Saturday, June 24, 2017

June (fourth week) 2017 Reads

Still working through those slow reads. This weeks section of The Invented Part  was a short one so I  found plenty of time for a lot of other reading, most of it very good.

and, of course, the Deal Me In story.
 “Deal Me In 2017!”

The card this week is the two of hearts which turned out to be impossible to use to illustrate the story of isolation, abuse, and anger that was somewhat randomly assigned to it when I set up my roster. So here's the story and the collection that contains it.

The Pedersen Kid by William H. Gass (in In the Heart of the Heart of the Country, and Other Stories)
Wow! This story left me more confused than anything I've read so far this year. And that's saying something since I'm currently reading Ricardo Fresán's thoroughly confusing The Invented Part.
So to help me figure out just what happened in this story (or find out if I missed something) I searched for some commentary on it. Here are a couple of things I found, both pretty thorough and both convinced me that I actually "got" the story. 
Let Me Make a Snowman: John Gardner, William Gass, and “The Pedersen Kid”  by Nick Ripatrazone
The True Intruder in William H. Gass’s “The Pedersen Kid”  by Ted Morrissey

Then I reread it for the writing: the amazing complex sentences that often lead to surprises; the sometimes devastating character descriptions; and the poetic, masterful prose.
I followed up by reading the other four stories in the collection: Mrs. Mean, Icicles, Order of Insects, and the title story. The Pedersen Kid appealed to me because of the interactions among the characters and its puzzling aspects. The title story had the richest language and was spot on in its descriptions of a dinky town. Mrs. Mean was, well, mean with a passel of (justifiably) ill behaved children and odd-ball neighbors (including the narrator). Icicles was cold and lonely. Order of Insects about a housewife and her fascination with an infestation of bugs was my least favorite.

The card: Can I find a Two of Hearts that fits a post modern story about a strange journey in the icy cold of North Dakota? Not really.  But I did find an interesting deck. 

MADDECK Playing Cards By Ozlem Olcer. "a series of playing cards which feature cubist illustrations..... The deck was created for PAG, an Istanbul based design company developing projects and manufacturing products in collaboration with graphic artists and illustrators."
"The name Maddeck - short for ‘Magicians, Astronauts & Dancers’ - is given after the first 3 dream jobs of the designer as a child."

The two of hearts is typical of the number cards in the deck, but the face cards are quite different in design--almost as if they are from a different deck.

more reading from my shelves.... 

Two Lines 23, by C.J. Evans (editor) The Fall 2015 edition of this bimonthly journal of The Center for the Art of Translation. It has fiction and poetry translated into English from eleven different languages. My favorite from this issue is The Piper by Yoko Tawada; translated from Japanese by Margaret Mitsutani. It is a retelling of the legend of The Pied Piper of Hamelin told from several points of view. The author is a Japanese writer currently living in Germany. She writes in both Japanese and German. Here is a link to the full Table of Contents for this issue.

The Genius of Birds by Jennifer Ackerman
An interesting survey of recent worldwide research in ornithology with particular attention to the function of the brains of birds. Not too technical, she is an entertaining writer.
Advance review copy.

Coincidentally, I ran across this online article  Power to the Bower: A Bird’s Architectural Method of Seduction by Osman Bari. Bowerbird (family Ptilonorhynchidae) building habits is one of the topics Ackerman discusses.

The Reader by Bernhard Schlink; Carol Brown Janeway (Translator)
Coming of age in Post World War 2 Germany. A young man is scarred for life by an inappropriate first affair. In later life he must face the collective guilt of his nation as his former lover is tried for war crimes.

(A library book sale bargain from their clear the tables day-- Five bucks for all the books you can fit in a large paper grocery bag. Yes, sir, yes, sir, two bags full.)

Journey by Moonlight by Antal Szerb, Len Rix (Translation)
A Hungarian on his honeymoon in Italy leaves his wife and wanders off perhaps to find some companions from his lost youth. Or maybe he's trying to escape the bourgeois life that is closing in on him. While he slinks around Italy (ending up in Rome) his abandoned wife joins a friend in Paris and tries to restart her life. All this is set in the period between the two world wars. A good story with lots of angst, strange characters, and touches of wry humor

What are the Blind Men Dreaming? by Noemi Jaffe, Julia Sanches (Translation), Ellen Elias-Bursać (Translation) 
I'll admit to being a bit disappointed when this came with my Deep Vellum  subscription in September (2016). I just didn't want to read another concentration camp diary, so I set it aside (for nearly a year). I picked it up the other day and I'm glad I did; it is such a great book. Jaffe presents her mother, Lili Stern's diary which is brief and was not written in the camp. She wrote it immediately after she was liberated and was living in refugee camps in Sweden.

The real strength in the book is the daughter's commentary on the diary. She treats it as a memoir and as a springboard for a discussion on how her mother's ordeal affected her own life. But what I really found valuable was how she expanded the personal and specific into a more general discussion of how human traits and activities survive and are altered by horrific experiences. This is presented in a series of essay style entries on such topics as fate, cold, hunger, love, anger, desire, money, memory, desire, and others. She draws both on her mother's diary and writings of other survivors.

The book finishes with an essay by Jaffe's daughter Leda Cartum on how the legacy reaches into yet another generation.

The Last Boy and Girl in the World by Siobhan Vivian
A teenage girl copes with with family, boyfriend, and BFF troubles against the backdrop of a community that must be abandoned because of a new dam. An uneven read. The characters were fairly well drawn. Unfortunately at the end everyone behaved totally out of character. The wrap-up was too simplistic for a complicated situation.
My least favorite read this week, but not a total waste of time.

Advance review copy.

And Only One Library book.... 

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles (Kindle edition)
What a great way to survey the history of Communist Russia! This novel begins in 1922 when Count Alexander Rostov is sentenced to house arrest for life--in the elegant  Moscow Hotel Metropol and ends in 1954. Although he can't leave the hotel, a cast of interesting characters--hotel employees and guests--keep him well informed about the goings on in the world. Rostov is a charming fellow and this is a charming book. 

Shortly after I finished this book I found this delightful art work in The Calvert Journal. Witnesses to history: The turmoil of 1917 captured in children's drawings Text by Samuel Goff; Images taken from the book Moscow, 1917: Drawings by Child Witnesses. From the collection of the State Historical Museum in Moscow. 

         Other online reads...

Imagining the Future of Suburbia, From “Freedomland” to “McMansion Hell” by Kate Wagner

Georgia wins at Cannes for 6 Millionth Tourist Campaign
A great video from Georgia the country, not the US state.

Come for the Obscure Canadian Sport, Stay for the Buffet by Julie Stauffer
Who knew there is a sport called  Crokinole?

The 'Mystery Boats' of Tresco Island  essay by Mike Williams.
A bit of British WW2 espionage.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

June (third week) 2017 Reads

Because I am slowly reading The Invented Part with Chad Post's Two Month Review  project and have a couple of other slow reads going, I decided to devote this week's other reading and posting to whatever source or format the card of the week indicates. If it is Spades it will be translated into English; Hearts--original language English; Diamonds--found on Project Gutenberg; Clubs--different format (narrative poem, short play or skit, graphic, clever title, narrative essay, etc.); Jokers--Pick something from another participants roster.
 “Deal Me In 2017!”
And the winner is
Since it is a translated story in an online journal and is a four, I will highlight four online sources where I regularly read translated works and works about translation.

This week's story:  Cafés Morts by Maïssa Bey; translated from the French by Hodna Bentali Gharsallah Nuernberg
A young girl inadvertently catches glimpses the culture of Algeria's "Moorish cafés" which at the time were men only gathering places.

This story is from the October 2016 issue of Asymptote a free quarterly online journal founded in 2011. They have published " from 105 countries and 84 languages, all never-before-published poetry, fiction, nonfiction, drama, and interviews by writers and translators such as J. M. Coetzee, Patrick Modiano, Herta Müller, Can Xue, Junot Díaz, Ismail Kadare, David Mitchell, Anne Carson, Haruki Murakami, Lydia Davis, Ann Goldstein, and Deborah Smith."

The layout is attractive. The stories and articles are illustrated and are available in the original language as well as the English translation. Many also have sound files of authors or translators reading in the original language. There are bios and translators notes. Past issues are archived. There is a map which shows the locals of the works.
The Buenos Aires Review  "presents the best and latest work by emerging and established writers from the Americas, in both Spanish and English [also some Portuguese]. We value translation and conversation. We publish poetry, fiction, essays, criticism, visual art, and interviews."
Guernica/a magazine of global art & politics, a non-profit free online magazine founded in 2004. "A home for incisive ideas and necessary questions, we publish memoir, reporting, interviews, commentary, poetry, fiction, and multimedia journalism exploring identity, conflict, culture, justice, science, and beyond."
Material includes both translated and original English language works.
Words Without Borders is a free monthly online magazine. Started in 2003, WWB publishes eight to twelve new works, in English translation, by international writers. Works include fiction, poetry and nonfiction, often related to a geographic or topical theme. Past issues are archived.

This week's card is from Playing Arts Edition Zero, a deck for which "each card  has been individually designed by one of the 55 selected international artists in his distinct style and technique."

The Four of Clubs was designed by Anton Repponen, a New York based interactive designer with architecture background.

I selected for today's post because it strikes me as a kind of translation from the usual playing card, giving us a new way to view a familiar object.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

June (second week) 2017 Reads

For my Deal Me In card this week I pulled the Eight of Clubs. This was originally assigned The Bronze Horseman: A Petersburg Tale by Alexander Pushkin (narrative poem). I forgot it was on the list and read it in January when I was on my Pushkin jag, so I made it a WILD CARD.  On my roster, Clubs are supposed to be something "different" (narrative poem, short play or skit, graphic, clever title, narrative essay, etc.) I chose a couple of news stories and an essay related to an important local event.

 A new bookstore opened in our town

 Wesleyan R.J. Julia Bookstore.
This is the bookstore for Wesleyan University and also a general indie bookstore. For more on this see: New Wesleyan Bookstore By R.J. Julia Now Open To Public In Middletown and for a little more background on the space see: Wesleyan partners with R.J. Julia Booksellers to open new bookstore in downtown Middletown.

The very first special event at the store was an appearance by Andrew Blauner editor of  In Their Lives: Great Writers on Great Beatles Songs.  He was joined by three of the book's contributors: Amy Bloom, Peter Blauner, and Nicholas Dawidoff. Of course I attended. Of course I bought the book. Autographs?  All four of course. And some swag: a very nice tote.

It was a good discussion, they didn't do readings. It was a conversation that ranged from  lyrics, the sequence of songs in the albums, and how the songs had different meanings at different times in their lives.
(Local note: Peter Blauner and Amy Bloom are Wesleyan grads. Bloom is now Wesleyan University’s Distinguished University Writer in Residence. Nicholas Dawidoff also has Connecticut connections: he grew up in New Haven and now lives there. He is a Fellow of Yale's Branford College.)

 “Deal Me In 2017!”
So in honor of this event I chose an essay from the book by a contributor who was not at the event. I selected this one because it is available online.
Remembering My Father Through My Favorite Beatles’ Song  Elissa Schappell revisits Octopus’s Garden.

During the week I read the rest of the book. Even though I've never been a huge Beatles fan it was fun to see what songs the writers chose and how they wrote about the choices. Most were personal and some went in to detail about the technical aspects of the music. I don't have a favorite Beatles song and I didn't listen to any while reading this book, but I guess I heard the music in my brain because I ended up with a four-day earworm. Finally got "Yellow Submarine" out of my mind by listening to classical guitar. Other than that It was a very enjoyable collection of essays.

And the card: A tiled design in homage to that amazing ceiling in the bookstore. (Do click on the picture above for a better look).

This is from the Piatnik: Jugendstil Art Nouveau Playing Cards deck. This is a gorgeous deck, the face cards are awesome, even the box is a work of art. Google it, there are vintage decks for sale online and the prices are not all outrageous.

Like last week's card,  I found this image on

Poetry online...
Emoticons and Pros by Najat Sghyar
"Born and raised in Casablanca, Morroco, Najat studied corporate law in France and worked as a journalist in her hometown before moving to Istanbul in 2014 to focus on writing. Fluent in six languages, she writes short stories in darija- the Moroccan dialect-, poetry in English and Arabic and is currently working on a novel in French. She is a founder member of the Istanbul writing club Yirmi Yedi."

Lots of clever word-play for this world of social networking. These two excerpts lose the poem's visual appeal because I can't duplicate the formatting and spacing, but the language is a delight.

So I daydream in virtual blur
of good old smileys:
That naughty yellow face
On MSN messenger
Laughing silent hi hi hi's

Or the classic semicolon
resting on its side
With a bracket for a smile
Half asleep
winking deep
Minimal style
Of sarcasm quizz.

And later she speaks of 

Clogged in blogs and vlogs
in filigran
Of snapshit
and vine.

from my shelves..

The Magician of Vienna (Trilogía de la memoria/Trilogy of Memory #3) by Sergio Pitol, George Henson (Translation from the Spanish); Mario Bellatin (Introduction); Margo Glantz (Afterword)
This is a mixed bag--literary criticism, personal anecdotes, travel stories, and passages on his own writing processes. I really liked the material on writing short stories.

When I read the first two volumes of the trilogy, I spent a lot of time Googling all the people and places that weren't familiar to me.* This volume was different because I recognized most of the authors he discussed. He talks about Chekhov, there are essays on Evelyn Waugh and Henry James, and many others--international in scope. His discussion on the Irish writer Flann O'Brien caused me to order At Swim-Two-Birds.

"On When Enrique Conquered Ashgabat and How He Lost It" (p.204-230) is a very funny episode that took place when Pitol and Enrique Vila-Matis managed to get together in Turkmenistan. It involved crashing a wedding party, a crazy opera singer and his crazier wife, embarrassed interpreters, and Vila-Matis being rushed out of the country.

Now that I've read all three volumes, I wish I had an index to them, there's so much to go back and reread. These came to me through my subscription to Deep Vellum and it includes both paper and electronic editions, so maybe I'll get some use of the Kindle search feature.

*See: Pitol readings and More Pitol readings, I didn't do a readings page for this volume.

Death of an Airman by Christopher St. John Sprigg
There were some surprises in this mystery from this British Library Crime Classics reprint. An Australian bishop signing up for flying lessons whilst in the UK made a lot of sense and he was a fine character. There were an assortment of eccentric women, a sappy American judge, a brief appearance by a German aviator, a French connection, some white powder, etc... What fun!
The motives for the crimes seemed rather modern for a book written in 1934.
I love this series. My copy is an advance review copy from Poisoned Pen Press, the USA publisher.

Saturday, June 03, 2017

June (first week) 2017 Reads

Since I usually post on Saturdays and this Saturday is June Third, I'm labeling this June even though the week has more May days than June ones.

 “Deal Me In 2017!”
Story: The Relive Box by T. Coraghessan Boyle (in Watchlist : 32 stories by persons of interest)
What would you watch if you had a magic box that allowed you to relive episodes from your past?  Would you choose happy times, bad times, erotic times? And how addictive could it be?

Card: Four of  Hearts
In the story, the box display "...isn't a computer screen or a hologram or anything anybody else can see--we're talking retinal projection, two laser beams fixed on two eyeballs. Anybody coming into the room...will simply see you sitting there silently in a chair with your retina lit like furnaces."
(Card found on playingcard collector)

some stories online...

The Scent of Paradise and Oussama Two stories from Another Morocco by Abdellah Taïa; translated from the French by Rachael Small. "These are stories of life in a working-class Moroccan family, of a writer's affair with language, & much more."

Toward Marzahn: A Story by Bae Suah ; translated from the Korean by Annah Overly
From the translator's introductory paragraph: "With its shifting timeframes, ambiguous narrator, and apartment empty except for small traces of previous inhabitants, Bae’s “Toward Marzahn” perfectly depicts a hypnagogic atmosphere unlike any other. Marzahn is not in Korea but rather a corner of Berlin, a city where Bae has spent long stretches of time, and her words give life to this realm far removed from her Korean readers’ homeland. Yet the loneliness of these characters never feels foreign or unfamiliar. Rather, it transplants Bae’s readers to her reality, which her critics have hailed as “a world of dreams . . . through which lost voices drift.” 

The Size of Things, by Samanta Schweblin; translated from the Spanish by Megan McDowell
A toyshop keeper acquires an unusual helper.

Labrador by Daniel Dencik; translated from the Danish by Mark Mussari
"We’d always put off any proper introduction to each other’s parents, because we had enough problems of our own without complicating matters even further. If you’re going to introduce someone to your family, you better be sure."

other online reading...

Lessons in Slowness  by Susanna Basso; translated from the Italian by Matilda Colarossi
An essay on the role of patience when doing literary translation. "I began to wonder if translation was, in fact, a waiting game."

A Brief History of a Decline: The Iranian Novel at the Dawn of the Millennium by Amir Ahmadi Arian an Iranian novelist and journalist.

Read Dozens of Historical Architecture Books for Free Online Thanks to New Library Exhibition,© Buffalo and Erie County Public LibraryRead Dozens of Historical Architecture Books for Free Online Thanks to New Library Exhibition 
"Buffalo and Erie County Public Library of Buffalo, New York, has recently opened a new exhibit at their Central Library titled Building Buffalo: Buildings From Books, Books From Buildings. The exhibit will feature a large selection of rare, illustrated architectural books from the Library’s collection dating from the fifteenth century to the mid-twentieth century. The bonus for those who are geographically distant from Buffalo is that, as part of the exhibit, the Library has also made dozens of historical architecture books available online, completely digitized and free to the public." Article includes highlights and photos of the exhibition. The list of online books (with links) can be found here. (warning: PDF)

Inside the Bizarre Personal Lives of Famous Architects by Megan Fowler
Gossipy paragraphs about five mega-star architects with some links to more information. Fun illustrations.

Most of the World’s Bread Clips Are Made by a Single CompanyA brief history of the Kwik Lok Closure. by Eric Grundhauser 
Twist-Ties vs. Plastic Clips: Tiny Titans Battle for the Bakery Aisle
by Paul Lukas

from my shelves...

Landscape in Concrete by Jakov Lind; Ralph Manheim (Translator); Joshua Cohen (Introduction)
A tragic/comedic tale of the absurdity of war told from the prospective of Bachmann, a WW2 German soldier, the survivor of a devastating battle where almost his entire regiment was lost in the mud of the Eastern Front. He is declared mentally incompetent  and is set for discharge. He runs away and tries to find his regiment. Strange adventures ensue with an assortment of odd characters: a poisoner/deserter, a homosexual officer, a deranged former schoolteacher turned double agent, Bachmann's large girlfreind, an odd judge, Gypsy musicians....  I must read more by this author.

The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui
In 1978 the Bui family left Vietnam in a boat to Malaysia and a refugee camp. Eventually they made their way to relatives in Chicago and then to California. Their story is well told by one of the daughters who searches for her family identity. The graphic format works well for this story.

Advance review copy.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

May (fourth week) 2017 Reads

 “Deal Me In 2017!”
The card this week: Six of Clubs which means the "story" this week is not-a-story, it's an essay:

Identities in Motion -- My Mythomanias by Julia Schoch; translated from the German by Katy Derbyshire
How do we remember when the landscapes of childhood are gone? Schoch grew up in a town modernized in the Communist era and the made obsolete by the 1989 revolution.

  "They say the only things that count in life are the things we remember. That seems to be all the more important when there is no longer any evidence of the past.
   I no longer have any evidence of my past."

From Literature Across Frontiers (LAF) "a European Platform for Literary Exchange, Translation and Policy Debate."

Card is a stock image from dreamstime
It seems to go with the deterioration of the town (both the original and the new) and the hammer suggests the politics involved.


other essays online...and slow reading

Dorthe Nors on the best Contemporary Scandinavian Literature
The Danish author discusses Scandinavian Lit in general and specific authors:  Naja Marie Aidt, Yahya Hassan, Karolina Ramqvist, Lena Andersson, and Sjón.

 All Writing is a Kind of Realism: In Conversation with Rodrigo Fresán, author of The Invented Part
A conversation between Fresán and Will Vanderhyden, translator of The Invented Part. I am slowly reading this novel as part of Chad Post's Two Month Review  project.Chad has put together comments, podcasts, a Goodreads group, and more to help guide us through a difficult book. So far, we have read only the first 45 pages (which I loved).

I am also slow reading The Magician of Vienna by Sergio Pitol because that is the way I read Pitol. See: Pitol readings and More Pitol readings

Just because my card this week was for an essay doesn't mean I neglected short stories. In fact, I read some gems...

I read some of the O. Henry Prize Stories for 2017 that are available online:
Something for a Young Woman  by Genevieve Plunkett
The Buddhist by Alan Rossi 
Protection by Paola Peroni
Night Garden by Shruti Swamy
Paddle to Canada by Heather Monley
Mercedes Benz  by Martha Cooley
A Small Sacrifice for an Enormous Happiness by Jai Chakrabarti

Two other stories I read online...

An Affair Before the Earthquake by Samrat Upadhyay
Samrat Upadhyay is a Nepalese writer who writes in English. He teaches at Indiana University. This is from his collection of short stories, Mad Country.

The Great Disaster  by Alanna Schubach; with an introduction by Halimah Marcus
Young survivors of a community disaster play a Zombie game.

some novels from my shelves...

ME  by Tomoyuki Hoshino, Kenzaburō Ōe (Afterword), Charles De Wolf (Translation)
This started out as if it were going to be about telephone scams, but it turned into something else--a dystopian world of almost interchangeable ME's. Just when it seems to be headed in one direction, it makes a turn and is off somewhere else. A great read.

Advance review copy via LibraryThing

The Outlaw by Jón Gnarr; Lytton Smith (Translation)
The third volume of Gnarr's childhood memoirs covers his teenage years. Misunderstood and misunderstanding, Gnarr ends up in a remote boarding school in the Westfjords district of Iceland (a Google search shows that the school is now a hotel). After leaving school he returns home to face so many problems--drugs, alcohol, medical treatments, family--that one wonders how he ever go it together.

From my subscription to Deep Vellum Books

'Round Midnight by Laura McBride
It's always gratifying to see a second novel live up to the promise of the debut novel. This one does that without repeating the characters and plot of the first
(We Are Called to Rise). This one is also set in Las Vegas and, like the first, brings together a set of diverse characters and deals with immigrants and family problems. But the main characters are fresh and this one spans a long time period (about 1960-2010) as Vegas booms and busts. The four main characters are strong women in difficult circumstances. An absorbing read.

Advance review copy.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

May (third week) 2017 Reads

Lots of online foodie stuff this week, then a few poems, a book of stories, and some journeys.
Whew! Unlike last week, the story this week is totally readable. And the card search was fun.

 “Deal Me In 2017!”
This week's story: Why I Can No Longer Look At A Picnic Blanket Without Laughing by Yukiko Motoya, translated from the Japanese by Asa Yoneda
What can a clerk in a trendy boutique do when a customer spends over twenty-four hours in a changing booth? a fun story that comes complete with diagram.

This week's card: the Three of Clubs  was a challenge--I wanted something innovative and possibly a little bit silly. It would have been a lot easier if it had been a face card or an ace. Maybe I could go with a pack design?

Here is one from Fashion Playing Cards by Connie Lim Pt. 3 but it's not right because there was only one customer in the changing I looked some more..

...perhaps she was trying on these items
from Redbubble Ltd.

...but, then again, these are rather ordinary selections and by the end of the story...

... we aren't sure just who (or what) that customer was, but she certainly wasn't ordinary, so maybe this one from Hachimitsu Ink, which specialize in creating artwork featuring Djinns and Mermaids, will better illustrate the story.  

(Image is from  I couldn't find the image on the Hachimitsu Ink site, but I had fun looking)

elsewhere online...

My current MOOC course: Food Security and Sustainability: Food Access  From Wageningen University & Research (The Netherlands); a collaboration between Wageningen University and the Wageningen Research foundation.
Course goals:
  • understand the basic principles of food access
  • understand actors’ choices influencing food access
  • discern dilemmas at household, local, national and international levels get the big picture when the connections between levels and actors regarding access to food have been unraveled.

This article seemed to go along with the course goals. Dining in the Wilderness: The Restaurants in America’s National Parks by

and more foodie stuff...

The Global Feast: Writing about Food:
 "This month we welcome you to a banquet of international food writing.... Forced to cook in her father's dive restaurant, Ananda Devi's young girl finds revenge is a dish best served hot Argentine sensation Mariana Enriquez gets to the meat of the national dish. Jeon Sungtae meditates on meals turned sacramental. Greek cooking authority Diana Farr Louis reports on sustenance both figurative and literal in refugee camps. Kanako Nishi has a bone to pick with table manners. Manuel Vázquez Montalbán channels a gourmand Robinson Crusoe. In two nostalgic memoirs, Prasanta Mridha remembers that Bangla street food is right up his alley, and Moshe Sakal recalls one happy childhood in two culinary traditions"

Foods the Romans brought to Britain by Cindy Tomamichel. A brief survey of the changes in diet, agricultural practices, and food distribution that came with the Roman occupation of Britain.

How army rations helped shape food by Veronique Greenwood

not foodie, but fun...
The Fine Art of Cheating in Baseball : Remembering Red Faber, One of the Last Great Spitballers. An excerpt from Off Speed: Baseball, Pitching, and the Art of Deception by Terry McDermott.

from the library...

The Other Language by
Excellent collection of short stories, most featuring Italians in international settings.

Contents: The other language; Chanel; Big island, small island; The presence of men; An Indian soirée; The club; The Italian system; Quantum theory; Roman romance.


The cover, while appropriate,only tells a part of the story. The trip wasn't as tranquil as the photo suggests.

from my shelves...
Moving the Palace by Charif Majdalani, Edward Gauvin (Translation from the French)

A magnificent road trip! A Lebanese adventurer leaves his assignment with the British army to take over a perilous venture abandoned by another Lebanese adventurer. It's nothing less than moving an entire palace (in pieces) across deserts and seas from Tripoli to Beirut. By camel, mule, horse, and boat. In 1908. When the region is filled with unrest and feuding tribes. Not all is fighting--there are luscious banquets, merry story telling sessions, and a host of eccentric characters.
From my subscription to New Vessel Press.

Atlantic Hotel by João Gilberto Noll, Adam Morris (Translation)
In this short novel a man wanders around Brazil, sometimes by bus, sometimes by car, and sometimes by foot. He seems to encounter misfortune at every stop. Who is he? Why does he wander?

From my subscription to Two Lines Press.

The Last Days of Café Leila by Donia Bijan
When Noor was eighteen her father sent her and her brother out of Iran to the United States. He felt they weren't safe in the Islamic Republic. Thirty years later Noor, with her reluctant teenage daughter Lily, returns to Tehran for a visit. Noor's marriage has fallen apart and when she arrives at her childhood home, she finds her father is ill. Noor must cope with the changes in her homeland and her rebellious daughter. It's a difficult story,  well told but just a tad simplistic. It is a coming of age story for both Noor and Lily. Both make potentially disastrous decisions. At times Noor seems immature but she really doesn't seem to belong anywhere. The novels leaves us with that old question: Can you go home again?          Advance review copy via LibraryThing.
Can you go home again? For me, the answer has often been "No." But sometimes you can visit your childhood in someone else's poetry...

So Sweet Against Your Teeth: Poems from Childhood's Fall (Woman Song Book 1) by

Saturday, May 13, 2017

May (second week) 2017 Reads

This week's story:    The Ice Palace (in Flappers and Philosophers, by F. Scott Fitzgerald)
 “Deal Me In 2017!”
"The sunlight dripped over the house like golden paint over an art jar, and the freckling shadows here and there only intensified the rigor of the bath of light. The Butterworth and Larkin houses flanking were entrenched behind great stodgy trees; only the Happer house took the full sun, and all day long faced the dusty road-street with a tolerant kindly patience. This was the city of Tarleton in southernmost Georgia, September afternoon.

Up in her bedroom window Sally Carrol Happer rested her nineteen-year-old chin on a fifty-two-year-old sill and watched Clark Darrow's ancient Ford turn the corner. The car was hot—being partly metallic it retained all the heat it absorbed or evolved—and Clark Darrow sitting bolt upright at the wheel wore a pained, strained expression as though he considered himself a spare part, and rather likely to break. He laboriously crossed two dust ruts, the wheels squeaking indignantly at the encounter, and then with a terrifying expression he gave the steering-gear a final wrench and deposited self and car approximately in front of the Happer steps. There was a heaving sound, a death-rattle, followed by a short silence; and then the air was rent by a startling whistle."

And that, Folks, was as much as I could take. Well, I did skim enough to find that it seems to be that Sally is rumored to be engaged to a Yankee, but I just couldn't bring myself to read this story. "...her ninteen-year-old chin on a fifty-two-year old sill..." ????

This week's card: Eight of Diamonds. "Biba" Playing Card 

OK, so in the spirit of the story I didn't read, here is a girl resting her twenty-something-year-old-tush on a two-day-old stool.

from my "owned-but-unread" shelf...
Voroshilovgrad by Serhiy Zhadan; Reilly Costigan-Humes (Translation), Isaac Wheeler (Translation)
In trying to save his brother's business (a gas station) Herman encounters thugs, gypsies, refugees, smugglers, ghosts, and various kinds of fanatics.Life is not easy in post-USSR Ukraine.

From my subscription to Deep Vellum Publishing

from the library...

 The Woman on the Stairs by Bernhard Schlink, Bradley Schmidt (Translation)
The story starts in Germany with a painting, three obsessed men, and a woman (the model for the painting). The model's husband owns the painting, the artist steals the wife, and the third man is a lawyer representing the artist. The painting is stolen and they all--the painting, the woman, the three men--end up in Australia where the majority of the story takes place.

It's a strange "love" story, maybe more about self love, than romantic love since no one here is really able to relate to the other.

 Gutenberg find...
Book Cover

With a Camera in Majorca by Margaret D'Este (With Illustrations from Photographs by Mrs. R. M. King) Putnam, 1907
Not just pictures, there is a lot of prose description. It was fun to read and view this 1907 book about a place I frequently visited in the 1980s.
Also includes Ibiza and Minorca. The prose is typical of travel writing of the time and I probably would have skimmed more if I weren't so familiar with the terrain and curious about how they saw it.


I finished  the MOOC   Antarctica: From Geology to Human History
This was really interesting and well organized. It's a place I'm curious about but not interested in visiting.

Saturday, May 06, 2017

May (first week) 2017 Reads

The novels I read (or finished) this week were fairly light reads, not so much in subject, but in presentation. There's nothing really light about WW1 infantry combat, poverty stricken Hondurans traveling north through Guatemala and Mexico, murder on a luxury yacht, but all of these were quick fictional reads. The biography of Isabella of Castile was comparatively heavy going.

Then it was time to play...
 “Deal Me In 2017!”

the story...The Punctiliousness Of Don Sebastian (in Orientations, by William Somerset Maugham; on Gutenberg).
The narrator impulsively gets off a train in a remote Spanish town. There he encounters an impoverished nobleman who sells him an old manuscript. It is a family document revealing the origins of the family title. It is a tale of infidelity, fratricide, and greed.

An interesting coincidence to have a story about Spanish noblemen when I was in the middle of Isabella and Ferdinand's Spain, although the Maugham story was set in an earlier period.

The other stories in the collection are: A Bad Example, De Amicitia, Faith, The Choice Of Amyntas, and Daisy. Haven't read them yet, but I will.

the card...
Royalty, but English, not Spanish, and an earlier period than Isabella (Henry VIII is the 4 of Clubs)

Three of Diamonds: from  The British Museum "Incomplete pack with 27of 52 playing cards depicting the kings and queens of England, including Oliver Cromwell; each monarch portrayed full length, with (except in the case of Cromwell) date of beginning of reign and length of reign; suit mark at top left..."

from my "owned-but-unread" shelf... 

Tender: Stories by

Mind bending, mind expanding and, at times, mind exploding sci-fi, fantasy, and dystopian stories. It’s writing like this that keeps me reading “outside my comfort zone.” This one's a keeper - I want to read many of them again.
Advance review copy through library Thing.

The Same Sky by Amanda Eyre Ward
Two stories running concurrently in alternating chapters. It's no spoiler to say they eventually converge--that's pretty obvious. One is Alice: hardworking (she and her husband own a barbecue restaurant) and happily married except for infertility. The other is Carla: living in the slums of Honduras until she sees a way out and makes the hazardous journey north. This was a quick read, presenting many of the problems of contemporary life without going into great depth. Not a bad book, but it could have been so much more.
Advance review copy.

Time and Regret by

Perdita by Hilary Scharper
Maybe Marged Brice really is 134 years old...and maybe somebody else will see what she sees...I enjoyed the story, but ... it built up to a letdown...

And this cover (and the two immediately above above) blah..

From the library...
The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
The usual suspense stuff. Slightly (very) drunk woman witnesses (or thinks she witnesses) something happen--a scream and a splash. She tells her story but no one believes her. Was there ever a woman in what should have been a vacant cabin? It is a closed situation on a luxury cruise yacht. Who can she trust? etc. Not bad, not great. I had part of it figured out, no great effort required. Gave it a generous 3 Goodreads stars.

Note: Can I please read a novel in which the protagonist does not have vivid, easily interpreted expository dreams?

A Piece of the World  by

Isabella of Castile: Europe's First Great Queen by Giles Tremlett
Comprehensive, readable biography.Times were terrible then and it is easy to draw parallels between the expulsion of the Jews and Moors from Spain and the plight of refugees in the world today. Do we ever get better?