Saturday, November 11, 2017

November (second week) 2017 Reads

A fine week of reading which included a super novel, excellent poetry, and a fine collection of short fiction. All this whilst workmen were crashing about overhead installing plywood flooring in the attic. Then there is the story of the week...

“Deal Me In 2017!”

Story: The Vacant Lot (in The Wind in the Rose-bush and Other Stories of the Supernatural, by Mary Eleanor Wilkins Freeman, first published in 1903)

This story goes nicely with strange sounds in the attic. A family gives up small town life and buys a bargain house in a good Boston neighborhood. They find out why it was so cheap when strange things happen in the empty lot next door and then right in their house itself. A good ghost story, I will certainly read more in this collection. A Gutenberg gem.

Card: Four of Diamonds
I couldn't find a sufficiently creepy four of diamonds, but I did find this book on Amazon. It shows diamonds as signifying money. Money was the motive for the purchase of the house next to The Vacant Lot so I'll go with it. Looks like a fun book, if you're into that sort of thing. (It averages 4.5 stars from the 37 Amazon reviews)

from my shelves...

Kensington Gardens by

Miami Century Fox by Legna Rodríguez Iglesias; translated from the Spanish by Eduardo Aparicio
Bilingual editions of poetry translated from languages I have some familiarity with always fascinate me. They teach me so much about what I don't know. If I were to sit down with this collection of poems,  my minimal knowledge of Spanish and a good dictionary or two I could probably decipher some meaning of the text but the result would hardly be poetic and certainly not fifty-one Petarchan sonnets. I would totally miss the point and give up early on. A collection to make one appreciate the Cuban-American experience, poetry, and the art of fine translation.
Free review copy from publisher through LibraryThing giveaway.

I Am the Brother of XX  by Fleur Jaeggy; translated from the Italian by Gini Alhadeff
These strange short stories seemed to go perfectly with the strange noises coming from the attic. I almost expected the workmen to come downstairs and tell me they had found some weird artifacts from the 178 year history of the house. No such luck so I had to be startled by the odd goings on in this Gothic collection. The cover, by the way, is deceptively calm for the the sharp, sometimes brutal, world view in the stories.

Saturday, November 04, 2017

November (first week) 2017 Reads

The story for this week is one of the best from my roster, the rest of my reading was also good stuff. (well almost all of it was good.)

“Deal Me In 2017!”
Story:   The Song the Owl God Himself Sang, Silver Droplets Fall Fall All Around,” An Ainu Tale .
Transliterated in Romaji and translated from Ainu into Japanese by Chiri Yukie; Translated from Japanese into English and introduced by Kyoko Selden

This is wonderful. The introduction is quite detailed on the interesting history of the work. The preface to the work, Ainu Shin’yōshū (Ainu Songs of Gods), in which this song was originally published is also included. The song itself tells a story of how the Owl God takes pity on a pauper family.

From the Preface: Long ago, this spacious Hokkaido was our ancestors’ space of freedom. Like innocent children, as they led their happy, leisurely lives embraced by beautiful, great nature. Truly, they were the beloved of nature; how blissful it must have been.

On land in winter, kicking the deep snow that covers forests and fields, stepping over mountain after mountain, unafraid of the cold that freezes heaven and earth, they hunt bear; at sea in summer, on the green waves where a cool breeze swims, accompanied by the songs of white seagulls, they float small boats like tree leaves on the water to fish all day; in flowering spring, while basking in the soft sun, they spend long days singing with perpetually warbling birds, collecting butterbur and sagebrush; in autumn of red leaves, through the stormy wind they divide the pampas grass with its budding ears, catch salmon till evening, and as fishing torches go out they dream beneath the full moon while deer call their companions in the valley. What a happy life this must have been. That realm of peace has passed; the dream shattered tens of years since, this land rapidly changing with mountains and fields transformed one by one into villages, villages into towns. 

From The Song: 
“Silver droplets fall fall all around me
golden droplets fall fall all around me.” So singing
I went down along the river’s flow, above the human village.
As I looked down below
paupers of old have now become rich, while rich men of old
have now become paupers, it seems.
By the shore, human children are at play
with little toy bows with little toy arrows.


Card: 7 Clubs, Owl deck from Scout Playing cards at Zazzle

This finishes the club suit for this year. This suit was defined for my roster as "Clubs--different format (narrative poem, short play or skit, graphic, clever title, narrative essay, etc.)." It was fun to set up and fun to do so if I participate again next year I may use it this way again.

from my shelves...

Chocky by John Wyndham,  Afterword by Margaret Atwood
My kind of sci-fi. A classic.

And I like the cover too...

Dazzling the Gods: Stories by Tom Vowler
Wonderful collection.  This is one I helped crowd fund through Unbound 
Glad I did that.

Another great cover...


Not One Day by Anne Garréta, translated from the French by Emma Ramadan
Memories of loves past.  Garréta is a member of Oulipo, but this work is not exactly Oulipo. She does set a rigid form--write at computer for five hours every day, with no revisions, for thirty days chronicling memories of women she has desired or has been desired by--but she doesn't stick to the program. So there are not thirty entries (she abandons the schedule early on) but what there is has wonderful insights, poetic writing and, at times, amusing encounters.

Old Demons, New Deities by
anthology of contemporary Tibetan fiction. Some of these stories were written in English, others have been translated from the Tibetan or, in one case, from the Chinese. I enjoyed this look into the lives of Tibetan exiles.

 I must have been picking books from my to read shelves by cover this week.


Post Exoticism in Ten Lessons, Lesson Eleven by Antoine Volodine, translated from the French by J.T. Mahany
The most difficult of this week's reads. A complicated fantasy world of experimental authors who are dying off in some sort of prison. When the last man dies there is no one left to tell the story but the story gets told. A book (and an author) to read and read again.

Not a dazzling cover but one that fits the material.

The Octopus: A Story of California (The Epic of the Wheat #1) by Frank Norris (Kindle ed)
I've been reading this off and on for several months--partly because it's on Kindle and I forget about it, but mostly because I found it a bit tedious. I would have appreciated it more if I had read it a long time ago when I was studying California history. Almost a bucket list read. Glad I read it, but also glad to scratch it off the list.

Image Googling will bring up some really fine covers for this, but I have used the generic, forgettable one from the Kindle edition to highlight my problem with remembering to read what is on my kindle.

Saving Tarboo Creek: One Family’s Quest to Heal the Land
by Scott Freeman, Susan Leopold Freeman (Illustrations)
A worthwhile book about an ecology project on a small piece of land in Washington state. This is a salmon breeding area so Freeman gives some background on what salmon need. The book covers the broader picture of how this small property fits into the wider ecology of the creek and the surrounding area and also why this small project matters in the world-wide ecological picture. One message here is: do what you can, every little bit counts.
A nice companion to The Hidden Life of Trees which I read in August.

free advance review copy from publisher.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

October (fourth week) 2017 Reads

Story: East of the Web's story of the day on the day I draw this card. Phase in Space by Paul O'Neill
This turned out to be very short, jokey, and fun.

card: 4 (or any other) club: by Carlson Choo

from my shelves...

Tristana  by

Guadalajara  by Quim Monzó; translated from the Catalan by Peter Bush
Superb short stories. Can't pick a favorite because I liked them all.
Contents:  Family life -- Outside the gates of Troy -- Helvetian freedoms -- Gregor -- A hunger and thirst for justice -- A day like any other -- Life is so short -- The power of words -- Literature -- Centripetal force --  Strategies --The lives of prophets -- During the war -- Books.


from the library...

Havana: A Subtropical Delirium by Mark Kurlansky
An honest, realistic appreciation of a city that is often over-romanticized in both fiction and non-fiction. 

Saturday, October 21, 2017

October (third week) 2017 Reads

It's time to begin a new slow read project: Introducing Mercè Rodoreda [Two Month Review]  by Chad W. Post. Actually, I've already read the Selected Stories but it's been a while and I look forward to reading them again and hearing the podcast discussions from Chad & Co.

Meanwhile this past week's reads....

Story: Learn to Love the One Who Eats Your Porridge by Kristīne Ulberge: translated from the Latvian by Margita Gailitis (pages 108-119 in Best European Fiction 2015)
A patient in a mental hospital tells her story.

Card: Ten of Spades. This seems to go with the story, which features a young girl and a crow. It also seems appropriate that it comes from an artist that calls herself  psychobitchua.
(She also identifies as Lena from Kiev, Ukraine who says,  "I’m a rare combination of a bad temper and a good sense of humor. And I like merging photoshop layers."

from my shelves...
Red Dust and Dancing Horses: And Other Stories by
Loved these si-fi/fantasy/steampunk/apocalyptic stories and poems. Cato is a good writer who made me like things I wasn't sure I would like: Steampunk horses? They were great! Toilet gnomes? What fun! There are even five "Culinary Magic" stories for foodies.
One of my favorites in this collection, Roots, Shallow and Deep, is set in Hanford, California during the same period as a novel I've been struggling with for a couple of months --The Octopus: A Story of California by Frank Norris.  The amazing cover is by Kuzuhiko Nakamura.
Free advance reader copy via Goodreads giveway.

Gray areas : a short story collection by

Contents:  Belleview hotel -- Earth like chocolate -- Afternoon tea -- The camera -- Headaches -- Hedda the wise -- Here kitty -- Roberta -- Driving home -- Lilac in blossom -- Rainy evening -- The party -- Lydia -- Grand finale -- The island -- The cavern -- The dinner date -- The dress in the window -- Welcome to the neighborhood -- Mood swings -- The coastal trail.


Blood of the Dawn by Claudia Salazar Jiménez; translated from the Spanish by Elizabeth Bryer
This short novel about the lives of three women during the "time of fear" in  1980s  Peru was a very hard read both because of the subject matter and the rather disjointed style. Difficult but worth reading.


The Tell-Tale Heart by Jill Dawson  by Jill Dawson
The stories of a heart transplant recipient and his donor.  Set in The Fens near Ely, UK. An OK read divided into several parts that didn't quite fit together.

from the library...

The Red-Haired Woman by translated from the Turkish by Ekin Oklap
Another good one from one of my favorite authors.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

October (second week) 2017 Reads

Not much time for  blogging this week. Story from Project Gutenberg again...

“Deal Me In 2017!”
Story: The Red-headed Windego (in Old Man Savarin and Other Stories, by Edward William Thomson, published in 1895)
A team surveying in the Upper Ottawa encounter mysterious tracks in the snow. Is it the legendary Windigo?

Card: Two of diamonds. Nope these are not Windigos, they look nothing like the one in the story--they are much cuter.
From An Ace in the Pack by Lesley Barnes, an animator/illustrator from Scotland.

from my shelves... 
Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller by  
Finished the slow read.  See:
Two Month Review #2.10: 17, composition book (Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller, Pages 361-411)

Two Lines 27  by

 Malacqua: Four Days of Rain in the City of Naples, Waiting for the Occurrence of an Extraordinary Event by

Saturday, October 07, 2017

October (first week) 2017 Reads

Finished an Indonesian novel and continued with an Icelandic one. The reading for this week from Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller, was especially challenging.

Another Project Gutenberg find for this week's story.

“Deal Me In 2017!”
Story: The Hermit and the Wild Woman (in The Hermit and the Wild Woman and Other Stories, by   Edith Wharton)
As much as I like Wharton's writing this is not at all my kind of story. I can do without asceticism.

Card: Five of diamonds

The card had to be as plain as possible to go with the story.

from my shelves...

Home by
Novel of late twentieth Century Indonesian history, set in Jakarta and the exile community in Paris. Another fine book from my Deep Vellum subscription.

and a film...
Tickets [videorecording] / produced for Fandango, Medusa Produziona, and Sixteen Films Ltd. ; written by Abbas Kiarostami, Paul Laverty, and Ermanno Olmi ; directed by Abbas Kiarostami, Ken Loach, and Ermanno Olmi.
A life-changing trip on an Italian train. Three stories, three directors.
from the library

Sunday, October 01, 2017

September (fifth week) 2017 Reads

A day late, but .... well...'t read the story of the week until this morning. It's a good one.

Story:  The Piazza (in The Piazza Tales by Herman Melville) on Project Gutenberg
“Deal Me In 2017!”
He moves to an old house in the country. It's perfect and perfectly situated but: "it had no piazza—a deficiency the more regretted, because not only did I like piazzas, as somehow combining the coziness of in-doors with the freedom of out-doors, and it is so pleasant to inspect your thermometer there, but the country round about was such a picture, that in berry time no boy climbs hill or crosses vale without coming upon easels planted in every nook, and sun-burnt painters painting there. A very paradise of painters. The circle of the stars cut by the circle of the mountains."
So he has a piazza built and from it he views the magnificent surroundings, filling them with classical allusions, fairies,  and other fanciful notions.
A charming story that makes one want to read the others in the collection: Bartleby; Benito Cereno; The Lightning-Rod Man; The Encantadas; and The Bell-Tower.

Card: The nine of diamonds (pentacles): there are many Tarot interpretations for this card and not all are happy ones. What I like about all this confusion is that I can pick and choose. (I really can't take all this Tarot stuff too seriously.) So here is what Biddy Tarot says in part: "The Nine of Pentacles indicates that you have reached a point in your life where you are feeling self-confident, self-sufficient, independent and free. By acting on your own accord, you have attained well-deserved success and may now enjoy money, leisure time, pleasure, material comfort and rest." 
This perfectly describes the man in the story (although the card depicts a woman). But upside down the card (according to Biddy) takes on a less optimistic meaning.

from my shelves...

Before  by Carmen Boullosa, Translated from the Spanish by Peter Bush 
Sort of a coming of age story.  One that sticks with you. Amanda Paustian's review on Goodreads caught my feeling almost exactly. It seems a bit of a cop out to link to another review and not write my own but if some says it better than I can, why not? 


The Best American Sports Writing 2017  edited by

Songs from the Violet Café by Fiona Kidman 
I really enjoyed this story of Violet, her café, and the young people who worked for her. A slice of New Zealand life set mostly in 1963 with back stories in the 1940's and a brief peek to the future.
Free copy from blog win at Words and Peace (as part of  Bout of Books 20)

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

September (fourth week) 2017 Reads

Once again I have several "readings in progress." I finished only one book this week but it was a good one. 

This week for the short story challenge I drew a joker which means I read a story from another participant's roster. It also means I drew a second card and read two stories this week. I selected my joker story from Dale's roster

“Deal Me In 2017!”
Story: The Cafeteria by Isaac Bashevis Singer; translated by the author and Dorothea Strauss. (page 68-84 in Library of America's  Isaac Bashevis Singer: Collected Stories: One Night In Brazil to The Death Of Methuselah)
A successful writer occasionally eats in a neighborhood cafeteria where many immigrants (mostly elderly men) gather to eat and gossip. Here he meets Esther, also an immigrant but younger than most of the usual group. Over the years they see one another off and on. The final time they talk is at his place and she tells him she saw Hitler and a group of Germans meeting in the cafeteria after closing time. Was it a vision? a memory? a separate reality? or is she insane? Some time later he sees her on the street with another man from the old cafeteria crowd. Or does he?

Singer never disappoints. The Library of America three volume boxed set of his collected stories may be my best blog win ever. 

Card: Joker
Dale's roster is set up is geographically with stories from Appalachia  for spades and clubs and stories from New York City for Hearts and diamonds. The singer story is the the ♥10♥ on the roster so I chose a joker representing the city.

Story from my roster for the second card I drew (♥8♥): The Story of Kao Yu by Peter S. Beagle (online at, a great source for "Science fiction. Fantasy. The universe. And related subjects.")

A fantasy story of an aging traveling judge in rural China;  the chi-lin, the Chinese unicorn who sometimes appears in his court, and a female criminal. The author describes it as "....a respectful imitation of an ancient style, and never pretends to be anything else. But I wrote it with great care and love, and I’m still proud of it." He certainly met his goal with this story.
I did not look for a card to represent this story because there is a marvelous illustration accompanying the story.  Alyssa Winans is the artist. She a San Francisco based fantasy illustrator and game artist. She is also a member of the Google Doodle team.

from my shelves...

The Signal Flame: A Novel  by
 An elegantly told family story of love, waiting, and loss. Krivak gives us an astonishing sense of time, place, and character.

The Romance of the Skeleton
"... a two-and-a-half minute, weird and wonderful animation depicting “the lows and lower lows of love in the afterlife.” Equal parts funny and touching, the short is the result of a collaboration between Brazil-born Vitoria Bastos and Adele Davies from Devon...."

 (Read Me)  by Helen McClory
A great essay on reading, worth reading and re-reading. " don’t have to read simpler or popular books because they give you ready currency online, or because lots of people keep talking about them. You can read obscure, weird, or difficult stuff without feeling awkward. Because you don’t have to present your opinion to the world on the books you read in a digestible, effusive tweet or a picture of the book next to a mug of tea and an aloe plant. I know you know this, that you don’t have to have an opinion at all. Many voices make reading one type of book or another a performative act that marks you as a member of a particular tribe. But all that needs to exist is you and the words. Because they are yours if you want them."

Saturday, September 16, 2017

September (third week) 2017 Reads

Another week of eclectic reading...

“Deal Me In 2017!”
Story:   In Our Forties by Kojima Nobuo (in Long Belts and Thin Men)

Card: 6 of Spades
I picked this card by C.J. Freeman because it shows a ruin--which is pretty much what the protagonist of the story ended up with.

Information about the card and the deck it comes from can be found on Bonnie Cehovet's Tarot site in her Review – Playing Card Oracles

from my shelves...

Long Belts and Thin Men: The Postwar Stories of Kojima Nobuo by

contents: The rifle -- The American school -- The smile -- Voices -- The black flame -- Buffoon in an alien land* -- The house of the hooligans*-- A certain day*-- In our forties.
*set in USA 

The Gurugu Pledge by Juan Tomás Ávila Laurel; translated from the Spanish by Jethro Soutar

A tale of people from all over Africa living in a camp in northern Morocco hoping to get to Europe. Told with warmth and compassion, this is an excellent read. 

The Long Haul: A Trucker's Tales of Life on the Road by Finn Murphy
Not high literature, but an oddly compelling read. It was fun to ride along with Finn Murphy and see how he grew and developed a professional attitude toward his craft. His stories about his colleagues and customers reveal a world most of us only see from one side. I've moved over twenty times (about two thirds of those using professional movers) and I really appreciate guys like Finn.
Advance review copy

Radio Free Vermont: A Fable of Resistance  by Bill McKibben
A rather simplistic story about a secessionist movement. Sorry, this just doesn't make it as a movement. It's a rather elitist view to think that drinking locally brewed beer, shopping at farmer's markets, and boycotting Walmart and Amazon in favor of local small business is going to make things better.
Advance review copy

from the library...

Miraculous Mysteries  by Martin Edwards (Editor)
Interesting anthology of classic British locked room mysteries.
Contents: The lost special / Arthur Conan Doyle -- The thing invisivble / William Hope Hodgson -- The case of the tragedies in the Greek room / Sax Rohmer -- The aluminum dagger / R. Austin Freeman -- The miracle of moon crescent / G.K. Chesterton -- The invisible weapon / Nicholas Olde -- The diary of death / Marten Cumberland -- The broadcast murder / Grenville Robbins -- The music-room / Sapper -- Death at 8:30 / Christopher St. John Sprigg -- Too clever by half / G.D.H. and Margaret Cole -- Locked in / E. Charles Vivian -- The haunted policeman / Dorothy L. Sayers -- The sands of thyme / Michael Innes -- Beware of the trains / Edmund Crispin -- The Villa Marie Celeste / Margery Allingham.

Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong (Kindle edition)
Very good story about a thirty-year old woman coping with her father's dementia.

I found these three because of  references in  Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller (p 202) Búkolla the Magic Cow by  Nanna Árnadóttir, The Loa is here! [Lóa, but I'm not sure this is what was being referenced] and Kjölur highland route interior F35 in Iceland (Gullfoss to Varmahlíð - Blönduós)
And this because of p 204 Bladderwrack and from p. 211 Informational plaque about Jón Eiríksson

elsewhere online...
The Fortean Limes  a short story by Yoss: translated by Lawrence Schimel.

Top 10 contemporary short stories 
 "Ahead of 2017’s National short story prize, Jon McGregor reluctantly chooses ‘swoony’ work from recent years...."  Of course the Guardian asked the impossible of McGregor and everyone faced with the task would chose a different set of stories. But these all look good and there are links to where they can be read online.

Spotlight: Renzo Piano by Rory Stott
A look at the works of the Italian architect. Includes an interview.

Saturday, September 09, 2017

September (second week) 2017 Reads

“Deal Me In 2017!”
Story: The Fair Imperia from Balzac's Contes drolatiques. Droll stories collected from the Abbeys of Touraine. Translated into English, complete and unabridged. Illustrated with designs by Gustave Dorʹe. [no translator credit given]
A delightful farce involving an innocent young priest, a courtesan, a bishop, and a cardinal. Churchmen behaving badly.

Card: Jack of Diamonds
The Jack is a fit for the story since the young priest becomes a knave.
However, this particular card has little to do with the story which takes place in Germany (they are at the Council at Constance). The card is from a Russian deck which I purchased in the USSR in 1979.

I didn't read much this week. Well, I did read quite a bit but I only finished one book. I continued with an especially difficult part in the Two Month reading of Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller
and I have a stack of other things "in progress."

from my shelves... 

Two or Three Years Later: Forty-Nine Digressions by Ror Wolf, translated from the German by Jennifer Marquart
Many of these very short stories (or "reports") concern observations of men who appear here or there or maybe somewhere else. Nothing much happens, but when there is action it is fabulous with improbable rescues at sea, a trek across Africa (but the narrator doesn't remember whether it was from East to West, or West to East) and exploding things. Goofy, surreal, whatever--I loved it.