Wednesday, July 26, 2017

What Else I Read Whilst Reading "The Invented Part"

Wednesday afternoon (July 26. 2007) I caught the tail end of Chad Post et al on WXXI's Connections There was a discussion on what to read after you've read a terrific book like The Invented Part. Does it spoil you for anything - everything - else? Not for me, but maybe it's time to reread Tristram Shandy. Or maybe I should finally read some Proust or Joyce. Or that Icelandic thing Chad keeps mentioning. Or binge watch Twin Peaks. Or listen to the Kinks. Or just go sit on the dock of the Bay.

When we started the two month read I wondered what I would whilst reading the book, I didn't even think about after. I always read more than one book at a time and I decided I'd just go on as usual. Since I read about sixteen books a month (love retirement) I figured I would probably read around thirty other books during the slow read. I actually read about twenty-three. I also read my usual of amount of online short stories, articles, etc.

Did my reading of the Fresán book influence my other reading? In some cases yes, others not so much. And did my other reading influence my reading of the Fresán book? Maybe, maybe not. I think I'll go back and unread all those books and see if it makes a difference.

So here a list of what I read, with a few notes that may or may not address these questions.

most of these are covered elsewhere on the blog but I wanted to view them altogether
* indicates translated work
RF = Ricardo Fresán
TIP = The Invented Part
Date is date I finished the book, I was usually reading two or three concurrently.

*The Magician of Vienna; Pitol, Sergio: Jun 5
 I think my enjoyment of Pitol's adoration of Chekhov was enhanced because I was reading RF--or maybe I my enjoyment of RF's comments on Chekhov was enhanced because I was reading Pitol.
   I had already started this before starting TIP. This was a slow (2 week) read for me, but I was much slower with the first two volumes of Pitol's "Trilogy of Memory"- Spent 11 months with The Art of Flight and five months with The Journey. The speedier read on this one had nothing to do with TIP, it was just that I was in more familiar territory than I was with the other two. 

Death of an Airman; St. John Sprigg, Christopher: Jun 7
 vintage mystery--love these for interim reads
In Their Lives: Great Writers on Great Beatles Songs; Blauner, Andrew (ed.): Jun 9
 I went to a bookstore event for this; came home; picked up FM's book and he was mentioning the Beatles.
 This sort of thing happened a lot, for example:
 My daughter suggested that I look at MST3K Jonah's Kaiju Rap (Every Country has a Monster)  which includes the line "Chupacabra's chewin' up cattle down in Mexico." This was the first I had heard of Chupacaba but, of course, he turned up in TIP a couple of hours later.
 I mentioned RF's comment on Alice Monro getting the Nobel. Assuming TIP was done before the 2016 prize was announced we wondered what RF would have to say about it. After reading the Bob Dylan part of TIP, I still wonder what RF thinks about the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature.
 Today we were having lunch at an outdoor restaurant. A boy, about nine years old, was running down a ramp and across the gravel parking lot and I thought of RF (p. 13 mirrored on p. 540)

*The Reader; Schlink, Bernhard: Jun 12
 One book that informed my reading of this was *In My Brother's Shadow: A Life and Death in the SS by Uwe Timm which I read in 2014.

The Last Boy and Girl in the World; Vivian, Siobhan: Jun 13
 A so-so YA. I would have thought that even if I hadn't been reading a bunch of good books. Be kind--it's a debut work. ARC
The Genius of Birds; Ackerman, Jennifer; Jun 13
 Non-fiction ARC

*The Piper by Yoko Tawada (short story); and some poems in Two Lines 23; Evans, C.J. (ed):Jun 16
  I had already read the rest of this issue.
  Two Lines 26 had an excerpt from TIP but I didn't read it. I don't like to read excerpts when I know for sure that I'm going to read the complete work.
*Journey by Moonlight; Szerb, Antal: Jun 19
In the Heart of the Heart of the Country and Other Stories; Gass, William H.: Jun 20
A Gentleman in Moscow; Towles, Amor: Jun 21
 An enjoyable read from my local public library on (shh...) Kindle. Actually I like ebooks if they are fairly straightforward narratives or short stories. Not so much for things I want to deep read. My Deep Vellum Press subscription includes both ebook and paper editions, but I always wait for the paper edition.

*What are the Blind Men Dreaming?; Jaffe, Noemi; Jun 22
  A mother/daughter diary/memoir/essay. The diary part is a translated work.

*The Naked Eye; Tawada, Yōko: Jun 25

The Resurrection of Joan Ashby; Wolas, Cherise: Jun 29
  A book about an author who loses her will to write. Huh? No comparison to TIP. A totally different (and predictable) approach.  ARC

*Killing the Second Dog; Hłasko, Marek: Jul 02

Varieties of Disturbance; Davis, Lydia: Jul 2
 Short stories, flash fiction. Library book

*The Invisible Life of Euridice Gusmao; Batalha, Martha: Jul 05
*The Private Lives of Trees; Zambra, Alejandro: Jul 05
The Call of Stories: Teaching and the Moral Imagination; Coles, Robert: Jul 06
 Non-fic. published in 1989, a little dated and somewhat elitist. Some good stuff about William Carlos Williams. I think my TIP reading did influence my opinion of this book, making Coles' Harvard students seem naive and not particularly well read. But it was 1989 and Holden Caulfield and all.

The Frangipani Hotel; Kupersmith, Violet: Jul 08
 short stories, think Saki, not RF

Worlds from the Word's End; Walsh, Joanna: Jul 12
 short stories, lots of word play, compare to Lydia Davis

*Elsewhere; Weinberger, Eliot (ed): Jul 14
 14 poems. The brilliant use of language in TIP increased my appreciation of the poetry I read in this book and online. That goes for both translated into English and originally in English poetry.

Last Night at the Lobster; O'Nan, Stewart: Jul 15
 A totally undemanding read which I read because it is set in a neighboring town. I've gotten lost in New Britain, CT more often than anywhere else in the world. I didn't get lost in this book.
*Summer Before the Dark; Weidermann, Volker: Jul 15
  Non-fic  Nothing like reading about writers when you're reading about writers. This was a good one to read when I was finishing TIP.

Lunar Follies; Sorrentino, Gilbert: Jul 23, 2017
And this was a perfect final read. It's been sitting on my shelf for ages--maybe it was waiting for me to need something great to read after TIP.  How did I miss Sorrentino? And they say this isn't his best...
Final note: Everything informs everything. Everything I've ever read enters everything I'm reading or will be reading. Even the works I barely or can't consciously remember--like the one where the dog dies.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

July (third week) 2017 Reads

Not much to add to the reading log this week. Continued with the slow read of  Rodrigo Fresán's The Invented Part with Chad Post's Two Month Review  by reading  "Meanwhile, Once Again, Beside the Museum Stairway, Under a Big Sky" (The Invented Part, Pages 405-440). Also reading Chad's comments and listening to the podcast about this section. And, as usual, spending a lot of time Googling because Fresán has so many literary and pop culture references. I'm lovin' it.
Next week will be the final section. The next slow read is Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller by Guðbergur Bergsson, translated from the Icelandic by Lytton Smith. My copy arrived in the mail on Monday.

This week...

 “Deal Me In 2017!”
Story:   Collection by Camille Meyer (flash fictions)
There are eight very short, interrelated stories in this collection. They read a bit like primitive attempts to explain how giants came to Earth or, perhaps, little stories made up by an older child trying to entertain a younger sibling. Or maybe those stories that develop from a party game in which one person says the first sentence and then each person in the circle adds to it. The results can be an interesting, but not very cohesive, story.

At Big Bridge, "a webzine of poetry and everything else...."  Fun to explore.

Card: Eight of Clubs from Demon Deck by Ukrainian artist Egor Klyuchnyk. I'm not sure that I'm seeing what was intended here, but this looks a bit like shrubbery and that fits the story because plants play an important part in the giant's adventures.


Cartoons magazine. v.10:pt.2 (1916). Linen Islands Sea by Helena Smith-Dayton 
A light commentary on the dining habits and conversation circa 1916.
Smith-Dayton is particularly amused by the gentlemen.

I found this because of a comment  Katherine Nabity made on my post last week. I had a lot of fun with this and ended up reading more than the article  relevant to Katherine's comment. 

The "Cartoons" of the magazine title is used in the "political cartoon" sense--there are a lot of political articles and a lot of European war news and commentary. This was before the USA entered the war.

An Entire Family Disappears by Gunnhild Øyehaug; Translated from the Norwegian by Kari Dickson
Another excerpt from the story collection Knots. (I also read one of these last week.)

Three Principles of Architecture as Revealed by Italo Calvino's 'Invisible Cities'  by Osman Bari

These next two pieces discuss  Lima-based architect Karina Puente's  project to illustrate each and every "invisible" city from Italo Calvino's 1972 novel.
Italo Calvino's 'Invisible Cities', Illustrated  by James Taylor-Foster (6 images)
Italo Calvino's 'Invisible Cities', Illustrated (Again)   by AD Editorial Team (16 images)

This Drone Video Captures the Mesmerizing Geometries of The World's Most Vertical City  by AD Editorial Team
Presentation of an eight minute film from architect Mariana Bisti exploring Hong Kong by drone videography. "Not limited to vantage points accessible to humans, the video zooms and pans deliberately over, across and into the city’s enormous residential blocks..."

Seven Questions for Lytton Smith on Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller by Guðbergur Bergsson
Scott Esposito interviews Lytton Smith. Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller is the next book we will be reading for Chad Post's Two Month Review  project.

 from my shelves...

Summer Before the Dark by Volker Weidermann; translated from the German by Carol Brown Janeway.
Stefan Zweig reunites with his estranged friend Joseph Roth in Ostend, Belgium in 1936.  At the time Ostend was a quiet refuge where a group of exiles and soon to be exiles joined together in a fragile social circle. Lots of booze, affairs, and rivalries mixed in with the really serious decisions that they must make about their futures in a crumbling European society.
A must read for anyone interested in Zweig, Roth, or European culture in the interwar years.

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   
    The moon in its flight / stories by Sorrentino, Gilbert Ham/Ml
    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.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

June (third week) 2017 Reads

Because I am slowly reading The Invented Part with Chad Post's Two Month Review  project and have a couple of other slow reads going, I decided to devote this week's other reading and posting to whatever source or format the card of the week indicates. If it is Spades it will be translated into English; Hearts--original language English; Diamonds--found on Project Gutenberg; Clubs--different format (narrative poem, short play or skit, graphic, clever title, narrative essay, etc.); Jokers--Pick something from another participants roster.
 “Deal Me In 2017!”
And the winner is
Since it is a translated story in an online journal and is a four, I will highlight four online sources where I regularly read translated works and works about translation.

This week's story:  Cafés Morts by Maïssa Bey; translated from the French by Hodna Bentali Gharsallah Nuernberg
A young girl inadvertently catches glimpses the culture of Algeria's "Moorish cafés" which at the time were men only gathering places.

This story is from the October 2016 issue of Asymptote a free quarterly online journal founded in 2011. They have published " from 105 countries and 84 languages, all never-before-published poetry, fiction, nonfiction, drama, and interviews by writers and translators such as J. M. Coetzee, Patrick Modiano, Herta Müller, Can Xue, Junot Díaz, Ismail Kadare, David Mitchell, Anne Carson, Haruki Murakami, Lydia Davis, Ann Goldstein, and Deborah Smith."

The layout is attractive. The stories and articles are illustrated and are available in the original language as well as the English translation. Many also have sound files of authors or translators reading in the original language. There are bios and translators notes. Past issues are archived. There is a map which shows the locales of the works.
The Buenos Aires Review  "presents the best and latest work by emerging and established writers from the Americas, in both Spanish and English [also some Portuguese]. We value translation and conversation. We publish poetry, fiction, essays, criticism, visual art, and interviews."
Guernica/a magazine of global art & politics, a non-profit free online magazine founded in 2004. "A home for incisive ideas and necessary questions, we publish memoir, reporting, interviews, commentary, poetry, fiction, and multimedia journalism exploring identity, conflict, culture, justice, science, and beyond."
Material includes both translated and original English language works.
Words Without Borders is a free monthly online magazine. Started in 2003, WWB publishes eight to twelve new works, in English translation, by international writers. Works include fiction, poetry and nonfiction, often related to a geographic or topical theme. Past issues are archived.

This week's card is from Playing Arts Edition Zero, a deck for which "each card  has been individually designed by one of the 55 selected international artists in his distinct style and technique."

The Four of Clubs was designed by Anton Repponen, a New York based interactive designer with architecture background.

I selected for today's post because it strikes me as a kind of translation from the usual playing card, giving us a new way to view a familiar object.

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 (Trilogía 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.

Saturday, June 03, 2017

June (first week) 2017 Reads

Since I usually post on Saturdays and this Saturday is June Third, I'm labeling this June even though the week has more May days than June ones.

 “Deal Me In 2017!”
Story: The Relive Box by T. Coraghessan Boyle (in Watchlist : 32 stories by persons of interest)
What would you watch if you had a magic box that allowed you to relive episodes from your past?  Would you choose happy times, bad times, erotic times? And how addictive could it be?

Card: Four of  Hearts
In the story, the box display "...isn't a computer screen or a hologram or anything anybody else can see--we're talking retinal projection, two laser beams fixed on two eyeballs. Anybody coming into the room...will simply see you sitting there silently in a chair with your retina lit like furnaces."
(Card found on playingcard collector)

some stories online...

The Scent of Paradise and Oussama Two stories from Another Morocco by Abdellah Taïa; translated from the French by Rachael Small. "These are stories of life in a working-class Moroccan family, of a writer's affair with language, & much more."

Toward Marzahn: A Story by Bae Suah ; translated from the Korean by Annah Overly
From the translator's introductory paragraph: "With its shifting timeframes, ambiguous narrator, and apartment empty except for small traces of previous inhabitants, Bae’s “Toward Marzahn” perfectly depicts a hypnagogic atmosphere unlike any other. Marzahn is not in Korea but rather a corner of Berlin, a city where Bae has spent long stretches of time, and her words give life to this realm far removed from her Korean readers’ homeland. Yet the loneliness of these characters never feels foreign or unfamiliar. Rather, it transplants Bae’s readers to her reality, which her critics have hailed as “a world of dreams . . . through which lost voices drift.” 

The Size of Things, by Samanta Schweblin; translated from the Spanish by Megan McDowell
A toyshop keeper acquires an unusual helper.

Labrador by Daniel Dencik; translated from the Danish by Mark Mussari
"We’d always put off any proper introduction to each other’s parents, because we had enough problems of our own without complicating matters even further. If you’re going to introduce someone to your family, you better be sure."

other online reading...

Lessons in Slowness  by Susanna Basso; translated from the Italian by Matilda Colarossi
An essay on the role of patience when doing literary translation. "I began to wonder if translation was, in fact, a waiting game."

A Brief History of a Decline: The Iranian Novel at the Dawn of the Millennium by Amir Ahmadi Arian an Iranian novelist and journalist.

Read Dozens of Historical Architecture Books for Free Online Thanks to New Library Exhibition,© Buffalo and Erie County Public LibraryRead Dozens of Historical Architecture Books for Free Online Thanks to New Library Exhibition 
"Buffalo and Erie County Public Library of Buffalo, New York, has recently opened a new exhibit at their Central Library titled Building Buffalo: Buildings From Books, Books From Buildings. The exhibit will feature a large selection of rare, illustrated architectural books from the Library’s collection dating from the fifteenth century to the mid-twentieth century. The bonus for those who are geographically distant from Buffalo is that, as part of the exhibit, the Library has also made dozens of historical architecture books available online, completely digitized and free to the public." Article includes highlights and photos of the exhibition. The list of online books (with links) can be found here. (warning: PDF)

Inside the Bizarre Personal Lives of Famous Architects by Megan Fowler
Gossipy paragraphs about five mega-star architects with some links to more information. Fun illustrations.

Most of the World’s Bread Clips Are Made by a Single CompanyA brief history of the Kwik Lok Closure. by Eric Grundhauser 
Twist-Ties vs. Plastic Clips: Tiny Titans Battle for the Bakery Aisle
by Paul Lukas

from my shelves...

Landscape in Concrete by Jakov Lind; Ralph Manheim (Translator); Joshua Cohen (Introduction)
A tragic/comedic tale of the absurdity of war told from the prospective of Bachmann, a WW2 German soldier, the survivor of a devastating battle where almost his entire regiment was lost in the mud of the Eastern Front. He is declared mentally incompetent  and is set for discharge. He runs away and tries to find his regiment. Strange adventures ensue with an assortment of odd characters: a poisoner/deserter, a homosexual officer, a deranged former schoolteacher turned double agent, Bachmann's large girlfreind, an odd judge, Gypsy musicians....  I must read more by this author.

The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui
In 1978 the Bui family left Vietnam in a boat to Malaysia and a refugee camp. Eventually they made their way to relatives in Chicago and then to California. Their story is well told by one of the daughters who searches for her family identity. The graphic format works well for this story.

Advance review copy.