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dchaikin's miscellanies

Club Read 2014

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Edited: Apr 13, 2014, 8:02am Top

Thread title references John Aubrey's Miscellanies...not that I've read it, I just like the idea of Aubrey. It also highlights the disorganized state of my mind this Jan 1. Who knows what I'll end up reading this year. And it references the history of science theme in my reading, which I'm hoping to continue this year.

Currently Reading:

Recently Read

Edited: Apr 13, 2014, 10:27pm Top

Links go to my posts about these books. They may take you to a different page.

All Books Read in 2014


21. 04.01 About Alice (Audio) by Calvin Trillin, read by author (Listened Apr 1)


20. 03.31 Incognito : The Secret Lives of the Brain (Audio) by David Eagleman, read by author (Listened Mar 23-31)
19. 03.27 Writing Down the Bones : Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg (Read Mar 15-27)
18. 03.26 The Paris Review 207, Winter 2013 (Read Feb 28 - Mar 26)
17. 03.23 The Wave : In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean (Audio) by Susan Casey, read by Kirsten Potter (Listened Mar 11-23)
16. 03.13 Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper (Juvenile Fiction, Read Mar 8-13)
15. 03.10 Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us (Audio CD) by Michael Moss, narrated by Scott Brick (Listened Jan 29 - Mar 10)
14. 03.08 People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks (Read Feb 28- Mar 8)
13. 03.04 Just Write: Here's How! by Walter Dean Myers (Read Feb 21 - Mar 4)


12. 02.28 The Book of Job (Read Feb 10-28)
11. 02.28 Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital (Audio) by Sheri Fink, read by Kirsten Potter (Listened Feb 3-28)
10. 02.26 Stories from the Country of Lost Borders by Mary Hunter Austin (Read Feb 15 - 26)
9. 02.15 Granta 125 (Read Jan 21 - Feb 15)
8. 02.14 A Tale of Love and Darkness by Amos Oz (Read Jan 19 - Feb 14)
-- 02.05 The Book of Ester (Read Feb 3-5)


7. 01.31 The Early Life and Times of Max Hanold by Howard Leff (Read Jan 24-31)
6. 01.29 Wicked River: The Mississippi When It Last Ran Wild (Audio CD) by Lee Sandlin, read by Jeff McCarthy (Listened Jan 17-29)
5. 01.20 Religion and the Decline of Magic by Keith Thomas (read Sep 5 - Jan 20)
     - Notes are on my old thread here & here, and on this thread here & here
4. 01.19 Guinea Dog by Patrick Jennings (juvenile fiction, Read Jan 18-19)
-- 01.17 The Book of Judith (Read Jan 14-17)
3. 01.15 The History of Science (Audo CD) by Peter Whitfield, read by the author (Listened Jan 3-15)
-- 01.14 The Book of Tobit (Read Jan 12-14)
-- 01.12 The Book of Nehemiah (Read Jan 1-12)
2. 01.12 One Summer: America, 1927 (Audio CD) by Bill Bryson, read by the author (Listened Dec 10- Jan 12)
1. 01.11 My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok (Read Jan 6-11)

Normal Books Actually Read
Excluding all audio, juvenile, graphic, poetry books, bible parts, etc.
8. 04.01 About Alice (Audio) by Calvin Trillin, read by author (Listened Apr 1)
7. 03.27 Writing Down the Bones : Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg (Read Mar 15-27)
6. 03.08 People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks (Read Feb 28- Mar 8)
5. 02.26 Stories from the Country of Lost Borders by Mary Hunter Austin (Read Feb 15 - 26)
4. 02.14 A Tale of Love and Darkness by Amos Oz (Read Jan 19 - Feb 14)
3. 01.31 The Early Life and Times of Max Hanold by Howard Leff (Read Jan 24-31)
2. 01.20 Religion and the Decline of Magic by Keith Thomas (Read Sep 5 - Jan 20)
1. 01.11 My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok (Read Jan 6-11)

Audio Books
7. 03.31 Incognito : The Secret Lives of the Brain (Audio) by David Eagleman, read by author (Listened Mar 23-31)
6. 03.23 The Wave : In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean (Audio) by Susan Casey, read by Kirsten Potter (Listened Mar 11-23)
5. 03.10 Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us (Audio CD) by Michael Moss, narrated by Scott Brick (Listened Jan 29 - Mar 10)
4. 02.28 Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital (Audio) by Sheri Fink, read by Kirsten Potter (Listened Feb 3-28)
3. 01.29 Wicked River: The Mississippi When It Last Ran Wild by Lee Sandlin, audio book narrated by Jeff McCarthy (Listened Jan 17-29)
2. 01.15 The History of Science by Peter Whitfield, audio book narrated by author (Listened Jan 3-15)
1. 01.12 One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson, audio book narrated by author (Listened Dec 10- Jan 12)

Biblical Books
-- 02.28 The Book of Job (Read Feb 10-28)
-- 02.05 The Book of Ester (Read Feb 3-5)
-- 01.17 The Book of Judith (Read Jan 14-17)
-- 01.14 The Book of Tobit (Read Jan 12-14)
-- 01.12 The Book of Nehemiah (Read Jan 1-12)

Short Stories, Essays, and the like
26. 04.04 Brian Doyle - Elson Habib, Playing Black, Ponders the End Game - fiction, New Letters v80.1
25. 03.30 Edward Hoagland - Hippies and Beats - personal essay, New Letters v80.1
24. 03.26 Lydia Davis - The Seals - short story, Paris Review 207
23. 03.23 Rachel Cusk - Outline: Part 1 - part 1 of 4 of Cusk’s forthcoming novel, Paris Review 207
22. 03.23 Geraldine Brooks - Chronicles : The Book of Exodus : A double rescue in wartime Sarajevo - essay, the true story behind her novel People of the Book, The New Yorker, Dec 3, 2007. Link to PDF here
21. 03.18 Richard B. Sewall - The Book of Job, a chapter in The Vision of Tragedy
20. 03.17 The Art of Fiction No. 222 - interview of Edward P. Jones by Hilton Als, Paris Review 207
19. 03.17 Maria Popova - How the Invention of the Alphabet Usurped Female Power in Society and Sparked the Rise of Patriarchy in Human Culture - essay on The Alphabet Versus the Goddess: The Conflict Between Word and Image by Leonard Shlain. Link here.
18. 03.15 Nell Freudenberger - Hover - fiction, The Paris Review 207
17. 03.14 Andrew Solomon - The Reckoning: The father of the Sandy Hook killer searches for answers. - nonfiction, The New Yorker, under the section "Annals of Psychology". Link here
16. 03.08 J. D. Daniels Empathy - fiction, The Paris Review 207
15. 03.07 The Art of Nonfiction No. 6 - Interview of Geoff Dyer by Matthew Specktor, The Paris Review 207
14. 03.06 Jenny Offill - Magic and Dread - Fiction, The Paris Review 207
13. 02.28 Ottessa Moshfegh - A Dark and Winding Road - short story, 11 pages, The Paris Review 207
12. 02.26 Mary Hunter Austin - Lost Borders - 110 page collection of essays on the California desert, published 1909, Stories from the Country of Lost Borders
11. 02.20 Mary Hunter Austin - The Land of Little Rain - 150 page collection of essays on the California desert, published 1903, Stories from the Country of Lost Borders
10. 02.15 Hari Kunzru Stalkers - Stalkers - essay on visiting Chernobyl, Granta 125
9. 02.15 Patrick French - After the War - personal essay on WWI ancestor, Granta 125
8. 02.12 Yiyun Li - From Dream to Dream - fiction about Chinese-American immigrant, Granta 125
7. 02.09 Paul Auster - You Remember the Planes - personal essay, Granta 125
6. 02.09 Aminatta Forna - 1979 - personal essay on the Iran revolution, Granta 125
5. 02.08 Herta Müller - Always the Same Snow and Always the Same Uncle - personal essay, Granta 125
4. 02.05 A.L. Kennedy - Late in Life - fiction, Granta 125
3. 02.02 Thomas McGuane - Crow Fair - fiction, Granta 125
2. 01.23 Romesh Gunesekera - Mess - fiction in post-civil war Sri Lanka, Granta 125
1. 01.21 Lindsey Hilsum - The Rainy Season - Non-fiction essay on Rwanda Genocide, Granta 125

Currently Reading
- Blood and Thunder : An Epic of the American West (Audio) by Hampton Sides, read by Don Leslie (started Apr 2)
- Reading the Lines : A Fresh Look at the Hebrew Bible by Pamela Tamarkin Reis (started Mar 27)
- The Book of Psalms (started Mar 10)

- The Langdon Review of the Arts in Texas, Volume 1, 2004 (read 140 pages Dec 12 to Jan 20)

Old threads: 2009 Part 1, 2009 Part 2, 2010 Part 1, 2010 Part 2, 2011 Part 1, 2011 Part 2, 2012 Part 1, 2012 Part 2, 2013 Part 1, 2013 Part 2, 2013 Part 3

Edited: Jan 2, 2014, 10:35pm Top

For inspiration

Edited: Jan 2, 2014, 6:21am Top

Haven't figured out what I'll read this year, or anyway, what I'll plan to read.

I know I want to:
-continue with the old testament group read. On Nehemiah. See Here
-read My Name is Asher Lev for my synagogue's group read for January
-finish Religion and the Decline of Magic. I've read most of it, need to post some thoughts on witches in England.

I think I want to continue these on-going themes:
- History of Science
- Israeli lit
- Random TBR stuff
- non-fiction audio books for my commute

I think I also want to pursue these:
- WWI theme, along with the CR WWI group
- HHhH

Jan 2, 2014, 6:12am Top

I really loved My Name is Asher Lev, but then, I love all of Chaim Potok's books...

Edited: Jan 2, 2014, 7:00am Top

Monkey - it will actually be a re-read for me. I read it in 2000, in a brief Potok phase, and really enjoyed it (maybe "enjoyed" is the wrong word). I'm in such a different place now, I'm not sure how I will respond to it this time.

Jan 2, 2014, 6:52am Top

Well then I will be curious to see what your thoughts are! :)

Jan 2, 2014, 12:24pm Top

Hi Dan--I'm looking forward to following your thread again this year. Like a lot of other people on LT this year you seem to have reduced your declared planned reading. I had to do that too, since as soon as I announce planned reading, I don't want to read it.

Jan 2, 2014, 12:33pm Top

#5 I've always loved his books as well.

Dan, I'm looking forward to your reviews this year.

Jan 2, 2014, 3:36pm Top

Good to see you here again Dan, I'm looking forward to following your reading.

Jan 2, 2014, 10:23pm Top

Monkey, Thanks.

Aruba, Yolana & Vivienne - Thanks for stopping by. I might be a bit quiet here for a bit.

Aruba - the lack of planning is kind of involuntary. I just haven't made one, and I might not make one. Will see.

Jan 3, 2014, 2:29am Top

That Aubrey was quite the dandy! Happy New Year, Dan.

Jan 3, 2014, 3:02am Top

Looking forward to your thoughts on the Chaim Potok book! Nice title for your thread too.

Jan 3, 2014, 10:23am Top

Hi Dan, I'm looking forward to seeing what you end up reading this year. I think it's fun not to have too many plans!

Jan 3, 2014, 1:43pm Top

"Miscellanies Upon the Following Subjects" - I love that it begins with fatalities and ends with murder. Sounds like my reading. ;-)

Jan 4, 2014, 8:51am Top

Cariola - Aubrey sure does. I had never seen or looked for an image of him. Happy New Year.

Susie and Rebecca - hi and thanks for stopping by.

Lisa - it's a wonderful title. That work is constantly referenced in Religion and the Decline of Magic. The funny thing is Aubrey may have been atheist and it's quite possible he didn't believe any of this occult stuff - he may have recorded it because he found the stories fascinating. But then maybe I have it backwards and believed it all.

Jan 4, 2014, 8:13pm Top

Happy New Year, Dan -- looking forward, as always, to your thread.

Jan 4, 2014, 8:23pm Top

Happy New Year, Jane!

Jan 5, 2014, 10:41am Top

Hi Dan! I just read your notes on Religion and the Decline of Magic. Fascinating stuff! Thank you for posting them. I look forward to reading your thoughts as you finish the book. And it reminds me, I still haven't watched all the Yale lessons on prophets in the Bible.

Jan 5, 2014, 5:19pm Top

Finally caught up with you! What a terrific title thread and reference. Looking forward to your reading this year.

Jan 6, 2014, 1:17am Top

Hi Flo. I have more notes to write up, on witches. Haven't had a chance yet.

Sassy, thanks. You sound more enthusiastic about my thread then I am.

Having some frustration to the start of my year. I haven't gotten organized, don't have a routine, brain is foggy in some not quite explicable way. And life is busy. Or I think these are my excuses. Anyway, I haven't been reading. Hoping this is temporary.

Jan 6, 2014, 12:31pm Top

I share your dilemma, Dan -- I haven't been able to find a quiet half-hour to read in weeks.

Jan 6, 2014, 12:43pm Top

Hope your book funk ends soon, Dan. Try reading something light, just for fun.

Jan 6, 2014, 1:15pm Top

Sorry Jane - that is about the same problem I'm having.

Thanks Lisa

An hour at a coffee shop this morning helped a lot.

Jan 7, 2014, 8:05am Top

No worries, Dan. We'll wait.

Jan 7, 2014, 10:26am Top

Thanks Linda - that was nice to read.

Jan 9, 2014, 4:13am Top

I have no doubt that you'll find your reading groove soon, Dan. I finally had a good reading day yesterday, the first one I've had after 2-1/2 weeks of working and visiting family in PA, and I finished my first book of 2014 as a result.

Jan 9, 2014, 9:33pm Top

Hi Dan, happy new year!

Looking forward to your thoughts on witches. Religion and the Decline of Magic is a book I have always meant to read, but never got around to doing so.

Edited: Jan 9, 2014, 11:22pm Top

Still organizing my thoughts. The witches section is quite interesting in unexpected ways, even if it's not near as fun as the first section on religion.

ETA- Hi!

Jan 9, 2014, 11:23pm Top

#27 - Darryl - I'm back to routine and reading again. Getting up early and reading with coffee before work, when I get my best reading time lately.

Jan 11, 2014, 12:16am Top

Good. I'm glad your slump/book funk has abated. Look forward to hearing about your current read.

Jan 11, 2014, 10:43pm Top

Lisa - I loved re-reading My Name is Asher Lev. I'm pretty sure I liked it much better this time then the first time I read it. I will try to review it soonish, still fighting with those witches. Notes are ready, now how to write something that isn't ten pages long...

Jan 12, 2014, 5:16pm Top

Sometimes a reread is just the ticket. I'm glad it stood up well to a second go round. I read it a very long time ago, and frankly don't remember much, so I should do a reread as well.

Good luck with the witches! I think I'm going to have the same problem when it comes time to review Bloodlands.

Jan 12, 2014, 10:34pm Top

The book club discussion on My Name is Asher Lev went terrific today. As for the witches - I wrote about one page today, covered about 2/5 of what I want cover...

Jan 12, 2014, 10:38pm Top

Very much looking forward to your review on the Chaim Potok book! I loved The Chosen (both the book and the movie).

Jan 12, 2014, 10:43pm Top

Susie - The Promise is maybe as good as The Chosen. My Name is Asher Lev is different, and, as I learned today, semi-autobiographical. If your interests lie that way, then I encourage you to read them both.

Jan 13, 2014, 4:40am Top

Personally I really loved Davita's Harp and the later book she appeared in, Old Men at Midnight. Also, his nonfic The Gates of November wasn't the absolute best writing (I think due to it coming from audio tapes and him putting it together, it winds up being a little bit choppy here and there, a couple spots where it seems like something would have been better mentioned earlier/later), but it was a wonderfully informative book, which covers 3 generations of a family living through Russian/Soviet political uprisings and the terror they wrought on the population.

Jan 13, 2014, 6:29am Top

Monkey - Davita's Harp was the first Potok I read and is a personal favorite. We even purchased a door harp, but couldn't figure out a door to put it on, so it hangs uselessly on a wall. I haven't read the other two, although I own a copy of them both. I had kind of assumed I was past Potok, but now may want to revisit him. I might want to read The Gift of Asher Lev, which I don't own.

Jan 13, 2014, 9:11am Top

I can't recall if I liked that one as much as the first or not, I know I enjoyed it though, like everything of his. :) I want a door harp! Where did you find one? I don't think I've seen one anywhere, at least not that I've noticed.

Jan 13, 2014, 9:43am Top

We probably bought our door harp 12 years ago when we first made a townhouse purchase. I have no memory of where we found it. online?

Jan 13, 2014, 9:46am Top

Yeah, that'd of course be where I'd have to look. I was just curious the kind of place it was from, to possibly have an idea what sort of places to check; no worries :)

Jan 13, 2014, 9:58am Top

I will be very curious to see what you think about Religion and Decline of Magic. It is on my read list for this year (which does not mean much all things considered) and it is a topic that I generally like reading about...

Jan 13, 2014, 11:09am Top

Annie - it's fascinating and ground breaking and led to the author being knighted. But it is also very dense and slow. It seems like every paragraph is full of multiple examples and this goes on for pages and pages. I'm not sure I will do a comprehensive review, but I covered the first sections in two posts on my 2013 - on Religion and magic (the best section of the book) and on astrology.

Edited: Jan 13, 2014, 2:36pm Top

I just read an article in Le Monde a few days ago, about the rising demand for exorcisms in the Catholic Church. Maybe religion was wrong to try and get rid of magic.

Jan 13, 2014, 2:04pm Top

Flo - What a great tie into Tobit...(and fish livers)

Jan 14, 2014, 12:16am Top

Religion and the Decline: Studies in Popular Beliefs in Sixteenth and Seventeenth-Century England of Magic by Keith Thomas

On Witches

I’m not sure whether I simply have an inability to cut down to the heart of the matter and state this all succinctly, or whether I have simply been corrupted by Keith Thomas’s overwhelming use of seemingly hundreds and hundreds of examples to make his case. More likely I’m so overwhelmed by Thomas’s info that I needed to lay this out myself just gain some clarity. My original draft is three typed pages, and if you are still reading this paragraph you are in danger of reading this whole thing.

We have, I think, a fascination with witches. Perhaps as having access to some mysticism we haven’t reached ourselves, or, as in some bad literature I’ve read, as romantic and anachronistic feminists scientifically ahead of their times on the basis of the secret lore of herbs and antibacterial gels. Or possibly simply for a desire to do that magic in Harry Potter and easily make life much more interesting than it is. But mainly because of the tragedy of it all; the thousands who were executed for being something that doesn’t exist. The thousands of unjustly executed social outcasts, whose death was pushed and cheered on by the dregs of society - namely everyone else in their village.

This, however, has very little to do with what Thomas is getting at. His look into the witches of England is first about finding the odd characteristics that marked witch accusations in England, and they do seem to be unique compared to the rest of Europe. And then to try to figure out why. It leads him to breakdown the social structure of English village life. The questions he comes up with are curious, but the way he works out the answers is fascinating, and cuts straight across large aspects of the world of the 16th and 17th century. (I feel the need to mention that it could also just be artful presentation.)

There are many striking characteristics of witch accusations in England. The numbers are relatively low (roughly 1000 convicted), it was almost all done through regular legal courts, conviction rates were low (something like 40%, whereas it could reach 95% on the continent), and they were common for a single period lasting a little over a hundred years - from roughly 1560 to 1680. There were witches executed before this, but the evidence is limited, and the numbers were almost certainly small.

Also, it’s notable that most of the witches were women and most of them very poor.

Part of the rise of witch accusations has to do with the English Reformation (~1540). Protestants did seem to have a thing for witches, yet they had no defense against them. In Medieval England there was a lot magic and superstition incorporated into the church that provided protection from witches. The reformation cleaned all this out, suddenly exposing one to the dangers of witchcraft. One’s defense was prayer and devotion. As one of Thomas’s elegant lines puts it “Protestantism forces its adherents into the intolerable position of asserting the reality of witchcraft, yet denying the existence of an effective and legitimate form of protection or cure.

But why poor women? It has do with the economic transitions in England during this time. In the Middle Ages, villages were close knit with communal systems of support (They were also culturally stultifying and unaccepting of any kind of social deviation). Part of this social system involved communal support of the poor - especially of single woman who generally had no way of independently taking care of themselves. In the 18th century all this had changed. The money-based economy led to a need for self-preservation, or individualism. The village communal systems partially collapsed. Charity became organized, government run, and essentially forced on communities. The problem here is the period of transition from one to the other.

This hundred year period of growing individualism and communal breakdown left strains running through the communities. The poor, especially single woman, still had no way to gain independence, leading to beggars going from house to house counting on moral codes of charity. These codes were strong enough, that those who began to refuse to give the charity would apparently often be racked a terrible guilt - a guilty strong enough to translate into murderous states.

In maybe a simplified way, in Thomas’s model, many of these witches were these poor single women beggars, and many of their accusers were the stingy, guilt-ridden ones who had refused to give charity. “The great bulk of witchcraft accusations thus reflected an unresolved conflict between the neighbourly conduct required by ethical code of the old village community, and the increasingly individualistic forms of behavior which accompanied the economic changes of the sixteenth and seventeenth century.”

Among the ironies here are that the witches were generally morally in the right, and that it was their accusers sense of their-own immorality that led them to make the witch-accusations. And the aspect that, in the moral code of these villages, the accuser and the accused should have been friendly with each other.

It’s a fascinating theory. Witchcraft was fundamentally a social issue and an aspect of the cultural transition. It explains why huge disasters were not blamed on witches. The were too many people involved, voiding the social aspects of witch-accusations. Big disasters were credited to acts of God. Witch accusations faded out as the villages adjusted their social make-up.

A final add on here is the nature of skepticism of witches, which finally took popular hold in the late 17th century, but, wonderfully to me, not in the way you might expect. The occult ideas led the way. Hermetic and Neoplatonic ideas led to strange attempts at understanding spirits, and pursuits of astrology and alchemy. These half-steps toward science were entirely wrong, but they were real attempts at coming to terms with natural explanations of how the world works, and they ushered in an era of skepticism. To quote Thomas again, “Renaissance Neoplatonism and its affiliated schools of thought thus provided the vital intellectual scaffolding necessary to prop up the hypothesis that there was a natural cause for every event. When in the later seventeenth century this scaffolding collapsed under the onslaught of the mechanical philosophy it did not need to be replaced.”

Jan 14, 2014, 1:25am Top

Great, and thanks for the links in >44 dchaikin:. Very very interesting.

Jan 14, 2014, 7:32am Top

Religion and the Decline of Magic really does sound interesting. Thank you for the links to your posts from last year.

Jan 14, 2014, 7:36am Top

Fascinating , Dan. I didn't think it was too long at all - just long enough to make me want to read the book!

Jan 14, 2014, 7:58am Top

Fabulous review of Religion and the Decline of Magic, Dan. I agree with Linda; your review wasn't too long at all.

Jan 14, 2014, 9:46am Top

I am loving your reviews and I really do have to get to this book -- oh, so many books, so little time!

Jan 14, 2014, 9:53am Top

I copied your post to my iPad so that I can read it on the train home! And I added the book to my wishlist too.

Jan 14, 2014, 10:45am Top

Great review Dan - absolutely fabulous (and I've missed them last year). Sounds exactly like something I want to read... :)

Jan 14, 2014, 10:45am Top

>47 dchaikin: Dan, fascinating!

And from upthread,
-- my best reading time --
thanks for the reminder. I've gotten sloppy and saved reading until I'm tired and that doesn't get good results.

Edited: Jan 14, 2014, 11:29am Top

Great review! Keith Thomas is such an interesting guy. When I was a grad student at Michigan, I was an editorial assistant to a journal for which he was one of the editors. I wish I had gotten to know him better.

Jan 14, 2014, 11:55am Top

Because I just finished Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin, it's still in the forefront of my mind. When I read your review about witches and their persecutors, I was thinking how like Stalin and the Ukrainians it was. The aggressor (the Protestant) blaming the victim (the witch) for their own false victimhood (being made to feel guilty about being uncharitable). Thus in some way they are able to justify their violence against the innocent. It seems so twisted to us, yet, as Snyder says in his book, it makes rational sense to the person thinking it. Rational, not in the sense of moral, but in their own worldview it makes sense. He goes on to say that by identifying solely with the victims of history, we use their stories as ways to reinforce our own views. Interesting stuff. Thanks for giving us such a thorough series of reviews.

Jan 14, 2014, 1:16pm Top

Thanks everyone for the comments. Very interesting comparison, Lisa. I'm on my lunch break, but I'll post more of a response when I have more time.

Jan 14, 2014, 7:18pm Top

Excellent summary of Religion and the Decline of Magic. I will have to read this book before too long as it seems to have some fascinating insights into the social structures of village life.

Jan 14, 2014, 7:30pm Top

Congrats on finishing one of my favourite (as you know) books! Your thoughts over these threads have me thinking I should go back and look at it again, at least at specific aspects. Great reviews.
bas, I think you would really like this book. Cariola, envy directed your way:)

Jan 14, 2014, 9:25pm Top

Murr, Colleen, Linda, Darryl, Rebecca, Flo, Annie, MJ, Deborah, Lisa, Bas & Sassy - thanks all for the comments.

#51/51 - Linda & Darryl - I did manage to cut it down to just over two pages (single spaced)

#56 - Deborah - How interesting that you worked with him in some way. How much did you know about him then?

#59 - Bas - set some time aside for it.

#60 - Sassy - Not often I lead someone to re-read a book. :) I actually haven't finished yet. I still the conclusive chapter, but I decided to focus on getting my thoughts out before I continued.

Jan 14, 2014, 9:30pm Top

#57 - Lisa - this is fascinating. Witch trial parallels in 20th-century violence. You have given me something to think about. Actually, I hadn't thought of it this way before, but the Soviet system kind of worked like a theocracy. There are parallels between witch trials and the Stalinist show trials.

Edited: Jan 14, 2014, 9:47pm Top

61> Dan, I really didn't know that much about him. The journal was Comparative Studies in Society and History--and I was an English grad student. I worked most directly with Raymond Grew, the editor-in-chief, who was a historian. But I did speak with Dr. Taylor on the phone and via letters and emails several times regarding submissions that he was reviewing. In the course of my own studies on British literature of sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, I'd run across his work several times. I was familiar with his theories about the sociology of witchcraft, mainly in connection with footnotes in the play The Witch of Edmonton and in reading feminist studies.

Speaking of parallels, as I was reading your review, I couldn't help but think about some of our contemporary attitudes towards the poor. I could say more but don't want to get too political here . . . but I do see a parallel between some of those who speak loudest against what they call "entitlement" and the Puritan mentality.

Jan 14, 2014, 9:59pm Top

Really interesting about demonizing the poor who lost their traditional safety nets by turning them into witches. There's been a huge conversation is our community about how to deal with the homeless centering on not responding to begging but trying to divert those in need to social services, which are disorganized and insufficient.

Jan 14, 2014, 10:16pm Top

Deborah - don't get me started on Texas political logic...

Very sad, Jane.

Jan 14, 2014, 10:24pm Top

I was familiar with his theories about the sociology of witchcraft, mainly in connection with footnotes in the play The Witch of Edmonton and in reading feminist studies.

I don't know the play, but that is very interesting that he is particularly know for this idea.

Jan 14, 2014, 10:46pm Top

66> At the beginning of the play, Mother Sawyer, a poor, elderly widow, is beaten by a neighbor for picking up fallen sticks for firewood on his property. He starts the rumor that she's a witch, and pretty soon she's blamed for everything from a dead pig to a wife having an affair to a woman going crazy to a man kissing a cow's behind. She actually becomes a witch; her rationale is that as long as everyone thinks she is one, why not go for it and have some power?

Jan 14, 2014, 11:02pm Top

Hmmm - Thomas notes there were women who used the threat of witchery to their advantage.

Jan 14, 2014, 11:02pm Top

#62 parallels between witch trials and the Stalinist show trials

Interesting. I'm thinking, torture leading to confessions which prove the aggressor's claim and at the same time lead to death and the removal of the aggressor's scapegoat. Who would Hitler have blamed for his failures, if he had succeeded in killing all of the Jews (and inhuman Slavs)? Who does the villager blame when cows continue to die after he has killed the witch? Unfortunately, when the aggressors are defining who is a Jew (Goebbels said he decided who was a Jew) or a witch, it's hard to stop the cycle of violence.

I'm curious, what changed economically and socially in the English villages that led to the end of the witch hunts? Stalin continued to define who was the enemy (and himself as the victim) right up to the moment of his death with the Jewish Doctor's Plot.

Jan 14, 2014, 11:34pm Top

68> I forgot to say that the play is based on a true story. Most texts also print the trial transcript by Henry Goodcole.

Jan 14, 2014, 11:56pm Top

That is really fascinating stuff on Religion and the Decline of Magic. I would never have made those connections.

>64 janeajones: We have the same problem here, sadly.

Jan 15, 2014, 6:44pm Top

Excellent thoughts Dan, I really want to read this book now!

Jan 15, 2014, 8:49pm Top

#69 Lisa - The social make-up of the English villages evolved into some kind of balance. Stalin evolved differently...

#70 Deborah - That makes the play ten times more interesting to me. I'm wondering what was so striking about that particular trial.

#71 Susie - RatDoM* is a unique book in many ways.
*What a curious acronym...

#72 Kris - thanks...or maybe sorry. I'm curious what aspect of RatDom is of most interest to you. (I don't mean to exclude anyone else, feel free to answer.) I suspect most people are attracted to this book from a religious perspective. But I was wondering if you were more interested in the science aspects (which is the theme the actually led me here).

Jan 15, 2014, 9:13pm Top


Jan 15, 2014, 9:36pm Top

>73 dchaikin:, Dan, I was initially attracted to the book solely on the basis of the title, which sets up this wonderful contrast in my mind between "magic" -- something esoteric yet accessible, folky and part of daily life, and intercessionist -- and "religion" -- which I kind of think as magic rationalized, made lofty and somewhat elitist, and at some remove from daily life. One might ask gods or saints for rain or health; one does not trouble "G-d" for such things (at least according to my reserved Protestant upbringing!) I have no idea if this is in any way what the book talks about.

After having read your comments, I think my initial romanticizing might be a little bit off, but the book you describe sounds like a fascinating social history of England, which I am very much into.

Jan 15, 2014, 9:55pm Top

That is a much more interesting answer than I was expecting. There is something in this book for you, certainly, even if might be quite a bit different from what you might expect. And definitely goes into the magic within religion, and the competition for who has better magic.

Edited: Jan 15, 2014, 10:39pm Top

Religion and the Decline: Studies in Popular Beliefs in Sixteenth and Seventeenth-Century England of Magic by Keith Thomas

Brief(er) notes on some of the last shorter sections


Actually not all that interesting a section, since fairies were apparently must more interesting in the Middle Ages, where they were neither small or friendly. By this era they had become more like what we think of as fairies and weren't generally taken seriously.


About the change from irregular to time to time organized by weeks and dates.
- It's curious that Saint’s Days were kept after English Reformation. They were necessary because they marked key times for doing various things.
- Puritans led the push for regular 7 day week
- “The old Church calendar was based on the needs of the people living close to the soil, whereas the Puritan demand for a weekly rhythm in place of a seasonal one emanated from the towns, not the countryside.

Omens and Prohibitions

Many superstitions have some decipherable practical or psychological origin. Others are derived from some elaborate or obscure analogies - which were like a code. “But the limits of such superficial rationalization are easily reached,” that is to say that many superstitions seem to defy any kind of rational explanation and seem entirely random.

I also found this line interesting: “many elements in ancient religions have disappeared, and those which have apparently survived have in fact acquired new meanings

Jan 15, 2014, 10:24pm Top

>76 dchaikin:, oh snap! ;)

Jan 16, 2014, 11:03pm Top

This is only a test

Edited: Feb 14, 2014, 6:25pm Top

1. My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok (1972, 342 pages, read Jan 6-12)

A re-read for a book club at my synagogue. I first read this in 2000 and found it so depressing that I couldn’t enjoy it. It actually left a bad taste in my mouth - not the quality, but the hopelessness. So, I was mixed about re-reading it. But no worries, I loved it this time around. The story is sad, but I was focusing more on the writing and story construction this rather, rather than the plot and this I found inspiring, and I noticed an optimistic touch at the end that I hadn’t picked up on last time. It’s a better book than I appreciated.

I picked up on several aspects I had missed before, like the masterful world building. By about 50 pages in I was so thoroughly wrapped up in this world of Hasidic immigrants in New York, that I was moved by things that only had meaning because of how they referenced other parts of the book.

Also the many layers in the theme of loss of culture. Asher grows up in and learns to love this Hasidic culture, which is beautifully presented, yet he is driven away from it by his innate and culturally unacceptable artistic talents. He begins to learn his art from a Jewish, but nonreligious artist. The book reflect this theme many subtle ways. (Including a biblical theme I caught, and which impressed my book group. Asher is symbolically Joseph, sent to Egypt. Potok signs this to the reader through character names. His mother is Rivkah, which is Rebecca, and his aunt is Leah. His father isn’t Jacob, but his art mentor is, Jacob Kahn. The Biblical Joseph, first son of Rebecca by Jacob, is sold into slavery by his brothers. He ends up as key administrator for the Pharaoh in Egypt and later saves his family from famine by welcoming them to Egypt. So, he loses and yet saves his culture.)

Only in the book club meeting did I learn that this is semi-autobiographical. Potok was not Hasidic, but grew up very religious, and eventually become a rabbi. He was also a visual artist and studied under Jewish sculptor Jacques Lipchitz - the model for Jacob Kahn. And he painted "The Brooklyn Crucifixion", which appears in this book dramatically. I wouldn’t say knowing this adds complexity to the story, but it adds weight and some authenticity to both the Jewish aspects and the discussions about art.

Overall this was a great experience. And it could lead me to read more Potok, especially The Gift of Asher Lev.

Why I read this: Real life book club

Jan 16, 2014, 11:35pm Top

Nice review of the Potok book. It's interesting that you found it better the second time around.
Loved the spoiler-y stuff. I'm going to have to go look that up .....

Edited: Jan 17, 2014, 4:26am Top

Wow, Daniel! I found the review of this book on your Facebook link to your LT review page, and I am so impressed with your review. While reading this book, I never "got" the biblical significance of the story, nor did I know that Potok really did a painting of "The Brooklyn Crucifixion". I love your use of the spoiler alerts, by the way. I read My Name is Asher Lev in 1973 while traveling through Spain on my way home from a year in Israel. This book has always been the one by Chaim Potok that I loved the most (even more than the better known The Chosen).

Thank you for sharing such an in-depth and informative review not only here, but also on the FB/LT link page where I found it! I guess I'll have to start lurking on your thread again! :)

Hmmm? I can't believe that it's already over 40 years ago since My Name is Asher Lev has been published. Just curious. Why did your synagogue book group pick such an old book to read?

I'll be mostly looking to see what your picks for Israeli lit will be for this year. :)

Jan 17, 2014, 4:26am Top

Great review of My Name is Asher Lev! I'm sure there's a Chaim Potok book that's been hanging around at work for months - you've made me want to go and see if it's still there...(although I can't remember what it is).

Jan 17, 2014, 5:31am Top

>83 rachbxl: It doesn't matter what it is, they're all great! :)

Nice review, I hadn't picked up on the Joseph thing either.

Jan 17, 2014, 7:40pm Top

#81 Susie - thanks. That was unexpected, I really expected to find it worse on re-reading.

#82 Madeline - What a nice post...and hello! Selecting this book was kind of random. Our book club is new. This was only book three, and books 2 & 4 are authored by a member's aunt and by a member. In the first meeting I attended someone brought a list of books they wanted to read and we chose this one from the list. But it was good choice and we had a great discussion.

#83 Rachel - they aren't all good (sorry Monkey). I didn't like I am the Clay. I did like several others, but it was pre-LT, which means it was almost a past life. I have read The Chosen, The Promise, Davita's Harp, & Wanderings: History of the Jews and I liked them all a lot.

#84 Thanks P-Monk.

Jan 18, 2014, 7:06am Top

Great review of Asher Lev, Dan.

P-Monk: I like it!

Jan 18, 2014, 7:33am Top

>47 dchaikin: That's a wonderful and fascinating synopsis, Dan. This has been a special topic of interest to me over the years because of family connection to Salem, so reading Thomas's theories through you is so interesting. But, it also makes the study of what happened in Salem so much more interesting -- both for the similarities to what is going on in England, but perhaps more for the differences.

Jan 18, 2014, 7:39am Top

Thanks Darryl

Lois, the whole time I read this I was thinking about Salem and wondering how it applies. But I have never read about those trials before. They might make a great follow up.

Jan 18, 2014, 7:54am Top

I think Mary Beth Norton's book In the Devil's Snare is one the best and most interesting I've read (all the books are packed so I had to go look up the book's name and when I did, I discovered there's some YouTube stuff with her talking about Salem!) One can get lost in the books on the subject, but she's an excellent historian, and she broadens the social and historical canvas a bit more than the other books.

Jan 18, 2014, 9:14am Top

You are awesome, Lois. In the Devil's Snare is wishlisted.

Jan 18, 2014, 9:51am Top

>85 by dchaikin, Ah I haven't read that one, or the last one you mention. I've read The Chosen & The Promise, both Asher Lev, Davita & Old Men at Midnight, Gates of November, and In the Beginning (which I really loved).

>85 dchaikin:/86 hahaha, I do too ;P

Jan 20, 2014, 12:05am Top

P-Monk it is. :)

Wanderings is a very opinionated history. It's not fun like his novels are, but I enjoyed it quite a bit anyway.

Jan 20, 2014, 12:06am Top

I think I have finally comes to terms with my not reading about WWI this year...I have a library copy of August, 1914 by Alexander Solzhenitsyn. It's large, old looking, beautiful and I'm not drawn to it over other books I want to read...

Which frees me for other themes. And one I am drawn to is Jewish-American Literature. What follows bellow if for my own reference. Any obsessives have a free pass to stop reading this post here, and skipping the next few.

Key Links:

Short Ones:

Longer ones:

Edited: Jan 22, 2014, 3:47pm Top

I remember with great affection my left wing mother's love for Jews Without Money by Michael Gold and The Old Bunch by Meyer Levin. She thought that the Meyer Levin book was based on her high school 'bunch' at Marshall High in Chicago.

There is an interesting mourning portrait of Mike Gold by Alice Neel in her Pictures of People. She was his friend.

A wonderful film was made of Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer. The hero visited a Ukrainian washerwoman living in a field of sunflowers that is a permanent visual memory for me.

When American Jewish writing is discussed, Bellow, Philip Roth and Malamud are constantly given pride of place. Your list above contains many other worthy authors. Perhaps none were as great as those three, but I would mention Ozick's The Puttermesser Papers, and Anzia Yezierska's The Breadgivers as wonderful reads.

I wonder at the definition of 'American Jewish'. I would call Jerzy Kosinski a Pole and add Wartime Lies by Louis Begley to the group that contains The Painted Bird.

Jan 20, 2014, 5:28am Top

Everything is Illuminated is a book I loved. I envy you if you haven't read it yet. :-)

Jan 20, 2014, 6:48am Top

Miriam - thanks! That is great information.

Flo - noting.

I have read something by several authors of the "middle-era" (Isaac Singer, Phillip Roth, Chaim Potok, Cynthia Ozick, Salinger, Paley-just one or two stories, Heller & Woody Allen) and two of the "newer authors" (Spiegelman and Englander). That is all. I have a lot to learn...

Edited: Jan 20, 2014, 7:02am Top

He's not American so it's not exactly what you're looking for, but have you read The Rabbi's Cat by Joann Sfar?

Edited: Jan 20, 2014, 9:05am Top

I have. The Rabbi's Cat is terrific, and French Judaism is of interest to me (as well as North African Judaism, more relevant the Rabbi's Cat by plot), but off topic of this list. I'm momentarily inspired by my real life book club and I have noticed American-Jewish themes tend to be of most interest...then I got carried away.

Jan 20, 2014, 9:46am Top

Nice lists. I love Chabon, I've read the bulk of his stuff. I have Master of Dreams, the memoir of I.B. Singer written by his "apprentice," but I've been holding off reading it because I've not really read much of his work, which I'd like to do first. I also have owned but unread: A Jew in America, Nothing Makes You Free, and and plenty of Holocaust & Nazi Germany books, and The Manor, Humboldt's Gift, The Ministry of Special Cases, The Plot Against America, Oracle Night, The Book of Illusions, The Fifth Son, Picture This, and have read The Gates of the Forest (good but didn't love it), The Night Trilogy (very good), Catch-22 (love!), Closing Time (alright), Goodbye, Columbus (good but didn't love it), I Married a Communist (liked it) and I'm sure others that'd fit the bill that are just not coming to mind at the moment.

Jan 20, 2014, 12:30pm Top

Trying to catch up without missing anything is TOO HARD! But.....I'm caught up here anyway. I always enjoy your comments especially as well as the discussions that happen here. Happy New Year.

Jan 20, 2014, 2:22pm Top

Thank you for taking the time to share all your lists, I will favorite the posts so that I can refer back to them. I will follow your reading with great interest, Dan. I might even join you in reading a couple of these authors, as I have books by them languishing on my TBR.

Jan 20, 2014, 4:13pm Top

What follows bellow if for my own reference. Love the subconscious slip there!

>97 almigwin: Didn't Jerzy Kosinski declare himself to be an American, that is not just citizenship but capital A American, at one stage? I prefer thinking of him in Reds.

dan, have you considered throwing any Canadians into the mix? Besides the ubiquitous Mordecai Richler, there's Adele Wiseman, Matt Cohen, Marian Engel, and poets Irving Layton and Leonard Cohen just to mention the first wave of those writing in English, but there many more are out there.

Jan 20, 2014, 4:58pm Top

The beginning of Yiddish studies in colleges began in Toronto with a group of Yiddish speaking women. Out of that came publications of stories, translations, and programs of Yiddish language and literature in colleges. One of the early ones produced Ruth Wisse of Harvard who wrote the Modern Jewish Canon. I thing David Roskies who wrote Yiddishlands is related to her.

Edited: Jan 20, 2014, 5:37pm Top

Like Lisa, I am favoriting the posts with those lists so I can refer back to them. I have read some, but not many of them. I am also a fan of Amy Bloom, a contemporary author who mostly writes short stories.

Edited: Jan 20, 2014, 6:41pm Top

Among the big names with Irving Howe I miss seeing his partner in editing - Eliezer Greenberg. Other anthologists are Nathan Ausubel, and Benjamin and Barbara Harshav. The Harshavs compiled a large book of American Yiddish poetry with the Yiddish on facing pages.

Nechama Tec is not an anthologist but through interviews and scholarship, she wrote Defiance: The Bielski Partisans. a true story, about the largest rescue of Jews by Jews in WWII. It was also a movie with Daniel Craig playing Tuvia Bielski.
1200 Jews were saved by living in the forests of Byelorussia. No one was ever turned away for being female, young, old, sick, or lacking money or weapons.

Also there is no mention of Uriel Weinreich who compiled the Modern Yiddish English dictionary and the College Yiddish textbook.

Edited: Jan 20, 2014, 6:52pm Top

I wonder why there are no poets? How about Allan Ginsburg's Kaddish? That is about as Jewish as you can get.

And the Harshav anthology of American Yiddish Poetry has a lot of poems by a half a dozen poets.

There were Yiddish playrights, too, that kept the Yiddish theatre going. Even in Chicago, where I grew up, my grandparents went to what they called 'The Jewish Show'. Molly Picon was a favorite actress.

Jan 20, 2014, 7:17pm Top

This is all great information. Thanks. I will update the above posts with some of this info when I have some time.

P-monk - wow...

Lisa - it's still an experiment. Sometimes I only get as far as making the lists. But I will let you know if I plan anything.

Sassy - I would be the world's worst editor...as for Canadians, I haven't thought about it immediately in this context, although I have before. I'm definitely interested. I might need to make another list.

Miriam - thanks again. Every time you post here (in CR) I learn something.

Rebecca - thanks. I will add Bloom up there.

#103 - Hi Merrikay! Busier group this year, I think. Nice having you stop by.

Jan 21, 2014, 12:11am Top

The posts are now updated. Great stuff.

Jan 21, 2014, 12:47pm Top

Looks like you have your reading year set out for yourself, Dan.

Jan 21, 2014, 4:54pm Top

I highly recommend Anzia Yerzierska's The Breadgivers.

Jan 21, 2014, 6:12pm Top

Looks like a list (and even a plan) to me.

Edited: Jan 22, 2014, 7:42pm Top

To add to your list, I forgot to mention Sholem Asch who wrote in Yiddish, but also wrote about Jesus, and his book the Nazarene became a bestseller. He wrote a wonderful saga of the Russian Revolution as it affected several families, called Three Cities.

Also, the playwrights Moss Hart and George s. Kaufman, Lillian Hellman and the composers and lyricists who were Jewish might be mentioned. (the Gershwins). I don't know if Lorenz Hart was Jewish, or whether Hammerstein was, but I think they may have been. Certainly Irving Berlin was.

Do critics count? Lionel Trilling, Leslie Fiedler,Harold Bloom, Mortimer Adler; thinkers like Hannah Arendt, Betty Friedan, Jonathan Kozol movie producers like Louis B. Mayer and Samuel Goldwyn, and journalists like Ben Hecht who also did screenwriting.

I edited the Anzia Yezierska's book I misspelled, it is The Breadgivers, not Bread. Pardon my memory lapse. Ur mentioned it correctly, above.
A few more Jewish poets: Stanley Kunitz , Adrienne Rich, Denise Levertov, Philip Levine.

World of our Fathers by Irving Howe is a historical review of the Jewish Immigration called The Journey of the East European Jews and the world they found and made.

There are some important artists and musicians - Helen Frankenthaler, Elaine Gottleib, Elie Nadelman, in the arts, and Leonard Bernstein, Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw in music.

Jan 23, 2014, 1:34am Top

The sound track of the film "La grande bellezza" contains a composition by David Lang: "I lie", the text of which is a Yiddish poem by Joseph Rolnick from his Geklibene lider: Leyg ikh mir in bet arayn.

Jan 23, 2014, 5:36am Top

Hannah Arendt's The Origins of Totalitarianism is on my TBR list, and I'd like to read it this year. I think it will go well with the WWI theme.

Jan 23, 2014, 7:12pm Top

More great info, Mariam. My synagogue gave away an extra copy of World of Our Fathers. I have copy sitting here, not entered in LT because I've been trying to decide whether I might actually read it or if I should maybe return it for someone else to read.

I'm going to stick with books. So, I will exclude drama, movies & music.

#112 Jane - Ha! A single relevant book would be nice. At least it would be a start.

#113 Mary - and maybe Breadgivers should be the one book. Although I read the first paragraph of The Rise of David Levinsky, available on Project Gutenberg, and was somehow struck by it.

#114 Bas - Not a plan, just an idea of one...

#116 Pim - Always nice to know you stopped by.

#117 Flo - I would like to know your thoughts on Arendt. I think she will come across better than Sade.

Edited: Feb 14, 2014, 6:26pm Top

2. One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson, Audio book narrated by the author (2012, 528 pages in paper form, listened Dec 10 - Jan 12)

I've become such a snob that I stopped reading Bryson (and hesitated with Potok). I've liked Bryson, but there are better books. Audio books are a different thing though.

Anyway, this is a gem of sorts, especially for Bryson fans. Read by the author, whose voice I had never heard before and is totally different then I would have imagined. But Bryson is the perfect reader of his own work, and brings out the best in it.

This was a particularly good Bryson because the writing is just very very nice, even elegant. He does the most wonderful job of describing the horrors and villains, and fools of the 1920's - because this book is not really about only 1927. That would be un-Bryson like. But also because of how he melds the topics. Instead of showering us with trivia, it's all woven into a story. We begin and more-or-less end with Lindbergh and his flight to Paris and his mobbed fame, and his anti-semitic leanings which culminated in a long, nationally broadcast, self-destructive speech against joining WWII - which occurred long after 1927. And baseball was invented and became popular long before 1927, but we get the history and the Babe and Lou Gehrig, and their split and the plain but somehow wonderful speech the dying Gehrig gave at Yankee stadium where Babe Ruth made sure he broke their silence to support Lou.

The topics defy summary - prohibition, corruption, mobs, murders, floods, boxing, literature, planes, baseball, the seeds of economic collapse, a very silent president and a very popular, able, but otherwise repulsive future president (Hoover was a terrible person, but FDR used Hoovers plans! - ah the trivia here).

Anyway, you don't need to read this book, but if you stumble into it you may be greatly rewarded.

Why I read this: nonfiction Audio CD available at my library

Jan 23, 2014, 7:36pm Top

I've always liked Bryson. He writes some truly great mind fluff. Most of the time after reading or listening to one of his books I come away really liking it but not exactly sure what I read. They're good but not memorable.

Nice review!

Jan 23, 2014, 8:07pm Top

Dan, One Summer: America, 1927 sounds really interesting. Nice review.

Jan 23, 2014, 8:25pm Top

Have just read, and greatly enjoyed, Bryson's At Home, I really must get to this one sometime.

Jan 23, 2014, 10:48pm Top

Kevin - I love the phrase "truly great mind fluff". I think what is unique about this book is that it has stuck with me. Instead info blitz, I took in a lot of aspects of the era. Actually, come to think of it, the only other of his books to stick with me is A Walk in the Woods, although only the personal stuff. I've forgotten all the rants.

Thank Colleen.

Bragan - I think you would like it. I own At Home by have not read it.

Jan 24, 2014, 12:59pm Top

Hi Dan, I have just discovered the list features on LT and thought of you. You might want to create a list of all the Jewish American authors you've discovered, and then we could all read along with you and mark which ones we read. Also, there are two existing lists you might like: Best Israeli Reading and Best of Jewish Literature.

Jan 25, 2014, 10:58am Top

Nice review of One Summer: America, 1927, Dan.

Edited: Jan 25, 2014, 11:31am Top

I heard Bryson interviewed on NPR and was intrigued. I tried to buy the book for a friend in Britain for a late Christmas present, but British Amazon was sold out -- must be popular over there too.

Jan 26, 2014, 1:54pm Top

Bryson's VERY popular over here, yes! Very nice review of One Summer. Hi Dan - I have actually caught you! How about that then? No mean feat when your thread just mosey's along like a rocket...so much to enjoy here. And terrific reviews!

I loved your review of Asher Lev and I've enjoyed reading your thoughts on RatDoM and the ensuing conversation.

Your reading lists of Jewish-American lit are a great resource to refer back to. In a sense though, and looking at this as a non-American, the lists will reflect to a certain degree the elemental 'Jewishness' of modern American literature itself - and perhaps Jewish culture becoming such an inseparable element of north American culture in general.

I wonder just how much of this Jewish-American lit is centered on the urban experience. Without resorting to cinema - e.g. The Coen Brothers - I'm trying to think of well regarded Jewish contributions to the literature of a more rural America. Can we add to Kinky Friedman?

Jan 31, 2014, 12:53am Top

Sorry, neglecting my thread.

#124 - Lisa, I think I have the information I want in my posts here, above. But if anyone wants to make an LT list of this, please feel free. I found the two lists you linked to wonderful in concept but only OK in actuality. Once you give popularity preference, the top of this list becomes a mixture of the familiar, regardless of quality.

#125 - Thanks Darryl!

#126/127 - Had no idea Bryson was so popular in the UK...although I think he did live there for about 20 years.

#126 - Jane - was the interview (and your intrigue) specifically in regards to One Summer, or was it a more general interview of Bryson?

#127 - Paul - I can't keep up with CR this month, and I have tried. Thanks for making the effort to read what I have here.

On Jewish-American lit and the general "Jewishness" of American lit - a good question. Jewish influence in the US is clearly urban, or begins from the urban. The main cultural influences are in New York (which heavily influence everything, but especially literature) and Hollywood (which also heavily influences everything). But, I don't know exactly what that means, or how things vary over time.

As for Kinky Friedman, I honestly don't know much about him. I don't see him as a rural influence, more like the other way around.

Jan 31, 2014, 1:29am Top

127-Henry Roth of Call it Sleep became a farmer. I don't know if his subsequent novels deal with farming or not. I started one of them, but don't remember liking it. Call it Sleep is an urban immigrant tenement type novel which has been highly regarded.

As was mentioned above, much of the Jewish sensibility in the US is because the great Hollywood producers were Jewish as were many of the songwriters and composers. (Sam Goldwin, Louis B. Mayer, David O. Selznick, Steven Spielberg, Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, etc.)

Jan 31, 2014, 9:06am Top

Kinky is running for state Agriculture Commissioner again; that makes him rural, doesn't it? (I haven't read any of his books, so I can't say how rural his writing is.)

Kinky Friedman is probably the most well-known novelist that I've seen in person. We attended the same wedding several years ago in San Antonio. Inside the cathedral was the rare sight of Kinky without his trademark black hat and cigar.

Feb 1, 2014, 9:55am Top

#129 - Miriam - from heavy research of about two minutes in Wikipedia I didn't see any reference to Roth becoming a farmer, although he spent his later years in New Mexico. Interesting guy, but I would not call him rural.

#130 and others - more seconds of heavy research tells me that Kinky Friedman was born in Chicago, but grew up on a Texas ranch. That sounds rural to me.

And Steven that is kind of cool to see Friedman at a wedding. From your description, I'm guessing you were not able to talk with him.

Feb 1, 2014, 1:59pm Top

I'm guessing you were not able to talk with him.

I easily could have as we were standing close by for a long time in the square outside the cathedral before things got started, but I'm not forward enough just to walk up to a celebrity and introduce myself. Besides, as I recall we were both preoccupied with ogling a very pretty wedding guest in a very skimpy dress.

Edited: Feb 1, 2014, 6:41pm Top

131- the afterword in my copy of call it sleep written by walter allen, 4th printing 1964, by avon books, says: 'According to the biographical information given in the last American edition of Call it Sleep, he now lives with his wife and family at a farm called 'Roth's Waterfowl' deep in rural Maine. His father lives nearby; his mother, hating the quiet of the country, has remained on the east side of New York. He earns his living raising ducks and geese and slaughtering and plucking those raised by other farmers."

Edited to pat myself on the back for remembering his waterfowl farm for 40 years. No Alzheimers yet!

Feb 1, 2014, 10:56pm Top

124- I added 100+ items to the Jewish Literature list. I don't know how they work or if they are useful, but there were so many authors left out that I just plunged in.

Edited: Feb 1, 2014, 11:16pm Top

#133 Miriam - you have an amazing memory. Thanks for looking that up and typing it out.

#134 - off to look at the list again.

Feb 2, 2014, 4:49am Top

...more seconds of heavy research... loved that, Dan.

Feb 2, 2014, 9:05am Top

:) the power of the internet.

On a separate note, my library is forcing me to a tough decision...on audio books. No snickering, this is serious stuff. I have been listening to Salt, Sugar, Fat this week and am thoroughly captivated. Fascinated by the bliss point and the history of instant jello, and Tang, and now of cereal. Fascinated by the criminal use of sugar in everything and by the food industry's systematic and successful efforts to reworkq the way home economics was taught in the classroom.

But I just got Five Days at Memorial on audio and I had to wait for it for a long time and I only get it for two weeks, which for me should be about enough time to finish if I start right away. I have Salt, Sugar, Fat for five more weeks.

Do I switch books for two weeks, or return Five Days at Memorial un-listened to? Trying to decide.

Feb 2, 2014, 10:04am Top

>137 dchaikin:, Yes, pause. Sometimes you gotta do whatcha gotta do. I've been waiting for Five Days At Memorial for forever too. When I get it, everything else is out the window.

Feb 2, 2014, 10:06am Top

I've paused audiobooks for the same reason. Don't lose your opportunity.

Feb 2, 2014, 10:17am Top

Why not multitask. You have two ears, don't you?

Feb 2, 2014, 10:26am Top

>140 StevenTX: - Ha!

I'd also pause and switch temporarily.

Feb 2, 2014, 10:57am Top

>140 StevenTX: - hahaha - that sounds even more confusing than picture-in-picture TV!

Feb 2, 2014, 11:06am Top

I vote for pause but once again, Steven wins the comment contest, with Lisa right behind.

Feb 2, 2014, 11:44am Top

Multi-task-reading - the next generation of speed reading

Too bad I can't listen while I work. (Maybe I could...)

But picturing two headphones, each with a different book and taking them in at once.

But is everyone for pausing? What happened to stick-with-the-moment?

Edited: Feb 2, 2014, 6:03pm Top

Pause! (What am I missing that makes this a hard decision?)

And thanks for the idea to get to Salt Sugar Fat via audio.

Feb 2, 2014, 6:01pm Top

Even my wife thinks pausing is the obvious decision.

Feb 2, 2014, 6:02pm Top

The odd one out: I'd stick with the one you've started as you might not get back to it otherwise (too many other bright shiny objects out there) and maybe spend more time on them so you can get through both. The other option would be to get one in old school paper format, so can get through both.

Feb 2, 2014, 6:08pm Top

oops, I edited my post above and we cross-posted so I'll ask again:

I just noticed that the audio (Salt Sugar Fat) is read by Scott Brick, whom I hated reading Pollan's In Defense of Food. Snarky and snarly, is he the same here?

Also -- could you copy the audio CDs to your mp3 device and listen at your leisure then delete the files?

Feb 2, 2014, 6:45pm Top

I'd vote for pause. The wait list seems a bit steep for memorial, could be a while to get it back. Although Salt Sugar Fat sounds pretty good as well. Have you tried a coin flip?

Feb 2, 2014, 7:15pm Top

Mj - Brick is very snarky, which will turn some people off. But it comes across as if he's pissed off and this is a book to be pissed off about. So, for me it works.

Thanks Sassy for giving sound to the other side.

Kevin - you mean where you flip a coin and then see how you feel about the result. If you are happy, go with it. If you are bummed, then you now know you really wanted the other option so take it. ? That might be the way to go here.

Feb 3, 2014, 9:49pm Top

So, I started Five Days at Memorial.

Feb 4, 2014, 12:39pm Top

Can't wait to hear what you think.

Feb 4, 2014, 2:39pm Top

Good choice. I'll be very interested to find out what you think about Five Days at Memorial.

Edited: Feb 4, 2014, 5:12pm Top

I hope you join the discussion on the Five Days thread when you are done. Who reads the audio?

Feb 4, 2014, 7:04pm Top

I'm only on disk two of 14, the real flooding hasn't started yet. So, I can't say much except that I've begun to get caught up in it.

My main thought so far is that New Orleans is a strange and somehow different kind of place.

Lisa, I have been reading the discussion with interest.

The reader is Kirsten Potter, who reads very patiently without over doing anything and does not get in the way of the book, if that makes sense.

Feb 4, 2014, 7:05pm Top

I'm glad it's a good reader - that can make such a difference. I'll look forward to your thoughts!

Feb 5, 2014, 12:31pm Top

I've just gotten the audiobook too Dan. I hope you enjoy it - I'll start tomorrow!

Feb 8, 2014, 7:59am Top

Comments on some Biblical books:

The Book of Ezra - Read June 1- July 3, 2013
The Book of Nehemiah - Read Jan 1-12
The Book of Tobit - Read Jan 12-14
The book of Judith - Read Jan 14-17

All were read in The HarperCollins Study Bible : New Revised Standard Version

Obviously I had some trouble convincing myself to read the bible in the 2nd half of last year. Ezra and Nehemiah complete the basic history within the bible - that is Genesis through Nehemiah. So, moving on to the next book marks something of a change. Tobit and Judith are Deuterocanonical books, meaning they are in the Catholic Old Testament, but not in the Jewish bible (even though Judith basically means Jewess).

None of these books did much for me.

Ezra & Nehemiah cover the return of Jews from exile in Babylon back to promised land, and the rebuilding of Jerusalem.

I've completely forgotten Ezra except for what I have read about it recently. The plainness of it was disappointing to me because some historians credit the high priest Ezra, the supposedly real historical person, as having been the one who stitched the biblical books together, or at least the first five books which constitute the Torah. As far as I can tell from this book, he was just another madman rambling on about the crime of mixed marriage.

Nehemiah holds some interest in that most of the book is written in first person, which I have otherwise not yet encountered. There are more laws in Nehemiah which are interesting in that they are new interpretations of old laws, and that the book discusses interpreting the laws. Previous books only specify to study and follow the laws.

Tobit has some entertainment value. Tobit is a holy person in exile who falls on hard times. He sends his son, Tobias, off to gather up silver Tobit has left hidden with a friend. The dangerous journey is led by angel Raphael, in disguise. Tobias not only gets the silver, he also finds a wife, Sarah. That is the fun part. Sarah has been married seven times, but is still a virgin. A demon, Asmodeus, haunts her and every time a new husband tries to come to bed with Sarah, he dies. Brave Tobias becomes husband number 8. Yes, this book revolves entirely around sex and tension of whether Tobit will survive his first sexual encounter with Sarah. So, there is build up before, during (which includes an variation of an exorcism), and after, without ever getting, you know, dirty in any way. It's biblical porn. My favorite line came from Sarah's father, Raguel, during the marriage feast before Sarah and Tobias's first night together. He tells Tobias, "Eat and drink, and be merry tonight"...the book leaves it to the reader to finish the thought. Anyway, all works out well in the end.

Judith was painful for me. As I have read through these books I have become more and more familiar with history of the era. Well, Judith butchers this. Nebuchadnezzer becomes Assyrian instead of Babylonian, and he becomes a god and the purpose of the Assyrian Empire, even though neither Assyrians or Babylonians saw their leaders that way; and, the whole story takes places on the eve of the Babylonian Exile (or, maybe here it should be the Assyrian Exile). So even though all turns out well for Judith and her town, doom is coming right around the corner. That is never acknowledged within the story. The story is about the evil general Holofernes who has begun to wipe out the Jews. But he's a spoiled general surrounded by elaborate riches and comforts even has he travels. When Judith offers herself up, Holofernes assumes she is sincere. There is some terrific artwork about Judith killing Holofernes, but there is nothing terrific in this very plain and straightforward, and, to me, quite dull story.

Feb 8, 2014, 9:55am Top

I've never read Judith, but I am disappointed it wasn't more exciting. The various versions of Judith holding the head of Holofernes are always a highlight of any museum visit.

Edited: Feb 8, 2014, 10:04am Top

Kay - You might like it better than I did. It's not very long. I do love the artwork.

Feb 8, 2014, 12:10pm Top

I've been going back and forth on One Summer but I think your review has swayed me into putting it on the TBR list.

Feb 8, 2014, 12:23pm Top

The artwork is fabulous.

Feb 8, 2014, 12:57pm Top

Very interesting about these books being in the Catholic Old Testament but not in the Jewish bible. Is there any information about who wrote them and when?

Edited: Feb 8, 2014, 1:19pm Top

Very much interested in your Biblical commentary Dan. I knew precious little of Ezra and only a little bit more about Nehemiah. (Isn't the Book of Nehemiah the one that includes a lot of the detail of the design and rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem? Wasn't Nehemiah the architect of it - or was that Bezalel? (I'm possibly mixing those two up.). The second Temple era can be confusing, especially as the rebuilt Jewish Temple is so often associated with King Herod 'the Great' who comes much later after the return from Babylonian exile, while its rebuilding was at least begun many years earlier. Back to Nehemiah's day...

Tobit I'd never even really heard of so that is one that sounds quite interesting.

Feb 8, 2014, 4:50pm Top

>158 dchaikin: Dan great to read more of your Bible commentary. Informative and entertaining.

Back to Salt Sugar Fat -- I'd put it off because I’d read about food engineering in The End of Overeating by former FDA Commissioner David Kessler (good info but very repetitive), and guess I will skip Brick's audio. Anyway what has stayed with me from Kessler is that if a serving of a food only stimulates the desire for more rather than satisfies the appetite, it’s probably been engineered to be what Kessler calls “super-palatable,” i.e. addictive. I could name a handful of foods I love that are exactly that (hello, Stacy's cinnamon-sugar pita chips; hello Kruncher's mesquite bar-b-q potato chips).

Feb 8, 2014, 10:53pm Top

161 - Meredith- if you are at all a Bryson fan, then I recommend One Summer. He's really at his best there.

162 - I agree, Merrikay. It is a great scene for visuals.

163 - Rebecca- it's always hard to know when anything biblical was written, and almost impossible to know who wrote it (my sense is that these writings passed through many hands). The introduction in The Harper Collins Study Bible states that Judith is a late 2nd to early 1st century bce composition. Only Greek translations survive. THCSB says that the Greek imitates Hebrew syntax. Wikipedia is a bit more ambivalent on that aspect.

164 - Paul, Tobit is worth a look. Ezra and Nehemiah are somehow different from the other books. For one thing there are no supernatural elements, and they kind of pass themselves off as merely historical chronicles (with confusing timelines). There isn't much information on the details of the rebuilt temple, although there is a lot on the walls and gates of Jerusalem, which was the big concern. Until the walls were rebuilt, Jerusalem was exposed. And all the surrounding provinces knew that once the walls were rebuilt, there would be a formidable fortress city in their mists. Bezalel...I need to wikipedia...it's almost on my mind, but I can't quite place the name.

165 - MJ - I peaked at your review on The End of Overeating, which I had thumbed but forgotten...anyway, I'll credit Salt, Sugar, Fat with very nice writing (so far) and it might be updated, since it's a little newer. TEoO is 2009(?), SSF is 2013. But you got what I think the main relevant point is. SSF is really nice at getting the reader upset about the whole deal.

Feb 8, 2014, 10:56pm Top

Paul - Bezalel is from Exodus, an engraver and wood-carver. So, he's pre-temple.

Feb 8, 2014, 11:14pm Top

Read the Old English Judith -- it's wonderful -- makes her into a kind of Anglo-Saxon hero(ine).

Feb 9, 2014, 12:02am Top

Jane - The big problem with the NRSV is that the language sucks. Whatever might be in the original turns bland with no sense of sound or rhythm - no literary sense at all. I have yet to find a KJV with non-religious annotation.

Feb 9, 2014, 12:44am Top

>158 dchaikin: I never read those Catholic books. As a matter of fact, I don't think I even knew they existed. They actually sound like interesting stories. (An angel in disguise!)

>169 dchaikin: Never read the NRSV translation. And your comments certainly don't make me want to! It seems to me some translations are more readable than others and some are more study-worthy.

Feb 9, 2014, 12:58am Top

Thank you Dan for going back and commenting on your Bible reading. I appreciate your thoughtful comments and enjoy the ensuing discussions and questions.

Feb 9, 2014, 8:00am Top

Thanks Dan. Looks like I was confusing Nehemya's reconstruction of the destroyed Jerusalem walls with the rebuilding of the 2nd Temple, and Betzalel's construction of the Ark of The Covenant (in the wilderness, as you correctly highlight - WAY before 1st Temple construction, let alone the 2nd...) with the that of the 2nd Temple as well.

Feb 9, 2014, 10:10pm Top

I appreciate all the comments here, but instead of responding, a moment of adolescent-level self-therapy:

My thought of the day: The only TBR pile that works for me is a TBR of one book, the book I’m reading at that moment. Anything larger is distracting and overwhelming.

Edited: Feb 14, 2014, 6:26pm Top

3. The History of Science (Audio CD) by Peter Whitfield, read by the author (2010, maybe 150 pages in paper form, listened Jan 3-15)

A very quick, but nice overview. I was impressed with and enjoyed the care put into the wording. It makes this work, well. I thought the coverage of the ancient stuff was excellent. I was disappointed it did not cover the occult, which it described simply as something that misdirected science for about 100 years, instead of seeing its roll as a step towards the scientific revolution. And I did not like the conclusion which I felt over-credited how well we understand the world and the universe. But, those are small complaints.

Why I read this: nonfiction Audio CD available at my library

Edited: Feb 14, 2014, 6:27pm Top

4. Guinea Dog by Patrick Jennings (2010, 182 pages, read Jan 18-19)

My nine-year-old daughter read this and recommended it to my wife and I, and talked about this guinea pig that acts like a dog. If you want to know more, I posted a review on the book page here.

Why I read this: Daughter's recommendation

Edited: Feb 14, 2014, 6:27pm Top

5. Religion and the Decline of Magic: Studies in Popular Beliefs in Sixteenth and Seventeenth-Century England by Keith Thomas (1971, 853 pages, read Sep 5 - Jan 20)

Not much to add over what I've already covered. (on my old thread here & here, and on this thread here & here)

A magnificent and massive accomplishment of scholarship; also a very slow and informative read. Sometimes reading this was therapeutic, other times it was exhausting. It demands your patience and your active interest and curiosity, and rewards it. I'm glad I read it.

Why I read this: History of science theme.

Edited: Feb 14, 2014, 6:27pm Top

6. Wicked River: The Mississippi When It Last Ran Wild (Audio CD) by Lee Sandlin, read by Jeff McCarthy (2010, 368 pages in paper form, listened Jan 17-29)

A history of the Mississippi river that begins as a natural description, evolves into a history of early European settlement and use, then devolves into an overwrought, under-focused history of this and that with way way too much detail. Somewhere in here I think it lost sight the river in its entirety.

I would have liked this better about twenty years ago. The writing itself is fine and can be very good. I think structurally it was a trainwreck...but other readers did not seem to feel that. However, I'm so happy to have read a very clear and quite thorough description of the 1811 New Madrid earthquakes. Sandlin shows the timeline, covers the descriptions and explores the rumors, the backwash that caused the river to flow backward (only the shallower flow, apparently) and the two waterfalls that existed for a few weeks or so. That may have been worth all the hours wasted on southern brutality and the Civil War siege of Vicksburg.

Why I read this: nonfiction Audio CD available at my library

Feb 9, 2014, 11:46pm Top

You are becoming an audiobook fiend. I should find one to start. I tend to spend a lot of time listening to book podcasts which are good at the moment but don't amount to much overall.

Feb 10, 2014, 12:26am Top

Lisa - It's easy to try, and if the podcasts are getting old, might make a nice change. The podcasts, which sound interesting to me, might give you an idea of what kind of books you might like in audio format (for example, I can't do anything too literary. I get lost)

Feb 10, 2014, 3:28am Top

If your daughter liked Guinea Dog, she might also enjoy the Freddy books by Dietlof Reiche, about an adventurous hamster. They were all the rage in my son's fourth grade class. I, myself, prefer Olga da Polga, by the author of Paddington Bear.

Feb 10, 2014, 8:30am Top

You are really going through the audiobooks, Dan. I'm glad it's working for you. I see that you finished Religion and the Decline of Magic, and enjoyed it too. Always a big plus for an exhausting book.

Feb 10, 2014, 8:58am Top

I think i know.that guinea pig.

Feb 10, 2014, 12:02pm Top

Hi Dan, I've finally caught up on your thread. My Name is Asher Lev sounds interesting, as does the Jewish-American theme (though I understand the importance of not committing to "plans"!). In any case, I've favourited posts 94-96.

(I'm also, rather guiltily, not intending to read anything in particular to mark the WW1 centenary.)

Oh, and your thought for the day really rings true for me. As soon as I begin a book, I start thinking about what the next one will/should be. It doesn't help that I have a shelf of "books I want to read soon" in the bedroom. Really, since this doesn't guarantee their actually being read soon, I should move them into my library, so that I don't have to put up with them staring at me accusingly every morning and night!

Feb 11, 2014, 6:11am Top

#180 Thanks Kay. I requested I Freddy from our library. They don't have Olga da Polga.

#181 Colleen - I do seem to go through audio books faster than other books. I may actually read slower (!) to myself then the audio book reader reads out loud, weird.

#182 Merrikay - :) She's cute.

#183 Rebecca - thanks for stopping by and spending some time here. It's hard to stay caught up this year. Still trying to figure out how to deal with my TBR while reading really slowly, spreading my time on several books at once and trying to keep with a book club that is, of course, choosing books that aren't actually on my TBR (but the club is forcing me to read Jewish American authors!).

As a side note on the Jewish American authors, I read Paul Auster's entry in Granta 125, and I loved it. I had not read anything by him before.

As a side note on my reading. The first oddity is that before I started Five Days at Memorial (Feb 3), I had not picked up a book by a female author this year. (Last year was one of my worst in terms of male/female ratios. I also read more non-fiction than I have ever read in a single year before). Anyway, dwelling on this, I decided my next book must be written by a woman. And that's when I realized the second oddity in my reading. I have only "chosen" one non-audio book this year - A Tale of Love and Darkness by Amos OZ, which I'm still reading. Everything else has kind of been chosen for me by some other factor, like a book club, or by my bible-reading plan.

Edited: Feb 11, 2014, 6:45am Top

Letting external circumstances decide what you read next is not necessarily a bad plan. I wasn't planning to read anything on WW1 but repeated mentions here, and this podcast I listened to a few weeks ago, made me change my mind. It's easier that trying to decide for myself, although of course I do pick which external influence to obey. But there are so many books worth reading, how is one to decide?

Feb 11, 2014, 9:35am Top

184 - Since I've had to read mainly audiobooks for eight years, I feel like it's slowed down my print reading quite a lot, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. I can still read quickly if I make an effort, but it feels rather like cheating now if I don't hear every word in my head as I go.

Feb 11, 2014, 8:59pm Top

Just getting started on reading threads and yours is a great one. Thanks for the extensive lists. And a reminder of My Name is Asher Lev. I read it as a young person and remember it being powerful but I'm sure I would get much more out of it now. I'm not a huge "rereader" but this is one book that I think may go on the list for this year.

Looking forward to following along with your reading journey this year.

Feb 11, 2014, 10:40pm Top

#185 Good points Flo. Still, were I a faster reader with more time then I could do both - allow the selected external influence and follow my personal plans. Anyway, just down on self lately, I think.

#186 Meredith - that's an interesting idea. Audio books have changed how I read out loud to my son. I pace it out slower and give myself time to adjust my tone, and I'm much more careful about my annunciation. And sometimes I do read books thinking about how they sound out loud. But it's weird that I can't pick up the pace with A Tale of Love and Darkness where I don't do that...although this morning I noticed I kept drifting off. I would read a bit, and that would lead to some thought or idea, and then it would occur to me that I keep thinking along the trail of this idea I will never actually finish the book, so I get back to do it, and then there I go off again. It's not a bad experience because the book inspires the thoughts. I'm not trying to escape the book, I'm really enjoying it and there is a lot to think about. But, it's obviously very slow...25 pages or so an hour for what is a mostly a straight-forward personal memoir without any difficult syntax or ideas.

#187 Karen - thanks. Part of me feels bad for you having to read through this whole thread at once. It's better in parts and very skippable if any parts that don't interesting you. No, but seriously, thanks for the compliment and welcome over here.

Feb 11, 2014, 10:48pm Top

Try the Norton Anthology of English Literature for better Old English translations of some of the religious works like Judith and Dream of the Rood.

Feb 11, 2014, 10:59pm Top

Jane - that's a suggestion I never would have thought of. I just requested an edition from library, but I have no idea whether it's all in one volume, or several volumes (in which case, in the past, my library has randomly found one volume, any one, and put that on reserve for me)

Feb 11, 2014, 11:06pm Top

>190 dchaikin:
Dan, It's either 2 or 6 volumes (depends on which edition your library has).

Feb 11, 2014, 11:23pm Top

wonder what I'll end up with.

Feb 11, 2014, 11:54pm Top

There's another one of those external factors influencing our reading. :-)

Feb 12, 2014, 6:21pm Top

Oh, I did some scrolling and browsing. I'm trying not to be overwhelmed but just diving in and find bits and pieces to highlight. Mostly, I need to get a regular pattern of checking in with all these great readers!

Feb 15, 2014, 2:17pm Top

I finished A Tale of Love and Darkness and then couldn't decide what to read next. I had one rule, it had to be a book with a female author. I had in mind The Linen Way by Melissa Green or In the Devil's Snare: The Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692 by Mary Beth Norton, which I had borrowed from the library. Last night Salem wasn't calling and Green seemed intimidatingly poetic. And then I looked at my TBR pile every women author seemed too non-fiction-y or too poetic. So, I started green, read a few pages, got stumped on a translation of Rilke's famous poem Orpheus. Eurydice. Hermes., and fell asleep.

So, what to do? Green will require time for my head to adjust a bit (and Rilke too apparently (and it's a good thing I'm not in school with time-dependent assignments) )

I looked a different shelf this morning, not the TBR. Stories from the Country of Lost Borders by Mary Hunter Austin, a Fin de siècle author and feminist who wrote about the California desert. I shouldn't get too excited yet because I'm still reading the introduction...but, I have gotten excited anyway. This looks like my next book.

Edited: Feb 15, 2014, 2:19pm Top

I'm also reading Job. I know religious people tend to love Job, and literary people too. Still, I'm super-impressed with Job's lament in chapter 3, and even the first response in chapter 4. The poetic impression these have left has been nice to carry around for a few days.

ETA - wonder if Job somehow interfered with Green (or Rilke)...

Feb 15, 2014, 10:27pm Top

I was looking over your list of Jewish-American authors and thought I'd mention Joshua Cohen . He's definitely on the more experimental side and not for everyone but I thought his Witz was phenomenal, though I had to read it twice, the first time looking up a ton of yiddish words and the second for flow.

Feb 16, 2014, 5:30pm Top

Yolana - I know this name because it's I had close friend growing up with the same name (but not the same person), so it's always jumped out at me. I will add him to this list.

Edited: Feb 27, 2014, 6:35am Top

7. The Early Life and Times of Max Hanold by Howard Leff (2012, 430 pages, read Jan 24-31)

This is a humble effort that does what it’s supposed to. Howard wanted to write about his life, so he made up a character similar to him in age, location and career. He also wanted to write about the atmosphere of the JFK era, with so much happening so quickly - the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban Missile Crisis, attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro involving even the Mafia; Martin Luther King and Malcolm X and the awakening of the Civil Rights era, and the build up to the assassination of JFK. Also, mainly, I think he wanted to capture the almost golden sense of innocence, something that was maybe there and then maybe lost along with JFK.

What we get feels partly real - the story of a non-religious Jew growing up in New York, marrying very young, and struggling to put himself through college while accidentally stumbling into a career in shipping - along with something quite unreal. Max is also language genius who somehow, with striking innocence, makes the perfect tool for various covert operations involving the anti-Castro Cubans, Germans and a couple meals with Lee Harvey Oswald. The young man intersects various aspects of history, true events which feel very unreal, but he seems to merely touch them and without fully realizing it or even expressing a strong opinion about right and wrong - with the exception of his patriotism.

Innocence affects everything with Max. The language he uses, the relationships he builds, the trust he puts in people he barely knows, and the absolute trust they put in him. But especially the language in the dialogue, which is as clean as a Hollywood movie of the era.

The book is carried by the tension of the times, not Max. He is a passive observer. The switching focus between Max and headline-history leaves interesting affect. The reader is left with this sense of the era, but without conclusion. And so we can make of it what we will.

Howard Leff is a member of my synagogue and I read this book along with my synagogue book club.

Why I read this: Real life book club

Edited: Feb 16, 2014, 5:58pm Top

Nice review of The early Life and Times of Max Hanold So difficult to review a book of someone you know personally. What did the other members of the book club think of it?

Edited: Feb 16, 2014, 6:24pm Top

You know when he talked to us all I could think about was how I would write about my own life. Then everyone I spoke to wondered about something along the lines of writing about their own lives. So, I think we all found some kind if inspiration.

But, yes, this was hard to write. And I know he's going to read it, but I don't know whether he will speak to me again. Actually, I'm happy with the review. It's an honest response.

Feb 16, 2014, 9:04pm Top

>199 dchaikin: Leff's book sounds good to me. I like that kind of historical fiction.

Feb 17, 2014, 11:15am Top

Good review of The Early Life and Times of Max Hanold -- Dan, I would think the author would be happy with your review -- it's involved and reflective of your reading and reactions.

Edited: Feb 17, 2014, 11:21am Top

But, yes, this was hard to write. And I know he's going to read it, but I don't know whether he will speak to me again. Actually, I'm happy with the review. It's an honest response.

I think you did well on your review. It was thoughtful and honest. I get the feeling that you expected a bit more of that novel, but appreciated what went into it nevertheless.

The hardest review I ever had to write was of a book of poetry that was signed and given to me by its author at a book festival. I agreed to review it and circulate it among my BookCrossing friends. I thought the book was *dreadful*. I found it was easier to post the review by simply telling what I felt and omitting the star rating (which I almost compulsively add to all of my reviews, although I always allow them to be subject to change at any later date!). I've conveniently forgotten the title of that book so I cannot point you to it now. Feel free to look for it here on LT, though. :D

Edited: Feb 17, 2014, 9:06pm Top

#202 - Susie - see, that makes me feel good about the review.

#203 - Jane - if I could only accomplish that with every review. He hasn't said anything, but did accept my friend request on Goodreads.

#204 - Madeline - I have had that experience before, having to review a bad book for author I knew on some level. Very uncomfortable. And you are right, the book was not what I expected. I was expecting a family biography or autobiography, not fiction.

Feb 19, 2014, 10:34pm Top

I finally entered the world of e-audiobooks. This means I can now continue with Five Days at Memorial. The CD's were due back at the library, but the e-audio is available for check out and is now on my iphone...and my car has bluetooth.

(Not a super easy thing, by the way. Just sayin. Figuring out what App to download, dealing with all the registering and finding my library, etc, each involving my own special talents of miss-steps... Took me about 30 minutes to finally get the book, and only about ten of those were downloading time.)

Feb 20, 2014, 2:00am Top

It's all gloriously unintuitive, isn't it? It always takes me too long to transfer an audiobook to the device I want to listen to it on, and I haven't managed with the library audiobooks.

Feb 20, 2014, 8:00am Top

Yes! It could be a thousand times easier...

Feb 20, 2014, 8:28am Top

I am an audio book expert and I still struggle from time to time especially when dealing with borrowing books from the library. So much to remember before you can actually get to the book itself. I even have trouble with just downloading the regular ebooks and I "do" computers for a living! Congrats on navigating this brave new world.

Feb 20, 2014, 9:58am Top

My library's system has a lot of issues too (one being that the link to get the downloadable books is just a tiny picture of a chain link on the library catalog page...). They just put out a survey about how to improve their web stuff so I was able to tell them everything wrong with the process and hope it might actually change something.

Feb 20, 2014, 11:51am Top

>1 dchaikin: Just stopping in to say hi and mark your thread.


Feb 20, 2014, 9:49pm Top

Our library just implemented a new catalog, and I'm happy to say that the download feature is waaaayyyyy easier.

Feb 20, 2014, 10:22pm Top

Good to know it's not just me (and cool, Lisa).

Diana - thanks for stopping by.

Edited: Feb 27, 2014, 6:38am Top

8. A Tale of Love and Darkness by Amos Oz (2003, 517 pages, read Jan 19 - Feb 14)
translated from Hebrew by Nicholas de Lange
Kindle e-book

I wrote the review below on February 14, just after finishing the book. The emotional aspects have kind of slipped, as they tie so strongly to the reading experience. So I'm posting as is, with slight edits. What I didn't capture was the scholarly atmosphere that Oz grew up in. His father, a literary scholar who knew something like 15 languages, was a librarian and "had no prospect of securing a teaching position in the Hebrew University at a time when the number of qualified experts in literature in Jerusalem far exceeded that of the students.". His mother, a compulsive reader, also qualified as something of scholar, also knew several languages and was described by one author as the perfect reader. Oz's says of his childhood, ”What surrounded me did not count. All that counted was made of words.” Oz characterizes his own writing as being largely inspired by Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio, where the author wrote about characters in an ordinary small town. As Oz put it, he learned, ”Where you are is the center of the universe.” This sentiment is at its extreme here.

The review:
I want to reveal my sense of wow, and of how moved I am by his book, which I just finished; but I'm somehow insecure with expressing this any further than I just have. So be it.

I read this because I was impressed with his novel Blackbox and wanted to read more by Oz, but also because I wanted to read about Israel in all its complexity and perspectives. So I was confused on opening this, at reading isolated biographies on Oz's grandparents and extended family before him, including his, at the time at least, highly regarded and extremely scholarly great uncle Joseph Klausner. These were interesting stories, but they were so isolated and I couldn't figure out where they were going. I felt as if instead of Israel I had wandered into a dusty isolated out-of-the-way closet, surely a room without windows. It was not till page 293 that the outside world crept in (I marked the exact spot).

This memoir is about the suicide of Oz's mother, Fania Klausner, at age 38, when Amos was 12 years old. It takes a while to focus in on this. Oz goes everywhere in his childhood and his life after his mother's death, including his leaving home at 14 to live in a kibbutz, where he spent his entire remaining life until health reasons (not sure they were his, and it's not in the book) sent him to another location, in the Negev desert. Born in 1939, he was a young boy of 8 during the Israeli war of independence. He spent the war sheltered at home in his basement with neighbors, family and others who needed shelter, and he recounts a number of those close to him and his family who were killed, generally civilians.

Anyway, where am I going with this? I guess I'm trying to take my emotional response to this book and put it somewhere somehow. It's a straightforward memoir, and also a very carefully constructed one with a circular structure the we eventually figure out revolves around and spirals toward his mother's suicide. We go before and after, slowly getting closer to the event temporally, but also emotionally. The effect builds. 200 pages in you don't yet sense where you are going. But the cumulative affect is strikingly powerful. I'm very happy to have read this...and I hope to carry on with Oz in the future.

Why I read this: personal theme on Israeli literature.

Edited: Feb 27, 2014, 6:33am Top

On a separate note, this is from the book I finished yesterday, Stories from the country of Lost Borders by Mary Hunter Austin. The stories are all from the California desert, in the vicinity of Death Valley.

There are lakes there of a pellucid clearness like ice, closed over with man-deep crystals of pure salt. Long Tom Bassit told me a story of one of these which he had from a man who saw it. It was of an emigrant train all out of its reckoning, laboring in a long, hollow trough of desolation between waterless high ranges, arriving at such a closed salt-pit, too much spent to go around it and trusting the salt crust to hold up their racked wagons and starveling team. But when the had come near the middle of the lake, the salt thinned out abruptly, and, the forward rank of the party breaking through, the bodies were caught under saline slabs and not all of them were recovered. There was a woman among them, and the Man-who-saw had cared--cared enough to go back years afterward, when, after successive oven-blast summers, the salt held solidly over all the lake, and he told Tom Bassit how, long before he reached the point, he saw the gleam of red in the woman's dress, and found her at last, lying on her side, sealed in the crystal, rising as ice rises to the surface of choked streams.

- from Lost Borders, published in 1909.

Feb 27, 2014, 6:44am Top

>214 dchaikin: & 215 Wonderful reviews, Dan. It is wonderful to find a book that has as much impact as the Oz memoir did for you.

Feb 27, 2014, 7:06am Top

Thanks Colleen. Yeah, not too many books do that.

Feb 27, 2014, 8:22am Top

Great review of A Tale of Love and Darkness, Dan. I am drawn to its being memoir and the structure sounds very interesting. I have several of Oz's books waiting to be read, but I think I would rather read this one first. That always seems to happen to me - books that I don't own seem so much more enticing than those that are right in front of me!

Edited: Feb 27, 2014, 9:08am Top

I enjoyed your review of A Tale of Love and Darkness, Dan. I read it several years ago, and I loved it as well (I also gave it 5 stars). I've thoroughly enjoyed all of the other books of his that I've read, namely My Michael, Rhyming Life and Death, Scenes from Village Life, and The Same Sea. Oz has replaced Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o as the author I would choose as the next Nobel Prize laureate; hopefully 2014 will be his year.

Feb 27, 2014, 9:39am Top

Interesting about the structure of the novel circling closer and closer to impact. I have started two books by Oz and set them aside for another day, so your review was really helpful in suggesting to me that perhaps I should go back and persist past the first hundred pages.

Stories from the Country of Lost Borders sounds like a lost book that should be brought back. How did you come across it?

Feb 27, 2014, 10:02am Top

Really enjoyed reading your comments about the Oz (and your comments about your comments). I haven't read any of his work, but your review plus Darryl's words put Oz firmly on my wishlist.

Feb 27, 2014, 1:54pm Top

Linda - I have the same problem, perpetually.

Darryl - would you recommend any of those four over another?

Sassy - the Austin book was given to me along with a couple hundred books and countless old poetry magazine issued from my one time neighbor and friend, poet Larry D. Thomas, when he was planning to move to a smaller house.

As for Oz, I can't be sure. I've read two books and they both accumulate in affect. But the style doesn't change.

Rachel - thanks!

Feb 28, 2014, 1:11pm Top

>214 dchaikin: I've had this on my TBR ever since Darryl reviewed it, but I still haven't gotten to it. I'm going to go retrieve it and add it to my sooner-rather-than-later stack.

Edited: Feb 28, 2014, 4:35pm Top

>222 dchaikin: I liked all of those books, Dan, but Scenes from Village Life was my favorite. I read and reviewed in 2011, and I gave it 5 stars. I'll probably read Between Friends soon, especially since Merrikay and Paul each gave it 5 stars recently.

Feb 28, 2014, 5:38pm Top

This is where I meant to post this message (instead of on Darryl's thread):

Thanks Darryl. I'm reading slow lately, so I will just keep the list of Oz books in mind for now. I think I own two others of his books, but they aren't the ones you listed.

Mar 1, 2014, 5:42am Top

Edited: Mar 1, 2014, 7:04am Top

>226 baswood: Bas - I think the image is sad but also quite powerful. She is in her fine red dress in the middle of the desert - silent, frozen, preserved for the ages, looking beautiful. It's something like a memorial to women of the era.

Edited: Mar 1, 2014, 9:53am Top

>214 dchaikin:

I also was deeply moved by the A Tale of Love and Darkness. This is some of what I wrote about it after I read it in 2005...

There are precious reminiscences, my favorite being his parents and himself on the one phone line from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv simply giving a weekly hello to relatives. He relates what it was like to celebrate the night of Israel’s Independence, what it was like to be ushered out of an auditorium after he had laughed at Menachem Begin’s use of the word “to arm”, how in awe he felt to be in the presence of David Ben Gurion, his deep shame at having caused harm to a young Arab boy, and how he became aware of his own political leanings. He also opened his soul in revealing the pain of his mother’s illness and then his loss of her.

I'm glad you had a chance to read this book, Daniel.

Mar 1, 2014, 9:55am Top

>218 Linda92007:

I think I would rather read this one first.

I think this is a good idea. Reading Oz's autobiography first will give you much more insight into his novels.

Edited: Mar 1, 2014, 10:07am Top

>219 kidzdoc:

Oz has replaced Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o as the author I would choose as the next Nobel Prize laureate

I've been rooting for Amos Oz all along...as you know. I've been reading his novels since the 1970's when I actually lived in Israel.

hopefully 2014 will be his year

*fingers crossed*

>224 kidzdoc:

I liked all of those books, Dan, but Scenes from Village Life was my favorite.

Agreed. I loved that book of short stories (except for the last story which was simply too weird). The most moving story to me "Relations" which tells of a woman waiting at a bus stop for her nephew soldier to return home.

I can see myself rereading this book at a future time.

Mar 1, 2014, 10:22am Top

>228 SqueakyChu: Madeline - reading your comments has me revisiting all those parts of the book. I'll keep in mind Scenes from Village Life.

LT reminds me I have only one other Oz book- The Story Begins, a collection of essays on literature.

Mar 2, 2014, 10:27am Top

Hi Dan - Especially wonderful review of the Oz. I need to get back to Oz and that sounds like a good place to start.

Mar 2, 2014, 10:36am Top

>232 mkboylan: thanks! So you know, I had you and desert books in mind while reading Mary Hunter Austin.

Mar 2, 2014, 11:03am Top

>233 dchaikin: I think I have picked that book up in a bookstore in Borrego Springs, CA, a couple of times - sounds like it's time for me to buy it. Borrego Springs is actually inside of the largest state park in California, Anza Borrego State Park, which has the effect of making it the darkest or second darkest town or something in the U.S. due to isolation. It is designated a member of the International Dark Sky Community, which are all wonderful places for stargazing. Desert trivia that is not trivial. :) I resent light pollution. I have watched it grow where I live over the last decade. It's just unnecessary, ugly and a waste of energy, so I especially appreciate Borrego. I like the dark! especially when it is topped off with lots of stars!

Edited: Mar 6, 2014, 11:14pm Top

9. Granta 125 (2013, 255 pages, read Jan 21 - Feb 15)
Main editor: Sigrid Rausing
link to issue: http://www.granta.com/Archive/125

This was my first time reading an issue of Granta. I liked that I have heard of many of these authors in some way, because it gives me a chance to read something short by them and gives the whole issue a sense of being of higher quality and somehow more important. But the downsides are that I bring higher expectations to each story (which makes any story worse...), and that there are fewer surprises.

The best for me were Aminatta Forna recalling her experiences in the Iran Revolution, in 1979, Paul Auster's You Remember the Planes & Thomas McGuane's Crow Fair. Other highlights to me were Lindsey Hilsum's essay on Rwanda, entitled The Rainy Season, Yiyun Li's complicated short story From Dream to Dream, Hari Kunzrus essay on visiting Chernobyl, entitled Stalkers and an intriguing poem by Ange Mlinko's, Revelations, although I didn't quite get it.

The story by story summaries below are mainly for my own memory. Asterisks for favorites.

*Lindsey Hilsum - The Rainy Season - Non-fiction essay on Rwanda Genocide, read ~Jan 21
Hilsum was the "only English-speaking foreign correspondent" to witness the beginning of the Rwandan Genocide (Racial undertones in that description, regardless of Hilsum's ethnicity. Surely there are English speaking Rwandans.). In this essay she returns to Rwanda. She doesn’t seem to dig into too deep, but she has to say provides more then I could respond to in any coherent way.

Romesh Gunesekera - Mess - fiction in post-civil war Sri Lanka, read ~Jan 23
A clever story narrated by a driver taking a priest to meet a military general in Sri Lanka after the fighting has stopped. Although this is quite good, and she manages to put a curious mystery over the whole thing, bringing much to the story, I didn't enjoy it. Not clear why. It felt maybe a touch too slick, not to mention not terribly original.

**Thomas McGuane - Crow Fair - fiction, read Feb 2
Took me a little to get into, but this became a wonderfully complex assortment of tensions. The narrator and his brother have a troubled response to their mother’s increasing dementia, especially when it leads to uncontrolled rambling and uncomfortable secrets come out. Great, living, breathing, characterizations. A lot going on here.

one quote:
Kurt was right: left to Dad we would have probably not gone very far, not been nearly so discontented.
A.L. Kennedy - Late in Life - fiction, read Feb 4-5
Very subtle about a woman who is dating an older man and starts to see her dependence on and vulnerability in the relationship, without wanting to. Is she just giving sex for financial benefits of the relationship? Too subtle for me.

Herta Müller - Always the Same Snow and Always the Same Uncle- personal essay, read Feb 8
Published in German in 2003, translated here by Geoffrey Mulligan
I thought this might need some time to sink in, instead I've forgotten it completely. My notes tell me, "On the surface it’s about how words have meaning only by putting them together in ways that don’t, on the surface, make any sense, and then how words change meaning. But it’s also about her past, her difficult emigration from Romania and her mother’s five years in a Russian prison camp."

**Aminatta Forna - 1979 - personal essay on the Iran revolution, read Feb 9
My favorite entry. When Forna was 14 & 15 she lived in Tehran as the daughter of a British Foreign Service worker. She recounts her naive experiences, and change of moods as the revolution becomes more and more conservative. Fascinating stuff.

**Paul Auster - You Remember the Planes - personal essay, read Feb 9
A 2nd person summary of his life, I think, as the child of Jewish American immigrants growing up in the 1950’s. Fun to read. This is from his Nov 2013 publication Report from the Interior. I have wanted to read Auster, so this was a nice find.

*Yiyun Li - From Dream to Dream - fiction about a Chinese-American immigrant, read Feb 11/12
I thought this might bore me. It opens will one of those thoughts you are supposed to ponder, but...well, if you are like me you kind of want to know what you are reading before you start thinking. It only slowly becomes apparent that the narrator is planning her suicide. I guess that's a spoiler. Anyway, at that point it’s a new story with added weight and I had to go back and reread that opening section and ponder away. Good stuff here.

*Hari Kunzru - Stalkers - essay on visiting Chernobyl, read Feb 15
The point here seems to be pondering our attraction to disaster sights, and includes some interesting photographs, not all the authors. (The title derives from a video game, based on a novel?, based on another novel?, based on the Chernobyl incident)

Patrick French - After the War - personal essay on WWI ancestor, read Feb 15
French comes from a family of military men, Irish but in the British military. His great uncle, Maurice Dease, was awarded the first Victorian Cross in WWI for his heroic death. French is a pacifist and his essay explores his feelings toward and discomfort with his lineage. It was quite interesting, even if the pacifist aspects were not well expressed.

The poetry is spread out a kind of gets lost.
Jean Paul de Dadelsen - from Opening Invocation
Ange Mlinko - Revelations
Rowan Ricardo Phillips - Pax Americana

Dave Heath - A Sparrow Fallen
Justin Jin - Zone of Absolute Discomfort

Why I read this: part of my attempt read a short story or poem daily

Mar 5, 2014, 7:53am Top

That sounds like a great Granta issue, Dan. Since I've let my subscription expire, I was glad that you included the link.

Edited: Mar 5, 2014, 9:49am Top

Stalker was a fascinating film set on the site of some unknown catastrophe. The site had some weird distortions to common physical laws such as gravity. I don't know if there is a connection to what you read but that's what your post reminded me of.

I thought the movie was based on a book, but IMDB doesn't mention this that I could find. The trivia section does mention that "The Zone of the film was inspired by a nuclear accident that took place near Chelyabinsk in 1957. Several hundred square kilometers were polluted by fallout and abandoned; of course there was no official mention of this forbidden zone at the time."

Mar 5, 2014, 10:53am Top

Believe it or not, I've never read Granta. I get too many magazines I don't read already that I don't want to add to the pile. But every time I hear about Granta it sounds intriguing.

Edited: Mar 5, 2014, 1:45pm Top

>236 Linda92007: - it was really good. I gave it five stars. I don't usually rate lit magazine issues.

>237 FlorenceArt: - That is great info on Stalker. I think that is probably where the essay derives from. It wasn't clear to me as written in the essay

>238 rebeccanyc: - I do recommend Granta, but follow your problem. I picked up three winter issues of different magazines in January. I refuse to buy another until I have read these, or given up on them.

Mar 5, 2014, 4:01pm Top

>238 rebeccanyc: I don't have a subscription either, but often pick up copies at used book stores. The beauty of Granta is that few of the articles age and the fiction never seems to age. Maybe you could give it a try with an issue of particular interest. I think it's great the way each issue has a theme.

Mar 5, 2014, 6:25pm Top

They do usually have the current issue on the counter in my favorite bookstore . . . I guess they think of it as one of those impulse purchases, like candy at the checkout in grocery stores . . .

Mar 5, 2014, 11:04pm Top

like candy at the checkout in grocery stores for bookaholics. Yes, I can relate.

Mar 6, 2014, 4:50am Top

Thanks for the link to Granta Dan. I always pick up an edition when I see one cheap at second hand stores etc.

Mar 6, 2014, 6:08pm Top

>237 FlorenceArt: The film Stalker (and the game STALKER in fact) were both based on Roadside Picnic. It was a rather strange Russian sci-fi novel, though it's been quite some time since I read it so the details are hazy.

Mar 6, 2014, 10:06pm Top

The only place in my part of town that I know sells Granta is a Barnes & Noble, and they have it hidden at the bottom shelf of magazines under the section titled (this is not a joke) Men's. (There is a "women's" section too, but there isn't anything literary there).

>244 valkyrdeath: - Ok, so, it was book, then a movie, then a game. (?) - I impressed you & Flo know all this, by the way. I had never heard of any of these before.

Edited: Mar 6, 2014, 11:16pm Top

I mostly wrote this the day I finished, editing a bit before posting here.

10. Stories from the Country of Lost Borders by Mary Hunter Austin (1987, 309 pages, read Feb 15 - 26)
Edited by Marjorie Pryse
American Women Writers Series

This is two collections of stories, along with an introduction. The collections are The Land of Little Rain, published in 1903, and Lost Borders published in 1909. The stories within each collection are linked together by location, the California desert, and form an cohesive whole. They are presented as if nonfictional, but without any indication that they are anything but fiction.

This was a rediscovery of sorts published within the American Women Writers Series (in 1987). I haven't heard of Mary Hunter Austin outside of this book and I doubt she is all that well known today. Austin spent her young adulthood in the deserts of California, in the vicinity of Death Valley, and that region is the focus of both collections.

The Land of Little Rain
"You get the very spirit of the meaning of that country when you see Little Pete feeding his sheep in the red, choked maw of an old {volcanic} vent―a kind of silly pastoral gentleness that glozes over an elemental violence"
Austin came across to me as something like an Edward Abbey of early 20th-century. Independent and bohemian when these things were anathema for women socially, she apparently was a strong and egocentric personality, and it comes out in her writing. Most of these stories are extensive natural descriptions with numerous plants described, often beautifully and sometimes in strikingly memorable ways. But her most interesting stories to me were the three or four focused on people, with my favorite being a chapter on The Pocket Hunter, a pleasant loner endlessly looking for pockets of preciously stones to find, and who seems to have become one with the desert. "The Pocket Hunter had gotten to the point where he knew no bad weather, and all places were equally happy so long as they were out of doors. I do not know just how long it takes to become saturated with the elements so that one takes no account of them."

The natural descriptions were interesting, and carefully done, but also a bit tedious. My overall feeling on reading this was that I was glad to have experienced it. It clearly has value, but I didn't love reading it.

Lost Borders
I expected more from Lost Borders because I knew from the introduction that all the stories are about people. So, I was disappointed when the first several were not terribly engaging. But they accumulated and then I reached The Fakir where the narrator brings herself into the story, and exposes herself. Encountering a neighboring housewife's adultery, she finds herself momentarily bonding with the man, a complete rogue, and assists him in a critical way, helping him out of town and then helping to cover up the incident. And at some point during this she realizes she is being played by the player too, and she, briefly, ponders why and how, maybe stunned at her own vulnerability. Her otherwise pervasive confidence stumbles openly. It's a striking moment. And, after this every story seemed to have some extra and bigger complexity, coming out of the book and extending a long way. These stories could have been written today, if that desert culture were still in existence.

Just because it's on mind, I'll add that the collection ends with a story on the Walking Woman, who lost her name and wanders seemingly endlessly and unmolested through a desert only populated, sparsely, by lonely men. The narrator finally catches up with the woman and is given a story you might not expect and presented in such a wonderfully unhindered way - and leaves us pondering what women give up to live in society and who would they be if they could shed it all like the Walking Woman.

Overall, I'm glad I read the first collection, and moved in a literary way by the second collection. A bit of gem. I picked this up randomly off my shelves and it turned into a nice find.

Why I read this: Just picked a book off the shelf, looking for a woman author. Apparently I also wanted something obscure. And I like desert books.

Mar 7, 2014, 12:28pm Top

The only place in my part of town that I know sells Granta is a Barnes & Noble, and they have it hidden at the bottom shelf of magazines under the section titled (this is not a joke) Men's. (There is a "women's" section too, but there isn't anything literary there).

Fascinating. And perhaps why I avoid shopping at Barnes & Noble, despite there being one in my town, and drive instead to an Indie two towns over. (Although to be fair, I do go by the Indie almost daily, so it's not as though it's a huge trip).

Mar 7, 2014, 2:05pm Top

Intriguing reviews of the Mary Hunter Austin collections, Dan. I've never heard of her before.

Mar 7, 2014, 2:36pm Top

>147 SassyLassy: - I would avoid b&n too, but there are no good bookstores nearby.

>248 janeajones: - it was a nice find. One of my favorite kinds of books are these unknown rewarding discoveries.

Mar 8, 2014, 1:06pm Top

11. Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital (Audio) by Sheri Fink, read by Kirsten Potter (2013, 576 pages in paper, listened Feb 3-28)

Following the CR crowd in reading this. It's the first book I've read on Katrina, something I have felt guilty about neglecting in my reading, so I appreciated the push. Reviewing this is tough though because I have to admit to not being as emotionally involved with this as other readers were, something I'm not comfortable with, a clear lack of empathy. Maybe it was the audio aspect, or maybe that I broke it up into too many parts because I had to return my CD copy to the library halfway through, and then after waited several days before looking into an e-audio copy. Or maybe I just had a different reaction to the doctors actions. They made bad decisions, but people do that. Their decisions just happened to have really sad consequences.

To put this in a different perspective, Katrina demanded heroes of its doctors. And, I think this is how we tend to see doctors, or how we hope them to be. Doctor's spend their lives doing their best to do good things for us, generally leaving us thankful for it. So, we have expectations. Katrina set up a scenario for heroics, and our heroes were there. And yet they just got stressed, and worn down.

To complete the picture, there were many good things done a Memorial. The NICO babies were saved, including one baby dependent on a machine that could not go in the helicopter. The doctor had to be the oxygen machine throughout the flight and a 20 or 30 minute refueling delay, his arms long past exhausted. But a hospital is a big place with lots of things going on and lots of things to miss. The doctors at Memorial were essentially abandoned by their corporate owners, Tenet. On their own they failed to do difficult and basic things necessary to get through Katrina well. They met every day, but they never got effectively organized, they never collected all their facts and they never made an effort to keep each others spirits up. Most doctors essentially went about their jobs independently and autonomously. The results was chaotic and I think prepared the ground for what Doctors Anna Pou and John Thiel did, although we will never know exactly what they did.

I haven't discussed the incompetent and corrupt Louisiana efforts a prosecution, which failed. Or the complete lack of scrutiny of Tenet's corporate side, or the sad fact that the family members of the nine deceased will never be able to find out exactly what Thiel and Pou were thinking and why these exhausted doctors did not think things through further (even for the own legal well being). I haven’t covered the atmosphere of Memorial in the storm as captured in the book. Or talked about what all this says about medicine in the US, or how Hurricane Sandy shows that lessons here weren’t learned. And I haven't thanked Fink for her efforts to get this all out in such a coherent clear form. On a different day I might write a different review.

What strikes me now is not that Pou and Thiel were not put on trial, as I think that was a good decision in the long run. They were not criminals. And their mistakes were a consequence of exhaustion and lack of support. But that they were in a situation where they were so close to being heroic. They had overcome so much. For several days in insane heat without sleep and with little food and water (which was available) they had done everything they personally felt they could for the hospitals patients. But in this one moment they did the wrong things. The patients stopped being individual cases, and became a mass problem and they did a mass euthanasia of nine patients that weren't their own and whose details they did not know. It's tremendous failure, and they must have known* this inside, afterward.

*I'm using past tense because Thiel passed away in January of 2011. Link here

Why I read this: nonfiction Audio CD available at my library, and also the reviews & discussions here in CR.

Mar 8, 2014, 1:22pm Top

Very interesting review. I'm one of the few who hasn't read this book, but I think you've made a good point that the failure to act heroically--or even wisely--is not a criminal act.

Mar 8, 2014, 4:07pm Top

>251 StevenTX: the failure to act heroically--or even wisely--is not a criminal act

No. But euthanizing patients is. The crisis was over and the helicopters were there. All (I forget how many) the forensic experts were unanimous that these patients were euthanized. A failure to act might have been excusable. But these doctors chose to act, and their choice was illegal.

Edited: Mar 8, 2014, 5:30pm Top

>251 StevenTX: Steven, You might have to read the book to judge Lisa's comment.

>252 labfs39: Lisa, I don't think the book implies they saw the helicopters and quickly euthanized these patients. Although I guess that is possible, that was not the way I read it. As I understood, the patients were euthanized and then lots of helicopters started coming. Otherwise I agree with you, except I do think the doctors felt they were doing the right thing.

Mar 8, 2014, 5:33pm Top

>245 dchaikin: That's interesting, because my local B&N has a literary magazine section (I'm not sure what they call it) that's separate from other magazine sections. But then, I live on the upper west side of Manhattan where there's probably more demand for Granta and other such magazines.

Mar 8, 2014, 5:52pm Top

>253 dchaikin: Oh, way more demand in NYC and surrounding area, in general. I am in Texas. There is a Barnes & Noble with a literary magazine section in town. And I'm sure in-town Houstonians have more interest in literary magazines than suburban Houstonians, in general. (For about ten years Houston had one pretty nice all-magazine dedicated store called Issues. It closed in November.)

Mar 13, 2014, 8:29am Top

Religion and the Decline of Magic sounds like it would be right up my alley. I've put it on my to-read list. Also, I loved reading My Name is Asher Lev, although it was quite a while ago.

Mar 13, 2014, 10:02am Top

>250 dchaikin:, Dan, I thought I had commented on your review of Five Days at Memorial, but I think I wrote and forgot to save. (eyeroll). Thanks for honest thoughts - I think they present a different perspective and really add to the conversation about the book and the events described.

Mar 13, 2014, 10:40pm Top

>256 twogerbils: Religion and the Decline of Magic takes a bit of work, but it is an incredible compilation of fascinating information.

>257 fannyprice: Hi Kris. Thanks. There is quite a wide spectrum of things to talk about out of that book.

Mar 24, 2014, 11:14pm Top

Random personal update

Messy year for me. In some kind of state of transition. Not keeping up on LT (apologies). My reading is all over the place and not particularly fulfilling. But, yet I'm determined to carry on with the Psalms and get through them, even if I'm reading them at a pace of about four an hour and not putting all that many hours in. My goal is only about five hours this week. Also not finding time to review or post anything here. And I'm not unusually busy.

I did ask that question Bas was asked that led him to start learning the saxophone: "is there anything you want to do with the time you have left". And that is to write. Not reviews or diary entries, but something else. Which I haven't done really ever. So, trying to find and keep a writing routine. Just 20 minutes a day, although it has gone longer sometimes. I'm using a spiral notebook and ballpoint pen and not re-reading anything. It's just exercise, but it's something, and it is doing something to me, which I think it good.

But still the problem goes like this. My reading time is my morning time, which has become my time to read Psalms, which has become, partially, my time to write. My lunch time, when not lost to work, became my LT time, but then became my only chance to read something other than the bible during the week, but has now become my exercise time (I swim). My evening time goes to the kids and house stuff. Which leaves little time for reading or LT'ing, which is just very strange right now. But, even when I'm reading it's all over the place.

Anyway, just posting my confusion since I'm not posting much else (and when I am, it's on Job lately. I have a ton of notes yet to go through before the book evaporates from my memory.)

Mar 25, 2014, 12:17am Top

>259 dchaikin: I think Bas's saxophone story has caused many of us to pause for reflection. I certainly have, though I haven't come up with any brilliant (and affordable) ideas yet. (But when my granddaughter told us tonight she was planning to take band next year, but hadn't decided on an instrument, I suggested the saxophone.) But every thing I can think of (including writing) would cut deeply into my reading time, and that's a major concern.

Are you going to tell us what the "something else" is that you are writing? Are you writing for publication?

I've been very remiss lately about keeping up with other threads in Club Read, and I don't have the excuse of not having enough time. I had to face the fact this year that I was never going to read all the books I would like to read, and that had kind of dimmed my ardor for reading other members' enticing reviews.

Mar 25, 2014, 6:59am Top

>260 StevenTX: I hear you on the never going to read all the books you would like, and the dimming of enthusiasm as those titles accumulate in yet more damn enticing reviews. It did change my relationship to reviews here. First all these book went on the wishlist, but then I had the moment of understanding that the list was out of hand, so I stopped trying to remember every book. But still I read the reviews to capture something of the books I won't read...and just read the reviews because they are interesting and because the club members are friends and I want to know what's on their mind.

But there is no something else and there is no publication or even a concept toward anything, with my writing games. And I'm trying not to think about it too much right now, although it's hard not to. But, not having written, I don't have a voice or concept of what to do with the words. I can't plan because i have nothing to plan with. So, just scribbling away, trying to force the routine and letting the output evolve as it evolves. Against my will, it's, for the moment at least, become the one thing i have on my mind all day. Hopefully I will get to a point where there is some kind of plan involved.

Edited: Mar 25, 2014, 9:15am Top

>261 dchaikin: Good luck with the writing Dan! Don't sweat it if there is no plan. Plans are highly overrated in this culture of ours that insists on upholding the myth that individuals must have control over everything in their life. We don't, and that's not necessarily a bad thing, especially when creation is involved.

Also, it has been my experience that creating tends to get in the way of consuming. In my case it's visual arts and not writing, and it happened over more than 10 years, but I progressively stopped consuming (movies, comic books, TV) as creating art was becoming more and more important in my life. And lately I'm not reading so much any more. I regret these changes, but if that's the price for creating I don't mind too much. Anyway, maybe I'm imagining all this but I think I read somewhere that people who start writing often stop reading, so maybe it's true.

Mar 25, 2014, 1:07pm Top

That's exciting that you're writing, Dan. It can be hard to figure out what should take priority when there aren't enough free hours in the day, so good luck on working that out.

Edited: Mar 25, 2014, 1:23pm Top

>262 FlorenceArt: - yes! To particularly your 1st paragraph. Yes to all that! I'll add that the purpose right now is not productive or for any production. It just is. Actually it's one of those things where if I analyzed the purpose that would change the purpose.

As for the second paragraph and >263 rebeccanyc: - these side effects or costs have not really been worked out in my mind, hence my confusion and maybe lack of acceptance of them.

Mar 25, 2014, 6:09pm Top

It was nice to hear from you Dan, even if it meant you lost a bit of time spent on your new adventure. I, too, have not been on much lately, but I do enjoy even a few moments of connection from time to time. I hope you find a groove that works for you and satisfies all your input and output needs. Keep us posted when you can, and don't worry about it when you can't. Good luck!

Mar 25, 2014, 7:27pm Top

Dan -- sometimes life just takes over and there's little time for reading. But we always know that when there is a hiatus, a space when nothing else demands attention, a book awaits. There are definitely times in our lives when reading is more of a luxury than a necessity. And luxuries are good.

Mar 26, 2014, 10:39pm Top

>265 labfs39: Thanks. A groove...or a balance. (Which is easier? Surely a groove.)

>266 janeajones: So true, Jane. I am fitting in some reading time outside the Psalms.

Mar 30, 2014, 8:51pm Top

>246 dchaikin: Yeah I need those Mary Austin books!

>250 dchaikin: and yet, I heard your review as very empathetic

The B & N women's and men's magazines make me cranky. Really B & N? et tu?

>262 FlorenceArt: ah yes, creating does get in the way of consuming doesn't it? the beauty of that...........

I always enjoy your thread.

Mar 30, 2014, 10:47pm Top

Funny, Merrikay, I was catching up on your thread earlier today - and caught your review of The Consolations of the Forest which is now on my wishlist. But still have many more posts there to read.

And thanks for the comments. Especially finding my review empathetic. I've had a personal worry about what I see as difficulty expressing empathy, at least in the way I want to express it, which has me looking at the source and wondering about possibly lacking it within myself. Anyway, you didn't need to know all that, but your short comment was encouraging.

Mar 31, 2014, 7:58pm Top

The franklin book is The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin by Gordon s. wood. sorry about the misspelling.

Mar 31, 2014, 10:15pm Top

Thanks Miriam! Noting.

Mar 31, 2014, 10:29pm Top

Happy birthday, Dan (a few hours early)!

Mar 31, 2014, 10:31pm Top

Mar 31, 2014, 11:06pm Top

Happy Birthday, Dan!

Apr 1, 2014, 6:21am Top

>#275 Thanks!

Two more have arrived.

one via kindle: How Literature Works:50 Key Concepts by John Sutherland
and one in the mail box: Uncle Ernest by Larry D. Thomas

Apr 1, 2014, 10:48am Top

Happy Birthday, Dan! How wonderful to get lots of book presents. I thought HHhH quite unusual and very good; and I just heard a review of A Time for Everything that made me want to run out and read it too. Have a great day!

Apr 1, 2014, 1:42pm Top

As a knower of nothing about litcrit (or grammar), the 50 Key Concepts sounds good.

Apr 1, 2014, 2:08pm Top

Thought it would be fun to add:

HHhH was high on my wishlist for several reasons, but especially from Lisa's review. A Time for Everything was inspired by Rise's review early last year. Joyce's review of How Literature Works , from last year, led to that book getting on my wishlist. But my wife gets credit for selecting those three from my wishlist. Uncle Ernest I bought for myself.

Apr 1, 2014, 5:17pm Top

That is teamwork!!!

Apr 1, 2014, 11:17pm Top


Also, The Florida Reader was generally recommended recently by Janeajones.

Apr 1, 2014, 11:21pm Top

Goodnight, birthday boy! :-)

Apr 3, 2014, 10:38am Top

Good luck with the writing and a belated happy birthday. Hope you're still celebrating.

Apr 3, 2014, 3:21pm Top

Happy birthday Dan!

Apr 3, 2014, 3:42pm Top

Just catching up dan. Like the idea of setting time aside just to write, regardless of what comes out. That sounds therapeutic.

Apr 3, 2014, 11:22pm Top

Belated happy birthday! Hope you celebrated well. Nice book haul.

Apr 4, 2014, 12:14am Top

Thanks all. Not actually the best birthday as I had to work as usual, and my wife had events that evening and was out till late, and the kids had their evening Tae Kwon Do and baseball practice. Such is life. Still, it was fun in it's own way.

Apr 4, 2014, 7:44am Top

Dan, Belated birthday wishes. It is sad the way work gets in the way of having fun. :)

Apr 4, 2014, 12:17pm Top

Happy belated birthday!

Apr 4, 2014, 11:29pm Top

Thanks Collen & Rebecca. Work gets in the way of a lot of fun things...although it tends to fund those things too.

Edited: Apr 10, 2014, 6:50am Top

12. The Book of Job (Read Feb 10-28)
Read two versions:
from The Wisdom Books: Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes: A Translation with Commentary by Robert Alter
& from 31693::The HarperCollins Study Bible : New Revised Standard Version, Including the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books With Concordance (Fully Revised and Updated)

Working through my endless written notes and semi-coherently writing the important stuff down (here) hasn't helped me decide how to summarize this. I was going to read this no matter what, but then I was captured by Job's voice as he breaks his week of silence after his disasters. All the dialogue is in poetic form, and it works, and that it is so strikingly different and more powerful than the frame story allows it to jump out in a much more communicatively vivid manner. I'm talking about the first ten lines in Job chapter 3, which for me were unexpected enough, and powerful enough to color this whole book so that the rest of the way, and still now as I think back on it, the effect of those lines was was constantly on my mind. Obviously not everyone else will react that way.

Beyond that, Job is interesting in many ways. There is a lot of subtlety to the text, which might be in the form of references to creation in the beginning of Genesis, or to certain psalms, or references earlier parts of the text, or just the way Job words his protest and the way his friends respond. Job can be looked at as challenging the fundamentals of religion, but he never fully goes that route and is actually quite careful to keep his complaints within acceptable limits; but he does strike out against the wisdom tradition, something that apparently extended well beyond Judaism, but throughout ancient Middle Eastern culture, but yet is celebrated with the Psalms and Proverbs of the Old Testament. Within acceptable limits is Job's blasting of the idea of divine justice, that the good are rewarded and the wicked are not. Which isn't fascinating in it's own right, but yet as Job's friends argue against him, repeating the basic wisdom logic and condemning Job on the basis that he was must have done something to deserve his predicament, Jobs strikes out in new directions, even touching on what I want to call modern ideas of social justice. In one chapter he works through the logic of arguing against an action of God, as if on a trial, and how impossible it would be to have a fair trial because, well, how could anyone be impartial. Anyway, the cumulative is quite interesting

And then God does speak and tells Job that the world is just too complicated for him to be able to understand anything. Which quiets Job, but doesn't answer his questions about the unfair world.

This is one of the key works of the Old Testament, and I can sense why now. It's maybe the best part of the bible I have read.

Edited: Apr 12, 2014, 2:45pm Top

13. Just Write: Here's How! by Walter Dean Myers (2012, 176 pages, Read Feb 21 - Mar 4)

Looking for books on writing at my library, this came up in ebook format because I sorted by publication date. It was only after I started that I learned it was Juvenile book targeting teenagers, but I read it anyway because it was quite good. Myers, who was adopted and then watched his adopted father fall into unemployment and alcohol addiction, never went to college. Nonetheless, he has published over a hundred books since the 1960's, mainly juvenile and young adult books, many highly regarded and award winning. He brings in numerous personal stories, including his experiences co-writing a book with a 13-year-old admirer, the experience that probably led to this book.

From a writing advice perspective, Myers focuses on beginning with the story structure. He has six "boxes" of aspects of a story he fills in before he starts writing. If he can't fill them in, then he knows the story won't work. Once he gets that basic structure, and fills in more detail and only once he has worked out the outline in some depth does he begin writing. I found it interesting that such a prolific writer writes five pages a day, everyday and no more. He talks about how he used to try to write ten, but the quality wasn't as good and he had to do a lot more re-writing.

What I also found interesting was that once I started taking story ideas I had and tried to fill in those six boxes, I couldn't, and the weaknesses of the stories jumped out at me. His method seems very good.

Apr 12, 2014, 10:03am Top

It has always intrigued me that some writers can be so systematic in their writing to the point of setting a daily quota for pages written as if they were manufacturing widgets on an assembly line. We tend to think of creative activities as being spontaneous and ungovernable. I think if I were to try to write a longish work of fiction the biggest problem I would have is the tendency to spend all my time reworking what I had already written rather than moving forward.

Apr 12, 2014, 2:38pm Top

Steven - I'm no expert, but I've only heard (non-poetry) writers talk about their writing in terms of pages or words per day - even Jack Kerouac did this while writing On the Road. The words can be spontaneous, but the act of writing itself seems requires a lot of discipline.

One interesting thing I got from Writing Down the Bones (read in march, not reviewed yet) was how different the mindset is for writing verse editing, and how thinking about editing can kill the creativity.

Edited: Apr 12, 2014, 2:44pm Top

While I'm thinking about it, here is an except I have been meaning to type out from Writing Down the Bones:
We talked about our voices as writers -- how they are strong and brave but how as people we are wimps. The is what creates our craziness. The chasm between the great love we feel for the world when we sit and write about it and the disregard we give it in our own human lives. How Hemingway could write of the great patience of Santiago in the fishing boat and how Hemingway himself, when he stepped out of his writing studio, mistreated his wife and drank too much.
Just thought it put an interesting twist on how we can like the work and sometimes despise the artist.

Apr 12, 2014, 3:08pm Top

>291 dchaikin: I've really been enjoying your reading of Job. It's been years since I've read it. The non-denominational Christian folks are always keen to point to the ending of that story as an example of the "God of restoration."

>292 dchaikin: When I realized writing is a skill, not just something people are born with, I was finally able to write something mildly coherent. I'm sure I drove my high school English teacher crazy! Now I have to go look Walter Dean Myers up ....

>295 dchaikin: I read a bunch of Hemingway to make up some English credits in high school; haven't read any since. I got tired of every book having a depressing ending. So, when I found out he had ended his life, I thought, "well, that makes sense." Poor guy.

Just thought it put an interesting twist on how we can like the work and sometimes despise the artist.
That is something to think about, isn't it?

Edited: Apr 12, 2014, 3:23pm Top

14. People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks (2008, 379 pages, Read Feb 28 - Mar 8)

Read for my RL book club. I don't want to add much to the conversation. It's a bad book, but readable. Brooks has two major award winning books. I've read them both, thought they were pretty good efforts, but not exactly masterpeices. In any case, she out-plotted her abilities here. It would take a lot to make this book work, as several different and mostly unconnected fictional pieces need to be added a contemporary fictional setting. Presumably she was hoping to pull off something like Ivo Andrić did (and even partially in the same location). None of the fictional pieces were particularly special here, none. Some were decent and some were simply bad.

The best thing Brooks wrote for this was her true history of the book's subject, a unique ancient and curious haggadah. But that is not included here*. The essay can be found in the The New Yorker: Chronicles : The Book of Exodus : A double rescue in wartime Sarajevo.

*My paperback had a shortened version of this essay.

Apr 12, 2014, 3:19pm Top

>297 dchaikin: I feel so much better now! My RL book club chose this one too and I hardly made it to the middle. (Fortunately, I had to miss that meeting.) ;)

Apr 12, 2014, 3:22pm Top

>296 avidmom: - The God of Restoration - I will have to look into that. If it means what I think it means, I might have some logical qualms with it. :)

Apr 12, 2014, 3:24pm Top

> I feel better too. This is one of the books I had bought on clearance sale and decided earlier this year to get rid of it without reading it. (I kept the one about the plague.)

Apr 12, 2014, 3:25pm Top

>298 avidmom: I almost gave up early on, but then eventually found it readable enough. Interesting that it has the most LT entries of her books.

Apr 12, 2014, 3:28pm Top

>300 StevenTX: Good call. I enjoyed Year of Wonders, but wouldn't recommend it to anyone.

Edited: Apr 14, 2014, 8:46am Top

>297 dchaikin:

I'm glad that you weren't exactly enthralled with People of the Book. I always feel bad if I don't like a book which many others consider to be spectacular. I found this book too boring to even finish reading. I was never engaged by any of its mini-stories.

My favorite holiday is Passover (Chag sameach, Dan!) and I do collect some different kinds of haggadoth, but Brooks' book simply didn't win my heart nor do much of anything for me.

Apr 14, 2014, 9:24am Top

Madeline - I feel almost exactly the same way, only I did get a little caught in some if the stories. The true story of the book is actually fascinating - all the way through modern times. Happy Passover! I didn't think about how timely my review was.

Apr 14, 2014, 9:24am Top

I have started my next thread here: http://www.librarything.com/topic/172769

... But forgot to use the continue link...

Group: Club Read 2014

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