Saturday, June 10, 2017

June (second week) 2017 Reads

For my Deal Me In card this week I pulled the Eight of Clubs. This was originally assigned The Bronze Horseman: A Petersburg Tale by Alexander Pushkin (narrative poem). I forgot it was on the list and read it in January when I was on my Pushkin jag, so I made it a WILD CARD.  On my roster, Clubs are supposed to be something "different" (narrative poem, short play or skit, graphic, clever title, narrative essay, etc.) I chose a couple of news stories and an essay related to an important local event.

 A new bookstore opened in our town

 Wesleyan R.J. Julia Bookstore.
This is the bookstore for Wesleyan University and also a general indie bookstore. For more on this see: New Wesleyan Bookstore By R.J. Julia Now Open To Public In Middletown and for a little more background on the space see: Wesleyan partners with R.J. Julia Booksellers to open new bookstore in downtown Middletown.

The very first special event at the store was an appearance by Andrew Blauner editor of  In Their Lives: Great Writers on Great Beatles Songs.  He was joined by three of the book's contributors: Amy Bloom, Peter Blauner, and Nicholas Dawidoff. Of course I attended. Of course I bought the book. Autographs?  All four of course. And some swag: a very nice tote.

It was a good discussion, they didn't do readings. It was a conversation that ranged from  lyrics, the sequence of songs in the albums, and how the songs had different meanings at different times in their lives.
(Local note: Peter Blauner and Amy Bloom are Wesleyan grads. Bloom is now Wesleyan University’s Distinguished University Writer in Residence. Nicholas Dawidoff also has Connecticut connections: he grew up in New Haven and now lives there. He is a Fellow of Yale's Branford College.)

 “Deal Me In 2017!”
So in honor of this event I chose an essay from the book by a contributor who was not at the event. I selected this one because it is available online.
Remembering My Father Through My Favorite Beatles’ Song  Elissa Schappell revisits Octopus’s Garden.

During the week I read the rest of the book. Even though I've never been a huge Beatles fan it was fun to see what songs the writers chose and how they wrote about the choices. Most were personal and some went in to detail about the technical aspects of the music. I don't have a favorite Beatles song and I didn't listen to any while reading this book, but I guess I heard the music in my brain because I ended up with a four-day earworm. Finally got "Yellow Submarine" out of my mind by listening to classical guitar. Other than that It was a very enjoyable collection of essays.

And the card: A tiled design in homage to that amazing ceiling in the bookstore. (Do click on the picture above for a better look).

This is from the Piatnik: Jugendstil Art Nouveau Playing Cards deck. This is a gorgeous deck, the face cards are awesome, even the box is a work of art. Google it, there are vintage decks for sale online and the prices are not all outrageous.

Like last week's card,  I found this image on

Poetry online...
Emoticons and Pros by Najat Sghyar
"Born and raised in Casablanca, Morroco, Najat studied corporate law in France and worked as a journalist in her hometown before moving to Istanbul in 2014 to focus on writing. Fluent in six languages, she writes short stories in darija- the Moroccan dialect-, poetry in English and Arabic and is currently working on a novel in French. She is a founder member of the Istanbul writing club Yirmi Yedi."

Lots of clever word-play for this world of social networking. These two excerpts lose the poem's visual appeal because I can't duplicate the formatting and spacing, but the language is a delight.

So I daydream in virtual blur
of good old smileys:
That naughty yellow face
On MSN messenger
Laughing silent hi hi hi's

Or the classic semicolon
resting on its side
With a bracket for a smile
Half asleep
winking deep
Minimal style
Of sarcasm quizz.

And later she speaks of 

Clogged in blogs and vlogs
in filigran
Of snapshit
and vine.

from my shelves..

The Magician of Vienna (TrilogĂ­a de la memoria/Trilogy of Memory #3) by Sergio Pitol, George Henson (Translation from the Spanish); Mario Bellatin (Introduction); Margo Glantz (Afterword)
This is a mixed bag--literary criticism, personal anecdotes, travel stories, and passages on his own writing processes. I really liked the material on writing short stories.

When I read the first two volumes of the trilogy, I spent a lot of time Googling all the people and places that weren't familiar to me.* This volume was different because I recognized most of the authors he discussed. He talks about Chekhov, there are essays on Evelyn Waugh and Henry James, and many others--international in scope. His discussion on the Irish writer Flann O'Brien caused me to order At Swim-Two-Birds.

"On When Enrique Conquered Ashgabat and How He Lost It" (p.204-230) is a very funny episode that took place when Pitol and Enrique Vila-Matis managed to get together in Turkmenistan. It involved crashing a wedding party, a crazy opera singer and his crazier wife, embarrassed interpreters, and Vila-Matis being rushed out of the country.

Now that I've read all three volumes, I wish I had an index to them, there's so much to go back and reread. These came to me through my subscription to Deep Vellum and it includes both paper and electronic editions, so maybe I'll get some use of the Kindle search feature.

*See: Pitol readings and More Pitol readings, I didn't do a readings page for this volume.

Death of an Airman by Christopher St. John Sprigg
There were some surprises in this mystery from this British Library Crime Classics reprint. An Australian bishop signing up for flying lessons whilst in the UK made a lot of sense and he was a fine character. There were an assortment of eccentric women, a sappy American judge, a brief appearance by a German aviator, a French connection, some white powder, etc... What fun!
The motives for the crimes seemed rather modern for a book written in 1934.
I love this series. My copy is an advance review copy from Poisoned Pen Press, the USA publisher.


  1. Oooh how lucky to have a new bookstore open! That looks fabulous! It's quite pretty too. Death of an Airman looks good too! I hope you enjoy it, and everything you read this week :D

  2. It's a great location. Middletown's Main Street is mostly restaurants--a lot of them very good. The bookstore is next door to a really great toy store--one of the few retail spaces that is not an eatery. The former Wesleyan book store was not nearly as good as this one.