Monday, February 29, 2016

Febuary (second half) 2016 Reads

More great reading, lots of translations, some humor, and finally finished (for now) one that I've been working on since last Spring.

The Art of Flight;  Pitol, Sergio; Enrique Vila-Matas (Introduction), George Henson (Translator)

I finally finished this. I started reading it last March, but it kept leading me to other books. To follow where it took me please see Pitol Readings.


Caterva; Filloy, Juan; Brendan Riley (Translator)
23399329This is a fantastic book! What a shame that so little of Filloy's work is available in English. Library book.

Dora Bruder ; Modiano, Patrick; Joanna Kilmartin (Translator)
Modiano has a number of different translators, but his distinctive voice always comes through. Amazing. My copy.

So You Don't Get Lost in the Neighborhood; Modiano, Patrick; Euan Cameron (Translator)
Another fine Modiano. This could stand alone, but I think it makes more sense if read after some of his other works. Library book.

Letter from Casablanca; Tabucchi, Antonio; Janice M. Thresher (Translator)
Somewhat puzzling short stories. Most of them deal with memories of and reactions to traumatic family tragedies. The puzzle is that the reader isn't told exactly what the tragedy was. It's left to the imagination so every reader (and every reading) can find a different answer.Library book, one I wish I owned.

This cover goes quite nicely with the title story.


The New Sorrows of Young W.; Plenzdorf, Ulrich; Romy Fursland (Translator)
Maybe I would have liked this more if I were younger, or if I remembered The Sorrows of Young Werther which I read a thousand years ago, or if I liked The Catcher in the Rye. It's well written, a cult classic in Europe, and I did like it but it doesn't inspire me to re-read forgotten books. Library book.

The cover fits the book nicely.

Be Frank With Me; Johnson, Julia Claiborne
Light and fun. Some strange characters--a reclusive author, her precocious ten year old son,  a "friend" who comes and goes erratically, a sensible aide (the somewhat [maybe] reliable narrator)--and some probable and improbable situations. All believable because it is set in LaLa Land. Library book.

Great cover: design by Kaitlyn Vincent; illustration by Olia Fedorovsky

There Once Lived a Mother Who Loved Her Children, Until They Moved Back In: Three Novellas About Family ; Petrushevskaya,Ludmilla; Anna Summers (Introduction and Translation)

The subtitle pretty much says it all--except these are families in the Soviet Union and their stories are dark. My copy.

Cover illustration: Sam Wolfe Connelly


Dancer; McCann, Colum
Dramatic fictional account of the life and career of Rudolf Nureyev. Told from several points of view: family, friends, colleagues, employees, and others. A little disjointed and it jumps around a bit, but it works.
Library book.

Some nonfiction:

Food: A Love Story; Gaffigan, Jim. An irreverent look at food, particularly American food, by a stand up comedian. Some funny stuff that must be read in small doses. Library book from the "Blind Date with a Book" display, which means it came in a plain brown wrapper. Last time I did this I also got a good book

Paradise Now: The Story of American Utopianism; Jennings, Chris 
Excellent study of five major Utopian communities in the USA. Library book.

Also read:

The High Mountains of Portugal; Martel, Yann
Three stories, linked by locale and a sort of legend. The first is somewhat interesting, the second has a strange theology, the third refers back to the other two. I suppose that I am meant to ponder the meaning of all this, but I'd rather forget it. Library book.

The Edge of Lost ; McMorris, Kristina
Irish immigrant to New York passes himself off as an Italian. Gets in trouble. Ends up in Alcatraz...An ok read. Library book.

What's Important Is Feeling: Stories ; Wilson,  Adam
I didn't like these at all. Too much trying hard not to fit in, trying to make something out of nothing. My copy.

400 Years On: Bumping Into the Bard at Every Turn
 Some things to look forward to as we observe the 400 anniversary  of the bard's death.
Books cooked – literally – in punning recipes based on writers' names
 Strange idea...and it would show up when I'm reading other things about Pessoa.  

The Most Precious Cargo for Lighthouses Across America was a Traveling Library 

A little library history.

The Open Refrigerator
An essay on the editor's place in publishing by Gerald Howard, vice president and executive editor of Doubleday.

What to Wear in the Arctic: Striking Photos of Traditional Footwear
Beautiful ways to warm your feet.


Lacombe Lucien [videorecording] / film de Louis Malle; scénario, Louis Malle, Patrick Modiano ; une co-production NEF-UPF, Vides-Film, Hallelujah-Film. Criterion Collection, [2006]

Really liked this. Library copy.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Pitol readings

 Some things I read because I read The Art of Flight by Sergio Pitol (George Henson, Translation), with a few notes. Most of these are also listed in my monthly reading log with comments.

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

 p.13, p.43 I was surprised to find the term "greenroom" in relation to the theater. I wondered when the term was first used. Found some info online. around 1600 or earlier..
 p. 105- Luciano Francisco Comella (1751–1812) was a Spanish playwright. Author of more than two hundred plays, he was one of the most prolific dramatists of the late eighteenth century. 
   Joaquina Comella: Spanish writer who lived in the last years of the 18th century and, perhaps, in the early 19th. Daughter of the famous playwright was the Luciano Francisco Comella, It is believed that...Joaquina - of which there are hardly any us biographical data - could collaborate with him in the writing of some of his works. 
  Manuel Godoy y Álvarez de Faria (May 12, 1767 – October 4, 1851), was Prime Minister of Spain from 1792 to 1797 and from 1801 to 1808. He received many titles including "Prince of the Peace" (Príncipe de la Paz) by which he is widely known.

The Maidens' Consent (Spanish: El sí de las niñas) is a play by the Spanish playwright Leandro Fernández de Moratín. It was written in 1801 and first performed in 1806. The play is a satirical commentary on Spanish social norms of the time and has since become part of the repertoire
The Young Lady's Consent
Author: Christopher O. Kidder
Publication: University of New Orleans Theses and Dissertations
  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. 

The Good Soldier Švejk by Jaroslav Hašek
 While I was reading this I saw some pre-pub information for The Yid: A Novel  by Paul Goldberg which is recommended for people who like Catch-22  (that's me) which was inspired in part by Švejk. So I put in a request for the Goldberg book.

Dreams of Dreams and the Last Three Days of Fernando Pessoa ; Tabucchi, Antonio;  Nancy J. Peters (Translator) Pitol led me to Tabucchi. I checked the local library catalog and found three Tabucchi books. I decided to start with this one. It's delightful! Tabucchi creates dreams for twenty great minds (writers, artists, etc.).  
Pereira Declares: A Testimony; Tabucchi, Antonio; Patrick Creagh (Translator)
Set in Salazar's Portugal. Pereira unintentionally gets mixed up in some radical politics.
Letter from Casablanca  (more Tabucchi)  
Some short stories (translated by Janice M. Thresher). I really liked these and wish I owned this book--they call out for re-reading.

  Tabucchi inspired me to read some Pessoa (I read The Book of Disquiet some years ago)  I found this on Project Gutenberg:

  35 Sonnets; Pessoa, Fernando read online at Project Gutenberg
  The first sonnet concludes with the lines which fit nicely with Tabucchi's Dreams of Dreams:
      We are our dreams of ourselves, souls by gleams,
      And each to each other dreams of others' dreams.

 Can't wait to continue my Pitol reading with The Journey.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

February (first half) 2016 Reads

Oh boy! Seventeen books in fourteen days? Not exactly--some were holdovers from last month and a couple were not very long. Also it's been less than ideal weather for going out. Brrr. And today my internet/tv/phone was out for twelve hours. So reading was the way to spend the day.

Still it was a lot of reading, most of it excellent or very good. Three were so-so, one was pretty much a dud, and one went back to the library unread.

Finished the Hašek (a holdover from January),  made some progress on The Art of Flight by Sergio Pitol, and dipped in my "owned but unread" pile for five (it didn't make much of a dent as I rec'd five more books in the mail). Also read some good new books from the library (but sent The Portable Vleban back without finishing--just not my cuppa).


The Good Soldier Švejk; Hašek, Jaroslav; Cecil Parrot (Translator), Josef Lada (Illustrations)
The absurdities of the military during wartime. A thoroughly satisfying read. The book that inspired Joseph Heller's Catch-22
Library Book

Cover art: Josef Lada


The Vegetarian; Kang, Han; Deborah Smith (Translator)
Frighteningly beautiful. A young woman's descent into madness as viewed by her husband, her brother-in-law, and her sister. I'm glad it is only 188 pages because I had a hard time putting it down. Library book

Jacket design: Christopher Brand
Jacket photo: 100 / Moment/ Getty Images


Unspeakable Things; Spivack, Kathleen
Spivack dares to speak about the terrible things people do to one another. The telling is sometimes poetic, sometimes mythic, and often uncomfortably graphic and realistic. Hard material but well worth reading. Library book.

The Swans of Fifth Avenue; Benjamin, Melanie
Gossipy, bitchy, delightful fictional account of Truman Capote, Babe Paley, and their crowd. Library book.

Jacket design: Belina Huey
Jacket photo: Lillian Bassman, 1956


The Pets; Ólafsson, Bragi; Janice Balfour (Translator)
Very funny tale about a man sort of trapped under his own bed whilst an odd group of friends, acquaintances  and strangers have a sort of party in his flat. My copy.

Cover design: Milan Bozic

13065250 The Age of Doubt (Commissario Montalbano #14); Camilleri, Andrea; Stephen Sartarelli (Translator)
Camilleri is fun to read. Interesting plots, limited violence, a touch of romance, and food! My, my Inspector Montalbano eats well. He also manages to tell white lies in awkward situations--reminds me of the Judi Dench role in the Britcom As Time Goes By. My own copy, picked up at a library friends' sale.

Cover design: Paul Buckley Interesting Q & A with Paul Buckley, Penguin US  at The Casual Optimist
Cover illustration: Andy Bridge

New Islands And Other Stories; Bombal, María Luisa; Richard and Lucia Cunningham (Translators)
Five short stories about women. Magical realism. My copy.


Baboon; Aidt, Naja Marie; Denise Newman (Translation)
Strange (but good) short stories. Most start out as normal vignettes of everyday life--but then things happen. My copy.

Cover design: Gabriele Wilson

A Meal in Winter; Mingarelli, Hubert; Sam Taylor (Translator)
Three German soldiers face a war time choice. A difficult, disturbing tale told in simple, direct language. My copy.

Dreams of Dreams and the Last Three Days of Fernando Pessoa ; Tabucchi, Antonio;  Nancy J. Peters (Translator)
My reading of  The Art of Flight by Sergio Pitol led me to Tabucchi. Pitol discusses a different Tabucchi book (Pereira Declares) but I decided to start with this one. It's delightful! Tabucchi creates dreams for twenty great minds (writers, artists, etc.).  Highly recommended.

Cover design: Rex Ray

35 Sonnets; Pessoa, Fernando 
Written in English, self-published by Pessoa in 1918.
In the Shakespearean style. Worth reading & studying. Read on Project Gutenberg.


Pereira Declares: A Testimony; Tabucchi, Antonio; Patrick Creagh (Translator)
Politics in Salazar's Portugal. Library book.


Ginny Gall; Smith, Charlie
Growing up black in Jim Crow America.  Lovely, poetic writing. Makes me want to read more by this author. Library book.

Also read:

Where My Heart Used to Beat; Faulks, Sebastian
Kinda boring with some brilliant passages. Middle age Englishman remembering his career, his war, his life...When I can set a book aside in the middle of a sentence to go get a snack, the book isn't holding my interest. Library book.

Identity (Fina Ludlow #2); Thoft, Ingrid
Fina is a private detective working for her father's law firm. The case she is working on involves a woman who wants to sue a sperm bank to learn the identity of donor who is father to her seventeen year old daughter. There are lots of complications. The basic story is good, but at times it moves a little slowly. I didn't read the first Fina book, and I probably won't read the next. Advance Review Copy.

Slave and Sister; Waldfogel, Sabra
Jewish plantation owners and their slaves in Georgia. Interesting premise, characters and situations. Drags a bit in the middle. Wavered between two and three Goodreads stars, finally gave it three. My copy from blog win.

One More Day; Simmons, Kelly
I jumped all over the place--skipping sections, reading the end after I'd read about a third of the book, annoyed because of the paranormal elements, the teases about secrets, the uneven pace, etc. I think I actually read the whole thing. Generous with my stars (two).  Library book.

Monday, February 01, 2016

Online Reading Day

I started February with some online reading and exploring. In fact, I spent all afternoon web surfing and reading.

After I read the latest issue of Pithead Chapel, Volume 5, Issue 2 I did some web searches for other works by the contributors: Rebecca Chekouras, Chris Negron, and Carrie Grinstead (short fiction); Lori White and Elizabeth Gaucher (nonfiction); and  Sheila Miles (artwork). Not all have web sites, but searches led me to some interesting journals.

One that I had fun exploring is The Boiler "began in 2011 by a group of writers at Sarah Lawrence College. We publish poetry, fiction, and nonfiction on a quarterly basis. We like work that turns up the heat, whistles, and stands up to pressure."  There is also some art.

Then I read Take the stairs on Chris Negron's blog. A delightful piece on exploring Nice, France on foot.  Another of his blog entries had several paintings by Mary Negron so I went off and found her web site where I "read" some paintings. 

Then back to Chris Negron's blog and following the links to some of his stories which led me to...
Split Lip Magazine and some more good stuff. 

And so went the day and I made no progress on the books I'm reading (see yesterday's post). 

Oops, time for some laptop maintenance--I think there are crumbs under the z key...