Arubabookwoman's 2021 Reading

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Arubabookwoman's 2021 Reading

Modificato: Gen 9, 2:27pm

Hello all! I'm back for my 10th or so year in Club Read. I'm hoping to interact more this year, and to that end I am resolving to visit my own thread once a week or so, rather than once a month. I'm going to try to post regularly to the What Are You Reading? thread too. In 2020, I was quite pleased with myself that for the first time in a number of years I reviewed on my thread every book I read.
I'm Deborah, a retired tax attorney, Mom of 5 kids, and Grandma to 5 grandkids. In 2020, after 35 years in Seattle, we moved to the Tampa Bay area to be closer to our kids, all of whom had left Seattle for the East Coast and environs. One of our sons, and 2 of the grands are in the area, but because of covid, we haven't been able to see much of them since we arrived in Florida in June. For the past couple of years, our lives have also revolved around a lot of medical issues, as my husband had a bone marrow transplant about 1 1/2 years ago which, though successful, results in ongoing issues.
I love to read, and read eclectically, about 2/3 fiction, 1/3 nonfiction. I try to read as much translated fiction as I can. I mainly read literary fiction, but I read a fair amount of crime and scifi.
Ever since I discovered the Libby app a few years ago, most of my reading has been from the library (not to mention that most of my books were in storage for about 2 years), and I noticed that last year in my library reading I was tending to choose "bright and shiney" new books, many of which I found less than satisfactory. So my reading goal this year is to read no more that 2 or so library books a month, to read mostly my own books (now thankfully out of storage, unpacked and on brand new shelves), and to try to concentrate on older works. I generally notably fail at such goals, though, so we shall see how far this goes.
In addition to reading, my other passion is fiber art. I work on something fiber art related probably every day.

Modificato: Gen 9, 2:14pm

Fourth Quarter


Modificato: Gen 9, 2:24pm

I have another reading project to start the year, and I've kept it up for more than a week already. A few years ago I read Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose, and in it she described her daily habit of reading one story by Chekov a day. I immediately bought a 13 volume set of Chekov stories, but never got into that project. This year I decided to read one Chekov story a day, and so far, I have succeeded most days (doesn't happen on the days we leave early to go to the hospital or somewhere else--I read the story before getting out of bed in the morning. My intent is to report on the stories I read in my weekly visit here.
I also have a nonfiction reading project. I decided to read A History of the World in 100 Objects by Neil MacGregor, one object a day. And I've kept that up too, so I will report on this book too.

Modificato: Gen 9, 2:28pm

Reserved for Stats about 2020.
Will have to review, but for now I can report I had only 2 5 star reads, Swann's Way (a reread) and Summer by Ali Smith.

Gen 9, 2:42pm

Happy reading in 2021. Cheers!

Gen 9, 3:00pm

Chekov Reading 1/1-1/9 I'm reading from The Darling and Other Stories by Anton Chekov

1. "The Darling"--Olenka is subsumed by those she loves, through 3 marriages and beyond. "She wanted a love that would absorb her whole being, her whole soul and reason--that would give her ideas and an object in life, and would warm her old blood."
2. "Ariadne"--A man is obsessed by a selfish woman and led astray. "I was in the position of a greedy passionate miser who should suddenly discover that all his gold coins were false."
3. "Polinka"--a clerk and a fashionable woman conduct a lover's spat over a commercial transaction in the department store where the clerk works. "'The black's from 80 kopecks and the coloured from two and a half roubles I shall never come and see you again.' Nikolay Timofeitch adds in an undertone."
4. "Anyuta"--a medical student lives with and takes advantage of young Anyuta. He has a future, she doesn't.
5. "The Two Volodyas"--A woman is married to an older Volodyas and is carrying on an affair with an older Volodya. "She thought that before old age and death there would be a long life before her, and that day by day she would have to put up with being close to a man she did not love...."
6. "The Trousseau"--a mother and daughter spend years sewing a trousseau for the daughter who insists that she will never marry. "I have seen a great many houses in my time, little and big, new and old, built of stone and of wood, but of one house I have kept a very vivid memory. It was, properly speaking rather a cottage than a house--a tiny cottage of one story with three windows, looking extraordinarily like a little old hunchback woman with a cap on."
7. "The Helpmate"--Another story of a man married to an unworthy woman. "His whole face was relaxed in a naive, good-natured smile of a divinity student, and he had the simplicity to believe that that company of beasts of prey into which destiny had chanced to thrust him would give him romance and happiness and all he had dreamed of."

In one of the stories ("Ariadne") one of the characters says, "Whenever Germans or Englishmen get together, they talk about the crops, the price of wool, or their personal affairs. But for some reason or other when we Russians get together we never discuss anything but women and abstract subjects--but especially women."

And that describes my reaction to these week's Chekov stories--most about amoral women taking advantage, a couple of good women being taken advantage of, and some moral ambiguities. But definitely concentrating on women.

Gen 9, 3:22pm

100 Objects Reading

1. The Mummy of Horneditef--not the earliest object, but the author uses this to show how the British Museum learns from the objects in its collection, makes inferences about societies and cultures, and, especially how these studies and inferences and our knowledge changes over time.

2. Olduvai Stone Chopping Tool 1.8-2 million years ago. Found among the oldest known humanly-made objects. Demonstrates that human culture began in Africa.

3. Olduvai Hand Axe--1.2-1.4 million years ago. A handaxe is tricky to make, and was cutting edge technology for the time. This was made by people who would have been the beginnings of humans as we conceive them. The ability to make such an object also indicates the beginnings of speech.

4. Swimming Reindeer--11,000 B.C. About 50,000 years ago, humans began making art. This is a masterpiece of Ice Age Art.

5. Clovis Spear Point--11,000 B.C. This was found in Arizona, and shows that by about 13,000 years ago, humans inhabited North America. By about 12,000 years ago, humans had migrated around the world from our origins in Africa, and every habitable part of earth now was settled by humans.

6. Bird-shaped Pestle--6,000-2,000 B.C. This object shows that by this time humans were growing crops. Farming developed simultaneously in several areas around the world. To develop farming, humans had to learn to make the seeds and roots of wild grasses and other wild plants edible.

7. Ain Sakhri Lovers Figure 9,000 B.C. The first representation of humans having sex. Some scholars had thought this might be a fertility object. More recently, some scholars think it might just be an eloquent work of art.

8. Egyptian Clay Model of Cattle 3,000 B.C. Cows and cattle are by now becoming important and being exploited by humans.

I'm finding this book to be easy to read, well-organized, and informative. The pictures of each of the obects covered are excellent, too.

Gen 9, 3:24pm

>8 rocketjk: Hi Jerry. Thanks for visiting my new thread so promptly!

Gen 9, 4:22pm

>10 arubabookwoman: I listened to the podcast as it was coming out a few years ago - it was very good.

Gen 9, 10:28pm

Happy New Year, Deborah! I am so happy to see you here again. I love your reading projects. I had no idea Checkov had written so many stories!

I want to read the Prose book.

I, too, want to read more books from my shelves this year. It's a good goal. We'll see how it goes.

Gen 10, 12:10pm

Happy New Year and welcome back, Deborah!

Gen 10, 1:15pm

Hi, Deborah, had a trip googling the objects in >10 arubabookwoman:. The pestle, the lovers, the reindeer, the tools etc.--makes humanity seem loveable.

Gen 10, 3:29pm

>10 arubabookwoman: This book sound weirdly intriguing, something that you could get addicted to (to which you could get addicted).

Also like the idea of a Chekov story a day, but know that I would inevitably slide unless the book sat in a spot where I would sit at the same time each day, so as to make it a habit.

Gen 10, 3:43pm

>10 arubabookwoman: Love the idea of a Chekov story a day, and the 100 objects at a slow rate.

>12 AnnieMod: There is a podcast? Runs off to look it up.

Gen 10, 3:44pm

I am reading a Claire Lispector story a week, so I won't be finishing this year.

Gen 10, 3:59pm

>18 markon: I have this book on Kindle. I've always been meaning to pick it up, but other books get in the ways. I'd be interested in what stories stand out in this collection.

Gen 10, 4:07pm

>17 markon: Yup. One episode per object, 13-14 minutes per episode. And its descriptions have links to the images to look at. It was a BBC Radio 4/British Museum joined effort back in 2010 (the book was published to accompany it some time around that time). :) Then it got converted to a podcast (I listend to it when that happened, not the original radio broadcasts). 1 episode per day was a perfect cadence for it. :)

Gen 10, 4:59pm

Nice to see your thread here. I like your projects and your two posts on them above. I think I need more Chekhov myself.

Gen 11, 2:59am

>10 arubabookwoman: Mr SandDune has the 100 objects book and I’ve dipped into it from time to time. It’s an interesting collection of items.

Gen 11, 7:54am

Happy New Year! Good to hear you've plans for being on LT more in 2021. I look forward to your reviews. Nice Francine Prose project in particular.

Gen 11, 11:17am

Interesting projects you've started off with, Deborah. Will stop in from time to time.

In this era of my life, I keep the projects (I like this word better than 'goals') loose.

Gen 16, 3:11pm

>10 arubabookwoman:
This sounds interesting. What is the book called?

Gen 16, 5:57pm

Deborah, I just found you. I'm very interested in your projects. I'll stop by to follow you now and then.

Gen 16, 7:13pm

>27 ELiz_M:
Doh! Thanks. I was lost

Gen 17, 6:40am

Hi Deborah! I saw you read The Boy in the Field last year. I did too and really liked it. Have you read other books by Margot Livesey? I got another book by her from Santathing.

Modificato: Gen 17, 4:14pm

I’m back in record time (for me), and it’s lovely to find visitors. I have lots of reading to report on, but first, my visitors:

>12 AnnieMod: Hi Annie. Before the Podcast, I think it was a BBC series. This book resulted from the BBC series.

>13 BLBera: The Francine Prose book is wonderful Beth. I gave it 5 stars when I read it several years ago. She came out with a new book last year which I have on my Kindle, but haven’t read yet.

>14 kidzdoc: Hi Darryl!

>15 LolaWalser: Hi Lola. The objects are lovely, aren’t they? And the objects keep coming, with great stories behind them.

>16 SassyLassy: Hi Sassy. I’m continuing to enjoy the 100 Objects (and Chekhov) reading. I’m generally doing this before I get out of bed I the morning, just to make sure it gets done. This has worked so far, except for a few mornings we had to get out early.

>17 markon: and >18 markon: Hi Arlene. I hope you found the podcast. And a weekly Clarice Lispector story sounds like a good project. I’ve never been a short story fan, but I’ve always liked Russian lit, and I’ve heard Chekhov referred to as the “father” of the modern short story.

>19 gsm235: Welcome to my thread Greg.

>20 AnnieMod: I’m not sure but it’s possible the text of the book is identical to the script of the BBC series or podcast. Each object merits 3-5 or so pages of text.

>21 dchaikin: Hi Dan. You undertake such serious, organized, and detailed projects each year, and what I’m doing hardly compares. But maybe a Chekhov, or Russian Lit year is in your future.

>22 SandDune: Hi Rhian. The objects are all from the British Museum’s collection, so maybe there are more appropriate objects in other museums to illustrate the points the author makes about human history, but it all seems good so far.

>23 AlisonY: Hi Alison, and welcome!

>24 avaland: Hi Lois. I agree about loose projects. I’m amazed I’ve kept this up for 2 weeks so far.

>25 Nickelini: and >28 Nickelini: Hi Joyce. I see Liz answered your question. Welcome.

>26 sallypursell: Welcome Sally. I’ll be following your thread too.

>27 ELiz_M: Hi Liz. Thanks for stepping in.

>29 dianeham: Hi Diane. It was a book that calmed my soul and reinforced my faith in humanity when I read it at the end of last year. My LT library tells me I’ve read several other books by Margot Livesey: Criminals in 1997, The Missing World in 2001, and Eva Moves the Furniture in 2002. I remember nothing about these, except a vague recollection of liking them. I also read The Flight of Gemma Hardy, a take on Jane Eyre, which I remember not caring for. And I’ve had Banishing Verona on my shelf since 2006, but haven’t read it yet.

On to my reading.

Gen 17, 3:58pm

>30 arubabookwoman: It's amazing the books I've read that I don't remember. If I didn't keep track of them, I'd be reading the same books over and over.

Gen 17, 4:13pm

Chekhov reading:
This week I finished the first volume of the 13 volume Chekhov set. The stories read were:

8. “Talent”—An artist has lazed away the summer without raising his paintbrush. He and his friends spend their time discussing the great works they will soon produce. “To listen to them it would seem they had the future, fame, money, in their hands. And it never occurred to them that time was passing: that every day life was nearing its close, that they had lived at other people’s expense a great deal and nothing yet was accomplished....”

9. “An Artist’s Story”—An artist living in the country falls in love with a young girl on a neighboring estate. I loved this description of the girl: “She spent the whole day reading, poring greedily over her book, and only from the tired dazed look in her eyes and the extreme paleness of her face one could divine how this continual reading exhausted her brain.”

10. “Three Years”—This last piece in volume I, at 130 pages, is actually a novella, and I read it over a few days. Chekhov said that he intended to illustrate Moscow life in this piece. Laptev the son of a wealthy Moscow merchant marries the daughter of a country doctor. He is madly in love with her. She has no feelings for him, but accepts his proposal out of fear that otherwise life will pass her by. We follow their life in Moscow, in all its ups and downs, for the first three years of their marriage. “And what changes in these three years...But one may have to live another thirteen years, another thirty years...what is there in store for us in the future? If we live, we shall see.”

That completes The Darling and Other Stories, Volume 1. I will start Volume 2 tomorrow.

These 3 stories speak to me of Chekhov considering his/our mortality, the brevity of our time on earth, and we should use it wisely, all the while recognizing we are, after all, only human.

Gen 17, 4:54pm

100 Objects Reading

9. Mayan Maize God A.D. 715–As people began to identify plants which would provide them with food, there arose a range of new gods. These new foods included wheat and barley in the Middle East, millet and rice in China, taro in Papua New Guinea, sorghum in Africa, and maize in Central America. This maize god is relatively new, but comes from a long tradition. His mythic story mirrors the annual planting/harvest cycle as well as the human cycle of birth, death, and rebirth.

10. Jomon Pot 5000 B.C.—One of the biggest leaps in human history was the making of the first pot. The earliest pottery was made 16,500 years ago in Japan. Pots enabled changes in the human diet—new foods became edible by boiling. Although the earliest pots were made in Japan, pottery seems to have been invented independently in different places at different times around the world.

Part 3–The First Cities and States 4000-2000B.C.

11.King Den’s Sandal Label 2985 B.C.—As city/states arose, the question was how to exert leadership and control over large populations. The answer, illustrated on this object, was simple: brute force.

12. The Standard of Ur 2600-2400–This is the first object I knew about before reading this book, having studied it in art history, and having made a point to visit it when I was at the British Museum a few years ago. Cities began about 5000 years ago in Mesopotamia, the most famous of which was Ur, excavated in the 1920’s by Leonard Wooley. The purpose of this object is unknown; Wooley thought it was a standard carried in battle, others believe it is part of a musical instrument. It is decorated mosaic-like with lapis lazuli from Afghanistan, red marble from India, and shells from the Gulf. This is the first object we’ve seen made out of several different exotic materials traded from distant locations. In order for trade to exist, there would have to have been agricultural surpluses to trade, as well as to support various classes, including craftspeople, who would not have to perform agricultural labor. The scenes depicted on each side are in 3 rows, similar to a comic book. One side shows scenes of economic life, the other side shows scenes of war.

13. Indus Seal 2500-2000 B.C.—This was a civilization lost to human memory until 1906. This civilization flourished in the Indus Valley (in modern day Pakistan and India) between 3000 and 2000 B.C. We still know very little about this civilization, perhaps because there were no burial sites to excavate, and also because we have as yet been unable to decipher the few scraps of writing from this civilization.

14. Jade Axe 4000-2000 B.C.—This was located in England, and was clearly never used. The mystery was how did jade get to England? Investigators found the exact jade deposit in the Italian Alps from which the jade used to fashion this axe came.

That completes the objects for this week

I also have to review the 4 or 5 books I’ve read so far this year, but right now I’ve got to go cook dinner. Will be back later tonight or tomorrow with book reviews of To Obama, Spring, A Dry White Season, and Old People and the Things That Pass.

Gen 17, 5:37pm

>30 arubabookwoman: I have a copy of the Prose, Deborah. I'll pull it and add it to my "read soon" pile.

Gen 17, 7:43pm

>31 dianeham: and >34 BLBera: Hi Diane and Beth.

First book of the year I finished was a library book, despite my resolution to read more of my own books. This one was already checked out and I started it before the new year.

1. To Obama by Jeanne Marie Laskas (2018) 399 pp

Through-out his presidency Obama asked for the staff to give him 10 letters a day from constituents to read. He replied personally to some of the letters, and directed staff as to how to reply to others. The ten letters Obama read each day through his entire presidency were chosen by the staff of the Office of Presidential Correspondence, which is charged with reading and responding to the president’s correspondence from America’s citizens.

I wanted to read this to get some of the stink of all my Trump reading out of my system. And it is true that there is such a contrast between the two men, and such nostalgia for a decent man as president, a man who cared enough to every day read, hear, and consider the problems of at least ten of the people he governed, people concerned enough to write the president. But this was not a feel-good book. There were very few feel-good letters, no quirky or humorous letters. Instead, most were letters from people facing serious problems.
These were letters from people who often had nowhere else to turn. And often, Obama could only recognize their pain, empathize, but could not solve the problem.

So while there’s probably a lot more people with serious problems now, and we’ve had a president who doesn’t care for the last 4 years, I didn’t get what I wanted out of this book. Which is not to say I wouldn’t recommend it, if you go in with open eyes.

3 stars

Gen 17, 7:46pm

2. The Darling and Other Stories by Anton Chekhov 329 pp

This was Volume 1 of my 13 volume set of Chekhov stories, discussed in >9 arubabookwoman: and >32 arubabookwoman: above.

4 1/2 stars

Gen 17, 8:02pm

This was another library book, unfortunately. But I had to finish the Seasonal Quartet by Ali Smith.

3. Spring by Ali Smith (2018) 314 pp

Richard Lease, a documentary filmmaker is reeling from the death of his longtime collaborator and occasional lover Paddy. He is also struggling to develop for screen a novel imagining an interval of time during which Katherine Mansfield and Rainer Maria Rilke lived in the same small mountain town—did they ever meet? What would they have said to each other? Midway through the book, his life converges with Brit, an aimless guard in an immigrant detention facility and 12 year old Florence, who has a way of speaking truth to power and getting results. As in the other volumes of the quartet, there is little plot, and the narration is nonlinear. But there is a lot going on about contemporary life in Britain, and in this volume much of the focus is on the detention of immigrants and refugees. There’s also a lot of discussion of art, and I once again learned about a contemporary British artist I’d not known of before, Tacita Dean.

That completes my reading of the quartet, out of order, unfortunately. I’m putting all four volumes on my “To Be Reread” list, if I happen to live long enough, to be reread in order. It would be well-worth it.

4 1/2 stars

Modificato: Gen 17, 9:16pm

This one was Off My Shelf (OMS) and off the 1001 List as well. I am going to keep track of OMS books (and Off My Kindle—see next entry) this year. LT says I have 2163 TBR books, and I fear this is accurate to within maybe 10 or 15 books. These are books I own, but have not read. I want to end the year with fewer than 2163 TBR books.

4. A Dry White Season by Andre Brink (1979) 316 pp

“What can I do but what I have done? I cannot choose not to intervene: that would be a denial and a mockery not only of everything I believe in, but of the hope that compassion may survive among men.”

Ben is a white South African school teacher who believes in the essential fairness of his government, until circumstances and the moral choices he must make upend his life. Gordon, the black janitor at the school where Ben teaches, approaches Ben for help when his teenage son Jonathan disappears during the Soweto riots. Ben agrees to help Gordon, and through witnesses they trace Jonathan to the custody of the Special Branch. Within days, however, Jonathan is dead, and the Special Branch denies ever having had him in custody.

Gordon feels compelled to investigate the circumstances of his son’s death, and Ben agrees to continue to help him. Very shortly, however, Gordon is arrested by the Special Branch, and after a short time in custody, Gordon is also dead, an alleged suicide. Now, Ben carries on the investigation, and other deaths ensue, including, as we learn in the opening pages of this novel, Ben’s own.

This book was written at the height of apartheid, just a few short years after the Soweto uprisings. The horrors of apartheid permeate the book in full force. The complicity and willingness of the vast majority of white people to believe the lies their government was telling (I.e. the Soweto uprisings were caused by Communist infiltrators) from a distance of the more than 40 years since this book was written seem almost unbelievable. Yet so many looked away from the government-sponsored murders, and accepted the arrests, harassment, the spying and beatings and torture and even the deaths of anyone questioning the regime.

While this is an important book (on the 1001 list), and is very well written, it does not totally transcend its time. I found that most of the female characters did not ring true. They are the most willing to accept the status quo and believe the government’s lies. The one female character who has some political awareness and courage, Melanie, seems mostly to be there as a love/sex interest for Ben (and there are a few torrid sex scenes I could have done without). Nevertheless, this is a book I recommend.

Parenthetically, the following quote, written in 1979, is one of the earliest mentions of white privilege I am aware of:

“Whether I like it or not, whether I feel like cursing my own condition or not...I am white. This is the small, final, terrifying truth of my broken world. I am white. And because I’m white I am born into a state of privilege. Even if I fight the system that has reduced us to this I remain white, and favored by the very circumstances I abhor. Even if I’m hated, and ostracized, and persecuted, and in the end destroyed, nothing can make me black.”

4 stars

Gen 17, 9:07pm

This one was Off My Kindle (OMK):

5. Old People and the Things That Pass by Louis Couperus (1906) 222 pp

Couperus is an important Dutch author, and this book is a Dutch classic. It features a large Dutch family with elders who had previously lived in the Dutch East Indies. The matriarch, Grandmama, is 97, and is visited daily by a friend from her time in the East Indies, Takma, who is also in his 90’s. Together, they harbor a deep, dark, and violent secret from their time in the Indies 60 years previously.

As the book opens, Takma’s granddaughter Ellie has just agreed to marry Lot, son of Grandmama’s youngest daughter Ottilie, who is on her third marriage, an unhappy one to a man named Steyn. Grandmama’s family is large, and there are close to a dozen other main characters in her children and their spouses (the aunts and uncles), and all the children of the aunts and uncles.

Grandmama and Takma have lived with their secret (“the Thing”) all these years, believing that no one else knows. Over the course of the book, we come to know that this belief is mistaken. Other people know, and as events transpire, more and more people learn the secret. By the end of the book, just about everyone knows, although just about everyone thinks no one else knows.

Couperus cleverly plays with constantly shifting points of view, which he does quite successfully. I enjoyed this book, although I found the writing a bit overwrought at times. Recommended.

3 1/2 stars

Gen 18, 12:01pm

>35 arubabookwoman: To Obama looks like a fascinating book, indeed. Thanks for bringing that to our attention.

Modificato: Gen 19, 12:12am

>37 arubabookwoman:

I've only read Autumn and Winter but so far it doesn't seem that reading these in order is very important

Gen 19, 2:31am

>1 arubabookwoman:
'I noticed that last year in my library reading I was tending to choose "bright and shiney" new books, many of which I found less than satisfactory.'

I've noticed this too. Last year was the first year for many, many years that I had a library card from a library in an English-speaking country and I am extremely grateful for it, but I do think that the shiny-newness of the books that catch my attention isn't always a good thing. I haven't gone as far as you in that I haven't given myself a limit of library books, but it's something I know I'm going to be aware of this year.

I love the Chekov project. That kind of thing wouldn't work for me at the moment, but one day, who knows...?

Gen 19, 3:15am

Wow - you're off to a great start. Particularly enjoyed your Chekhov review. I think the only volume I've read was called The Steppe and Other Stories, but I enjoyed it. Also was inspired by Francine Prose.

Gen 20, 1:33pm

Your Chekhov project is terrific. 13 volumes of stories, goodness he wrote a lot. I read a collection years ago, and now realizing I’m merely read a sliver.

Enjoyed these reviews. The Brink novel on South Africa, A Dry White Season, caught my attention. I have Smith’s Summer on my bedside table. It’s penciled in my 2021 plan.

Gen 31, 3:26pm

Sorry to be so dilatory in getting back here. I've managed to keep up the Chekov and 100 Objects reading fairly regularly, but due to intervening events I did have to miss a few days. But not enough to consider this project a failure, though, and I am still very enthusiastic about it.

>40 rocketjk: Hi Jerry. To Obama was an interesting behind the scenes look at the White House. I wonder if Biden will revive the 10 letters a day practice.

>41 Nickelini: Hi Joyce. I read Winter first, and Summer second. I had heard the order didn't really matter, and that they were stand-alones. However, when I read Summer, there were recurring characters from Winter, and I think I would have missed a lot if I hadn't read Autumn first. Now that I've read them all (out of order) I think I would have benefited by reading them in order.

>42 rachbxl: Hi Rachel. I have so many books on my shelf that I investigated, considered, and purchased, that sit unread, I just want to avoid spur of the moment library books for a bit.

>43 AlisonY: I recall you read the Francine Prose book last year (I think) Alison. I read it a few years back, and loved it, and had wanted to introduce the Chekhov story-a-day ever since.

>44 dchaikin: Dan, I had previously read a couple of Chekhov story collections and some of his plays, but as you say, a mere sliver. Are you planning to read only Summer, or the entire Quartet. Summer was the one I liked the best, and it could be read as a stand-alone, but there is so much there when you read all four books.

Gen 31, 3:43pm


As noted in >9 arubabookwoman:, >32 arubabookwoman:, and >36 arubabookwoman:, I've completed the first volume of my Chekhov set, and my readings this week are from Volume 2, entitled The Duel and Other Stories

1. "The Duel"--At 172 pp, this is actually a novella, and it took me several days to read it. Laevsky is exiled to a southern city by the sea as a minor government functionary with the woman he seduced and stole from her husband. Now he has tired of her, and is scheming to abandon her. Many people in the town despise Laevsky, in some cases for good reason, and we spend most of the story puzzling over who will duel and why.

2. "Excellent People"--Vladimir, who says his "work is Literature," lives with his sister Vera, who one day questions him about the meaning of non-resistance to evil. Vera puzzles the philosophical implications of her question more and more deeply, while Vladimir buries himself in his mundane "work," which Vera views as reactionary and meaningless.

3. "Mire"--a clever retelling of the legend of Circe. Here Susanna, daughter of a wealthy vodka distillers, ensnares men, captivating them with her charms, making them forget their waiting lovers/spouses/families, and keeping them for herself.

4. "Neighbors"--Pyotr's sister Zina has run off to live with Vassitch, a neighboring land owner. Pyotr's mother is in despair, but Pyotr feels helpless to do anything. "And so the whole of life seemed to him as dark as the water in which the night was reflected, and water weeds grew in a tangle. And it seemed to him that nothing could ever set it right."

There's 3 or 4 more stories in this volume, so I should complete it in the coming week.

Gen 31, 4:06pm


15. Early Writing Tablet 3100-3000 BC-Shows the development of writing. The British Museum has more than 130,000 Mesopotamian clay tablets, because, unlike bamboo, paper, and even papyrus, clay lasts. Early writing was "bean counting," though, not literature.

16. Flood Tablet 700-600 BC The story of the great flood goes back far beyond the Bible, and into other societies. What the texts about the great flood do are to describe great forces of nature being controlled by deities.

17. Rhind Mathmatical Papyrus 1550 BC--This is the major source of our understanding of how the ancient Egyptians viewed numbers. This is a set of 84 problems and their solutions, covering everything an Egyptian administrator would have had to know how to calculate. Nothing theoretical here.

18. Minoan Bull Leaper 1700-1450 BC Very little is known about Minoan culture (named after King Minos). This sculpture was made in the bronze age, and because the materials to make bronze had to be imported, we do at least know that the Minoan culture was engaged in rather distant trade.

19. Mold Gold Cape--1900-1600 BC--In 1833, several workmen unearthed this gold cape, then broke it into pieces in order to "share the wealth" so to speak. It took the British Museum 100 years to gather enough fragments to reconstruct this beautiful work. It tells us that at this time, there was wealth and artisanship in Great Britain, at least in the area where this item was found, which was near one of the largest copper mines of the Bronze Age.

20. Statue of Ramesses II 1250 BC-Gazing on this massive sculpture Shelly was inspired to write his perhaps most famous lines: "My name is Ozimandias, King of Kings/Look on my works ye mighty, and despair." Ramesses II ruled for 66 years, and statues like this were how he made the ruled look up to him: He was a "consumate self-publicist" and an unscrupulous one. Kind of like someone who slapped the name "Trump" on a bunch of skyscrapers and golf courses..

Gen 31, 4:26pm

Now to some books I've finished in the last week/10 days. The following is a library book, but I've wanted to know more about D-Day ever since we visited the Normandy beaches a few years ago. It's hard to believe that this book was written barely 15 years after the end of WW II.

6. The Longest Day by Cornelius Ryan (1959) 304 pp

This is the story of D-Day, June 6, 1944, from a few days before (the original invasion date had to be postponed) until just after midnight of the day of the invasion. Told chronologically, and covering all sides, on the allied side, from the supreme commander's headquarters to the enlisted men in the landing boats (so many seasick and vomiting men) to the paratroopers who dropped behind enemy lines during the middle of the night, scattered across the countryside, but with orders to seize control of strategic bridges or disable crucial gun emplacements, all before the assault on the beaches began. There are accounts from the German side as well. Commander of the German forces defending Normandy, Rommel, was on a few days home leave when the invasion began, and many of the other senior commanders in the area were away on training exercises. For many hours after the attack began, the Germans believed the Normandy event was only a diversionary tactic, and that the actual invasion would occur further north. Hitler was allowed to sleep, and was not made aware of the attack until nearly noon. The book also gives us a perspective of the French who had been living under the German occupation for so many years, with accounts from both ordinary French citizens and from members of the Resistance.

The title of the book comes from this quote from Rommel: "The first 24 hours of the invasion will be decisive....The fate of Germany depends upon the outcome...for the Allies, as well as for Germany, it will be the longest day."

I learned a lot from the book. For example, I hadn't previously been aware of the extensive use of gliders in landing men and equipment inland from the beaches in the night before the invasion. The book detailed descriptions on how the landings went on each of the 5 beaches, and how far each landing group had progressed by the end of the day. Of course, casualties were heavy. One of the most moving parts for me when I visited the beaches was the cemetery on the bluff above Omaha Beach.

I read this on Kindle. My only complaint about the book is that I wished for detailed maps so I could better understand the logistics. I think there are newer print copies of this book with this added material, and it would be worthwhile seeking those editions out if you want to read this.

Recommended 4 stars

Gen 31, 4:37pm

Another Library Book, but a quick one:

7. Spring Garden by Tomoka Shibasaki (2014) 154

I enjoyed reading this novella which won an Akutagawa Prize, but I'm not sure what its point was, or what I was supposed to get out of it.

Taro lives in a soon to be demolished apartment block in which only two other units are occupied. One of the other tenants, Nishi, ignites his interest in a nearby house, which is painted sky blue. Two of the previous occupants of the sky blue house had published a book of photographs of themselves in various rooms of the house, entitling the book "Spring Garden." Nishi and Taro insinuate themselves into the lives of the current occupants of the house, to see and compare the rooms in their current state to the way in which the rooms appeared in the book of photographs. Beyond this nothing much happens, until abruptly, and I thought strangely, about 3/4 through the book, it switches to a first person narrative by Taro's sister who comes to visit him.

Despite this, the language is beautiful. It's a glimpse at life in contemporary Japan for a couple of odd characters, but beyond this I don't see a compelling reason to read it. If this description attracts you, it's not necessarily a waste of time. I just didn't get it.

3 stars

Gen 31, 4:50pm

Off My Kindle

8. Olive Again by Elizabeth Strout (2019) 305

"But it was almost over, after all, her life. It swelled behind her like a sardine fishing net, all sorts of useless seaweed and broken bits of shells and the tiny shining fish...."

I was a fan of Olive Kitteredge, and in this one, we explore Olive's old age, and all the indignities that entails. Similarly to the first Olive, the book is structured as a series of interconnected vignettes/stories, many featuring Olive, but a fair number focusing on other residents of the town of Crosby, Maine where Olive resides. In these stories, Olive sometimes makes a brief, peripheral appearance, and sometimes even in these peripheral stories we learn things that advance our knowledge of Olive. I came down on the side of categorizing Olive Kitteredge as a novel, and I felt it made a cohesive whole. I am much less certain that's the case here, and I sometimes perceived the extraneous stories as interrupting a novel about Olive. Even so, I enjoyed reading them, and would recommend the book. And note, if you've read anything else by Elizabeth Strout characters from some of her other books make appearances here, including Isabelle from Amy and Isabelle and the Burgess siblings from The Burgess Boys.

And at the end, Olive typed: "I do not have a clue who I have been. Truthfully, I do not understand a thing."

3 1/2 stars

Modificato: Gen 31, 5:03pm

Off My Shelf

9. The Hour of the Star by Clarice Lispector (1977) 96 pp

This is the story of Macabea, "one of life's unfortunates," a person who is "incompetent at life." She is described as ugly, sickly, stupid, poor and wretched. But she also lacks the self-awareness to know any of this, and accepts what life hands her. The pleasure of this book is the innovative nature of the narration. Macabea's life is described by Rodrigo, with many digressions and asides about where the story will end up and the nature of telling the story of a life. At the beginning, Rodrigo says, "Will things happen? They will. But what things? I don't know that either." Rodrigo also tells us, "I know everything about Macabea because I once caught a glimpse of this girl with the sallow complexion from the northeast. Her expression revealed everything about her."

I'd long heard of Clarice Lispector, but this is the first book by her that I have read. I will be seeking more of her books to read.

Recommended. 4 1/2 stars

Gen 31, 5:16pm

The following is a reread of a book I read several years ago. I had owned it, but gave my edition away in the move, so this is technically a library book. I read it this time for a discussion on the NYRB Book Club on Litsy.

10. The True Deceiver by Tove Jansson

This almost perfect little book is set in an isolated village in the far frozen north, where winter seems eternal and people wake up late because there is no morning. The book focuses on the relationship between Katri, an outcast with yellow eyes, always accompanied by her shaggy dog with yellow eyes, and Anna, reknowned illustrator of children's books, lone resident of "Rabbit House." Katri loves only her younger brother Mats, and sees Anna as the means for obtaining for Mats what Mats wants more than anything in the world, a boat of his own. Over the course of the book, as spring relentlessly approaches, the two women spar, and ultimately they change--themselves and each other. And it remains ambiguous as to who has taken advantage of whom, and we are left wondering who the true deceiver is.

Highly Recommended. 5 stars

Gen 31, 5:26pm

Another Off my Shelf. This, and the Lispector above, were read for a month long focus on Brazilian literature on Litsy.

11. Sea of Death by Jorge Amado (1936) 273 pp

"There's something on the docks that's even worse than the misery of factories, the misery of plantations; It's the certainty that the end will be death at sea unexpectedly some night, suddenly some night."

This is the story of the people of the dockside of Bahia, and their acceptance that if they live by the sea, they will die by the sea. It focuses on the love story between Guma, brave, heroic, and almost mythical, and the beautiful Livia. Between them, it was love at first sight, but Livia was not "of the sea," and could not accept that at any time the man she loved could be taken by the sea.

I've read several books by Amado and have liked them all. He writes of poor people, but people enthusiastic for life. His characters are real, but also mythic. Recommended.

3 1/2 stars

Gen 31, 5:44pm

Another library book. I better cut this out!

12. Fatale by Patrick Manchette (1977) 123 pp

Aimee Joubert began her life as a murderess by killing her husband, and since then she has killed half a dozen other men, always for monetary gain for herself. Now she has arrived at the town of Bleville to scope out her next crime, which begins with her insinuating herself into the lives of the town's elite citizens. By the end of the book, there are a lot of newly dead people in Bleville.

This is a NYRB book, and it is described as classic noir, and I fully anticipated liking it a lot. (I like what I've read of Jim Thompson and James Cain.) But I did not. I found it crude, in the sense of rough and unfinished. There was no elegance in the plotting of the crimes, and Aimee projects merely a sense of ennui and nihilism, as if she is merely letting things happen, rather than causing them. I had another book by Manchette out of the library, but I sent it back unread. I doubt this is an author I'll try again.

2 stars

Gen 31, 5:51pm

That brings me up to date with books completed. I am almost done with the final Brazilian book I chose to read for the Brazilian theme on Litsy, And Still the Earth by Ignacio de Loyola Brandao. I'm also almost through with Outposts by Simon Winchester, a somewhat dated (1984--Hong Kong was still a colony) account of his travels to the remaining "relics" of the British Empire. I'm in the beginning chapters of The Radetzky March and Wolf Hall. I don't know why, but so far this year I have been reading more than one book at a time. In the past, I usually only read one at a time.

Coming up in February, the NYRB Book Club choice is A Month in the Country, and for global reading the country of choice is Vietnam, so I expect to read at least one book by a Vietnamese author.

Gen 31, 6:59pm

>46 arubabookwoman: I read some Chekhov stories in the Russian, when I was studying Russian. I was only barely good enough for this to be worth it, and I am too out of practice, now. I enjoyed that, though.

Gen 31, 9:33pm

>48 arubabookwoman: How history dense is this? I'd love to read more D-day history but the really dense battle heavy stuff I struggle with.

Gen 31, 9:36pm

I love A Month in the Country - one of my favorite nyrb books!

Gen 31, 10:00pm

Hi Deborah - So have you read about 50% library books so far? The Hour of the Star and The True Deceiver both sound good, as well as the Amado, of course. I want to read more by him.

Feb 1, 5:00am

>50 arubabookwoman: That actually annoyed me in the first Olive book. I felt like I didn't get to see as much of Olive as I wanted to.

Feb 1, 1:05pm

>52 arubabookwoman: What a great book, and well worth a reread any day.

>54 arubabookwoman: Interesting about Manchette. I always think I should read him, but maybe not.

Feb 1, 6:11pm

I’m looking forward to reading Olive Again, I think. I had downloaded it a while ago from the library, but my head wasn’t quite into reading it at the time. I’m looking forward to your comments on A Month in the Country. I really enjoyed that one.

Feb 5, 8:46am

What an interesting list of reading, Deborah. That's a lot of writing also! Thanks for taking the time to share it all with us.

Feb 8, 1:15pm

So, just read your Jan 31 posts and this is now on my 2021 ideas list:

- ‪Clarice Lispec‬tor
- The True Deceiver by Tove Jansson
- Jorge Amado

Also cool about the Brazilian theme on Litsy.

Feb 11, 8:58pm

Hi Deborah, What a delight it's been to catch up on your thread! Such interesting reading and reviews.

First off, I'm glad that you are settling in to your new life in Florida. Your condo sounds lovely, and I can picture you surrounded by books and fiber art projects listening to the waves and smiling. Ha, I on the other hand am now the proud owner of a snowblower and think it's a great day to take my niece for a walk if the temps hit freezing!

>10 arubabookwoman: Your 100 objects reading has intrigued me, and I've queued the podcast, although I think the illustrated book might work better for me. Thank you for taking the time to share about the objects.

>48 arubabookwoman: Thanks for the reminder about The Longest Day. It's been on my TBR pile for the longest time and deserves to be read. When were you there? I went five years ago.

>50 arubabookwoman: I was not an Olive Kitteridge fan. I wanted to like the book--Pulitzer Prize winner, set in Maine, curmudgeonly characters--but I wrote this in my review: "My lack of enthusiasm stems partly from an inability to be drawn into the lives of quiet desperation that seem to plague everyone over the age of fifty. Is there anyone in Crosby, Maine who has not had a late mid-life crisis? And is there anyone in Crosby who has a normal, emotionally healthy mother?"

>52 arubabookwoman: I loved Tove Jansson's The Summer Book, and after reading your review, I went online and ordered a copy of True Deceiver. A welcome book bullet.

Mar 5, 5:57pm

Hope you are doing ok. I did purchase and read True Deceiver. Thank you for such a rewarding recommendation.

Mar 6, 12:33pm

Hello Everyone. Sorry to be away so long. Just life. I will try to do better (as I always say).

>56 sallypursell: Hi Sally. I'm amazed that you read Chekov in Russian! The stories are good in English, but I suspect they would be even better in the original Russian.

>57 janemarieprice: Hi Jane. The Longest Day is not very dense at all. It is primarily based on personal interviews and mostly consists of the personal experiences of a variety of those who were there that day. There is some general discussion of strategies, skirmishes, battles, etc., (I would have liked maps), but nothing too technical. Some of it was pretty gory though.

>58 japaul22: Hi Jennifer. We've had our discussion of A Month in the Country. I liked it, but not as much as many people I know did, and definitely not as much as I expected to.

>59 BLBera: Hi Beth. I was a lot heavier than I wanted to be on the library books in January, but in February I read zero library books, (I think), so that was good.

>60 AlisonY: Hi Alison. I thought there was enough of Olive in both books, but I can understand wanting it all to be about Olive.

>61 SassyLassy: Hi Sassy. The True Deceiver is an exquisite book. I know lots of people like Machette, and several of his books have been chosen by NYRB, so don't write him off just on my review of this one book. I may even try one more of his books before writing him off altogether, because in general I like Noir.

>62 NanaCC: Hi Colleen. I hope you get to Olive at some point. In this sequel, the focus is on the perils of aging, as Olive enters into true old age, a subject of personal interest to me nowadays. Re A Month in the Country, as I said above, I liked it, but not as much as I anticipated.

>63 avaland: Thanks for visiting Lois.

>64 dchaikin: Hi Dan. Any one of those authors would be worthy of further study. I was wondering if you had any ideas/plans for after you finish Willa Cather on Litsy. Edith Wharton would be of real interest to me.

>65 labfs39: Hi Lisa. I'm so glad to see you here. Are you missing Seattle as much as I am? I hope your health continues to improve.
So far it's hard to form an opinion about Florida. We continue to self-isolate, and haven't met very many people. My husband loves the weather, but I miss the grey and mist of Seattle.
We were in Normandy in 2016 or 2017 in November. (Can't remember the exact year without checking). I found it extremely moving. The Longest Day is a pretty quick read, and fairly short.
I think I liked Olive mostly because her curmudgeoniness reminded meso much of my grandmother, who didn't tolerate those she considered fools, was opinionated and stubborn, and lots of people found her hard to get along with. But she adored me, her first grandchild.
I'm glad you read The True Deceiver.

Well, I've been continuing my 100 Objects and Chekov readings, but unfortunately not on a daily basis. I am reading them fairly regularly and consistently, so I will call it a success so far. I will report on those next:

Mar 6, 1:21pm


21. Lachish Relief 700-692 BC--this carving showing the Assyrian campaign to conquer the Lachish is one of the earliest depictions of refugees. The mass deportation of conquered peoples was a standard Assyrian practice.

22. Sphynx of Taharqo c. 680 BC--King Taharqo ruled the Kingdom of Kush in northern Sudan. This area was mostly ruled by Egypt, but for a brief period of time while Egypt was fragmented, Kush ruled Egypt. The sphynx is an Egyptian symbol, and this is a classic Egyptian sphynx, except in this case it bears the face of a Black African. It reminds us that the border between Egypt and Sudan is a constant fault line.

23. Chinese Zhou Ritual Vessel 1100-1000 BC--The inscription on this vessel states that the bowl was made for a Zhou warrior who helped overthrow the Shang. Since writings on bamboo or wood have long perished, a lot of our knowledge of ancient Chinese history comes from inscriptions such as this on bronze. The Zhou lasted as long as the Roman Empire, and were the longest ruling Chinese dynasty.

24. Paracus Textiles 300-200 BC--Very few ancient textiles have survived. These fragments, embroidered with brilliantly dyed wool from alpacas or llamas, survived by being buried in dry desert conditions. These embroideries are exquisite and intriguing, but we know little about the culture that produced them.

25. Gold Coin of Croesus 550 BC--King Croesus of Turkey developed a new type of object--coinage, which appeared independently in 2 places around the same time, China and the Mediterranean. The need for something of standardized value arose as trade with "strangers" developed. With standardized coinage, there was no need to question the purity of the metal or the weight, as these would be consistent and controlled, so that the value would be known. The coinage developed by Croesus was used far beyond the realm of Lydia, and gave Croesus great financial power.

26. Oxus Chariot Model 500-300 BC--This was found on the edges of the Persian Empire, part of a hoard of gold and silver known as the Oxus Treasure. From this object, a historian can infer the multi-faith, multi-cultural nature of the Persian Empire.

27. Parthenon Sculpture: Centaur and Lapith 440 BC--(One of the Elgin Marbles). Here a centaur is attacking a fallen Lapith, who were legendary Greek people. This was meant to represent the real life struggles between the Greeks and the Persians, as well as the struggles between Athens and other city-states. It was meant to reinforce the Athenian view of the enemy as "other" or "Centaur World."

28. Basse-Yutz Flagons 450 BC--These were found in northeastern France in 1927, and are the earliest and most important examples of Celtic art. At the time, the northern Europeans had no cities, no writing, no coins, but these objects refute the myth of the Greeks that these northerners were barbarians. Each bronze flagon has at least 120 pieces of white coral embedded in it and there are beautiful carvings on the lids and handles.

29 Olmec Stone Mask 900-400 BC--the Olmec are the mother culture of Central America. They mapped the heavens, developed the first writing, and probably the first calendar. This culture was discovered only after World War I, and very little is known about them. Their writings are still largely undeciphered (only fragments exist).

30. Chinese Bronze Bell 500-400 BC--For Confucius, music was a metaphor for a harmonious society. This bell would have been part of a set. A set of bells, along with an orchestra to play them, would have required wealth and status. At the time, bells would also have acted as weights and measures in China.


31. Coin with Head of Alexander 305-281 BC--This was struck about 40 years after the death of Alexander. Many rulers after Alexander tried to claim the right to rule his empire after his death. Putting his likeness on coinage was one of these ploys.

32. Pillar of Ashoka 238 BC--The tradition of the ruler Ashoka leads directly to the ideals of Ghandi: pluralistic, humane, non-violent statecraft. Ashoka had pillars like these erected all over his empire, and they were carved with text proclamations from Ashoka. There were 7 major edicts, and this is a 6th pillar edict in which Ashoka proclaims he will honor all religious sects. When Ashoka converted to Buddhism, he renounced war as a state policy, and adopted benevolence as a solution to the world's problems.

33. Rosetta Stone 196 BC--This is the most popular item in the British Museum. Ptolemy V issued the Rosetta Stone, which proclaims the greatness of Ptolemy in 3 languages. It was originally dug up by soldiers in Napoleon's army, but turned over to the British in1801. Scholars could read the ancient Greek on the proclamation, and were thus able to decipher hieroglyphics, also on the stone.

34.Chines Han Lacquer Cup AD 4--This was probably given by the Han emperor to one of his high military commanders in North Korea, where this was found. Lacquerware is very time-consuming and expensive to produce. This one is also decorated with bronze and gold inlay. Around the base there are 67 Chinese characters inscribed. These list the 6 craftsmen responsible for making the cup, as well as the 7 inspectors whose job was to ensure the top quality of the cup.

That's it to date. 66 fascinating objects to go, before I will know the whole history of the world. (HA).

Mar 6, 1:34pm

Chekov Readings

"At Home"--a woman returns to her childhood home on the steppe, and finds her life meaningless. "At the same time, the endless plain, all alike, without one living soul, frightened her, and at moments it was clear to her that its peaceful green vastness would swallow up her life and reduce it to nothingness."

"Expensive Lessons"--A man falls in love with the impoverished woman giving him French lessons.

"The Princess"--A princess goes on a retreat to a monastery. She "fancied she brought from the outside world just such comfort as the ray of light or the bird." The monastery's doctor, in a rare moment of honesty, tells her just how awful she is in her treatment and abuse of people, in her self-centered privilege. Can she accept this?

"The Chemist's Wife'--Two officers passing buy the chemist's shop in the middle of the night, remember how attractive the chemist's wife is, and bang of the door. While her husband sleeps, the chemist's wife comes down to serve them.

With these 4 stories, I completed Volume 2, The Duel and Other Stories of my Chekov reading. Together with my comments in >46 arubabookwoman: above, that will be my "review" of book 13 of the year.

13. The Duel and Other Stories by Anton Chekov

Mar 6, 1:56pm

Chekov Readings

I am now reading from Volume 3 The Lady with the Dog and Other Stories.

1. "The Lady with the Dog"--A man vacationing at Yalta begins an affair with a mysterious woman who is always accompanied by a white Pomeranian dob. When he returns to Moscow, he finds that he cannot forget her. "It was evident to him that this love of theirs would not soon be over...." He "could not understand why he had a wife and she a husband; it was as though they were a pair of birds of passage, caught and forced to live in different cages."

2. "A Doctor's Visit"--a doctor is called to the country to tend to the daughter of a factory owner. "Whenever he saw a factory far or near, he always thought how quiet and peaceable it was outside, but within there was always sure to be impenetrable ignorance and dull egoism on the side of the owners, wearisome, unhealthy toil on the side of the workpeople, squabbling, vermin, vodka...."

3. "An Upheaval"--A young governess is mortally insulted when her room is searched after a valuable brooch belonging to the mistress goes missing.

4. "Ionitch"--a young doctor falls in love with "Kitten" and asks her to marry him. She rejects him to go study at the conservatory. Several years later, she returns, and wants him back, but he no longer has feelings for her.

5. "The Head of the Family"--a father treats his young son very badly.

6. "The Black Monk"--Kovrin sees the apparition of a monk dressed in black, who tells him that he is one of the "chosen." He begins to see the black monk regularly, and has long conversations with him. Others see him talking to himself. When he is "mad" he is cheerful and happy, and believes himself to be special. When he is cured, and brought back to reality, he finds himself to be a mediocrity and weary of life. What is the best way to live?

7. "Volodya"--A teenage boy is embarrassed by his mother, in "love" with one of his mother's friends, and failing in school. Too much teenage angst ends in tragedy.

That brings me up to date with my Chekov reading. There are just 2 or 3 stories left in this volume (1 novella length that I am halfway through) so I should finish Volume 3 in the next few days.

Now on to some of the books I read in February:

Mar 6, 2:39pm

14. Outposts by Simon Winchester (1985) 402 pp (From my Kindle)

Subtitle: Journeys to the Surviving Relics of the British Empire

Simon Winchester decided to visit the remnants of the remaining British Empire, and this is the story of his travels, over several years, to those remote outposts. I will say first that I"ve never quite gotten on with Simon Winchester--something about his smugness and attitude of unconscious privilege rubs me the wrong way, and there's a bit of that here. But I was really interested in the topic of exploring these remote places, and decided to read this.

My biggest problem with the book is that it is way out of date, something I should have realized, but did not, before beginning it. It was written in the mid 1980's, when Hong Kong was still a colony, so I can't help wondering what the status of the other places he visited is today. In addition, I couldn't help wondering, as he described these remote places, how accurate these descriptions would be now, nearly 40 years later, and whether these places would even be recognizable today. For example, at the time of his visit, the Cayman Islands were not the overseas financial center for tax shelters they are today. I personally would not recommend this book, but if what the British Empire looked like 40 years ago is of interest to you, go ahead.

Just for informational purposes, here are the British colonies Winchester visited:

1. British Indian Ocean Territory (Diego Garcia)--He didn't step foot on land here, but spent the night on a boat anchored in the lagoon. All natives were evicted by the British, and the island leased to the Americans for a military base. This has led to court proceedings by the natives who want to return to their homeland. Not sure what the status is today.

2.Tristan da Cunha--This remote island was settled by the British military to prevent Napoleon from excaping from St. Helena. Winchester describes it as the "tiniest and loneliest" of the remaining dependencies.

3. Gibraltar--Basically a British naval base. Under a 1970's emigration act, Gibraltans are one of only 2 former British colonies with full rights to emigrate to Great Britain.

4. Ascension Island--Basically a mid-Atlantic volcano, "Earth in its raw state." It was originally classified as a ship, and was settled, like Tristan, to prevent Napoleon from escaping. At the time of Winchester's visit, it was a relay station for the BBC, a cable center, a stopover for the British military on the way to the Falklands, and full of electronic spies and satellite monitoring stuff.

5. St. Helena--in his view the loveliest major outpost, but now an "imperial slum," its need largely ignored by the British government. Once the site of Napoleon's exile, there is now no on-island work for the inhabitants, who frequently go to Ascension Island for months at a time to work.

6. Hong Kong--skyscrapers, bankers and millionaires.

7. Bermuda--British, but utterly dependent on the US. There's a large US military base, and he views it more as an American colony than British.

8. The British West Indies--consisting of the Turks and Caicos, the British Virgin Islands, Anguilla, Montserrat, and the Cayman Islands.

9. The Falkland Islands--Winchester was there at the beginning of the Falkland War with Argentina.

10. Pitcairn Island--settled by the Bounty mutineers. Two supply ships visit it annually, so a traveler's choice is to stay 10 hours (while the supply ship is in port) or to wait 6 months for the next ship. Winchester did not visit here.

2 1/2 stars

Mar 6, 2:58pm

The following was read for Brazilian Lit on Litsy. Off my Kindle.

15. And Still the Earth by Ignacio de Loyola Brandao (1982) 374 pp

"We may not be extinct yet but we're pressing the outer limits."

This is a near-future dystopian novel set in a Brazil in which the rain forest has been totally cut down, and what remains is a desert larger than the Sahara. In the city, water is rationed, and there are "heat pockets" in which anyone who accidently wanders is instantaneously blistered and dies. There are so many people that everyone has a circulation pass that limits where they can go, down to the sidewalk on which side of the street. We experience the horrors of this life through Souza, a former professor, now disgraced for asking too many questions. His life becomes more and more desparate, and his experiences more and more surreal and hallucinatory.

This was a fairly early "climate apocalypse" book, and to that extent it is frighteningly real, but also frighteningly prescient. Refugees surround the city in pauper encampments. Many people show defects and mutations caused by the rampant pollution and ongoing ecological disasters that have become commonplace.

At times the book was almost like a catalogue of everything that could go wrong and how incompetent and even wrong-minded governments, controlled by oligarchs and multinationals, can be in dealing with these crises. To that extent, the book occasionally dragged for me. But there is a definite warning here. I was struck by this:

"Scientists. A minimal, marginalized lot these days....As soon as the System realized that the prognosis was bad, and would make them perhaps look bad in turn, voila: they start an intense propaganda campaign in the press, fostering as much sarcasm as possible, with respect to anything scientific."

3 1/2 stars

Mar 6, 3:18pm

16. Therese Desqueyroux by Francois Mauriac (1927) 157 pp

This is one of Mauriac's most famous novels, and is often studied in schools. It is considered an early "feminist" novel, although Mauriac himself was not a feminist.

As the novel opens, Therese, a young unhappily married woman, has just escaped conviction for the attempted poisoning of her husband, primarily because he refused to provide evidence against her. During her long train ride home, she thinks back on the circumstances of her life, as she tries to come up with an explanation for why she did what she did. Her world was stifling, and she found that she had no control over her own life. She can't understand why she chose to marry Bernard, her husband, or why she did what she did. Unlike Emma Bovary, her literary ancestor, Therese did not do what she did because she wanted another man. Rather, what she wanted was the freedom to explore and to control her own life.

Mauriac states that the events he describes in the book were based on a real case in which a young wife in Bordeaux who had been accused of poisoning her husband was aquitted when her husband refused to testify against her. One thing Mauriac has said he was exploring in the book was evil: "We know that evil is an immense fund of capital shared out among all people, and that there is nothing in the criminal heart, no matter how horrible, whose germ is not also to be found in our own hearts."

This is the second book by Mauriac I have read. I much preferred the first book by him that I read, Nest of Vipers, which I liked a lot. I recognize the merit of Therese, but I somehow did not fully connect with it. I do recommend it though.

3 stars

Modificato: Mar 6, 3:45pm

Off my Kindle.

17. The Teeth May Smile But the Heart Does Not Forget by Andrew Rice (2009) 384 pp

Subtitle: Murder and Memory in Uganda

During Idi Amin's brutal reign in Uganda, an estimated 100,000-300,000 were killed. One was Eliphaz Laki, who disappeared in 1972. Years later, his son Duncan Laki, then living in the US, returned to Uganda to try to figure out what happened to his father. Through luck and investigation, he was able to discover the two men who kidnapped and killed his father, and the former General, a top aide to Idi Amin, who ordered his father's death. The new Ugandan government brought the three men to trial for murder, a trial that went on for years, and which raised issues of justice/revenge vs. reconciliation/forgiveness. This book is the story of Eliphaz's murder, Duncan's investigation, and the trial. Interspersed throughout is the history of Uganda, largely one of warring tribal factions over the years, and how that history influenced the actions of dictators like Amin as well as succeeding leaders. That history also affected consideration of how matters like these brutalities should be remedied.

There is a lot of interesting insight in this book, ranging from the damage colonialism left in its wake in Africa to the ins and outs of a typical African dictatorship to the arcane workings of the Ugandan judicial system. Overriding all is the question of whether those who participated in Amin's regime, at high levels or low, should be reintegrated into their societies or should they be punished, even executed?

A lot of reviews describe this as a murder mystery or police procedural, and that's what led me to purchase this book, but I found this to be a very minor aspect of the book. It's much more an examination of what kind of culture led to a dictator like Amin, and how that culture should deal with the remnants of that regime. To that extent, it may go rather more deeply into Ugandan history and these moral complexities than might be bargained for by a casual reader. Still, this is one I recommend.

"Amin...had an intuitive feel for populist politics...{H}e began sending his famous telegrams, the wildly impolitic missives that alternately amused and horrified the world." He "also had a gift for outrageous publicity stunts."

Remind you of anyone?

3 stars

Mar 6, 4:09pm

Another off my Kindle. Read for Vietnam Lit on Litsy.

18. The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen (2016) 301 pp

This novel is narrated in the form of a confession by a captain in the former South Vietnamese Army, an aide to a General in the former secret police. As he tells us in the opening sentence, "I am a spy, a sleeper, a spook, a man of two faces." Or, as her prefers to see it, he is "simply able to see any issue from both sides," i.e. he is a sympathizer, a member of the South Vietnamese army, and a communist spy.

The novel takes us through the final days before the fall of Saigon in 1975, through the life of Vietnamese immigrants/refugees in the US. The General is involved in plots to return to Vietnam via Thailand with an army to overthrow the communist government now ruling the unified country of Vietnam. There is a lot of anger in this book, and unsurprisingly a lot of brutality. It is nevertheless an important read, and I think a necessary read to open our eyes to the Vietnam War as experienced by the Vietnamese, who call it the American War, as well as a heartbreaking exposition of the refugee experience.

My Kindle version of the book included an article by the author as well as an interview with the author, who came to the US as a refugee as a very young child. The author says his family story "is a story of loss and death, for we are here only because the United States fought a war that killed three million of our countrymen (not including over two million others who died in neighboring Laos and Cambodia)." He continues, "I felt that there wasn't a novel that directly confronts the history of the American War in Vietnam from the Vietnamese-American point of view," and that what was missing was "literature with a more critical take on what the US did in Vietnam."

I have read several books about the Vietnam War from the American pov (The Things That They Carried and Matterhorn, both excellent) as well as a couple from the North Vietnamese pov (Novel Without a Name, excellent as well), and I've long been of the view that the war was a huge mistake (I attended many anti-war demonstrations as a college student) This is the first book I've read from the South Vietnamese pov that made me realize that perhaps even the people of South Vietnam did not support this war, and it definitely exposed the immense damage was done to country, the people killed, the families destroyed, the livelihood and villages gone, the people forced into exile, and so much more.


4 stars

Mar 6, 4:25pm

Off my Shelf. On 1001 LIst.

19. The Radetzky March by Joseph Roth (1932) 352 pp

"They had been born in peacetime and became officers in peaceful drills and maneuvers. They had no idea that several years later every last one of them, with no exception, would encounter death. Their ears were not sharp enough to catch the whirring gears of the great hidden mills that were already grinding out the Great War."

In this 1001 novel, the decline of the Trotta family parallels the decline of the Hapsburg Empire. Carl Joseph's grandfather, Joseph Trotta, saved the life of the emperor at the Battle of Solferino, and for that deed was awarded a baronacy. His father Franz, son of the hero of Solferino, was a government official, leading a staid and emotionally repressed life under the portrait of the Hero of Solferino. Most of the book focuses on Carl Joseph, who joins the army and dreams of saving the Emperor as did his grandfather. Instead, he ends up on a remote frontier outpost, where women, drink and gambling do him in. Over the years as various crises occur in the Trotta family, the Emperor is able to help them out.

There's some beautiful writing her, and Roth skillfully paints his characters. But he does so from a distance, and the characters are all so emotionally stunted, that I found it difficult to connect with the them and their plight. As a portrait about the loss of tradition and order, about a crumbling empire, it succeeds, but I had a hard time sympathizing with any character. They were all far away in another world.

Nevertheless, I don't regret reading this. I feel "improved" by having read it. I've read one other book by Roth Job, and would read more.

3 1/2 stars

Have to go cook dinner now. I'm about half way through reviewing for February. Will try to return later tonight or tomorrow to finish February.

Mar 6, 6:44pm

>67 arubabookwoman: I missed Seattle a lot more when I lived on the panhandle. Then I missed both the landscape and the culture. Now I'm in New England and the conifers, rocky coasts, and snowy winter sports feel similar. But I miss the cultural/intellectual life that I was able to enjoy in Seattle. Rural Maine is lacking that way. I also miss the "green" mindset. Whenever I get too reminiscent, I look at the 10-day weather forecast for Woodinville and feel better. I never enjoyed the grey mistiness like you do.

I'm always impressed by the breadth of your reading. Art history/anthropology, Chekhov, Brazilian lit, French feminism, Uganda, Vietnam War, Austro-Hungarian Jewish novelist. And that's just since I last checked in!

>75 arubabookwoman: The Sympathizer has been on my radar for a while. Your review makes me want to move it up the pile.

>76 arubabookwoman: I have not read anything by Joseph Roth, although I own both Job and Leviathan.

Mar 6, 11:31pm

Great comments, Deborah. I'm always happy to see you've posted. The premise of Outposts sounds great but your point about its being outdated is well taken.

I am adding And Still the Earth to my list; it is a little sad how prescient so many of the dystopias seem.

>73 arubabookwoman:, >74 arubabookwoman:, >76 arubabookwoman: are maybes.

I read The Sympathizer; while I did like the distinct point of view, I had to work to get through it. It could have been the timing. I'll have to look back at my comments.

I hope you continue to be well. Maybe sometime this year, life will get back to some semblance of normalcy.

Mar 7, 1:08pm

>73 arubabookwoman:

It is considered an early "feminist" novel, although Mauriac himself was not a feminist.

Haha, no indeed, he would have been horrified by the idea... He thought Beauvoir was the Devil! Awful things he said about her and other women like that...

I suppose the novelty of having a wannabe murderess and adulteress survive the plot (and even escape prison) misleads some, just as happens whenever a male writer writes from the POV of a female main character.

Curiously, Simenon, of all people, wrote a novel that can be seen as an echo of Mauriac's, La vérité sur Bébé Donge. Of course for Mauriac it's a theological issue of "evil in all of us", while "behaviourist" Simenon takes a microscope to the husband's neglect of his wife, an omission of loving that amounts to sadism without any physical violence. The two writers couldn't be more different and yet both lose sight of the woman's character for similar reasons: they can't take women seriously.

>75 arubabookwoman:

Thanks for the mention of Novel without a name.

Mar 7, 6:32pm

>67 arubabookwoman: I don't know that my Russian was good enough to get the whole nuance. I understood, though. I loved studying Russian. The words are like chewing sound; the letters are lovely. And, like English, it is a highly specific language, which I also love. One can stroll, amble, walk with a purpose, or wander, and the verb chosen makes it clear. There's a difference between walking to get somewhere, and walking aimlessly. I took to it easily, it seemed to me. The grammar is more complicated, both declined and inflected, as in some other languages I can think of. I was pleased to read Chekhov, it was a little laborious for me, but worth the effort.

Mar 13, 12:16pm

>74 arubabookwoman: The teeth may smile sounds quite intriguing, probably because of my read of Kintu earlier this year, also set in Uganda.

Apr 8, 4:37am

I'm happy I've taken the time to catch up. I love the diversity of your reading and found a lot of titles that piqued my curiosity, some that I have meant to read (eg>76 arubabookwoman:) and others that I did not know but are now on my radar.
Thanks for all those detailed and appetite whetting reviews!

Apr 17, 8:14pm

Hi. I'm just catching your March 6 posts and I agree with everything Lisa said in 2nd paragraph of >77 labfs39:. Hope your well and Chekhov continues.

>67 arubabookwoman: I don't know what our Litsy group will do after Cather. hmm. Maybe Edith Wharton is a good follow up. I would love to read Wharton. Not sure I own any of her novels.

Apr 17, 8:53pm

>83 dchaikin: First time I read Age of Innocence was in high school. I’ve read it a few times since. And there’s the Scorsese film too Age of Innocence (film)

Apr 17, 9:48pm

>84 dianeham: oddly, I have a copy of Age of Innocence in my Kindle library. I must have thought about really reading it.

a quick Wikipedia copy and paste (I've heard of three):

The Valley of Decision, 1902
The House of Mirth, 1905
The Fruit of the Tree, 1907
The Reef, 1912
The Custom of the Country, 1913
Summer, 1917
The Marne, 1918
The Age of Innocence, 1920 (Pulitzer Prize winner)
The Glimpses of the Moon, 1922
A Son at the Front, 1923
The Mother's Recompense, 1925
Twilight Sleep, 1927
The Children, 1928
Hudson River Bracketed, 1929
The Gods Arrive, 1932
The Buccaneers, 1938 (unfinished)

Novellas and novelette
The Touchstone, 1900
Sanctuary, 1903
Madame de Treymes, 1907
Ethan Frome, 1911
Bunner Sisters, 1916
Old New York, 1924 (1. False Dawn; 2. The Old Maid; 3. The Spark; 4. New Year's Day)
Fast and Loose: A Novelette, 1938 (written in 1876–1877)

Apr 18, 8:19am

>83 dchaikin: I love Edith Wharton. Years ago I had read Age of Innocence and, being from New England, Ethan Frome, of course. More recently I read House of Mirth and became a fan all over again. Promptly read Custom of the Country and Summer. Her writing is delicious. Some of her books are similar in feel, period pieces set in New York society. Alike in the way Jane Austen's books are.

Apr 18, 1:03pm

I first read Edith Wharton in my first semester of grad school, for a literature course called "Highbrows and Lowbrows." The "highbrows" were Wharton and Henry James. The "lowbrows" were Mark Twain and Theodore Dreiser. It was a book a week (including Dreiser's doorstop, An American Tragedy. When I first had a look at the syllabus, my immediate thought was, "Yikes! I'm in grad school!" Well, I had taken seven years away from academia between undergrad and this Masters Degree program, so that syllabus came as reality check!

Anyway, I very much enjoyed the Wharton novels we read, Age of Innocence, House of Mirth and Ethan Frome. The Twain and Dreiser, too. James' novels I mostly hated.

Apr 18, 2:04pm

I need to get back soon to update my reading. I've been whammied by our getting a new puppy in March. I'm keeping up the reading, since I mostly read at night, but Dulci, our new pup, aka the holy terror, requires a lot of my daytime attention. Our last dog Dante was a pup 19 years ago (he's still with us but lives in NYC with our youngest son), and I don't remember him being this much work. Of course I was a LOT younger then too. But I did want to jump in on all the Wharton love, and hopefully I will find time to update this week.
I read her "biggies"--The Age of Innocence, The House of Mirth, The custom of the Country, and Summer--by the time I was 30, so at least 40 years ago, and I would love to revisit them. I also read Ethan Frome in 10th grade, and got very little out of it. I reread Ethan Frome and Summer within the last 5-10 years, and loved both. Although she's known mostly for her NY society books, both of these have rural settings and impoverished characters. I was amazed by how well she portrays this milieu, so different from her own. I almost like these better than her society books.
About 15 years ago I read The Children, and was blown away by it. The background of this novel are the rich and famous as they flit from one gathering spot for the wealthy to another, in Europe and America, from one affair to another, to marriage and on to divorce. In the foreground, and the focus of the novel are the children of these people, as they acquire various steps and half's and are shunted off to schools and camps and pretty much ignored by the adults. One of the adults, a young man about to become engaged notices one of the "children," a young teenage girl, and becomes obsessed with her. As I was reading the book, I kept thinking of Nabokov and Lolita, and wondering whether he'd read this particular Wharton. I've also in more recent years (since I've been on LT) read a couple of others, The Bunner Sisters, and Glimpses of the Moon I think.
Wharton is one female author I think was sadly overlooked by the Nobel Prize Committee. I would definitely love to participate in a year/year+ group read of her works, here or on Litsy.
Back to Dulci!

Apr 18, 2:53pm

>88 arubabookwoman: Hi Deborah! I've missed your presence on LT, but it sounds like it is for a good, puppyish cause. I will definitely look for The Children. I didn't have that one on my radar.

Apr 18, 5:15pm

>88 arubabookwoman: I was just wondering this morning how you were getting along with the new puppy.

>85 dchaikin: There are quite a few more works than I would have guessed! I've read, and loved, her best known works. I am intrigued by the description of The Glimpses Of The Moon.

Apr 18, 10:38pm

Glad to see you here Deborah. I love Edith Wharton. I think Custom of the Country is my favorite of those I’ve read, but they are all so good. Enjoy the puppy! :-)

Apr 18, 11:12pm

>88 arubabookwoman: well, that was inspiring. Thanks and good luck with your pup.

Apr 19, 11:22am

Ok, Dulci is napping. I am still back in February in my reviews. Let's see how far I can get before she starts getting into mischief.

>77 labfs39: and >78 BLBera: Hi Lisa and Beth. Thanks for visiting.

>79 LolaWalser: Interesting comments about Mauriac. I liked the only other book by him I've read, Nest of Vipers, much more than this one. Fpr me, the feminist element that stood out was not so much that she was not convicted, but that there was a recognition that her wish to control her own life was valid. And thanks for the reference to Simenon. I'm not a fan of his Maigret novels, but I do like most of his other works I've read. That one might be difficult to track down in English, but I'll be on the lookout for it.

>80 sallypursell: Hi Sally. You make the Russian language sound very intriguing.

>81 markon: Kintu looks very interesting. There was indeed a lot about Ugandan history in The Teeth May Smile. I've added Kintu to my wishlist.

>82 raton-liseur: Thanks for visiting Raton!

And thanks to all who contributed to the Wharton love-fest. Is there anybody out there who doesn't care for her?

Well, as I said I'm way behind in reviewing--back into February. And it's mostly due to Dulci. I feel like I'm chasing a toddler around 18 hours a day, and I'm way too old for that. We've also had a few medical issues going on, including more bouts of graft v. host disease (old and new). Nothing too serious at this point, but each visit to the Moffitt Center consumes an entire day...of mostly waiting around.

Re covid, we are both vaccinated, but we were warned that they did not know whether the vaccine would be effective for those with compromised immune systems or on immunosuppressive drugs. Yesterday the NYT had a long article concluding that many immunocompromised people ended up developing NO antibodies after receiving the vaccine. We are very disappointed, as we have just begun planning visits with kids and grandkids again. So this will be a topic of conversation for the next doctor visit (later this week). I think we will ask that my husband be tested for antibodies, and hopefully he will have them. If not, the article mentions possible preventative treatment with monoclonal antibodies. The adventure continues.

I have been very sporadic in my Chekov and 100 objects readings, so I won't report on them this visit. (I did finish Vol. 3 of Chekov though). I'm not giving up, however, and will try to get back into the habit.

On to the books:

Modificato: Apr 19, 11:36am

Off My Shelf

20. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehesi Coates ( 2015 155 pp

This is a long essay in the form of a letter to his teenage son about what it means to be Black in America. A lot of people on LT read it shortly after it was published in 2015 and loved it. I've only just gotten around to reading it, and I feel so much has happened since it was originally published--so many more deaths at the hands of the police (as I write this closing arguments are ongoing in the Derek Chauvin murder trial), as well as the explosion of the Black Lives Matter Movement--that the book almost feels dated.

While I'm glad I finally got around to reading this, I didn't personally connect with Coates's writing style. I expected clarity of style, but found that Coates writes in a literary/poetic style that to me felt forced and unnatural, and did not particularly illuminate his topic or the points he was trying to make. I frequently found myself having to reread to get his point. I know that this book was not intended to be nonfiction in the sense that of informing an audience of facts, but a letter to his son, and hence bound to be emotional. However, I guess I was looking for nonfiction in the conventional sense when I chose to read this book, and I think his message got a bit bogged down in his prose style.

3 stars

Apr 19, 11:57am

Library Book

21. Conspiracy in the Streets by Jon Weiner (2006) 304 pp

This is the book on which the excellent Netflix docu-drama about the Trial of the Chicago 7 is based, and I wanted to read it after watching that film (highly recommended). While the book is informative, it does not provide much more detail or depth than you could glean from watching the movie or living through the events and reading daily news reports (as I did).

The book begins with a brief introduction including thumbnail sketches of the major players, as well as a very brief sketch of the time period--1969--to provide context: the anti-war movement, the Black Panthers, the youth counter-culture, etc. There is a chronology of the 4 days of the Democratic Convention over which the alleged "riots" took place, and a longer, although barebones, chronology of the major events of 1967-75, including the trial, the appeals, the course of the Vietnam War, and Watergate. We also learn what happened to each of the defendants after the trial.

The bulk of the book consists of verbatim excerpts from the transcript of the trial. This is only about 190 pages out of about 22,000 pages of trial transcript. Most of the excerpts are short snippets of some of the more lurid and/or egregious events during the trial. Nevertheless, these excerpts make for very interesting reading, and there's quite a bit that wasn't included in the film. Many celebrities, including Judy Collins, Allen Ginsberg, Arlo Guthrie and Norman Mailer testified.

To be clear, the book is exactly what is is advertised to be: a limited but accurate description of the parties involved, a description of the context in which the trial took place, including the legal issues at stake, and excerpts giving a feel for what went on during the trial. Nothing stellar or exceptional here, but it does the job.

3 stars

Apr 19, 12:21pm

Off My Shelf

22. A Month in the Country by J. L. Carr (1980) 106 pp

This short novella was the Litsy NYRB Book Club book for February.

World War I veteran Tom Birkin arrives in the village of Oxgodby shortly after the war's end. He has been hired to restore (uncover) a recently discovered medieval wall painting in the village church. His wife has left him, and he is suffering from the trauma of the war, although he was not physically wounded. Over the course of a summer, as he takes part in village activities, befriends a fellow veteran, and has a brief, barely there, flirtation with the pastor's wife, he heals.

This was a book I fully expected to love, based on positive reviews and the recommendations of readers I respect. I found it to be competent, but a bit overhyped. The book just didn't particularly shine for me. And I know that the narrator is supposedly looking back from old age into the summer of 1920 when the events depicted took place, but I often did not have the feeling that I was in 1920, viewing things through a 1920 lens. Rather than feeling like real experiences, it felt imagined, and I often just that a modern person is telling me what he thought it was like. Not sure this makes sense. I guess I just mean to say that the book didn't engulf me with its reality.

3 stars.

Modificato: Apr 19, 12:33pm

>95 arubabookwoman: I, too, have what seem like pretty clear memories of those days, although from a relatively young age (I was 13 in 1968). I also enjoyed the HBO movie on the Chicago 7, though while watching it I assumed that liberties were being taken with events, as I always do with biopics and their equivalents. I am interested to know how accurately the movie portrays the relationship between Hayden and Hoffman. I have Hayden's book, Trial, on my history shelf. I will get to that one one of these days!

Apr 19, 12:56pm

Off My Kindle

23. The Tunnels of Cu Chi by Tom Mangold (1985) 353 pp

Subtitle: A Harrowing Account of America's "Tunnel Rats" in the Underground Battlefields of Vietnam

"Not only were they confronting an army of moles, but they had to deal with them in mole holes, perhaps the most extraordinary battleground the American soldier would ever encounter."

During the Vietnam War American soldiers would be amazed that the Viet Cong could appear, engage in fire, and then fade away. This was due in large part to the networks of underground tunnels in which they hid, and even lived, sometimes for years at a time. In the Cu Chi area, which is a far suburb of Saigon, the tunnels were part of a complex of tunnels stretching from Saigon to near the Cambodian border. There were hundreds of miles of tunnels, connecting villages, serving as storage for weapons caches as well as providing hiding places for the soldiers. Some of the tunnels contained hospital wards and even operating rooms. There were workshops to build booby traps and other weapons. There were conference rooms and entertainments stages. (One chapter of the book reports on a North Vietnamese troupe of entertainers who lived in the tunnels in the south for years, entertaining the soldiers.)

Many of the tunnels were built during the time of the struggles with the French, and by the time the Americans arrived in 1965 there were more than 200 kms of tunnels. At first, the Americans discovered, and attempted to destroy the tunnels on an ad hoc basis. Soon, however, the need for a better strategy arose, and the "tunnel rats," a all-volunteer group of soldiers, was formed. They were charged with entering the tunnels when they were found, routing out inhabitants of the tunnels, and destroying the tunnels. Much easier said than done.

The tunnels had evolved as a natural response of poorly equipped guerillas facing a technologically superior enemy. The CuChi tunnels were in a free fire zone near a major US base, and were used for infiltrating Saigon. The Tet Offensive was planned and executed from these tunnels.

The book is told from both sides, primarily through interviews and descriptions of those who experienced the tunnels, on both sides of the conflict. There is almost more information from the North Vietnamese point of view than the American, since many of the American tunnel rats were reluctant to discuss their experiences. This was a fascinating read, and it definitely gives one a clear sense of why the United States could never have won the Vietnam War.

3 stars

Modificato: Apr 19, 1:03pm

>98 arubabookwoman: Cu Chi was an area that my husband spent quite a bit of time in when he was serving in Vietnam. His description of those tunnels was scary.

Apr 19, 1:19pm

>97 rocketjk: Hi Jerry. I don't know about the relationship between Hoffman and Rubin, which I am sure evolved over time and went through phases. I'll look for Haydn's book. On the whole, I think the major facts in the movie, and book, are true, although as I said they chose the most lurid and controversial points of the trial to dramatize. I'm sure there were a lot of very boring trial days.
From the news report at the time, I remember being outraged by many of the judge's rulings. However, at the time, I don't recall any hint that the judge was anything but a very conservative, perhaps reactionary judge. In the movie, there are definite hints that he was senile, and definitely vindictive.

>99 NanaCC: Hi Colleen. Wow! I'm sure the descriptions were indeed very scary! I can't imagine having the job of a tunnel rat: going into a dark confined underground space where people are hiding to throw a bomb at you or shoot you.

Apr 19, 1:23pm

Off My Shelf

24. The Lady with the Lapdog and Other Stories by Anton Chekov

See >70 arubabookwoman: for report on most of the stories in this book. I have a couple of more to report on, which I will do in my next Chekov post, whenever that comes.

Apr 19, 1:38pm

Off My Kindle

25. The Birds by Tarjei Vesaas (1957) 226 pp

"Now it is Night.
"What can you do when everyone around you is strong and clever?
"Will never know."

Mentally deficient Mattis lives in a cottage by a lake with his sister Hege who supports them by knitting. She occasionally sends Mattis out in search of work as a farm hand, which he dreads because he knows he is different, and will not perform up to par, no matter how hard he tries. He frequently feels people are laughing at him.

One day Hege suggests, and Mattis agrees, that he work as a ferryman on the lake. He begins to spend his days at "work" in his rowboat on the lake, although there are never any passengers. Until one day there is. Mattis ferries Jorgen, a lumberjack, across the lake, and Jorgen becomes a boarder with Hege and Mattis. Soon Mattis begins to fear he will lose Hege to Jorgen.

This entire beautiful novel is narrated from the pov of Mattis, and Vesaas does a masterful job of channeling the mind of someone who sees the world in an entirely different way than most people. We see all Mattis's thoughts, experience nature through him, as well as sensing scorn from other people. I loved this book. Recommended for all.

4 1/2 stars

Apr 19, 2:05pm

>102 arubabookwoman: this sounds wonderful, Deborah. It definitely goes on my list.

You are doing great at reading from your shelves. I started off well but got distracted by those shiny new library books...

Too bad your other reading has been OK, not stellar.

I appreciated your comments on the Coates book. I've started it a couple of times and never got very far. He certainly doesn't compare to Baldwin, which was my point of reference.

Apr 19, 2:20pm

And with that, I am up to March.
Off My Kindle

26. Coming of Age in Mississippi by Anne Moody (1968) 434 pp

This is an unforgettable and powerful autobiography of growing up poor and black in rural Mississippi. Anne Moody was born into poverty in rural Wilkinson County Mississippi in 1940. She got her first job at 9 years old. A few weeks before she entered high school, Emmet Till was murdered a few towns down the road. "Before Emmet Till's murder, I had known the fear of hunger, hell, and the Devil. But now there was a new fear known to me--the fear of being killed just because I was black." "But I didn't know what one had to do or not do as a Negro not to be killed."

In high school she learned it was dangerous to even ask what the NAACP was. Nevertheless, after graduation she attended a black college and began participating in civil rights organizing activities. She participated in the first lunch counter sit-ins in Jackson, and she also participated in voter registration efforts. Her family begged her to stop her activities, telling her she was trying to get every Negro in her town murdered. Wilkinson County where she was born and raised was considered too "tough" at the time for organizers to tackle. Members of her family were in fact murdered, and she learned that she herself was on a KKK hit list.

She was at the rally after which Medgar Evers was assassinated. The book ends in 1964, when she is on a bus on the way to DC to attend Congressional hearings and attend a rally with Martin Luther King. The people on the bus are singing "We shall overcome," and Anne ends the book, "I WONDER. I REALLY WONDER." The book was written in 1968, when she was only 28. I finished the book hungering for more information about her life, and I learned a bit from Wikipedia, but unfortunately she did not write another book.

This book brought home to me in a way that was personal and visceral the dangers faced by those working in the civil rights movement in the south in the 1960's, and the atrocities of the Jim Crow era. I knew it was bad, but it was so much worse that I imagined, and I admire these heroes so much. Senator Ted Kennedy called it, "A history of our time seen from the bottom up." Everyone should read this book.

5 stars

A personal note. Anne was born and raised in Wilkinson County Mississippi, where the towns of Woodville and Centreville are located. I have family ties in the area. My grandparents lived across the border from Wilkinson County in Louisiana, West Feliciana Parish. Neither my parents or I have ever lived there, but we visited every few years from Aruba, including during the mid-1960's when all this was going on. I had no idea at the time--I was young, but still.

As it turned out, my husband and I got married by a Justice of the Peace in Woodville Mississippi. We were students in New Orleans, and were going to get married while my parents would be visiting in the US for a few weeks so they could attend our wedding. However, when we went to get the Louisiana marriage license, the state needed my birth certificate, which was in Aruba, and in Dutch, and we couldn't get it in time to coincide with my parents' visit. So we got the marriage license in Mississippi, where you needed nothing, and got married there. It was just a short drive from my grandparents' house.

And in 1961 my aunt married a man from Woodville. Her husband, my uncle, was born, like Anne Moody, in 1940. He graduated from high school in Woodville, like Anne Moody, though they went to so-called "separate but equal" segregated schools. I can't help but wonder if he or his friends were among the white high school boys who taunted the black high school girls. There certainly didn't seem to be any sympathetic white people in those towns at that time. The fact that I know these places made this book all the more horrifying and powerful for me.

Apr 19, 2:27pm

>103 BLBera: Hi Beth. If you've never read anything by Vesaas you are in for a treat. I also loved his book The Ice Palace.

Re the Coates book, I had to force myself to keep reading it. I was so disappointed, as many people on LT gave it high ratings. I haven't read Baldwin in years, and I think I've only read his fiction. Is there a particular NF by him you would recommend?

Modificato: Apr 19, 2:52pm

Library Book

27. Lineup by Liad Shoham (2013) 320 pp

A young woman is raped. A few days later, her father who is sitting in his car outside her apartment "guarding" her, notices a suspicious man lurking between parked cars. Convinced this is the rapist, the father follows the man, learns his address, and surreptitiously takes his photograph. Using the photo, the man convinces his daughter that the man is the rapist. The police arrest the man after the young woman picks him out of a lineup, having been coached by her father.

Of course, the arrested man is not the rapist, but for reasons that become clear over the course of the novel he cannot account for his presence lurking on the street near the victims apartment. Ultimately, however, the rape charge is dropped, since once the police become aware that the daughter's lineup identification was defective, there is no other evidence. But once released, the arrested man will have to contend with some very bad guys who fear he may have revealed to the police the reason he was lurking on that street.

For the first two-thirds this Israeli thriller is a page-turner--a well-plotted police procedural. Then it simply falls apart. It is as if having set up the device of "an innocent man arrested" the author suddenly realizes once the innocent man is off the hook, he's got to come up with someone somewhere to actually be the rapist. So he just pulls one out of the blue. That really didn't make sense.

In addition, the author also seems to suddenly remember he has to resolve the issues surrounding the arrested man's refusal to tell the police why he was lurking on the victim's street, which, SPOILER ALERT, is going to involve an additional crime. Now, this additional crime was a pretty bad one, certainly one deserving of punishment. But the author seems to feel that the man wrongfully arrested for the rape deserves a happy ending. So not only does he get off for the crimes he was engaged in while lurking, his wife, who had divorced him, comes back and they all live happily ever after, and all the other bad guys die excruciating deaths. I found the last third of the book, as the author was attempting to resolve all the issues he created to be bizarrely unbelievable.

Not recommended.

2 stars

Apr 19, 3:07pm

Library Book

28. The Survivors by Jane Harper (2021) 314 pp

Harper is pretty hit or miss for me. Of the 3 I've read, I really liked 1, liked 1, and disliked 1. A large part of the appeal to me is the outback Australia settings. This book has a different setting, a Tasmanian beach town where the ocean is cool and treacherous, but I really enjoyed the setting here too. Unfortunately, the mystery is substandard, and the solution is facile and unbelievable, so this is not one I recommend.

Kieran, his wife Mia and their infant daughter have returned to Evelyn Bay, their hometown, to help Kieran's parents, who must move due to his father's worsening dementia, pack up. Early on we learn that Kieran's older brother and another man had died in a tragic accident during a severe storm 12 years previously, an accident for which Kieran blames himself and for which some people in town also blame him. During the same storm, Mia's best friend Gabby, then 14, also went missing. Gabby's body was never found, but her backpack washed up on shore and she was presumed drowned.

When Bronte, a waitress (and artist) is found murdered a few days after Kieran and Mia return to town, we can assume that the murder and the mysterious events in the storm 12 years previously are going to be connected in some way.

I originally planned to put in this review why the solution here is so stupid, but I won't. If you want to know, I can write it in a PM. Suffice it to say, the actions and motivations the author relies on as the solution to the mystery are not credible or believable, and as a motive for murder simply underwhelming. For me, this is a fail.

2 stars

Apr 19, 3:12pm

I looked up Coming of Age in Mississippi and it was very inexpensive for kindle, so I picked it up. Thank you for the review!

I felt the same as you about the Ta-Nehesi Coates book. It was too lyrical for the topic in my mind. I also LOVE Tarjei Vesaas. But, unlike you, I was one that absolutely loved A Month in the Country.

Apr 19, 3:24pm

Library Book

29. The Factory by Hiroko Oyamada (2019) 95 pp

The factory is a sprawling institution in a parklike setting in an unnamed Japanese town at which many of the townspeople work. This novella follows three workers who are hired at the factory at about the same time. Yoshiko is a college graduate, but this is her fifth job, which doesn't bode well for her career path. Instead of a permanent position, she is offered a contract position in "staff support." She will spend her days shredding paper. ("document destruction). Furfue was a post-grad student studying mosses when his faculty advisor practically forces him to take a position at the factory. He is hired to convert the roofs of all the buildings at the factory into "green roofs," something he insists he knows nothing about. He advises his superiors that he only knows how to classify mosses, and doesn't know any practicalities. He is told to take his time and learn. He is the only employee in his department, and spends his days walking around the campus identifying different mosses. He is well-compensated. The final employee we meet is a temporary employee in the document division whose job is to proof read documents. The documents are inane, don't appear to relate to anything (no one knows what the factory makes) but the job must be done.

Although Kafkaesque and absurdist, this is all related in a straightforward manner, at least until the end. I actually quite enjoyed this.

Some quotes:

"Maybe it's not such a bad thing to have a job you can master from the first day."

"From my second day on the job,...I never had to use a single brain cell."

"Who wrote this stuff? For what audience? To what end? Why does it need to be proofread at all? If these are all factory documents, what the hell is the factory? What's it making? I thought I knew before, but once I started working here, I realized I had no idea. What kind of factory is this?"

3 stars

Will have to stop here for the day. Only 3 more books to go before I catch up with March though.

Apr 19, 3:28pm

>108 japaul22: Hi Jennifer--I think that's how I acquired Coming of Age in Mississippi--cheap Kindle deal. But I'm very glad I did. And I waited several years, maybe 6 or 7 years before finally reading it. I hope you don't wait that long!

And I'm glad I'm not the only one to have that reaction to Between the World and Me. I was almost afraid to write the review, it seems so universally loved.

Apr 19, 4:53pm

>110 arubabookwoman:

Speaking as someone who was deeply struck and moved by Coates' book... I find "loved" a strange term to apply to a book like that. It's not an exercise in pretty creative writing and it's not a journalistic piece either such as Coates wrote for The Atlantic, generically it is closest to a polemic and a manifesto--it's emotional, impassioned, devastated and devastating. I think whites ought to feel pain reading that book, I think it should hurt us, tear at us, make us profoundly uncomfortable. So, "loving" it or not is IMO beside the point.

It's been years since I read it but, for instance, I feel like a scar one memory of it, an instance when Coates writes of what black bodies are subject to, even such helpless small bodies like that of his five-year-old son--this is not something that's somehow better expressed packaged as reportage, as data, as "racist incident number so-and-so". At the same time, he isn't fictionalising it, he is telling us what happened to him and his son, and he shows his pain and fury as he well should and as whites should feel too.

Baldwin is the more gifted writer but the point is that Coates is speaking now, to us his contemporaries, in our moment, about what is happening right now, in our streets. He's not in a literary or intellectual contest with Baldwin and, frankly, it seems to me that any such focus serves only to abstract the problem and distract white consciences from what he is shouting at us about what we are doing now.

Modificato: Apr 19, 5:40pm

I think you took down a couple semi-classics. Coming of Age in Mississippi and The Birds sound terrific. Enjoyed these (thanks Dulci)

Eta - i don’t remember this Coates enough but it seems i saw a little of the different perspectives here. I did like how this book was in dialogue with Baldwin, especially The Fire Next Time. And, Deborah, that’s the nonfiction Baldwin to read, if you only read one (but you won’t get a sense of the special fiction writer he was from his essays.)

Apr 19, 6:33pm

The Fire Next Time is the collection of Baldwin essays that I have most recently read, Deborah. Did you read We Were Eight Years in Power? I loved that one; I think I was expecting more along those lines in Between the World and Me. What's also interesting about Coates' essay collection is that you can see him improve as a writer over the years. The last essays are so much better than the first ones.

Apr 22, 11:16am

>111 LolaWalser: Hi Lola. You are right-"love" is the wrong word. I meant to say that it is highly rated on LT, most readers had very positive reactions to it, and many, like you, were deeply moved by it.
I agree whites "ought" to feel pain and devastation and be uncomfortable on reading about the black experience in America. I agree on moral grounds, but I also have personal reasons for expecting to connect to this book. One of my daughters is married to a Filipino, and their children, my grandchildren, are dark-complexioned. I have no doubt that in a few years, when they are teenagers, if they were to be pulled over for failure to put on their turn signal, or whatever, to a white policeman they would look the same and be treated the same as Ta-Nehisi's son.
My lukewarm reaction to the book had nothing to do with the black experience, or my failure to recognize the author's obvious love for his son.
It may have been a matter of having the wrong expectations about it, since I did expect something more in the nature of narrative nonfiction. But my main issue was that his prose didn't work for me. I don't think I'm a particularly unsophisticated reader, but I found myself constantly having to reread sentences or whole paragraphs to understand what he was trying to say.
About the same time I read Coates's book, I also read Coming of Age in Mississippi by Anne Moody, her autobiography about growing up poor and black in the south and her work in the early civil rights movement in Mississippi. Although she is describing experiences several decades prior to those in the Coates book, her book gave me a real gut punch, moved me to tears, devastated me and blew me away in a way that Coates's book did not.
But we all have different life experiences and are all different readers, so we can't all have the same reaction to every book. I definitely respect you and the other readers who were so moved by the book, but it was not a book that had that effect on me. I know I am an outlier in this.

Apr 22, 11:19am

>112 dchaikin: Thanks, Dan. I will look for The Fire Next Time.
>113 BLBera: Thanks Beth. See my response to Dan above, and I will also look for We Were Eight Years In Power.

Apr 24, 1:10pm

>114 arubabookwoman: I really appreciate your thoughtful response, Deborah. The last two essays, especially, in We Were Eight Years in Power are great.

Coates actually is forcing the comparison to Baldwin because his Between the World and Me is a response to Baldwin's The Fire Next Time. And, of course, when an author does that, he runs the risk of being found lacking.

Modificato: Apr 27, 3:54pm

>114 arubabookwoman:

No problem, mainly I wanted to note the whys and wherefores of opposite experience (that is, one such, my own).

>116 BLBera:

Yes, Coates has mentioned often enough his debt to Baldwin and as I said above, I happen to find Coates lacking in comparison--generally speaking. But--and this is a somewhat subtle point that I'm afraid may get distorted if it appears insisted on*--certainly not in a degree that would warrant foregrounding that lack (supposed and subjective, in any case) when it comes to topics of such burning urgency as the ongoing racist injustices.

(*If I'm trying to explain it, which may come across as "insisting", it's not because I think someone is necessarily out to deliberately obscure and trivialise Coates' message.)

Baldwin's essays are superb and ought to be read and re-read, certainly. But the special import of Coates' book is that it comes from and in this, our moment. It means that we are STILL living in a society as racist as Baldwin's, and it's THIS that in reading Coates' book we must acknowledge, it's this we must face.

So, Baldwin's a better writer?--not something that's difficult to agree on. But what Baldwin can't tell me is that Coates' friend was killed for "driving while Black" by a cop barely a decade or so ago, or that Coates' five year old got shoved in his presence like a piece of furniture by some random white bitch recently enough for the memory to sting white hot at the time of publication. Not to mention all the accrued complexities in thinking about racism intersectionally, and the historic weight of the decades that are now between us and Baldwin's death (to say nothing of the Civil Rights era). My point is that, while Baldwin absolutely ought to be read, he can't be read INSTEAD of Coates. Which is what unqualified comparisons of the two seem to entail, logically.

I think that's twice I said the same things, so I hope I've been at least clearer. Sorry for taking so much space, Deborah. :)

Maggio 30, 3:01pm

Wow, Deborah I had a lot of catching up to do on your reading.

I didn't read any further in the Jane Harper books after the first one, which I liked well enough. Perhaps, I felt I had too many other fish to fry.

Modificato: Giu 13, 10:02pm

>102 arubabookwoman: Putting The birds by Vesaas on my wish list. It sounds as if I might like this author, not just this title.

>104 arubabookwoman: Glad you liked Anne Moody's Coming of age in Mississippi. I think it depicts the horrors of racism in the south AND the difficulties of fighting it in a visceral way. Your take is interesting because of your personal connection to the place as well.

As to the discussion of Coming of age and Between the world and me, thanks to both you and Lola for articulating/clarifying your points of view.

As an aside, I was astonished after reading the Moody's book several years ago (thanks to the controversy over The help) to discover that the urban library system in Georgia where I work had only one copy, and that one in awful shape. I was able to persuade my manager to get a new copy, and it is now available for purchase and at our library in electronic & audiobook as well as paper. (Not sure it was available in those formats when I read it.)

Ago 6, 10:38am

I've been gone ages. Life gets in the way of LT, but since it doesn't seem things are going to miraculously clear up, I might as well try to visit more regularly and plow on. I've read lots, so don't know how I'll do trying to catch up. I do the reviews mostly for me, because I find I remember books I've read so much better when I right something about them, and I occasionally enjoy looking back at what I wrote about a particular book years later.
Thank you all for visiting. >119 markon: The reason I bought Coming of Age in Mississippi in the first place was that I saw it described as an "antidote" to The Help, which I found fluffy and unrealistic. Since I read The Help when it was first published, you can see it took me years to get to.
Most of what's going on in my life relates to my husband's health. Although the transplant cured the cancer, 2 years post-transplant I think we are just going to have to accept that there will be continual ongoing health issues. Thankfully most are not life-threatening (just time-consuming). Dulci (the puppy) is still a lot of work. She is the fifth dog we have had in our married life (all raised from pups), and of all, the most demanding. She wants someone to be playing with her all her waking hours. I just wanted a lap dog. Oh well. She is settling down a bit.
The latest going on in our life is that after the bldg collapse in Surfside, our condo association decided to have a structural engineer inspect our building. We are an 11 story beachfront condo building built in the 1980's. In mid-July, the structural engineer found 6 of the building columns in severe distress, and deemed it an emergency, although evacuation was not required. The building has now been shored up, and repair work will begin soon. The association does not yet know the cost, but there will be a hefty special assessment to the condo owners to cover these costs. The issue of deferred maintenance in condos all over Florida is one that is now coming to the forefront. Condo owners all over, including, as we have found in our own building, have refused to do or put off necessary maintenance for years, and it's now time to pay the piper. We have had our eyes opened about condo living. One of the reasons we bought a condo was because we didn't want to have to maintain a house. In a condo, you have to drag 80 other owners along with you screaming and kicking to do necessary maintenance. Anyway, my husband is an architect, and the board here was floundering, and they have come to rely on his expertise and advice in these matters, so I think our condo is getting on the right track. However, once all these matters are resolved, I'm not sure how long we'll continue with condo living. Florida itself is getting to be a bit much. DeSantis is doing everything he can to extend the pandemic--he just mandated that schools can't require masks, and any school that does can lose its state funding. I don't think we'll head back to Seattle, but at some point we may move further north along the east coast.
Enough babbling. Let me discuss books. I'm going back to books read in March. I want to comment on all the books I've read (may take longer than today), so for some books I may only say a sentence or two.

Modificato: Ago 6, 11:51am

Off my Kindle.

30. Tragedy of the Street of Flowers by Eca De Queiro 346 pp

I've loved the two other books by de Queiro I've read, The Maias and The Crime of Father Amaro, but this one not so much. It was discovered in manuscript form after the author's death, and was not published until 1980. Perhaps there was a reason it was unpublished in his lifetime.
The focus of the book is 19th century Portuguese society, and in particular relations between men and women. Genoveva, a beautiful courtesan, shows up in Lisbon, and becomes the focus of attention of many men. She becomes the mistress of one, and is deeply loved by another, the somewhat innocent Vitor. There are hints about Genoveva's mysterious background as she manipulates the various men swarming about her. Most of the men are pretty horrible. For example, here's Vitor's good friend, a painter, describing his wife, "She's the ideal woman for an artist. She's stupid and passive. She eats, obeys, takes her clothes off. She's just a body that takes orders. She doesn't bother me or interrupt me, doesn't speak to me, she's just there. When I need a female I call her."
I didn't find much depth or insight in this book, although some of de Queiro's descriptions were razor sharp. I liked this one, stating that a particular society man "had the imbecilic opinions of a mannequin, but he expressed them with majestic certainty."
Please read The Maias if you want to experience de Queiro.
2 1/2 stars

Modificato: Ago 6, 11:52am

Off my Kindle.
I read this for the NYRB Book Club on Litsy.

31. The Hearing Trumpet by Leonora Carrington (1974) 183 pp

Beginning as a simple tale of some of the indignities of aging, this soon veered off into the surreal and magical, but in a way that I thoroughly enjoyed. 92 year old Marion lives with her son, her son's wife, and the wife's son. She is deaf and eccentric, and they barely tolerate her. Soon after the book opens, they place her in a home for elderly women where Marion becomes involved with assorted other eccentrics. Each lives in a separate building, one shaped like a birthday cake, one like a mushroom, and so on. Things become more and more bizarre.
The book was very funny. Carrington writes very well, and is a wonderful prose stylist. This is definitely a unique book, and one I will long remember.

Here are some snippets of "Marionisms" I enjoyed:

"Sleeping and waking are not quite as distinctive as they used to be, I often mix them up."
"People under seventy and over seven are very unreliable, if they are not cats."
"I do not wish anyone to think my mind wanders far, it wanders, but never farther than I want."
"I am never lonely....Or rather I do not suffer from loneliness. I suffer much from the idea that my loneliness might be taken away from me by a lot of mercilessly well-meaning people."
and finally,
"At times I had thought of writing poetry myself, but getting words to rhyme with each other is difficult, like trying to drive a herd of turkeys and kangaroos down a crowded thoroughfare and keep them together without looking into shop windows. There are so many words and they all mean something."

4 stars

Modificato: Ago 6, 11:52am

Off my Kindle.

32 Terra Nullius by Clare Coleman (2018) 320 pp

When we first begin reading this book, we may think we are reading a tale of early 20th century Australia where natives are subdued and controlled by "settlers." Their children are taken from them and brought to orphanages to be trained as servants for the settlers, with tragic consequences.
But no, this is science fiction, not historical fiction, and it is science fiction being used to comment on European colonization of other parts of the world in centuries past. Its twist is what brought so much hype to this book, and I was really looking forward to reading it. Although the premise was clever, when all is said and done, the execution is not special. In fact, at times, it devolves into simply a "chase" novel, with an evil settler/tracker chasing an escaped native servant and constantly being outwitted (or maybe the author was trying to evoke the Ned Kelly legend.) Episodes of near-capture and narrow escape became repetitive and went on much too long.
I don't NOT recommend the book, but I do think it is overhyped.

2 1/2 stars

Modificato: Ago 6, 11:53am

That completes my reading through March, and I now begin April:

Library Book

33. Indelicacy by Amina Cain (2020) 178 pp

Described by Amazon as a "feminist fable," this is the tale of Vittoria, a cleaning woman at a museum who wants to write about art, her reactions and thoughts on art. She marries a rich man, and has everything she wants, including time to explore and write about art, yet she is still unhappy.
This was not the book for me. There is no sense of place (and I'm coming to realize a sense of place in a novel is a very important element for me). There's a lake, she walks everywhere, there are museums and theaters, but it's not a city. I thought maybe it was set in Europe or South America, but the author is American. Nothing happens that makes any difference to anyone. We know Vittoria is dissatisfied with the marriage, but we have no sense of her character, how or why she married this rich man, what their relationship was, or is. She leaves the marriage to "find herself," but in the end the whole novel seemed pointless to me.

Not recommended.
2 stars

Modificato: Ago 6, 11:55am

Library Book

34. The Sound of Waves by Yukio Mishima (1956) 194 pp

I thought I had read this book before, but I don't think so. I will definitely be seeking out more to read by him.

This is the story of first love in a small Japanese fishing village. It was not at all what I expected--there are characters the reader cares deeply about, and in the end, the good guys win. And along the way, we learn about the lives of the fishermen and pearl divers in this small village.
Shinji, a young fisherman on Uta-Jima Island falls in love at first sight with Hatsue shortly after she returns home to her father, the wealthiest man on the island. Rumor has it her father is looking for a suitable husband for Hatsue, and whoever is chosen will inherit his businesses. Shinji recognizes that because of his poverty his chances of winning Hatsue are slim. The only thing in his favor is that Hatsue seems to love him in return.

Highly recommended

4 stars

Ago 6, 11:53am

>124 arubabookwoman: Thank you for that. I keep picking this up -- the cover intrigues me -- and now I know to leave it at the bookstore.

Modificato: Ago 6, 11:57am

>126 ELiz_M: Hi LIz. I'm glad I got it at the library. One Amazon reviewer pointed out that if you want a novel about a woman finding her true identity, there are many much better books out there.

Modificato: Ago 19, 3:25pm

Library Book

35. The Wife of Martin Guerre by Janet Lewis (1941) 137 pp

I've wanted to read this book since I saw the movie decades ago, so I immediately checked it out when it showed up on my library feed.

Based on an 1874 legal history, this short novel describes the events leading to a legal dispute in 1539. Martin Guerre is married to Bertrand, and after an argument with his father, with whom he owns and manages a prosperous farm, he takes off for a break. Bertrand expects him to be gone a few months at the most. Instead, he is gone eight years. When he returns, everyone accepts him as Martin Guerre, but after a while Bertrand begins to suspect otherwise--he is too "nice" to be Martin. Bertrand begins legal proceedings to have him declared an imposter.

The focus of the book was on Bertrand's state of mind. It did a good job of putting the reader into a 16th century mindset, and the characters were well-developed. Although it might seem fantastical that a woman might not recognize her husband, the story was plausible and well-told.


3 stars

Ago 6, 12:16pm

>120 arubabookwoman: I found your "babbling" to be very interesting! Babble away. And good luck with ALL of that!

Ago 6, 12:22pm

Great books! I'm sorry life has been piling on, though I'll admit to being envious of the puppy.

Ago 6, 12:23pm

Off my Kindle

36. Tango For A Torturerby Daniel Chavarria (2007) 341 pp

When Aldo, a wealthy former Argentinian now living in Italy is visiting a friend in Cuba, he recognizes the man who had tortured him and caused the death of his fiance. Aldo begins an elaborat scheme of revenge, unbeknownst to the torturer, utilizing the aid of his newest love, Bini, a happy-go-lucky prostitute.

This book is cleverly plotted, and kept me, as the reader, constantly guessing as to where it was all going. It's a fast moving thriller, but also a fascinating look at life in (near) contemporary Havana. I really liked this book, and highly recommend it if it sounds like your thing.

3 1/2 stars

An interesting sidenote about the author: he was a former Uruguayan revolutionary who hijacked a plane to take him to Cuba in 1959 where he lived for the remainder of his life.

Ago 6, 12:35pm

>129 Nickelini: & >130 lisapeet: Thank you both!

Librrary Book

37. Fun Home Alison Bechdel (2007) 232 pp

I don't often read graphic novels/memoirs, but for years I've heard about how good this is. In fact, I thought I had already read it, because in my mind, I had somehow confused Alison Bechdel and Roz Chast, and somehow thought Can We Talk About Something More Pleasant?, which I have read, was this book. I now know better.

I loved this graphic memoir about growing up with a father who is a closeted homosexual and a mother who is deeply unhappy, as well a coming to terms with her own sexuality. The drawings are wonderfully expressive, though simple, and convey so much. The text is exquisite, true, and abounds with literary references for us bibliophiles. The book deserves all the hype. If you are one of the few who hasn't experienced this yet, READ It.

5 stars

Ago 6, 12:36pm

I’m glad to see you back, Deborah. Life does have a way of getting in the way sometimes. I moved into a condo a little over a year ago. It is brand new construction, so I’m hoping things stay in good shape for a while. So many of the people have dogs, and I’ve thought about it, but when I see them walking them in the snow or pouring rain, I think I can just admire theirs.

Ago 6, 1:19pm

>133 NanaCC: Hi Colleen. We have always had a dog, but had to give up our dog when the transplant process began. Our youngest son took the dog (it had originally been "his" dog). The dog was 17 at the time. He just died earlier this year at age 19 (we had previously decided he would remain with our soon, even though we were cleared to have a dog again). I'm not sure if I'm finding this puppy particularly difficult because I'm in my 70's now and just didn't remember how hard a puppy is to train, or because she's a particularly willful dog. I suspect it's mostly the latter, but we are adjusting, and love her dearly.

Library Book

Slowly working my way through Maggie O'Farrell's back catalogue, though I wasn't particularly a fan of Hamnet'

38. The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O'Farrell (2013) 288 pp

"We are all, Esme decides, just vessels through which identities pass: we are but features, gestures, habits, then we hand them on. Nothing is our own. We begin in the world as anagrams of our antecedents."

Iris is stunned to learn that she has a great-aunt who has been institutionalized for more than 60 years. The institution is closing its doors, and is seeking a relative to accept responsibility for the great-aunt (Esme).
Esme was a normal, vivacious, and only slightly rebellious and individualistic, but even that was too much for her parents who committed her to the institution at age 16. Even Esme's beloved older sister Kitty was complicit.
The book is highly readable. There's an interesting backstory about Esme's and Kitty's childhood in India under the Raj, their return to Scotland after a family tragedy, the attempts to marry the girls off, and the circumstances that kept Esme locked up. Nothing earth-shattering in the book, but a decent read.

3 stars

Ago 6, 1:32pm

Library Book

39. The Hospital: Life Death and Dollars in a Small American Town by Brian Alexander (2021) 310 pp

Journalist Brian Alexander was given unprecedented access to the inner workings of a small town Ohio hospital. He had multiple interviews with staff, including the CEO over an extended period of time, ending after the first summer of covid. Stories of multiple patients are also covered. The book focuses on the crisis in healthcare--Obama Care has helped a lot, but has by no means ended the crisis. But Alexander also uses the hospital as a lens to focus on some of the larger problems in our society, primarily poverty, the loss of good jobs, and income inequality, which, not surprisingly have a huge impact on many ongoing health issues. One phrase in particular stood out to me: "new capitalism is killing people." Studies have shown that the decline in the health and longevity of Americans has been abetted by deliberate government policies: "People in states that passed labor, wage, environmental and health laws that were often opposed by ALEC (funded by the Koch Brothers et al) and business interests lived longer than people in states who adopted ALEC-like policies."
But this is not a dry polemical. It is a fascinating look into the ongoing crises in health care, with lots of stories about interesting and dedicated people.

Highly recommended.

4 stars

Modificato: Ago 6, 2:07pm

Library Book

40. After: A Doctor Explores What Near-Death Experiences Reveal About Life and Beyond by Bruce Greyson

The author is a psychiatrist who began studying near death experiences (NDEs) almost by accident after a patient's unexplained experience. He is a serious scientist and has tried to use the scientific method for all his research. He created a "scale" for NDEs in order to try to study these experiences in a more standardized way. He has published articles in JAMA and other scholarly publications. The research he describes in this book is fascinating.

What was most interesting for me was the research differentiating the "mind" from the "brain." The association between the mind and the brain is a scientific fact, but the interpretation that the brain creates the mind is not. In fact, such a connection between the brain and the mind breaks down in extraordinary circumstances such as NDEs. There are many hypotheses to be explored regarding the brain/mind connection, including that the brain is a device for the mind to act more effectively on the physical body.

There are lots of questions remaining. The author ends by stating that, "If you take only one thing from this book, I want you to appreciate the transformative power of these experiences to change peoples' lives."

Recommended if the subject interests you.

3 stars

Modificato: Ago 6, 2:22pm

Another book for the Litsy NYRB Club
Off my Shelf

41. Skylark by Dezso Kosztolanyi (1923) 222 pp

Mother and Father live in a small provincial Hungarian town, and have devoted their lives to their daughter Skylark. Hope springs eternal that a husband will be found for Skylark, but there is no getting around that fact that she is plain, perhaps ugly is not too harsh a description.
Toward the end of one summer at the turn of the century, Skylark goes away to visit relatives for a week. During Skylark's week away, Mother and Father start enjoying life again, living it up, eating in restaurants, going to the theater. Will the changes they make prevail after Skylark returns?
This is a delightful book, but also a bittersweet book, funny and sad at the same time. We had a great discussion on Litsy. I have 2 more books by Kosztolanyi on my shelf, and hope to get to them soon.

Highly recommended.
4 stars

That concludes my April reading, so now I will start with the May books.

Ago 6, 2:29pm

Library Book

42. Bitter Wash Road by Gary Disher (2013) 321 pp

This is the first of the Paul Hirchhausen, small town outback police constable, trilogy, but the one I read last, not realizing it was a series. Paul has been demoted from detective in a large city to constable in the small outback town of Tiverton, where he faces a myriad of crimes, small and large. As in the other books in the series, Disher leisurely introduces us to the town and its inhabitants using some of Hirchhausen's more mundane duties and the small crimes he has to investigate. The main case is that involving a troubled teenage girl whose body is found by the side of the road. Is this a case of an accidental hit and run, or has there been a deliberate murder.
In this book we meet several characters who recur in the later books and who become important in Hirchausen's life. This was a fine start to the series, but I liked the later two in the series better. I'm not sure if any further entries are planned, but if they appear, I will be first in line to read them.


3 stars

Ago 6, 2:43pm

Library Book
Another graphic memoir

43. Solutions and Other Problems by Allie Brosh (2020) 528 pp

So after liking Fun House so much I decided to try another graphic memoir (or perhaps "graphic essays" describes this book more accurately). The illustrations here are a lot less realistic than Bechdel's--Allie Brosh portrays herself as a rabbit-like creature with a stick-up pony tail (looking like a single rabbit ear) and goggley, frog-like eyes, no nose and a Kermit-like mouth. And there's lots more text than in Bechdel's work, usually not contained within the comic-like frames.

I was totally drawn into this, and read it quickly. There is a lot about loneliness and human relationships. There's some funny, and totally accurate pieces about our relationships with dogs, and many acute observations about our fears and just how we live today. The book is supposedly comic, and I laughed out loud many times, but it's poignant and sad as well. There was a totally on-point piece about Allie having a minor disagreement with her husband in the grocery store, that escalated and escalated (over basically nothing), and ending with her shouting the ultimate insult to her husband: "You can never again buy bananas!" For some reason that really hit my funnybone.
Her author description worried me a bit: "Allie Brosh lives as a recluse in her bedroom in Bend, Oregon. In recent years, she has become almost entirely nocturnal."


3 1/2 stars

Ago 6, 2:49pm

Library Book

44. Picture This by Molly Bang (1991) 151 pp

Subtitle: How Pictures Work

This short treatise by famed children's book author/illustrator Molly Bang was a fascinating explanation, detailed but not didactic, of how and why the simple illustrations she devises work--how simple shapes and a limited color palette can produce powerful images, as well as how the illustrations enhance the story line and evoke reactions in readers.

Praised by the likes of David MacAulay, and used for students at the Rhode Island School of Design, this is an excellent book for anyone interested in art and illustration, and I highly recommend it.

4 stars

Modificato: Ago 6, 3:07pm

Library Book

45. Life With Picasso by Francoise Gilot (1964) 487 pp

I think I've said more than once on LT that I can't stand celebrity memoirs, but I think I will have to make an exception for this memoir by Picasso's second wife (or was she his third? can't remember). I liked it a lot, because she focuses on the art. There is a lot of insight and information on Picasso's art, as well as his bombastic personality. It was during their marriage that Picasso began experimenting with ceramics, and I had not previously been aware of Picasso's ceramics.

Gilot was an art student herself when she became involved in Picasso's circles immediately prior to WW II, and in later life became a serious artist in her own right. There's not a lot of "celebrity" gossip, though of course there is lots of information about other artists of the time. I particularly enjoyed learning about Matisse, and how different his personality style was from Picasso's. The two enjoyed a friendly rivalry.

Recommended for those interested in art.

4 stars

Modificato: Ago 6, 3:31pm

Library Book

46. The Night Always Comes by Willy Vlautin (2021) 224 pp

If you've read Willy Vlautin you know he writes of society's downtrodden, those living on the underbelly, usually working hard scraping together a living, but unable to make ends meet, unable to catch a break, but decent, kind human beings. The characters in this, his latest novel fit that mold. Lynette lives with her mother and her older brother who is mentally disabled in a rundown house in Portland. Their landlord has decided to sell, and has offered to sell to them at an unbelievably low price since the house is in such poor shape. Lynette can just afford it if her mother chips in, and her mother has promised to jointly purchase the house with her. Then at the last minute, her mother reneges and Lynette spends the next 2 nights and days desparately attempting to pull together the funds to salvage the deal.
While this is a typical Vlautin set up, I found that as a whole the book did not achieve the standards of the previous books I have read by this author. The characters did not come to life. Instead of dialogue among the characters, the characters make speeches delineating the ills of society that Vlautin is attempting to expose. This makes for a very weak, and frequently boring novel.
While I cared for Lynette, and there's a strong story here, this is just not Vlautin's best work. He's trying too hard to make a point, rather than tell a story.

2 stars

Well I'm up to book 77 in my reading to date, so that means I have 31 more books to cover to catch up. But this is about all I can do for today.

Ago 6, 3:37pm

Hi Deborah - I'm glad you are well and in a condo that hasn't collapsed. With all the Florida news lately, I've been thinking about you. The governor is an idiot. I think post-transplant life must be a challenge.

Great comments - I've added a few to my WL. I'm reading Bechdel's latest right now, The Secret to Superhuman Strength, which is also very good. If you liked Fun Home, you will probably also like Are You My Mother.

Ago 6, 3:38pm

Congrats on reading and passing 75!

Ago 6, 3:47pm

Good to see you back. I admire your catching up. Sometimes it seems we get so far behind that a catchup becomes impossible, which naturally leads to getting further behind.

>121 arubabookwoman: Interesting about this Eca de Quieros. I read The Crime of Father Amaro and thought his females somewhat flat, but really liked his social commentary.
Have you read The Sin of Abbé Mouret?

>122 arubabookwoman: Sounds like a lot of fun - something else to add to my ever growing NYRB tbr pile!

>131 arubabookwoman: I need a diversion - will look for this.

Looking forward to more of your reading.

Ago 6, 5:42pm

Greetings! Congratulations on the deft catch-up. You've been reading lots of interesting books. Sorry to read about all of life's complications for you. I can understand wanting to get out of Florida. All the best.

Ago 19, 11:39am

Well, I had intended to resume my catchup fairly quickly, but then we ended up having to go to the Moffitt Center 4 times last week. It's about an hour away, and there's a lot of hurry up and wait time there, so these excursions frequently turn into all day events. We've also been involved with the hiring and negotiating contracts with the structural engineer and the contractor for the column repair work. My husband is an architect, and he's been involved all along, but he happened to mention to the Board President that I was an attorney (no longer practicing), and I got dragged in. Very time consuming, but resolved for now. The building is now shored up, with 900+ shoring posts, so I'm assuming it's safe for now. The repair work and rebuilding columns will begin as soon as the permit is approved, hopefully within a couple of weeks. It will take somewhere between 8-12 weeks to complete. There will be other work in addition to these columns, however. This is just the "emergency" work. The structural engineer was hired to inspect the conditon of the entire building and all its systems. His report will be provided to the board in about 2 weeks. The Board will then determine what work to prioritize and when to do it. I suspect that my husband will be involved in finding contractors etc. to do the additional work, but it keeps him busy. I was dreading him having nothing to do in retirement, though he is still doing work for his Seattle firm on a limited basis.
In covid news, school started for our 2 grandsons here in Florida last Wednesday. Their school district did not have a mask mandate, though our grandsons wore masks. On Monday, the 4th day of school our 8 year old grandson was sent home because he was exposed to covid. He himself then tested positive for covid. Thankfully, so far he has no symptoms, but the whole family is quarentining. We read in the paper that as of Monday 8000+ students in the school district had covid or were in covid quarentine. On Tuesday, the school board had an emergency meeting, and instituted a mask mandate. (A little late I'd say). There were a few other school districts in Florida that had put in a mask mandate from the beginning, and DeSantis has already begun steps to financially punish them. It may already be in the courts, so we shall see how it goes.

>143 BLBera: >144 BLBera: Thanks Beth. I will look for Are You My Mother (I always think of the children's book with the same title when I see that title). I had started The Secret to Superhuman Strength, but it didn't draw me in and I sent it back to the library. Guess I don't want to even read about exercise, much less do it.

>145 SassyLassy: I liked The Crime of Father Amaro a lot too, but my favorite was The Maias. Have you read that one? I did read The Sin of Father Mouret. I found it to be the most atypical of the Zola's I've read--dreamy and surreal with pages and pages of description of the paradisical garden.

>146 rocketjk: Thanks Jerry. Florida is getting to be a bit much. See my covid remarks above. DeSantis gets worse by the day. After the move from Washington to Florida, I never wanted to move again, but another move is becoming a more probable option by the day.

Now to continue the catchup:

Ago 19, 11:53am

Library Book

47. Memorial by Bryan Washington (2020) 318 pp

This book had a good premise: a young gay couple, Mike, a Japanese-American, and Ben, Black, are in a steady but shakey relationship, living together, but not sure whether to remain a couple. Then Mike's Japanese mother arrives for an extended visit on the same day Mike is living for Japan to take care of his estranged father who is ill. Ben is left to deal with Mitsuko, Mike's mother.
The novel is told in basically two parts, one from Ben's point of view in Houston as he questions his relationship with Mike and potentially starts new relationships, all the while in uneasy "roommateship" with Mitsuko. The second part involves Mike in Japan, attempting to come to terms with his father, trying to decide whether to move to Japan to take over his father's restaurant, and also potentially starting new relationships.
I can tell the book is very well-written, and it has won lots of awards. But I don't know if so-called gay "Rom-Com" is for me. First, there is lots of explicitly described gay sex. I'm not a prude, but this was so unnecessary. The book is also not at all romantic, nor is it a comedy. Instead, I view it as the story of a failed relationship. The parts I liked best were those involving the relationships of Mike and Ben with their fathers. In both cases, the relationships were strained, there were long periods of estrangement, but they were working toward reconciliation. Ben's clash of cultures with Mitsuko was also interesting.

2 1/2 stars

Ago 19, 12:07pm

Library Book

48. Ex Libris: Books to Read and Reread by Michiko Kakutani

I don't have much to say about this. I read these kinds of books looking for new books/authors to explore. I didn't note anything entirely new to me, but I jotted down a few books/authors I'm familiar with/have read that she made sound really interesting so that I may attempt to seek them out to actually read (or in some cases reread).

One interesting thing she noted was that regarding The Handmaid's Tale, Atwood decided that she would include nothing in the novel "that had not already happened." It might be interesting to do a reread of the book through that lens. I had read it when it was first published (in the 80's??) and viewed it as science fiction. When reread it in the early 2000's (George W. Bush era), it seemed much more real. In the present day, Kakutani states, "When many of us read THT back in the 80's the events Atwood described as taking place in Gilead felt like the sort of alarming developments that could only happen in the distant past or in distant parts of the globe. By 2019, however, American news reports were filled with real-life images of children being torn from their parents' arms, a president using racist language to sow fear and hatred, and reports of climate change threatening life as we know it on the planet accelerating."

3 stars

Ago 19, 12:17pm

Library Book

49. Think Like An Artist by Will Gompertz

Subtitle: How to Live a Happier, Smarter, More Creative Life.

No review here, I will just list the characteristics he says you need to make you think like an artist:

1. Artists are Enterprising.
2. Artists Don't Fail (Lots of trial and error) "Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple...and pretty soon you have a dozen." Steinbeck
3. Artists are seriously curious.
4. Artists steal. "Copying requires some skill, but zero imagination. No creativity is required, which is why machines are so good at it. Stealing is an altogether different matter. To steal is to possess. And taking possession of something is a much bigger undertaking. The item becomes your responsibility: its future is in your hands."
5. Artists are skeptics.
6. Artists think big picture and fine detail. They have an eye and an ear for both the major and the minor. "There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept." Ansel Adams.
7. Artists have a point of view. This is what you say, not the way you say it, which is style.
8. Artists are brave.
9. Artists pause for thought.
10. All schools should be art schools.

Ago 19, 12:22pm

Library Book

50. Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh (2013) 369 pp

Since I enjoyed her Solutions and Other Problems, see >139 arubabookwoman: I took this earlier book by Brosh out of the library. A lot of the reviewers on Amazon were disappointed with Solutions and Other Problems and liked this one more. I liked Solutions and Other Problems much more than this one.
If you follow her blog (I don't) be aware that a lot of the pieces in this book had already appeared on her blog.

Modificato: Ago 19, 2:28pm

Library Book

51. Hollow Man by Mark Pryor (2015) 274 pp
(couldn't find correct touchstone)

Dom is a DA in Austin He is excellent at his job. He is also a psychopath (or as he prefers to describe himself, a sociopath). He does his best to hide his condition--trying to fit in with others, who he calls "empaths." Of course, there was that incident when he was a teenager when he killed someone in a hunting "accident." But mostly he has taught himself to fit in, that is until one day circumstances lead him to fall in with a group planning to commit the perfect crime.
I (mostly) enjoyed this book, but I have one big problem with it. It is narrated in the first person by Dom, which could have been fine, and I found his voice authentic. But as the plot evolves, there are events that are presented as mysterious (and unexplained to Dom our narrator), but as the novel advances we come to learn that Dom really knew about these things all along, perhaps even did these things. I like novels with unreliable narrators, but this goes beyond that. Dom is telling the story, and it doesn't make sense and isn't realistic for him to describe events he knows all about as if he is just discovering them for the first time.

2 1/2 stars.

That completes my reading through May. On to June!

Ago 19, 12:44pm

Library Book
52. Fraud by Anita Brookner (1992) 268 pp

"I had become what people wanted me to be....I decided not to be that person anymore....I rather think I have stopped being one, a fraud I mean. Fraud was what was perpetrated on me by the expectations of others. They fashioned me in their own image, according to their needs. Fraud, in that sense, is alarmingly prevalent."

Anna has devoted her life to caring for her invalid mother. Her social circle is small--her mother's few friends, and her mother's doctor, who her mother fantasizes that Anna will one day marry. Several months after Anna's mother's death, the doctor (married to someone else, a fact Anna hid from her mother) realizes that no one has seen or heard from Anna for weeks, even months. The police are brought in, though there is no evidence of foul play.

The book opens with Anna's disappearance, and most of the book is the long flashback describing Anna's life with her mother. This is not a crime novel, but an exquisite character study of a woman who has lived her entire life subjugating her needs to the wants of others.


3 1/2 stars

Ago 19, 12:55pm

Library Book

53. Lost in Translation by Ella Frances Sanders (2014) 112 pp

This subtitle of this book describes it as an "illustrated compendium of untranslatable words from around the world." I won't review it, just list a few of my favorites:

Mangata--the road-like reflection of the moon on water. Swedish
Pisan Zapra--the time needed to eat a banana. Malay
Glaswen--a blue smile, aka a sarcastic smile. Welsh
Komorebi-sunlight that filters through the leaves of trees. Japanese
Kummerspeck--"grief-bacon"; the excess weight from emotional overeating. German
Boketto-gazing vacantly in the distance without really thinking of anything specific. Japanese
Trepverter-a witty comeback you think of only when it's too late. Yiddish
Feuillemort-the color of a faded dying leaf. French
Warmduscher-someone who will only take a warm, not hot, not cold, shower; i.e. a wimp. Geman
Murr-Ma-searching for something in water with only your feet. Wagiman (Australia)
Drachenfutter--the gift a husband gives his wife when trying to make up for bad behaviour. German.
Kabelsalat--the mess of tangled cables we all seem to accumlate. German
And one we can all relate to:
Tsundoku-leaving a book unread after buying it. Japanese

3 stars

Ago 19, 12:59pm

>153 arubabookwoman: I've not read this particular Brookner. I have a weird relationship with her as a reader - her books can be quite depressing, but yet there's something that draws me back to her often times as an author. I think it's just that she's a fine writer.

Ago 19, 1:02pm

Library Book

54. Slough House by Mick Herron (2021) 247 pp

"When they went on about sixty being the new forty, they forgot to add that that made thirty-something the new twelve."

The latest installment of the Slow Horses series, which I love. Many of our favorite characters are back, and this one focuses on the privatization of secret ops and the manipulation of the news media. As per usual, witticisms abound. Unlike some of the others in the series, this one ends with a cliffhanger, so we know there will be another entry to the series, and must wait patiently.

3 1/2 stars

Ago 19, 1:06pm

>155 AlisonY: Alison--I find a peculiar sameness to many of Brookner's books/characters--the unmarried, middle-aged women. I read several of her books many years ago, probably the 1990's, early 2000's, then stopped reading her. I only picked this up because I recently read a favorable review somewhere, probably here on LT. It was good, but not earth-shattering, and it didn't make me feel the need to delve into any of her remaining unread books, at least at this point.

Ago 19, 1:08pm

>149 arubabookwoman: Thanks for this review. I have The Handmaid's Tale on my "longish shortlist." (I'll be reading it within the next year or so, I guess, finally, for the first time.) Having this perspective in mind while I read will add depth to the experience, I think.

>153 arubabookwoman: I read Fraud many years ago, long enough ago that I had little remembrance of its subject matter, though I have a clear memory of enjoying enough to lend it out to a couple of friends. Your review puts me in mind of perhaps rereading it sometime.

Ago 19, 1:20pm

Library Book

55. The Lamplighters by Emma Stonex (2021) 352 pp

Around 1900, three lighthouse keepers at the Flannan Isles Lighthouse in the Outer Hebrides mysteriously vanished without a trace. Relief crews found the door closed, the clock stopped, and the men's weather gear hanging on their hooks. The mystery as to what happened to the men remains unsolved today.
In this recent novel, the story of the disappearance of the three lighthouse keepers has been transported to the 1970's and to a lighthouse off the coast of Cornwall. In chapters alternating between the 1970's and the 1990's, focusing alternately on the three men at the lighthouse and on their families as a new investigation seeks to solve the mystery of what happened to the men.
While I found the solution arrived at to be less than stellar, and while I also didn't particularly care for the family conflicts and stories of their afterlives, I really enjoyed the parts of the novel that focused on the life and duties of the lighthouse keepers. I've always been fascinated by lighthouses (I grew up within sight of the the lighthouse at Colorado Point on Aruba--unfortunately no longer there), and often daydreamed of living that solitary life on a remote island. (Wouldn't want the danger, though). The book is also masterful in its poetic descriptions of the sea, its power and majesty.

3 stars

Ago 19, 1:26pm

>158 rocketjk: I'll be interested to see what you think of The Handmaid's Tale when you read it Jerry. I think it will hold up well. I was extremely disappointed by the sequel, The Testaments, when I read it shortly after it was published. I found it to be a sort of YA post-apocalyptic adventure story.

Ago 19, 1:34pm

Off my Kindle:

56. Telephone by Percival Everett (2020) 233 pp

"Some people are just no good at being happy. And by some people, I mean me."

Zach Wells, a geology professor, finds his life crumbling when his beloved daughter begins suffering from a mysterious illness. One day,as he puts on a shirt newly ordered from eBay, he finds stashed in a pocket a note seeking help. Thus begins his quest to find the note's author, and to see what he can do to help.

This book thoroughly engaged me. What Zach finds on his quest brings us right into today's headlines about human-trafficking, but in addition the book is a masterful exploration of grief and how we handle grief.

After finishing the book, I read on Amazon that there are 3 versions of the book, though I'm not sure how they differ, and I'm not sure which version I read. I won't be seeking other versions of this book to read, but I will be seeking other books by Percival Everett to read.

4 stars

Ago 19, 1:48pm

Off my Kindle
1001 List

57. Cost by Roxanna Robinson (2008) 444 pp

"Her parents were drifting away, locked in a losing struggle with their bodies, their minds. The tide was going out."

Julia, a divorced art professor, is spending the summer at her Maine house when it becomes apparent that her younger son Jack has descended into the hell of heroin addiction. The novel follows Julia and her family's journey as they attempt to rescue Jack. The story, told from alternating points of view of the various family members, including Julia's parents, her father a cold and controlling retired neurosurgeon, her mother in the beginnings of Alzheimers, her ex-husband, Jack's older brother, and Jack himself, is a devastating one. It is not easy to read, and people more knowledgeable than me state that it paints an accurate description of the dirty side of an addict's life and what it is like to go through withdrawal an rehab, and of course how rarely rehab is successful. The focus is not entirely on the addict, however, but how addiction affects, and sometimes destroys, the entire family.

This is an excellent book. "Enjoyable" is not the word, but it is a book definitely well-worth reading. My only complaint is that Julia at times seemed too naive, too willing to accept Jack's lies and deceptions, and she took entirely too long to accept the reality of Jack's addiction. But, I suppose that's what a mother's love would do.

4 stars

Ago 19, 1:58pm

Off my Kindle

58. This House of Grief by Helen Garner (2014) 248 pp
Subtitle: The Story of a Murder Trial

This is an Australian work of True Crime that some have compared to In Cold Blood, though I would not go that far. Robert and Cindy married young and quickly had 3 children. They separated, at Cindy's insistence, when the youngest was not yet two. Cindy was ready to move on, and had a new boyfriend. Robert was not ready to let Cindy go.

On Father's Day 2005, Robert spent the day with the three children, ages 10,7,and 2, doing the usual things, lunch at a fast food place, a stop in a store to buy a Father's Day present. In the early evening, as Robert is driving the kids home to Cindy, his car plunges off the road into a dam. Robert escapes from the car, but the three children drown. After an investigation, Robert is charged with the murder of the three children, the allegation being that Robert drove the car off the road deliberately to punish Cindy. Overall, the question presented was whether this was a suicided attempt, an attempt to punish Cindy, or a tragic accident.

Helen Garner, a novelist and a journalist, attended the trial(s), interviewed some of those involved, and ponders these questions, as she tries to come to grips with what happened. Can there ever be any explanation of whether or why a father, who seemed to truly love his children, would murder them?

3 stars

I am about half way through June's books now, but will have to stop, probably for the day.

Ago 20, 7:22am

Great reviews as always, Deborah. Several of the books you read sound interesting, but I'll only plan to read Telephone for now.

Of the novels by Percival Everett I've read I particularly liked I Am Not Sidney Poitier (4½ stars) and Erasure (4 stars).

Ago 20, 1:40pm

>160 arubabookwoman: Thanks! I'm planning on reading both, though it will be a bit before I get to them, and will of course report fully to one and all! :)

Ago 20, 4:43pm

>147 arubabookwoman: I haven't read The Maias yet although it is on the TBR.

>153 arubabookwoman: >157 arubabookwoman: I feel somewhat the same about Brookner. I often reach the end of one of her books wondering why I read it, then realize over time it made an impression. However, when I moved four years ago, I left some of her books behind, having decided I didn't need to read anymore of them due to that sameness. Fraud looks like it might change my mind back again.

>154 arubabookwoman: Fun.

Ago 20, 10:37pm

>161 arubabookwoman: The different versions was a hot topic of discussion among the followers of the Tournament of Books in which it competed. One woman made a spreadsheet where she mapped the differences between the texts. The differences are subtle, just word choices making the narrator more or less empathetic, with changes to some events -- the final scene with his daughter, for example, changed as did the outcome with the women.

I read an interview with Everett in which he discussed how even when we read the same book, we pull different things from it and experience it differently, so how would it be if a book club unknowingly read different versions of the same book? Anyway, you can tell most easily which edition you have on the isbn code on the back cover -- there will be an a, b, or c indicating the version.

I have tremendously enjoyed every book by Everett that I've read, but my favorites, so far, are Assumption (kind of like Longmire until it very much isn't) and So Much Blue.

Ago 20, 11:07pm

Interesting comments about The Handmaid's Tale. I recently reread it, and I think it does hold up. Curiously, one of my colleagues at the college was a Peace Corps volunteer in Romania, and according to Jason, Atwood based her novel on some of Ceaușescu's policies.

I've never read anything by Everett, but it does sound like an interesting premise.

I hope your grandson is OK.

Ago 21, 8:12am

How is your grandson doing, Deborah? That is a scary situation for sure. I don’t understand how there are so many people who are ignoring the evidence that vaccines and masks are what everyone needs to do.