Avaland & Dukedom_Enough's 2021 Reading, Part I

Questa conversazione è stata continuata da Avaland & Dukedom_Enough's 2021 Reading, Part II.

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Avaland & Dukedom_Enough's 2021 Reading, Part I

1avaland
Modificato: Mar 22, 6:42am



Welcome to our 2021 thread. We are Lois & Michael, both now retired, and living in southern NH. We met 22 years ago at a literary science fiction convention outside of Boston called "Readercon". Where else would an English major with three teen-aged children meet a middle-aged guy whose PhD was named something like: "Homogeneous Nucleation of Condensation in a Cryogenic Shock Tube"? But, it really was the books and reading that cemented the deal (and in only 8 dates! several of which involved bookstores). Our combined libraries have lived happily ever after... along with a equal number of new stock (!)

This will be our 13th year of Club Read. We both joined LT in the late fall of 2006.

Photo: The car windshield on a frigid morning a few years ago. Seemed a shame to scrape it off....

2avaland
Modificato: Mar 22, 6:42am

MICHAEL'S READING:

NOW READING....

TBD

STILL READING, HYPOTHETICALLY

Hiding in Plain Sight: The Invention of Donald Trump and the Erosion of America by Sarah Kendzior (2020, current events)

PERPETUAL READING

Collected Poems by W. H . Auden, edited by Edward Mendelson (1991)
(Also Larkin, St. Millay & Houseman)



1st QUARTER READING:

The Ultimate Egoist: Vol I: The Complete Stories of Theodore Sturgeon (1994)
It's the End of the World: But What Are We Really Afraid Of? by Adam Roberts (2021, nonfiction)
Genesis by Poul Anderson (SF, 2000)
The Iron Dragon's Mother by Michael Swanwick (2019, fantasy)

LAST READS of 2020: (√ denotes reviewed)

Cycle of Fire by Hal Clement (orig.1957, SF)
The Left Left Behind by Terry Bisson (2009 'Outspoken Authors Series', Bk 1)
The Black God's Drum by P. Djeli Clark (2017, Steampunk)
Telling the Map: Stories by Christopher Rowe (2017, short stories)
The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson (SF, 2020)

3avaland
Modificato: Mar 31, 5:00pm

HER READING:

NOW READING:


How to Love the World: Poems of Gratitude and Hope edited by James Crews (2021)
A Bound Woman is a Dangerous Thing: The Incarceration of African American Women from Harriet Tubman to Sandra Blandby DaMaris B. Hill (poetry, 2019)
Mount Pleasant by Patrice Nganang (2011, Cameroon; English trans 2017)

*Sort of an ongoing project:Female Maturity from Jane Austen to Margaret Atwood: When Bildungsroman Meets Zeitgeist by Michael Griffin (2013, literature studies) two more of the discussed books TBR



2nd Quarter Reading

1st Quarter Reading
Not Dark Yet by Peter Robinson (crime novel, 2021)
One Station Away by Olaf Olafsson (novel, 2017)
A Natural History of Hell: Stories by Jeffrey Ford (2016, short fiction)
Dreaming of Elsewhere: Observations on Home by Esi Edugyan (Lecture, 2014)
√American Melancholy: Poems by Joyce Carol Oates (poetry, 2021)
√Together in a Sudden Strangeness: America's Poets Respond to the Pandemic edited by Alice Quinn (poetry, 2020)
√The Boy in the Field by Margot Livesey (2020, novel)
√The New Canon: An Anthology of Canadian Poetry edited by Carmine Starnino (2005)
√Red Snow by Ian MacLeod (SF/F, UK, 2017)
√Virginia by Jens Christian Grøndahl (Danish 2000, English translation 2003)
√A Song for the Dark Times: An Inspector Rebus Novel by Ian Rankin (2020)
√Best Canadian Poetry 2020 edited by Marilyn Dumont et al (2020)
√Most of What Follows is True: Places Imagined and Real by Michael Crummey (CLC Kreisel Lecture 2018).
√Still Life: A Karen Pirie Novel by Val McDermid (Crime novel, 2020, UK)
√In Small Things Forgotten: The Archaeology of Early American Life by James Dietz (nonfiction: historical anthropology, 1977)
√Dearly: New Poems by Margaret Atwood (2020, poetry)

ABANDONED:
Snow by John Banville (crime novel, 2021)
Silence in October by Jens Christian Grøndahl (Danish,1996; English trans. 2002). Tired of the narrator. My patience these days is less than optimal.

-------------------------------------------------------------------

LAST OF 2020: √ denotes reviewed

√An Unlikely Journey: Waking Up From My American Dream by Julian Castro (memoir, 2018)
√Often I Am Happy by Jens Christian Grondahl (novel, 2017, Danish)
√Winterkill by Ragnar Jonasson (crime novel, 2020, Icelandic)
√Mrs Caliban by Rachel Ingalls (fiction, 1982)
√Whiteout by Ragnar Jonasson (cime novel, 2017, Icelandic)
√Robinson by Muriel Spark (novel, 1958, related to the ongoing project)

4avaland
Modificato: Gen 4, 1:11pm

OUR FAVORITE READS FROM 2020 √ denotes reviewed

HIS:
The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson (SF, 2020)
Ka: Dar Oakley in the Ruin of Ymr by John Crowley (2017, Fantasy)

HERS:

Novels:
Often I Am Happy by Jens Christian Grondahl (novel, 2017, Danish)*
Mrs Caliban by Rachel Ingalls (fiction, 1982)
Yellow Blue Tibia by Adam Roberts (fiction/SF, 2009, UK)
The Good Parents by Joan London (2008, Australian)
Restoration and √Walking Into the Night by Olaf Olafsson (2012, 2003, Icelandic-American)
Run Me to Earth and √Snow Hunters by Paul Yoon (2020, 2013, US)
Tropic of Violence by Nathacha Appanah (2016, translated 2018)

Crime novels:
Whiteout by Ragnar Jonasson (2017, Icelandic, 'Dark Iceland' series)
The Cabin by Jørn Lier Horst (2019, Norwegian, Wm Wisting series)

Short Stories:
A Faithful but Melancholy Account of Several Barbarities Lately Committed (linked stories, 2019, US)
Valentines: Stories by Olaf Olafsson (2007, Icelandic-American)

Poetry:
Dwellers in the House of the Lord: A Poem by Wesley McNair (poetry, US, 2020)

Nonfiction: All were very good, I couldn't possibly chose a favorite when the topics are so diverse!

5jjmcgaffey
Dic 27, 2020, 1:32am

I love your ice trees, that's a gorgeous picture.

6markon
Dic 27, 2020, 6:45pm

I also love this photo; thanks for getting us set up for 2021.

7avaland
Dic 28, 2020, 3:43pm

>5 jjmcgaffey:, >6 markon: It was a cool thing to find on one's windshield! And you're welcome.

8Caroline_McElwee
Gen 1, 6:55am

Hi Both

Happy New Year.

I too love that photograph.

I'm sure Michael reads William Gibson, so posting this here:

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2021/jan/01/william-gibson-i-read-naked-lunch-...

9dukedom_enough
Gen 1, 8:34am

>8 Caroline_McElwee: Thank you for the link. Good to see him citing Random Acts of Senseless Violence by Jack Womack, a wonderful book by an underrated writer, which might be readable again if we survive the next three weeks.

10BLBera
Gen 1, 11:08am

Happy New Year! I love the photo and am so grateful for my garage so I don't have to scrape my windows in the morning.

I look forward to following your reading in 2021.

11lisapeet
Gen 1, 12:09pm

Happy New Year! Love your frosty windshield (especially because it's not MY frosty windshield) and look forward to hearing about what you're both reading this year.

12dchaikin
Gen 1, 2:19pm

That picture is very appropriate for your cold climate reading, among other things, Lois. Happy New Year to both of you.

13AnnieMod
Gen 1, 5:41pm

I love the picture of the frosty windshield (although I do not miss the weather that can produce these). :)

Happy new Year to both of you!

14stretch
Gen 1, 8:34pm

Happy New year to you both! Looking forward to what comes of y'all s reading.

15dchaikin
Gen 1, 9:29pm

Lois - I like the new group picture too. : )

16OscarWilde87
Gen 2, 4:07am

Happy new Year! Thanks for setting up the group again. Looking forward to following your reading. :)

17avaland
Gen 2, 6:46am

>8 Caroline_McElwee: Happy New Year, Caro!

>10 BLBera: Thanks. Thing is, we have a two-car garage; the car just wasn't in it that night.

>11 lisapeet:, >12 dchaikin:, >13 AnnieMod:, >14 stretch:, >15 dchaikin:, >16 OscarWilde87: Thanks, and happy 2021!

18dukedom_enough
Gen 2, 6:56am

Hello everyone!

19lauralkeet
Gen 2, 8:08am

Happy New Year, Lois & Michael!

20kidzdoc
Gen 2, 8:19am

Happy New Year, you two!

21avaland
Gen 2, 11:01am

>19 lauralkeet:, >20 kidzdoc: Happy New Year, Laura and Darryl!

22dukedom_enough
Gen 2, 12:38pm

>19 lauralkeet: >20 kidzdoc:
Happy New Year; so far so good.

23wandering_star
Gen 3, 7:36am

>1 avaland: I am not sure I had heard before the story of your meeting and your eight dates! How wonderful. Best wishes for happy reading this year!

24avaland
Modificato: Gen 4, 1:14pm

>23 wandering_star: Thanks, you also! Most of our stories are on the funny side.

ETA: Some time I will tell the green Jell-O story.

25LolaWalser
Gen 4, 1:48pm

For once I'm early enough not to miss any grandkid photos! (There will be grandkid photos, won't there?)

I picked up my first Val McDermid recently recalling you liked her, Lois. Common murder--liking it a lot.

26avaland
Gen 5, 5:31pm

>25 LolaWalser: Oh, grandkid photos, will have to think about that. And that is a McDermid series I haven't read!

27AnnieMod
Gen 5, 5:44pm

>26 avaland:

Not sure if you want to listen (or had listened to them?) but... McDermid wrote a radio crime/comedy series as well: https://www.comedy.co.uk/guide/group/val_mcdermid_dead_series/

All 4 are available on BBC Radio 4 (Sounds app or online) at the moment (not clear for how long)-- they are 75 minutes each (5x15 minutes):

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b046ry48/episodes/player
https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0622v18/episodes/player
https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08llmyb/episodes/player
https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0b8cn3j/episodes/player

I like them - they are a bit lighter than her novel but they are still hers. She did a few more dramas but I think that none of them is available at the moment (they rotate in and out so some might show up later).

28avaland
Gen 6, 8:04am

>27 AnnieMod: Thanks for the head's up, perhaps I'll get to that.

-----------------------------

I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed here, not even a full week into the New Year. I calculate (loosely) that I am behind by about 400 unread posts! (of course, some of those posts are us setting up our threads, but still, it's daunting).

29dukedom_enough
Gen 6, 8:55am

>28 avaland: Too many interesting people around here.

:)

30rhian_of_oz
Gen 6, 9:40am

>28 avaland: I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one.

31AnnieMod
Gen 6, 10:11am

>28 avaland: We will settle down as time passes - but yeah, this year is extremely chatty. I suspect that a lot of people were just waiting for the year to start to start talking again.

32ELiz_M
Gen 6, 2:43pm

>28 avaland: Probably around 150 posts are "happy new year, just dropping off my star" and quick to read through :)

33dukedom_enough
Gen 6, 6:49pm

Both of us are glued to TV, dreading what may come next.

34arubabookwoman
Gen 9, 4:18pm

Hello Lois and Dukedom, and Happy New Year. I finally got around to setting up a thread, and am now visiting other threads.
Wednesday was horrible, wasn't it? These people cannot go unpunished!

35dukedom_enough
Gen 10, 3:59pm

>34 arubabookwoman: We seem to have narrowly escaped multiple murders of Senators and Representatives.

36avaland
Gen 11, 7:44am

>34 arubabookwoman: Glad you have set up a thread. I look forward to following your reading. I'm behind on everything, have been much distracted by other things (the fallout from last Weds, among them). PS: I think you can call dukedom Michael now :-)

37SassyLassy
Gen 12, 12:46pm

>17 avaland: A garage actually used for cars?

38jjmcgaffey
Gen 13, 5:49pm

>37 SassyLassy: It happens - particularly in places where there's enough snow and cold that having your car sheltered is a good idea. My sister and her husband use theirs regularly, in Reno NV (there's lots of shelves, and a fridge, around the edges, but they leave room for the cars). I've never had one, in northern California...

39avaland
Gen 13, 8:46pm

>37 SassyLassy: Most of the time that is true. They make it into the garage more in winter than other seasons and must share space with a generator and a reasonably large snow blower :-)

40SassyLassy
Gen 14, 9:36am

>37 SassyLassy: I live in Canada and lived for sometime in what was known as the snowbelt, on Georgian Bay, where it snows day after day in winter, and roads are frequently closed by weather. It was the only place I've ever had a garage, and somehow it still didn't get used for the car. It did however require getting out fifteen minutes earlier most winter mornings to scrape off snow and ice and shovel the driveway yet again.

In the place I live now, garages are uncommon, although most houses have "bildins" around and about for various things like wood supplies, gear, and work. The big problem here is ice. In 2018 my car grill became encased in ice at the end of the driveway and couldn't be moved for fear of pulling off the grill, until 8 days later when the ice had melted back somewhat. The tyres were also encased in ice. When I did get it out, there was the imprint of the grill left in the ice bank for days. Usually though, I just walk out and get in the car; no scraping, no shovelling, and most of all no snowbelt. I do still use winter tyres though, just in case.

>39 avaland: Oh for the assurance of a generator!

______

After all that, looking forward to see what you both are reading this year.

41dudes22
Gen 15, 8:29am

My husband likes to set his lawn chair at the end of the garage on sunny days, out of the wind and read. I have to ask him to move so I can get in the garage on those days when I either have to go out early (and don't want to scrape) or the weather is going to be bad.

42avaland
Gen 15, 9:41am

>40 SassyLassy: That's true for most of my life prior to 1998 so I know what you are saying about going out ahead of time to scrape the ice off. There are times when a car can't be in the garage because "stuff" is taking up the space. which is likely what happened the day I took the photo at the top of the thread.

I'm currently reading some Canadian lit, as it happens. Finished the Crummey lecture (ha ha, as in Michael Crummey) and going through one poetry anthology with another in the pile.

>41 dudes22: Good use of a garage!

43avaland
Gen 16, 6:22am

Two weeks into the New Year and I am very, very behind in everything here in Club Read. I have many reviews to do, and I'll start with the easiest and see if I can push myself to do more.



Still Life: A Karen Pirie Novel by Val McDermid (Crime novel, 2020, UK)

In the sixth installment of this series, Detective Chief Inspector Karen Pririe, head of Police Scotland’s Historic Crimes unit, juggles two cases. In the first, a woman in Perth, while cleaning out her recently deceased sister’s house, finds an odd camper van in the garage and in it, a skeleton. In the other case, a lobsterman finds more than he expects when he pulls in his trap: a body…and it is thought to be related to an older case of a missing individual tied to government official.

Val McDermid has written a near perfect, well-balanced crime novel. The cases are complex and much time is spent on the (what I call, delicious) process of “solving” the puzzle of them. Her characters are varied and interesting, terribly human like the rest of us. And while there is some suspense and maybe one action scene, she deftly works them in without it taking over everything else. And make no mistake, it is the detectives in this book who "solve" the crime.

This is one of those “nothing-gets-done-until-I-finish-this-book” books, and it came just when I needed that very thing.

44avaland
Gen 16, 6:57am



An Unlikely Journey: Waking Up From My American Dream by Julian Castro (memoir, 2018)

Castro was one of several candidates in the 2020 Democratic primary who appealed to me (gosh, that seems like a long time ago). He writes with great honesty about his life growing up in San Antonio with his twin brother, mother and grandmother. He is clear-eyed about the difficulties and challenges—and there were many—but doesn’t linger or exaggerate, sees them as the part of the journey of who he is. He relates his journey from San Antonio to Stanford, Harvard Law, his mayoralty of San Antonio and his work in the federal government. Castro gives great credit to the influence of women in his life—his immigrant grandmother and activist mother, and now his wife. This is a short, engrossing read. I found Castro to be everything he appears to be, and it confirmed my sense of him: intelligent, honest, empathic, and truly dedicated to helping others.

45avaland
Gen 16, 7:28am



Dearly: New Poems by Margaret Atwood (2020, poetry)

There are some poetry collections that easily lend themselves to review, but for me, this is not one of them. I doubt I could be at all unbiased in my appraisal of Atwood’s latest collection, Margaret and I have been together for many decades now. She is the older Margaret now, and I, the older reader, both of us now with a longer line of sight, plenty of history, humor and wisdom. Like any other volume of poetry, some poems will speak to you, some not. Good, even great poetry such as this, massages the brain while still reaching out to touch the heart, this collection does that.

(LOL, the not-a-review review)

46RidgewayGirl
Gen 16, 9:12am

>44 avaland: I was lucky enough to hear him speak during the primaries and then chat with him a bit at the end and he is both impressive and down to earth. I enjoy his podcast, Our America.

47NanaCC
Gen 16, 11:13am

>43 avaland: I will have to get to the Val McDermid series, Lois. Your “nothing-gets-done-until-I-finish-this-book” comment seals the deal.

48Caroline_McElwee
Gen 16, 11:56am

>43 avaland: I haven't read this series yet Lois. Does it beg to be started at the beginning? I have this one on Kindle from an offer.

>44 avaland: Not familiar with this guy, adding to the list to follow up on.

>45 avaland: Nodding. I liked this volume a lot, and it is still by my reading chair for revisiting.

49LolaWalser
Gen 16, 12:08pm

>47 NanaCC:

Ditto.

And same question as Caroline about the order, Lois.

50avaland
Gen 16, 2:57pm

>46 RidgewayGirl: I probably could have chased him down during the primaries; this being NH, but I found things I liked in four of them (Castro, Harris, Warren & Klobuchar).

>47 NanaCC: I have liked her standalone and this series, but have not read her Tony Hill/Carol Jordan series, but I have seen the adaptation (it was very good to watch while on the exercise bike)

>48 Caroline_McElwee: Well, I'm sending it to Linda, so you might be able to ask her after she reads it :-)

It took me a couple of times to really settle into the Atwood. And I can't say I'm really finished with it.

>49 LolaWalser:, >47 NanaCC: You would mostly miss some of what is now history for Karen, and there would be a spoiler or two for things that happened in earlier volumes around that. But, I think the books are written in such a way, with enough information that you don't feel you've missed too much. I have started some series several books in and found most good writers are adept at this 'review' content (often I go back and read the previous volumes anyway).

I have three more reviews to go; I've saved the most difficult for last....

51markon
Gen 16, 3:21pm

>46 RidgewayGirl: Now I have to checkout the podcast.

52avaland
Modificato: Gen 17, 7:35am



Most of What Follows is True: Places Imagined and Real by Michael Crummey (CLC Kreisel Lecture 2018).

As a fan of Michael Crummey, I happily came across this slim book published by the University of Alberta Press; a transcript of Crummey’s 2018 CLC Kreisel Lecture. (Canadian Literature Centre Kreisel Lecture “brings together writers, readers, students, scholars, teachers…in an open, inclusive, and critical literary forum.”)The book also includes a forward and an introduction by others.

Michael Crummey begins his lecture with a story about the myth of Butch and Sundance noted as one of his favorite movies (the title of his lecture comes from the beginning of this movie) and segues nicely to literature. As an undergraduate Crummey was told that “fiction holds a mirror up to society, to the real world,” and in this lecture he questions that statement. It’s a bit if double-edged sword, he notes, as “the notion of fiction as a ‘mirror’ ls altogether too passive to be accurate” and further provocatively notes, that authors are “too caught up in their own obsessions to simply. objectively, reflect the world. They present the world in their heads, which is often different in substance and detail from the world a reader sees.”

As illustration, Crummey discusses several books written with a Newfoundland setting. How “real” was Proulx’s The Shipping News, and Johnston’s The Colony of Unrequited Dreams? His excoriation of Howard Norman’s The Bird Artist, for getting “nearly everything wrong with regards to Newfoundland” is truly delicious (in the course of this, Crummey gives us the story of the now extinct indigeous Beothunk people of Newfoundland). Does it matter if an author gets it all wrong, he asks. It seems to Crummey it does. and that an author owes something to their sources to get it right. These are the questions he asked himself when he started writing—and he discusses some of his own work (Sweetland, The River Thieves). I should also note that Crummey introduces the subject with the myth of Butch & Sundance, and later intells the story of the Beothunk

This short book/lecture is a brief, but fascinating and thoughtful exploration of the relationship between truth and fiction, the responsibilities (or not) of writers to get things right. If you are a reader who also enjoys reading about the art of fiction, this a a fine read for a cold winter’s afternoon (or really, anytime).

53dukedom_enough
Gen 17, 10:13am



The Iron Dragon's Mother by Michael Swanwick

Caitlin has worked hard to reach her station in Faerie. As the younger child of the powerful House Sans Merci, she will not inherit the title - that will go to her older brother. Her half-elven, half-mortal nature also counts against her - but does enable her to become pilot to an iron dragon, one of the destructive, living war machines of the realm.

Her father's life ends, her brother disappears, and she herself is framed for a crime. She must escape and seek to clear her name, moving through all the levels of the brutal world she lives in. Swanwick's Faerie is modeled on post-Soviet Russia, with an aristocracy of elves ruling over the dwarves, russalkas, centaurs, and other such fantastic beings. Caitlin's story is braided with that of Helen, a woman from our world who makes a leap to Faerie as she dies, and finds herself living in the younger woman's mind, as advisor and foil.

This third novel in the sequence that began with 1993's The Iron Dragon's Daughter completes the story well, but is perfectly readable without any need for familiarity with the earlier stories. If you are considering reading any one of these, however, I suggest Daughter. which felt revelatory when it was released, offering a possible new direction for US fantasy far removed from the European-folktale roots of most commercial writing of the time.

Four stars

54lisapeet
Gen 17, 10:15am

>52 avaland: Oh, interesting—I'm a fan of Crummey's but hadn't heard of this one. It sounds neat, so thanks for putting it on my radar.

55LolaWalser
Gen 17, 11:38am

>52 avaland:

authors are “too caught up in their own obsessions to simply. objectively, reflect the world. They present the world in their heads, which is often different in substance and detail from the world a reader sees.”

Of course--which is why I wince when people go to fiction to "explain" the world.

As a subjective experience and rendering it can have its truth, but be false or lacking to another subject.

56avaland
Gen 17, 11:42am

>54 lisapeet: I was already looking to see if anything had come out since The Innocents when this popped up.

>55 LolaWalser: I much agree with your last sentence.

57SassyLassy
Gen 18, 10:31am

>52 avaland: You know I have to read that now!

58rachbxl
Gen 18, 10:50am

>52 avaland: I don't know Crummey but I find the subject interesting. I just found Crummey's lecture on YouTube - I look forward to watching it.

59avaland
Modificato: Gen 18, 3:47pm

Ran away from home this morning with the hubby, an hour east to the ocean. 43ºF, windy and still frigid. There is nothing like a splendid horizon line to re-center oneself. We took along a red kite (yes, I know it looks like it's coming out of his head) --look at those clouds! (

60avaland
Gen 18, 3:49pm

>57 SassyLassy: Thanks to Rachel's sleuthing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W-22ipDZ60E

>58 rachbxl: Thanks for the heads up!

61nohrt4me2
Gen 18, 3:52pm

>59 avaland: Nice picture! I have had a huge urge to get to the ocean. I read that this is common as people get old. Not sure what it means, exactly, but my husband seems nostalgic for it, too, having been at sea many years in the Navy.

62avaland
Gen 20, 6:19am

>61 nohrt4me2: I get that. How many hours' drive for you would that be? :-)

63avaland
Modificato: Gen 20, 6:37am

I think this is the last of the 2020 reads I had to review....



Often I am Happy by Jens Christian Grøndahl (Danish, 2017)

Seventy year-old Ellinor, whose husband has just died, feels the need to confide in someone and decides upon her dead best friend Anna. In the very first line of the novel, Ellinor refers to the recent death of her husband, of “their” husband. Right then, any curious reader is firmly caught in the net of this novel.

There is something terribly compelling, strangely refreshing in Eleanor’s open, honest and direct narration; she knows she’s talking to a dead woman but continues to unburden herself of her joys, regrets, long-held secrets—certainly with some surprises for the reader.

“I walked about at random from one neighborhood to the next. If it started raining, I would simply button up my coat and allow my hair to become wet. It always dried again, Anna. There isn't a thing that doesn’t pass off. It strikes me that my account must seem sad to you but I am not a sad person, you know that. Often I am happy, as the song goes, happy inside, even if I can’t always show it. It is all just something that passes you by, You’re being pushed and pressed, sometimes even crushed, and you can be knocked off your course, but you remain the same on the inside….”

So much is contained in these 165 small pages. And one cannot read this novel without looking at the people around us, the people we think we know, and not wonder what they carry within.

--------------------------------------------

* best if you don't read other posted reviews that tell too much, imo
*definitely recommended for some of my fellow INFJs!

Note: I bought three more of Grøndahl's works after reading this. I recently abandoned Silence in October about 80 pages in. I tired of the male narrator and my patience threshold these days is not optimal.

64AlisonY
Gen 20, 10:09am

>59 avaland: Nice pic! I love to see photos of Club Readers, even if we only got the back of you! We're lucky enough to live only 10 miles away from a peninsula, and 20 miles away from the main coastline. There's definitely something uplifting about being by the sea (although given the choice I'm a mountain girl at heart).

65Caroline_McElwee
Gen 20, 1:50pm

>63 avaland: Tempting. Someone gave me Silence in October years ago, and I have a feeling I set it aside after a chapter or two as well Lois.

66dchaikin
Modificato: Gen 20, 2:07pm

I don’t check in for a few days and suddenly there is a cascade of reviews. Love the picture and the clouds. Interesting that you read Julian Casto’s book. He was doing great and then had one bad debate that I think derailed his slim hope. But hopefully he has a bright future. I like him.

>55 LolaWalser: love this Crummey quote (pun acknowledging but not intended) and appreciate the commentary

>63 avaland: you almost got me here, especially with that quote. Great review. Noting Often I am Happy!

67avaland
Gen 20, 4:54pm

>64 AlisonY: I had a favorite local mountaintop once upon a time. I doubt I could climb it now, but we can still drive to the top, as necessary.

>65 Caroline_McElwee: Virginia just arrived and it's another short one, 121 pages....we shall see (after I finished Rebus)

>66 dchaikin: And here I am hand-wringing because I am so behind in writing them! (I've left the most difficult to review for last, ha ha). I seem to have to force myself to write reviews this winter....

68Nickelini
Gen 20, 11:58pm

>52 avaland:

The Crummey book sounds really interesting. I have to make a point to finally pull my copy of Galore off the shelf this year.

>59 avaland:
Gorgeious picture of the sea shore. I'm about 40 minutes from the ocean, but I usually find myself drawn more to our forests*. The whole Japanese forest bathing thing. I do like the ocean very much though

* Lol - I have to comment - late this afternoon I was walking through the busy city park closest to me and I heard crazy dog howling and I thought "oh, some dog walkers have a situation" and then I came around the corner and there were 4 coyotes howling. This was in a grassy knoll about 200 ft from rush hour traffic. That was a new one for me.

69rachbxl
Gen 21, 2:51am

>63 avaland: This writer was already on my wishlist because of what you said the other day, but now this particular book definitely is! Nice review.

70avaland
Gen 21, 5:37am

>68 Nickelini:
The YouTube link for the lecture is #57 above, if that appeals.

I've been a forest person, too; harder for me to access these days. Although most of our four acres here is woods so I am not exactly without.

Coyotes in the city! We get an occasional coyote coming through. A couple of years back, a pair came racing through our back woods on their way to somewhere.

71Nickelini
Gen 21, 12:18pm

>70 avaland: Although most of our four acres here is woods so I am not exactly without.

Well I'm jealous about that! You're so fortunate.

72AnnieMod
Gen 21, 5:28pm

>70 avaland: >68 Nickelini:

Coyotes used to be somewhat common where I live when I moved here a decade ago - the area around my complex was undeveloped Arizona desert (it is not exactly brush and it is definitely not green for most of the year but it is full of vegetation) plus a dry river bed behind the property and rain water ditches along the long street. So you would see a coyote crossing the street up the road or just running occasionally. One of the first times I saw one, I was coming back from dinner, walking down the street and a coyote cross the road a few feet in front of me running.... followed by a rabbit. Too bad my phone did not have a camera at the time... it was like a roadrunner cartoon in reverse...

PS: we have a lot of rabbits running around even now -- had not seen a coyote in awhile, especially now that most of the undeveloped land actually has new complexes on it but rabbits are everywhere.

73RidgewayGirl
Gen 21, 8:26pm

Making note of Often I am Happy.

74dudes22
Gen 22, 8:20am

>Me too!

75avaland
Modificato: Gen 22, 9:54am



In Small Things Forgotten: The Archaeology of Early American Life by James Dietz (nonfiction: historical anthropology, 1977) NOTE: This book has a 1996 revised and expanded edition available.

This is a re-read for me. I remember so little of my first read of book, so much life has passed since, never mind the books read, museums and locations visited (including far too many cemeteries), and certainly too many afternoons with the good, great, bad, and ugly of the family tree. But, all that makes for a much more enriching read the second time. Perhaps I can date my fascination with social and cultural history to this book. There are so many interesting bits, large and small in this book. Clearly, I'm going to have to pick up the revised and expanded edition.
—————————

"If we could find in some way find a way to understand the significance of artifacts as they were thought of and used by Americans in the past, we might gain new insight into the history of our nation." Such is the purview of the historical archaeologist. In this small book, James Deetz, gives us a short, very readable and intriguing overview of some of the interesting work done by historical archaeologists, including himself, in New England (he does occasionally reference work done in Virginia and other early colonies). He begins by noting that there are certain factors that favor the survival of some objects and not others, and those surviving objects are 'not necessarily representative of their period.' So, as not to rely solely on museum collections, historical archaeologists do digs.

Deitz shows us how such objects found reveal how people lived and thought in early times. He discusses three early periods in our cultural history and his chapters explore such topics as gravestones, buildings, ceramics, but also the changes in tools, food preparation, the disposal of refuse, furniture (lack of chairs!) and music. Intriguingly, He also discusses a dig of the once small community of African Americans near Plymouth, Massachusetts, called “Parting Ways” which show ties back to African roots. There are so many interesting bits in this book.

At the end of the book Deitz implores us NOT to forget the little, seemingly insignificant things "for in the seemingly little and insignificant existence is captured. We must remember these bits and pieces, and we must use them in new and imaginative ways so that a different appreciation for what life is today, and was in the past, can be achieved. The written document has its proper and important place, but there is also a time when we should set aside of perusal of diaries, court records, and inventories, and listen to another voice… "Don’t read what we have written; look at what we have done."

The reader will probably not look at his or her fork quite the same again.

(for another Club Read's perspective, read jjmcgaffrey's 2019 review here: https://www.librarything.com/work/5324 )

76jjmcgaffey
Gen 23, 3:25am

>75 avaland: I was trying to remember - I knew I didn't like it as much as you did, but I couldn't remember exactly why. Thanks for linking my review in.

I actually had the concept (of solid facts bolstering "history") from much earlier - from Josephine Tey's The Daughter of Time, in fact. That's fiction - but it's a fascinating study of looking at material records (purchase receipts, pay records, exactly when a decree was issued) and how it supports or undermines what the official histories say. If you don't know it - a bedridden (with a seriously broken leg) detective gets interested in Richard III and the Princes in the Tower...and with the help of some others doing the legwork, comes up with some _fascinating_ deductions about who did what and why.

Little Things was (oddly, for me) a little too detailed (generally I like the nitty-gritty of archaeology), but his conclusions were very interesting. And I can still remember at least the outlines of some of his studies - particularly pottery and gravestones, for some reason.

77avaland
Gen 23, 10:40am

>76 jjmcgaffey: I want to say that particular Tey may have been the only of hers I read, in the 80s, so I appreciate the synopsis. And I very much appreciated your review, as I feel I'm not terribly objective when it comes to the book. I am curious what content had been added and revised in the new edition.

When I was in jr. high and one day wandering the woods across from our Maine home , I stumbled upon what turned out to be a late 19th century trash pit (there were a fair number of iron barrel hoops sticking out of the ground). I dug around and found a porcelain doll's head (with one eye socket caved in), various broken and one intact bottle, and a small sterling silver ring that had a worn yellow stone in it (which fit nicely on my pinky finger. I told my mother what I had found and she forbade me to go back, but did I obey? Who could resist that! This is probably the root of my interest in "small things forgotten."

I

78jjmcgaffey
Gen 23, 11:42am

Coool!

79wandering_star
Gen 23, 12:07pm

>77 avaland: That sounds simultaneously extremely cool, and like the beginning of a very creepy thriller...

For a lighter (but still good) take on 'small things forgotten' you might enjoy Mudlarking, about all the things that the author finds on the Thames foreshore. She has a great knack for imagining the past history of her finds - for example, she picks up a leather shoe sole and imagines the Elizabethan woman whose shoe drops into the river as she was boarding a ferry.

80lisapeet
Modificato: Gen 23, 7:40pm

>77 avaland: I was just going to ask if you'd read Mudlarking too. That's a great story—I used to love digging around in the woods when I was a kid.

81avaland
Gen 23, 7:37pm

82jjmcgaffey
Gen 25, 6:01pm

I went and found it on Overdrive - took a bit of digging because I didn't realize that the American edition was Mudlark instead of Mudlarking for a while. Looks interesting!

83Julie_in_the_Library
Gen 25, 7:07pm

>82 jjmcgaffey: I hate when books have different (same language) titles in different countries. It makes things so confusing!

84jjmcgaffey
Modificato: Gen 26, 1:02am

Yes!

I've bought a few books that I already had under another title. Grr.

85markon
Gen 27, 1:41pm

Potential topic for avid reader thread. Have we discussed book clubs? Advantages of, disadvantages of? In person versus online vs buddy reads? I've recently run across a silent book club online that I like. Sparked by discussion on wandering star's thread (posts 49-59).

86ELiz_M
Gen 27, 3:45pm

>85 markon: You might want to post this on SassyLassy's thread, as she is posting the Questions this year. ;)

87SassyLassy
Gen 28, 9:42am

>85 markon: and >86 ELiz_M: Thanks Please see new question on Questions thread.

88avaland
Modificato: Gen 28, 10:45am

Best Canadian Poetry 2020, Marilyn Dumont, Guest Editor; Anita Lahey, series editor; Amanda Jernigan, Advisory Editor

I recently realized that I had not explored much Canadian poetry beyond Margaret Atwood and Michael Crummey, so I set about to correct this. I picked up a copy of this book, and another The New Canon: An Anthology of Canadian Poetry which I have not read yet.

This absorbing anthology features fifty poems In English, chosen from the 100s poems published in print and online journals over 2019. The editors note that while the anthology was published in 2020, the selection process was completed before the Covid era. Each of the three editors contribute a few pages, with the guest editor doing the short introduction. There are short bios of the poets featured and their comments on their poem.

I very much enjoyed this anthology. Skimming the list of contributors I realized I did not recognize ANY names. And apologies in advance to the Canadians reading this review for making the following comparison, but overall, I think this anthology is much better than any of the yearly “best of” American anthologies I’ve read. I’d be hard pressed to tell you exactly why. More accessible maybe? Less pretentious? More grounded? Perhaps just a larger percentage of the poetry “spoke” to me. I will look for this year’s offering, but also may look for any collections from a few individuals showcased. Below please find four of my favorites, transcribed here (at least ones whose form could best be replicated in a post).

Dementia and common household objects by Margaret Bollerup

Now we talk in tiny circles. She asks
about my day about my day about my day
and I tell her something new each time
every time so I am not
caught in this loop, so my voice
does not go thready, does not
grown swollen with impatience.

She tells me again again about
how she and her friends she and her friends
went to that restaurant because it was some
one’s birthday, and hers, and that was nice.
It was someone’s birthday. And the restaurant
the restaurant was nice. Someone’s
birthday. Hers.

I say, how nice, how nice
that it was nice. That restaurant
is nice. How are her friends. Whose
birthday was it, besides hers. I’m so glad
it was nice.

And she asks about the dog, the dog,
how is my dog. hers are good,
the new one scruffy, the new one
pushing at the old one, and scruffy.
The dogs not getting along,
and how is my dog.

And I say she’s fine, my dog,
and I’m glad hers are fine. My dog,
I say, is fine
but has started to whine when I lie
on the couch and try try and try
to hold myself
my shards the edges stinging sharp
together.

But I don’t say that part.
That part unsaid
and unsaid
and unsaid

—-from The New Quarterly Margaret Bollerup lives in Chilliwack, British Columbia.

Selkirk, Manitoba by Brandi Bird

There is a storm of wild roses
over Selkirk, Manitoba. They grow
from all sides, stems crooked, blooms
thick over streets: Main, Eveline
and Mercy. The flowers bleed
a soft sight like a wound under
water, the Red River a current
growing darker as petals fall
from the sky. They float upsteam
to the catfish grounds, to the Interlake,
to the floodway. A scour of petals
on the riverbank clay pinking
in waves. The left bridge opens
in the chip of thorns and unfolds
a trellis to drift through, cradling
rosehips on the rusted spokes. The old
water tower disappears from view,
unnamed Selkirk: gone in a rush
of green. People turn into stamen
and pistil, merge, become
roses. They grown in the cracks
of streets planted where they stand
pointing at thorns that cut
through the roofs of low-income
housing. Red round berries fall
to the ground, ferment, and the prairie
swallows them drunk and whole. The body
of the town a rose bush, a dry thicket,
a target for lightning strikes,
waiting to catch fire and begin again.

—-from PRISM international

Brandi Bird is a Two-Spirit Saulteaux and Cree poet from Treaty 1 territory currently living and learning on Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh land in so-called Vancouver.

Two more in next post....

89avaland
Gen 28, 10:43am

Stutters by Roger Nash

For stutterers, Newton got it all wrong.
Unsupported words don’t fall
into silence, they just hold their place
and keep trying to, trying to, f-f-fall.

It’s reit-it-eration that holds
the world together. Nothing happens
once only: Black Death,
Resurrection, Big Bang, Utopia.

A dog steering strings of sausages,
that old lady at the door selling
eggs (and her chickens keep laying,
keep laying—cracked eggs).

For a stutterer, easier to speak clearly
in a strange language you’re learning to pronounce.
“Sait on jamais.” The waitress blows you
a kiss, but you’ve no idea what you ordered.

In mid-stammer, furniture in a room
moves about unfamiliarly. The sofa’s gone missing,
pictures askew pm the wall, but the wall,
tight-lipped, still uprightly there.

With the Industrial Revolution, machine-guns
mechanized the reloadable stutter perfectly.
You don’t have to aim to mow down the cavalry,
scatter epaulettes of eloquence into the mud.

The tide comes in while you’re still trying
to say its gone out. Sandcastles
wash away, but the girl next to you shucks off
both her blue conversations and red towel.

Eloquently nude enough for both of you.

—from Prairie Fire
Roger Nash is inaugural Poet Laureate of the City of Sudbury, Ontario

Pegging Out Washing by Frances Boyle

The indoor line
dries sullen, planks jeans,
towels are sandpaper, sheets standoffish,
socks stunted shells. Cotton needs motion
to dry to softness.
But the dryer grumbles
with noise and static, things cling
or are perfumed fluorescent.

Today you crave
the outdoors. You lug the load,
damp in the basket, to the yard, and peg
shadows of legs, arms, echoes of feet/
Wind-channeled sunshine,
breath of breeze wins over, moisture
exhales.
Fabric yields
to drape shoulders, skirts swirl in soft pleats, buttons
slide out of buttonholes. T-shirts nuzzle
like jersey. Sheets billow and fill,
brush your face, wrap hips shins.

Their touch is shivery.

—from Queen’s Quarterly

Frances Boyle lives in Ottawa.

90AnnieMod
Gen 28, 1:57pm

>88 avaland: "I think this anthology is much better than any of the yearly “best of” American anthologies I’ve read. I’d be hard pressed to tell you exactly why. More accessible maybe? Less pretentious? More grounded?"

Less MFA? Which probably is exactly the same as "More accessible maybe? Less pretentious? More grounded?". I like poetry that I can understand and a lot of the new authors are trying to be "different and creative" to the point that they are leaving me cold. These poems you shared sounds delightful...

91avaland
Gen 28, 2:47pm

>90 AnnieMod: "Less MFA?" Yes, that could be it. Agree about "a lot of new authors" -- maybe it's attention-getting. I get what some are doing with their crazy line breaks and such, but it still doesn't do anything for me (this must mean I'm not young anymore!) I want a poem that blossoms as I read it -- of not the first time, then the second read :-)

92AnnieMod
Gen 28, 3:24pm

>91 avaland: Yup. Line breaks work when done properly but done for the sake of doing them? If I cannot almost "hear" them when I read/listen to the poem, they have no space on the printed page... and some poems manage to add an additional layer into it by adding the breaks.

Don't know. It may be that we all getting old :) Or it may be just that being different had become more important than being understood. I don't understand modern art either :)

93avaland
Gen 28, 3:33pm

>92 AnnieMod: I have the 2nd Canadian book waiting, plus another titled 100 Best African American Poems edited by Nikki Giovanni. Actually, those are just the closest to where I am sitting but nearby there is a basket of unread new collections I've procured....

94AnnieMod
Gen 28, 3:38pm

>93 avaland: I am halfway through The 20th Century in Poetry (not perfect but I am enjoying it a lot) but noted those three and will see if I can find all of these after that. Anthologies are often mixed bags - the lack of unifying theme does not allow some of the poetry pieces to shine as they do in a properly assembled collection. But they are a good way to find new authors and some poems just pop regardless of where they are...

I also plan to raid the new single author poetry collections in the library - sometimes one finds a new author by chance... :)

I will be sticking around to see what you think about the rest of your poetry reading :)

95avaland
Gen 28, 3:53pm

>94 AnnieMod: Agree about anthologies being mixed bags. But then, are we really meant to connect with every poem? I say, it's wishful thinking. I still feel weird trying to review poetry books.

96AnnieMod
Gen 28, 3:58pm

>95 avaland: No, probably not. But what worries me sometimes is that I am missing to connect not because it is not meant to be (which is probably the case often...) but because the poem was pulled out from its context -- when it was chosen for a "Best of"/"Recent poems" type of an anthology, the editor probably read it in a collection - so they have the context when reading and selecting it. That is sometimes true for short stories as well but they tend to stand on their own a lot more for me (unless they are in a linked-story collection). Or I am just overthinking it :) Some poems pop on their own - some don't and one cannot read everything...

And I am right there with you about reviewing poetry... :)

97dchaikin
Gen 28, 4:52pm

Enjoyed these poems. And I think I agree with Annie’s analysis about contemporary American poetry. I have trouble with it when I have dipped in over the last several years. But these five - i liked all them a lot.

98lisapeet
Gen 28, 6:38pm

Also anthologies are subject to the year's guest editor, so it may be a smaller influence than Canadian vs. U.S. or MFA vs. not. But I like those that you posted—accessible is definitely the word. Very sense-oriented.

99markon
Gen 28, 7:26pm

Thanks for those poems. I especially enjoyed "Pegging Out Washing."

100baswood
Gen 29, 3:48am

Enjoyed the poems, the ones you selected seem accessible

101avaland
Gen 29, 9:55am

>96 AnnieMod: I like the way you think! :-) The idea of pulling the poem out of the context of a collection is interesting. This anthology only mentioned "print and online journals" and I didn't really think of collections because the poetry in a collection is likely written over several years. But, perhaps it does include collections.

>97 dchaikin:, >98 lisapeet:, >99 markon: and >100 baswood: You're welcome. Although, I suspect if we all read the same anthology, we'd all come up with different choices. Two of those have very personal connections, my mother had Alzheimers, and one of my chores as a kid (and oldest girl) was to hang out the wash for the family (of 8), sometimes with my Nana, who lived with us. It was neverending.

>98 lisapeet: Yes, I thought about that. I wondered how much of the US volumes are driven, dominated, or influenced by NYC literary culture...or mindset.

102BLBera
Gen 31, 4:23pm

>59 avaland: Great photo.

Nice selection of poems. Anthologies are often uneven, but this one sounds like a better-than-average one.

I'm just finishing The Skeleton Road; I thought it was a standalone, but it sounds like the series is pretty great. I would definitely read more.

103avaland
Gen 31, 7:18pm

>102 BLBera: Thanks. Yes, agree about anthologies often being uneven. I did think it better than average. Skeleton Road is #3 in the Pririe series. I like it.

104avaland
Modificato: Gen 31, 7:28pm



Virginia by Jens Christian Grøndal (2000, Danish; English translation 2003)

It is 1942 and Denmark is occupied by the Germans. A Copenhagen dressmaker’s sixteen year old daughter has been asked by one of her mother’s clients if she might like to stay the summer at their ‘holiday cottage’ in the countryside. Also staying with them is their fourteen year old nephew. During that summer a British aircraft goes down not far from the cottage. The girl hides the pilot who had parachuted out. The boy, without being seen, saw her do it.

In a mere 121 pages, this story is told in short chapters, with alternating narrators. The reader is told the story of that summer and how it affected the separate lives of both the girl and the boy, and what they carried of that summer into their futures. One day the boy, now man, receives a cigarette case in the post which may have been the pilot’s from that summer….

This is the third novel by Grøndahl novel I have read or attempted. Thus far, they are all short psychological reads about looking back at relationships and life; what choices are made or not, and so on. When it works, as with the splendid Often I am Happy and with this absorbing short novel, they are satisfying reads which linger after the last page is turned.

Note: The third Grøndahl book attempted was Silence in October. It was good, but I tired of the man, an art critic, mulling over ‘life, the universe and everything’ after his wife has left him. The book is twice the pages as the others, and perhaps this was just too much for my pandemic reading brain. I do; however, have a fourth book in the TBR.

105avaland
Modificato: Feb 6, 4:20pm

In an attempt to remain sane we took another trek (1st trek noted in #59 above) this time west, 35 miles by car to Jaffrey, New Hampshire to visit Willa Cather's gravesite. Suffice it to say, it was just the two of us alone in knee-high snow* trudging through the cemetery, no traffic noise, just us, the dead, and a gorgeous view. Great for one's state of mind.

Willa's grave is in The Old Burying Ground is next to the old Jaffrey meetinghouse. It's an old cemetery, and her grave is more modern and in a back left corner of the cemetery (coming from the meetinghouse). She lay with a lovely view of Mt. Monadnock (see below), under whose shadow she wrote many of her books. Funny to think that someone who was born in Virginia and is identified with the Great Plains, wrote My Antonia while in New Hampshire. Here's an interesting article about her choice

106avaland
Modificato: Feb 6, 3:20pm

Should have mentioned the quote on her gravestone is from My Antonia.

And here is a photo of the Jaffrey Meetinghouse, built in 1775 and restored in 1922. It seems to stand guard over the cemetery.



Another crazy but restorative trip....

107avaland
Modificato: Feb 6, 4:22pm

View just a few yards back from Willa's gravestone:

108NanaCC
Feb 6, 6:34pm

>105 avaland: What a nice way to “get away” while being safe.

109avaland
Feb 6, 7:29pm

>108 NanaCC: Indeed!

110dchaikin
Feb 6, 8:05pm

So apropos for my state of mind as I’ve been thinking about Willa Cather all day. Love these photos. I would call it a brave trip in that snow, but glad it was a good one. And glad you shared.

111markon
Feb 6, 10:29pm

Thanks for sharing your photos. Sounds like great get out of the house trip.

112avaland
Feb 7, 7:36am

>110 dchaikin: Thanks, Dan. Less brave than comic, me thinks.
>111 markon: You are welcome! I'm cooking up plans for some other 'adventures in social distancing'.

113lisapeet
Feb 7, 8:27am

What a nice day trip! I love the little stones laid across the top of her headstone. And nice to see Mt. Monadnock in all its snowy glory... I climbed it one summer at camp when I was 12.

114SassyLassy
Feb 7, 10:44am

You do have great days out. Loved the ocean pictures and now these.

I stayed two summers ago at Willa and Edith's summer place on Grand Manan Island, and love the idea of seeing the wintery Willa.

115avaland
Feb 7, 11:32am



Red Snow by Ian R. MacLeod (2017, dark fantasy)

I generally don’t read vampire books (Octavia Butler not withstanding), but this being Ian M. MacLeod, an author I have followed over his career, I could not resist. My immediate response after finishing this book was a kind of shell shock. Did my husband understand anything as I, wild-eyed, babbled away (possibly incoherently) as my brain was still putting the pieces together? Probably not.

Reaching across several historical time periods, and focusing on three well-drawn main characters, the author weaves a complex and engrossing story of love, longing, obsession, violence, blood lust …and more. This might suggest the standard vampire thriller, and while there is action, sufficient bloodletting, and some other weird stuff, McLeod does not overdo and contains the story elements well; his writing elevates the story beyond what one might expect. His often descriptive passages vividly evoke place and time, and there is an unexpected sense of melancholy that pervades the story—the reader never loses touch with the characters’ humanity.

This is quite a ride, perhaps a bit confusing at times, but a haunting and worthy read if you are up for it.

116avaland
Feb 7, 11:40am

>113 lisapeet: My children have all climbed it, likely more than once. I regret I didn't climb it while I still had knees.

>114 SassyLassy: They have become essential to my sanity during this winter. Will have to look into that island :-)

117kidzdoc
Feb 8, 9:15am

Gorgeous photos!

118dchaikin
Feb 8, 1:26pm

>115 avaland: you’ve certainly made Red Snow sound fun. Although not sure I’m a good fit for MacLeod.

119avaland
Feb 9, 1:43pm

>117 kidzdoc: Thanks!

>118 dchaikin: Probably not this novel :-)

120avaland
Feb 9, 2:08pm



The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy, read by Alan Rickman (audio)

Alan Rickman reading in his deep, sonorous (shall I add...sexy ) voice Hardy's imagery-laden prose. 'Nuf said! (except it's NOT the best to listen to while exercising, one tends to drift off into the recording and forget the exercise part).

121Caroline_McElwee
Feb 9, 2:16pm

>120 avaland: Glad it was a hit Lois. I've played this several times over the years.

122avaland
Feb 12, 9:30am



The Boy in the Field by Margot Livesey (novel, 2020)

I have been reading Margot Livesey’s fiction since I was first smitten with her Eva Moves the Furniture back in 2001, and have read most of her books. Her novels are reliably very good, her writing is often lovely, and her insight brings her characters vividly to life. And this book is no exception.

Three adolescent siblings on their way home from school, discover a semi-conscious, injured boy in a field. They do the right thing, of course, and call emergency services. This shared experience, saving the boy’s life, becomes not so much the focus of the story but the pivot point as the story, in alternating chapters, follow the three intimately—Duncan, Zoe and Matthew Lang—in their daily lives in the aftermath the event. The story is engrossing; the reader is carried along on a wave of sympathy, a desire to see it all comes right.

All that said, I must confess that the perfection of the family dynamics bugged me—the relationships between the siblings so … perfect—no arguing or fighting, so much support for each other, and not the slightest hint of competition. The relationships with the parents much the same: no drama, everything talked out and negotiated…even the reaction to finding out the Dad is having an affair is muted. I suspect this was done to provide a stable canvas on which to better individualize and focus on the experiences of three teens. Despite my vexations, the book is a worthy read. See what you think. The book might also be an interesting book group read.

123labfs39
Feb 12, 9:35am

Phew, finally caught up!

>1 avaland: Echoing everyone else from weeks ago that the ice flowers on windshield photo is great. One of my criteria for buying a house in Maine was a garage, preferably attached (which I was able to find). And boy am I glad with all the snow we've had, never mind the fact that it hasn't gotten above freezing in days.

>8 Caroline_McElwee: I love Caroline's link to the Gibson interview. I'm going to try and list the categories and my responses in my thread.

>52 avaland: As soon as I read your review of the Crummey lecture, I went online and found it. Lol, as did every other Club Reader.

>88 avaland: I, too, found Dementia relatable, and perhaps because of the reiteration, enjoyed Stutters.

Tide comes in while you're still trying to say it's gone out.

>105 avaland: Your photos of the graveyard are a visual reminder of why I love living in New England. Beautiful, home

124dchaikin
Feb 12, 1:36pm

>122 avaland: I don’t recognize the author Margot Livesey. Noting.

125SassyLassy
Feb 12, 4:14pm

>120 avaland: Trying to reconcile mentally The Return of the Native and exercise. No wonder you drifted off!

126avaland
Feb 13, 6:15am

>123 labfs39: Nice to see you out and about, Lisa! I've just ordered another of those little books from that lecture series. "Dreaming of Elsewhere: Observations on Home" by Esi Edugyan.

>124 dchaikin: Hi Dan!

>125 SassyLassy: I know, I know!

127Caroline_McElwee
Feb 13, 8:13am

>122 avaland: New to me too. Looks like I've been missing out. Off to you know where...

128avaland
Feb 13, 11:43am

>127 Caroline_McElwee: Seems some one else in this group was reading or talking about this book recently.... (which reminded me that the book was in the TBR.

129avaland
Modificato: Feb 22, 10:58am



Together in a Sudden Strangeness: America's Poets Respond to the Pandemic edited by Alice Quinn (poetry, 2020)

The editor of this anthology notes that the ‘original iteration’ of this collection of poetry was gathered early, in March and April, and first published as an ebook in the spring of 2020. I have read a hardcover released last November to which twenty-two further poems have been added and the resulting collection responded to both the pandemic and other 2020 horrors (can we really separate the pandemic and the deaths of George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks and Breonna Taylor?)….

The poetry in this collection is wonderfully varied, by authors both familiar and not. In some of the poems we easily recognize that early reckoning with this new horror that we all have shared, in other poems the foci is less direct, using, for example, nature as a metaphor. Yet in others, the foci are broadened and speaks more holistically about the era. Overall, like most collections, each reader may respond differently to different poems. Below, I post three poems from the book, the last, “Weather” by Claudine Rankin, blew me away because it made a connection I had not considered before. See what you think.

EIGHT PEOPLE
Edward Hirsch

Eight people died
on my block in Brooklyn
last week
and I didn’t know
what it mean
to be living
at one remove
from each other,
wary,
isolated,
locked up
with the relentless
bad news
while ambulances
cruised the neighborhood
which was otherwise
so calm and quiet
that I wondered
if God, too,
had gone into hiding
and sheltered in place.

AND THE POPLE STAYED HOME
Kitty O’Meara

And the people stayed home.

And they listened, and read books, and rested, and exercised, and
made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were
still.

And they listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed some
danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think
differently.

And the people healed.

And, in the absence if people living in ignorant, dangerous, and
heartless ways, the earth began to heal.

And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again,
they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new
images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they
had been healed.

130avaland
Modificato: Feb 22, 11:03am

WEATHER
Claudia Rankine

On a scrap of paper in the archive is written
I have forgotten my umbrella. Turns out
in a pandemic everyone, not just the philosopher,
is without. We scramble in the drought of information
held back by inside traders. Drop by drop. Face
covering? No, yes. Social distancing? Six feet
under for underlying conditions. Black.
Just us and the blues kneeling on a neck
with the full weight pf a man in blue.
Eight minutes and forty-six seconds.
In extremis, I can’t breathe gives way
to asphyxiation, to giving up this world,
and then mama, called to, a call
to protest, fire, glass, say their names, say
their names, white silence equals violence,
the violence of again, a militarized police
force teargassing, bullets ricochet, and civil
unrest taking it, burning it down. Whatever
contracts keep us social compel us now
to disorder the disorder. Peace. We’re out
to repair the future. There’s an umbrella
by the door, not for yesterday but for the weather
that’s here. I say weather but I mean
a form of governing that deals out death
and names it living. I say weather but I mean
a November that won’t be held off. This time
nothing, no one forgotten. We are here for the storm
that’s storming because what’s taken matters.

131RidgewayGirl
Feb 22, 11:05am

>129 avaland: The O'Meara poem is lovely and she does not live in South Carolina, where that absolutely did not happen.

132AnnieMod
Feb 22, 11:15am

>129 avaland: My first reaction to the O’Meara poem was that I love it but it is not poetry. And that made me think (dangerous that) - why don't I see it as poetry (together with a lot of other modern poetry - including some of the contents in a book I finished last night).

And maybe, just maybe, I found at least part of the problem in my understanding of modern poetry. I was taught that if something is not poetry or drama, it is prose - even if prose has its own rules, the in-betweens go in it. So I have expectations for poetry and these just do not match them. However, it seems that these days if something is not prose or drama, it is poetry. Which shifts the position of these kinds of writings into the poetry category... and thus confuses me a lot. Hm...

>130 avaland:

I really need to pick up some of her poetry - I loved a play of hers when I read it and she seems to be even better of a poet...

133Caroline_McElwee
Feb 22, 1:30pm

>139 >130 avaland: I liked these Lois. I have read Rankine before, but am unfamiliar with the other two.

134avaland
Feb 22, 5:26pm

>131 RidgewayGirl: I thought it had an interesting outlook and a nice rhythm, plus the voice reminds me of something, could it be biblical? It's on the edge of my consciousness, that "And the people..." (and I wanted to find some shorter poems to post here).

>132 AnnieMod: I get what you are saying. Oh, the edges of those categories are much blurred these days, and I do not spend much time thinking about it (at this point in my life!)

>133 Caroline_McElwee: Hirsch has been around for a long time, I had not encountered O'Meara before that I know of.

When I got to the Rankine, I was blown away over by her connecting George Floyd "I can't breathe" with a pandemic under where thousands couldn't breath....

I don't expect to like or connect with everything in an anthology, or even like the same poems every time I read though it. I do try to read through a volume twice before I attempt to "review" it.

135avaland
Modificato: Feb 23, 5:26am



Have abandoned John Banville's Snow about 80 to 100 pages in. It's a crime novel set in Ireland in 1959. When I bought it, I thought. Banville. Crime Novel. Interesting.... and ignored the fact that I generally don't care for historical mysteries these days; and the story with its solitary detective seemed to me, well, languorous. I have no doubt many will enjoy this book, but for me it's either the wrong book for me or the wrong time for it.

136avaland
Modificato: Feb 23, 6:59am



Everything is freshly coated with wet snow this morning and it's lovely. Captured this moment at 6:38 a.m. I took several photos from the front porch standing in the same spot and the subsequent photos were not nearly as lovely as they had the pink color more localized. Makes me want to take up painting again.

Note: We have a little over a foot of dense snow on the ground at this point. We've had snow in a weird cycle of every three or four days. In-between some of it melts, so it has stayed at this depth for most of the month. I would rather have this than no snow cover & ice. The snow cover is much better for the plants.

137lauralkeet
Modificato: Feb 23, 8:03am

>135 avaland: I read Snow about a month ago and while I finished it, I only gave it 2.5 stars which means it was on the cusp of being flung at the wall.

"Languorous" is a kind word. There was certainly no sense of urgency; rather than relentlessly pursuing leads the detective seemed to be aimlessly wandering about. The Osborne family were cardboard cutouts, no depth at all. You probably abandoned the book before Banville wrote himself into a cul-de-sac and abruptly inserted an “interlude” from ten years earlier, told by the priest/murder victim. This revealed the priest's troubling but entirely predictable past so it wasn't difficult to narrow down the suspects. Add to that the "loner detective beds attractive young woman" trope and ... well ... you were wise to abandon this one.

138avaland
Feb 23, 8:23am

>137 lauralkeet: I think I saw that you did. It made me feel better about not connecting with it. And your comments now, also. Oh, yes, I must have quit before the dead priest started talking. I like my brain stimulated in several areas by crime novels and, sadly, this didn't do it (I'm always a bit sad to abandon a book, but Banville and I didn't really have a relationship going. I read his The Sea back in 2005 and liked it well enough, but not enough to go steady with him, LOL)

139SassyLassy
Feb 23, 9:15am

>136 avaland: That's beautiful.

Reliable snowcover is something that doesn't exist here. Where I lived before there were a couple of feet of it throughout the winter, and although it was two climate zones colder, I could have plants that are uprooted by the dreaded freeze-thaw cycle here.

>129 avaland: >130 avaland: Thanks for those.

140Nickelini
Feb 23, 9:26am

>136 avaland:
So pretty! Still dark here so don’t know what I’ll see when day breaks

141markon
Feb 23, 9:56am

>131 RidgewayGirl: What she said, substituting Georgia for SC.

>130 avaland: Rankine awes, and I feel sad and angry and determined.

>136 avaland: Lovely photo. You were in the right place at the right time.

142lauralkeet
Feb 23, 10:04am

>138 avaland: Banville and I had a similar relationship, Lois. I was enticed by the NYT review which highlighted the historic aspect. But that didn't go deep enough to make up for the other issues.

143RidgewayGirl
Feb 23, 10:47am

>135 avaland: Well, now I'm laughing because my first reaction was, indeed, "Oh, John Banville and a detective novel, must read." His detective novels written as Benjamin Black are also not fast-paced, but the picture of Dublin in the 1950's is wonderful.

144AnnieMod
Modificato: Feb 23, 10:52am

>143 RidgewayGirl: Wait - Benjamin Black is Banville? Why I did not know this? I like Black a lot, I’ve never even looked seriously at Banville - i think i looked at a few summaries and decided that he is not for me. But now...

145japaul22
Feb 23, 11:30am

>137 lauralkeet: Between your two reviews, I'll pass on Snow and start elsewhere. I've never read anything by John Banville somehow, but I'm hoping to have time for a group read of Book of Evidence next month.

146nohrt4me2
Feb 23, 1:38pm

Speaking of Irish crime: Anyone read Say Nothing? by Patrick Radden Keefe. It's a non-fiction book that I've had on my list for awhile. It has received vg reviews.

147avaland
Feb 23, 5:31pm

>143 RidgewayGirl: If you like, I'll send it to you. Would need to verify I have the right address ;-)

>146 nohrt4me2: Not I.

148avaland
Feb 23, 5:33pm

The sad truth is that We Cannot Read ALL. THE. AUTHORS or ALL. THE. BOOKS. We must CHOOSE.

149NanaCC
Feb 23, 5:59pm

>146 nohrt4me2: I have not read it yet, but my daughter gave it to me for Christmas in 2019. I haven’t had the chance to read it, but your comment makes me think I should get to it sooner rather than later.

150lisapeet
Feb 24, 11:24am

>146 nohrt4me2: I read it, and thought it was a terrific piece of journalism. Keefe not only presented a really comprehensible picture of the Troubles and where they (it?) came from, but told the various characters' stories in a way that humanized them—car bombs and all. I definitely recommend.

151AnnieMod
Feb 24, 12:35pm

>148 avaland:

Them's fightin' words! :) I want to read all the authors and all the books! Reality be damned - I will just have to figure out a way to live forever (and long after the world ends so I can catch up with everything...) :)

152sallypursell
Feb 24, 12:39pm

>151 AnnieMod: It's a little frustrating how many books enter the world de novo while we are reading, so that you and I can't keep up, Annie. Well, we'll get to them eventually.

153dchaikin
Feb 24, 2:16pm

Enjoyed those poems. And beautiful photo of the dawn snow. Sorry about Banville. I haven’t read him, but would like to try something.

154avaland
Feb 25, 12:46pm



American Melancholy: Poems by Joyce Carol Oates (2021)

I primarily read JCO for her novels and short stories, but I do like to sample her other writings: plays, memoir, literary criticism, essays… and yes, her poetry. I’m not here to attempt to analyze or properly review her latest collection, one can check some other publication for that.

Initially, on my first read through, I found most of these poems …unsettling*. I wasn’t sure what she was talking about in several. Life has been a bit ‘unsettling’ for some time now, maybe I just didn’t want to go there. By the third read-through I had softened up. In these 29 poems, some quite long, she covers a lot of territory. A few which captured my attention: “Hometown Waiting for You’ about where her hometown of Lockport, NY might speak to her (?) , told in the voice of the town/people of.There are several poems around the death/dying/grief of her 2nd husband that I thought quite moving. There is a powerhouse of a poem five pages long titled “Doctor Help Me,” the lines built on women’s voices giving reasons for an abortion

On every read-through of this volume a different poem reaches out.... But, here is two relatively short poems I liked….

THAT OTHER

They laughed, but no. You
don’t remember that.

What you think you remember—
it wasn’t that.

Yes—you remember
some things. And
some things did
happen. Except not
that way.

And anyway, not
to you.

THIS IS NOT A POEM

In which the poet discovers
delicate white-parched bones
of a small creative
on a Great Lake shore
or the desiccated remains
of cruder road-kill
beside the rushing highway.

Nor is it a poem in which
a cracked mirror yields
a startled face,
or sere grasses hiss-
ing like consonants
in a foreign language.
Family photo album
filled with yearning
strangers long-deceased,
closet of beautiful
clothes of the dead.
Attic trunk, stone well
or metonymic moon
time-traveling for wisdom
in the Paleolithic
age, in the Middle Kingdom
or Genesis
or the time of Basho ….

Instead it is a slew
of words in search
of a container—
a sleek green stalk,
a transparent lung.
a single hair’s curl,
a cooing of vowels
like lovers.

155avaland
Feb 25, 12:55pm

>151 AnnieMod: Ah, I do remember those days! I suspect you are a bit younger than I. Eventually, this finitude will invade your thinking.

>152 sallypursell: That's the attitude.

>153 dchaikin: Thanks, Dan.

156Caroline_McElwee
Feb 25, 1:38pm

>154 avaland: I like those poems too Lois.

157RidgewayGirl
Feb 25, 2:00pm

>148 avaland: I refuse to believe that that is true.

>151 AnnieMod: Heaven is probably a library. Nothing else would make sense.

>154 avaland: I'm glad you're still reading JCO since you passed your interest on to me and I find myself picking up everything I find by her (which is a lot).

158dianeham
Feb 25, 7:53pm

>154 avaland: I was really surprised I liked those poems.

159avaland
Feb 26, 12:54pm

>156 Caroline_McElwee: Hi, Caro!

>157 RidgewayGirl: You can easily spend the rest of your life reading JCO (Caroiine in #156 above is also a JCO fan) -- I haven't read much of her during the pandemic, but I have the new short story collection sitting here beside me.

Books (ok, I sent a couple more with the Banville) were sent yesterday media mail. FYI

>158 dianeham: Surprises can be fun, right?!

160avaland
Mar 2, 4:57pm



The New Canon: An Anthology of Canadian Poetry, edited by Carmine Starnino (c. 2005)

This anthology features two to five poems from each of fifty Canadian poets born between 1955 - 1975 (yes, my first thought was, ‘well, no Margaret Atwood then’). The editor’s criteria for this “new canon” in short is: poets of a certain age and, in her own words, “…for now let’s just say {the anthology} gathers together, within its limits of inclusion, the most aurally ambitious, lexically alert, and formally intelligent poems, I could find.”

That said, I note that the poets chosen are two to one, male/female and there is little said by way of biographical material. There are no poems in translation as far as I could tell and the reader would have to look for inferences in the poetry itself to speculate whether the poet might be a something other than white; of course one could Google a name, too. Is this important? We could discuss this at length, couldn’t we? The gender imbalance did rather irk me as I just assumed an anthology published in 2005 would be more gender equal; and I missed the broader cultural offerings that I had enjoyed in the newer Canadian anthology I read previously to this. That all said, the anthology contain some excellent poetry. Here are three I enjoyed, chosen for their brevity (for reproduction here).

“Lovely” by Bruce Taylor

The past is lovely, it lasts forever.
Somewhere, I’m still
lying under the lawn sprinkler
with no copper tone on,
the grass cool and elastic under my back.
a black spaniel nuzzling my feet.
The cars are old-fashioned and optimistic,
the people who drive them
have fallen in love with the future.
They can't know that when they get here
the will love the past more,
that the present will look like
a stupendous machine
for forcing things to stop existing.
Well, to live for the moment
is best, but the moments, the little
jiffies, they are startled
to be here, like
the high-shouldered cuprous beetles
that live beneath patio stones,
if you’re curious you lift one up
and let it run down your arm.
The other ones scoot for cover,
struggling down into the leaf mulch,
kicking frantically.

"Crow" by John Degan

Crows, you notice,
prefer the very tops of trees;
being claustrophobic, a cage
of branches at mid-trunk
would set them panicking.

Born time-wasters, they’re
the TV watchers of nature,
enraptured by shiny things.
They perch beside the highways,
at the very tops of trees, and
gaze liquidly at the big
river of shiny things, flowing
in two directions at once.

Proud of their own mystery.
they like to show up
just when it seems their shape
against the sky
is most symbolic of—
what?—death, intelligence
in the woods,
laughter let slip into the past.

While you walk your parents; dog
through a winter forest
of bald branches, they appear,
at the very top of trees, speak
of their own arrivals, disappearing
just when you settle on
what that pure
throat noise might mean.

"White on White" by Mark Ablely

Energy is Eternal Delight, said Mr. Blake

now I face a February morning by the lake
below a gull at work in the delighted air

as the wet snow settles, flake by flake,
onto melting ridges that sketch a line of jagged
puddles in the churning, half-solid water

soon, I think, the weather will have to break
but soon means nothing to this granite wind
or the dour, unbroken mass of clouds transforming
the far shore to a moist abstraction

luckily the mirrored pier declines to fall
though its legs look akilter, a cubist slushpile,
ice and former ice in a cracked reflection

a watercolour still life that keeps on shifting
while a frozen artist tries to freeze the action

and the ghost of Mr. Blake cries satisfaction

161RidgewayGirl
Mar 3, 11:09am

Apparently the postal service is back to full speed. The books arrived today and the additional two look interesting. Thank you!

162avaland
Mar 4, 12:54pm

>161 RidgewayGirl: You're welcome!

Now, if you know someone interested in four years of "World Literature Today" magazine .... Sixteen issues, High quality magazine, heavy weight so not able to send outside the US (or however many first in the flat rate box). They've increased the number of reviews over these last four years. https://www.worldliteraturetoday.org/

163AnnieMod
Mar 4, 1:00pm

>162 avaland: Waiving from your down left... :)

164avaland
Mar 4, 2:06pm

>163 AnnieMod: Are you saying you would like them?

165AnnieMod
Mar 4, 2:24pm

>164 avaland: Yep. Sorry. Should have been clearer :)

166avaland
Modificato: Mar 6, 9:02am

>165 AnnieMod: Coming your way.

-----------



In another matter, I have roughly 40 books related to Africa on the shelf, a mix of various fiction and some nonfiction, from all over the continent, more women authors than men (I think) and unread. I had a period before LT and my early LT years where I consumed a huge amount of material on the continent. I even took two related classes (one used John Iiffe's history of Africa which told the history through the movement of peoples. Very interesting...but I digress)

These mostly unread ones represent what I continued to collect even as I moved away from Africa to other subjects of interest. And I'm willing to send them to someone (in the states) who would like to immerse themselves in the continent. Previously, I sent many of the books I read to an LTer in Texas who was collecting African books for a (high school?) library; she seems not to be active any longer.

(and I need the room on the shelves).

I also have collections of Trollope, Murakami (both in paperback), PD James & Colin Dexter (both in hardcovers) I might be willing to let go of, but I need to see how this first giveaway sits with me first.

167sallypursell
Mar 7, 6:40pm

I'd be interested in some Africa books. I live in the central US. Not too many; my husband would go bananas, because we have more books now than we have room to deal with. Also the PDJames. Do you still have the Iiffe book to give, or did that go to your no longer extant LT member? I could use a new historical obsession.

168avaland
Mar 9, 6:10am

>167 sallypursell: Hi Sally, if no one wants the whole lot of the African books, I'll be glad to send you some. I haven't decided about the PD James... I'm terribly sentimental sometimes....

169sallypursell
Mar 9, 8:04pm

Thank you! If you can't unload the Trollope, he is a favorite of mine, and I don't have any.

170avaland
Mar 16, 10:09am

>169 sallypursell: If you haven't already, please leave your address with me on my profile page or you can email avamatthew@gmail.com.

171IsabelHolland
Mar 16, 10:20am

Questo utente è stato eliminato perché considerato spam.

172avaland
Mar 16, 10:54am

I am seriously behind in reading people's posts. Apologies to all. Too much going on here, too many distractions.

We did make another day trip this past weekend, traveled 50 miles NW to the lovely area my younger daughter & family will be building in. We stopped for a takeout lunch and ate it in the car in a nearby high school parking lot. This was on the road in...

173NanaCC
Mar 16, 11:38am

>172 avaland: So pretty and peaceful looking, Lois.

174labfs39
Mar 16, 2:22pm

>172 avaland: Where will they be building, Lois? Lebanon area?

175avaland
Mar 16, 5:17pm

>174 labfs39: thanks, Colleen

>175 avaland: Newbury in the greater Sunapee lake area

176labfs39
Mar 16, 6:40pm

>175 avaland: Pretty area. For some reason I thought you lived further away than you must if that is NW of you. We should get together once we are all vaccinated and safe.

177avaland
Mar 19, 10:08am

178avaland
Mar 19, 10:22am



A Natural History of Hell: Stories by Jeffrey Ford (2016)

This is Jeff Ford’s most recent collection of short stories, which gathers together 13 stories published in various venues between 2011 - 2015. Ford is hard to categorize, although his work most often is generally called dark fantasy. Such an inadequate couple of words for stories that also can include touches of magical realism, horror and the absurd; a bit of fairy and folk tale, and stories perhaps you could call historical fantasy and alternate reality. I like Joyce Carol Oates’ blurb: Jeffrey Ford is a beautifully disorienting writer, a poet in an unclassifiable genre—his own.”

This collection is a entertaining, eclectic mix of a bit of everything. And like all short story collections, there are some stories one likes more than others. Although it will not likely represent truthfully the variety of stories in this collection, let me tell you about a few of my favorites...

*Death—driving a elegant black brougham and calling her ‘Miss Dickinson’—quite literally stops for Emily Dickinson in the story "A Terror." While the two get to know each other, Death (a.k.a. Quill) needs some help with something, and the two make a deal….

*In the first story of the collection, “The Blameless”, a suburban couple get an invitation from neighbors for a social event with refreshments to witness their daughter’s exorcism. Apparently it’s quite trendy these days and “people are getting their kids exorcised for whatever ails them.” They decide to go.

*In a strangely amusing and funny story, "Rocket Ship to Hell," Jeffrey Ford (a character in his own story), takes refuge from a SF convention for a drink in a local bar. But, the guy sitting next to him turns out to be another fan/writer who claims to have written just one science fiction novel ages ago, but claims it was not fiction at all ….

*My favorite story, "Blood Drive," is an absurd, rather creepy, and strangely thoughtful tale of high school culture, recognizable to all of us—but with a twist. It’s told by a young woman entering her senior year. Here’s the first paragraph:

For Christmas our junior year of high school, all of our parents got us guns. That way you had a half of year to learn to shoot and get down all the safety garbage before you started senior year. Depending on how well off your parents were, that pretty much dictated the amount of firepower you had. Darcy Krantz’s family lived in a trailer and so she had a pea-shooter, .22 Double Eagle derringer and Baron Hanes’s father, who was in the security business and richer than God, got him a .44 Magnum that was so heavy it made his nutty kid lean to the side when he wore the gun belt. I packed a pearl-handled .38 revolver, Smith & Wesson, which had originally been my grandfather’s. It was old as dirt, but all polished up, the way my father kept it, it was still a fine-looking gun, I was really my father’s gun, and my mother told him not to give it to me, but he said, “Look, when she goes to high school, she’s gotta carry, everybody does in their senior year.

Note: the teachers who teach the senior class also "carry".
(There’s not been a story before this, that made me feel so guilty for chuckling).

There are other stories set historically in different eras where the supernatural invades our world in different way. These were not my favorites but interesting nonetheless. From this collection, readers may gain a sense of what living in Jeffrey Ford’s brain must be like….

179labfs39
Mar 19, 6:47pm

>178 avaland: I was so intrigued by the opening of the story Blood Drive that I found an audio recording of it online. The story was originally published in 2013, probably written with Columbine in mind. Some of the things the politician in the story said were unfortunately familiar. Scary stuff.

Did you ever read the collection of stories called Machine of Death? A couple of those were similar in feel.

180AlisonY
Mar 26, 9:30am

I am so behind on far too many threads, but have tried to have a good catch up today. Loving your road trip photos, especially the Willa Cather grave photos. Isn't it funny that we still think it nice to have a decent view from your final resting spot! Also glad you enjoyed The Return of the Native (and yes, Rickman had a superlatively smooth voice).

181avaland
Mar 26, 9:52am

>179 labfs39: Haven't read that collection. So many books....

>180 AlisonY: Thanks for stopping by, Alison. I suppose Willa found the idea of having a mountain view after death more comforting during her remaining life ....

182MadisonHowells
Mar 26, 9:56am

Questo utente è stato eliminato perché considerato spam.

183labfs39
Mar 28, 8:16pm

>181 avaland: I'll make a short pitch for Machine of Death because it is such an interesting (to me) idea. The editors created the scenario excerpted below and invited people to submit stories based on the idea. Over 700 people did. They picked their favorites, but couldn't get the book published, so they self-published on Amazon. They announced that they would drop the book on Oct. 26, 2010. It hit the #1 best-selling book on Amazon for 30 hrs. It's now available via Creative Commons licensing and as a podcast. I listened to the stories and they were really creative.

The machine had been invented a few years ago: a machine that could tell, from just a sample of your blood, how you were going to die. It didn’t give you the date and it didn’t give you specifics. It just spat out a sliver of paper upon which were printed, in careful block letters, the words DROWNED or CANCER or OLD AGE or CHOKED ON A HANDFUL OF POPCORN. It let people know how they were going to die.

The problem with the machine is that nobody really knew how it worked, which wouldn’t actually have been that much of a problem if the machine worked as well as we wished it would. But the machine was frustratingly vague in its predictions: dark, and seemingly delighting in the ambiguities of language. OLD AGE, it had already turned out, could mean either dying of natural causes, or shot by a bedridden man in a botched home invasion. The machine captured that old-world sense of irony in death — you can know how it’s going to happen, but you’ll still be surprised when it does.


You can read more about it here

or listen to the podcast here. Scroll way down to get the episodes.

184sallypursell
Mar 29, 9:16am

>171 IsabelHolland: My curiosity about this kind of post is silly. The reasons why people post spam are pretty boring most of the time. Nevertheless....

185sallypursell
Mar 29, 9:22am

>178 avaland:
where the supernatural invades our world in different way.>


You know, just this week I realized that this is my favorite topic/atmosphere in fiction. How did I go nearly 70 years before I figured this out?

Seriously, this book sounds great! On the frightening, towering, TBR.

187avaland
Mar 29, 12:59pm

>183 labfs39: Interesting....

>184 sallypursell: Maybe because there are always more books to try which could change your mind?

You can't actually read those two spam posts can you?!

188sallypursell
Mar 29, 9:45pm

>187 avaland: No, I can't. But it is so teasing....

189avaland
Mar 31, 5:04pm

We created a new thread for the 2nd quarter and beyond.
Questa conversazione è stata continuata da Avaland & Dukedom_Enough's 2021 Reading, Part II.