Saturday, February 11, 2017

February (second week) 2017 Reads

This week, among other things, I read about printing in Venice, journeying through the Bardo, sailing with Conrad, and a new fictional look at a California institution. There was a little poetry, some short stories, and much less online surfing than usual.  For the Deal Me In 2017 short story challenge, I drew...The King of Clubs.

Why is it that when we have a storm predicted we feel the need to go to the library and stock up on reading material? A dozen shelves of "owned-but-unread" books aren't enough to tide us over for a couple of days? Nope, Wednesday was a massive safari to three libraries...and a used bookshop in one of them.

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

The Freedom in American Songs: Stories by Kathleen Winter
An enjoyable collection from a Canadian author. Part 1 is set in Newfoundland, the rest are scattered around Canada and the rest of the world. My copy from a blog win at The Quivering Pen.

Contents: Part 1. The Marianne stories. A plume of white smoke -- The Christmas room -- Every waking moment -- Part 2. The freedom in American songs -- Of the fountain -- You seem a little bit sad -- The Zamboni mechanic's blood -- Anhinga -- Madame Poirer's dog -- Flyaway -- Knives -- His brown face through the flowers -- Handsome devil -- Darlings' kingdom. (My favorites are highlighted.)

The Arbitrary Sign by Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé
Twenty-six short poems from a Singaporean. It has a sort of subtitle "The Most Misunderstood Alphabet Book in the World," so I won't say I understood it. It's difficult to say I've "finished" it, because if I like a poetry collection I keep going back to it and never really finish it. I've been reading this little book for over two years.

Bardo or Not Bardo by Antoine Volodine, J. T. Mahany (Translator)
Nine somewhat related stories of souls wandering in the Bardo--the Tibetan Buddhist after-life sphere. These souls are confused, some not even aware that they are dead, and the living who are speaking to guide them are not always in control. It is both touching and, at times humorous.

Bound in Venice: The Serene Republic and the Dawn of the Book by Alessandro Marzo Magno; Gregory Conti (Translator}
Venice as the center for the early book publishing business, where the Serene Republic was the first in a number of printing and distribution innovations. This is a bit dry at times, but mostly it is an interesting study.

From the library

Monterey Bay by Lindsay Hatton
Not sure what to say about this one. It's a highly fictionalized account of Monterey California, some of its well known characters (marine biologist Ed Ricketts & John Steinbeck), and the eventual founding of the Monterey Bay Aquarium. I enjoyed it as a novel, but is takes a lot of liberties with historical detail. But, then again, Cannery Row and Sweet Thursday aren't exactly true stories either.

Ourika by Claire de Duras; John Fowles (Translator and Foreword); Joan DeJean and Margaret Waller (Introduction)
Originally published in France in 1823, this short novel tells the story of a black woman raised by an aristocratic woman in Paris during the late 1700s.
When Ourika is about fifteen years old, she realizes that there is no place for her in the society she has grown up in. She falls into a deep melancholy.
The introduction gives an interesting account on how the book came to be written, the attitudes toward race on France at the time, and the book's remarkable reception.

Everything I Don’t Remember by Jonas Hassen Khemiri; Rachel Willson-Broyles (Translator)
Memory is strange. In this novel people seem to be remembering their friend Samuel, who died in a car accident. But are their memories true? Samuel claimed he had a terrible memory, but did he understand just how selective memory is? The narrator is a writer interviewing Samuel's friends and family. How does he chose which memories to share? I really enjoyed this book.

Project Gutenberg find... 

The Mirror of the Sea: Memories and Impressions by Joseph Conrad
Musings on the sea, seamen, and ships. Writing worth reading.


No Direction; drama by Miguel Alcantud, Santiago Molero; Sarah Maitland, translator
"...the mysterious call-and-response of a nameless man and the woman who appears to be holding him captive." Mysterious? It's downright puzzling...and re-reading makes it even more of a puzzle.

A Link to the music mentioned in the play Coque Malla - No puedo vivir sin ti (I cannot live without you).

This week's card: 

Since the story is translated from the Spanish, I looked something related to Spain. I found this card designed by Salvador Dali in 1972.

Because the play has a repetitive element, I wanted a reversible face card. I love that this isn't exactly a reverse image.

It's perfect! Surrealism is the right fit for this micro-play.

The Diver by Chris Beakey
A former athlete, suffering from illness, contemplates giving it one more try. Author Chris Beakey (novel Fatal Option to be released 2/21/17) has this and other of his stories freely available on his blog A Heartbeat Away.


  1. Another great card for what seems like a strange read. Interesting that the play lists the characters at the start as simply "Him" and "Her"

  2. Yes, a strange read...but one good thing is that it lead me to the amazing Dali cards.