Saturday, July 15, 2017

July (second week) 2017 Reads

A lot of short stuff this week. Two short story collections, a poetry anthology, forty-two pages of The Invented Part (Life After People, or Notes for a Brief History of Progressive Rock and Science Fiction, pages 361-404), a short novel, and some online things including the Deal Me In story for the week.

 “Deal Me In 2017!”
The story:
The Gay Old Dog. By Edna Ferber (on Gutenberg in The Best Short Stories of 1917)
This story tells of the ups and downs of Jo Hertz, a successful man in the leather business but in a bind with his family and romantic life. It seems he made a deathbed promise to his mother: he won't marry until his sisters are taken care of. He does meet someone, but she isn't willing to wait for the sisters to find mates. Jo ends up a lonely and resentful loop-hound ("a man who frequents it [the Chicago Loop]  by night in search of amusement and cheer is known, vulgarly, as a loop-hound.") Note: back when this was written "gay" was not synonymous with homosexual.

"He was the kind of man who mixes his own salad dressing. He liked to call for a bowl, some cracked ice, lemon, garlic, paprika, salt, pepper, vinegar and oil, and make a rite of it. People at near-by tables would lay down their knives and forks to watch, fascinated. The secret of it seemed to lie in using all the oil in sight and calling for more."

The card: Seven of Diamonds. The "beer card" in bridge and other trick-taking card games. Sorry I didn't know about this tradition back when I played this sort of card game.
Design by Christina Berglund, a graphic designer based in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
" Seven of Diamonds Brewery is based on the beer card tradition. As the tradition goes, when a player wins the last trick of the hand with this card, his opponent must buy him a beer." 

also online...

Alan Bean Plus Four By Tom Hanks
When I read that actor Tom Hanks has a story collection (Uncommon Type) coming out in October, I found and read this story in the October 27, 2014 New Yorker.
"Astronauts in the Apollo era had spent thousands of hours piloting jet planes and earning engineering degrees. They had to practice escaping from launchpad disasters by sliding down long cables to the safety of thickly padded bunkers. They had to know how slide rules worked. We did none of that, though we did test-fly our booster on the Fourth of July, out of Steve Wong’s huge driveway in Oxnard, hoping that, with all the fireworks, our unmanned first stage would blow through the night sky unnoticed."
What fun! I do want to read the stories in Uncommon Type.

It’s Raining in Love by Gunnhild Øyehaug; Translated from the Norwegian by Kari Dickson)
On a more serious note, a visit with a terminally ill friend.  From another story collection I want to read: Knots.

Stadium Club by Mark Mulroney
On the art of chasing down baseball player autographs. A great memoir piece in Victory Journal, "a print and digital publication devoted to the intersection of sport and culture. Rather than engage in statistical analysis or partisan squabbling, Victory spotlights the drama of sport and the enduring glory of athletic pursuits the world over."

Another Gutenberg find...

Little Songs of Long Ago   The original tunes harmonized by Alfred Moffat; Illustrated by
H. Willebeek Le Mair; published in 1912.
Words, music, and wonderful illustrations of thirty nursery rhymes. Sound files of the tunes played on the piano are available.

From my Shelves...

The Frangipani Hotel by

Worlds from the Word's End by

And Other Stories Publishing.

Elsewhere  by Eliot Weinberger (Editor)
Fourteen poems (translated into English) by fourteen international poets musing on travel and/or displacement. A perfect anthology for a former ex-pat (ex-ex-pat? re-pat-ex-pat?), displaced Californian (new-New Englander?) like me. First of all: the subject matter interests me

from the library...

Last Night at the Lobster by Stewart O'Nan
This is not just last night at the Lobster, it's The last night. A few days before Christmas and manager Manny and his crew are serving up the last lunch at a New Britain, Connecticut Red Lobster. The chain has decided the location is not getting enough business. At least they have a little advance warning and manager Manny and four others are getting transferred. Why do the others even bother to show up? Well, Manny holds their final pay checks and there is also some team loyalty (or not). One shows up and leaves after lunch committing some acts of vandalism on his way out. Some lunch customers show up in spite of a snowstorm. Manny copes and even tries some lame attempts to revive a failed romance. A quick read about a bittersweet night.

Saturday, July 08, 2017

July (first week) 2017 Reads

We actually had a couple of really nice weather days--nice enough on Monday to go for a drive to a library we usually don't visit, combined with an outdoor lunch at a favorite seafood place.  And on Wednesday another outdoor lunch at a place closer to home. Then on Friday it poured all day so I got some reading in.

 “Deal Me In 2017!”
The Deal Me In story this week is non-fiction
 Life in the Qandil Mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan by Linda Dorigo
A photo essay on this disputed region. Brief, but informative.

The card I found has nothing to do with the essay.  It's so silly. Yep, it's Freddy Mercury! It's part of Long Live Queen Freddie!.  This series by artist, illustrator/cartoonist, and game designer Chuck Knigge features Freddie as various other famous queens. Knigge has other fan art and some comics on the site. Fun to explore.

Elsewhere Online...

The Story of the Girl Whose Birds Flew Away, by Bushra al-Fadil; translated from the Arabic by Max Shmookkler. This is the winner of The Caine Prize for African Writing. There are links to both text (pdf) and sound (soundcloud) files of this and the other four shortlisted entries on the Caine Prize Shortlist website.

Home is a Cup of Tea by Candace Rose Rardon
The story of a search for the meaning of home told through words and sketches of habitations and teas. This illustration is from her first stop in England. Her travels also take her to New Zealand, India, Canada, Spain, Guatemala, Norway, and Uruguay where she now lives.

From the Library...

Varieties of Disturbance: stories by

Killing the Second Dog by

The woes of two Polish con men in Tel-Aviv. Their mark is an American tourist. Problems ensue when she turns out to have a bratty son and a (possibly) dangerous brute of an ex-husband.

My copy through New Vessel Press subscription.

The Invisible Life of Euridice Gusmao by

The Private Lives of Trees by Alejandro Zambra; translated from the Spanish by Megan McDowell
This short novel (104 pages) takes place in a single night while a Chilean man and his step-daughter wait for the mother to come home. Once the bedtime story is done and the child is asleep the man becomes increasingly anxious about his wife's lateness and begins examining the familial relationships in detail.

Sunday, July 02, 2017

Ridiculously Long List for Library Browsing

Placed on blog for easy (and shared) access when in various venues...I probably won't read most of this...list is subject to frequent revisions.

At D:
   The square of revenge / Aspe,  Pieter      
    Flora : a novel / Godwin, Gail   
    A dual inheritance : a novel /     Hershon, Joanna        

At R/M:
    The accordionist's son / Atxaga, Bernardo     
    Trieste / Drndić, Daša   
    How to build an android : the true story of Philip K. Dick's robotic resurrection / Dufty, David F.    
    Chronicle of a last summer : a novel of Egypt / El Rashidi, Yasmine,       
    A Bintel brief : love and longing in old New York / Finck, Liana  
    Sea room : a novel / Gautreau, Norman G        
    Gutshot : stories / Gray, Amelia         
    Stillwater / Helget, Nicole Lea        
    The line of beauty : a novel /   Hollinghurst, Alan        
    Montecore : the silence of the tiger /    Khemiri, Jonas Hassen        
    American meteor / Lock, Norma         
    Redemption in indigo : a novel / Lord, Karen        
    Loving Donovan : a novel in three stories / McFadden, Bernice L.        
    All that is solid melts into air / McKeon, Darragh          
    The city & the city /    Miéville, China        
    Confessions : a novel /    Minato, Kanae          
    In her absence / AMuñoz Molina, Antonio
   A teaspoon of earth and sea / Nayeri, Dina
   Short stories. Selections. English Nors, Dorthe   
    Boundaries / Nunez, Elizabet.        
    You & me : a novel / Powell, Padgett        
    In Zeiten des abnehmenden Lichts. English / Ruge, Eugen       
    The Makioka sisters /     Tanizaki, Junʼichirō      
    Naomi /  Tanizaki, Junʼichirō        
    The death of Ivan Ilyich : The Cossacks ; Happy ever after /     Tolstoy, Leo
    The dragon behind the glass : a true story of power, obsession... / Voigt, Emily   (639.3747 VOI) 
    Landfalls / Williams, Naomi J         
    A happy marriage : a novel / Yglesias, Rafael    

At Meri:
    The piano teacher / Jelinek, Elfriede
    Sepharad / Muñoz Molina, Antonio 
    The bridge of beyond. Schwarz-Bart, Simon
    The pinecone : the story of Sarah Losh, forgotten romantic heroine...  (BIO LOSH)

At W:
    The spy's Little Zonbi /  Alpaugh, Cole       
    Camouflage : stories /     Bail, Murray       
    Eucalyptus : a novel /     Bail, Murray        
    Ten white geese : a novel / Bakker, Gerbrand        
    Silent day in Tangier / Tahar Ben Jelloun ; Ben Jelloun, Tahar    
    Horses of god / Binebine, Mahi       
    The collected stories of Lydia Davis /    Davis, Lydia        
    Portrait of the mother as a young woman / Delius, Friedrich Christian       
    The book of memory / Gappah, Petina        
    An elegy for easterly : stories / Gappah, Petina        
    Skookum summer : a novel of the Pacific Northwest / Hart, Jack        
    My lady of the bog / Hayes, Peter         
    At the mouth of the river of bees : stories /Johnson, Kij        
    All the rage : stories / Kennedy, A. L.         
    Sweet nothing : stories / Lange, Richard        
    The boy in his winter : an American novel / Lock, Norman        
    The facades : a novel /    Lundgren, Eric         
    A thousand morons / Monzâo, Quim        
    A book of memories : a novel / Nádas, Péter        
    The end of a family story : a novel / Nádas, Péter        
    Sea room : an island life in the Hebrides / Nicolson, Adam        
    White is for witching / Oyeyemi, Helen        
    The secret history of the Lord of Musashi ; and, Arrowroot /  Tanizaki, Junʼichirō        
    Quicksand /  Tanizaki, Junʼichirō        
    The misfortunates : a novel /    Verhulst, Dimitri        
    Quesadillas : a novel / Villalobos, Juan Pablo        
    Down the rabbit hole / Villalobos, Juan Pablo        
    This Is Not an Accident : Stories and a novella / Wilder, April

Other Libs:
    Granada : a novel / Radwa Ashour     ʻĀshūr, Raḍwá 
    The Transylvanian trilogy : Volume I, book one : They were counted /Bánffy, Miklós 
    The Transylvanian trilogy : Volume II, book two, : They were found wanting ; Book three : They were divided / Bánffy, Miklós  
    The timeless land / Dark, Eleanor   
     Life of a counterfeiter : and other stories / Inoue, Yasushi
    Odessa : genius and death in a city of dreams / King, Charles
    Eléctrico W /Le Tellier, Hervé,
    Bells in winter / Miłosz, Czesław.   (Old/say891.857 MILOSZ))
    The opposing shore  / Gracq, Julien, E.Ly
    A manuscript of ashes / Muñoz Molina, Antonio   
    Happiness, like water : stories /Okparanta, Chinelo   
    Blue : the history of a color / Pastoureau, Michel
    Soundtrack of the revolution : the politics of music in Iran / Seyedsayamdost, Nahid;  Ham/Miller   New Nonfiction 780.955/SEY    
    The sasquatch hunter's almanac : a novel / Shields, Sharma.   
    The whispering muse /     Sjón   
    Learning to swim and other stories / Swift, Graham    
    A cat, a man, and two women : stories /    Tanizaki, Junʼichirō      
    Some prefer nettles /Tanizaki, Junʼichirō       
    The key / Tanizaki, Junʼichirō
     Memoirs of a polar bear / Tawada, Yoko Ham/Mil
    Time on my hands / Vasta, Giorgio

Saturday, July 01, 2017

June (fifth week) 2017 Reads

Still reading The Invented Part and I started The Resurrection of Joan Ashby by Cherise Wolas. Oops...maybe not a good idea to juggle two 500+ page books about writers and the writing process. But they are very different and I'm enjoying them both so I'll see if I can manage, if my wrists hold up.--Actually, it was a good idea. I finished the Wolas book and it was a complementary read (see below).

I also read a great novel by a Japanese author who lives in Europe and writes in both Japanese and German. This book is translated from German and is about a Vietnamese immigrant in France. Just the sort of international work I love.

Not much other reading this week except, of course, the short story challenge...
 “Deal Me In 2017!”

The Story: The Wild Pandas of Chincoteague by Gregory J. Wolos
A man, a boy, and an infant on a wintry vacation to the Outer Banks. They seem well prepared, but things go wrong. There's the odd landlady, the power outage, two dead batteries (car & phone) and the thing in the shed. They are left with stories to tell.

The Card: Two of Clubs: The story had a kind of Charlie Brown quality to it (though its protagonist is a bit more optimistic than Charlie) so I liked this card from a Peanuts deck.
This is how I picture the guy when he gets his phone back and calls his wife to tell her the story.

The story is in Post Road Magazine, an online journal that is new to me. I did a bit of browsing to see what else is there. I read another story -The Room Where Elizabeth Bishop Slept by Paola Peroni. In this one a translator is at a writer's retreat and isn't having a great time of it. I liked this story better than the panda one. (A telephone also has an important role in this story.)

Post Road is a print magazine published twice yearly by POST ROAD, Inc. in partnership with the Boston College Department of English. It features poetry, fiction, nonfiction, short plays and monologues, and visual art. Only a part of its content is available online. I enjoyed browsing the current issue and the archives.

more online...

The Person You Are Trying To Reach Is Not Available by Andrea Chapela; translated from the Spanish by Andrea Chapela
A daughter deals with her mother's illness in a future time when when people can live very long (with replacement parts).

In the 26 June 2017 issue of Samovar "a quarterly magazine of and about translated speculative fiction. We publish fiction and poetry in their original language and in English translation. We showcase the work both of writers and also translators, who we have to thank for opening doors to new worlds.
Our definition of speculative fiction is broad, and includes science fiction, fantasy, horror, slipstream, and other genres that may not fit neatly into labels. We also publish reviews, essays and interviews."

The American Experience in 737 Novels  Susan Straight discusses and maps her experience reading American regional literature.

from my shelves...

The Resurrection of Joan Ashby  by
Fresán talks a lot about the loneliness of the author, Wolas protagonist just wants to be alone to get on with her writing. Beyond that one can't really compare the two, Fresán is a master, this is Wolas first novel.
Free advance review copy from publisher

The Naked Eye
by Yōko Tawada, translated from the German by Susan Bernofsky
Excellent novel about what is is to be an illegal immigrant. While in East Berlin to present an essay, a North Vietnamese girl is abducted and taken to West Germany. In an attempt to escape she boards what she thinks is a train to Moscow but ends up in Paris. She is befriended by several people and has a rough time since she cannot work or go to school as she has no visa. She becomes fascinated with the films of actress Catherine Deneuve and watches them over and over. She doesn't know French and often doesn't understand the films. Some of the best passages in the book are where she misinterprets the film and relates it to her own life. I loved this book.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

June (fourth week) 2017 Reads

Still working through those slow reads. This weeks section of The Invented Part  was a short one so I  found plenty of time for a lot of other reading, most of it very good.

and, of course, the Deal Me In story.
 “Deal Me In 2017!”

The card this week is the two of hearts which turned out to be impossible to use to illustrate the story of isolation, abuse, and anger that was somewhat randomly assigned to it when I set up my roster. So here's the story and the collection that contains it.

The Pedersen Kid by William H. Gass (in In the Heart of the Heart of the Country, and Other Stories)
Wow! This story left me more confused than anything I've read so far this year. And that's saying something since I'm currently reading Ricardo Fresán's thoroughly confusing The Invented Part.
So to help me figure out just what happened in this story (or find out if I missed something) I searched for some commentary on it. Here are a couple of things I found, both pretty thorough and both convinced me that I actually "got" the story. 
Let Me Make a Snowman: John Gardner, William Gass, and “The Pedersen Kid”  by Nick Ripatrazone
The True Intruder in William H. Gass’s “The Pedersen Kid”  by Ted Morrissey

Then I reread it for the writing: the amazing complex sentences that often lead to surprises; the sometimes devastating character descriptions; and the poetic, masterful prose.
I followed up by reading the other four stories in the collection: Mrs. Mean, Icicles, Order of Insects, and the title story. The Pedersen Kid appealed to me because of the interactions among the characters and its puzzling aspects. The title story had the richest language and was spot on in its descriptions of a dinky town. Mrs. Mean was, well, mean with a passel of (justifiably) ill behaved children and odd-ball neighbors (including the narrator). Icicles was cold and lonely. Order of Insects about a housewife and her fascination with an infestation of bugs was my least favorite.

The card: Can I find a Two of Hearts that fits a post modern story about a strange journey in the icy cold of North Dakota? Not really.  But I did find an interesting deck. 

MADDECK Playing Cards By Ozlem Olcer. "a series of playing cards which feature cubist illustrations..... The deck was created for PAG, an Istanbul based design company developing projects and manufacturing products in collaboration with graphic artists and illustrators."
"The name Maddeck - short for ‘Magicians, Astronauts & Dancers’ - is given after the first 3 dream jobs of the designer as a child."

The two of hearts is typical of the number cards in the deck, but the face cards are quite different in design--almost as if they are from a different deck.

more reading from my shelves.... 

Two Lines 23, by C.J. Evans (editor) The Fall 2015 edition of this bimonthly journal of The Center for the Art of Translation. It has fiction and poetry translated into English from eleven different languages. My favorite from this issue is The Piper by Yoko Tawada; translated from Japanese by Margaret Mitsutani. It is a retelling of the legend of The Pied Piper of Hamelin told from several points of view. The author is a Japanese writer currently living in Germany. She writes in both Japanese and German. Here is a link to the full Table of Contents for this issue.

The Genius of Birds by Jennifer Ackerman
An interesting survey of recent worldwide research in ornithology with particular attention to the function of the brains of birds. Not too technical, she is an entertaining writer.
Advance review copy.

Coincidentally, I ran across this online article  Power to the Bower: A Bird’s Architectural Method of Seduction by Osman Bari. Bowerbird (family Ptilonorhynchidae) building habits is one of the topics Ackerman discusses.

The Reader by Bernhard Schlink; Carol Brown Janeway (Translator)
Coming of age in Post World War 2 Germany. A young man is scarred for life by an inappropriate first affair. In later life he must face the collective guilt of his nation as his former lover is tried for war crimes.

(A library book sale bargain from their clear the tables day-- Five bucks for all the books you can fit in a large paper grocery bag. Yes, sir, yes, sir, two bags full.)

Journey by Moonlight by Antal Szerb, Len Rix (Translation)
A Hungarian on his honeymoon in Italy leaves his wife and wanders off perhaps to find some companions from his lost youth. Or maybe he's trying to escape the bourgeois life that is closing in on him. While he slinks around Italy (ending up in Rome) his abandoned wife joins a friend in Paris and tries to restart her life. All this is set in the period between the two world wars. A good story with lots of angst, strange characters, and touches of wry humor

What are the Blind Men Dreaming? by Noemi Jaffe, Julia Sanches (Translation), Ellen Elias-Bursać (Translation) 
I'll admit to being a bit disappointed when this came with my Deep Vellum  subscription in September (2016). I just didn't want to read another concentration camp diary, so I set it aside (for nearly a year). I picked it up the other day and I'm glad I did; it is such a great book. Jaffe presents her mother, Lili Stern's diary which is brief and was not written in the camp. She wrote it immediately after she was liberated and was living in refugee camps in Sweden.

The real strength in the book is the daughter's commentary on the diary. She treats it as a memoir and as a springboard for a discussion on how her mother's ordeal affected her own life. But what I really found valuable was how she expanded the personal and specific into a more general discussion of how human traits and activities survive and are altered by horrific experiences. This is presented in a series of essay style entries on such topics as fate, cold, hunger, love, anger, desire, money, memory, desire, and others. She draws both on her mother's diary and writings of other survivors.

The book finishes with an essay by Jaffe's daughter Leda Cartum on how the legacy reaches into yet another generation.

The Last Boy and Girl in the World by Siobhan Vivian
A teenage girl copes with with family, boyfriend, and BFF troubles against the backdrop of a community that must be abandoned because of a new dam. An uneven read. The characters were fairly well drawn. Unfortunately at the end everyone behaved totally out of character. The wrap-up was too simplistic for a complicated situation.
My least favorite read this week, but not a total waste of time.

Advance review copy.

And Only One Library book.... 

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles (Kindle edition)
What a great way to survey the history of Communist Russia! This novel begins in 1922 when Count Alexander Rostov is sentenced to house arrest for life--in the elegant  Moscow Hotel Metropol and ends in 1954. Although he can't leave the hotel, a cast of interesting characters--hotel employees and guests--keep him well informed about the goings on in the world. Rostov is a charming fellow and this is a charming book. 

Shortly after I finished this book I found this delightful art work in The Calvert Journal. Witnesses to history: The turmoil of 1917 captured in children's drawings Text by Samuel Goff; Images taken from the book Moscow, 1917: Drawings by Child Witnesses. From the collection of the State Historical Museum in Moscow. 

         Other online reads...

Imagining the Future of Suburbia, From “Freedomland” to “McMansion Hell” by Kate Wagner

Georgia wins at Cannes for 6 Millionth Tourist Campaign
A great video from Georgia the country, not the US state.

Come for the Obscure Canadian Sport, Stay for the Buffet by Julie Stauffer
Who knew there is a sport called  Crokinole?

The 'Mystery Boats' of Tresco Island  essay by Mike Williams.
A bit of British WW2 espionage.