the Caucasus. He lodges with a village family and attempts to "go native and live the simple life." Wonderful descriptions of village life. An enjoyable read.  Library book.

Abandoned: Three Short Stories by Jim Heskett
Sex and drugs in two of these, but the middle one is different. Heskett writes noir mysteries and thrillers. I'm not sure I would want to read a full length novel by him, but the short stories are OK.
From my Kindle freebie collection.

Contents: To Build a Helicopter; The Meanings of Words; Shots and Strippers

Number Six, Drama by José Ignacio Valenzuela; Translated from the Spanish by Aurora Lauzardo, Sofía García Deliz, and Edil Ramos Pagán.
In this micro-play a distrustful woman debates whether she ought to allow a stranger into her home. 

Carmen Boullosa: Raising Consciousness
The poet, novelist, and playwright is interviewed by Aaron Bady for Guernica magazine.

Human Hair, Dolls Clothes, Love Letters and Other Strange Things Found in Old Books
UVA's Book Traces Project tracks human interactions with physical books  By Emily Temple

For other stuff found in old books see used bookseller Michael Popek's blog Forgotten Bookmarks
Fun to browse, posts are nicely categorized by type of object.

The empire the world forgot text and photos by Joseph Flaherty
"Ruled by a dizzying array of kingdoms and empires over the centuries...the city of Ani once housed many thousands of people, becoming a cultural hub and regional power under the medieval Bagratid Armenian dynasty. Today, it’s an eerie, abandoned city of ghosts that stands alone on a plateau in the remote highlands of northeast Turkey...." Brief article with spectacular photographs of this city that was featured in the history of architecture class I took online.

Isthmus by Brian Davis, Rob Holmes & Brett Milligan
"The shockwave of Panama Canal expansion is reshaping cities throughout the Americas. We need to look through the lens of landscape, not logistics." The far reaching economic, ecological, and cultural effects of the expansion. For example: United States ports are expanding their facilities to accommodate post-Panamax shipping. [Map by the authors]

Architecture's "Political Compass": A Taxonomy of Emerging Architecture in One Diagram
by Alejandro Zaera-Polo & Guillermo Fernandez Abascal
It's a complicated -but interesting- diagram and the explanation of how and why they did it gives some insight into current trends in architecture.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas Reading

Some seasonal things I read this week

A Very Russian Christmas: The Greatest Russian Holiday Stories of All Time
These are great stories, but don't expect jolly old St. Nick type cheer. Many are gloomy and tragic. In other words, they are very Russian stories.

Contents: New Year's tree / Mikhail Zoshchenko - Boys / Anton Chekhov - Christmas tree and a wedding / Fyodor Dostoevsky - At Christmastide / Anton Chekhov - Dream of the young tsar / Lev Tolstoy - Makar's dream / Vladimir Korolenko - Woman's kingdom / Anton Chekhov - Distant Christmas eve / Klaudia Lukashevich - Little boy at Christ's Christmas tree / Fyodor Dostoevsky - Christmas phantoms / Maxim Gorky - Lifeless animal / Teffi -- My last Christmas / Mikhail Zoshchenko.A Very Russian Christmas: The Greatest Russian Holiday Stories of All Time

Old Christmas From the Sketch Book of Washington Irving by Washington Irving; Illustrated by R[andolph] Caldecott
An American traveler spends Christmas at an English country estate where the Squire tries to maintain the old customs. First written around 1820, but this is the 5th edition; 1886. It has the following note: "Before the remembrance of the good old times, so fast passing, should have entirely passed away, the present artist, R. Caldecott, and engraver, James D. Cooper, planned to illustrate Washington Irving's "Old Christmas" in this manner. Their primary idea was to carry out the principle of the Sketch Book, by incorporating the designs with the text. Throughout they have worked together and con amore. With what success the public must decide. November 1875."

The illustrations are delightful.

An Old Fashioned Christmas Day by Washington Irving; Illustrated by Cecil Aldin
This is also from the Sketch Book of Washington Irving, but it only covers one day. Aldin's illustrations are in color and present a different look, but are also delightful. On Gutenberg.

I enjoyed reading both on Christmas Night after my much less elaborate holiday.  And I also sort of read....

König Nußknacker und der arme Reinhold, by Heinrich Hoffman. Another beautifully illustrated book on Project Gutenberg. I didn't really read this--that will take a lot of work as it is in German, but from what I gather it is a moralistic tale. I shall work a bit with it when I'm not as tired as I am tonight. The pictures inside are much better than the cover.


A Defective Santa Claus James Whitcomb Riley; Illustrated by  C. M. Relyea and Will Vawter
A poem in which Santa has an accident, but the adults still manage to keep his secret.

Happy New Year to All and to All a Good Night!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

December (first half) 2016 Reads

Some really good reading both in books and online.

The Journey by Sergio Pitol, George Henson (Translation)
Pitol's musings on visiting Russia and Georgia in 1986. Marvelously informative and amusing. And, as with my previous Pitol reading, it had me Googling to find more about the people and places he discusses. (See my post More Pitol readings )
My copy via my subscription to Deep Vellum Books.

THE INSPECTOR-GENERAL: A comedy in five acts By Nicolay Gogol; Translated by Thomas Seltzer.  A classic comedy of mistaken identity, corruption, pomposity, and other social nonsense. I was inspired to read because of the Pitol book. On Project Gutenberg

The Orphan's Tale by Pam Jenoff
Another WW2 novel--this one follows two female aerialists performing in a German circus in occupied France. One is a German Jew being hidden and protected by the circus. The other is a young Dutch woman who is caring for a Jewish baby she rescued. Well told story of a developing friendship, difficult choices, suspense, loss, and a kind of redemption.
Advance review copy.

My Wish List  by Grégoire Delacourt, Anthea Bell (Translation)
What would you do if you won the lottery? Would you change your life or not?  Jocelyne wins and doesn't know what to do so for a time she does nothing. But then.... A quick, light read which I enjoyed. My copy.

The Prophet of Zongo Street: Stories by Mohammed Naseehu Ali
Nice collection. Some are set in Ghana. Others are about Ghanaian immigrants in New York. All are filled with interesting characters, a bit of whimsy, superstition, and mischief. (warning some people might be put off by the sex in a couple of these)
Contents: The story of day and night; The prophet of Zongo Street; Live-in; The manhood test; The true Aryan; Ward G-4; Rachmaninov; Mallam Sile; Faith; Man pass man.
My copy was a library sale find--for 10 cents.A great buy.

If Venice Dies by Salvatore Settis, André Naffis-Sahely (Translation)
Excellent examination of a number of issues facing the future of the historic city of Venice (and by extension other historic cities in the rest of Italy and the world). Tourism, declining population, political graft, corporate irresponsibility, and lack of architectural ethics are among the issues discussed. Settis also speaks on what it means to be a city. My copy through a subscription to New Vessel Press. 

Finished the excellent online architectural history course which I started in October (see my post of October 15,2016).  I am so glad I signed up for the class. Among other things, it greatly enhanced my reading of  If Venice Dies.

Keeping the Foreign in Translated Literature: a Dispatch from the Oklahoma Prairie by George Henson

Hemingway vs. Ken Russell: Or Why You Should Compare Apples to Oranges  by Noah Berlatsky "...the differences and similarities lead you to ideas, and aesthetic perspectives, you might not have had otherwise."

Here's What Western Accounts of the Kowloon Walled City Don't Tell You  by Sharon Lam.
Population density in Hong Kong.

AD Classics: Royal Basilica of Saint-Denis / Abbot Suger  by Luke Fiederer
This went along quite nicely with one of the recent lectures in the online course I'm taking: A Global History of Architecture.

Concrete clickbait: next time you share a spomenik photo, think about what it means; Text by Owen Hatherley; Images by Jan Kempenaer.
A discussion of the strange World War Two monuments found in areas of the former Yugoslavia.

and end on a sweet? note...
A Perfume that Smells Like Poop?  By Bill Gates.  All in the name of research... 

Sunday, December 04, 2016

More Pitol readings

Here are a few of the things that caught my interest as I read The Journey by Sergio Pitol (George Henson, Translation), with a few notes. (See my blog post Pitol readings for other readings inspired by Pitol.)

THE INSPECTOR-GENERAL: A comedy in five acts By Nicolay Gogol; Translated by Thomas Seltzer. On Project Gutenberg
(Also translated as The Government Inspector)
Pitol attended, and enjoyed, a performance of this play. I had heard of it before but had never seen it or read it.

Marina Tsvetaeva: Twenty-Four Poems Translated by A. S. Kline
The Best of Marina Tsvetayeva Translated by Ilya Shambat
Pitol has a great deal to say about this Russian poet. I'm not sure about the quality of the translations on these sites--will look for more.

Svetitskhoveli Cathedral Wikipedia article

Mtskheta, Georgia The cathedral and other places Pitol mentions from a sightseeing trip to the old capital of Georgia (p 137-). (Photograph is from this link)

The Caucasus in Russian Literary Imagination: Pushkin, Lermontov and Tolstoy (part I)(Also connects to part II) This sent me to my library's database to place holds on a few books....Pushkin's poems, and a Tolstoy novel.


Niko Pirosmani: Short Biographical Information. Biography and several examples of the Georgian primitive painter's work.

220 Works of Pirosmani
With brief biography

I look forward to Deep Vellum's next Pitol publication of  The Magician of Vienna - the final part of Pitol’s Trilogy of Memory.  It's due to be published in February 2017. I wonder where it will lead me?