Saturday, April 22, 2017

April (third week) 2017 Reads

From last week's trip to the library three great books and one dud. I also read one from my backlog. The story for the Deal Me In Challenge is the first story in the Library of America three volume set of Singer's Collected Stories. I won the set last year at The Mookse and the Gripes

 “Deal Me In 2017!”
 
This week's story: Gimpel the fool by Isaac Bashevis Singer (in Collected Stories I); translated from the Yiddish by Saul Bellow
Gimpel, a simple baker, is the butt of all the jokes in town but is he really a fool?




This week's card - the Eight of Spades - made me want to do a little Homage to Crazy Eights, a game I loved when I was a child.
On the left is a vintage pack like the one I remember using. It was published by Whitman in 1951. This and several other packs are on eBay. On the right is an electronic version of the game published by GASP Mobile Games Inc. It is available free from the Microsoft Store.

Three "great ones" from the library...
Vampire in Love and other stories by Enrique Vila-Matas; Translated from the Spanish by Margaret Jull Costa (Translation)
Nineteen delightful stories. As is often the case with me, the title story which is available online from Two Lines was not my favorite. Wish this could stay on my shelf forever...but it's a two-week loan.
Contents: A permanent home; Sea swell; Torre del Mirador; I never go to the movies; Rosa Schwarzer comes back to life; In search of the electrifying double act; Death by saudade; The hour of the tired and weary; They say I should say who I am; Greetings from Dante; Identifying marks; The boy on the swing; An idle soul; Invented memories; Vampire in love; Modesty; Nio; I'm not going to read any more e-mails; Vok's successors. (my favorites are highlighted, but they are all good.)
Cover design by Rodrigo Corral




Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller
This is both story of a marriage told from the point of view of a wronged wife and a story of a father/daughter relationship based on wrong assumptions and false memories. Wonderful writing. So very different from Fuller's debut novel Our Endless Numbered Days. Looking forward to what she does next.

Cover design by Diane Chonette
Pattern design by Ákos Néma





Turner: The Extraordinary Life and Momentous Times of J. M. W. Turner by Franny Moyle
At times I got bogged down in detail, but overall it was a rewarding read. A number of plates are included in the book, but not all the ones that are discussed as Mayle traces Turner's artistic development over a long and prolific career. I did a lot of Googling to find the referenced paintings.

Jacket design by Gabriele Wilson
Jacket art: The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons, 16 October 1834; Joseph Mallord William Turner (at the Cleveland Museum of Art)


The "dud" from the library trip...
City of Light, City of Poison: Murder, Magic, and the First Police Chief of Paris by Holly Tucker
I know I shouldn't let one factual error early in a book put me off reading the book. Even though they bug me,  I often forgive geographical errors in fiction. When a book is non-fiction--especially history--such errors make me doubt everything else in the book. On page six: "On the Left Bank of the Seine sat the castle-like Châtelet compound..." (interesting error as the map in the book places it correctly on the Right Bank.) I became obsessive, fact checking everything. No fun at all, this book isn't worth the trouble; did not finish.

from my "owned-but-unread" shelf...
Go Away Home by
A pleasant, not particularly challenging story about a woman's life on a farm and in a small town in Iowa just before and during WW1.  Liddie faces the limited options available to women of the times. This book was from a 2014 (!) blog win at Let Them Read Books

online...

I started another online course; Antarctica: From Geology to Human History  This one is taught by Dr. Rebecca Priestley, Senior Lecturer Victoria University of Wellington, and Dr. Cliff Atkins, Senior Lecturer Victoria University of Wellington.


Saturday, April 15, 2017

April (second week) 2017 Reads

This week I retried an author I didn't like when I was in school. Then I followed a link to a fun short story,  found a new online magazine and a couple of other online goodies,  went to the library (oops, shouldn't have done that), read a novel and a book of short fiction, and did some brain teasers....

 “Deal Me In 2017!”
The Story: In the Forests of the North (in Children of the Frost by Jack London)
I put this on my roster because I hadn't read anything by Jack London since a required reading in junior high school. Back then I hated London, but I thought it was time to give him another chance. I still don't like him.



The Card: Six of Diamonds: This card found at a stock photo site, 123RF, has nothing to do with the story I read except that it illustrates how I felt when I finished the story. Grrrr!




Here's a story I did like...

online...
“Bluebeard’s Wife”  a short story by T. Kingfisher
Found through Deal Me In participant Katherine Nabity,  The Writerly Reader

Freedom From Language by  By Merve Pehlivan
An essay on writing in a foreign language. In this case, it is a native speaker of Turkish writing in English.
This is from a new online journal the Bosphorus Review of Books which features "Words straight from the Bosphorus Strait: An online literary magazine about Istanbul." It has poetry, short fiction, and non-fiction. Reviews will come. The first issue was published in January, the second in March, and the third will be in May. For a more detailed profile see Leyla Yvonne Ergil's  Turkey's first English language online literary magazine.

52 Types of Wood and the Trees They Come From
A wonderful infographic from Alan Bernau Jr. of AlansFactoryOutlet.com

It's breakfast time someplace...Roads & Kingdoms Breakfast is a daily feature highlighting the morning meal around the world. Pretty pictures and foodie essays.

from my "owned-but-unread" shelf...

What Lies Within by Tom Vowler
A psychological suspense novel of a woman trying to put a traumatic event of the past behind her. The past catches up with her and she must struggle to save her family.
I liked it, but not as much as I liked Vowler's later book That Dark Remembered Day.





The Fata Morgana Books by Jonathan Littell; Translated from the French by Charlotte Mandell
I struggled with this one. Originally published separately by French publisher Fata Morgana, four short surreal works are translated and collected into one volume. I really liked the first--Etudes (the French was published in 2007). The next--A Story About Nothing was OK but a little more surreal (French edition published in 2009). Quarters (original 2010) and An Old Story (original 2012) just got too weird for me. Like listening to someone's boring dreams. These two were the longest pieces so I only liked about a quarter of the book.
From my subscription to Two Lines Press.




Project Gutenberg find...

The Santa Claus' Book of Games and Puzzles by John H. Tingley (published in 1864)
All kinds of brain teasers with plenty of illustrations. Riddles, acrostics, anagrams, rebus, mazes, etc.  Really challenging. Some use now obsolete language and/or refer to historical events long forgotten.  (For example here's one of the answers to a rebus puzzle: Ere long expect a great overturning and uprising in Europe.) It also helps to know Roman numerals (Puzzle 29: One thousand five hundred divided by one, Will express what a lamp is, compared with the sun. Answer: Dim.)
Even with these difficulties it's fun to try and, thankfully, they do give you the answers.

Next week will be a "mostly library books" read.
 

Saturday, April 08, 2017

April (first week) 2017 Reads

This week I read two superb novels, a mystery, a classic short story anthology, a couple of online things, and, of course, my weekly story for Deal Me In...

 “Deal Me In 2017!”
Story: Cosmo Girl by Nadia Villafuerte; Translated from the Spanish By Julie Ann Ward
"She picks up her suitcase. Gets in line. Shows her ticket without letting her fist tremble. Checks her luggage. They’re not going to stop me, she repeats silently until she finally settles into seat twenty-nine." Elena is on her way north to Juárez. She doesn't plan to cross the border--until the time is right. But even while still far south in Mexico the bus is stopped at internal checkpoints...

Card: Three of Spades from metrodeck a card deck "Printed on found and repurposed New York City subway fare cards, metrodeck attempts to visually capture the common thread between commuters, public transportation, and chance.
Every card has been gathered at random, after having been purchased, used, and discarded by either a visitor or resident of New York City. Some have been signed or otherwise marked, making each card unique with its own narrative potential."
OK so our story is set in Mexico, not New York City, and it's on a bus, not a train...but still the cautions on this card could apply to many forms of transportation. A bit of a stretch for a connection, but it's a cool concept deck. Follow the "process" link on the metrodeck site menu for some neat pictures of how the cards are made.

from my "owned-but-unread" shelf...


Eve out of Her Ruins by Ananda Devi, J.M.G. (Introduction), Translated from the French by Jeffrey Zuckerman
An absolutely stunning, crushing story of four teenagers in an impoverished area of Port Louis, Mauritanius. Lyrical first person narrations alternate between two girls and two boys as they tell a tale of sex and violence that can only end in tragedy. 
My copy from Deep Vellum subscription.
Cover design by Anna Zylicz
On the Best Translated Book Award (BTBA) Longlist 2017



 
Chronicle of the Murdered House by Lúcio Cardoso,  (Translated from the Portuguese by Margaret Jull Costa and Robin Patterson; Introduction by Benjamin Moser
A classic family tragedy played out in a crumbling villa. Beautifully told through multiple points of view in a series of documents (letters, diaries, statements, reports).
My copy from Open Letter Press subscription.

On the Best Translated Book Award (BTBA) Longlist 2017



A note about Best Translated Book Award (BTBA) Fiction Longlist 2017:
It's a terrific list. So far I have read five -- the above two and A Spare Life, Umami, and Oblivion
No way can I say one of these is better than the others.



After the Crash by



 
Gutenberg find... 

Brazilian Tales by Albuquerque, Coelho Netto, Dolores, and Machado de Assis Translation and Introduction by Isaac Goldberg (Published in 1921 by The Four Seas Company, Boston, Massachusetts)

Contents: Preliminary Remarks: An overview of the state of Brazilian literature (in 1921) as well as information on the writers in this collection.
  The Attendant's Confession By Joaquim Maria Machado De Assis: Murder of self-defense?
  The Fortune-Teller By Joaquim Maria Machado De Assis: a story of a love triangle.
    Life By Joaquim Maria Machado De Assis: a dialog between Ahasverus (The Wandering Jew) who is the last mortal on Earth and Prometheus.
    The Vengeance Of Felix By José Medeiros E Albuquerque: "Old Felix had followed his trade of digger in all the quarries that Rio de Janeiro possessed. He was a sort of Hercules with huge limbs, but otherwise stupid as a post." Or was he?
    The Pigeons By Coelho Netto: "When the pigeons leave, misfortune follows.—Indian superstition."
    Aunt Zeze's Tears By Carmen Dolores: An old-maid faces reality.

online...


Build Your Own Pizza Oven: The Crust-Worthy Guide You Didn't Know You Kneaded an exercise for architecture students, complete with plans and instructions.
I'm not going to build one, but if I were ever build anything out of brick and mud this is a thing I would build...

But I wouldn't drink Bone Sake with my pizza...


Bone Sake Michael Pronko, a long time resident of Japan, meets his match in a drink that "...brought me closer to the essence of bone, a place I wasn’t sure I wanted to be."

Pronko is the author of three mystery/thrillers (set in Tokyo) and three collections of essays on Japan. In addition to his writer blog, he (along with Marco Mancini) runs the blog Jazz In Japan which features news, reviews, articles, club and venue information, and other related things.

Saturday, April 01, 2017

March (fifth week) 2017 Reads

So March had almost five weeks this year? No wonder I got so tired of it. It's Madness, I tell you!

Speaking of madness I'm watching NCAAW games so not reading as much as usual...
 ...but...
          ...somewhere in the madness...
               ...I read two very fine novels, a good short story collection...
                     ...and... 
                           ...found time to shuffle up and pull a card for the Deal Me In story challenge...

 “Deal Me In 2017!”
The story: It's me! by Ekaterina Togonidze (in Best European fiction 2015) Translated from the Georgian by Natalia Bukia-Peters and Victoria Field.
Iamze/Ia/Ianna/Yanna has her appearance changed through major and minor cosmetic surgeries--but does she still have a soul?


The card(s): The Queen of Spades: These are from a page of Queens of Spades on Playing Arts. Viewers were asked to vote for their favorite. The vote has ended but there are lots of neat card designs to view.  I had a difficult time choosing one for this story. The Pichardo one shows a dramatic transformation and the Mancini suggests the loss of soul. Googling for this card was a neat exercise during NCAA Women's Tournament game time outs--when I was supposed to be walking laps around the house. 
Fabio Mancini

Marco Pichardo


from the Library...

Swing Time by Zadie Smith
Two brown girls grow up in Northwest London dreaming about the dance. One has talent, the other does not. But it takes more than talent--luck also plays a part and these girls aren't lucky. As they grow their paths split and their friendship dwindles. One pursues a short mediocre stage career and single motherhood. The other, who is the narrator of the story, becomes personal assistant to a highly successful pop star. But there is much more here than the fluctuating friendship: racism, patronizing do-gooders, unintended consequences of charity, rich vs poor, parenting styles, exploitation, immigration--all packed into a smoothly flowing package.



from my "owned-but-unread" shelf... 



The Ambassador by Bragi Ólafsson, Lytton Smith (Translator)
An Icelandic poet makes a trip to Lithuania to attend a poetry festival. Our poet tends to overthink everything--the buying of an overcoat, a stain on a carpet, the return of a videotape, other small things. But when it comes to the big things like plagiarism he seems not to have thought at all. In spite of (or, perhaps, because of) his ineptness his adventures are fun to follow. At times  Inspector Clouseau in a new role as petty thief comes to mind.




Project Gutenberg find... 


Lotta Schmidt and other stories by Anthony Trollope; fourth ed., Chapman and Hall, 1876 (first ed was 1867)

I enjoy Trollope's novels of English life and was happy to find this story collection. In these stories Trollope turns his wry eye to the international scene, they are a delight to read.

Contents: Lotta Schmidt in which a Viennese girl chooses between two suitors; in The Adventures Of Fred Pickering a young aspiring writer must choose between starvation and pride; The Two Generals is a story of brothers on opposite sides during the American Civil War; the next story is a humorous one where an Englishman has a traveler's worst night ever in an Irish village "hotel" but he meets and becomes friends with Father Giles Of Ballymoy; Malachi’s Cove is a place near Tintagel in Cromwell where an old man and his granddaughter gather seaweed until a neighbor intrudes on their territory; The Widow’s Mite is about charity and what we are willing to try to give up for a cause; The Last Austrian Who Left Venice is the story of a Venetian woman who falls in love with an enemy Austrian soldier; the question asked in Miss Ophelia Gledd is "Can an American woman be considered a "lady" in London society?; and in the final story, The Journey To Panama, there is a shipboard friendship between a man planing on crossing the Isthmus of Panama (no canal in those days) and on to Vancouver and a woman who is to meet her future husband after crossing the Isthmus.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

March (fourth week) 2017 Reads

Two super great novels, a non-fiction, a couple of literary journals, a Gutenberg find, and my weekly short story made up this week's reading.

 “Deal Me In 2017!”
In this week's short story, Ministry of the Interior by Louise Kennedy, a man in Beirut buries his pet cat with the help of some women friends. It's a rather sad affair and although he has prepared a nice buffet, the women can't wait to leave.
It is online at Short Fiction, a print and online journal, featuring excellent short stories from around the world.





This week's card, The Five of Hearts, is from the Marshall McLuhan Distant Early Warning (D. E. W.-Line) Card Deck, A deck of playing cards designed to be used as a problem-solving device. Published in 1969.

An essay about the deck may be found here and a complete set of DEW Line cards can be seen on Flickr at https://goo.gl/bvwVM7




from my "owned-but-unread" shelf...

A Spare Life
by Lidija Dimkovska, Christina E. Kramer (Translation from the Macedonian)
The separation of conjoined twins serves as a metaphor for the breakup of Yugoslavia, but it's a very strong story even if read as a straight narrative without the metaphorical stuff.

From my subscription to Two Lines Press






Anything Is Possible by Elizabeth Strout
In this collection of linked short stories, Strout expands on the lives of several people mentioned in My name is Lucy Barton. It stands alone, you don't have to have read Lucy Barton to appreciate these stories of small town life, love, and loss. Strout is one my favorite authors and this one does not disappoint. Loved it.

Advance review copy through GoodReads.



Riding the Black Cockatoo by John Danalis
The author gives an account of the process of returning a skull of an Australian Aborigine to its tribe. He goes into the difficulties encountered which include convincing his father of the necessity of repatriating the skull, finding the right authorities to receive it, working with elders to assure that the proper ceremonies are observed, and dealing his own psychological reaction to the atrocities that the native people of Australia have suffered over the years.

Not the greatest writing, but it does help to raise awareness.

My copy from a blog win at The Bookshelf Gargoyle

Literary journals...

Two Lines 26 by CJ Evans (Editor)
More information and Table of Contents  Some selections from this and previous issues are available online 
I am a subscriber.

New England Review, Vol. 37, No.3 (2016)
Publishes fiction, poetry, non-fiction, drama. This issue features a section of translations of current German poetry. Some material from past issues is available online (pdf). I rec'd this copy from a blog win at LitHub Daily.  More Information and Table of Contents 

Gutenberg find...

The American Railway : Its Construction, Development, management, and Appliances by Bogart, Clarke, others, and Voorhees (Originally published by Scribners' in 1889)
Over 400 pages of essays, pictures, charts, statistics, and more. A lot of it is rather dull, but there is plenty of interest especially to a researcher. It's worth a look just for the sketches, drawings, and photographs.
The chapter on "The Every-day Life of Railroad Men" is a gem with such insights as "Brakemen have had the reputation of doing a good deal of flirting, and many a country-girl has found a worthy husband among them; but there is not so much of this method of diversion as formerly; both passenger and freight men now have to attend more strictly to business, and they cannot conveniently indulge in side play. There are still, however, enough short branch-lines and slow-going roads in backwoods districts to insure that flirting shall not become a lost art in this part of the world."

Saturday, March 18, 2017

March (third week) 2017 Reads

This week, except for being snowed in on Tuesday and unable to get my car out on Wednesday, was a lot of fun. Or maybe it was fun because of the snow. Everything I read was rewarding--each in its own way.  Planes, trains, and automobiles in three of the four novels I read this week. The fourth was a math problem and the "story" of the week was a poem. Great cover art for all four novels.


 “Deal Me In 2017!”
This week's story is a poem:  ROY-G-BIV B/W by Charlie Clark (in Bat City review #8, published in 2012)
The title is made up of the initial letters of the colors in the color spectrum plus black and white. The poem has eight sections, one for each of the seven colors and one for B/W. In some sections the connection between the color and the text was clear to me, others, not so much so. I keep working on my understanding and appreciation for poetry, but it is still my hardest kind of reading.

Bat City Review "is an annual literary journal run by graduate students at the University of Texas at Austin, supported by the English Department and the James A. Michener Center for Writers." Poetry, Fiction, Non-fiction and Art are included.  I have two copies (#8 and #10) which I enjoy dipping into now and then. Good stuff.



This week's card: 5 of Clubs
I selected this card to go with this poem because it is so colorful and so hard to figure out.

It is by Mengying Wang, an artist and student in Beijing, China who goes by the user name overflow8 on Deviant Art.com and also on Tumbler.






One Hundred Twenty-One Days by Michèle Audin, Christiana Hills (Translation)
A wonderful debut novel by mathematician and Oulipo member Michèle Audin. It tells the story of French mathematicians over several years (through WW1 & WW2) in a variety of ways: diaries, medical records, news reports, and other material from archives. Fictional and actual people are mingled (that led me to a few Googles). It's not necessary to know a lot of math, though that may help in some spots. I'm no math whiz and I loved the book. My copy from Deep Vellum subscription.



Dance of the Jakaranda by Peter Kimani
How great to have a novel of Kenya's history written by a Kenyan. This one is told from the prospective of the men (both the British overseers and the Kenyan and Indian workers) building the railroad from the coast to Lake Victoria. It's filled with well drawn characters and is a joy to read.
Advance review copy form LibraryThing

Cover Art Jitterbug II, 1941 by African American artist William H. Johnson   (Smithsonian American Art Museum)



The Lauras by Sara Taylor
A confusing road trip by a mother and her teenager. Two unreliable narrators as Alex, the teenager, tells the story including retelling the stories the mother tells along the way. Alex is not always a good listener and the stories aren't chronological. But it's not as much of a muddle as it could have been and it flows surprising well. Advance review copy won on LibraryThing.

Jacket design unattributed (this is an uncorrected proof copy so info is incomplete)

 



Crossing the Horizon by Laurie Notaro (Kindle ed)
Fictional account of the exploits of several pioneer women aviators (and passengers) as they attempted to be the first woman to fly across the Atlantic. An interesting and fun read although some of them didn't survive the trip. Notaro sticks fairly close to the facts. Each chapter is headed with an historic photo and they are fun.

Library book




Reading may be a bit sparser next week because of basketball...

Saturday, March 11, 2017

March (second week) 2017 Reads

As I expected this was a "library reads" week with Travels with Herodotus, two Modiano novels, The First Wife: A Tale of Polygamy by Paulina Chiziane,  Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney, and a cookbook (on Kindle).

 “Deal Me In 2017!”
Oh good, this week's card for Deal Me In is the King of  Diamonds. It's always fun to search the Net for a face card. This week's story comes from Project Gutenberg:  An Occurrence at Owl Creek, by Ambrose Bierce
A moving story of a military execution during the American Civil War.




The card: I looked for something from the period of the story, but most of the Civil War decks (for example this King of Diamonds) were commemorative ones produced on various anniversaries.

I kept looking for something more interesting and something actually printed in the 1860s. I found lots of pictures of soldiers playing cards, but few images of the actual cards.


Then I found this deck which was produced during the War, but it has no K of Diamonds because this deck was "...produced by the American Playing Card Company in 1862. The backs had an image of four American flags while eagles, flags, stars, and shields represent the suits.  Revenue stamp inside box dated May 7, 1863"
Text and image from Bid Square where its sale is archived.





From the public library....

Villa Triste by Patrick Modiano, John Cullen (Translation)
Unlike much of Modiano's works, this is not set in Paris. It's set in 1960 at an unnamed French lakeside resort near the Swiss border (Lac d'Annecy, perhaps). The protagonist, Victor, is a stateless young man (Russian?) who meets up with a mysterious woman and her even more mysterious friend. Everything is Modiano vague; forgotten names, faces, places. Although Victor is not in Paris, he is constantly comparing streets, bars, houses to those he remembers from Paris. Along with Modiano vague, we have Modiano specific: street names, details of furniture, clothing, cars.



The Black Notebook by Patrick Modiano, Mark Polizzotti (Translation)
This one is set in Paris. The narrator, with the aid of an old notebook, looks back to the 1960s when his girlfriend was somehow mixed up with a group of mysterious Moroccans. It's all very shadowy and and I love that much of it takes place in neighborhoods where I too have roamed. But this is a Paris that I can only see through Modiano's writing. He shows a dark side of the "City of Light."

 

The First Wife: A Tale of Polygamy by Paulina Chiziane, David Brookshaw (Translation)
Not just about polygamy, but about what it is to be a woman. An amazing book. Five women in Mozambique share a husband. When the social traditions of polygamy get to be too much for them, they plot their revenge. Excellent.




Travels with Herodotus by Ryszard Kapuściński, Klara Glowczewska (Translator)
From the title one might think that Kapuściński traveled following in the footsteps of  the Greek. That is not the case, he traveled throughout Asia, the Middle East, and Africa as a foreign correspondent for a Polish new organization with a copy of Herodotus' Histories. He reads and reflect on it when he has time. In this book he relates what he reads to contemporary events and ponders the meaning of history as we see it and as Herodotus saw it. He contends that the Greek historians method was more like the modern journalist methods than those of the modern historian.



Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney
An old woman takes a walk around Manhattan on New Year's Eve 1984 and reminisces about her life. This book was inspired by a real person, Margaret Fishback, who was an ad writer for Macy's and a poet. Although Rooney worked with Fishback's papers (archived at Duke University) this book is fiction, not fictionalized biography. Parts (especially her encounters with the locals) are a bit improbable but it's a very human story and a good read.




Cooking for Jeffrey: A Barefoot Contessa Cookbook by Ina Garten (Kindle edition)
Once upon a time I collected cookbooks and actually used them. Now I pretty much cook from memory with occasional forays onto the Internet to find recipes. I now look at cookbooks as much for the pictures as for the recipes. I do watch TV food programs and enjoy Ina Garten's show. So I borrowed this for the chatty stuff about the couple and the food and for the pictures. The food photographer is Quentin Bacon (one of those wonderfully apt names) and his work does not disappoint. Garten is a fun cook who is not afraid to simplify and take shortcuts. Her recipes are easy to follow and there are a couple I might try. This Zucchini and Leek Frittata sounds good.


Saturday, March 04, 2017

March (first week) 2017 Reads

Still trying to limit myself to reading only from my "owned-but-unread" shelf, but I will start one library book this week: Travels with Herodotus by Ryszard Kapuściński, Klara Glowczewska (Translator). I intend to take my time with this because it will probably cause a bit of Googling and other research. The Deal Me In story this week is online. 

Recitation by Bae Suah, Deborah Smith (Translator)
This is the most difficult book I've read so far this year. A Korean actress has left the stage to wander around the world (mostly in Berlin, Vienna, and Seoul) meeting up with various other ex-patriots. It is told as a third person narrative, but at times it seems like her interior monologue. There is a vague story line which is disjointed and hard to follow. The cities all seem to overlap and there is much discussion of how the foreigners in these cities have more in common with one another than they have with their compatriots in their various homelands.
The language is rich, with elements of the mystery and dreaminess. Is it post-modern? magical realism? Is there such a thing as "fantastical realism"? There is much to ponder. The ending makes me want to go back to the beginning and start over. Definitely worth a closer read.
From my subscription to Deep Vellum Publications.



 “Deal Me In 2017!”

This week's stories are from Words Without Borders: Fog and Fire  (two very short fictions) by Nenad Joldeski; Translated from Macedonian by Will Firth.
Poetic and atmospheric--Fog begins "Fine rain is falling outside. One half of the city is under water, the other floats wounded on the city lake." The narrator goes out into the damp night.

Fire, the longer of the two stories, is a story of grief which begins "The summer that came after the death of my grandfather gave birth to a fiery well inside my father. The red chasm that he claimed was melting his soul and heating it to incandescence came out through his eyes and spewed flames at anyone who looked at him. He found no way to quench that fire."

These two stories along with Recitation by Bae Suah (see entry above) made me want to go through my shelves for a nice cozy, perfectly obvious, plot driven mystery or family saga. I'm brain dead.




This week's card: Five of Spades designed by Mexican artist Pedro Molina, which in this illustration seems to be a standard sized playing card, but...for a different view see this.

This is done in black and white which nicely fits the mood of the story Fog. For the second story, Fire, imagine the background swirls as red-orange and they become flames.


Back to the "owned-but-unread" shelf...

Away by Amy Bloom
Still reeling from my adventures with the post-modern Recitation and the two surreal short stories, I was looking for something with a clear strong narrative. This fit the bill, even though it jumps back and forth in time it is easy to follow.
After her family is killed in a massacre of Jews in the 1920s, Lillian emigrates to New York. She gets a job as a seamstress in a theater and becomes the mistress of the owner. When a cousin arrives and tells her that a village couple saved Lillian's daughter Sophie and took her to Siberia, Lillian starts on a journey to recover Sophie. She decides to head west to get to Siberia by crossing from Alaska.

During her travels, Lillian is befriended by a group of strange characters of dubious backgrounds. I liked the way Bloom follows through by telling what happens to these people after Lillian moves on and leaves them behind. There is a lot of violence and sorrow in the lives of Lillian and her friends; they have suffered unbearable losses. There is also hope, humanity, and humor. A fine book.

This was published in 2007. I received a free copy from the publisher in 2014 as part of a promotional for another of Bloom's books. (About time I got around to reading it.)

Dragon Springs Road by Janie Chang
I went from reading about a mother looking for her daughter to a daughter looking for her mother. This one takes place in Shanghai from 1908 to 1920. Jialing is a Eurasian child whose mother abandons her when she is seven years old. She is taken in as a bond servant and is given an opportunity to attend a mission school. Even with this education her future is not promising; with a few exceptions she is despised by both Chinese and Europeans. She does manage to earn a little money which she uses to search for her mother.

She eventually becomes the mistress of a wealthy Chinese man, but they get mixed up in political intrigue. There is an element of fantasy as she is continually befriended by a fox/woman who protects and guides her. Somehow this worked in an otherwise straightforward narrative.

I enjoyed the book but felt that there too many twists and turns and the ending seemed even less plausible than the shape-changing talking fox/woman.
I received a review copy through a LibraryThing giveaway.

Next week looks like a "library reads" week with Travels with Herodotus, two Modiano novels, The First Wife: A Tale of Polygamy by Paulina Chiziane,  Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney, and a cookbook (on Kindle).