Saturday, May 27, 2017

May (fourth week) 2017 Reads

 “Deal Me In 2017!”
The card this week: Six of Clubs which means the "story" this week is not-a-story, it's an essay:

Identities in Motion -- My Mythomanias by Julia Schoch; translated from the German by Katy Derbyshire
How do we remember when the landscapes of childhood are gone? Schoch grew up in a town modernized in the Communist era and the made obsolete by the 1989 revolution.

  "They say the only things that count in life are the things we remember. That seems to be all the more important when there is no longer any evidence of the past.
   I no longer have any evidence of my past."

From Literature Across Frontiers (LAF) "a European Platform for Literary Exchange, Translation and Policy Debate."

Card is a stock image from dreamstime
It seems to go with the deterioration of the town (both the original and the new) and the hammer suggests the politics involved.


other essays online...and slow reading

Dorthe Nors on the best Contemporary Scandinavian Literature
The Danish author discusses Scandinavian Lit in general and specific authors:  Naja Marie Aidt, Yahya Hassan, Karolina Ramqvist, Lena Andersson, and Sjón.

 All Writing is a Kind of Realism: In Conversation with Rodrigo Fresán, author of The Invented Part
A conversation between Fresán and Will Vanderhyden, translator of The Invented Part. I am slowly reading this novel as part of Chad Post's Two Month Review  project.Chad has put together comments, podcasts, a Goodreads group, and more to help guide us through a difficult book. So far, we have read only the first 45 pages (which I loved).

I am also slow reading The Magician of Vienna by Sergio Pitol because that is the way I read Pitol. See: Pitol readings and More Pitol readings

Just because my card this week was for an essay doesn't mean I neglected short stories. In fact, I read some gems...

I read some of the O. Henry Prize Stories for 2017 that are available online:
Something for a Young Woman  by Genevieve Plunkett
The Buddhist by Alan Rossi 
Protection by Paola Peroni
Night Garden by Shruti Swamy
Paddle to Canada by Heather Monley
Mercedes Benz  by Martha Cooley
A Small Sacrifice for an Enormous Happiness by Jai Chakrabarti

Two other stories I read online...

An Affair Before the Earthquake by Samrat Upadhyay
Samrat Upadhyay is a Nepalese writer who writes in English. He teaches at Indiana University. This is from his collection of short stories, Mad Country.

The Great Disaster  by Alanna Schubach; with an introduction by Halimah Marcus
Young survivors of a community disaster play a Zombie game.

some novels from my shelves...

ME  by Tomoyuki Hoshino, Kenzaburō Ōe (Afterword), Charles De Wolf (Translation)
This started out as if it were going to be about telephone scams, but it turned into something else--a dystopian world of almost interchangeable ME's. Just when it seems to be headed in one direction, it makes a turn and is off somewhere else. A great read.

Advance review copy via LibraryThing

The Outlaw by Jón Gnarr; Lytton Smith (Translation)
The third volume of Gnarr's childhood memoirs covers his teenage years. Misunderstood and misunderstanding, Gnarr ends up in a remote boarding school in the Westfjords district of Iceland (a Google search shows that the school is now a hotel). After leaving school he returns home to face so many problems--drugs, alcohol, medical treatments, family--that one wonders how he ever go it together.

From my subscription to Deep Vellum Books

'Round Midnight by Laura McBride
It's always gratifying to see a second novel live up to the promise of the debut novel. This one does that without repeating the characters and plot of the first
(We Are Called to Rise). This one is also set in Las Vegas and, like the first, brings together a set of diverse characters and deals with immigrants and family problems. But the main characters are fresh and this one spans a long time period (about 1960-2010) as Vegas booms and busts. The four main characters are strong women in difficult circumstances. An absorbing read.

Advance review copy.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

May (third week) 2017 Reads

Lots of online foodie stuff this week, then a few poems, a book of stories, and some journeys.
Whew! Unlike last week, the story this week is totally readable. And the card search was fun.

 “Deal Me In 2017!”
This week's story: Why I Can No Longer Look At A Picnic Blanket Without Laughing by Yukiko Motoya, translated from the Japanese by Asa Yoneda
What can a clerk in a trendy boutique do when a customer spends over twenty-four hours in a changing booth? a fun story that comes complete with diagram.

This week's card: the Three of Clubs  was a challenge--I wanted something innovative and possibly a little bit silly. It would have been a lot easier if it had been a face card or an ace. Maybe I could go with a pack design?

Here is one from Fashion Playing Cards by Connie Lim Pt. 3 but it's not right because there was only one customer in the changing I looked some more..

...perhaps she was trying on these items
from Redbubble Ltd.

...but, then again, these are rather ordinary selections and by the end of the story...

... we aren't sure just who (or what) that customer was, but she certainly wasn't ordinary, so maybe this one from Hachimitsu Ink, which specialize in creating artwork featuring Djinns and Mermaids, will better illustrate the story.  

(Image is from  I couldn't find the image on the Hachimitsu Ink site, but I had fun looking)

elsewhere online...

My current MOOC course: Food Security and Sustainability: Food Access  From Wageningen University & Research (The Netherlands); a collaboration between Wageningen University and the Wageningen Research foundation.
Course goals:
  • understand the basic principles of food access
  • understand actors’ choices influencing food access
  • discern dilemmas at household, local, national and international levels get the big picture when the connections between levels and actors regarding access to food have been unraveled.

This article seemed to go along with the course goals. Dining in the Wilderness: The Restaurants in America’s National Parks by

and more foodie stuff...

The Global Feast: Writing about Food:
 "This month we welcome you to a banquet of international food writing.... Forced to cook in her father's dive restaurant, Ananda Devi's young girl finds revenge is a dish best served hot Argentine sensation Mariana Enriquez gets to the meat of the national dish. Jeon Sungtae meditates on meals turned sacramental. Greek cooking authority Diana Farr Louis reports on sustenance both figurative and literal in refugee camps. Kanako Nishi has a bone to pick with table manners. Manuel Vázquez Montalbán channels a gourmand Robinson Crusoe. In two nostalgic memoirs, Prasanta Mridha remembers that Bangla street food is right up his alley, and Moshe Sakal recalls one happy childhood in two culinary traditions"

Foods the Romans brought to Britain by Cindy Tomamichel. A brief survey of the changes in diet, agricultural practices, and food distribution that came with the Roman occupation of Britain.

How army rations helped shape food by Veronique Greenwood

not foodie, but fun...
The Fine Art of Cheating in Baseball : Remembering Red Faber, One of the Last Great Spitballers. An excerpt from Off Speed: Baseball, Pitching, and the Art of Deception by Terry McDermott.

from the library...

The Other Language by
Excellent collection of short stories, most featuring Italians in international settings.

Contents: The other language; Chanel; Big island, small island; The presence of men; An Indian soirée; The club; The Italian system; Quantum theory; Roman romance.


The cover, while appropriate,only tells a part of the story. The trip wasn't as tranquil as the photo suggests.

from my shelves...
Moving the Palace by Charif Majdalani, Edward Gauvin (Translation from the French)

A magnificent road trip! A Lebanese adventurer leaves his assignment with the British army to take over a perilous venture abandoned by another Lebanese adventurer. It's nothing less than moving an entire palace (in pieces) across deserts and seas from Tripoli to Beirut. By camel, mule, horse, and boat. In 1908. When the region is filled with unrest and feuding tribes. Not all is fighting--there are luscious banquets, merry story telling sessions, and a host of eccentric characters.
From my subscription to New Vessel Press.

Atlantic Hotel by João Gilberto Noll, Adam Morris (Translation)
In this short novel a man wanders around Brazil, sometimes by bus, sometimes by car, and sometimes by foot. He seems to encounter misfortune at every stop. Who is he? Why does he wander?

From my subscription to Two Lines Press.

The Last Days of Café Leila by Donia Bijan
When Noor was eighteen her father sent her and her brother out of Iran to the United States. He felt they weren't safe in the Islamic Republic. Thirty years later Noor, with her reluctant teenage daughter Lily, returns to Tehran for a visit. Noor's marriage has fallen apart and when she arrives at her childhood home, she finds her father is ill. Noor must cope with the changes in her homeland and her rebellious daughter. It's a difficult story,  well told but just a tad simplistic. It is a coming of age story for both Noor and Lily. Both make potentially disastrous decisions. At times Noor seems immature but she really doesn't seem to belong anywhere. The novels leaves us with that old question: Can you go home again?          Advance review copy via LibraryThing.
Can you go home again? For me, the answer has often been "No." But sometimes you can visit your childhood in someone else's poetry...

So Sweet Against Your Teeth: Poems from Childhood's Fall (Woman Song Book 1) by

Saturday, May 13, 2017

May (second week) 2017 Reads

This week's story:    The Ice Palace (in Flappers and Philosophers, by F. Scott Fitzgerald)
 “Deal Me In 2017!”
"The sunlight dripped over the house like golden paint over an art jar, and the freckling shadows here and there only intensified the rigor of the bath of light. The Butterworth and Larkin houses flanking were entrenched behind great stodgy trees; only the Happer house took the full sun, and all day long faced the dusty road-street with a tolerant kindly patience. This was the city of Tarleton in southernmost Georgia, September afternoon.

Up in her bedroom window Sally Carrol Happer rested her nineteen-year-old chin on a fifty-two-year-old sill and watched Clark Darrow's ancient Ford turn the corner. The car was hot—being partly metallic it retained all the heat it absorbed or evolved—and Clark Darrow sitting bolt upright at the wheel wore a pained, strained expression as though he considered himself a spare part, and rather likely to break. He laboriously crossed two dust ruts, the wheels squeaking indignantly at the encounter, and then with a terrifying expression he gave the steering-gear a final wrench and deposited self and car approximately in front of the Happer steps. There was a heaving sound, a death-rattle, followed by a short silence; and then the air was rent by a startling whistle."

And that, Folks, was as much as I could take. Well, I did skim enough to find that it seems to be that Sally is rumored to be engaged to a Yankee, but I just couldn't bring myself to read this story. "...her ninteen-year-old chin on a fifty-two-year old sill..." ????

This week's card: Eight of Diamonds. "Biba" Playing Card 

OK, so in the spirit of the story I didn't read, here is a girl resting her twenty-something-year-old-tush on a two-day-old stool.

from my "owned-but-unread" shelf...
Voroshilovgrad by Serhiy Zhadan; Reilly Costigan-Humes (Translation), Isaac Wheeler (Translation)
In trying to save his brother's business (a gas station) Herman encounters thugs, gypsies, refugees, smugglers, ghosts, and various kinds of fanatics.Life is not easy in post-USSR Ukraine.

From my subscription to Deep Vellum Publishing

from the library...

 The Woman on the Stairs by Bernhard Schlink, Bradley Schmidt (Translation)
The story starts in Germany with a painting, three obsessed men, and a woman (the model for the painting). The model's husband owns the painting, the artist steals the wife, and the third man is a lawyer representing the artist. The painting is stolen and they all--the painting, the woman, the three men--end up in Australia where the majority of the story takes place.

It's a strange "love" story, maybe more about self love, than romantic love since no one here is really able to relate to the other.

 Gutenberg find...
Book Cover

With a Camera in Majorca by Margaret D'Este (With Illustrations from Photographs by Mrs. R. M. King) Putnam, 1907
Not just pictures, there is a lot of prose description. It was fun to read and view this 1907 book about a place I frequently visited in the 1980s.
Also includes Ibiza and Minorca. The prose is typical of travel writing of the time and I probably would have skimmed more if I weren't so familiar with the terrain and curious about how they saw it.


I finished  the MOOC   Antarctica: From Geology to Human History
This was really interesting and well organized. It's a place I'm curious about but not interested in visiting.

Saturday, May 06, 2017

May (first week) 2017 Reads

The novels I read (or finished) this week were fairly light reads, not so much in subject, but in presentation. There's nothing really light about WW1 infantry combat, poverty stricken Hondurans traveling north through Guatemala and Mexico, murder on a luxury yacht, but all of these were quick fictional reads. The biography of Isabella of Castile was comparatively heavy going.

Then it was time to play...
 “Deal Me In 2017!”

the story...The Punctiliousness Of Don Sebastian (in Orientations, by William Somerset Maugham; on Gutenberg).
The narrator impulsively gets off a train in a remote Spanish town. There he encounters an impoverished nobleman who sells him an old manuscript. It is a family document revealing the origins of the family title. It is a tale of infidelity, fratricide, and greed.

An interesting coincidence to have a story about Spanish noblemen when I was in the middle of Isabella and Ferdinand's Spain, although the Maugham story was set in an earlier period.

The other stories in the collection are: A Bad Example, De Amicitia, Faith, The Choice Of Amyntas, and Daisy. Haven't read them yet, but I will.

the card...
Royalty, but English, not Spanish, and an earlier period than Isabella (Henry VIII is the 4 of Clubs)

Three of Diamonds: from  The British Museum "Incomplete pack with 27of 52 playing cards depicting the kings and queens of England, including Oliver Cromwell; each monarch portrayed full length, with (except in the case of Cromwell) date of beginning of reign and length of reign; suit mark at top left..."

from my "owned-but-unread" shelf... 

Tender: Stories by

Mind bending, mind expanding and, at times, mind exploding sci-fi, fantasy, and dystopian stories. It’s writing like this that keeps me reading “outside my comfort zone.” This one's a keeper - I want to read many of them again.
Advance review copy through library Thing.

The Same Sky by Amanda Eyre Ward
Two stories running concurrently in alternating chapters. It's no spoiler to say they eventually converge--that's pretty obvious. One is Alice: hardworking (she and her husband own a barbecue restaurant) and happily married except for infertility. The other is Carla: living in the slums of Honduras until she sees a way out and makes the hazardous journey north. This was a quick read, presenting many of the problems of contemporary life without going into great depth. Not a bad book, but it could have been so much more.
Advance review copy.

Time and Regret by

Perdita by Hilary Scharper
Maybe Marged Brice really is 134 years old...and maybe somebody else will see what she sees...I enjoyed the story, but ... it built up to a letdown...

And this cover (and the two immediately above above) blah..

From the library...
The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
The usual suspense stuff. Slightly (very) drunk woman witnesses (or thinks she witnesses) something happen--a scream and a splash. She tells her story but no one believes her. Was there ever a woman in what should have been a vacant cabin? It is a closed situation on a luxury cruise yacht. Who can she trust? etc. Not bad, not great. I had part of it figured out, no great effort required. Gave it a generous 3 Goodreads stars.

Note: Can I please read a novel in which the protagonist does not have vivid, easily interpreted expository dreams?

A Piece of the World  by

Isabella of Castile: Europe's First Great Queen by Giles Tremlett
Comprehensive, readable biography.Times were terrible then and it is easy to draw parallels between the expulsion of the Jews and Moors from Spain and the plight of refugees in the world today. Do we ever get better?