Wednesday, November 30, 2016

November (second half) 2016 Reads

A real mixed bag to end November-

La Superba by Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer; Michele Hutchison (Translation)
Adventures of a Dutch ex-pat in Genoa (aka La Superba). Along with his implausible adventures (often the case when ex-pats spin their stories) there is some history and a lot of tales about the plight of African immigrants. All is told with humor, empathy, and a great love for the city of Genoa. My copy through a subscription to Deep Vellum Books.

Urushi: Proceedings of the 1985 Urushi Study Group by Norman S. Brommelle (Editor)
 I've been reading various parts of this since February 2016. The history part was what interested me most, but I did read the entire collection (skimming some of the science). Some of it is very technical, examining methods of identification and preservation of oriental lacquer ware using chemicals, radiography, and other methods. Much of this was fascinating once I accepted that I didn't have to totally understand the science in order to appreciate the studies. I finished it wondering what progress has been made in the thirty years since this was published. The illustrations were numerous and extremely helpful. This is available online, free from the Getty Virtual Library.

The Old King in His Exile by Arno Geiger, Stefan Tobler (Translation)
A true story of an Austrian family dealing with dementia. Beautifully told by a son who learns a lot about his father, his family, and himself.

 My copy through subscription to And Other Stories.

The Little Hotel by Christina Stead
This 1973 novel is set in a small, slightly seedy Swiss hotel. There's a thin plot, but mostly it is character studies of an odd set of hotel workers and off-season residents who grudgingly accept each others company. They fret about communist threats, the British limits on taking currency abroad,  their personal relationships, their health problems, and boredom. An enjoyable read. Library book.

Miss Herbert (The Suburban Wife) by Christina Stead
This was OK but I didn't like it as much as I liked The Little Hotel. This had more plot but it dragged in places.

News of the World by Paulette Jiles
Following the War Between the States, veteran Jefferson Kidd travels around North Texas reading various newspapers to locals hungry for world news. One night in Wichita Falls he is hired to transport a child recently ransomed from her Kiowa kidnappers. She is ten years old and has been a captive since she was six and remembers little of her life before capture. Kidd is to deliver this orphan to family in San Antonio, a four-hundred mile journey through dangerous territory.  A great story full of adventure and a developing relationship. Library book.

The Arab of the Future 2: A Childhood in the Middle East, 1984-1985: A Graphic Memoir (L'Arabe du futur #2) by Riad Sattouf; translated from the French by Sam Taylor.
Riad is different from the other children in his school in Syria--he has light hair, his mother is French, and he often doesn't understand what's going on. A difficult family life, serious, but told with a touch of humor. I must read Part 1. There is a Part 3, but I don't think it's been translated yet. Free copy from the publisher.

Returned to library unread or partially read:

   Hillbilly Elegy : a memoir of a family and culture in crisis / J.D. Vance. This is pretty good. I read the intro, the beginning and the end; just couldn't get through the family stuff. Will pick it up again.
   Engleby : a novel / Sebastian Faulks.
   Work Like Any Other : a novel / Virginia Reeves.
   The Nix : a novel / Nathan Hill. Read a few chapters...meh...
   Britt-Marie Was Here : a novel / Fredrik Backman
I have enough to read without spending time reading things I don't like. But then again, in a different mood, I may actually like a couple of these. I may give the Faulks and the Reeves another try.

Ode to Canned Fish: A defense    By Aaron Gilbreath
Canned fish is more than just tuna. 

URUSHI-KOBO   Web site of Mariko Nishide, Urushi artist and restorer/conservator

Urushi - Japanese Lacquer in modern Design Text by Susanne Fritz
Illustrated article on some modern artists working with Urushi

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

November (first half) 2016 Reads

From my "owned-but-unread" backlog...
The Brother by Rein Raud (Goodreads Author), Adam Cullen (Translation)
This short novel is dubbed a "spaghetti western" by its Estonian author. Although I have seen movies of that genre, I've never really studied them as a fan so I may have missed some of the references. (There is a brief mention in the acknowledgements for those of us who missed things.) But we used to watch them at parties in the 1980's.  (Ex-pat Americans watching Japanese made "Italian" movies in the-then West Germany--global, n'est pas?) Maybe those viewings left something buried in my sub-conscious because I really enjoyed this book without really knowing why. Take away any knowledge of "spaghetti westerns"and it is still a darned good read. My copy through a subscription to Open Letter Books.

Some Poetry
To and For by Steve Levine
I received this book of poetry in a grab bag purchase. After several readings only a few of the poems said much to me. I'll donate this to the library sale--maybe it will find a more appreciative reader.

The Rain in Portugal by Billy Collins
Unlike the Levine poetry (see above), these poems seemed to speak directly to me and caused me to form fragments of poetry in my own mind.The trouble with this is that it is a Library Book so I'll have to copy out the poems I like best.

A Bad Week For Reading
Went to the library on Monday November 7 and checked out six books. I am having problems with almost all of them. I list them here because I think the problem is mainly with my mood and not with the books so I may get back to some of them.

    The Nix : a novel / Nathan Hill. I am struggling with this, maybe it's just too political for my present mood. A book with an early scene of a sixty-something woman throwing gravel at a potential presidential candidate may not be the thing to read at this time. I'll slog along a bit further and maybe....
    The Rain in Portugal : poems / Billy Collins. This is the only one of the batch I really liked.
    Hillbilly Elegy : a memoir of a family and culture in crisis / J.D. Vance. I think this is pretty good. I read the intro and the beginning and the end, just not in the mood for all the family stuff. But it's something I should read, so I'll try to pick it up again in a few days.
    Engleby : a novel / Sebastian Faulks. I've read Faulks before and liked him, but not this one, not today.
    Work Like Any Other : a novel / Virginia Reeves.  I may try this again, I think I just want something more escapist right now.
    Britt-Marie Was Here : a novel / Fredrik Backman ; translated from the Swedish by Henning Koch. I found this too tedious and, in this case, I don't think it's just the mood I'm in. I doubt that I'll pick it up again.

So they are not due until the 28th, maybe my state of mind will change....

Some Online Enjoyment
(To match my current short attention span)

 The Loud Table by Jonathan Carroll "an sf-fantasy about four elderly men who regularly hang out. One of the men is worried that he’s getting Alzheimer’s, but the truth might be even more discomforting." It also yielded one of my favorite sentences of the year: "Old women have a knack for keeping busy, but old men don’t."

 “The Auntie”  by Alyssa Wong and Wendy Xu, a graphic short story.

The Search for Home in American Fiction, Sarah Domet Unpacks a Writer's Anxiety About Place
This is by a Midwesterner relocated to the South--will she ever be a Southerner? It really struck a note with me, I lived abroad abroad for several years (three different countries), and have been in New England for fifteen years, but I'll always identify (to myself and others) as a Northern Californian.

Dutch Art and Urban Culture
Yale press log offers seven illustrated segments based on  Elisabeth de Bièvre’s book Dutch Art and Urban Culture, 1200-1700, in which "the author explains how distinct geographical circumstances and histories shaped unique urban developments in different locations in the Netherlands and, in turn, fundamentally informed the art and visual culture of individual cities. In seven chapters, each devoted to a city, the book follows the growth of Amsterdam, Delft, Dordrecht, Haarlem, Leiden, The Hague, and Utrecht over the course of five centuries. By embracing the full gamut of art and architecture and by drawing on the records of town histories and the writings of contemporary travelers, de Bièvre traces the process by which the visual culture of the Netherlands emerged to become the richest, most complex material expression in Europe, capturing the values of individuals, corporate entities, and whole cities.  In this series of posts — now complete! — de Bièvre offers a snapshot of each of these seven cities as expressed through a set of representative artworks."

Continuing Projects  
I'm past the halfway mark on the online class A Global History of Architecture. I'm really liking this. Tomorrow I will start another one: Human Rights: The Rights of Refugees This one runs for three weeks.

I am also reading and enjoying La Superba by Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer, Michele Hutchison. This is another from my "owned-but-unread" backlog. It's part of my subscription to Deep Vellum Books.

Carrying on...

Saturday, November 05, 2016

Six Degrees of Separation – from Never Let Me Go to ???

Once in a while I try one of these from the meme hosted by Books are My Favorite and Best

This  one starts with:

A book I didn't like from an author whose earlier work, Remains of the Day, I really did like.

Which reminds me of...

...another book I didn't like from another author I usually like. 

I loved the cover of this one, but it was the title, not the cover, that reminded me of...

...a book I read years ago and loved (more than anything else I read by Burgess).

So what else did I read  in the early 1960s that was new then and later became a classic?

Something completely different--a great road trip which reminds me of another great road trip...

...this one from the 1980s (  Blue Highways: A Journey into America by William Least Heat-Moon )

 This cover reminded me of...

...a cover I saw the other day on a post titled Book Bait: Choosing a Book by its Cover on The Australian Women Writers’ Challenge blog.

This is not exactly a road trip, it is a collection of "stories that...chart the relationships white Australians have with the land and the Indigenous people they share it with."

I want to read this book! I will probably have to buy it online because it is not something my local library is likely to acquire.

This was an interesting place to end up because it was another Australian Lit blog that led me to do Six Degrees this week--ANZ LitLovers LitBlog