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).

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