Saturday, April 22, 2017

April (third week) 2017 Reads

From last week's trip to the library three great books and one dud. I also read one from my backlog. The story for the Deal Me In Challenge is the first story in the Library of America three volume set of Singer's Collected Stories. I won the set last year at The Mookse and the Gripes

 “Deal Me In 2017!”
This week's story: Gimpel the fool by Isaac Bashevis Singer (in Collected Stories I); translated from the Yiddish by Saul Bellow
Gimpel, a simple baker, is the butt of all the jokes in town but is he really a fool?

This week's card - the Eight of Spades - made me want to do a little Homage to Crazy Eights, a game I loved when I was a child.
On the left is a vintage pack like the one I remember using. It was published by Whitman in 1951. This and several other packs are on eBay. On the right is an electronic version of the game published by GASP Mobile Games Inc. It is available free from the Microsoft Store.

Three "great ones" from the library...
Vampire in Love and other stories by Enrique Vila-Matas; Translated from the Spanish by Margaret Jull Costa (Translation)
Nineteen delightful stories. As is often the case with me, the title story which is available online from Two Lines was not my favorite. Wish this could stay on my shelf forever...but it's a two-week loan.
Contents: A permanent home; Sea swell; Torre del Mirador; I never go to the movies; Rosa Schwarzer comes back to life; In search of the electrifying double act; Death by saudade; The hour of the tired and weary; They say I should say who I am; Greetings from Dante; Identifying marks; The boy on the swing; An idle soul; Invented memories; Vampire in love; Modesty; Nio; I'm not going to read any more e-mails; Vok's successors. (my favorites are highlighted, but they are all good.)
Cover design by Rodrigo Corral

Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller
This is both story of a marriage told from the point of view of a wronged wife and a story of a father/daughter relationship based on wrong assumptions and false memories. Wonderful writing. So very different from Fuller's debut novel Our Endless Numbered Days. Looking forward to what she does next.

Cover design by Diane Chonette
Pattern design by Ákos Néma

Turner: The Extraordinary Life and Momentous Times of J. M. W. Turner by Franny Moyle
At times I got bogged down in detail, but overall it was a rewarding read. A number of plates are included in the book, but not all the ones that are discussed as Mayle traces Turner's artistic development over a long and prolific career. I did a lot of Googling to find the referenced paintings.

Jacket design by Gabriele Wilson
Jacket art: The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons, 16 October 1834; Joseph Mallord William Turner (at the Cleveland Museum of Art)

The "dud" from the library trip...
City of Light, City of Poison: Murder, Magic, and the First Police Chief of Paris by Holly Tucker
I know I shouldn't let one factual error early in a book put me off reading the book. Even though they bug me,  I often forgive geographical errors in fiction. When a book is non-fiction--especially history--such errors make me doubt everything else in the book. On page six: "On the Left Bank of the Seine sat the castle-like Châtelet compound..." (interesting error as the map in the book places it correctly on the Right Bank.) I became obsessive, fact checking everything. No fun at all, this book isn't worth the trouble; did not finish.

from my "owned-but-unread" shelf...
Go Away Home by
A pleasant, not particularly challenging story about a woman's life on a farm and in a small town in Iowa just before and during WW1.  Liddie faces the limited options available to women of the times. This book was from a 2014 (!) blog win at Let Them Read Books


I started another online course; Antarctica: From Geology to Human History  This one is taught by Dr. Rebecca Priestley, Senior Lecturer Victoria University of Wellington, and Dr. Cliff Atkins, Senior Lecturer Victoria University of Wellington.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

April (second week) 2017 Reads

This week I retried an author I didn't like when I was in school. Then I followed a link to a fun short story,  found a new online magazine and a couple of other online goodies,  went to the library (oops, shouldn't have done that), read a novel and a book of short fiction, and did some brain teasers....

 “Deal Me In 2017!”
The Story: In the Forests of the North (in Children of the Frost by Jack London)
I put this on my roster because I hadn't read anything by Jack London since a required reading in junior high school. Back then I hated London, but I thought it was time to give him another chance. I still don't like him.

The Card: Six of Diamonds: This card found at a stock photo site, 123RF, has nothing to do with the story I read except that it illustrates how I felt when I finished the story. Grrrr!

Here's a story I did like...

“Bluebeard’s Wife”  a short story by T. Kingfisher
Found through Deal Me In participant Katherine Nabity,  The Writerly Reader

Freedom From Language by  By Merve Pehlivan
An essay on writing in a foreign language. In this case, it is a native speaker of Turkish writing in English.
This is from a new online journal the Bosphorus Review of Books which features "Words straight from the Bosphorus Strait: An online literary magazine about Istanbul." It has poetry, short fiction, and non-fiction. Reviews will come. The first issue was published in January, the second in March, and the third will be in May. For a more detailed profile see Leyla Yvonne Ergil's  Turkey's first English language online literary magazine.

52 Types of Wood and the Trees They Come From
A wonderful infographic from Alan Bernau Jr. of

It's breakfast time someplace...Roads & Kingdoms Breakfast is a daily feature highlighting the morning meal around the world. Pretty pictures and foodie essays.

from my "owned-but-unread" shelf...

What Lies Within by Tom Vowler
A psychological suspense novel of a woman trying to put a traumatic event of the past behind her. The past catches up with her and she must struggle to save her family.
I liked it, but not as much as I liked Vowler's later book That Dark Remembered Day.

The Fata Morgana Books by Jonathan Littell; Translated from the French by Charlotte Mandell
I struggled with this one. Originally published separately by French publisher Fata Morgana, four short surreal works are translated and collected into one volume. I really liked the first--Etudes (the French was published in 2007). The next--A Story About Nothing was OK but a little more surreal (French edition published in 2009). Quarters (original 2010) and An Old Story (original 2012) just got too weird for me. Like listening to someone's boring dreams. These two were the longest pieces so I only liked about a quarter of the book.
From my subscription to Two Lines Press.

Project Gutenberg find...

The Santa Claus' Book of Games and Puzzles by John H. Tingley (published in 1864)
All kinds of brain teasers with plenty of illustrations. Riddles, acrostics, anagrams, rebus, mazes, etc.  Really challenging. Some use now obsolete language and/or refer to historical events long forgotten.  (For example here's one of the answers to a rebus puzzle: Ere long expect a great overturning and uprising in Europe.) It also helps to know Roman numerals (Puzzle 29: One thousand five hundred divided by one, Will express what a lamp is, compared with the sun. Answer: Dim.)
Even with these difficulties it's fun to try and, thankfully, they do give you the answers.

Next week will be a "mostly library books" read.

Saturday, April 08, 2017

April (first week) 2017 Reads

This week I read two superb novels, a mystery, a classic short story anthology, a couple of online things, and, of course, my weekly story for Deal Me In...

 “Deal Me In 2017!”
Story: Cosmo Girl by Nadia Villafuerte; Translated from the Spanish By Julie Ann Ward
"She picks up her suitcase. Gets in line. Shows her ticket without letting her fist tremble. Checks her luggage. They’re not going to stop me, she repeats silently until she finally settles into seat twenty-nine." Elena is on her way north to Juárez. She doesn't plan to cross the border--until the time is right. But even while still far south in Mexico the bus is stopped at internal checkpoints...

Card: Three of Spades from metrodeck a card deck "Printed on found and repurposed New York City subway fare cards, metrodeck attempts to visually capture the common thread between commuters, public transportation, and chance.
Every card has been gathered at random, after having been purchased, used, and discarded by either a visitor or resident of New York City. Some have been signed or otherwise marked, making each card unique with its own narrative potential."
OK so our story is set in Mexico, not New York City, and it's on a bus, not a train...but still the cautions on this card could apply to many forms of transportation. A bit of a stretch for a connection, but it's a cool concept deck. Follow the "process" link on the metrodeck site menu for some neat pictures of how the cards are made.

from my "owned-but-unread" shelf...

Eve out of Her Ruins by Ananda Devi, J.M.G. (Introduction), Translated from the French by Jeffrey Zuckerman
An absolutely stunning, crushing story of four teenagers in an impoverished area of Port Louis, Mauritanius. Lyrical first person narrations alternate between two girls and two boys as they tell a tale of sex and violence that can only end in tragedy. 
My copy from Deep Vellum subscription.
Cover design by Anna Zylicz
On the Best Translated Book Award (BTBA) Longlist 2017

Chronicle of the Murdered House by Lúcio Cardoso,  (Translated from the Portuguese by Margaret Jull Costa and Robin Patterson; Introduction by Benjamin Moser
A classic family tragedy played out in a crumbling villa. Beautifully told through multiple points of view in a series of documents (letters, diaries, statements, reports).
My copy from Open Letter Press subscription.

On the Best Translated Book Award (BTBA) Longlist 2017

A note about Best Translated Book Award (BTBA) Fiction Longlist 2017:
It's a terrific list. So far I have read five -- the above two and A Spare Life, Umami, and Oblivion
No way can I say one of these is better than the others.

After the Crash by

Gutenberg find... 

Brazilian Tales by Albuquerque, Coelho Netto, Dolores, and Machado de Assis Translation and Introduction by Isaac Goldberg (Published in 1921 by The Four Seas Company, Boston, Massachusetts)

Contents: Preliminary Remarks: An overview of the state of Brazilian literature (in 1921) as well as information on the writers in this collection.
  The Attendant's Confession By Joaquim Maria Machado De Assis: Murder of self-defense?
  The Fortune-Teller By Joaquim Maria Machado De Assis: a story of a love triangle.
    Life By Joaquim Maria Machado De Assis: a dialog between Ahasverus (The Wandering Jew) who is the last mortal on Earth and Prometheus.
    The Vengeance Of Felix By José Medeiros E Albuquerque: "Old Felix had followed his trade of digger in all the quarries that Rio de Janeiro possessed. He was a sort of Hercules with huge limbs, but otherwise stupid as a post." Or was he?
    The Pigeons By Coelho Netto: "When the pigeons leave, misfortune follows.—Indian superstition."
    Aunt Zeze's Tears By Carmen Dolores: An old-maid faces reality.


Build Your Own Pizza Oven: The Crust-Worthy Guide You Didn't Know You Kneaded an exercise for architecture students, complete with plans and instructions.
I'm not going to build one, but if I were ever build anything out of brick and mud this is a thing I would build...

But I wouldn't drink Bone Sake with my pizza...

Bone Sake Michael Pronko, a long time resident of Japan, meets his match in a drink that "...brought me closer to the essence of bone, a place I wasn’t sure I wanted to be."

Pronko is the author of three mystery/thrillers (set in Tokyo) and three collections of essays on Japan. In addition to his writer blog, he (along with Marco Mancini) runs the blog Jazz In Japan which features news, reviews, articles, club and venue information, and other related things.

Saturday, April 01, 2017

March (fifth week) 2017 Reads

So March had almost five weeks this year? No wonder I got so tired of it. It's Madness, I tell you!

Speaking of madness I'm watching NCAAW games so not reading as much as usual...
          ...somewhere in the madness...
               ...I read two very fine novels, a good short story collection...
                           ...found time to shuffle up and pull a card for the Deal Me In story challenge...

 “Deal Me In 2017!”
The story: It's me! by Ekaterina Togonidze (in Best European fiction 2015) Translated from the Georgian by Natalia Bukia-Peters and Victoria Field.
Iamze/Ia/Ianna/Yanna has her appearance changed through major and minor cosmetic surgeries--but does she still have a soul?

The card(s): The Queen of Spades: These are from a page of Queens of Spades on Playing Arts. Viewers were asked to vote for their favorite. The vote has ended but there are lots of neat card designs to view.  I had a difficult time choosing one for this story. The Pichardo one shows a dramatic transformation and the Mancini suggests the loss of soul. Googling for this card was a neat exercise during NCAA Women's Tournament game time outs--when I was supposed to be walking laps around the house. 
Fabio Mancini

Marco Pichardo

from the Library...

Swing Time by Zadie Smith
Two brown girls grow up in Northwest London dreaming about the dance. One has talent, the other does not. But it takes more than talent--luck also plays a part and these girls aren't lucky. As they grow their paths split and their friendship dwindles. One pursues a short mediocre stage career and single motherhood. The other, who is the narrator of the story, becomes personal assistant to a highly successful pop star. But there is much more here than the fluctuating friendship: racism, patronizing do-gooders, unintended consequences of charity, rich vs poor, parenting styles, exploitation, immigration--all packed into a smoothly flowing package.

from my "owned-but-unread" shelf... 

The Ambassador by Bragi Ólafsson, Lytton Smith (Translator)
An Icelandic poet makes a trip to Lithuania to attend a poetry festival. Our poet tends to overthink everything--the buying of an overcoat, a stain on a carpet, the return of a videotape, other small things. But when it comes to the big things like plagiarism he seems not to have thought at all. In spite of (or, perhaps, because of) his ineptness his adventures are fun to follow. At times  Inspector Clouseau in a new role as petty thief comes to mind.

Project Gutenberg find... 

Lotta Schmidt and other stories by Anthony Trollope; fourth ed., Chapman and Hall, 1876 (first ed was 1867)

I enjoy Trollope's novels of English life and was happy to find this story collection. In these stories Trollope turns his wry eye to the international scene, they are a delight to read.

Contents: Lotta Schmidt in which a Viennese girl chooses between two suitors; in The Adventures Of Fred Pickering a young aspiring writer must choose between starvation and pride; The Two Generals is a story of brothers on opposite sides during the American Civil War; the next story is a humorous one where an Englishman has a traveler's worst night ever in an Irish village "hotel" but he meets and becomes friends with Father Giles Of Ballymoy; Malachi’s Cove is a place near Tintagel in Cromwell where an old man and his granddaughter gather seaweed until a neighbor intrudes on their territory; The Widow’s Mite is about charity and what we are willing to try to give up for a cause; The Last Austrian Who Left Venice is the story of a Venetian woman who falls in love with an enemy Austrian soldier; the question asked in Miss Ophelia Gledd is "Can an American woman be considered a "lady" in London society?; and in the final story, The Journey To Panama, there is a shipboard friendship between a man planing on crossing the Isthmus of Panama (no canal in those days) and on to Vancouver and a woman who is to meet her future husband after crossing the Isthmus.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

March (fourth week) 2017 Reads

Two super great novels, a non-fiction, a couple of literary journals, a Gutenberg find, and my weekly short story made up this week's reading.

 “Deal Me In 2017!”
In this week's short story, Ministry of the Interior by Louise Kennedy, a man in Beirut buries his pet cat with the help of some women friends. It's a rather sad affair and although he has prepared a nice buffet, the women can't wait to leave.
It is online at Short Fiction, a print and online journal, featuring excellent short stories from around the world.

This week's card, The Five of Hearts, is from the Marshall McLuhan Distant Early Warning (D. E. W.-Line) Card Deck, A deck of playing cards designed to be used as a problem-solving device. Published in 1969.

An essay about the deck may be found here and a complete set of DEW Line cards can be seen on Flickr at

from my "owned-but-unread" shelf...

A Spare Life
by Lidija Dimkovska, Christina E. Kramer (Translation from the Macedonian)
The separation of conjoined twins serves as a metaphor for the breakup of Yugoslavia, but it's a very strong story even if read as a straight narrative without the metaphorical stuff.

From my subscription to Two Lines Press

Anything Is Possible by Elizabeth Strout
In this collection of linked short stories, Strout expands on the lives of several people mentioned in My name is Lucy Barton. It stands alone, you don't have to have read Lucy Barton to appreciate these stories of small town life, love, and loss. Strout is one my favorite authors and this one does not disappoint. Loved it.

Advance review copy through GoodReads.

Riding the Black Cockatoo by John Danalis
The author gives an account of the process of returning a skull of an Australian Aborigine to its tribe. He goes into the difficulties encountered which include convincing his father of the necessity of repatriating the skull, finding the right authorities to receive it, working with elders to assure that the proper ceremonies are observed, and dealing his own psychological reaction to the atrocities that the native people of Australia have suffered over the years.

Not the greatest writing, but it does help to raise awareness.

My copy from a blog win at The Bookshelf Gargoyle

Literary journals...

Two Lines 26 by CJ Evans (Editor)
More information and Table of Contents  Some selections from this and previous issues are available online 
I am a subscriber.

New England Review, Vol. 37, No.3 (2016)
Publishes fiction, poetry, non-fiction, drama. This issue features a section of translations of current German poetry. Some material from past issues is available online (pdf). I rec'd this copy from a blog win at LitHub Daily.  More Information and Table of Contents 

Gutenberg find...

The American Railway : Its Construction, Development, management, and Appliances by Bogart, Clarke, others, and Voorhees (Originally published by Scribners' in 1889)
Over 400 pages of essays, pictures, charts, statistics, and more. A lot of it is rather dull, but there is plenty of interest especially to a researcher. It's worth a look just for the sketches, drawings, and photographs.
The chapter on "The Every-day Life of Railroad Men" is a gem with such insights as "Brakemen have had the reputation of doing a good deal of flirting, and many a country-girl has found a worthy husband among them; but there is not so much of this method of diversion as formerly; both passenger and freight men now have to attend more strictly to business, and they cannot conveniently indulge in side play. There are still, however, enough short branch-lines and slow-going roads in backwoods districts to insure that flirting shall not become a lost art in this part of the world."