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Avaland, 2011, Part II More Adventures

Club Read 2011

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1avaland
Edited: Dec 29, 2011, 1:21pm Top

My previous 2011 thread is HERE

NOW READING


An Instant in the Wind by André Brink (1978, South Africa)

BOOKS & OTHER MATERIAL READ, 2011 (*favorites)

Novels/Novellas

The House of Mist by Mariá Luisa Bombal (1937, Ecuador)
The Blue Fox by Sjon (T 2008, Icelandic)
Death Comes to Pemberley by P. D. James (2011, UK)
All That I Have by Castle Freeman, Jr. (2009, US)
*Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward (2011, US)
*Go With Me by Castle Freeman, Jr. (2008, US, Vermont)
*Bellefleur by Joyce Carol Oates (1980, US, New York)
In Their Father's Country by Anne Marie Rosso (2009, Egypt)
African Psycho by Alain Mabanckou (2003, Congo-Brazzaville, T 2007)
The Last Gift by Abdulrazak Gurnah (2011, UK/Zanzibar)
*The Wedding of Zein by Tayib Shalih (Sudanese,1969, T)
The Ice People by Maggie Gee (2008, UK, dystopian)
*Penwoman by Elin Wagner (Swedish, 1910, T 2009)
*Embassytown by China Miéville (2011, UK author)
Waiting by Goretti Kyomuhendo (2007, Uganda)
The Woman in Black by Susan Hill (1983, UK, audio)
*The Last Brother by Nathacha Appanah (2007, T 2010 Mauritius)
Minaret by Leila Aboulela (Sudan, ...)
*The Last Patriarch by Najat El Hachmi (2010, Morocco, T)
Hygiene and the Assassin by Amelie Nothomb (1992, T 2010, Belgian)
*Five Bells by Gail Jones (2011, Australian)
The Testament of Jessie Lamb by Jane Rogers (2011, UK, dystopian)
A Palace in the Old Village by Tahar Ben Jelloun (T 2011, Morocco)
Ledoyt by Carol Emshwiller (1995, US)
A Double Life by Karolina Pavlova (novel, Russian, 1848, T 1978)
Mrs. De Winter by Susan Hill (1999, UK)
Isle of Dreams by Keizo Hino (T. 2010, Japan)
From Sleep Unbound by Andrée Chedid (T 1983, Egyptian-Lebanonese)
The Time: Night by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya (1992, T 1994, Russian)
Madame Verona Comes Down the Hill by Dmitri Verhulst

Random Reading

The Filter Bubble by Eli Pariser (dabbling in this, it disturbs me)
New Model Army by Adam Roberts (satire set in the future, SF, may get back to this...)
When She Woke by Hillary Jordan (about 1/3 of the book while dukedom was reading it.

Short Fiction/Anthologies

Selections from Twenty Stories by Turkish Women Writers
Selections from The View from the Seventh Layer by Kevin Brockmeier (2009, US)
----
12 stories, 1 each from 12 anthologies, read 7/2011 (see previous thread for comments on these)
1. "The Rubbish Dump" by Steve Chimombo (Malawi)
Anthology: The Heinemann Book of African Short Stories edited by Chinua Achebe and C. L. Innes (1992)
2. "The Twelfth in the Cabin" (1907) by Ragnhild Jolsen
Anthology: An Everyday Story: Norwegian Women's Fiction edited by Katherine Hanson. 1984
3. "The Crow and the Fox" (2001) by Liang Dazhi
Anthology: Loud Sparrows: Contemporary Chinese Short-Shorts selected & translated by Aili Mu, Julie Chiu, Howard Goldblatt (2006)
4. "The Triumphant Head" by Josephine Saxton
Anthology: The New Women of Wonder, edited by Pamela Sargent (1977)
5. Excerpt from The Timeless Land, Part III: 1790 (1st volume pub. 1941)by Eleanor Dark
Anthology: Macquarie Pen Anthology of Australian Literature edited by Nicholas Jose, 2009
6. "Bloody Blanche" (1897) by Marcel Schwob, translated from the French by Chris Baldick
Anthology :The Oxford Book of Gothic Tales, edited by Chris Baldick, 1992
7. "The Ariran's Last Life" by Maria Eliza Hamilton Abegunde
Anthology: The Best African American Fiction 2010 edited by Gerald Early, 2010
8. "Light Breathing" by Ivan Bunin
Anthology: The Portable Twentieth-Century Russian Reader edited by Clarence Brown, circa 1994 edition.
9. "The Library Girl" by Vishwapriya L. Iyengar
Anthology: The Inner Courtyard: Stories by Indian Women edited by Lakshmi Holmstrom, 1990
10. "Jungfrau" (2006 winner of the Caine Prize) by Mary Watson
Anthology: Ten Years of the Caine Prize for African Writing, 2009
11. "Questioning Samantha" by Guillermo Fadanelli
Anthology: Best of Contemporary Mexican Fiction edited by Alvaro Uribe, 2009
12. "Report on the Barnhouse Effect" by Kurt Vonnegut (1950)
Anthology: First Fiction: An Anthology of the First Published Stories by Famous Writers edited by Kathy Kiernan and Michael M. Moore. 1994

Poetry

Walking the Dog's Shadow by Deborah Brown (2011, US)
The Woman I Kept to Myself: Poems by Julia Alvarez (2004)
Selections from the poetry in Doctor Zhivago
Selections from The Poetry of Boris Pasternak (T. 1959)
Selections from Selected Poems of Boris Pasternak (T. 1984)
Selections from My Sister, Life by Boris Pasternak (T. 1967)
Selections from Aftermath by Sandra M. Gilbert (2011, US author)
Selections from Boris Pasternak's poetry (Russian, 20th century)
Selections from Lovers of the Lost by Wesley McNair (2010)

Police Procedurals/Mysteries/Crime

(*highest marks go to the Disher and Holt novels, followed by the Eriksson. So-so marks for the Danish thriller and the Nesser crime novels.)

The Impossible Dead by Ian Rankin (2011, Scottish)
The Pyramid by Henning Mankell (T 2008, Swedish)
The Glass Devil by Irene Tursten (2003, T 2007, Swedish)
1222 by Anne Holt (T 2011, Norwegian)
Until Thy Wrath be Past by Åsa Larsson (T 2011, Swedish)
What Never Happens by Anne Holt (2004, T 2008 Norwegian)
The Hand That Trembles by Kjell Ericksson (2011, T 2011, Swedish)
Outrage by Arnuldur Indridason (2009, T 2011 Icelandic)
What is Mine by Anne Holt (2001, T. 2006 Norwegian)
Fear Not by Anne Holt (2009, T 2011 Norwegian)
The Boy in the Suitcase by Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friis (Danish, 2008, T 2010, thriller)
Blood Moon by Garry Disher (2009, Australian)
The Demon of Dakar by Kjell Eriksson (2005, Swedish)
Chain of Evidence by Garry Disher (2007, Australian)
The Cruel Stars of the Night by Kjell Eriksson (2004, Swedish, 2nd in series to be translated)
Snapshot by Garry Disher (Australian, 3rd in the series)
Kittyhawk Down by Garry Disher (Australian, 2nd in the series)
The Dragon Man by Gary Disher (1999, Australian, 1st in the series)
Woman with Birthmark by Håkan Nesser (Swedish, psychological thriller, 4th in the series)
Mind's Eye by Håkan Nesser (1993, T 2008, Swedish, 2nd in the series)
The Return by Håkan Nesser (1995, T 2007, Swedish, 1st in the series)

Nonfiction

Bossypants by Tina Fey (2011, US, AUDIO)
The Journal of Joyce Carol Oates, 1973-1982 (read through '78 and '79 while she was writing Bellefleur
Living with Complexity by Donald Norman (2011, nonfiction)
The Influencing Machine by Brooke Gladstone (2011, graphic nonfiction)
The Quilter's Album of Patchwork Patterns 4050 Pieced Blocks for Quilters by Jinny Beyer (quilting, geometry)
Designing Tessellations: The Secrets to Interlocking Patterns by Jinny Beyer. (1999 art/design)
Who is Ana Mendieta? by Christine Redfern and Caro Caron (2011, graphic nonfiction)
Selected rereading from Right Hand, Left Hand:The Origins of Asymmetry in Brains, Bodies, Atoms… by Chris McManus
Selected reading from American Art Review, February 2011.

Abandoned Completely

A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny (too 'cozy' for me...)
A Clubbable Woman by Reginald Hill (his first novel, which I had never read).
In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed by Carol Honoré (2004, nonfiction, Canadian)

----------------------------------------
Symposium, October 15th: "Fabric, Fashion and Quilts: from the Armistice to Pearl Harbor" put on jointly by the American Textile Museum & the New England Quilt Museum.
---------------------------------------
Notable movies or television watched:

"Tamara Drew" adapted from the Posy Simmons novel.
"Bon Voyage" (French)(starring Gerard Depardieu. Farce set in Paris as the Germans are approaching the city. Very good)
"Brighton Rock" (very good. Helen Mirren excellent as always)
"Doc Martin" (1st of the 2 movies which preceded the series)
"24 Hours in the Emergency Room" (watched 2 one hour-long episodes of this strangely riveting documentary)

2dchaikin
Jul 29, 2011, 1:26pm Top

Lois - for some reason I happen to have a copy of Bellefleur, the only JCO in our house. I would like to know if it's a good JCO to try.

3avaland
Jul 30, 2011, 7:11am Top

>2 dchaikin: I don't know yet, Dan, but I've liked all of her other 'American Gothics', so we shall see.

4avaland
Aug 22, 2011, 9:22am Top

I still need to review The Last Gift by Abdulrazak Gurnah (very good, but my favorite remains By the Sea) and African Psycho (graphic, but interesting on some levels).

I'm still reading Bellefleur and really enjoying it, but at the rate of about a chapter a night, I'm progressing slowing through the tome.

I haven't been reading as much generally because I've been messing around in the sewing room in my off-time, but while in the bookstore the other day to pick up an order, I couldn't resist browsing. So, I have nominally started Living with Complexity by Donald A. Norman. It is about good and bad design, but the principles have broader applications. Good design can 'tame' the complexities of our life, culture. "Complexity is good. Simplicity is misleading," he says. It's really interesting.

The other book I bought was The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You, which discusses the personalized filters that Google, FaceBook...etc are creating for us -- "Our past interests will determine what we are exposed to in the future, leaving less room for the unexpected encounters that spark creativity, innovation, and the democratic exchange of ideas." Another interesting cultural topic!

5janepriceestrada
Aug 22, 2011, 1:18pm Top

4 - Living with Complexity sounds very interesting. Not sure I totally agree. I tend not to feel that anything is so easy as one is good and the other is bad. Both have their applications, benfits/drawbacks, etc.

6avaland
Aug 23, 2011, 9:00pm Top

>5 janepriceestrada: He does not say that simplicity is bad, just misleading - on a number of levels. We say we want things simple, but more often, when given the choice, we will choose more features over less (he uses the cell phone as an example). He also talks about simplicity being in our minds and how that can be deceptive. Things that seem to be simple to us, are so often because we have mastered the underlying structures. He talks about how complicated gardening is. He discusses driving a car and learning language. We get frustrated often when things are badly designed and make the complex complicated, or we fail to take the time to learn the underlying structure. When he refers to design, he is mostly talking about the design of technology (the term used in its broadest sense which simply I guess would be 'the tools we use').

7Nickelini
Edited: Aug 23, 2011, 9:10pm Top

Living with Complexity sounds very interesting. On to the wish list it goes!

Edited to say: I've read that author before -- the Psychology of Everyday Things was a hot book a few years ago.

8avaland
Edited: Sep 6, 2011, 7:35pm Top

To make a dent in catching up, I will start with the easiest:



The Hand that Trembles by Kjell Eriksson (2011, T 2011, Swedish)

Book 4 of the Anne Lindell series. A talented local politician suddenly disappears. There are no clues whatsoever. 12 years later, someone recognizes him in a restaurant in Bangalore. Meanwhile, Ann Lindell is investigating the discovery of a woman's foot on an somewhat isolated peninsula with few residents. It is also in the vicinity of her last great love, father of her only child.

Eriksson wouldn't make my A-list of crime writers, but he is certainly a solid "B". I like the cast of characters he has created and certainly enjoyed another visit with them; however, that said, I thought the crime story part of this book to be less than satisfying this time around. I'm not sure I can put my finger on exactly why, but perhaps the storyline around the disappearance of the local politician just didn't seem credible.

Most crimes in crime novel require some suspension of disbelief on the part of the reader to make the whole thing work, but within that bit of fantasy it is made credible by the story around the crime or mystery. This one didn't quite do it for me. Also, I had a bit of impatience with the police detective, who has been hung up on this guy, Edward, for five years now. Pick yourself up and MOVE ON! (maybe I should be telling this to the author, eh?). So, to sum, better than average but not as good as the previous; nice visit with 'old friends'.

9avaland
Sep 6, 2011, 8:00pm Top

What Never Happens by Anne Holt (2004, T 2008, Norwegian).

An Oprah-eske celebrity is brutally murdered, her tongue cut out after her death and placed in a delicate, red origami box. Another celebrity, a controversial journalist, is found murdered, his favorite pen shoved into his eye socket. Have I got your attention yet?

A series of celebrity murders have the police baffled, including Adam Stubo of NCIS, called back early from paternity leave. Through conversations with her husband, profiler Johanna Vik becomes first interested, then obsessed with the crimes, all while clearly still suffering some postpartum effects. The two work together (most of the time) to puzzle out this intensely complicated case, or is it cases?

Anne Holt has created something a bit unique with Stubo & Vik, I think. Not only are they generally happy people, but they have a relatively normal family life (or try to). The reader gets to see how that functions with the same elements other literary detectives are put under. It's a bit refreshing. But don't think this dilutes the crime storyline at all, because it doesn't - the crimes are sensational, the mystery wonderfully complicated, and the reasoning out of the killer/s profile/s intensely psychological. Although I would rate this installment just slightly less than the first (What is Mine) and most recent (Fear Not), it's still a very satisfying crime novel.

10Nickelini
Sep 6, 2011, 8:23pm Top

An Oprah-eske celebrity is brutally murdered, her tongue cut out after her death and placed in a delicate, red origami box.

That reminds me--did you hear about the wack-a-doodle fundamentalist preacher who a few weeks ago said that Oprah is the anti-Christ? Maybe he did it.

11RidgewayGirl
Sep 6, 2011, 9:49pm Top

Excellent. I'm glad the Stubo/Vik series is good. I'll (try to) save it for when I want a sure thing.

12Samantha_kathy
Sep 7, 2011, 8:49am Top

9> This sounds like a novel my mother would greatly enjoy. I'm always on the look-out for new series for her. But from your description, it's a bit too gritty for me.

Anne Holt has created something a bit unique with Stubo & Vik, I think. Not only are they generally happy people, but they have a relatively normal family life (or try to).

I like that in books and tv-series, so often law enforcement officers (in the very broad sense of the word, including everyone working on catching criminals) are depicted as workaholics with no family life or a disastrous family life, while there are also many who do have a normal family life - although it is sometimes disrupted by cases.

13avaland
Sep 7, 2011, 10:10am Top

>10 Nickelini: yeah, I did. No, she didn't do it. :-)

>11 RidgewayGirl: I like these because the intellectual process of crime-solving is psychological. Starting with the crime and extrapolating motive and a profile of what kind of person would do such a thing. They discuss what message the criminal is trying to send. It's a different perspective/approach, but equally entertaining.

>12 Samantha_kathy: The crimes are a bit more bizarre, but I suppose they might need to be in order to make for some interesting profiling.

Having worked for a quite a long time in the field, I can tell you that that is true! And no one shows in book the HUGE amount of paperwork that much be done by all members on the law enforcement food chain! One can't sneeze without documenting it.

14avaland
Sep 7, 2011, 10:42am Top



African Psycho by Alain Mabanckou (Congo-Brazzaville, 2003, T 2007 from the French)

I'm not sure what attracted me to this book other than China Miéville included it in his short list of recently read books, but I was not intimidated. I have read several Joyce Carol Oates's novels where she explores the minds of serial killers (i.e. Zombie, The Triumph of the Spider Monkey), it couldn't be any worse, could it?

I knew it was a take on American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis, a controversial, satirical novel that I have NOT read (nor have I seen the movie). So, I read up on the book before starting this one.

Like it's American predecessor, African Psycho is told in first person by a young man, and is an unrelenting narrative of crimes. As far as I can tell, that may be were the similarities end. Grégorie Nakaobomayo has had a tough life with a few brighter spots in it. He's an intelligent guy, who runs an auto repair shop. He's obsessed with a notorious murderer named Angoulima, who has been terrorizing the country for years. After Angoulima dies, he goes to his grave and talks to him. Up until now, Greg has lived a life of mostly petty crime, but yearns to make his mark, perhaps capture his 15 minutes of fame, by pulling off a spectacular murder in the vein of his idol. He is obsessed with this idea. The book, while pretty tough to read because of its violent and base content, had some interesting bits. One is where Greg muses:

I have my doubts about theories claiming to explain the behavior of people like me as the result of a disturbed past, a corrupted youth. Could it really be that my willpower has no part in what I undertake? That my entire life has been drawn in advance so that I am only following a path established by a force above me? Let me just laugh for a moment! People talk and have no clue how far they are from reality! Am I going to listen to them—me? Am I going to give credit to these ratiocinations?

Or when he explains his aversion to firearms, which he thinks are cowardly, used by people who fear face-to-face confrontation (here I might think this section a poke in the eye to American culture which is obsessed with firearms). It's an interesting book, the author definitely promising, and I think I might like to see what others have taken away from this short novel. While I won't tell you exactly what happens, one does have to wonder, in the end, how much of his talk and actions were mostly just in his head.

15detailmuse
Sep 7, 2011, 4:02pm Top

>9 avaland: What Never Happens
Not my genre but I think you hooked me.

>4 avaland: I'm also reading The Filter Bubble (well, audio), there are more pros and cons than I went in thinking. I'm halfway through and wondering what else there is to cover but bet I'll be surprised again.

16avaland
Sep 7, 2011, 5:19pm Top

>15 detailmuse: I haven't started the Filter Bubble yet, got to finish Living with Complexity but I do want to get to it. With regards to the internet and social media, I often feel that I'm in a river whose current is dragging me along and I don't know whether to try to swim to the shore or just stop struggling enjoy the ride---if you know what I mean. So the reading helps in the reflection on my relationship to it.

17avaland
Sep 9, 2011, 10:02am Top



The Influencing Machine by Brooke Gladstone (2011, graphic nonfiction)

For those who are unfamiliar, Brooke Gladstone has a program called "On the Media" heard National Public Radio.

The media. Most of us have, like me, a love-hate relationship with the media. Can't live with it, can't live without it, right?

In this book, Brooke Gladstone explores the history of the media, and in particular, the history of the American media. Now, you might think this would be a boring subject, but Gladstone and her book, both in comic/graphic form, makes it both interesting and entertaining - and I really enjoyed it. If you are unhappy with the media today, it seems we have been here before. "Everything we hate about the media today was present at its creation."

Additionally, Gladstone explores issues related to the media—bias (who knew there were that many kinds!?), objectivity, propaganda, war coverage, disclosure, to name a few. She also touches on contemporary media issues (photoshopification of photos, citizen journalism...etc) and looks ahead into the future (chips in our heads, anyone?). There's a lot in this book.

I didn't think I would like the graphic/comic rending of the book, but in hindsight, I thought it a perfect vehicle for it. The visual style spread the ideas out a bit, giving you a bit of space to mull them over, while augmenting the ideas with illustrations, some quite humorous. As I said before, it's a fabulous blend of education and entertainment. She isn't defending the media so much as explaining and educating. Yes, it's as bad as we thought. "So news consumers seeking quality information have to penetrate an intensifying fog of passion and poppycock. That take great commitment. Because truth seekers also must struggle endlessly with a force even more seductive than the media, a force that weaves an irresistible vision of a familiar and predictable world."

Here's some tidbits:

"There's a long-standing debate in the media biz over whether news outlets should give the public what it wants, or what it needs. This debate presupposes that media execs actually know what it wants or needs. And that there actually is a unitary 'public' ."

"Impartiality, like news itself, is whatever the publisher says it is."

"The American media are not afraid of the government. They are afraid of their audiences and advertisers. The media do not control you. They pander to you."

"{Neil}Postman says the moment we could get instant news from everywhere--news not directly relevant to us--that's when news became entertainment. Or as C. K. Chesterton put it: Journalism largely consists of saying 'Lord Jones is Dead' to people who never knew Lord Jones was alive. But Chesterton's news came from newspapers. In fact, as far back as Caesar's Acta Diurna, news has always been entertainment. The difference between their eras and our own is that now, news from everywhere is relevant. Unemployment in the Middle East, environmental policies in Asia, epidemics in Africa--this news affects us all. And now we can act, easily, to spread the news, and even influence how those stories end."

18avaland
Sep 9, 2011, 10:52am Top

Regarding this part of the larger quote from the post above:

"Because truth seekers also must struggle endlessly with a force even more seductive than the media, a force that weaves an irresistible vision of a familiar and predictable world."

It seems that we, as readers of fiction, must also struggle to overcome that same kind of seductive force that keeps us reading in our "box", so to speak. We want to avoid something that might disturb us, upset our "familiar and predictable world". By disturb, I mean it in the general sense; I'm not referring necessarily to graphic sex or violence. Without a struggle or a challenge, do we really grow as a reader or citizen of the world in which we live? Do we care about growing as a reader? (my personal answer to that would be: yes, much of the time, but not always).

I hear from some of the Belletrista reviewers while they are really struggling with a book that they are reviewing (or struggling with the review, which really is a struggle with the book, I think), and here I confess that I LOVE that, because it seems to me that there is so much in the individual struggle itself. Why is the book disturbing? Why do you think it's so explicit? Why, if you didn't like it, does it linger in your mind? Why did the style bother you? What is that author trying to say (this was my big question after reading African Psycho and I don't have the answer yet).

How much do we contribute to the seduction by reading just the threads here of those who read the kinds of books that we do? (this comes up because I was thinking earlier that I ought to learn to read the threads I've starred from "Talk" on my profile page, like I imagine most LTers must do; but I talked myself out of it, because, if truth be told, I don't want the limits, even if it means I don't get around to people as often). This also comes up because so much of the internet is about connecting people with those of similar interests, similar ways of thinking. (if you like BettyX, then you'll like TravisD... ha ha).

Just thinkin'...

19rebeccanyc
Sep 9, 2011, 3:17pm Top

Sounds like an interesting and thought-provoking book, Lois. I heard Brook Gladstone talk about it on NPR, so was already intrigued by it. It is interesting thinking about books we struggle with. I like to think I have an open mind but I do find that at this point in my life I have an idea whether I will like a book or not before I read it, although liking it doesn't necessarily mean not struggling with it. If I had more time, I would probably try more books I don't think I'll like, and I'd probably read more people's threads. But the threads I do read often discuss books that don't sound appealing to me; I'm more interested in how people talk about the books they read than in whether I will like the books.

20Samantha_kathy
Sep 10, 2011, 5:58am Top

How much do we contribute to the seduction by reading just the threads here of those who read the kinds of books that we do?

Actually, not so much, I think. Because while the overlap between my thread and that of the people I read is why I start reading them, the differences are what makes it interesting. Many times I've come across books I never would've tried on my own in threads that I picked for being 'similar'.

21avaland
Sep 16, 2011, 8:11am Top

Read while on the road...



Until Thy Wrath be Past by Åsa Larsson (T2011, Swedish)

This is the 4th book to be translated in the Rebecka Martinsson series.

A young couple, who are diving in a frigid lake to explore the possibility that there is a downed WWII plane on the bottom, are deliberately prevented from surfacing through the ice hole and both drown. At first thought to be a tragic accident, small clues lead them to start thinking this may be a murder. Rebecka Martinsson is now prosecutor in her home district and she joins the local police (who we have come to know in the previous books) to investigate. This particular installment leans a bit more towards the thriller subgenre, culminating in a very well done chase and survival scene (I'm not giving any hints).

There are things I like about Larsson's crime novels. Her characters, for one. Her unique use of animals in her stories. These novels are not animal-themed by any means, but she shows her characters through their interaction with their pets, or with other animals. I not a dog person, per se, but I enjoy this interesting perspective. She also uses landscape well. And the basic crime story and solution is always decent. All these things are present in this latest book; however...

In this story Larsson makes the dead young woman a secondary character, a la Lovely Bones. She introduces the story by telling how she and her boyfriend die (I almost put the book down right there). She sits on the prosecutor's bed and watches her sleep, inserting herself into her dreams and implanting an idea in her head. She sits in the trees with the crows and watches the police search a house. She decides she must find a way to bring to characters together. My beef with this is that this is completely unnecessary, it adds nothing to the story; in fact, the novel would have been much better without this goofy addition (It seems there was an incident in a previous book of Martinsson getting an idea when she dreamed of the dead person, but it was minor). So, ultimately I enjoyed the crime storyline despite the foo-foo factor, but not as much as I would have liked, and it remains to be seen whether this has killed the series for me.

22stretch
Sep 17, 2011, 9:00pm Top

>18 avaland:. Been thinking about your questions quite a bit this week (a random cat was all I had for company in the field this week, so it was good to have something to ponder).

I think that Club Read and other groups that log books are by their nature are pretty limiting, keeping us in our boxes. By this I mean that threads only provide us with snapshots of what is read and being read that year or in that moment. Not the best way to get the whole picture of the person or their overall tastes. These threads narrow our scope so much that it's hard for people like me to break into new territory that might be outside of my comfort zone. I tend to read the side bar of collected touchstones in a new thread to see what we have in common or if they have read a book that I've already heard some buzz about from other sources. This is mainly to establish a baseline to see if our opinions line up and how to gauge their other reviews. For me this a poor mechanism to break into new threads, since most threads will have very little in common with what I have read, being by their nature focused on the present. There is no real connection to what we have read in the past except for the end of the year best of round up, but even that isn't a very good way to make new connections. I think with all the diversity of Club Read has to offer, we are bound to find that our differences are much smaller than we think and that we tastes are much better aligned than what a first glance has would tell us.

I really don't know how to facilitate making these connections, other being self-disciplined to visit other threads and other libraries. They only thing I have to offer is a personal anecdote that got me to explore a whole side of fiction and now non-fiction that I would have never come across otherwise. After expressing graphic novel about the bombing of Hiroshima recommended to me by some one I followed even before starting my own thread, I mentioned off hand that one of my favorite books was Hiroshima by John Hersey, I received two recommendations of books of a similar vein by two Japanese authors from another member that turned out to be really great novels. Since that 'random' recommendation I have come to love Japanese fiction and have followed her threads ever since adding books that are not exactly in my wheel house, which has been terrific. None of these would have been possible if I had just read her threads, since these are books that read before joining Club Read. Maybe a thread dedicated to these kinds of 'random' recommendations would be a better way to connect members with seemingly dissimilar tastes? Then again that would be rather hard to force.

If none of this makes sense, I blame the cat.

23avaland
Sep 18, 2011, 7:25am Top

>22 stretch: Interesting note, stretch, thanks. So, you are saying that a serendipitous, small connection with one member of whom you otherwise have little in common with, led you down to a completely new path of reading? Here I would posit that you could not have been led if you were not open to it, and then willing—perhaps that is the key.

24avaland
Sep 18, 2011, 9:34am Top

Now, here's an interesting tidbit. Among my junk mail was a catalog of "The Great Courses" - college lectures on CD or DVD. One new release offered is "The Art of Reading" by a professor at Lawrence University.

Unlike everyday reading, artful reading—the way we read novels and short stories—is less about reading for specific information and more about reading to revel in the literary experience. It involves recognizing:

*how a story's narrative style affects your connection with its characters,
*why authors choose to hint at meanings instead of just writing them out for you,
*how the organization of chapters can affect your engagement with a novel's plot, and more.


Besides learning "definitions and characteristics of terms," one will also learn the professor's suggestions for artful reading; such as, *Holding an initial reading session: Getting into a book is like getting acquainted with another person, so it's important to make your first reading session a fairly long one—between one hour to 90 minutes...
* and Constantly asking questions: make a point to ask yourself questions about what you're reading, such as the motivations of its characters of the potential outcomes of an event...

I thought I'd share this because I thought some of you might find this interesting. I am incessant questioner when I read (well, I'm an incessant questioner all the time), and I do ponder some of the questions in the first set related to how a story is told, but I don't think I ask myself about the characters motivations or about potential outcomes of events. Hmmm...

And I agree with his idea of an initial reading session, though these days it does seem I have less time for that. I am curious about his other "suggestions" but not enough to pay the $40 for the DVD or CDs:-)

25dukedom_enough
Sep 18, 2011, 4:14pm Top

Nowadays that initial reading session is often the first chapter, since those are now free online from many publishers.

26lilisin
Sep 18, 2011, 4:31pm Top

22, 23 -

I find that the threads can be useful if there is a discussion that takes place or is maintained. In the past, for example, we had theme reads along the lines of the Japan theme read where discussion was thoroughly maintained the entire month and people were eager to share and debate and think about what they were reading. I think that those discussions, because they became more personal to each individual reader, became a huge influence on what people chose to read next. However, with the latest theme reads it seems people only pop in, post their review, and then don't come back until they have read another book that fits the theme. That is not going to inspire too many people to attempt to read another book as it is enthusiasm and discussion, I find, that inspires one to read another's recommendation. As in the case with stretch when he read the book on Hiroshima and I was able to recommend Black Rain and (I believe) Fires on a Plain. But my love for Japanese literature is such that if I see someone on the brinks of entering the genre, I will push my enthusiasm on them to try and see if they won't dip their toes a bit more into it. So far, I've been very pleased by the enthusiasm many have come out with after delving into new works. So yes, discussion, I find, is the key to discovery.

27avaland
Sep 18, 2011, 5:21pm Top

>26 lilisin: If you are referring to the ones that have been done in the RG group, I'm sure we'd like to find the magic formula for those few that have been real discussions - yes, the Japanese lit, the Muslim Women, and the Haiti themes come to mind. But you are right, it's like challenges, where everyone completes a task and that's that. A box to check off.

28Jargoneer
Sep 19, 2011, 7:33am Top

>18 avaland: - years ago my economics professor used to nag the class to read a newspaper they disagreed with. His reasoning was that most people read newspapers they agree with and just politely nod along with the reports whereas if when you read one that you disagreed with it made you want to argue, think more about the subject.
How does this fit with books? There is a big argument that one of the strengths of genre is that it gives the reader what they want, that it rarely challenges them. Of course, SF readers will counter that SF always challenges them because it is full on 'new' ideas, and crime readers will counter that crime novels make them face unsavoury aspects of society. Even with literary novels it could be argued that readers choose certain types of novels that reflect their likes while ignoring styles or tropes they dislike.
Fundamentally this is an argument about why we read and not necessarily what we read? Do we read for enjoyable or knowledge or to challenge our perconceptions, etc?

>24 avaland: - I've listened to that course. The lecture on pre-reading discusses aspects about the epigraph and title - why did the author choose it, what does it signify, etc. He then suggests checking the structure of the book, how it split in sections, chapters, etc.
The initial reading session suggests reading a few chapters and then going back and re-reading chapter one. I'd have to check my notes about what he exactly but it was all about getting a general feel for the book.

29rebeccanyc
Sep 19, 2011, 7:59am Top

#27 I'm concerned about this too in the RG group theme reads. In October, I'm going to be starting a discussion thread for how we can do it better in 2012, and I'm going to have some specific questions, including asking people how to make the threads more participatory and interactive. I'm thinking the answer probably boils down to some people taking responsibility for starting a discussion and then maybe others will join in, but I welcome any thoughts readers in this group have as well.

30JustJoey4
Edited: Sep 19, 2011, 1:51pm Top

27 - 29 You can count me in as a "thinker" about this. I share your concerns and would love to see more discussion rather than checking off boxes or nodding friendly to each other. On the other hand, I must say the RG-threads are wonderful to find good books on certain countries and by authors that otherwise get washed away in the tsunami of Anglo-Saxon literature. I mean, it's not all bad. But I too would love more discussion.

31avaland
Sep 20, 2011, 7:48am Top

>27 avaland:-30 Well, we've always been willing to try something new, which is probably why the group has lasted as long as it has. It was thought that if the themes were reduced to four a year that it would allow more people to participate and thus, perhaps generate more discussion. I honestly thought, for example, some of the African country themes would generate discussion. Really, how much do readers really know about Nigeria, Algeria or South Africa. It probably sounds elitist, but perhaps a sub-group could have a thread and read intently in one area.

>28 Jargoneer: Some good points there. Thanks for the expansion on the content of the Art of Reading course. I find epigraphs and titles far more interesting after I've read the book. I almost never read introductions before reading the book. And I sometimes read the afterword, before! (as I did with Bellefleur). In my independent study class on African lit, my Tunisian professor had me make all my papers a discussion about the relationship of the title to the book. It was an interesting exercise, though I did not always have that much to say about some of the 12 books & titles (i.e. the Famished Road, The River Between, The Sleepwalking Land...etc).

32rebeccanyc
Sep 20, 2011, 8:11am Top

31. One of the problems with talking about the relationship of the title to the work is that translated titles are often very different from the one the author originally had in mind. For example, of books I've read in the past year or so, the English title of Mario Vargas Llosa's La Ciudad y los Perros ("the city and the dogs") is The Time of the Hero; the Spanish title is infinitely more appropriate for the book. Another example: the English title of J. M. G. LeClezio's Le Chercheur D'Or ("the searcher for gold") is The Prospector, which maybe is literally what a searcher for gold is but doesn't convey either the searching aspect or the less literal meaning of gold which are so central to the book. I'm sure I could think of more.

33Jargoneer
Sep 20, 2011, 10:25am Top

>33 Jargoneer: - I agree that titles can be misleading, even the ones in their native language. There have been editors with a penchant for changing their titles with or without the author's agreement. One of the best is about Brian Aldiss' Nonstop; the premise of the novel is that group of individuals are trying to make sense of their environment and in the end discover they are on a starship. In the US the title of the book was changed to Starship.

34avaland
Sep 20, 2011, 5:04pm Top

Maybe we should start a thread about titles and their books...

35dchaikin
Sep 21, 2011, 12:41am Top

Lois - catching up. I've added Influencing the Machine to my wishlist ("Now, you might think this would be a boring subject, ..." - surely you're kidding here?!) . Other things to say too, but it seems the conversation has moved on several times.

A thought on group reads. Two things I like about Le Salon's group reads. The first is that they pick many of their books the year before, so that there is plenty of time to plan ahead and select which group reads to join. The second is that they, in theory, have someone lead the group read who does a little extra work into providing some more insight. I think having some background and context helps a great deal in orienting us in a book and in making people want to read it.

thinking about comfort zones and Club Read and Kevin's & Turner's & other posts, but I have conflicting and not-entirely coherent thoughts on it. Send my regards to the cat.

36avaland
Sep 21, 2011, 9:25am Top

>35 dchaikin: Dan, the organization of Le Salon's group reads is the model of successful book clubs everywhere. It is the same model I used for most of the book groups I facilitated back in my book store days, though a few groups were set up differently. In the Reading Globally group; however, the reading is thematic, not literary. The discussion theme might be a region or country, or a general theme like immigration or dictatorships. The idea is good, but doesn't always work well. Well, we shall hash it out over there.

re: The Influencing Machine. I think I was surprised that Gladstone essentially says, "yes, the media is as bad as you think."

37rachbxl
Sep 21, 2011, 9:36am Top

You're making me add things to my wishlist, as ever! If only I had time to read them... Interesting discussions here too - sorry I don't have time to chip in!

38detailmuse
Sep 22, 2011, 9:29am Top

>24 avaland: Holding an initial reading session: Getting into a book is like getting acquainted with another person, so it's important to make your first reading session a fairly long one—between one hour to 90 minutes
>28 Jargoneer: reading a few chapters and then going back and re-reading chapter one

Excellent suggestions, I'm going to try them. It's also interesting to re-read chapter one after finishing the book.

39avaland
Sep 23, 2011, 12:22pm Top



The Last Gift by Abdurazak Gurnah (2011, Zanzibar/UK)

I read this early in the summer but have put off commenting on it until now.

I have been a fan of Gurnah since I first read his By the Sea back in '06 or thereabouts. I have since read everything he has written, save Paradise, which has disappeared somewhere into this house. Gurnah has not set this book in his native Zanzibar, not nearby Tanzania (actually, Zanzibar is now part of Tanzania), but in the UK.

The story is a family one. Abbas was once a sailor before meeting his wife Maryam in the UK and settling down. He has never talked about his past and thus his specific origins are a bit of a mystery to the rest of the family (they know he is vaguely from East Africa). Maryam was a foundling who as a teen ran away from her last foster home and eventually met Abbas. She knows nothing about her origins. The couple has two children, Jamal and Hanna, both born in the UK and now adults. The children are reasonably successful, but as they move through life there is a distinct sense of being adrift, a sort of rootlessness about them. When Abbas has a stroke, it serves as a catalyst within the family and he begins to tell his secrets (and I'm not going to give it away here). At roughly the same, Maryam begins to search for who she is. Jamal and Hanna must cope with a lot of new information, not all of it welcome.

There are so many books about immigrants, identity...etc and to some extent this is another immigration story of identity struggle, but I thought Gurnah did something a little different here by having the children grow up with essentially no cultural heritage, no "roots" but their rather shallow UK roots. And then what does one do when suddenly you have all this new information about your family's history; how does this affect who you are? What does it mean for Abbas to overcome personal pain and tell his secrets, or for his wife to discover where she comes from, and for the children to learn these things about their parents? His characters are well-rendered and credible, as are the family dynamics. It is much more nuanced then my poor commentary here is probably communicating. The Last Gift is an intriguing exploration of what our cultural heritage can mean to us all, and the true meaning of home and family.

40Nickelini
Sep 23, 2011, 1:37pm Top

The Last Gift sounds very interesting, Lois.

41avaland
Edited: Sep 24, 2011, 8:41am Top



Living with Complexity by Donald Norman (nonfiction, 2011)

I did a bit of commentary on this book when I began it, but I will attempt to summarize and further comment here.

Norman is writing about complexity and design as it relates to the tools (technology) and services we use. Complexity is a fact of life these days. Good design is about making complexity easier to deal with. Using lots of examples, Norman teaches us about good and bad design, and about how things like culture creates complexity. He thinks design should be in service to people - people friendly. Here he talks about the often differing goals of engineers and designers.

One of my favorite parts was his chapter on "systems and services," the complexity of the latter, although we may only be aware of the front end of any particular service (consider our utilities). He talks about the difficulty in working with complex, and how they are best dealt with by designers if treated as a whole system. He uses several examples, each pretty interesting, but the most interesting one is the Apple ipod music service. Here he contends that the success of this venture was not so much the ipod product itself... "the secret {to Apple's success} is that they understood that the core problem was not just the design of the product: it was to simplify the entire system of finding, buying, getting, and playing music, and also to overcome the legal issues...Apple treated the ipod as a service not an isolated product."

Another interesting bit was the "Design of Waits" Waiting lines, queues, are side effects of complex systems, Norman tells us. And if lines are inescapable how can the experience by enhanced by design? I have not thought about of waiting lines/rooms as something that might be 'designed' - he proposes 6 design rules for waiting lines and expounds on each. He also discusses how culture complications queuing up (in some places it's appropriate to allow someone to cut in front or in back of you without consulting the people around you in line).

I've only touched on some of what is in this book. Norman sums up by saying that taming our complex world, our technologies, is a partnership between designers and users, and even good design demands that we take the time to learn and understand the principles and underlying structures. The ideas in this book are thought-provoking in and of themselves, but, though not a self-help book, the principles can certainly can be applied to many areas of our lives.

42JustJoey4
Sep 23, 2011, 1:55pm Top

How can I resist a review like that... The Last Gift sounds like a must-read. I find the combination of the immigrant-theme and the cultural heritage very interesting. Unfortunately, if I keep up my ways to read alphabetically by country, it'll take me a while to get to Tanzania, let alone Zanzibar. Well, the big advantage of books is that they usually don't go anywhere (except maybe for your copy of Paradise). Thanks for the review!

43avaland
Sep 23, 2011, 1:55pm Top

Ta-dah! I am now caught up with my commentaries (thanks to not having a wireless signal upstairs in my office where I do real work).

>41 avaland: thanks, Joyce. It was. It will not be my favorite of his, but still an excellent book, and I see the story itself as a progression of sorts in his overall oeuvre.

44JustJoey4
Sep 23, 2011, 2:19pm Top

# 43 - So which one is your favorite by Gurnah, Lois?

45bonniebooks
Edited: Sep 23, 2011, 3:19pm Top

Well, even though you didn't buy the book about how to read a book, we still benefitted from your ruminations and the discussion it elicited. I would never start a book unless I had a few hours to read, so that's easy enough for me, but it would be really hard for me to immediately go back and read the first chapter again. I'm a bit of a gobbler, and I want to be immersed in the story, so don't want to get into that part of my brain wherein I'm analyzing the story and/or the author's writing--not if I've gotten to the point where I've shut out the "real" world, anyway. Which doesn't mean I won't reread before continuing on with a book--I've often started at the beginning again, if it's been a while since I've picked up the book. Though, that scenario doesn't happen all that often, as I prefer to read a book pretty much in one setting. Not the best choice for many books, I know, but I'll also go back and read the book--or at least parts of the book--over again if I really loved it.

Meant to say that The Last Gift sounds intriguing, because of my own family experiences, so have added that to my list. I love books that go beyond good writing, a good story, and learning about the world, to one that pushes me to wrestle with my core beliefs.

46rebeccanyc
Sep 23, 2011, 3:12pm Top

The Gurnah does sound good, Lois; as you know, I appreciate your introducing him to me with By the Sea. Also, the complexity book sounds interesting.

47avaland
Sep 24, 2011, 9:06am Top

>42 JustJoey4:, 44 While I have not yet read Paradise, which some tout as his best, I have read all the others and of them I would suggest By The Sea. I think rebeccanyc and kidzdoc would probably concur.

>45 bonniebooks: Bonnie, my husband (dukedom_enough) prefers to have a great chunk of time available before he settles into a book. He likes to read a novel in a weekend if time is available; otherwise, he reads short stories, poetry, various blogs (mostly non-book) in the snippets available.

>46 rebeccanyc: thanks. Yes, the ideas are quite thought-provoking. I kept hoping he'd use the VCR as an example of poor design...but it didn't happen:-) I think LT, when we first came on it back in '06, was very user friendly and not overly complicated, but I wonder if I were a newbie now what I would think. I am way behind on all the bells and whistles here. The problem I have with Norman's suggestion that we as users must do our part and learn and understand how to use these techonologies, is that it seems that we are being asked to spend more and more of our time learning how to use our phones, cameras, refrigerators (ours has a USB port!)...

48AsYouKnow_Bob
Sep 24, 2011, 1:00pm Top

Thanks for the review of the Norman (#41). I've read two of his previous books, I'll add this to the queue.

(And the issue of preposterously complex design is on my mind, having just survived the ordeal of buying a 21st century car: the owner's manual for my new car has 23 pages explaining its BlueTooth capabilities.)

49rebeccanyc
Sep 24, 2011, 1:15pm Top

We have a1999 car and I'm afraid to get a new one! I hope it lasts forever.

50Nickelini
Sep 24, 2011, 3:39pm Top

Another interesting bit was the "Design of Waits" Waiting lines, queues, are side effects of complex systems, Norman tells us. And if lines are inescapable how can the experience by enhanced by design? I have not thought about of waiting lines/rooms as something that might be 'designed' - he proposes 6 design rules for waiting lines and expounds on each.

Did he talk about Disney? They have long been masters of organizing queues.

I noticed this summer that they've changed the line up for the Canada-US border. I guess they realized that all those kabillions of cars idling as they crawled for hours toward the customs booth were creating unnecessary pollution (and wasting expensive fuel). Now the lines proceed in groups, with traffic lights controlling the movement. Drivers shut off the car while waiting. Now if they could just get rid of queues all together . . . .

51avaland
Sep 25, 2011, 7:48am Top

>44 JustJoey4: ooo, I don't think Dukedom's new wheels has Bluetooth...

>50 Nickelini: Yes, he does talk about Disney's Fastpass, and uses some Disney-goers in a subsequent discussion about experience and memory. I didn't quite understand how this related to waiting...but guessed that people interact with the Disney characters while waiting in line?

52dukedom_enough
Sep 25, 2011, 10:28am Top

No bluetooth. I'm jealous.

53avaland
Edited: Sep 25, 2011, 11:20am Top

Double posting from something picked up on dchaiken's thread. I ran excerpts of my writing through the gender analysis program HERE.

Excerpt from my African Psycho review: Female, 53.81%
Excerpt from my Living with Complexity review: Male, 52.91%
Excerpt from my Hygiene & the Assassin review: Male, 64.43%
Excerpt from my Five Bells review: 100% neutral

Paragraph written about an article on artist Alexander Hogue: Male, 67.91%

Except from a personal political rant posted in a private group: male, 61.31%
Except from personal rant about a book industry topic also posted in a private group: male, 62.95%

Paragraph written in a more informal tone about the colors I was having painted in some of the rooms in the house. male, 77.69%

Dukedom says it's a good thing we live in Massachusetts where two writers of any gender can be married! :-)

54dukedom_enough
Sep 25, 2011, 11:37am Top

And a double post of my result:
I tried the gender classifier also. So far:

Excerpt of my review of Red Plenty, Francis Spufford, 96.9 neutral,
Excerpt of my review of Embassytown, China Mieville, 69.7 male,
Excerpt of my review of Was, Geoffrey Ryman, 53.3 male,
Excerpt of my review of Zendegi, Greg Egan, 87.5 female,
Excerpt of my review of Yellow Blue Tibia, Adam Roberts, 65.2 female,
Excerpt of my review of Palimpsest, Catherynne Valente, 59.2 female,

As far as I can see, the Egan and Roberts "F" reviews are maybe a bit more informal in tone than the others, but the Valente review doesn't seem to be in that category. I don't vary my tone in reviews very much.

55AsYouKnow_Bob
Sep 25, 2011, 2:30pm Top

#52: No bluetooth. I'm jealous.

Oh, don't be: the Owner's Manual is all hypothetical: I still haven't solved getting a radio into the thing.

56akeela
Sep 26, 2011, 9:53am Top

> Like Rach, way up top, I wish I could chip in from time to time but enjoy the discussions when I have the time to stop by.

Another By the Sea fan here - read on your great recommendation. I've since ordered The Last Gift, again, based on your rec.

no ts...

57avaland
Nov 15, 2011, 7:41am Top

I am very, very behind here. Perhaps I will start with some of the "incomplete" reading I have done (since the prospect of reviewing Bellefleur is a bit daunting).

A Clubbable Woman by Reginald Hill, Book 1 in his Dalziel and Pascoe series. (1970, UK)

I'm a big Reginald Hill fan, but I started reading him somewhere around book 8 (he's up to 24), so I was pleased to pick up a gently used reissue of this, his first book. I read about a third of this before I set it aside. 1. His early books are not as sophisticated as his later books 2. The television adaptation of this book is so close in dialog that I felt as if I had read the book. And I knew the story too well.

The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding From You by Eli Pariser (2011, US)

I read a ways into this book and found it disturbing and had to set it aside. I will return to it, I'm sure. I read about how the internet is using information from your use of it to filter its responses to you. Facebook, Google...etc. Some of this we are accustomed to. Amazon, for instance, shows you books you might like based on your purchasing history. Do you assume that if you search for something on the internet that you will all get the same results? So, my husband and I were discussing this and we did a little experiment. With him on his laptop and me on my iphone, we both searched Google using the same exact terms. Since we are both similar politically, we found that our search results with political terms were relatively similar - but not exactly. And yes, Google tends to bring up results that agree with our political leanings. We tried other search terms and the results were interesting. Because I was on my iphone, my results tended to be more local (Boston-this or Boston-that); his were more broad.

The internet seems to be amplifying the tendency we humans have to self-select: birds of a feather and all that. Is this good for us?

The other thing is, of course, the amount of information on us being assembled and sold to other parties. Maybe you're happy in this new world of no privacy, or perhaps you think you are protected from this; well - you're not. I'm going to stop here, because I need to read more of the book...

Here's a transcript of an interview with the author on NPR's "On the Media" program (interviewed by Brooke Gladstone, whose book I review in #17 above)

58avaland
Nov 15, 2011, 11:34am Top



Go With Me by Castle Freeman, Jr. (2009, US)

A friend has been bugging me to read this author for quite some time. In hindsight I can only ask: what took me so long?

Lillian is found sleeping in her car behind the sheriff's office, her hand wrapped around a kitchen paring knife. Blackaway, the town criminal has been menacing her - broken her car's windshield, killed her cat. She fears for her life, and wants the sheriff to do something about it, but he says he can't help her because he can't arrest the guy on something he hasn't actually done yet. The sheriff suggests she might talk to Scottie down at the old chair factory, he might be able to help.

Lillian is determined to confront the bastard and goes to the factory looking for someone to go with her, but doesn't find Scottie. Instead two unlikely guys offer to go with her - a wily, old ex-logger and a not-too-terribly-bright giant of a young man. She has more than a few reservations, to say the least, but this is what she's has. Here is where the story splits: Lillian and her companions head off to find the guy, a challenge in and of itself. Meanwhile, back at the chair factory, the owner, in his wheelchair, and his buddies sit around drinking beer and yakking, serving as a kind of Greek chorus, filling in the background on everything.

This very short novel, a modern tale of chivalry, is an odd, clever mix of suspense and wit. One finds oneself terrified on behalf of this odd trio as they get closer and closer to Blackaway. His characters use a local vernacular laced with wit and irony, where sometimes few words can say much (especially the chorus back at the factory...). This novel unearths a part of Vermont mostly hidden from the tourists, a part that's disappearing. Freeman has brought it vividly to life in this riveting, short tale.

59Jargoneer
Nov 15, 2011, 12:01pm Top

>57 avaland: - I was watching something on TV about this phenomena recently. The only grail, as far as marketing is concerned, is software that intelligently analyses our data and shows us what it thinks we want (or need). Which is the next step up for the current situation. The presenter pointed out that if search engines keep giving us what they think we should have we will miss out on surprises - it is the equivalent of going into a bookshop and only being shown want they want us to see, no more picking up a book on the spur of the moment because of the cover or the title.
The internet is always mentioned as a tool of freedom but if the major players get their way it may well be the place of true isolation, where everything is tailored just for you and the outside world doesn't get a look in.

60Nickelini
Nov 15, 2011, 12:20pm Top

Go With Me sounds interesting! Never heard of it, or the author.

61avaland
Nov 15, 2011, 3:00pm Top

>59 Jargoneer: This is exactly what the book is about. Sounds kind of like a creepy dystopian satire, doesn't it?

>60 Nickelini: I imagine he gets pigeonholed as a "regional" author which is really too bad.

62avaland
Edited: Nov 16, 2011, 9:14am Top



The Woman I Kept to Myself by Julia Alvarez (poetry, 2004)

Julia Alvarez is perhaps best known for her novels; such as, How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents and In the Time of the Butterflies (which became a movie), but it seems she has also produced three collections of poetry. Alvarez was born in the Dominican Republic and came to the US when she was 10. Her work has always reflected these two cultural influences.

I no longer approach a poetry collection by an author whose novels I read with certain expectations that I know what I will find. Poetry is a different medium altogether. In this collection, Alvarez is writing more personally - the stories of her life. Her poetry is frank and accessible, with a slight, almost indiscernible cadence (though I would feel more confident about that statement if I heard her read some of these poems). I enjoyed the collection and have a few favorites, one is this poem on the effect of poetry, which I'll include here:

"Poetry Makes Nothing Happen"?

Listening to a poem on the radio,
Mike Holmquist stayed awake on his drive home
from Laramie on Interstate 80,
tapping his hand to the beat of Longfellow;
while overcome by grief one lonesome night
when the house still held her husband's pills, May Quinn
took down a book by Yeats and fell asleep
reading, "When You Are Old," not the poet's best,
but still, poetry made nothing happen,
which was good, given what May had in mind.

Writing a paper on a Bishop poem,
Jenny Klein missed her ride but arrived home
to the cancer news in a better frame of mind,
The art of losing isn't hard to master...
While troops dropped down into Afghanistan
in the living room, Naomi Gordon clapped
to the nursery rhyme her father had turned on,
All the king's horses and all the king's men...
If only poetry had made nothing happen!
If only the president had listened to Auden!

Faith Chaney, Lulú Pérez, Sunghee Chen—
there's a list as long as an epic poem
of folks who'll swear a poem has never done
a thing for them...except...perhaps adjust
the sunset view one cloudy afternoon,
which made them see themselves or see the world
in a different light—degrees of change so small
only a poem registers them all.
That's why they can be trusted, why poems
might save us from what happens in the world.

63avaland
Nov 17, 2011, 11:36am Top

Oh, it's going to take me forever to catch up, so I'll try to make these 'quickies':

The Glass Devil by Helene Tursten (2003, T 2007 Swedish).

A minister and his wife are found murdered in their home, while in a cottage in the woods not too far away, their grown son has also been murdered. Pentagrams have been left in blood at the scene, a clue that suggests some local Satanists, who gave the area some trouble the previous year. Inspector Irene Huss is put in charge of this case that becomes more and more complex as she investigates.

I'll say right up front that I'm not sure I was in the right frame of mind while reading this so it may be better than the mediocre marks I'm giving it. It's very good about credibly showing the drudgery of real police work, but that alongside such sensational murders, it seemed not to jive well. And I'm not sure I really warmed up to any of the characters either. Still, I read it all and on some level enjoyed it, so if you enjoy crime fiction and the book crosses your path, I wouldn't avoid it (it's received plenty of decent reviews according to the back of the book)

All That I Have by Castle Freeman, Jr. (2009, US)

After finding Freeman's Go With Me such a great read, I marched right out and bought another of his novels. ..

All That I Have, like Go With Me, is an oddly engaging mix of black humor and suspense. Shortly after finding a naked Russian tied to a tree, Sheriff Lucius Wing is called to investigate a break-in at one of the big vacation places in a neighboring town. It soon becomes clear that something BIG and very dangerous is going on.

It's amazing what Freeman can do with 165 pages. This is not a genre crime novel or genre thriller - sure there is a crime or crimes and the situation must be resolved, and there is suspense, but the story is really about Lucius Wing, a laid back and patient man, with a dry sense of humor. He's having marital problems, and his deputy has his own ideas of how "sheriffing" should be done. This is a sort of 'tortoise and the hare' story, I suppose. I really, really enjoyed this (perhaps because the sheriff seems familiar to me)

The story is narrated by the sheriff himself and here is an example of his voice. This bit follows after Trooper Timberlake and the sheriff have found the angry, naked man tied to a tree. The sheriff has correctly surmised that the man is Russian:

"Do I know Russian?
I do not, no more than Trooper Timberlake does. 'Course I don't. With my crack about how he hadn't been trained right and I had, I was taking a little shot at Timberlake. I was sticking it to him, a little. Sure, I was. With the Timberlakes of this world, you almost have to stick it to them when you can, don't you? Timberlake don't mind. He's—what are you when you're padded all around, when they can't get to you? He's invulnerable. Taking a little shot at Timberlake is like shooting an elephant in the hindquarters with a BB gun: not only is he not hurt, you can't tell for sure whether he knows he's been hit."

64avaland
Nov 17, 2011, 11:59am Top

Not much of a 'review' there for All That I Have in #65, is it? My poor, virus-addled brain isn't making much sense. It's a short, easy-to-read book with some measured suspense and a underlying theme that sticks with you. And it's good for more than a few chuckles.

I see that Jesmyn Ward's Salvage the Bones has won the National Book Award. This is the book I read during the power outage here. It's a phenomenal book, even better than her first, which I also enjoyed. I mean to write a proper review of this and Bellefleur but while I'm 'under the weather' I thought I'd start catching up with some of the easier stuff...

65avaland
Nov 19, 2011, 9:38am Top

Walking the Dog's Shadow by Deborah Brown (2011, US, poetry)

I was pleased to come across this BOA Editions collection of my former professor/mentor's poetry. Besides being a very good poet, she is an excellent teacher, and I took every class I could from her
(this, mind you, was the 90s and my 2nd round of schooling, not the 70s). Here is my current favorite from the collection, the poem from which the book title is taken:

Walking the Dog's Shadow

It's best to walk a shadow till he pants,
to let him roam a bit under the hemlocks
while you ponder the shade of boulders.
It's best to let grief enter you like this,
alone with your own black dog,
a drag on anyone's leash
along the logging road to the lake,
past loggers' landings and a clear cut,
across the brook's collapsing plank bridge,
past the neighbor's garden shrouded in plastic,
past no trespassing signs, a dried up vernal pool,
crisscrossed by trunks of grieving oaks.
Every night, eager as a pup,
this shadow leads you into the woods
and show you how well it heels
at your side, this old black dog of grief.

66avaland
Nov 19, 2011, 10:31am Top

Abandoned: A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny. Read the first 35 pages or so. A bit too much of a cozy for me in the set-up.

Partial Reading: When She Woke by Hillary Jordan (2011, US, dystopia). I read perhaps a third of this book—the beginning and another chunk out of the middle—while dukedom was reading it for Belletrista, and while I did not read the whole thing, dukedom and I had some interesting conversations about the book, particularly in comparison to its "inspiration", Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter. First, I had to get over my disappointment that she didn't take the "skin color as punishment" idea in a different direction. Surely, there would be a discussion of race? No, not at all, really, because Jordan is actually re-telling the Scarlet Letter, as dukedom notes in his review in Belletrista. We dragged out our copy of the SL to check a few things, bantered back and forth, and had a general good time of it.

67avaland
Nov 19, 2011, 11:14am Top

Twenty Stories by Turkish Women Writers edited and translated by Nilüfer Mizanoglu Reddy (1988, Turkey)

I grabbed this book as I went out the door to an appointment last week - how horrible it would be to be caught without something to read! I originally bought it back when Reading Globally was doing a Turkey theme and everyone were tripping over themselves to read books by male authors. Granted, I had to search for this, but I thought it worth it to hear from those who hold up half the Turkish sky. Of course, I never got around to reading it then.

I've read 4 of the stories, and enjoyed most of them. The authors have all been born since Turkey was declared a republic, and the stories are no more than 3 or 4 pages long.

"Hayriye" by Nezihe Meric is a delightful, almost folktale-ish story about the effect of one happy woman on a whole neighborhood.

"The Window" by Sevim Burak is told by a woman watching another woman through a window. The woman she watches is perhaps mentally ill and is mistreated, and in observing her, the woman watching examines her own life and inaction. I might have to read this one again, as it's one of those stories in which you are not sure exactly what you have just read.

"Mother" by Selcuk Baran is a story of a long-suffering woman, who cares for her family and her husband, bedridden with some "incurable" disease. The tale is ironic, in that there is a discussion about a sermon on sinfulness of adultery, which allows the reader to understand, but not perhaps the other characters, that this is how the woman has been able to cope and bring some small joys to her family.

"The Mirror" by Leyla Erbil. Erbil's story reminded me a little of Ludmilla Petrushevskaya's The Time: Night with the lament: "kids, what are they good for?" And tells a woeful tale of thankless grown children preying on an elderly mother.

----

I don't always read short story collections and anthologies all the way through cover to cover, so oftentimes they don't end up written about on my thread, but why not? I've enjoyed what I have read so far and I may finish the anthology at some point but, then again, I may not.

68RidgewayGirl
Nov 19, 2011, 12:43pm Top

I gave up on the first Louise Penny mystery just shy of 50 pages in, for the same reason you put down A Fatal Grace. It has been given to me twice by people sure I would love her.

69avaland
Nov 19, 2011, 1:41pm Top

>68 RidgewayGirl: My sister has offered to take the 3 I have off my hands. After 35 pages or so, I was ready to kill a couple of the characters off...

70baswood
Nov 19, 2011, 4:33pm Top

#65 Nice poem

71avaland
Edited: Dec 30, 2011, 7:49am Top

Doubt I will get over here before the first of the year to finish up any reviews so...

CONSIDER THIS THREAD CLOSED AND COME VISIT ME IN CLUB READ 2012 HERE!

72rebeccanyc
Dec 29, 2011, 2:59pm Top

Time-traveling backwards, Lois?

73avaland
Edited: Dec 30, 2011, 7:51am Top

LOL! I was looking back through the old groups yesterday and it clearly affected me! (#70 has now been edited)

Since it is still 2011, I will mention that I have started Open Secrets by Alice Munro (short stories)

Group: Club Read 2011

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