Saturday, August 19, 2017

August (third week) 2017 Reads


This week I continued with the Two Month reading of Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller, plus three of my library holds came in so I'm juggling a bunch of stuff.

“Deal Me In 2017!”
Story: Happy This, Congratulations That by Lauren Fox, Illustrated by Roman Muradov
This story of a divorcee rebuilding her life while working in a supermarket bakery department is part of the CNET Technically Literate short story collection.




Card: 10 of Hearts which I found here on a rather complicated web site (but fun to explore). The artist is Emmanuel Jose.

I thought the pretzel cookies went nicely with the bakery in the story.







 from my shelves...

Lunatics, Lovers and Poets: Twelve Stories after Cervantes and Shakespeare
edited by Daniel Hahn and Margarita Valencia. Introduction by Salman Rushdie. Stories by Ben Okri, Kamila Shamsie, Juan Gabriel Vásquez, Rhidian Brook, Valeria Luiselli, Yuri Herrera , Nell Leyshon (Goodreads Author), Marcos Giralt Torrente, Hisham Matar, Soledad Puértolas, Vicente Molina Foix, and Deborah Levy. Translations by Anne McLean, Lisa Dillman, Samantha Schnee, Rosalind Harvey, Frank Wynne, and Christina MacSweeney. Overall, an excellent  and diverse collection.

New Haven Noir by Amy Bloom (Editor)
Stories by: Michael Cunningham, Roxana Robinson, Stephen L. Carter, John Crowley, Amy Bloom, Alice Mattison, Chris Knopf, Jonathan Stone, Sarah Pemberton Strong, Karen E. Olson, Jessica Speart, Chandra Prasad, David Rich, and Hirsh Sawhney.

I really like the Akashic Noir series and this one is especially good. There is a real sense of New Haven, both the Yale part and all the rest.




The Madeleine Project  by Clara Beaudoux,  translated from the French by Alison Anderson
When Clara Beaudoux moved into a Paris apartment she found a storage room full of a former tenant's possessions. She decided to archive the objects on Twitter ( ) and try to discover more about the woman who kept them until she died. This book grew out of that documentation.

I enjoyed the book and was as fascinated by the author's dedication to the project as I was with the things Madeleine kept.



One object leapt off the page and triggered a bunch of personal memories. In a box that belonged to my grandfather we found a pair of binoculars exactly like this pair--including the same lined leather case--that Beaudoux found among Madeleine's things. How we loved to use them.



And here is some strange Food Prep on You Tube

Tarantino's Spaghetti: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55m-oJq0Lko​
Wes Anderson's Smores: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=51sqHeClZ3s
Alfonso Cuaron's Pancakes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6_hpJHNt4IE
Michael Bay's Waffles: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aIsy3iS7SYE​

Monday, August 14, 2017

Bout of Books 20


Bout of Books

Bout of Books 20


I'll give this a try. Just what I need--a gentle reading boost.

"The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda Shofner and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, August 21st and runs through Sunday, August 27th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 20 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog."

Saturday, August 12, 2017

August (second week) 2017 Reads

This week we started Two Month Review #2.1: Introduction to Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller

This Icelandic novel promises to be a challenging (and rewarding) book. I will try to resist the temptation to read too far ahead.

The first read is a short one (pp 1-31) and the podcast is an informative one with the translator, Lytton Smith, as Chad's guest.

Last week I fell behind on my  “Deal Me In 2017!” short story challenge so I have two this week.

Last week's Story: The Facts Concerning the Recent Carnival of Crime in Connecticut by Mark Twain (on my Kindle)
A clever story about a man who comes face to face with his conscious, there is a verbal duel, the man wins, society loses.

Card: The Ace of  Clubs from the Game of Authors. 



This week's Story: Egyptian Puppet by Vicente Molina Foix, translated by Frank Wynne (in Lunatics, Lovers and Poets: Twelve Stories after Cervantes and Shakespeare, edited by Daniel Hahn and Margarita Valencia; introduction by Salman Rushdie)
This anthology was put together to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the deaths of Shakespeare and Cervantes. Six English speaking authors were asked to contribute original stories inspired by Cervantes. Six Spanish language authors contributed stories inspired by Shakespeare.

This story was inspired as much by Shakespeare's times as much as by his works. It is not a retelling of any work, it is a telling of what life might have been like for one of the theater goers who attended one of the plays. Margaret attends a performance Antony and Cleopatra with her husband, a prison guard. The next day the husband disappears and this is the story of Margaret after that. It involves a meeting with a performer and a look backstage at the Globe.

As with all such projects, the quality and appeal of the stories vary. I suspect that I didn't start with the best although I appreciate the approach the author took with it. I look forward to reading the other stories.  The other authors are Ben Okri,  Kamila Shamsie, Juan Gabriel Vasquez, Yuri Herrera, Nell Leyshon,  Marcos Giralt Torrente, Hisham Matar, Soledad Puértolas, Deborah Levy, Rhidian Brook, and Valeria Luiselli.

The card was the Two of Spades: According to Rushdie in the introduction "We don't know if they [Shakespeare and Cervantes] were aware of each other...."

Perhaps they will meet in some future or alternate world and will be joined at the hip and collaborate on some wondrous, Spanglish, steampunk classic.

The card, appropriately, is from a sort of art anthology--the Collective Art Project (CAP) Deck: 52 Aces Playing Cards by Zeixs [2nd Edition] The 2♠ is by Argentine artist  Diego Hernan Mazzeo



And while I am on the subject of anthologies, here is an ambitious project: the Global Anthology "an initiative that highlights a work of prose from every country on Earth, as well as many nations, states, sovereignties, territories, and flag-less regions."  These are links to material in various online publications. Each piece is written in or translated into English and each writer is native to the country represented. Worth exploring.


And I finished this from my shelves...

Nowhere People by Paulo Scott, translated from the Portuguese by Daniel Hahn
Not much to say about this fine novel. The info on Goodreads says it all. 

Saturday, August 05, 2017

Six Degrees: Austin to Thiebaud and back again

For the 6 Degrees of Separation Meme

 https://www0.alibris-static.com/isbn/9781599377018.gifSo we start with Pride & Prejudice, a book I had to read in high school. I hated it then and don't especially like it now, although I've grown up enough to appreciate its importance in literary history.

(Cover is from the 1950 Signet edition--which may or may not be the one we read in the late 50s)

Austin just isn't my cuppa, but it takes me to another high school required reading which I did like...


...Les Miserables. I loved the book. Later I saw the musical when I was in grad school. I had a really cheap student ticket. My seat was in the back row of the balcony with little leg room. I was scrunched between two really tall gentlemen who had to sit spread legged thus considerably invading my space. We all tried to be nice--they actually stood up during much of the show. I stood through one long musical number so they could sit. There was much joking about how our situation gave a whole new dimension to the title of the play.
(None of the covers from the 50s fit any edition we'd have read in school so I went with this image from  Amazon. It's a playbill and ticket--probably a better seat than I had--for the show I attended in Boston 1988.)

And that little story leads me to a book I read in another cramped circumstance...

...The Octopus: A Story of California written by Frank Norris in 1901. I am currently reading this on my Kindle so I decided to read it in the car while waiting for someone who was having a long appointment. This was just a few days ago. I have often read in the car with no problem but I have a new car. I love my car but a compact is no match for a standard sedan for getting comfortable with a good ebook and this book is just not that good. It's all about farmers vs railroads in the early days of rail transport in the San Joaquin Valley. A classic California novel which, for me, hasn't stood the test of time.
(Boring cover 'cause it's a Kindle freebee)

This leads to a classic set in the same region which has stood the time test...

JohnSteinbeck TheGrapesOfWrath.jpg...The Grapes of Wrath another California classic (from 1939) which is also set in the San Joaquin Valley. I've read this a ton of times. When the book first came out many farming communities banned the book from schools and libraries. By the time I was old enough to read it the ban was pretty much gone. In 2002 it was chosen for the California statewide reading program.
(This is the cover from the first edition, which my parents had and hid because they lived in rural California. It's my favorite of all the covers for the book.)

And, staying in the valley, with still another California classic with a great cover...
 


...My Name is Aram, a 1940) book of linked short stories by William Saroyan about an Armenian immigrant family in Fresno. I read this during the summer between grade school and junior high.
 (Love these original covers!)



This leads me another California classic I read in the summer (different summer)...

 ...Joan Didion's Play It As It Lays (cover for first edition, which is the edition I read). This one is set further south and more recent (1970)
When I think of this book I vividly remember the character Maria Weyth aimlessly driving the freeways.


Those freeways lead me back north to Sacramento (Didion's and my hometown) for a step into the art world and an artist who was getting noticed in his field at the same time Didion was getting noticed in her field...




Wayne Thiebaud was painting cakes and ice <--cream cones when Didion wrote Play it as it Lays, but he later moved on to landscapes often featuring freeways.-->

   And all of this can circle back to---        
        ---Pride & Prejudice---

                    How???



Because while I was reading P&P at Didion's alma mater,  Didion was beginning her career at Vogue and Thiebaud was teaching at the college which was to become one of my alma maters. Although I knew some of her family I've never met Didion. I did know Thiebaud (but not well) back in the day.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

August (first week) 2017 Reads

My blog is really lagging this week. I haven't read my story of the week, haven't made any notes on my reading, and haven't searched for a card. Will try to do something with some of this during the week. No excuse for the blog blahs, it just happens sometimes.

Story: The Facts Concerning the Recent Carnival of Crime in Connecticut by Mark Twain (on my Kindle)
Card: Ace of  Clubs- this should be an interesting search for an image. 

online...
More stuff  at Three Percent concerning the Two Month Review: a lively podcast featuring  Rodrigo Fresán, author The Invented Part, and a fun written-to-formula jacket blurb by Chad Post. 

Literature as Life: Sergio Pitol’s “Trilogy of Memory”  by Ignacio M. Sánchez Prado
Goodarticle about one of my favorite authors.

Sheesha Ghat by Naiyer Masur; Translated from the Urdu by Moazzam Sheikh and Elizabeth Bell
Short story

The Bones of Louella Brown by Ann Petry from her story collection, Miss Muriel and Other Stories.
A mix-up in a mortuary is more than embarrassing for the undertakers and a prominent family.

from the library...  
Reading Writing by Julien Gracq, translated from the French by Jeanine Herman

The Best Minds of My Generation: A Literary History of the Beats
by Allen Ginsberg, Bill Morgan (Editor), Anne Waldman (Introduction)

July (fourth week) 2017 Reads

We finished it!

The Invented Part by Rodrigo Fresán, Translated from the Spanish by Will Vanderhyden
This has been an amazing experience. Chad Post of Open Letter Books has led the Two Month slow read of this fantastic novel by providing summaries of each section, broadcasting weekly podcast discussions, setting up a Goodreads group, and publishing a Will Vanderhyden interview with Fresán.

This book was so complex, so convoluted, so full of surprises, so much fun that I can't possibly do it justice here. The best thing is to defer to Chad's great material at the Three Percent blog.

I love this book. It's one of the best things I've read this year. I and look forward to more Fresán.







“Deal Me In 2017!” Story of the week: Joy of Traveling by Jung Young Moon (in A most ambiguous Sunday, and other stories), Translated from the Korean by Jung Yewon
Two men and a woman have agreed to go on a trip together, but one of the men, K, doesn't show up. The others decide to go anyway.
As they drive they have a disjointed inconsequential conversation, make a couple of stops, he takes some pictures.
The narration fills in with how the two met and how they met K, a bisexual. It's not quite clear what the relationships are, we can only guess...

Card: Seven of Spades from Zoe's blog thing:  Engineering! Art! Stuff!
Zoe and another artist started modifying a deck of cards with various designs. They seemed not to have finished the project (the blog hasn't been updated recently). The few displayed are quite fanciful and some are in full color. It looks like a fun project.

This card might describe the countryside the couple (their names aren't given) in the story are driving through. There are rolling hills with vineyards and a rice paddy.


online...

Sequoia Nagamatsu - Stories
The author of the story collection Where We Go When All We Were Is Gone provides links to online publications of his stories. I'm slowly making my way through these links. Some lead to free, full text stories, other stories are available by purchasing online issues. I really enjoyed the ones I could freely access. In some cases I had to use a site's search function to find the story because it had gone to archive. But even if you can't find Nagamatsu's work these links lead to some interesting journals.

Translator as Medium by Charlotte Mandell

What Fourth-Grade Archaeologists Have Found in Their School’s Closet by Eric Grundhauser

The Ghost Villages of Newfoundland: A controversial government resettlement program has left centuries-old fishing villages abandoned by Luke Spencer
  A good novel about a holdout of the relocation is  Sweetland by Michael Crummey.

In Defense of the Emoji Building and Architecture Being Fun, Sometimes by Rory Stott
The arguments against seem to center around that these are frivolous, that they will go out of date, or that they are sending us down a slippery slope.
Maybe architects have to think that architecture must be serious, timeless, etc., but I come in on the side of being a little playful now and then. I like a building that makes me smile.
Dated? Let's get rid of gargoyles, coats of arms, art deco scrolls and flourishes, or anything else that suggests when a structure was built. Boring.
Slippery slope? What next? Does this open the door for medallions featuring @, #, recycling symbols, and other graphic signs of our times? So what? Shrug.

from my shelves...

https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1354209825l/436055.jpgLunar Follies  by
It's not quite accurate to say I've finished this book. I have read all fifty-three items, but I've only read them once. Like poetry, this is the sort of thing -if one likes this sort of thing- to reread. It is, so to speak, a parody of parody. A spoof on almost everything: art, sports, personal names, critics and criticism, writing, itself, four-letter words, and (I suspect) readers of books like this.

It seems oddly appropriate that I got this book in a ten dollar blind grab-bag purchase from the publisher. I also liked the other books in the bag, but this one was the most fun.



from the library....

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (Kindle edition)
Somewhat innovative way to tell a story, too bad there wasn't much of a story. Lost souls wandering in the 'Bardo" of a Georgetown Cemetery, trying to pretend they aren't dead, try to convince the newly arrived Willie Lincoln that he should immediately move on to a better place. Gimmickry, maudlin--a graphic novel without any pictures. It's listed as having 368 pages, but there is a lot of white space so it didn't take me long to read it.

Blacklands (Exmoor Trilogy #1) by Belinda Bauer
Stand alone mystery/suspense. Young boy seeks answers to a long ago crime. Although the protagonist is eleven years old, this is not a kids book. Bauer's more recent Rubbernecker is a much better book so I won't give up on this author. But I won't be reading Parts 2 & 3 of this trilogy.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

What Else I Read Whilst Reading "The Invented Part"

Wednesday afternoon (July 26. 2007) I caught the tail end of Chad Post et al on WXXI's Connections There was a discussion on what to read after you've read a terrific book like The Invented Part. Does it spoil you for anything - everything - else? Not for me, but maybe it's time to reread Tristram Shandy. Or maybe I should finally read some Proust or Joyce. Or that Icelandic thing Chad keeps mentioning. Or binge watch Twin Peaks. Or listen to the Kinks. Or just go sit on the dock of the Bay.

When we started the two month read I wondered what I would whilst reading the book, I didn't even think about after. I always read more than one book at a time and I decided I'd just go on as usual. Since I read about sixteen books a month (love retirement) I figured I would probably read around thirty other books during the slow read. I actually read about twenty-three. I also read my usual of amount of online short stories, articles, etc.

Did my reading of the Fresán book influence my other reading? In some cases yes, others not so much. And did my other reading influence my reading of the Fresán book? Maybe, maybe not. I think I'll go back and unread all those books and see if it makes a difference.

So here a list of what I read, with a few notes that may or may not address these questions.

most of these are covered elsewhere on the blog but I wanted to view them altogether
* indicates translated work
RF = Ricardo Fresán
TIP = The Invented Part
Date is date I finished the book, I was usually reading two or three concurrently.

*The Magician of Vienna; Pitol, Sergio: Jun 5
 I think my enjoyment of Pitol's adoration of Chekhov was enhanced because I was reading RF--or maybe I my enjoyment of RF's comments on Chekhov was enhanced because I was reading Pitol.
   I had already started this before starting TIP. This was a slow (2 week) read for me, but I was much slower with the first two volumes of Pitol's "Trilogy of Memory"- Spent 11 months with The Art of Flight and five months with The Journey. The speedier read on this one had nothing to do with TIP, it was just that I was in more familiar territory than I was with the other two. 

Death of an Airman; St. John Sprigg, Christopher: Jun 7
 vintage mystery--love these for interim reads
   
In Their Lives: Great Writers on Great Beatles Songs; Blauner, Andrew (ed.): Jun 9
 I went to a bookstore event for this; came home; picked up RF's book and he was mentioning the Beatles.
 This sort of thing happened a lot, for example:
 My daughter suggested that I look at MST3K Jonah's Kaiju Rap (Every Country has a Monster)  which includes the line "Chupacabra's chewin' up cattle down in Mexico." This was the first I had heard of Chupacaba but, of course, he turned up in TIP a couple of hours later.
 I mentioned RF's comment on Alice Monro getting the Nobel. Assuming TIP was done before the 2016 prize was announced we wondered what RF would have to say about it. After reading the Bob Dylan part of TIP, I still wonder what RF thinks about the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature.
 Today we were having lunch at an outdoor restaurant. A boy, about nine years old, was running down a ramp and across the gravel parking lot and I thought of RF (p. 13 mirrored on p. 540)

*The Reader; Schlink, Bernhard: Jun 12
 One book that informed my reading of this was *In My Brother's Shadow: A Life and Death in the SS by Uwe Timm which I read in 2014.

The Last Boy and Girl in the World; Vivian, Siobhan: Jun 13
 A so-so YA. I would have thought that even if I hadn't been reading a bunch of good books. Be kind--it's a debut work. ARC
   
The Genius of Birds; Ackerman, Jennifer; Jun 13
 Non-fiction ARC

*The Piper by Yoko Tawada (short story); and some poems in Two Lines 23; Evans, C.J. (ed):Jun 16
  I had already read the rest of this issue.
  Two Lines 26 had an excerpt from TIP but I didn't read it. I don't like to read excerpts when I know for sure that I'm going to read the complete work.
 
*Journey by Moonlight; Szerb, Antal: Jun 19
    
In the Heart of the Heart of the Country and Other Stories; Gass, William H.: Jun 20
   
A Gentleman in Moscow; Towles, Amor: Jun 21
 An enjoyable read from my local public library on (shh...) Kindle. Actually I like ebooks if they are fairly straightforward narratives or short stories. Not so much for things I want to deep read. My Deep Vellum Press subscription includes both ebook and paper editions, but I always wait for the paper edition.

*What are the Blind Men Dreaming?; Jaffe, Noemi; Jun 22
  A mother/daughter diary/memoir/essay. The diary part is a translated work.

*The Naked Eye; Tawada, Yōko: Jun 25

The Resurrection of Joan Ashby; Wolas, Cherise: Jun 29
  A book about an author who loses her will to write. Huh? No comparison to TIP. A totally different (and predictable) approach.  ARC

*Killing the Second Dog; Hłasko, Marek: Jul 02

Varieties of Disturbance; Davis, Lydia: Jul 2
 Short stories, flash fiction. Library book

*The Invisible Life of Euridice Gusmao; Batalha, Martha: Jul 05
  ARC
   
*The Private Lives of Trees; Zambra, Alejandro: Jul 05
   
The Call of Stories: Teaching and the Moral Imagination; Coles, Robert: Jul 06
 Non-fic. published in 1989, a little dated and somewhat elitist. Some good stuff about William Carlos Williams. I think my TIP reading did influence my opinion of this book, making Coles' Harvard students seem naive and not particularly well read. But it was 1989 and Holden Caulfield and all.

The Frangipani Hotel; Kupersmith, Violet: Jul 08
 short stories, think Saki, not RF

Worlds from the Word's End; Walsh, Joanna: Jul 12
 short stories, lots of word play, compare to Lydia Davis

*Elsewhere; Weinberger, Eliot (ed): Jul 14
 14 poems. The brilliant use of language in TIP increased my appreciation of the poetry I read in this book and online. That goes for both translated into English and originally in English poetry.

Last Night at the Lobster; O'Nan, Stewart: Jul 15
 A totally undemanding read which I read because it is set in a neighboring town. I've gotten lost in New Britain, CT more often than anywhere else in the world. I didn't get lost in this book.
   
*Summer Before the Dark; Weidermann, Volker: Jul 15
  Non-fic  Nothing like reading about writers when you're reading about writers. This was a good one to read when I was finishing TIP.

Lunar Follies; Sorrentino, Gilbert: Jul 23, 2017
And this was a perfect final read. It's been sitting on my shelf for ages--maybe it was waiting for me to need something great to read after TIP.  How did I miss Sorrentino? And they say this isn't his best...

Final note: Everything informs everything. Everything I've ever read enters everything I'm reading or will be reading. Even the works I barely or can't consciously remember--like the one where the dog dies.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

July (third week) 2017 Reads

Not much to add to the reading log this week. Continued with the slow read of  Rodrigo Fresán's The Invented Part with Chad Post's Two Month Review  by reading  "Meanwhile, Once Again, Beside the Museum Stairway, Under a Big Sky" (The Invented Part, Pages 405-440). Also reading Chad's comments and listening to the podcast about this section. And, as usual, spending a lot of time Googling because Fresán has so many literary and pop culture references. I'm lovin' it.
Next week will be the final section. The next slow read is Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller by Guðbergur Bergsson, translated from the Icelandic by Lytton Smith. My copy arrived in the mail on Monday.

This week...

 “Deal Me In 2017!”
Story:   Collection by Camille Meyer (flash fictions)
There are eight very short, interrelated stories in this collection. They read a bit like primitive attempts to explain how giants came to Earth or, perhaps, little stories made up by an older child trying to entertain a younger sibling. Or maybe those stories that develop from a party game in which one person says the first sentence and then each person in the circle adds to it. The results can be an interesting, but not very cohesive, story.

At Big Bridge, "a webzine of poetry and everything else...."  Fun to explore.



Card: Eight of Clubs from Demon Deck by Ukrainian artist Egor Klyuchnyk. I'm not sure that I'm seeing what was intended here, but this looks a bit like shrubbery and that fits the story because plants play an important part in the giant's adventures.








online...


Cartoons magazine. v.10:pt.2 (1916). Linen Islands Sea by Helena Smith-Dayton 
A light commentary on the dining habits and conversation circa 1916.
Smith-Dayton is particularly amused by the gentlemen.

I found this because of a comment  Katherine Nabity made on my post last week. I had a lot of fun with this and ended up reading more than the article  relevant to Katherine's comment. 

The "Cartoons" of the magazine title is used in the "political cartoon" sense--there are a lot of political articles and a lot of European war news and commentary. This was before the USA entered the war.



An Entire Family Disappears by Gunnhild Øyehaug; Translated from the Norwegian by Kari Dickson
Another excerpt from the story collection Knots. (I also read one of these last week.)



Three Principles of Architecture as Revealed by Italo Calvino's 'Invisible Cities'  by Osman Bari

These next two pieces discuss  Lima-based architect Karina Puente's  project to illustrate each and every "invisible" city from Italo Calvino's 1972 novel.
Italo Calvino's 'Invisible Cities', Illustrated  by James Taylor-Foster (6 images)
Italo Calvino's 'Invisible Cities', Illustrated (Again)   by AD Editorial Team (16 images)



This Drone Video Captures the Mesmerizing Geometries of The World's Most Vertical City  by AD Editorial Team
Presentation of an eight minute film from architect Mariana Bisti exploring Hong Kong by drone videography. "Not limited to vantage points accessible to humans, the video zooms and pans deliberately over, across and into the city’s enormous residential blocks..."


Seven Questions for Lytton Smith on Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller by Guðbergur Bergsson
Scott Esposito interviews Lytton Smith. Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller is the next book we will be reading for Chad Post's Two Month Review  project.

 from my shelves...



Summer Before the Dark by Volker Weidermann; translated from the German by Carol Brown Janeway.
Stefan Zweig reunites with his estranged friend Joseph Roth in Ostend, Belgium in 1936.  At the time Ostend was a quiet refuge where a group of exiles and soon to be exiles joined together in a fragile social circle. Lots of booze, affairs, and rivalries mixed in with the really serious decisions that they must make about their futures in a crumbling European society.
A must read for anyone interested in Zweig, Roth, or European culture in the interwar years.



Saturday, July 15, 2017

July (second week) 2017 Reads

A lot of short stuff this week. Two short story collections, a poetry anthology, forty-two pages of The Invented Part (Life After People, or Notes for a Brief History of Progressive Rock and Science Fiction, pages 361-404), a short novel, and some online things including the Deal Me In story for the week.

 “Deal Me In 2017!”
The story:
The Gay Old Dog. By Edna Ferber (on Gutenberg in The Best Short Stories of 1917)
This story tells of the ups and downs of Jo Hertz, a successful man in the leather business but in a bind with his family and romantic life. It seems he made a deathbed promise to his mother: he won't marry until his sisters are taken care of. He does meet someone, but she isn't willing to wait for the sisters to find mates. Jo ends up a lonely and resentful loop-hound ("a man who frequents it [the Chicago Loop]  by night in search of amusement and cheer is known, vulgarly, as a loop-hound.") Note: back when this was written "gay" was not synonymous with homosexual.

"He was the kind of man who mixes his own salad dressing. He liked to call for a bowl, some cracked ice, lemon, garlic, paprika, salt, pepper, vinegar and oil, and make a rite of it. People at near-by tables would lay down their knives and forks to watch, fascinated. The secret of it seemed to lie in using all the oil in sight and calling for more."


The card: Seven of Diamonds. The "beer card" in bridge and other trick-taking card games. Sorry I didn't know about this tradition back when I played this sort of card game.
Design by Christina Berglund, a graphic designer based in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
" Seven of Diamonds Brewery is based on the beer card tradition. As the tradition goes, when a player wins the last trick of the hand with this card, his opponent must buy him a beer." 

also online...

Alan Bean Plus Four By Tom Hanks
When I read that actor Tom Hanks has a story collection (Uncommon Type) coming out in October, I found and read this story in the October 27, 2014 New Yorker.
"Astronauts in the Apollo era had spent thousands of hours piloting jet planes and earning engineering degrees. They had to practice escaping from launchpad disasters by sliding down long cables to the safety of thickly padded bunkers. They had to know how slide rules worked. We did none of that, though we did test-fly our booster on the Fourth of July, out of Steve Wong’s huge driveway in Oxnard, hoping that, with all the fireworks, our unmanned first stage would blow through the night sky unnoticed."
What fun! I do want to read the stories in Uncommon Type.

It’s Raining in Love by Gunnhild Øyehaug; Translated from the Norwegian by Kari Dickson)
On a more serious note, a visit with a terminally ill friend.  From another story collection I want to read: Knots.

Stadium Club by Mark Mulroney
On the art of chasing down baseball player autographs. A great memoir piece in Victory Journal, "a print and digital publication devoted to the intersection of sport and culture. Rather than engage in statistical analysis or partisan squabbling, Victory spotlights the drama of sport and the enduring glory of athletic pursuits the world over."

Another Gutenberg find...

Little Songs of Long Ago   The original tunes harmonized by Alfred Moffat; Illustrated by
H. Willebeek Le Mair; published in 1912.
Words, music, and wonderful illustrations of thirty nursery rhymes. Sound files of the tunes played on the piano are available.



From my Shelves...

The Frangipani Hotel by




Worlds from the Word's End by


And Other Stories Publishing.



Elsewhere  by Eliot Weinberger (Editor)
Fourteen poems (translated into English) by fourteen international poets musing on travel and/or displacement. A perfect anthology for a former ex-pat (ex-ex-pat? re-pat-ex-pat?), displaced Californian (new-New Englander?) like me. First of all: the subject matter interests me


from the library...

Last Night at the Lobster by Stewart O'Nan
This is not just last night at the Lobster, it's The last night. A few days before Christmas and manager Manny and his crew are serving up the last lunch at a New Britain, Connecticut Red Lobster. The chain has decided the location is not getting enough business. At least they have a little advance warning and manager Manny and four others are getting transferred. Why do the others even bother to show up? Well, Manny holds their final pay checks and there is also some team loyalty (or not). One shows up and leaves after lunch committing some acts of vandalism on his way out. Some lunch customers show up in spite of a snowstorm. Manny copes and even tries some lame attempts to revive a failed romance. A quick read about a bittersweet night.

Saturday, July 08, 2017

July (first week) 2017 Reads

We actually had a couple of really nice weather days--nice enough on Monday to go for a drive to a library we usually don't visit, combined with an outdoor lunch at a favorite seafood place.  And on Wednesday another outdoor lunch at a place closer to home. Then on Friday it poured all day so I got some reading in.

 “Deal Me In 2017!”
The Deal Me In story this week is non-fiction
 Life in the Qandil Mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan by Linda Dorigo
A photo essay on this disputed region. Brief, but informative.


The card I found has nothing to do with the essay.  It's so silly. Yep, it's Freddy Mercury! It's part of Long Live Queen Freddie!.  This series by artist, illustrator/cartoonist, and game designer Chuck Knigge features Freddie as various other famous queens. Knigge has other fan art and some comics on the site. Fun to explore.
 




Elsewhere Online...

The Story of the Girl Whose Birds Flew Away, by Bushra al-Fadil; translated from the Arabic by Max Shmookkler. This is the winner of The Caine Prize for African Writing. There are links to both text (pdf) and sound (soundcloud) files of this and the other four shortlisted entries on the Caine Prize Shortlist website.


Home is a Cup of Tea by Candace Rose Rardon
The story of a search for the meaning of home told through words and sketches of habitations and teas. This illustration is from her first stop in England. Her travels also take her to New Zealand, India, Canada, Spain, Guatemala, Norway, and Uruguay where she now lives.






From the Library...

Varieties of Disturbance: stories by













Killing the Second Dog by

The woes of two Polish con men in Tel-Aviv. Their mark is an American tourist. Problems ensue when she turns out to have a bratty son and a (possibly) dangerous brute of an ex-husband.

My copy through New Vessel Press subscription.




 
The Invisible Life of Euridice Gusmao by






The Private Lives of Trees by Alejandro Zambra; translated from the Spanish by Megan McDowell
This short novel (104 pages) takes place in a single night while a Chilean man and his step-daughter wait for the mother to come home. Once the bedtime story is done and the child is asleep the man becomes increasingly anxious about his wife's lateness and begins examining the familial relationships in detail.





Sunday, July 02, 2017

Ridiculously Long List for Library Browsing

Placed on blog for easy (and shared) access when in various venues...I probably won't read most of this...list is subject to frequent revisions.

At D:
   The square of revenge / Aspe,  Pieter      
    Flora : a novel / Godwin, Gail   
    A dual inheritance : a novel /     Hershon, Joanna    
     Pure / Miller, Andrew 

At R/M:
    The accordionist's son / Atxaga, Bernardo     
    Trieste / Drndić, Daša   
    How to build an android : the true story of Philip K. Dick's robotic resurrection / Dufty, David F.    
    Chronicle of a last summer : a novel of Egypt / El Rashidi, Yasmine,       
    A Bintel brief : love and longing in old New York / Finck, Liana  
    Sea room : a novel / Gautreau, Norman G        
    Gutshot : stories / Gray, Amelia         
    Stillwater / Helget, Nicole Lea        
    The line of beauty : a novel /   Hollinghurst, Alan        
    Montecore : the silence of the tiger /    Khemiri, Jonas Hassen        
    American meteor / Lock, Norma         
    Redemption in indigo : a novel / Lord, Karen        
    Loving Donovan : a novel in three stories / McFadden, Bernice L.        
    All that is solid melts into air / McKeon, Darragh          
    The city & the city /    Miéville, China        
    Confessions : a novel /    Minato, Kanae          
    In her absence / AMuñoz Molina, Antonio
   A teaspoon of earth and sea / Nayeri, Dina
   Short stories. Selections. English Nors, Dorthe   
    Boundaries / Nunez, Elizabet.        
    You & me : a novel / Powell, Padgett        
    In Zeiten des abnehmenden Lichts. English / Ruge, Eugen       
    The Makioka sisters /     Tanizaki, Junʼichirō      
    Naomi /  Tanizaki, Junʼichirō        
    The death of Ivan Ilyich : The Cossacks ; Happy ever after /     Tolstoy, Leo
    The dragon behind the glass : a true story of power, obsession... / Voigt, Emily   (639.3747 VOI) 
    Landfalls / Williams, Naomi J         
    A happy marriage : a novel / Yglesias, Rafael  
       Loving Donovan : a novel in three stories / Bernice L. McFadden.

At Meri:
    The piano teacher / Jelinek, Elfriede
    Sepharad / Muñoz Molina, Antonio 
    The bridge of beyond. Schwarz-Bart, Simon
    The pinecone : the story of Sarah Losh, forgotten romantic heroine...  (BIO LOSH)

At W:
    The spy's Little Zonbi /  Alpaugh, Cole       
    Camouflage : stories /     Bail, Murray       
    Eucalyptus : a novel /     Bail, Murray        
    Ten white geese : a novel / Bakker, Gerbrand        
    Silent day in Tangier / Tahar Ben Jelloun ; Ben Jelloun, Tahar    
    Horses of god / Binebine, Mahi       
    The collected stories of Lydia Davis /    Davis, Lydia        
    Portrait of the mother as a young woman / Delius, Friedrich Christian       
    The book of memory / Gappah, Petina        
    An elegy for easterly : stories / Gappah, Petina        
    Skookum summer : a novel of the Pacific Northwest / Hart, Jack        
    My lady of the bog / Hayes, Peter         
    At the mouth of the river of bees : stories /Johnson, Kij        
    All the rage : stories / Kennedy, A. L.         
    Sweet nothing : stories / Lange, Richard        
    The boy in his winter : an American novel / Lock, Norman        
    The facades : a novel /    Lundgren, Eric 
    McGregor, Jon  / anything by him
    A thousand morons / Monzâo, Quim        
    A book of memories : a novel / Nádas, Péter        
    The end of a family story : a novel / Nádas, Péter        
    Sea room : an island life in the Hebrides / Nicolson, Adam        
    White is for witching / Oyeyemi, Helen        
    The secret history of the Lord of Musashi ; and, Arrowroot /  Tanizaki, Junʼichirō        
    Quicksand /  Tanizaki, Junʼichirō        
    The misfortunates : a novel /    Verhulst, Dimitri        
    Quesadillas : a novel / Villalobos, Juan Pablo        
    Down the rabbit hole / Villalobos, Juan Pablo        
    This Is Not an Accident : Stories and a novella / Wilder, April    
         A corner of the world / Fernández Pintado, Mylene
         No stopping train : a novel / Les Plesko.


Other Libs:
    Granada : a novel / Radwa Ashour     ʻĀshūr, Raḍwá 
    The Transylvanian trilogy : Volume I, book one : They were counted /Bánffy, Miklós 
    The Transylvanian trilogy : Volume II, book two, : They were found wanting ; Book three : They were divided / Bánffy, Miklós  
    The timeless land / Dark, Eleanor   
     Life of a counterfeiter : and other stories / Inoue, Yasushi
    Odessa : genius and death in a city of dreams / King, Charles
    Eléctrico W /Le Tellier, Hervé,
    Bells in winter / Miłosz, Czesław.   (Old/say891.857 MILOSZ))
    The opposing shore  / Gracq, Julien, E.Ly
    A manuscript of ashes / Muñoz Molina, Antonio   
    Happiness, like water : stories /Okparanta, Chinelo   
    Blue : the history of a color / Pastoureau, Michel
    Soundtrack of the revolution : the politics of music in Iran / Seyedsayamdost, Nahid;  Ham/Miller   New Nonfiction 780.955/SEY    
    The sasquatch hunter's almanac : a novel / Shields, Sharma.   
    The whispering muse /     Sjón
    The moon in its flight / stories by Sorrentino, Gilbert Ham/Ml
    Learning to swim and other stories / Swift, Graham    
    A cat, a man, and two women : stories /    Tanizaki, Junʼichirō      
    Some prefer nettles /Tanizaki, Junʼichirō       
    The key / Tanizaki, Junʼichirō
     Memoirs of a polar bear / Tawada, Yoko Ham/Mil
    Time on my hands / Vasta, Giorgio

Saturday, July 01, 2017

June (fifth week) 2017 Reads

Still reading The Invented Part and I started The Resurrection of Joan Ashby by Cherise Wolas. Oops...maybe not a good idea to juggle two 500+ page books about writers and the writing process. But they are very different and I'm enjoying them both so I'll see if I can manage, if my wrists hold up.--Actually, it was a good idea. I finished the Wolas book and it was a complementary read (see below).

I also read a great novel by a Japanese author who lives in Europe and writes in both Japanese and German. This book is translated from German and is about a Vietnamese immigrant in France. Just the sort of international work I love.

Not much other reading this week except, of course, the short story challenge...
 “Deal Me In 2017!”

The Story: The Wild Pandas of Chincoteague by Gregory J. Wolos
A man, a boy, and an infant on a wintry vacation to the Outer Banks. They seem well prepared, but things go wrong. There's the odd landlady, the power outage, two dead batteries (car & phone) and the thing in the shed. They are left with stories to tell.

The Card: Two of Clubs: The story had a kind of Charlie Brown quality to it (though its protagonist is a bit more optimistic than Charlie) so I liked this card from a Peanuts deck.
This is how I picture the guy when he gets his phone back and calls his wife to tell her the story.

The story is in Post Road Magazine, an online journal that is new to me. I did a bit of browsing to see what else is there. I read another story -The Room Where Elizabeth Bishop Slept by Paola Peroni. In this one a translator is at a writer's retreat and isn't having a great time of it. I liked this story better than the panda one. (A telephone also has an important role in this story.)

Post Road is a print magazine published twice yearly by POST ROAD, Inc. in partnership with the Boston College Department of English. It features poetry, fiction, nonfiction, short plays and monologues, and visual art. Only a part of its content is available online. I enjoyed browsing the current issue and the archives.

more online...

The Person You Are Trying To Reach Is Not Available by Andrea Chapela; translated from the Spanish by Andrea Chapela
A daughter deals with her mother's illness in a future time when when people can live very long (with replacement parts).

In the 26 June 2017 issue of Samovar "a quarterly magazine of and about translated speculative fiction. We publish fiction and poetry in their original language and in English translation. We showcase the work both of writers and also translators, who we have to thank for opening doors to new worlds.
Our definition of speculative fiction is broad, and includes science fiction, fantasy, horror, slipstream, and other genres that may not fit neatly into labels. We also publish reviews, essays and interviews."

The American Experience in 737 Novels  Susan Straight discusses and maps her experience reading American regional literature.

from my shelves...

The Resurrection of Joan Ashby  by
Fresán talks a lot about the loneliness of the author, Wolas protagonist just wants to be alone to get on with her writing. Beyond that one can't really compare the two, Fresán is a master, this is Wolas first novel.
Free advance review copy from publisher

The Naked Eye
by Yōko Tawada, translated from the German by Susan Bernofsky
Excellent novel about what is is to be an illegal immigrant. While in East Berlin to present an essay, a North Vietnamese girl is abducted and taken to West Germany. In an attempt to escape she boards what she thinks is a train to Moscow but ends up in Paris. She is befriended by several people and has a rough time since she cannot work or go to school as she has no visa. She becomes fascinated with the films of actress Catherine Deneuve and watches them over and over. She doesn't know French and often doesn't understand the films. Some of the best passages in the book are where she misinterprets the film and relates it to her own life. I loved this book.

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.