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.


  1. Neat 1860s cards! "An Occurrence at Owl Creek" remains one of my Deal Me In favorites over the 3-ish years I've done the challenge.

  2. I really liked the story. I can't believe I never read it before. I read a lot of short stories, but this is my first year with this challenge. I'm so glad I found out about it.

  3. Cool cards. :-) I have a deck or two of Civil War-themed cards, but they are contemporarily made ones. Whenever I see An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge mentioned, I'm reminded of the time one of the members of my book club suggested it for one of our short stories for our annual "Short Story Month" and said "It's really a great story that keeps you HANGING until the end." Ha ha. :-)