Search John's books

Members with John's books

RSS feeds

Recently-added books

John's reviews

Reviews of John's books, not including John's

Site design selection

Use the new design

Use the old design

The old design is no longer fully supported nor does it get full attention when we roll out new features. We strongly recommend using the new design.


Member: John

CollectionsYour library (2,782)

Reviews490 reviews

Tagsfiction (1,200), history (335), memoir (203), wwii (149), mystery (140), biography (107), non-fiction (107), reference (91), essays (86), philosophy (83) — see all tags

Cloudstag cloud, author cloud, tag mirror

Groups50 Book Challenge, Books Compared, Canuckistan, Political Philosophy, The Well-Educated Mind by Susan Wise-Bauer, What the Dickens...?

Membership LibraryThing Early Reviewers/Member Giveaway

Real nameJohn Klassen

LocationOttawa, Canada

Favorite authorsNot set

Account typepublic, lifetime

URLs /profile/John (profile)
/catalog/John (library)

Member sinceNov 11, 2005

Leave a comment


I saw you posted a review at "Hanna's daughters" ( on Nov 30, 2005. However, the story you describe there is very different... Are you sure you posted at the correct book?
Having read Essad Bey's memoirs, I found your critic of Mr. Reiss' Orientalist most enlightning. Thank you.
Hi John,

Truthfully, I started on the first two chapters of the Night Circus book and then put it aside for the Massie book on Catherine the Great - not usually a great fan of fantasy lit, so I will have to get back to it.

I see from your weighted matches that I am 4th in the list for similar books, so that is interesting. Myself, I am mostly a sucker for English and Russian lit, plus darkish subjects, but seem to be on a non-fiction roll at the present.

Thanks for connecting.

I feel the same way. I like reading the reviews beforehand to help me select a read, and I like reading them after the fact to help me to "sum up" my thoughts. It is a wonderful site. My son told me about Good Reads, but I found have an interface that is not as good a match for my taste.
I just finished reading your review of Elegance of the Hedgehog (Barbery) and I must say it is a fantastic review. I read the book and was looking through the reviews to try and consolidate my thoughts in preparation for a book study I will be attending. You drew some very meaningful conclusions and expressed them in the most wonderful ways. I found your thoughts and words to be very helpful. I knew what I thought but was struggling to put it together. Thank you so much.
Thanks for your excellent review of 'The Meaning of Hitler', which gets a star from me.

I recently finished it too. As it should be, Haffner places the analysis firmly into the mid 70s international political scene. I was interested to see that the term 'Weapons of Mass Destruction' was in use even then. I don't know if that was common parlance or if the translator took liberties a few years later.


Really enjoyed the review you wrote on Zen in the Art of Archery. I am going to get the book based on your review. It was mentioned in an art book I am working on (Drawing with the Right Side of the Brain) and I recently took up archery. How can I not read it?
Dear John,
you've left a review, but you're reviewing another book than shown on this page. Maybe you can correct it?

hi, john -my newest, BOOKLOVER, is now out. hope you'll take a look. - tim
Good to hear from you, John. I have not been as active at LT as I once was, myself, since I started developing my historical novels website ( I still check in from time to time, though - just added a new review for a book that came to me via the Early Reviewers Program.
Nice job on the Kadare review.
Good to hear from someone else who liked The German Mujahid. That novel stayed with me for a long time after I read it. I hope more people read it. Very cool that you got to see the author in person.
Thanks for the nice words, John. Both Europe Central and Blood Meridian are such challenging and thought-provoking books; it really helps to have a discussion about them, I think.
Thanks for the political context on Kadare. I was mainly interested in the book because I recently finished writing a novel about a (real) Ottoman siege of Constantinople in 1402 (the one that was interrupted by Timur's invasion), less than 3 decades before this imaginary siege. His research on Ottoman ranks and horde organization seems pretty thorough and believable. I'll look at some of your other reviews.
I liked your review of Kadare's The Siege, which I also read recently. I'll look for your other reviews now.
Dear John,
I just read your review of Kaputt by Curzio Malaparte and wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed it. I think your review was wonderful,well thought-out and extremely informative. Thanks for a great review of one of my favorite books.
Hi John,

Very interesting reviews you have posted. I'm the founder of, a free online publishing service - just started. I would be very happy to see your book reviews (and other stuff) on the site. You could use it as an alternative platform to disseminate your ideas. If interested all you need to do is register and you can start publishing.

Thomas Vieth
Hi John,
You know what? I don't have one of Eva Cassidy's cds. I keep borrowing them from the OPL. Gregory Charles plays her songs often on his Sunday a.m. show (now axed) and mentioned that he had seen her in concert.. Her voice moves me to tears. I will never forget the first time I heard her nor when I was told she had passed. The book about her is lovely.
My gosh! where do you put all your books? I am having to constantly rearrange things!! I just picked up two small book cases and am shuffling things around. I have way too many chairs and need to get rid of a couple to make some room. I wish I could just stay still long enough to get in some good reading time!
Anyhow, good to make contact with another Thinger locally. Wouldn't it be fun to do one of those mass cataloguing events here in Ottawa? I forget what they are called but it looks like fun.
What's on your summer reading list?
Hi again, I see you've got GM-Fraser's Quartered Safe Out Here too. I loved that book, and have never read anything else by him. I read a lot of memoirs, and many of the WWII military memoirs are favorites. You should try Andy Rooney's My War. - Tim Bazzett
Hi, John - I'm a new member to librarything and have been browsing reviews. Liked the one you did of Paul Scott's STAYING ON, about the end of the Raj. I read that book back in 1978 or 79 when I was with the US Army, stationed in Germany. I loved it so much that I mailed it home to my mother, who, like me is an avid reader (and still is at nearly 93). I have the 4 volumes of the Raj Quartet, but still haven't read them. But I may try again. Thanks for your insightful review of a book I read over 30 years ago. - Tim Bazzett, Reed City, MI, USA
John--just put up a review on Munoz Molina's A manuscript of ashes. As well you have got me reading a Kadare novel--The file on H. I'm not all that far into it yet though.

A couple other things I'm going a bit Canadian for christmas. I ordered Alice Munro's Selected stories for Mae and Jane Urquhart's 'The stone carver' (or something like that) for myself.
Great reviews and library, John. Just a minor typo: You review "All Over But The Shoutin" (a great book!) but the author is Rick Bragg.
By the way the Le Clezio is on the way. Finished also the last of the 4 books I brought home from Nicolas Hoare's--Michael Ondaatje's Divisadero which was excellent.
Good luck tomorrow by the way.
John--just thought I'd pass along this ongoing discussion on Bolano at LT:
John--ordered your Fuentes book as well as the one by DeWitt.
John--put up the Castellanos Moya review. Reading Rene Philoctete's Massacre River--taking me back to Haiti only this one is set in the 1930's and is about a pogrom initiated against Haitians during the Trujillo dictatorship.
John--MacLeod's 'As bird bring forth the sun' showed up today--so I think I've got pretty much everything he's published now.
John--I will look up the writers you mention. I have read Kapucinski's Imperium which was very good. I have a huge recommendation for you if you're interested--from El Salvador by way of Honduras--Horacio Castellanos Moya's 'Senselessness' which I'm going to hopefully review in the next day or two. Very blackly comedic--a man is hired by the catholic church to wade through 1100 pages of testimonies by ethnic cleansing survivors of indigenous peoples by a militray dictatorship. As I say it is very dark. I read an interesting book by Edward P. Jones as well about black slave owning families in Virginia pre civil war which won the Pulitzer prize a few years ago--The known world.
John--hope everything is going well. Just put up a review of Margaret Laurence's The stone angel.
I just bought The Clerkenwell Tales and read your excellent review. With your background enriching my reading I know I'll enjoy it that much more. Thank you :-)
That was a great review of The White Bone. I agree with most of your points, and just wanted to really thank you for your insight into the book.
John, Thanks for that great, concise review of [Zuleika Dobson]. I really enjoyed it. Regards, Steve.
John--Sorry to see your Senators out. Not a great fan of the Penguins. Rangers won a close one again. Playoff hockey is tough--very tough on me. I wind up staying up way too late and going to work with 3-4 hours of sleep. C'est la vie. We only live once--that we know of anyway.

The Babchenko book sounds very interesting. I'll look that one up. On Harry Mulisch--his name comes up every year for the Nobel. I've read him twice--The Assault, The procedure--not the one you've read--that one The Discovery of Heaven is supposed to be his masterpiece but is something like a 1000 or more pages? He is supposed to be quite a good poet as well. Moving slightly southwest to Belgium I would recommend two writers--one would be Louis Paul Boon--a committed socialist but one of the best fiction writers of the 20th century. He juggles alternative threads into his novels as well as anybody I've ever read. Kind of a cross between Halldor Laxness and Louis Ferdinand Celine. More contemporary would be one Paul Verhaeghen--Omega Minor--great great book--did a review of it recently but google it if you get the chance and see what you think.

On Kerr I've read the first two books of his Berlin noir trilogy. This one is called 'The one from the other' and marks the return of Bernie Gunther to an apocalyptic Post World War II Berlin--a world of fugitive Nazi war criminals--it's excellent but I haven't reviewed it.
John--the Ranger-Devil was closer than the final score indicated. The Devils hit 2 crossbars and a post--though on the 2nd crossbar there didn't seem to be any room left for it to go in. The Rangers hit a post as well. Both teams practice a very patient defensive oriented game. The game turned on a momentary blunder by Brodeur and we can't depend on too many more of them. Ottawa is not the same team as last year. They also are beat up. There seem to be some internal issues as well and Pittsburgh has a high octane offense. They're a tough draw but I think they're beatable.
Big win for your Senators tonight John. A little bit of a cushion with that. Looks like they'll probably make it.
John I think we stayed at the Delta on Queen St. It sounds familiar anyway. We'd stayed at a Delta in Toronto I think a couple years before that. I know it wasn't much of a walk to the Parliament buildings. Maybe 10 minutes.
John--it may be a little while before we start planning seriously but I will keep in touch. As for the Senators--it's not the time of year to be slumping--things are really tight. The Capitals are really coming on.
John--Ottawa is where my kids want to go. Being that my daughter will be a Senior in High School next year--we're not too sure we'll be all going together some place again. At the moment Ottawa is what we're figuring on and will probably be somewhere between June 30 and July 6. Probably only 3-4 nights though. We have a project we want to get started on--since we have some siding left over from last year we want to build a storage shed. Anyway I would be glad to meet up somewhere if it's convenient for you. I met Bert Hirsch from LT last year at the Strand in NYC and it was a blast.
John--it's been a while.I don't know if you're interested but I have a new Roberto Bolano review up today on his 'Nazi Literature in the Americas'.

Anyway there is a chance we may be coming North in early July.
It's a little bizarre John--but Cela had an understated sense of humor--and maybe a little prescient too about who would be reading him posthumously. A great writer from another culture and he found me somehow. By the way considering what he does with some of the characters in this book I get off real easy. He had issues too. Fought with the Spanish Foreign Legion in the Civil war, was a censor for a brief time in the Franco years, accused of plagiarism towards the end of his life. A unique writer though and one of the better Nobel choices IMO--though my favorite of all is Laxness.

Anyway how are things in Ottawa these days? We're going to NYC the end of March to catch the Rangers and a play probably--not against the Senators again thankfully--we've done that the last two years and lost both times. We have another vacation in early July and will probably go somewhere but I'm not sure where yet. In August also but I'm planning on going to Seattle to see my brother who has been ill--though he's staying positive about how his treatment has gone. That is something that can change any of our plans.
John--I've been killed off recently in a book I was reading. From Camilo Jose Cela's Christ versus Arizona comes this passage: 'Wyatt Earp was called the Lion of Tomiston, he risked his life in the shootout at the O.K. Corral and died years later, the mulatto Jane Kolb knows all the details of that bloodbath, Wyatt Earp worked as a gunfighter in the service of the Dodge City Peace Commission, all of them wore mustaches except Charlie Bassett who looked like a priest, Charlie was fat and white and killed people with great aplomb without ever losing his smile, the Litany of Our Lady is the breastplate that preserves us from sin, I say regina angelorum regina partriacharum and you say ora pro nobis twice, Professor Licencia Margarita was romantically involved with Luke Short, the one who shot the ranch-hand Larry Riley in the back and then ordered his corpse hanged, the way to make sure hanged men don't kick is to hang them dead, look at Riley up there--what composure!,'

Anyway I reviewed that book today and my corpse will review the last book of the McCarthy border trilogy hopefully tomorrow.

You've got A Fine and Private Place in your library as being written by Peter Carey. Are there two works of the same name by different authors? The only book titled A Fine and Private Place I know of is written by Peter S. Beagle. I freely admit I could be wrong in this, but that is the association I usually have.

I stumbled across your listing while looking for more books by Peter Carey. I just acquired my second book by him, My Life As a Fake, and love his style.
John--the second Manguel book I've ordered has shown up--the dictionary of imaginary places. It looks like a fun book--taking mythical places from literature and putting them in encyclopedia form--one you can read or browse through--whatever you want.

Have put up a review of Roberto Bolano's 'Amulet'. A wonderful writer. I've read everything of his that's appeared in translation so far. In february his 'Nazi literature in America' is scheduled to come out which is a novel written in an encyclopediatic format too--listing faux types of extremist literary figures.
I am just saying hello because I notice we have 25 books in common and that you live in Ottawa. I was there in June/July 2007 staying with a friend on Colonel By Drive. I love Canada and wish I had moved there years ago. Its a great country, the people are so friendly and I had a wonderful holiday there. I live in England by the way. Ann
John--Manguel's A history of reading showed up today in the mail and it looks very interesting. I'm not sure when I'm going to start it but I think it will be soon. is connected to E-bay. Unfortunately if you don't have a US address--you can't buy anything. It's different in that the seller sets a price--can compare other sellers for the same book--and there is a pre-set shipping charge. They take 15% of the selling price. It's useful just as a reference point to have an idea of what's out there. I know friends more intereseted in music who find cd's by favorite bands that they had no idea even existed--sometimes lots of them. I sell and buy off it--have found any number of great deals from it though now and again I've been stiffed too-thogh there is a feedback thing on it and before buying anything from someome you can gauge how reliable they are. I've also used AbEbooks several times but through the Addall search engine.

I was looking at Manguel after you'd mentioned him. I will have to pick something of hsi up--most likely one of the two you mention. Doblin's best works are epics. Like Laxness. It takes time to get through them but they are very rewarding. Laxness IMO is the best Nobel literature laureate. On Bolano--he has another book coming out in February--Nazi literature in America--which seems to be a kind of phony encyclopedia of fascist styled literary figures--I think he makes them up covering all of South, Central and North America.
John--On McCarthy I have read the following in this order--All the pretty horses, Blood Meridian, The Gardener's son (a play), Suttree and The Crossing. Especially impressed with BM, Suttree and The Crossing. The only other book I have of his now is Cities of the Plains--which is the last of the Border trilogy books. I have looked at both No Country for old men and The Road on but have been waiting for the prices to drop a little more--might have to get one or the other soon though.

On Marai--I've read Embers--which I wasn't all that impressed with to be honest. I've heard that some of his other works were better even if not as popular--so I'll take a look around for The Rebels.

Antal Szerb--I've never heard of--Oliver VI seems like the one I might be more interested in.

Alberto Manguel--name kind of rings a bell but I've never read him.

I have never read Laforet's Nada either though I have looked at it on now and again over the last few years. There are a lot of works that seem to look at the Franco dictatorship (though I think Laforet's might have been the first or very close to it) with a jaundiced eye. Luis Martin Santos' Time of Silence would be one and is excellent. It was his first novel and he died in a car accident while working on his second. Others--Juan Marse's The Fallen. Carmen Martin Gaite, Ana Maria Matute, Juan Goytisolo--particularly liked his Marks of Identity, there is also his Count Julian, Miguel Delibes 'Five hours with Mario'. More recent work by the Gallegan Manuel Rivas--Into the Wilderness is fable like-going back into the Franco years where the dead take on guise of domesticated and wild animals peeking in on the world of the living. His carpenter's pencil also.

Finally Vila-Matas--I have read Bartleby and Co. and liked it. I think I reviewed it. Have not read Montano.

As of late--Denis Johnson has made a big impression on me. His Tree of Smoke--won this years National book award focuses around CIA operations prior to and during the Vietnam war. I don't remember if we talked about Gert Ledig. Payback is all battlefield action on the Russian front. Very bloody, horrific and he has a very macabre sense of humor. Nathan Englander's recent 'The Ministry of Special cases--is set in Argentina during the time of the military dictatorship--late 70's and early 80's and revolves around the disappearance of a couple's only son. The 13th valley--John Del Vecchio--is another Vietnam novel. Dos Passos's 1919. McCarthy reminds me somewhat of him. Sitt Marie Rose--Etel Adnan--a remarkable writer is short and is about the Lebanese civil war. Leonardo Sciascia--was a member of the European parliament and wrote a lot about the Mafia. Mario Vargas Llosa's--The bad girl. Best novel I read this year would be Roberto Bolano's The Savage Detectives.
I should mention John that I finished McCarthy's 'The Crossing' last week and knowing your fan--I have to say it was great and of course I did a review.
I hope everything is fine in Ottawa too John. Personally when I retire I plan on staying that way--but sometimes I guess you never know. Maybe I'll work part time somewhere but not just for anybody because I don't think that just anybody could put up with me. I did figure you were on some kind of mission or another though. I have been thinking lately of the Ricks-fiasco book--whether to get that one or Cobra--hadn't made up my mind. The assassination today of Pakistan's former Prime Minister does not portend well. There are going to be a lot of fingers pointing in a lot of directions and past history (though I'm not a big expert) is that this event could lead to a civil war and very easily spill over several borders. I think in any case Bhutto's reemergence on the scene was not convenient for Musharraf and probably not for the Bush administration--maybe even other elements of the military/security services in Pakistan or the CIA here and of course there are the extremists and fundamentalists--her reemergence and assassination may have been very convenient for them. How this effects the landscape of everything else happening in the region and nearby regions I guess will remain to be seen. I can't see anything good coming out of it though.

Not a fan of Bush. Not a fan of how he uses our military. I think seeing ourselves as a world power is very over-rated. I'd like to see a lot scaled back. To be fair--that's not just him.

Anyway your Senators are looking very strong this year. Beat my Rangers the other night. At least for the present I see the Senators as the class of the East.
Good to see you back, John.
On Sassoon and Owen there is the Regeneration trilogy by Pat Barker--Regeneration, The eye in the door, The Ghost road--which uses them--along with Robert Graves and the psychiatrist W. H. Rivers and Craiglockhart War Hospital in Edinburgh as secondary characters in war time Britain--examining among other things the anti-war movement that Sassoon was to play a direct part in.

Buida has one other book--The Prussian bride.

As for what I'm reading now--Joseph Roth's The tale of 1002nd night and Michael Scheuer's Imperial Hubris which details so far--how we got into the mess that led to 9-11 and the next mess--the Afghanistan leg of the war on terror. I'm only about a third through that so we haven't gone into Iraq yet. Scheuer was a long time analyst in the CIA and for several years head of the unit tracking Bin Laden's whereabouts circa the late 90's. He's doing a fairly good job of suppressing rage over the mistakes made particularly after 9-11 but that anger is evident on the edges. He certainly does not have any love for the last two administrations. His contention is that our campaign into Afghanistan is precisely what Bin Laden wanted. He contends also that the government in place today in Kabul will last as long as our bayonets are there to protect it and not very much longer. He sees it simply as a war of wills and attrition that we have been fated to lose since the moment we stepped on Afghan soil. The point he's making seems to be forget about creating governments where they're not wanted. Go out and track down your enemies in immediate a fashion as possible and ruthlessly if you must--otherwise don't bother at all. Anyway he does affirm some suspicions of mine and does a lot to enhance information on the Afghan character and the natures of many of their warlords and why what we're doing will not work. It's interesting.
John--Wondering if you're negotiating is over? Anyway I was perusing your catalog and though we've spoken many times I didn't really think we had so many books in common. Anyway Zola's The Debacle is one of his best as is Germinal. The Earth though may be the best of all. The Erskine Childers book also caught my eye. And the several by Ignazio Silone. Henri Barbusse. Solzenhitsyn's August 1914. Of course Laxness--my favorite of literary Nobels. And Michael Ondaatje--whenever you have time I wouldn't mind an opinion on him--to me he may be the first Canadian to win the Nobel for literature although Atwood is a possibility too. I was surprised to see Sassoon and no Wilfred Owen though. Owen's World War 1 poetry seems much much darker--more embittered. Have you ever read anything by the Spaniard Camilo Jose Cela? San Camilo 1936 and Mazurka for two dead men--are both set around the Civil War. SC 1936--the days leading up and into really tackles the subject very well as the young protagonist has to make up his own mind between one side and the other. Other Spanish Civil War novels I really liked were Ramon Sender's Seven Red Sundays and Miguel Delibes The Stuff of Heroes. Sebastian Faulk's Birdsong which is half love story and half war story is set in World War 1 and details a British unit digging tunnels under the German lines. It's very interesting too and the chapter about the first day of the battle of the Somme is riveting.
Hi, I noticed several chess titles in your catalog and thought you may like to check my forum site out-, we have a dedicated section to chess books and recommended reading you may be interested in, thanks, Greg
John--while you were posting your message I was reviewing the Ledig book--so it just went up. Very extraordinary. I would highly recommend it and I'm going to be getting his other novel very very shortly. I've read Furst once and liked it--that was a book called 'The foreign correspondent'. I may have done a review. It starts during the Spanish Civil War--a favorite subject of mine and is about an anti-fascist Italian newspaperman on the run from Mussolini's OVRA. Buida's book is great. Liked it a lot.

As for Bush--I'm sorry to say I don't consider him mine. He lost me completely the day he went to Iraq. I understood going after Bin Laden in Afghanistan but like Sen. Hagel--I think the Iraq campaign has been a catastrophic foreign policy blunder. I don't like all the deregulation going on either. I think there are things essential to the national fabric (health care, education, energy, a few others) that shouldn't be totally under the thumb of for profit corporations. In any case I am a great supporter of losing causes--voting for Nader the last two times. I tend to vote for people I like--not for the degrees of evil that the two major parties seems to represent. I would like to see several viable parties here and actually think a parliamentary kind of govt. like you have is preferable to what we have. Open discourse is always the best way.

Anyway was sorry about your Senators--would have preferred they had won but the Ducks were the better team in that series.
John--sorry about the Senators. Anyway I'd like to mention a book by a Russian author Yuri Buida titled The Zero train. It's a fable like novel set in post World War II Stalin's Russian. I did a review and really liked it.
John--Have you ever heard of Gert Ledig?--a German writer. I just ordered a book called the Stalin front--a World War II novel.
John--When the Rangers won in 1994 they had been stumbling around underneath the 1940 curse forever. It was a big deal--eclipsed for me the 1980 US Olympic gold medal which is maybe the biggest upset in hockey history--but your town should be wild the next couple weeks and for the next few weeks if you win.

Anyway on the Bell biography of Toussaint I've seen a review in the New York Times Sunday book review. It went kind of along the line that it was good but it didn't add a lot to what he'd already written in the novels. Lately I'm on a book by one beer swilling skateboarder and punk rocker Colby Buzzell--recently out of the army who was in a Stryker brigade in Iraq. While over there he'd set up a blog which the army and the govt. attempted now and again to shut down--interesting though profanity laced--comparisons to Bukowski and one Michael Herr(?)--a little bit of Yossarian thrown in--maybe even some Full Metal Jacket. Got a kind blurb from the recently deceased Kurt Vonnegut to boot. A lot of it is in diary form--recounting events as they happen--reminds a little also of Willy Peter Reese.
John--I don't know whether you're a big hockey fan but congrats to your hometown Senators who are going to the finals.
John--some but not all that many. Malaparte, Mutis, Sciascia, Queneau-- a few others. Literature is an ocean or at least a very big sea. Sometimes you have to drift and just see where the waves take you. I wrote a few names and titles down. Gert Ledig. Vladimir Sorokin. Yuri Olesha, Victor Serge. I also put it in my favorites so I can go back and study it some more.
John--actually I've seen mention of them here before but I've never followed up on it. I'll have to take a look. I probably have some of their titles and don't know it.
Well honestly John I have not been making a lot of progress on Suttree. About 20-30 pages a day. The Rangers are in the middle of all this too. I like McCarthy though--he reminds me of Faulkner a bit in this one and Dos Passos a little too. Excellent writers. Anyway you need to take the time with some things and not rushed them.
John--thank you for the Martel site. I'll have to look into it. I have read Life of Pi and liked it. It's interesting. I'll also have to move Speak: Memory up on my to read soon list. I'm currently reading Cormac McCarthy's (I know you're a fan) Suttree but I have a ways to go in it yet. Also working on some short stories The Aleph by Borges and poetry collections of Khlebnikov and as it happens I'm going through the Mr. Cogito collection of poems by Herbert in the new translation you've mentioned. To me Herbert is exceptional. Very lucid. Epiphanic.

Anyway beyond that is Roberto Bolano's The Savage Detectives is coming next. A lot of buzz about this book in the last month or so. It's become almost a media event. His work started coming out 4-5 years ago in translation through New Directions shortly after his death. This is more of a massive work and it's been getting reviewed all over--The Sunday New York Times book review front page the other day. Anyway maybe I'll fit the Nabokov book in after that.
John--I have Speak: memory but have never gotten around to reading it. One of the posters actually has me finally starting on my Khlebnikov who shows up in the Aksyonov book in Nina's poetry acquaintances. Anyway I'm also reading a Graham Swift book I've had for a long time and another called Paddywhacked which is a true crime history of the Irish in the United States going back into the 1840's and 50's and up to the present time.

Anyway Toronto is a city I like very much--they had an International music festival along the lake that we went to about 3-4 years ago and we've gone as a family up there about 5 times.
I loved your review of The Orientalist. When I add a new book to my list, I always like to see how other people write about it, and I was really impressed with your overview of the book. I found it so difficult to sum up the many themes that the author tackled!
By the way I was looking at your McCarthy thread--who I've only read I think 3 times but have several of his books and should read more of--and saw mention of Michael Ondaatje a writer I also think is excellent. I especially like In the skin of a Lion. Great book. The English Patient--The collected works of Billy the Kid are also excellent.
John--I did join that Books Compared club and may try something soon with it and maybe in conjuction with the Aksyonov I'm reading now. I have all next week off and I'm thinking I might try to come up with something then.
John--I'm about 150 pages away from finishing Generations of Winter and it's excellent--I should be a couple--three more days on it and I am planning to review it--probably sometime over the weekend. Anyway many thanks again for sending it my way.
Enjoyed your comparison of Blood Meridian and The Road, as you will see the next time you check the Books Compared postings. I'm really thrilled by the way this group is taking off. The only down side is that my list of books I really must read is getting dismayingly long. Picked up Pnin and 3 or 4 others at the bookstore the other day, but still have to finish Saylor's Rome and a couple of research projects before I can dive into them.
Oh the Gissing book sounds so interesting. It will be impossible to get hold of here. sigh....
Thanks for your contributions to the Dickens group: it's so great to know there are others out there who love old Charley too. I'm just finishing off a reiew of the Old Curiosity Shop which will be up on The Lectern on a few days.
Hi John!
Thanks for your comments and for reading my reviews on my blog. I wanted to reply to you earlier but I am having a very busy month here and cannot spend as much time as I would like to on Librarything (every waking moment....haha!) We seem to share many tastes and interests in common: not least in history. I still have not got around to cataloguing most of my library, but I also have lots of the history books I see in your library, especially WW2 and Napoleonic era history. I'm so excited!!!!!!

I will definately post something on the compared books groups soon. I'm working on something at the moment whenever I have spare moments and hope to post in a couple of days. You have, however, set the standard very high! :)

I didn't know Gissing had written a CP book and that it was available! What does he put in it? if you have time perhaps you could just post a cross section of his authors. I wish Dickens had kept one, but he was probably too busy! I am a HUGE fan of 19th centruy (Eng especially) lit, and Gissing has long been one of my favourites. I've also got Auden's CP book, which is weirdly disappointing. I've kept my own since the middle 80's too and have several volumes now. The blog seems to be the best place to share them.

Thanks so much for the Bombrowicz quote (amazing). I'm not familar with him. Where do you recommend I start?

At the moment I'm working on a deep reading of Dickens, only reading books by him or about him, trying to deepen my understanding and appreciation of his genius. Glad to know that you also appreciate him. i was thinking of starting a Dickens group.....

Looking forward immensely to reading more of your compared book reviews!

Best wishes,
John--just finished a review of Joyce's Ulysses--don't know if it does much justice as far as description but it's a very complicated work.

On Doblin--one of my favorites. A people betrayed is a great book but the sequel to it 'Karl and Rosa' IMO is even better. Better to read the second part though after the first. If you like the Bell books on Haiti--this is comparable stuff--maybe even a little better.
John--started the Aksyonov book 'Generations of Winter' that you sent me. Probably take a week or so before I'm done.
Thanks for posting your Books Compared reviews so quickly! It's great to have more reviews on the site already, and especially gratifying to see the group is already sparking deeper thought than might emerge from thinking about one book in isolation. I had the idea for the group when I read Cynthia Ozick's article in the latest issue of Harper's Magazine. She was lamenting the decline of reviews that consider books in the context of a larger literary heritage. I thought, how about a little do-it-yourself project? Thanks to LibraryThing, we don't have to wait for the powers-that-be to do it for us.

I really will have to read Sorrows, and then Laughter in the Dark. I've never read any Nabokov, but after reading Reading Lolita in Tehran I got intrigued, so that is on my list, too.
I'm so glad you're going to write a review for Books Compared! Can't wait to read it. Maybe you will inspire me to read more Goethe and Nabokov. I've been meaning to get to Young Werther one day. By the way, I didn't mean to limit this to fiction -- you might want to start a Nonfiction Compared thread after you finish your fiction entry.
John--has been a while. Back to work tonight. Anyway your Sens won but fortunately we're still in the thick of it.
They are both long ones and I actually think the second Karl and Rosa is a little better but it's best to read them in order.
Blurbs on the back of Doblin's 'A people betrayed' and its sequel 'Karl and Rosa':

November 1918. The first world war is over, the battle is lost--and everywhere there is talk of revolution. Leaders of the German military have formed an uneasy alliance with the socialists who control the government and have proclaimed a new German republic, but throughout Berlin rival groups stage rallies and organize strikes. In A People Betrayed, the first volume of the epic November 1918: A German Revolution, Alfred Doblin takes us into the public and private dramas of these turbulent days, introducing us to a remarkable case of fictional and historical characters, and bringing them to life in one of the great historical epics of the centry.

'One of the most graphic accounts ever written of what led from Weimar to Auschwitz...A panoramic vision of disaster and betrayal that blends realism and fantasy to stunning effect...--Ernst Pawel

'A political and aesthetic achievement without parallel in German literature'--Bertolt Brecht

'I am greatly indebted to Alfred Döblin...He will unsettle you; he will trouble your dreams; you will have difficulty swallowing him; you will find him unsavory; he is indigestible, gristly. He changes his readers. The self complacent are hereby cautioned against Doblin'--Gunter Grass

Karl and Rosa, the concluding volume of Alfred Döblin's epic novel November 1918: A German Revolution, follows the historical figures Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg through the final, turbulent weeks of the proletarian revolution that erupted in Germany immediately afterter World War I. We become privy to their dreams, their heroic struggle, their spectacular failure, and their tragic end. We meet their supporters and opponents, the politicians, the police, the spies, the famous---like Lenin and Trotsky---and the anonymous, who all play a role in this extraordinary drama.

'His is one of the great names among the German novelists...It seems to me that Döblin percieves the visible world as something incomplete and that he feels compelled to improve upon it with his writing'--Franz Kafka

I've read De Botton once "On Love" which was a long time ago and it was good but have not got back to him since.
The March Violets so far is pretty good. I think I'm going to like Kerr. You ever hear of Alfred Doblin--Berlin Alexanderplatz is his most famous work--but my favorites of his are a set--November 1918: A German revolution--which is 2 volumes--'A people betrayed' and 'Karl and Rosa'--set right after World War I--and is fictionalized but has much about the personalites behind the Weimar Republic and the Karl and Rosa are the political figures Liebknicht and Luxemburg.
John--I certainly agree that it is extraordinary. I've mentioned him to a number of people and it's always nice to find others who not only read it but agree on it.
John--I've seen mention of it maybe a couple months ago--and I think it's come up in conversation in the talk forum here. Last sunday it was in the New York Times book review--reviewed by Adam Hochschild. Probably going to get it but not sure when. Those are big novels--and seem to pretty well cover that history. The biography is 333 pages and focuses more on Toussaint.
Knew I missed something. Those Bell books about Haiti are all long but excellent. Loved them all.
Well congratulations on being a grandfather for the second time. Give me a few more years and I might be joining you in grandfatherhood. I remember really liking Ulysses a long time ago--and I do reread something several times a year. It certainly is deserving of that. I've been reading some Dos Passos recently--Manhattan transfer and the 42nd parallel and really liked those books andit reminds me a bit of Joyce--it's obvious to me that DP borrowed some of his style from him. Can't read all this grim World War I and II stuff all the time. Sometimes you need to give yourself a break and read something just for pleasure. Anyways I am very interested in experimental types of fiction too and Ulysses fits right into that. And Finnegan's wake too but that one though I finished it was just too difficult for me.
I've seen Tariq several times on C-span's book tv. Don't know if you get that up in Ottawa. He has antipathy towards U. S. foreign policy as well--especially the present administration's version of it. I will say he is an interesting speaker--but not having read any of his work--I can't say I feel all that qualified to comment on it. I have an interest in political happenings. To say something of my own thoughts about our current president--it would be hard for me to find something nice to say--to my mind he has been a disaster--much worse than his predecessor who to me was very bad also--but one almost feels nostalgic when thinking back on his time in office.
John--I haven't read 'The burn' yet so I think there's some misunderstanding on that. I might though in the next couple months. The Rybakov book 'Heavy Sand' starts slowly but as gradually gained quite a lot of momentum. It's set in Chernigov in the Ukraine--and I think may be autobiographical as that is where Anatoli was born. It fits into some of the stuff that both of us have been reading on Nazi atrocities on the Eastern front. The main character's family are in the process now (that is where I'm at in the book) of being wiped out. It is very sad and if that is part of Rybakov's own story one could only feel sorry for him.

If it were me picking another Vargas Llosa book--it would be 'Feast of the goat'--though if you were going chronologically you can't go wrong with 'The time of the hero' which came out a few years I believe before 'Conversation in the Cathedral'. TOTH is very good but one can see a big leap forward for MVL with his Conversation. The other though which is close to outstanding is 'The war of the end of the world'. You might want to google that one or look up a review on Amazon, Barnes & Noble etc. You ever hear of a site called 'the complete review'. It does mostly fiction and poetry. There might be a review there.
John, thanx for your message. I looked at your library and see we have a lot of books in common....I counted 20 before I finished the "B"s. I'm only listing the books I've read this year on LibraryThing...that's why I only have 20 so far!

I see you have [Bear] and [Blindness} which I loved. And [Amsterdam] which I hated!

So far this year, I've read the Canada Reads selections; [Canadian Foreign Policy} and [The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth] for one book club; [City of Falling Angels] and [Passionate Nomad] for another book club and [Birth of Venus] for the third book club.

Right now, I'm reading [The Clown] by Heinrich Boll.

p.s., Yes, I live in Ottawa.
John--On Vargas Llosa--I think you've read his best work first. There is 'The war of the end of the world'. Lots of people really like that one--it's set in Brazil in the 19th century and concerns a religious and social movement that turned into a kind of full-fledged civil war and is based on a historical incident. 'The feast of the Goat' is fairly recent and another historical novel--and is a recounting of the assassination of the Dominican Republic dictator Trujillo. That's very very interesting. Another favorite is his first novel--'The time of the hero' which is from MVL's own experiences in a military academy. I also really liked 'The way to Paradise' which justaposes chapters about the life of the French painter Gauguin and that of his grandmother Flora Tristan a very early 19th century social reformer and women's rights advocate. 'The Green house' is MVL doing magical realism and 'In praise of the stepmother' is an erotic work. 'Who killed Palomino Molero?' is a police detective novel--the same policeman we find later in the Andean mountains in 'Death in the Andes' in which Shining Path terrorists lurk in the background. 'The real life of Alejandro Mayta' is about a political radical (terrorist or freedom fighter)--which is very good also. 'The storyteller' is set in the jungle among indians and is about their culture. 'The cubs' is a very early selection of his short stories.
Well I think Furst is pretty good--not great maybe but better than a lot--so maybe I'll have a look into Kerr.
A lot going on--stayed home one day--snow--we live on a steep hill with a couple sharp turns. I go very early in the morning--I walked out to the end of the driveway and took a look down the road--looked very iffy--took a look up the road--50 feet away was a SUV stuck in the ditch--that made up my mind for me. Anyway if you've ordered the book that's fine and thank you but you don't have to go to any special trouble for me--I already had two of the Malaparte's--it wasn't a real big deal to me. I'd rather have it go to someone who appreciates the writer. In any case there comes a time when all great personal libraries are thrown into the wind. On the question of Philip Kerr--I haven't read anything of his--he sounds a little like Alan Furst though.
I have a book by Aksyonov called 'The Burn' which I was figuring on getting to in the next couple-three months. Have actually started a Rybakov book called Heavy Sands and that will probably keep me busy the better part of this week. Children of the Arbat and Fear though are great. Russians and their epics. Solzenhitsyn's August 1914 is an excellent war novel also. And then there is Vladimir Voinovich--and though not about a war Venedikt Erofeev's Moscow to the end of the line is very sharp and humorous social commentary.
One other thing on the Kuznetsov--John it may have been a book I borrowed from the library as I used to do that a lot. So it may have been I just never bought it.
On the Kuznetsov book--I don't remember really John. Reading the White Hotel brought it back to mind. Some things I like better than others though they might be related in subject matter. For instance I've run into a lot of people here who really think Vasily Grossman's Life and Fate is extraordinary and I just prefer the Anatoli Rybakov books on life under Stalin--Children of the Arbat and Fear--though they don't really deal very much with World War II as Grossman's does. To me Rybakov's is the better writing--very comparable in scope to Kuniczak by the way. As for Vazquez Montalban--depending on whether you want to start out with his detective Carvalho 'The Buenos Aires Quintet' is his longest and might be his best--shorter would be 'The man of my life' but he brings back a major character from Southern Seas for that. I don't think it's altogether necessary to read then in that order but as a writer he got better IMO as he got older. There are two novels of his that have been translated without Carvalho. 'The Pianist' which is super hard to find which I in fact found by just flat out dumb luck at the Strand book store in New York. The other is 'Galindez'--which I like a lot--which is based on the death of Jesus de Galindez (a real person) a Basque intellectual and refugee from Franco's Spain. He settled at first in the Dominican Republic during the Trujillo dictatorship and later on moved to New York where he made some disparaging remarks about Trujillo who was something of an american ally. Trujillo set up an operation working with contacts in NYPD and the FBI had Galinzed drugged and kidnapped and brought back to DR where he disappeared for good and forever and having read some stuff on Trujillo before--falling in his clutches wasn't a pleasant experience for anyone. Anyway the Galindez book involves an investigation by a researcher who uncovers new information and tries to reconstruct what really happened--and ultimately ends very tragically.
John--glad to hear it arrived. In any case you're most welcome. I actually kept the more beat up version--but it's the hardcover and a first edition. I did read Ordinary men and reviewed it yesterday. It was a very good although the last chapter responding to the Goldhagen (I think) critique of his book I found to be a little bit of an anti-climax.

As for the canal it's been a while since I've been on ice skates. I was playing in a roller hockey league up until 6 or 7 years ago but I'm afraid age has caught up with me a bit--my knees are somewhat creaky. My daughter Tara actually thought going back to Ottawa this summer would be a good thing to do but the passport thing is in flux--we'd have to wait for her brother to hit a certain age where his would be good for a 10 year period and as it happens that particular birthday doesn't arrive until the end of this May which is when I believe we can apply--so we're not counting on a north of the border trip this year. As for next year--it's a possibility but we've also thought since Tara will be in the summer between her junior and senior years that we might want to use our travel plans to take a look at potential colleges she might be going to. She has been pretty much around a 96 average for the last few years and is a very enthusiastic student and tries to involve herself in other activiites such as the Marching band, the Yearbook, the International club (language students) etc. Anyway some of these things it is too early to say but I expect we will be back sooner or later.

As for the winter we're supposed to get a nasty storm tonight. Where I am we've pretty much have missed everything so far. We've had winters that have been pretty bad though--so far this one has been the mildest I ever remember.
John, it was a pleasure to read such a thoughtful and incisive review of Gitta Sereny's 'Into That Darkness - An Examination of Conscience'. I look forward to reading your other reviews and to leafing through your library. You've also encouraged me to get hold of a copy of Sereny's book on Albert Speer. Thanks.
And it's a very good review too John. I finished Dos Passos's Manhattan Transfer yesterday and will probably review that over the weekend. Another writer I've come to like a lot. A bit busy today as we're going to wedding early this afternoon--I don't know if you ever read poetry but as to things Polish I'm reading Zbigniew Herbert's 'Hermes, dog and star' which has come out just this year in a translation along with all of Herbert's work. Herbert was very much the anti-communist but also fought in the Polish resistance. Some find him gloomy--the poem 'Report from the besieged city' succeeds in condensing hundreds of years of a very tragic Polish history into the present moment. Actually to the former list I would also add Laxness but you already know of him--and the Chilean Nicanor Parra. Can't forget Roberto Arlt, Raymond Queneau or Emile Zola either.
I read your review John and thought it excellent--I noted the remarks on its at times surrealistic and/or hallucinatory prose and thought how true that was. Anyway I first heard of Malaparte reading the introduction to Camilo Jose Cela's 'The family of Pascual Duarte' by Andrew Kerrigan Cela's translator at the time. Kerrigan calls Cela, the French writer Louis Ferdinand Celine and Malaparte 'the three finest writers on the side of the damned.' I do think there are others though--one would be the Belgian Louis Paul Boon and another might be the German Arno Schmidt--I'm still working on him and the Portugese writer Antonio Lobo Antunes.
Gay would be a word that's changed its meaning for most people. It's not just our language. The word fascist actually from what I remember once reading came from workers (mid 19th century) trying to organize themselves collectively to negotiate with their employers in Sicily (which didn't work out very well as the employers more or less negotiated with the gun barrels of the police and the army)--later Mussolini kind of co-opted it to use for those working class segments that supported him and went from there with it. Malaparte by the way was very much behind Benito's rise to power at least originally.
John--that is pretty much what I meant and he alludes to any number of what would be today jet set like acquaintances throughout--I'll have to investigate further into hoi polloi though you are probably right--sometimes meanings get turned on their head over time though and become what they weren't before.
You're more than welcome John. I probably won't get it out until monday though so take your time with Kaputt. My wife is not always that happy that I have two of this and three of that so it gives me an opportunity to score a few points.
John--'The Skin' is the sequel to Kaputt--after Italy fell Malaparte joined up with the American army and that book more or less tells the story of the american campaign onward from there and its entry into Rome is a highlight--it's not quite as gritty as Kaputt however his observations on american servicemen are very interesting. 'The Volga rises in Europe' are made up newspaper articles he wrote during World War II mainly on the Eastern Front for the Corriere dela Sera--may have spelled that wrong. There's another book I have of his though hard to find and that is 'Those cursed Tuscans' which is more or less about the towns, villages and cities of his native Tuscany and their peculiarities to each other. Even rarer is something called Coup d'etat which I believe was translated also. There is also an architectural work I have by one Marida Talamona called 'Casa Malaparte' which discribes the building of his house on Capri.

As for 'The Skin' I might have an extra copy and if you're interested that much and want to send me a mailing address I would more than happy to ship it out to you.
It's one of my favorite books John but it is a painful one to read. He was hiding parts of the manuscript all over and afraid to cross borders with it. As a younger man he helped bring Mussolini into power--with the years he seemed to be trying his utmost to make up for that and spent a couple stretches in prison--which included a suicide attempt. The jewish man he ran into during the Jassy pogrom accounted in the book was the warden of the Regina Coeli prison who helped get him over his depression there. Malaparte built a house on Capri (have not been there) but it's supposed to be the first house anyone sees coming on to the Island--it is bright red and built into the cliffs and is very unique--and well known by the architectural world.
John. I see we share 13 books in common. I first read Peter Robinson when I found one in my Vancouver hotel shop and I've avidly read all of his I could find ever since! I also read John Grisham's King of Torts in Vancouver, which was interesting as it was during the various Vioxx court cases and heavy TV advertising by contingency fee US lawyers, jumping on the Vioxx bandwagon.

One author we don't share you may wish to try, is Stephen Booth who writes police stories set in Derbyshire, the Peak District, which are very evocative of the area. I can also recommend Ken Follett, especially the Third Twin and Michael Connelly, all of whose books are either set in Los Angeles or nearby and very well written by someone with a deep knowledge of LAPD.

We had a flying visit by Marie-Lucie (DMT), who I first met 20 years ago when she a young TC in London!

Happy reading!
John. I was delighted to discover we are both LibraryThing users (and fans of Giles Blunt). I'm a convert of less than a week, but I see you discovered LibraryThing some time ago and are making good use of your retirement. Cathy Dickson alerted me to the fact you might be a user when I was showing her what LibraryThing could do.

You may recall we last met in Vancouver when I was on an all too brief secondment and I'm now back in a snowy London.

George Edwards
Have been going through Heinrich Böll's 18 stories. Should be done tomorrow. Haven't been doing a lot of reviews lately because my tendonitis has been acting up. I've read Böll several times and seem to like him better the more I read him. Between him and Grass though I like Gunter better. Have you ever tried Siegfried Lenz? The German Lesson is very good--a boy being brought up by his strict and very by the book policeman of a father in Hitler's Germany. It's a rural setting somewhere near the North Sea if I remember correctly and it's not a short book. The father is more of a Teutonic mindset than a Nazi idealogue but it pretty much works out the same in the end as to him 'the law is the law' and not whether the law is unjust or not.
I've read bits and pieces about Speer before. The Borkenau book was pretty interesting. It doesn't have the objectivity that comes with time and distance but is pretty much a critique at ground level but it does bring somewhat into focus some things which in time are simply glossed over. It also points out how the loose alliance of the left was doomed to failure just because of the differences in ambitions of the diverse political parties. There was no real attempt by any of those parties to close the gap on those differences--they were too locked into their own agendas. Meanwhile on the right Franco was able to become a central authority. Borkenau mentions that he also wanted to visit that side of things but was denied access to the nationalist zone.
John--Ordered the Browning book you recommended. Should be here in a week or two and we'll get to that when we can. Did a review on the Reese book--though maybe not one of my better ones. Check out the Arno Schmidt book I review below it though. That was an excellent work of fiction more or less from the WW II German homefront as regards someone not quite in step with Nazi ideology. Anyway people are people but very luckily no dictatorship has ever been able to exterminate every single one of its iconoclasts.
John--finished 'A stranger to myself' by Willy Peter Reese and will probably do a review of it sometime over the weekend. Sometimes it's very lucid and sometimes it seemed very hallucinatory or dazed. For a young man in his 20's he wrote very well though--but those were different times when people used to do extraordinary things like write letters or keep diaries or journals and at the same time try to say something--not so much anymore. As a picture of the Wehrmacht on the Eastern front I expect that the atrocities against civilians that he alludes to more than describes is accurate. Kaputt would seem to corroborate it. Anyway I liked it and I think I'll look up another one of those books you recommended.
I have the same problem. Almost impossible to keep up with things and trying to chase down suggestions from elsewhere is only putting more fuel on the fire. And then there is the economic issue and the justification for buying more books when you have a few hundred lying around that you haven't read and a hundred or so you would like to read again. And I don't know if you're still working but I am. Anyway best to laugh it off as we only live once and there are worse vices.

I have read the Zafon. I liked it but I don't think that particular work was quite as good as your second writer Perez-Reverte. 'The Club Dumas' is a wonderful book--it's just too bad that Roman Polanski did such a bad job on the movie. I also really enjoyed 'The Queen of the South'. Speaking of Spanish thrillers though I have to mention Manuel Vazquez Montalban. Great writer. Died a few years ago from a heart attack stepping off a plane. His private eye Pepe Carvalho--is an ex-con, ex-communist gourmandizing iconclast. He burns books too. Mostly just to keep warm though--he's pragmatic and in no sense an idealogue. And there is the Galicain Manuel Rivas--a very short work 'In the wilderness'--I have a review of it but there are probably better ones that can be googled. Not a thriller really--a funny but warm morality tale or fable. Really liked that one. His other book is good too.
Have read Beevor twice. 'Paris after the Liberation' which he wrote along with his wife and 'The Spanish Civil War'. The first is good the second one is excellent. His book on Stalingrad is something I will get to sooner or later. I looked up the book you mentioned by Willy Peter Reese and ordered that. Ivan's War looks very intriguing--I have another book by Catherine Merridale which I haven't read which is about the Soviet KGB etc. My tendency is to read fiction more than non-fiction--some of it historical and some not. I try to mix things up. Kuniczak's ' The March' is in the same vein as 'The thousand hour day'--it covers the period of time of the Occupation in both the German and Soviet zones--very interesting portrayal of the massacre of Polish intellectuals, aristos and the officer class in the part about the Katyn forest. I liked it a lot--maybe better than the first.

Thought I'd mention three books by an american writer Madison Smartt Bell--they are a fictional rendering of the Haitian slave rebellion in the latter part of the 18th and very early 19th century. They are 'All Soul's rising' (which I believe was a finalist for a National Book Award), 'Master of the Crossroads' and 'The Stone that the builder refused'. They're all in the 800-900 page range but very well done and flesh out a lot of the politics (of what then was a French colony) and race relationships of that time.
A great resource book--although the chapter on Spanish American Literature is not as comprehensive as most of the other chapters on regions or countries--is 'The Oxford guide to Contemporary Writing'. It is really well done. The French chapter for instance has over 100 writers and poets--with short synopses on some of their works. Spain and Germany also do well. It pretty much covers the entire globe. I also buy from Abe books but mostly from which isn't available north of the border. It's e-bay related.

Three other WWII books. A canadian Farley Mowat's 'And no birds sang' which is very good. The others by W. S. Kuniczak--his father was a general in the Polish Army--pre WWII. 'The thousand hour day'--about the German invasion of Poland--though I suspect there are some liberties taken with actual fact here. There was a followup 'The March' which focuses most of its attention on the Jewish question after the Nazi occupation in one part and the Soviet of the other and follows a small group of Polish mercenaries into the allied army and to the beginnings of the jewish state of Israel. The second book might be harder to find. They are interesting books that I found to be engaging reads in a War and Peace kind of way. I have my dad actually to thank for both the Kuniczak and the Heinrich books. He kept pestering and pestering me about them.
John--Kaputt is very painful to read--at least I found in that way. It is autobiographical fiction I suppose. Malaparte was the Eastern Front correspondent for Corriere dela Sere (I think I may have misspelled that) but also a contact of many of the hoi polloi of Europe of his time. That book is worthwhile just for the elegance of the language but what it describes (always with empathy for the victims) is almost always very horrible for instance I believe the book had the first written account of the pogrom that took place in Iasi (Jassy) Romania--and a street level one at that. He travels through Poland, Hungary, the Ukraine, Yugoslavia--he writes on the Russian--Finnish war. Another very hard one is Paul West's 'The very rich hours of Count Von Stauffenberg' which chronicles the failed assassination on Hitler and describes in the aftermath of that event in detail the torture and executions of the plotters through the eyes of Von Stauffenberg the helpless ghost.

Anyway like Fussell's comment I believe people (as in anybody and everybody) are capable of quite a bit more than they'd give themselves credit for--both good and bad.

Anyway to South America. My favorite place to start would be Argentina which like Canada and the United States is a melting pot of a country. Jorge Luis Borges is great (I especially like his poetry)--don't want to take anything away from him but were I choose what I liked best it would be Ricardo Piglia's 'Artificial Respiration'--which is much about the Argentinian dirty war of the 70's and 80's in which Piglia draws on the Polish existentialist writer Witold Gombrowicz (who was exiled there for a while) and also calls on other ghosts Wittgenstein, Kafka and Hitler to kind of write a parable about the disappearances of people under dictatorships. His 'Money to burn' is a retelling of a very violent bank robbery and is also quite good. Roberto Arlt's 'Seven madmen' is also great. Dostoyevskyan but having chucked the good guy(s). There's a second half to that book 'Los lanzallamas' (The flamethrowers) which has never been translated. Arlt had quite an interesting life for someone who only lived 40 some years and had almost no education. All kinds of occupations (an inventor, a chemist, etc.) before he became a newspaperman and then a writer. Ernesto Sabato 'On heroes and tombs' and 'The angel of darkness'--a kind of mix of Sartre or Camus with Edgar Allan Poe. Dark, gothic, existentialist, claustrophobic. Enrique Medina with 'The Duke' we're back in the dirty war following around an ex-boxer now pathological killer who has a government stamp of approval. 'Las Tumbas (The tombs)' is an autobiographical depiction of Medina's childhood growing up in a reformatory. And there is Julio Cortozar--one of those known as a Latin Boom writer (like Garcia Marquez or Vargas Llosa). He was definitely left politically but his fiction tends to steer clear of ideology--his most famous work being 'Hopscotch'.

Anyway a few others--from Chile the poet Nicanor Parra. Very funny--though he can be somewhat nasty at times. He's an attacker of sacred cows both at home and abroad. Tends to use the exasperated tone--kind of Marxist in the Groucho sense and very often political. Neruda is excellent also as a poet as is Gabriela Mistral and Enrique Lihn. Chile (like Ireland) seems to be a country made for poets more than novelists. Mario Vargas Llosa from Peru 'Conversation in the Cathedral' is stunningly good. A masterpiece. Nearly as good are 'The time of the hero', The war of the end of the World', and 'The feast of the goat'--that last one a dictator novel about the Trujillo regime in the Dominican Republic. The Colombian Alvaro Mutis (good friend of Garcia Marquez) tends to write novellas about the sea and a sailor named Maqroll. I'll finish off quickly because this is quite lengthy with a few honorable mentions to look for from Argentina--Mempo Giardinelli--from Mexico--Paco Ignacio Taibo, Carlos Fuentes, Homero Aridjis (The lord of the last days), Rosario Castellanos (The book of lamentations), Chile--Jose Donoso, Roberto Bolano, Vicente Huidobro. Cuba--Pedro Juan Gutierrez (Dirty Havana Trilogy), Alejo Carpentier (The kingdom of this world), Guillermo Cabrera Infante (Three trapped tigers), Uruguay--Juan Carlos Onetti, Napoleon Baccino Ponce de Leon (Five Black ships--about the Magellan voyage), Brazil--Joachim Maria Machado de Assiz, Colombia--Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Paraguay--Augusto Roa Bastos (I the supreme) and Guatemala--Miguel Angel Asturias 'El Senor Presidente' and Rodrigo Rey Rosa.

As for revisiting Ottawa I think we're going to go back within the next two-three years. We don't usually go back to the same place every year. The kids enjoyed it so much though that I expect it will happen fairly soon as they're getting older (14 and 15). The place they enjoyed the most was actually in Quebec. There was a drive-in animal zoo where the animals could roam around and slobber on the inside of your car windows. They got a big kick out of that but not knowing better we didn't bring any carrots so those animals were a little disappointed with us. There was also the Indian Museum in Hull and the Art museum in Ottawa and we did the 10 pm at the Parliament building. A lot of stuff packed into 4-5 days.
Well a few things John--Laxness to me is the best of all the Nobel literary laureates--at least the ones I've read and I'm probably around 70. The subject of him came up the other day in one of the groups I'm in and I saw that there were only two reviews of him--the one of yours and one of mine for Iceland's Bell and I can tell you yours is much better than mine. I felt out of my league trying to even describe IB but like Independent People it is a masterpiece as is World Light and Salka Valka is very close. A great great writer. Lots of depth, lots of empathy, lots of humor.

As far as South American writers I came to them for the most part kind of late. A lot of them are excellent though. There is a couple who are professors at a local college who knew a lot about that particular area and I picked their brains on it for a while. Anyway one connection leads to another. I don't know if you've ever tried this trick but go into an Amazon or B & N or a Chapters and click on a writer and get that writers works but you can also usually click on the translator of those same works and that will take you quite often to a number of writers and works you might never even have heard of. Anyway I have favorites and would be more than happy to go more into depth on that subject.

As for McGahern I don't really know him that well. I've only read 'The Leavetaking' and 'Amongst Women'. I liked the latter one best and I will probably read more of his books.

On Grossman--it is a good book but to me Malaparte's 'Kaputt' is the best of all World War II books that I've read. Heinrich's 'Cross of Iron' is very fine too. Heinrich's was a recommendation of my father who is a World War II (Pacific Theater) and Korean War vet.

Anyway since you live in Ottawa I'll finish by saying something on that--we were actually in Ottawa and Quebec during the summer--which was our second time there--as it happens since then my daughter who is 15 has talked about some day maybe becoming a Canadian. We were in the Byward Market going into and out of the outdoor stalls and she was just amazed to see all the people switching back and forth from English and French. (She taken Spanish for the past 3 years and it is her favorite class). It made quite an impression on her.

And thank you for the nice comment about my reviews--some of them though are better than others. There are a few that may be not so good but c'est la vie. Some of the earlier reviews are books I haven't read in a while and are done more from memory.
44 books in common - excellent! And I love your reviews - so thorough and interesting. Keep up the good work!
John--that is a particularly fine review of Halldor Laxness's Independent people. He's one of my favorite writers and I enjoyed your take on it very much.
You & my father, D'Arcy, worked together in Brussels a few decades ago, I think!
Just on the offchance -- John Klassen of External Affairs?
john, your succinct and satisfying notes on chronicle of a death foretold nailed all the reasons why i consider the novel my favorite of all of marquez's works.
john, thought your Blood Meridian review was masterful.
John, you're the only other member on the site with a copy of Bickers'Empire Made Me, and have read your review and agree that it's not just a remarkable story, but a fascinating insight into the last days of the Raj too.
My late dad served with the 209th Combat Engineers in the China-Burma-India theater, October 1943 - August 1945. His unit served under Col. Lewis A. Pick in construction of the Ledo (aka Stilwell, aka Burma) Road. General Stilwell deployed this unit from road-building directly into combat at the Myitkyina Air Strip and for the last three months of siege at the town of Myitkyina. I'm seeking to meet those who may have information about my dad's unit or the Myitkyina battles. Can you help?
I chanced upon your large library. Your reviews are well done, and I have made a couple of wish list notes based on it.
1. Primo Levi's If This is a Man, and Survival in Auschwitz are a remarkable testimony to the triumph of will and spirit over systematic dealing of dehumanization and death. Your review was good.
2. To my shocking surprise you appear to have entered most of your collection manually. Tim Spalding's Help sections could save you a lot of time and effort.
3. Re: your review of Siege of Krishnapur(?) a work I haven't read, but might, I think the term Collector refers to an official of the Indian Civil Service who nominally administers a province and "collects" taxes, unless I am much mistaken in this instance.
John, I loved your review of Daughter of Fortune. I felt exactly the same way. I suspect Allende may first write her stories in spanish, and they may suffer slightly in the translation. But, Allende is Allende, and she transcends the language. Thanks! Lori
Help/FAQs | About | Privacy/Terms | Blog | Contact | APIs | WikiThing | Common Knowledge | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | 92,710,002 books! | Top bar: Always visible