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dchaikin lacks a clever thread name in 2015

Club Read 2015

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1dchaikin
Jan 1, 2015, 10:36pm Top

Pardon all the construction as I figure out what to do with myself this year. I like lists, maybe get a little obsessed.

And what will happen this year? My plan is to alternate Cormac McCarthy novels with the last 8 or so books of the Old Testament. Why? Well, just because I have list of 50 Books and Blood Meridian is at one end (Actually it's number 49. Number 50 was Beloved, but I spent a year or so working on Toni Morrison already. The list is chronological) and the OT is on the other. McCarthy style has been called biblical, or biblically influenced. But that is just a potentially good coincidence.

In order to make this work I would need to maintain curiosity in these two things all year. I don't want the plan to be a trap. So, I'll give up if it doesn't work. But, hopefully I will also read around McCarthy and make this fun. I likely won't be reading too much around the OT as I started it in 2012, and, I kind of feel I read most of what I would want to read about it. But there will be some of that too.

3dchaikin
Edited: Jun 9, 2015, 12:24am Top

Books read this year:
Links go to posts

DECEMBER 2014 (and reviewed on this thread)

75. 12.17 The Book of Proverbs (Read Dec 1-17)
76. 12.18 A Tale for the Time Being (Audio) by Ruth L. Ozeki, read by the author (Listend Nov 20 to Dec 18)
77. 12.25 MetaMaus by Art Spiegelman (read Dec 11-25)

JANUARY

1. 01.01 The Orchard Keeper by Cormac McCarthy (read Dec 26 - Jan 1)
2. 01.04 All Joy and No Fun : The Paradox of Modern Parenthood (Audio) by Jennifer Senior, read by the author (Listened Dec 18-Jan 4)
3. 01.09 This is How You Lose Her (Audio) by Junot Díaz, read by the author (Listened Jan 5-9)
4. 01.09 Poetry October 2014: Poetry from the United Kingdom - (read Dec 12 - Jan 9)
5. 01.21 The Country Life (Audio) by Rachel Cusk, read by Jenny Sterlin (Listened Jan 9-21)
6. 01.24 My Promised Land by Ari Shavit (Read Jan 5-24)
7. 01.25 Ecclesiastes (Read Jan 8 - 25)
8. 01.31 Outer Dark by Cormac McCarthy (Read Jan 27-31)

FEBRUARY

9. 02.02 Poetry November 2014 (Read Jan 9 - Feb 2)
-- 02.05 Song of Songs (Read Feb 4-5)
10. 02.09 HHhH by Laurent Binet (Read Feb 6-9)
11. 02.12 Augustus : The Life of Rome's First Emperor (Audio) by Anthony Everitt, read by John Curless (Listened Jan 23 - Feb 12)
12. 02.13 Child of God by Cormac McCarthy (Read Feb 10-13)
13. 02.15 Poetry December 2014 (Read Feb 3-15)
14. 02.19 Serial : Season One, Fall 2014 (Podcast) by Sarah Koenig (Listened Feb 13-19)
15. 02.27 Lila by Marilynne Robinson (Read Feb 14-27)

MARCH

16. 03.04 Electric Universe: The Shocking True Story of Electricity (Audio) by David Bodanis, read by Del Roy (Listened Feb 25 - Mar 4)
17. 03.09 Behind the Beautiful Forevers : Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity (Audio) by Katherine Boo, read by Sunil Malhotra (Listened Feb 20 - Mar 9)
18. 03.16 The Rabbi of Casino Boulevard by Allan Appel (Read Mar 7-16)
19. 03.18 Boxers by Gene Luen Yang (Read Mar 18)
20. 03.18 Saints by Gene Luen Yang (Read Mar 18)
21. 03.18 American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang (Read Mar 18)
22. 03.19 We Won't See Auschwitz by Jérémie Dres (Read Mar 18-19)
23. 03.23 The Book of Isaiah (Read Feb 14 - Mar 23)
24. 03.30 The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid (audio) by Bill Bryson, read by the author (Listened Mar 23-30)

APRIL

25. 04.12 Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys. by Viv Albertine (Read April 2-11)
26. 04.19 Zealot : The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth (Audio) by Reza Aslan, read by author (Listened April 13-19)
27. 04.24 David and Goliath : Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants (Audio) by Malcolm Gladwell, read by the author (Listened April 20-24)
28. 04.26 The Lemon Tree : An Arab, A Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East by Sandy Tolan (read April 14-26)

MAY

29. 05.07 Suttree by Cormac McCarthy (read Mar 23 - May 7)
30. 05.20 Tar Baby (Audio) by Toni Morrison, read by Desiree Coleman (Listened May 8-20)
31. 05.22 Jephte's Daughter by Naomi Ragen (Read 8-22)
32. 05.23 A Short History of Nearly Everything (Audio) by Bill Bryson, read by Richard Matthews (Listened April 24-May 7, then May 22-23)
33. 05.29 The Buddha in the Attic (Audio) by Julie Otsuka, read by Samantha Quan & Carrington MacDuffie (Listened May 26-29)

June

34. 06.06 Outliers : The Story of Success (Audio) by Malcolm Gladwell, read by the author (Listened May 31- Jun 6)
35. 06.06 Jazz by Toni Morrison (read May 23 - Jun 6)
36. 06.08 A world Lit Only By Fire : The Medieval Mind and the Renaissance, Portrait of an Age (Audio) by William Manchester, read by Barrett Whitener (listened Mar 30-April 9, June 7-8.)

4dchaikin
Edited: Feb 21, 2015, 10:23pm Top

Short Stories, Essays, and the like

1. 01.06 Colette Bryce - Omphalos - essay inspired by Seamus Heaney's poem "Mossbawn", Poetry October 2014
2. 01.07 Todd Swift - Four Englands: Four Debut British Poets Being Variously English - review of four books of poetry: Division Street by Helen Mort, Dear Boy by Emily Berry, Sins of the Leopard by James Brookes and Terror by Toby Martinez de las Rivas, Poetry October 2014
3. 01.07 Frances Leviston - The Red Squirrels at Coole - essay touching on disappointment with Scotland refusing independence, Poetry October 2014
4. 01.24 Kenneth Lincoln - Prologue Western Storykeeper: Life and Times - introductory essay, Cormac McCarthy: American Canticles
5. 01.24 Kenneth Lincoln - 1 - Canticles Down West: Hyperrealism - chapter 1, Cormac McCarthy: American Canticles
6. 01.24 Kenneth Lincoln - 2 - Back to Appalachia: The Orchard Keeper - chapter 2, Cormac McCarthy: American Canticles
7. 01.26 Mike Chasar - Prose from Poetry Magazine : Orality, Literacy, and the Memorized Poem : Hearing art's heartbeat - review of Heart Beats: Everyday Life and the Memorized Poem by Catherine Robson, Poetry January 2014 (link)
8. 01.30 Geoffrey Brock - Exhuming Vallejo - essay, Poetry November 2014 (Link)
9. 01.31 Aditya Mani Jha - Mr. Macabre: McCarthy and the never-ending war : Cormac McCarthy turned 80 yesterday. His unyielding, apocalyptic prose puts him in the highest echelons of contemporary literature - essay, The Sunday Guardian, July 20, 2013 (Link)
10. 01.31 Guy Davenport - review of Outer Dark by Cormac McCarthy, New York Times, September 29, 1968 (Link)
11. 01.31 Dan Geddes - McCarthy’s Outer Dark: Existentialist Darkness As Mood - review, The Satirist, September 1999 (Link)
12. 02.01 Kenneth Lincoln - 3 - Dark Is a Way: Outer Dark - chapter 3, Cormac McCarthy: American Canticles
13. 02.01 Gwyneth Lewis - Extreme Welsh Meter - essay, Poetry November 2014 (Link)
14. 02.02 James Longenbach - The Medium of the English Language - essay, Poetry November 2014 (Link)
15. 02.02 James Longenbach - A Yard Beyond the Moon - essay on same theme, Poetry November 2014
16. 02.04 Denis Donoghue - Three Presences: Yeats, Eliot, Pound - essay, The Hudson Review, Winter 2010 (Link)
17. 02.15 Ernesto Londoño - Hooked on the Freewheeling Podcast ‘Serial’ - opinion piece, New York Times, Feb 12, 2015 (Link)
18. 02.15 Molly Peacock - The Equation of the Prose Poem - essay, Poetry December 2014
19. 02.21 David N. Cremean - On Cormac McCarthy - essay, Critical Insights : Cormac McCarthy
20. 02.21 Carole Juge - Biography of Cormac McCarthy - essay, Critical Insights : Cormac McCarthy

5dchaikin
Edited: May 17, 2015, 12:44pm Top

a list of poets I have read:

JANUARY

Poetry October 2014 - Sam Riviere, Frances Leviston, Toby Martinez de las Rivas, Amy Key, David Wheatley*, Kathryn Maris*, John Greening* (Jan 1-3)

www.poetryfoundation.org website - Emily Barry* (wow! Jan 7)

Poetry November 2014 (translation issue) - Reginald Gibbons's translation of Ilya Kutik, John William Narins's translation of Lev Oborin, Gwyneth Lewis's translation of Dafydd Ap Gwilym, Tom Kuhn's translation of Bertolt Brecht*, Mary Jo Bang and Yuki Tanaka's translation of Shuzo Takiguchi, Ming Di and Jennifer Stern's translation of Liu Xia, Jennifer Grotz's translation of Jerzy Ficowski, Fanny Howe's poem based on a poem by I.F. Annensky, David St. John's translation of Larry Levis's poem based on a poem by François Villon, Katherine M. Hedeen's translation of Víctor Rodríguez Núñez, Mary Ann Caws' translation of Yves Bonnefoy, Suji Kwock Kim's translation of Ko Un (Jan 8-17), Matthew Rohrer poems with Bashō, Buson and Issa (Jan 24), David Wheatley's translation of Seán Ó Ríordáin (Jan 25), Rosanna Warren's translations of Max Jacob, Valzhyna Mort's translation of Grigori Dashevsky*, Tony Hoagland's translation of Seán Ó Coileáin, Zachary Sholem Berger's translation of Abraham Sutzkever*, Maia Evrona's translation of Abraham Sutzkever* (Jan 26-30)

FEBRUARY

Poetry December 2014 - Bill Manhire, Dunya Mikhail* (Feb 3), Knar Gavin*, Tom Clark* (Feb 5) Terrance Hayes**, Robyn Schiff, Rob Schlegel, Melissa Broder, Afaa Michael Weaver*, Claudia Emerson* (Feb 6-7) Molly Peacock, Gerald Stern, Darrel Alejandro Holnes, Rachel Gavins*, Solmaz Sharif*, Wendy Xu*, Hannah Gamble, Danez Smith*, Ocean Vuong (Feb 8-13), Larry Eigner** (Feb 15)

How Does a Poem Mean? by John Ciardi and Miller Williams - John Keats, Robert Frost

MARCH

How Does a Poem Mean - Chapter Two
Robert Southey, Lewis Carroll, Isaac Watts, Fitz-Greene Halleck, John Davidson, William Schwenck Gilbert, X. J. Kennedy, John Crowe Ransom, Margaret Walker

APRIL, MAY

How Does a Poem Mean - Chapter Three, Symbols
Walter de la Mare, Robert Penn Warren, Samuel Taylor Colleridge* (the first time I've read The Rime of the Ancient Mariner), Edwin Arlington Robinson, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Robert Frost, T. S. Eliot* (my first time reading The Love Song of Alfred Profrock), John Keats, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Emily Dickinson, Alan Dugan, Theodore Roethke, Dudley Randall, Robert Huff, Nicanor Parra, Wallace Stevens, Anthony Hecht, David Wagoner, W. D. Snodgrass, Charles Wright, R. S. Thomas, Marvin Bell

How Does a Poem Mean - Chapter Four, Words
Language of Poetry
Robert Burns, Dante Alighieri, William Shakespeare, Philip Larkin, Anne Sexton, Robert Frost, Elizabeth Bishop, John William Corrington, Archibald MacLeish, Wilfred Owen, Dylan Thomas, William Meredith, Gerald Manly Hopkins, Gwendolyn Brooks, Barry Spacks, Robert Canzoneri, John Nims, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Donald Justice, James Dickey, X. J. Kennedy, Edwin Godsey, Richard Wilbur,
The Word Choice
Gwendolyn Grew, Howard Moss, Emily Dickinson, D. H. Lawrence, John Keats* (first time readins Ode on a Grecian Urn), Louise Bogan, Howard Nemerov, James Whitehead
"Hard" and "Soft" Diction
John Lyly, William Shakespeare, Robert Frost, Janice Appleby Succorsa, I. O. Scherzo, Howard Nemerov, William Carlos Williams, Sir Thomas Wyatt, Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, Edgar Allan Poe, John Frederick Nims, Percy Bysshe Shelley, W. H. Auden, Wilfred Owen*, Walter de la Mare
Interrelation of Overtones
Henry Reed, Rolfe Humphries*, Matthew Arnold, Henry Rago, Edmund Spenser, ... Harvey Shapiro, Robert Herrick, Ben Jonson, Thomas Gray, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

6dchaikin
Edited: Jun 9, 2015, 12:25am Top

Miscellaneous lists

Regular Books (excluding audio, bible bits, lit magazines, juvenile, graphic novels, podcasts, etc)
1. 01.01 The Orchard Keeper by Cormac McCarthy (read Dec 26 - Jan 1)
2. 01.24 My Promised Land by Ari Shavit (Read Jan 5-24)
3. 01.31 Outer Dark by Cormac McCarthy (Read Jan 27-31)
4. 02.09 HHhH by Laurent Binet (Read Feb 6-9)
5. 02.13 Child of God by Cormac McCarthy (Read Feb 10-13)
6. 02.27 Lila by Marilynne Robinson (Read Feb 14-27)
7. 03.16 The Rabbi of Casino Boulevard by Allan Appel (Read Mar 7-16)
8. 04.12 Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys. by Viv Albertine (Read April 2-11)
9. 04.26 The Lemon Tree : An Arab, A Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East by Sandy Tolan (read April 14-26)
10. 05.07 Suttree by Cormac McCarthy (read Mar 23 - May 7)
11. 05.22 Jephte's Daughter by Naomi Ragen (Read 8-22)
12. 06.06 Jazz by Toni Morrison (read May 23 - Jun 6)

Audio Books (and podcasts)
1. 01.04 All Joy and No Fun : The Paradox of Modern Parenthood by Jennifer Senior, read by the author (Listened Dec 18-Jan 4)
2. 01.09 This is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz, read by the author (Listened Jan 5-9)
3. 01.21 The Country Life by Rachel Cusk, read by Jenny Sterlin (Listened Jan 9-21)
4. 02.12 Augustus : The Life of Rome's First Emperor by Anthony Everitt, read by John Curless (Listened Jan 23 - Feb 12)
5. 02.19 Serial : Season One, Fall 2014 (Podcast) by Sarah Koenig (Listened Feb 13-19)
6. 03.04 Electric Universe: The Shocking True Story of Electricity by David Bodanis, read by Del Roy (Listened Feb 25 - Mar 4)
7. 03.09 Behind the Beautiful Forevers : Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo, read by Sunil Malhotra (Listened Feb 20 - Mar 9)
8. 03.30 The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson, read by the author (Listened Mar 23-30)
9. 04.19 Zealot : The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth (Audio) by Reza Aslan, read by author (Listened April 13-19)
10. 04.24 David and Goliath : Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants (Audio) by Malcolm Gladwell, read by the author (Listened April 20-24)
11. 05.20 Tar Baby (Audio) by Toni Morrison, read by Desiree Coleman (Listened May 8-20)
12. 05.23 A Short History of Nearly Everything (Audio) by Bill Bryson, read by Richard Matthews (Listened April 24-May 7, then May 22-23)
13. 05.29 The Buddha in the Attic (Audio) by Julie Otsuka, read by Samantha Quan & Carrington MacDuffie (Listened May 26-29)
14. 06.06 Outliers : The Story of Success (Audio) by Malcolm Gladwell, read by the author (Listened May 31- Jun 6)
15. 06.08 A world Lit Only By Fire : The Medieval Mind and the Renaissance, Portrait of an Age (Audio) by William Manchester, read by Barrett Whitener (listened Mar 30-April 9, June 7-8.)

Magazines
1. 01.09 Poetry October 2014: Poetry from the United Kingdom - (read Dec 12 - Jan 9)
2. 02.02 Poetry November 2014 (Read Jan 9 - Feb 2)
3. 02.15 Poetry December 2014 (Read Feb 3-15)

Graphic Novels (or graphic non-novels)
1. 03.18 Boxers by Gene Luen Yang (Read Mar 18)
2. 03.18 Saints by Gene Luen Yang (Read Mar 18)
3. 03.18 American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang (Read Mar 18)
4. 03.19 We Won't See Auschwitz by Jérémie Dres (Read Mar 18-19)

Biblical books
-- 01.25 Ecclesiastes (Read Jan 8 - 25)
-- 02.05 Song of Songs (Read Feb 4-5)
-- 03.23 The Book of Isaiah (Read Feb 14 - Mar 23)

Unfinished
-- Cormac McCarthy: American Canticles by Kenneth Lincoln (just peaking in. Jan 24 - Feb 1)
-- Days of Fire: Bush and Cheney in the White House (Audio) by Peter Baker, read by Mark Deakins (started Mar 9, abandoned Mar 23, 22% in)
-- A Basic History of the United States, Volume 1 : The Colonial Experience, 1607-1774 (Audio) by Clarence B. Carson, read by Mary Woods (started April 10, abandoned April 11 - terrible with Agenda, but does have some quirky entertainment value.)
-- Critical Insights : Cormac McCarthy edited by David N. Cremean (just peaking in, Feb 21)
-- Grain brain : The Surprising Truth About Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar-- Your Brain's Silent Killers (audiobook) by David Perlmutter & Kristin Loberg, read by Peter Ganim (listened to introduction May 29 - quack)

7dchaikin
Edited: Jun 9, 2015, 12:36am Top

Some stats:

2015
Books read: 36
Pages: 9376
"regular books" (excluding various oddities. See post 6): 12
Formats: hardcovers 4; Paperback 9; ebooks 5; audio 15; lit magazines 3
Subjects in brief: Novels 11; Non-fiction 17; Poetry 3; Graphic 4; History 10; Science 5; Journalism 6; Anthology 3; Short Stories 1; Classics 2; Biographies/Memoirs 5
Nationalities: United States 25; United Kingdom 3; Canada 3; Israel 3; France 2
Genders, m/f: 21/10 (mixed or indeterminate: 5)
Owner: Books I own 19; Library books 16; online 1
Re-reads: 0
Year Published: 2010's 16; 2000's 8; 1990's 3; 1980's 3; 1970's 2; 1960's 2; BCE 2

"Everything"*
Books read: 738
Pages: 235,556
"regular books": 496
Formats: Hardcover 175; Paperback 426; ebooks 49; Audio 52; Lit magazines 35
Subjects in brief: Novels 196; Non-fiction 328; Poetry 54; Graphic 41; Juvenile 32; Scifi/Fantasy 63; History 133; Science 55; Journalism 61; Anthology 41; Short Story Collections 26; Essay Collections 20; Classics 51; Biographies/Memoirs 144; Interviews 9
Nationalities: US 478; Other English speaking countries 138; Other countries: 122
Genders, m/f: 499/176
Owner: Books I owned 518; Library books 156; Books I borrowed 64
Re-reads: 13
Year Published: 2010's 118; 2000's 239; 1990's 138; 1980's 96; 1970's 42; 1960's 25; 1950's 20; 1900-1949 23; 19th century 14; 18th century 0; 17th century 3; 16th century 3; 0-1499 2; BCE 15

*well, everything since I have kept track, beginning in Dec 1990

8dchaikin
Edited: Jun 9, 2015, 11:28pm Top

This is the (admittedly somewhat random) list of 50 books I would like to read at some point. But really read, not just rush through. The list is from 8171769::Beowulf on the Beach : What to Love and What to Skip in Literature's 50 Greatest Hits by Jack Murnighan, which I read in 2009.

1. The Illiad-Homer (circa 900 B.C.)
2. The Odyssey–Homer (circa 900 B.C.)
3. The Old Testament (15th- to 2nd-century B.C.) ----- I've been reading this since January 2012
4. The New Testament (1st-2nd century)
5. The Aeneid–Virgil (19 B.C.)
6. Metamorphoses-Ovid (A.D. 17)
7. Beowulf (10th century)
8. Inferno (Divine Comedy)-Dante Alighieri (1308)
9. Paradiso (Divine Comedy)-Dante Alighieri (1321)
10. The Decameron-Giovanni Boccaccio (1353)
11. The Canterbury Tales-Geoffrey Chaucer (1400)
12. *The Faerie Queen-Edmund Spencer (1596) ----- read in 2011
13. *Hamlet-William Shakespeare (1600) ----- read in 2013
14. King Lear-William Shakespeare (1605)
15. Macbeth-William Shakespeare (1605)
16. Don Quixote-Miguel de Cervantes (1615)
17. Paradise Lost-John Milton (1667)
18. The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling-Henry Fielding (1749)
19. *Pride and Prejudice-Jane Austen (1813) ----- read in 2005.
20. Faust I II-Johann Wofgang von Goethe (1832)
21. Eugene Onegin-Alexander Pushkin (1832)
22. Père Goriot-Honoré de Balzac (1835)
23. Jane Eyre-Charlotte Brontë (1847) - read in 1991, I will re-read this
24. Wuthering Heights-Emily Brontë (1847)
25. *Moby Dick-Herman Melville (1851)----- read in 2012
26. Bleak House-Charles Dickens (1853)
27. Great Expectations-Charles Dickens (1861)
28. Madame Bovary-Gustave Flaubert (1856)
29. *Crime and Punishment-Fyodor Dostoevsky (1866) ----- read in 2003.
30. *The Brothers Karamazov-Fyodor Dostoevsky (1880) ----- read in 2010
31. War and Peace-Leo Tolstoy (1869)
32. *Anna Karenina-Leo Tolstoy (1877) ----- read in 2004
33. Middlemarch-George Eliot (1872)
34. The Wings of the Dove-Henry James (1902)
35. Remembrance of Things Past-Marcel Proust (1922) ----- read the first two books in 2010...
36. Ulysses-James Joyce (1922)
37. *The Magic Mountain-Thomas Mann (1924) ----- read in 2011
38. The Trial-Kafka (1925)
39. To the Lighthouse-Virginia Woolf (1927)
40. The Sound and the Fury-William Faulkner (1929)
41. A Farewell to Arms-Ernest Hemmingway (1929)
42. Tropic of Cancer-Henry Miller (1934)
43. Native Son-Richard Wright (1940)
44. The Man Without Qualities-Robert Musil (1942)
45. Lolita-Vladimir Nabakov (1955)
46. Giovanni’s Room-James Baldwin (1956)
47. One Hundred Years of Solitude-Gabriel García Marquez (1967)
48. Gravity’s Rainbow-Thomas Pynchon (1973)
49. Blood Meridian-Cormac McCarthy (1985)
50. *Beloved-Toni Morrison (1987) ----- read in 2013

9VivienneR
Jan 1, 2015, 11:14pm Top

Good to see you here and looking forward to following your impressive list of reading.

10Poquette
Jan 2, 2015, 12:41am Top

>8 dchaikin: I love you list of 50 books, many of which I have read (19) and with few exceptions I would like to read the rest of them. I am going to keep my eye on this post for future reference.

11avidmom
Jan 2, 2015, 1:04am Top

Stopping by to star your thread. (Love the title!) Looking forward to your comments as you make your way through that very impressive reading list.

12avaland
Jan 2, 2015, 5:52am Top

Hi Dan, I see you are very ambitious again this year. I'm hoping to stop by from time to time. Not a McCarthy fan, but I think he's likely a good pairing with the Old Testament, as I thought The Road had that "biblical" or mythical feel about it.

13zenomax
Jan 2, 2015, 6:45am Top

Hi Dan - happy new year, I will try to keep up to date with your threads this year.

14Cait86
Jan 2, 2015, 8:19am Top

I love your plan to read all of Cormac McCarthy's novels. Have you read any of his books in past years, or is he a new author you want to explore? I have read, and loved, The Road, No Country for Old Men, and All the Pretty Horses, but I've never read any of his early novels. I look forward to your comments on them!

15detailmuse
Jan 2, 2015, 11:17am Top

>8 dchaikin: Will be interested to see your comments on books in this list. And everything else :)

>7 dchaikin: 51 poetry volumes in ~25 years, that's wonderful to see. I hope to "slow down" enough to appreciate some poetry this year.

16rebeccanyc
Jan 2, 2015, 11:34am Top

>8 dchaikin: Interesting list. Of course I could quibble with it, but then I could quibble with any list. I will restrict myself to saying the Pere Goriot is not the Balzac I would read/recommend if I were limiting myself to one book by him.

I hope you have fun with your reading, and I look forward to following it once again.

17dchaikin
Jan 2, 2015, 1:11pm Top

Thanks for all the visits and hi all!

For the record on my sanity, that list in post 8 is not for this year, but forever, sort of, at least till I change my mind. This year is just McCarthy and the OT. If i get throgh those, i'll move on to another author.

>9 VivienneR: Vivienne - thanks for stopping by

>10 Poquette: Suzanne - i'm impressed by the 19, no dreams in those titles. : )

>11 avidmom: Thanks. I had a moment as I posted where i thought, "wait! I was going to change that title!" But I kind of like it too.

>12 avaland: Lois - i suspect this isn't really a McCarthy-ish group, but we'll see. Nice to see you around again.

>13 zenomax: ditto Z. Happy New Year

>14 Cait86: Cait - I have only read The Road and, as of last night, The Orchard Keeper. I own four other books from pre-CR days when i was going to read several...

>15 detailmuse: MJ - well, 90 percent of my poetry reading is from the last five years, and all of it, I think, post-dates 2001 when a neighbor at the time, who is a poet, got me interested. But, I do seem to make slow progress and the slower the better.

>16 rebeccanyc: Rebecca, promise, if I get to Balzac, i'll read more than one. I might come to you dor advice!

18SqueakyChu
Jan 2, 2015, 2:55pm Top

Hi Daniel,

Happy New Year! What interesting reading plans you have for this year! I love the name of your thread, by the way. :)

19NanaCC
Jan 2, 2015, 4:00pm Top

I'll be here to follow along, wherever your plans take you. I've read a handful of books on that 50 list, but know that I should read more of them. And, I agree with others - I thought your thread title was quite creative.

20OscarWilde87
Jan 2, 2015, 4:18pm Top

Put a star on your thread to follow your reading again this year. I'm pretty interested in your thoughts on McCarthy as I thought of reading some McCarthy myself this year.

21mabith
Jan 2, 2015, 5:36pm Top

Looking forward to following your reading this year!

22janeajones
Jan 2, 2015, 5:53pm Top

Happy New Year, Dan -- as usual I'll be following your thread with interest.

23kidzdoc
Jan 2, 2015, 9:18pm Top

Happy New Year, Dan! I'll be following you closely as well.

24StevenTX
Jan 2, 2015, 11:25pm Top

Dan, I'm looking forward to your reading, especially McCarthy. I've read all but two of his novels, The Orchard Keeper and Suttree. When you get to Blood Meridian there's a very nice video lecture you can watch from a Yale undergraduate course that ties it in closely to both the Bible and Moby Dick.

Your "Everything" list is giving me ideas. My reading log goes back to 1978, so I could waste some serious time on it.

25dchaikin
Jan 3, 2015, 6:33pm Top

>18 SqueakyChu: Hi Madeline. Nice to get a visit from you. Not sure those plans will go very far. :)

>19 NanaCC: - ditto, i will certainly follow you too.

>20 OscarWilde87: - I'll keep an eye out for McCarthy on your thread

>21 mabith: - thanks. I'll will try to keep up with your thread this year (that's meant as a compliment)

>22 janeajones: hello Jane! Enjoy the little ones.

>23 kidzdoc: Very curious to see what you come across this year. One year I should plan to follow you on the Booker trail...

>24 StevenTX: thanks for that Video. Blood Meridian is sort of my main goal. Although I recall Jack Murnighan was huge on Suttree. When I get there, maybe I'll give you a little nudge, see if you are interested in reading along with me.

And Steven, I would love to see some of your stats. 36 years! Very impressive.

26dchaikin
Jan 3, 2015, 6:35pm Top

Just for fun, here are all the physical books I read last year, minus library books. Will all the e-books and audio, this is just a sample.

27rebeccanyc
Jan 4, 2015, 8:09am Top

Nice to see your books, and that edition of The Guns of August brought back memories because I can picture it on my mother's shelves.

28dchaikin
Jan 4, 2015, 9:47am Top

That ancient copy of The Guns pf August came off my mother-in-laws shelves. (I have catalogued maybe a third of her books, mostly published on or before 1968, in my collection called "Wisconsin".)

29Linda92007
Jan 4, 2015, 9:49am Top

>8 dchaikin: Great list, Dan. Lists like that make me want to just drop everything else and go exploring. I am currently reading Bleak House and loving it, after not having visited Dickens for many years. It's a great reminder of the enduring greatness of the classics.

30dchaikin
Jan 4, 2015, 10:03am Top

i saw that you were reading Bleak House - with a group iirc? I should have commented. I was jealous. : )

31mabith
Jan 4, 2015, 10:26am Top

Love the book picture. I think most of us enjoy seeing eachother's shelves.

32ELiz_M
Jan 4, 2015, 12:51pm Top

>8 dchaikin: I have that book (I love books with lists of books!) and even have a tag for it (botb-50), but I keep forgetting to go back to Murnighan to see what he has said about the book I just finished reading.

33dchaikin
Jan 4, 2015, 5:43pm Top

>31 mabith: We in CR, in general, have a more than usual enjoyment of lists of books...regardless of their format. And thanks. Your picture was motivation. And now that I have put them all away, I only have the picture.

>32 ELiz_M: Ok, that's cool you were struck by the same somewhat random book. And I'm impressed how many you have read (based on your ratings and that tag.) Although this is when I need to come clean and admit I don't own a copy. It was library book I checked out on whim, never expecting to read and accidentally loved. (But, I don't feel a huge need to go back and see what he said. The point for me was I enjoyed his book enough to pursue his list and try to figure out how to read them somewhat in his manner - namely deeply.)

34baswood
Jan 4, 2015, 6:52pm Top

I am glad you didn't include the library books? the fines might be prohibitive, It's good to see some books with less than pristine covers - it means that have been read.

35ursula
Jan 4, 2015, 9:11pm Top

>26 dchaikin: I always like seeing bookshelves, even though (or maybe because) I don't have a collection of my own.

36arubabookwoman
Jan 4, 2015, 10:20pm Top

I like your list of books too. I made it about halfway through Proust, and would like to get back to it soon. However, I think I will have to start over at the beginning. The Decameron is calling to me for this year.

We are coming to Houston in mid-February (2 grandkids now, Boden and Madeleine)--perhaps a cup of coffee??

37dchaikin
Jan 5, 2015, 12:15am Top

>36 arubabookwoman: I would love to join you, and coffee sounds terrific. I can make time, just let me know, by PM, when you know your schedule. I'll look forward to it. And yay(!) on another grandchild.

I made it through the the first two books from Proust back in...2010?? I'll have to start over again.

38dchaikin
Jan 5, 2015, 12:19am Top

>34 baswood: : ) plus most of them were audio and don't have use of a bookshelf.

>35 ursula: thanks...but wait, no books? Or no bookshelve?

39kidzdoc
Jan 5, 2015, 6:22am Top

>8 dchaikin: Nice list of books, Dan! I can highly recommend Don Quixote, The Trial and Giovanni's Room. I hope to read The Magic Mountain, Lolita and The Sound and the Fury this year.

40avidmom
Jan 5, 2015, 6:47pm Top

>39 kidzdoc: I second kidzdoc's endorsement of Don Quixote!

41ursula
Jan 6, 2015, 10:22am Top

>38 dchaikin: Both! It's kind of a long story, but through a series of moves (including one international + return), I no longer really buy or keep books. At the moment, I have about 20 books, but I'm reading them and winnowing that down. I used to work in bookstores and as a result had a lot of books, but I've realized I don't really like to have them sitting around - I don't re-read and having lots of books I haven't read but mean to one day is sort of oppressive to me. So I use the library and shop at thrift stores occasionally, but whatever few books I buy go back out the door in the end.

42dchaikin
Jan 6, 2015, 6:57pm Top

>39 kidzdoc:, >40 avidmom: Darryl, I think they all come highly recommended. :) I do look forward to reading these...actually I haven't thought that far ahead even. I look forward to the idea of setting the time to devote to Cervantes, Kafka & James Baldwin.

>41 ursula: I'm kind of impressed you are doing that. I have trouble with TBR books, they just seem to weigh heavier each day I don't read them. I don't have these issues with library books. Actually, all my audio books are from the library, they all fit this idea - I borrow them (somewhat randomly and unpredictably) listen and return. It has a nice freedom to it. But...on the other hand, I love staring at my book shelves and just wondering.

43dchaikin
Edited: Jan 7, 2015, 11:17pm Top



75. (From 2014) The Book of Proverbs (Read December 1 - 17)

I read this in The HarperCollins Study Bible : New Revised Standard Version, general editor Harold W. Attridge (2006, 51 pages within Paperback)

I'm wondering where Proverbs fits in our current response to the bible. It's not a core book. It's a one-off. Not really all that religiously focused, and lacking the wider appeal of some Old Testament parts like Job's conflicted poetry, the comfort of the psalms, the ancient mystique of oddities in Genesis, or the fairly sophisticated story of David in Samuel. I don't imagine many people have a biblical curiosity that starts here.

And yet I was surprised to find I actually enjoyed Proverbs. It's a strange book whose praise is not so focused on God, but instead on wisdom, almost as if she was her own goddess. And wisdom is personified by a woman here. And Wisdom exists in the beginning, at creation. With the non-unique meaning of the Hebrew she may have been created at the very beginning of creation, or perhaps she was born of God, or perhaps she existed prior to creation.
‘How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple?
How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing
and fools hate knowledge?
Give heed to my reproof;
I will pour out my thoughts to you;
I will make my words known to you.
Because I have called and you refused,
have stretched out my hand and no one heeded,
and because you have ignored all my counsel
and would have none of my reproof,
I also will laugh at your calamity;
I will mock when panic strikes you,
when panic strikes you like a storm,
and your calamity comes like a whirlwind,
when distress and anguish come upon you.
Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer;
they will seek me diligently, but will not find me.
Yes, this goddess will laugh us fools who do not heed wisdom. And I have to admit being a bit charmed by this.

There is actually a lot to like here. There are nine curious chapters before we actually see a proverb, and one of them includes an unbiblical and modern feeling narrative. A woman tells of watching, in secret ("I looked out through my lattice,"), as another woman betrays her husband and seduces a lover. Her seducing words are quoted:
“I had to offer sacrifices,
and today I have paid my vows;
so now I have come out to meet you,
to seek you eagerly, and I have found you!
I have decked my couch with coverings,
colored spreads of Egyptian linen;
I have perfumed my bed with myrrh,
aloes, and cinnamon.
Come, let us take our fill of love until morning;
let us delight ourselves with love.
For my husband is not at home;
he has gone on a long journey.
He took a bag of money with him;
he will not come home until full moon.”
There is just some kind of charm that comes out of these chapters. The proverbs themselves are largely what you might expect, but with numerous surprises. They seem random and disorganized, a large collection of generally two-lines sayings. Many seem pointless, or dated and many repeat. Some lines stand out in their oddity, such as 11:22: "Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman without good sense." Others may make you pause, like 14:13:"Even in laughter the heart is sad, and the end of joy is grief."

The core of the collection seems to be a part derived (almost copied) from an ancient Egyptian collection, knows as the Instruction of Amenemope. It contains it's own introduction of the value of wisdom, and then gives advice on how to eat with a king, "'Eat and drink!' they say to you; but they do not mean it." I got a kick out seven verses at the end about the dangers of being drunk, with the state of drunkenness described in familiar detail.
Who has woe? Who has sorrow?
Who has strife? Who has complaining?
Who has wounds without cause?
Who has redness of eyes?

Those who linger late over wine,
those who keep trying mixed wines.
Do not look at wine when it is red,
when it sparkles in the cup
and goes down smoothly.

At the last it bites like a serpent,
and stings like an adder.
Your eyes will see strange things,
and your mind utter perverse things.
You will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea,
like one who lies on the top of a mast
“They struck me,” you will say “but I was not hurt;
they beat me, but I did not feel it.
When shall I awake?
I will seek another drink.”
One odd things missing here, in this supposed collection of wisdom, is what exactly this wisdom is. Her essence is never defined, and arguably the praise of her has much more substance then the actually wisdom provided in the book. No one will acquire wisdom here by reading this book, either today or back then. And although one susceptible to indoctrination may take away from this a love of the idea of wisdom, he or she will then be left to set out on their own to find out what exactly is meant by that word.

It's an odd book, Proverbs. Surprisingly charming despite it's long dull patches. Yes, oddly thin for a collection of wisdom, and oddly unfocused on the God we have met in the other biblical books. It's somehow different from everything else I have read to this point.

44baswood
Jan 8, 2015, 4:03am Top

Enjoyed your thoughts on Proverbs Dan.

45DieFledermaus
Jan 8, 2015, 5:03am Top

Interesting to read about how Proverbs is a bit of an oddity and I enjoyed your analysis of Wisdom.

46FlorenceArt
Jan 8, 2015, 5:29am Top

>43 dchaikin: I think I should skip Psalms and move to Proverbs. Thank you for your review!

I read the quote "At the last it bites like a serpent, and stings like an adder" before but didn't know what it referred to.

47StevenTX
Jan 8, 2015, 10:10am Top

I remember enjoying Proverbs more than any other part of the Old Testament because of quirkiness and secular leaning as you have described.

48janeajones
Jan 8, 2015, 11:24am Top

Intriguing commentary on Proverbs, Dan.

49detailmuse
Jan 8, 2015, 5:20pm Top

Dan when you get to Don Quixote consider the Edith Grossman translation and the audio version read by the fabulous George Guidall, very very fun. Or pair print and audio. I've since bought an ebook of the same and want to re-read it.

50Poquette
Jan 8, 2015, 6:26pm Top

Once again, Dan, I appreciate your lucid review of Proverbs. ;-) Sounds like this is a must read for me in view of all that has gone before.

51dchaikin
Jan 8, 2015, 7:56pm Top

To take words from you all, Proverbs is a quirky oddity.

>44 baswood:, >45 DieFledermaus:, >48 janeajones: Thanks!

>46 FlorenceArt: I'm wondering in what context you read that quote. As for the reading Proverbs next, instead of thinking of it as skipping the Psalms, maybe think of it as reading ahead while you take a break on the Psalms. : )

>47 StevenTX: I can't say I've enjoyed Proverbs more than any other section, but they made me smile...several times.

>50 Poquette: Thank Suzanne. I'm wondering what is meant by "in view of all that has gone on before".

>49 detailmuse: Noted - translation and opportunity to listen to Guidall. It might be a great book to both read and listen to. Thanks for the suggestion!

52dchaikin
Jan 8, 2015, 8:28pm Top



76. (from 2014) A Tale for the Time Being (Audio) by Ruth L. Ozeki, read by the author (2013, 14 hours 43 minutes, 432 pages in text form, Listened November 20 - December 18)

A peripheral look at the Japan earthquake from Canada, with philosophical games. I was looking forward to this because I really liked a short essay Ozeki published in Granta last year. I would like to defend this from the criticism it got here in CR late last year, but I can't bring myself to. It's not that good. It's not that bad either, but not sure that saves it anything.

Side note: Avoid this on audio. Ozeki is a terrible reader.

53NanaCC
Jan 8, 2015, 8:32pm Top

>52 dchaikin: "Avoid this on audio. Ozeki is a terrible reader."

In my experience, there are very few authors who should be the reader for their audiobooks.

54FlorenceArt
Jan 9, 2015, 4:42am Top

>51 dchaikin: The quote was in the signature line of someone in a forum, so there was really no context. I suppose that many American readers would recognize it as referring to the effects of alcohol?

55mabith
Jan 9, 2015, 10:36am Top

Glad to know about Ozeki being a poor reader. I am always a little hesitant about author-read audiobooks, particularly for novels. Sometimes it's great, but there's a reason we have professional audiobook readers.

56SassyLassy
Jan 9, 2015, 10:47am Top

>53 NanaCC: That's interesting, because you would think authors would hear the voices best. I don't listen to audio books, so haven't heard many authors reading, but remember readers from the radio and among the best were Mordechai Richler and Alistair MacLeod, reading their own works.

57dchaikin
Jan 9, 2015, 11:12am Top

Maybe there are only a few authors that read well, but some authors are really terrific readers. (Like Jennifer Senior in All Joy and No Fun) And only the author knows the intended tone of voice.

>54 FlorenceArt: only now would I recognize the relationship to alcohol. Americans in general wouldn't make that change connection.

58janeajones
Jan 9, 2015, 12:30pm Top

53> Toni Morrison is a wonderful reader. Her rendition of Jazz actually captures the musicality of the book.

59rebeccanyc
Jan 9, 2015, 12:54pm Top

Just catching up and adding to the chorus of praise for your Proverbs comments.

60NanaCC
Jan 9, 2015, 1:14pm Top

>56 SassyLassy: >57 dchaikin: >58 janeajones: I shouldn't have generalized quite so much. I do have some favorites. Neil Gaiman is terrific. Sarah Vowell and David McCullough are also very good. But there have been others where the author had an irritating voice and it took away from my enjoyment of the book.

61dchaikin
Jan 9, 2015, 1:33pm Top

oh yeah, McCullough. I have enjoyed listening to him. My library doesn't have Vowell...sigh...

62dchaikin
Jan 10, 2015, 1:09pm Top

>58 janeajones:, 59 - sorry, didn't mean to skip your posts. Jane - noting this! (you've told me before, but it has more meaning now that I'm doing so many audio books) Rebecca - Thanks!

63dchaikin
Edited: Jan 10, 2015, 2:13pm Top



77. (from 2014) MetaMaus by Art Spiegelman (2011, 288 pages illustrated hard cover, read Dec 11-25)
edited by Hillary Chute

Yes, a gem by this perfectionist. I mean the praise should come with some caveats, but this has three things going for it. One is Spiegelman's perfectionist nature (he hasn't published much). A second is the perfect possible interviewer. And third is, of course, the actual content which is fascinating.

As intimidating as I perceived this long interview before I started, the wealth of information is tremendously rewarding and a lot of it comes up front. Art begins by talking about the story behind Maus*: the 13 years it took to make it, the long unplanned interview of Art Spiegelman's father, Maus's Vladek, that took place long before the book was started and how this single interview is the vast majority of the book, despite numerous subsequent interviews. (The original interview is included here in full in both text and audio form...but I did not listen.)

And Art talks about many key background aspects of his life, his childhood, his mother, his mother's suicide, his father, his doing most of the creating after his father's death, his wife (who seems to have played a significant role in making Maus), his struggle to get a publisher and his need to publish before he was done, creating a Maus I. Then he starts talking about Maus itself, the why of it (why a comic on the Holocaust) and various artistic aspects and struggles. This is where we get a sense of the insecure perfectionist Speigleman is, learning of his many many trials for each page and seeing very interesting discards and sketches. Slowly the book becomes more and more about Art's view on comics and his many influences.

My intimidation of the book, when it was still sitting on the shelf, was because of the likely time commitment and because I expected to have difficulty reading one long interview. I only convinced myself to pick it up because, after re-reading Maus for my RL book club, it just made sense to read this now and maybe add something to the then upcoming discussion. To some degree I was right about both. It is slow and I didn't finish before the book club meeting. The extensive illustrations actually slow down the reading because the text makes you want to spend time studying each picture and taking advantage of the associated text. And there were dry spells.

Anyway, there was some effort here, but this is really rewarding. Highly recommended to anyone who has been entranced by Maus.

*I reviewed Maus in my 2014 thread (Link Here, post 172). In short, it's special to me and a groundbreaking masterpiece to the book world.

64rebeccanyc
Jan 10, 2015, 4:01pm Top

You mentioned this book before and I thought you had already read it. I will definitely look for it (although I'm trying to concentrate on my TBR . . .).

65dchaikin
Jan 10, 2015, 4:10pm Top

R - I think I was reading it when I mentioned it.

66janeajones
Jan 10, 2015, 4:24pm Top

Fascinating review, Dan.

67mabith
Edited: Jan 10, 2015, 6:07pm Top

I've been pondering whether I need to read MetaMaus but you've convinced me. The Maus books had a huge impact on my life. I discovered them on our shelves when I was in fourth grade and spent the next three years reading extensively about the Holocaust. Glad my parents didn't take it as a sign something was wrong!

68valkyrdeath
Jan 10, 2015, 5:43pm Top

I've looked at MetaMaus many times in the bookshops and keep debating whether to get it. Your review makes me think it would be well worth it. Maus was amazing.

69Poquette
Jan 10, 2015, 6:19pm Top

>51 dchaikin: (>50 Poquette:) I'm wondering what is meant by "in view of all that has gone on before".

This is more cryptic than intended, Dan. I was just thinking it would fit in nicely with a lot of books I have read recently that touch on wisdom and Wisdom and other archetypes of the imagination. Oh! — that was a book I read, Archetypal Imagination. See, it all comes around full circle. ;-)

70dchaikin
Jan 10, 2015, 7:00pm Top

>66 janeajones: Thanks Jane!

>67 mabith: Speilgelman would have been horrified by your 4th grade self reading Maus. He instructed his own kids not to read it till they were older (although he left it out) and apparently they were afraid to read it until they were older. Great experience for you!

>68 valkyrdeath: it really adds to Maus.

>69 Poquette: I feel under-Jung'ed. Otherwise that makes perfect sense now.

71mabith
Jan 10, 2015, 9:10pm Top

If my parents had specifically told me not to read something I would have read it the first chance I got. I loaned it to a friend that year and my mother did receive a very upset phone call from the friend's mother. Later in life I realized that my fixation on the Holocaust probably had something to do with my intense desire to be strong (less physically than mentally).

72kidzdoc
Jan 11, 2015, 6:16am Top

Splendid review of MetaMaus, Dan. I read Maus I years ago and was captivated by it. I'll read it again, read Maus II, and then read MetaMaus.

Avoid this on audio. Ozeki is a terrible reader.

At the risk of being snarky, I think the first two words of your paragraph would serve as an adequate and useful review of A Tale for the Time Being. I have no idea what other readers and literary prize judges saw in this book.

I'll look at your comments about The Book of Proverbs more closely next week, when I've finished my current work stretch.

73ljbwell
Jan 11, 2015, 8:58am Top

Really interesting to read your thoughts on MetaMaus. Maus was my introduction to the world of graphic novels, and set a high standard for those that have followed. Sounds like I need to add MetaMaus to my (ever-growing) list of books to acquire.

74detailmuse
Jan 11, 2015, 4:23pm Top

Enjoyed your review of MetaMaus. I borrowed it from the library early-ish in its release, no renewal, and felt rushed in my read. I still consider buying a copy for a more satisfying read.

75detailmuse
Jan 11, 2015, 4:29pm Top

About audio readers, I've had good luck with memoirists reading their own material, e.g. Patti Smith, Tina Fey, Billy Crystal, Carrie Fisher. Their personalities leak out a lot.

76dchaikin
Edited: Jan 11, 2015, 10:50pm Top

>71 mabith: interesting about your own reasons. I do wonder whether Spiegelman actually intended to encourage his children by telling them they should not read it...certainly that is not how he presents it. But often that is the way it works, what is forbidden has the strongest appeal.

>72 kidzdoc: Darryl Maus II has a different feel that Maus I. Spiegelman struggled with his success and his relationship through his work with the Holocaust and his creativity suffered. He started getting counseling from Victor Frankl, a famous psychologist and holocaust survivor. All that comes out in the book, and it puts the narrative in danger, but ultimately adds a great deal of depth. Of course, it will take you all of a few hours to read it, if you do get there.

>73 ljbwell: It was my introduction too. And it's interesting because it does set a high standard and Spiegleman talks about how he puts so much more into his work than is put in the typical comic and how that extra is necessary to get the tone and impression and the balance right. Had he worked fast, he never could have pulled it off.

>74 detailmuse: I'm not sure I could re-read it...well, maybe parts. I would like to get around to listening to the interview on the CD just to hear the voice of Vladek. Now Maus I could read over and over.

>75 detailmuse: of course, all those four are performers first and writers second. Audio is a performance so they are in the right medium when they narrate. That's what I like about Guidall, for an audio book he a master performer. He is very natural at reading and he doesn't even sound like he's performing unless you look for the signs.

77Linda92007
Jan 14, 2015, 9:55am Top

Just catching up, Dan. >53 NanaCC: I love attending talks given by authors, but generally avoid their readings, as they too often completely spoil a book for me. One that stands out in my memory is Michael Ondaatje reading from The Cat's Table in what felt like a complete monotone. Despite having greatly enjoyed several of his works, I could not bring myself to try that one.

78fannyprice
Jan 18, 2015, 9:58pm Top

>1 dchaikin:, "My plan is to alternate Cormac McCarthy novels with the last 8 or so books of the Old Testament." I worry you are in for a depressing year, Dan. Nonetheless, it is good to see you back. I hope to do a better job keeping up this year!

>43 dchaikin:, It's fun to watch you read through these religious texts. Tracing the possible origins of various religious myths, seeing how certain themes were repeated and resonated across time and cultures, that was one of my favorite parts of being a religion major a billion years ago. It is funny to me that the conventional view of the Christian Bible from those who've not studied it much -- and I include myself in this group generally, my Biblical reading being limited to what I was forced to read as a child and a few scattered bits in college -- is that it is a single coherent work that follows a narrative from creation in Genesis to Jesus in the Gospels to the End of the World, fittingly placed at the end of the book. But once you start to dig into the vast middle of the Bible, you realize it's anything but!

53-60, Memoirs read by the author can be great. I don't think I would have enjoyed Tina Fey's Bossypants half as much had I just read it.

Also enjoying the conversation on Maus and MetaMaus. I confess I've owned The Complete Maus for so long now and have not gotten around to reading it. It's fascinating to learn about the relationship between Art Spiegelman and Victor Frankel - I think Man's Search for Meaning is probably one of those books that I need to re-read every 5 years or so.

79dchaikin
Jan 19, 2015, 12:00am Top

Frankel - his name has come up a lot since I re-read Maus and read MetaMaus - meaning i have begun to notice when I see it. I didn't even realize he was important beyond providing Spiegelman with therapy. Now, i really want to read his book too.

I think McCarthy will be entertaining and rebellious in it's own way. Will find out.

And, there is little coherent in the bible and i also find it strange it's perceived that way, but it is. It's just a patchwork anthology. Ecclesiastes has me thinking about Gilgamesh and Epicurianism... And Lucretius (as presented in The Swerve).

80dchaikin
Jan 26, 2015, 11:14am Top

an unwilling suspension of awed disbelief toward hyperreality.

81dchaikin
Jan 26, 2015, 11:32am Top

In context, from Cormac McCarthy : American Canticles by Kenneth Lincoln
It is significant that Moses stuttered and had to talk through his brother Aaron to the Pharoah. When the burning bush spoke* and the prophet came down off the mountain with the stone commandments, his people were naked and worshiping the graven image of a calf, so the speech-defective savant broke the graven tablets on the ground. "If there is a prophet among you," Yahweh says, "I the Lord make myself known to him in a vision, I speak with him in a dream. Not so with my servant Moses; he is entrusted with all my house. With him I speak mouth to mouth clearly and not in dark speech; and he beholds the form of the Lord" (Numbers 12:6-8).

And remember, too, all this prophetic "dark speech" is admittedly conjecture and hypothetical tale-spinning with no real proof or scientific certainty, only imaginative witness, logical probability, and literary faith—an unwilling suspension of awed disbelief toward hyperreality—for McCarthy's reader a series of revelations in fictions, songs of lamentations, threnodies** of the wounded soul cleansing itself singing the southwest blues and making up tales of sorrow and painful expiation.
Italics are mine

* The burning bush is not actually applicable here. I mean it's not part of the golden calf thingy. But anyway...

**A threnody is lament. It's also a word McCarthy loves and Kenneth Lincoln has already used several times. See google definition here

82dchaikin
Jan 26, 2015, 11:38am Top

my head hurts...

83NanaCC
Jan 26, 2015, 4:55pm Top

>81 dchaikin: >82 dchaikin: Your comments made me smile.

84dchaikin
Edited: Jan 27, 2015, 12:06am Top



1. The Orchard Keeper by Cormac McCarthy (1965, 250 page Kindle ebook, read Dec 26 - Jan 1)

Yes, my first review of a book I read this year. I actually waited to review it until I head read something about McCarthy in the Kenneth Lincoln book I quoted above. But the help Lincoln offered was limited. And, really, it's not a book that lends to any scholarly analysis.

This is McCarthy's first novel, published in 1965. It won the William Faulkner Foundation Award for Notable First Novel in 1966, but didn't sell. And, Lincoln tells me, McCarthy, who twice quite college programs, was meanwhile getting by with essentially no income and no interest in any kind of day job. What he seems to have been doing is immersing himself in an atmosphere of words.

There is, in a way, a very simple set of qualities to The Orchard Keeper. The story is straight forward with heavy undertones of Greek mythology. The woman are few and spare and isolated (and, no, none of them have a conversation with other women), and also almost impenetrable. This is about men who fall outside the regular rules. The book opens at the close of the prohibition, and spends most of its time in the 1930's in impoverished eastern Tennessee in the vicinity of the Great Smoky Mountains and in a tradition of lawlessness and rum running. One character was alive during the US Civil War.

Lincoln will tell me McCarthy "clearly has original materials, a lexicon from heaven to hell, an inventive sense of craft and a high regard for the masters of story telling". He also points out the many "loose threads" that aren't all tied off, although the book does close in a satisfying way. I'm left with an impression of sketches worked out and joined together. There is a clear sequence of events, even if McCarthy muddies over the readers sense of it. But many parts feel as if they could stand independently on their own. And, as other reviews have noted, it lacks the narrative drive that is apparently present in his later books.

This, The Orchard Keeper, is about language and atmosphere. Nature is very present and the foundation for everything here. And as wonderful as is the use of language to capture it, it's not beautiful so much as organic, cold, slimy, filthy and everywhere in the way and part of everything. The humans seem to grow out of the natural background language, and sometimes only barely out of it. When Marion Sylder finds himself in a fight for his life, he "stood, still in the somnambulant slow motion as if time itself were running down, and watched, and watched the man turn, seeming to labor not under water but in some more viscous fluid, tortuous, slow, and the jack itself falling down on an angle over the dying forces of gravity...". One wonders if he is still in the womb. Even human speech, with it's heavy Tennessee dialect, seems to just edge out of rest of the language, and just barely make the case that, yes indeed, these men are human and a bit different then the muck and animals and death and decay that surround them...except when these humans come across as sterile, and that will define them, badly, as law enforcement.

McCarthy's metaphysics comes across in odd ways. In how one character was no hero and another tells us there are no heroes anymore. Heaven can come from a pick-up truck ("The truck doors spread simultaneously like rusty wings and fell to in a rattle of glass uncushioned by any upholstery"). And mental peace and perturbation can come in a number of variations, generally a half-step from nature.
Toward early morning he woke, sat up quickly and looked about him. It was still dark and the fire had long since died, still dark and quiet with the silence that seems to be of itself listening, an astral quiet where planets collide soundlessly, beyond the auricular dimension altogether.
I wrote down about 20 words from the book that caught my attention not only because I was not familiar with them, but also because of the wonderful way he used them. The sounds of obscure words that match so perfectly with his atmosphere. Words like slatterns, threnody, gramarye, or auricular. Or more common words used in wonderful forms. Like esotery, as in "an esotery of small items down to pornographic picture books." or encysted, as in to become enclosed in a cyst, in this case of molten glass beer bottles, or purl, like "the riffle and purl of the water".

I don't think one needs to read this book unless they are particularly interested in McCarthy, but I think if you are looking to get lost in language and some curiosity you will find this one rewarding, you might even acquire some kind of sense of Appalachian Tennessee.

85FlorenceArt
Jan 27, 2015, 7:50am Top

>84 dchaikin: I was a little annoyed at the language of Blood Meridian. It felt unnecessarily elaborate, even pedantic. I had to look up a few words, and one of them wasn't even in the dictionary I had, or with a definition that didn't work in the context of the book. I much preferred The Road and its minimalistic prose. These are the only two books of McCarthy's I have read. Thank you for the entertaining tale of your first contact with him (I seem to remember it was the first?).

86NanaCC
Jan 27, 2015, 8:48am Top

>84 dchaikin:. It will be interesting to see where you go next with MCarthy. Very interesting review.

87dchaikin
Jan 27, 2015, 9:15am Top

>83 NanaCC:, >86 NanaCC: - thanks. Next is The Outer Dark, which i just now started.

>85 FlorenceArt: Flo - i have read The Road, but i'm not sure it's a good representation of McCarthy. Blood Meridian is generally his most highly regarded book, although some rave about others, including the ~800 page Sutree.

88rachbxl
Jan 27, 2015, 9:56am Top

Just had a good catch-up. I always enjoy reading about your reading, Dan, even if (or perhaps because?) you and I rarely read the same books.

89ursula
Jan 27, 2015, 10:19am Top

I've read No Country for Old Men, and when I didn't like that very much, Child of God on the recommendation of a customer. I absolutely hated that one. So I'm pretty sure McCarthy and I are just not going to get along.

90detailmuse
Jan 27, 2015, 4:30pm Top

>84 dchaikin: really enjoyed your review of The Orchard Keeper. I haven't given much thought to reading McCarthy and you sort of warn me off this one ... yet your paragraph about his attention to nature and language really draw me to it.

91baswood
Jan 27, 2015, 7:14pm Top

Great review of The Orchard keeper Dan. It's good to start at the beginning especially with an author that has a style all of his own - it can help to understand what he is doing.

Don't forget to put your review on the books page so that we all thumb it.

92dchaikin
Jan 27, 2015, 8:33pm Top

>88 rachbxl: Thanks Rachel. I'm the same way with they despite/because. There are so many books, sometimes it's nice to only read a good review. And, it's fun to know what your and others are up to.

>89 ursula: LOL. McCarthy has kind of of stated his place. I think he might be a little too black & white in his own idealistic way. That means readers will tend to love or hate him. (Lincoln tells he was friendly with Edward Abbey in the 60's, if that tells you anything. It tells me a lot.)

>90 detailmuse: MJ, if you are in the mood you would really enjoy it. I didn't mean to scare anyone off. I really liked The Orchard Keeper, but it has flaws and limits and I wanted to try express that in my review. Hopefully I didn't overdo it.

>91 baswood: It's one way, Bas. And your threads only encourage me. If Le Salon was still alive and doing classics, I might not approach it this way. I just want a way to read deeper and really sit on and digest a work and get rewarded for that. Of course, I want to enjoy the experience. (As for your last comment, I'll have to edit the review before I can do that. It references posts in my thread.)

93dchaikin
Jan 27, 2015, 8:42pm Top

The review is now posted (Thanks for the nudge, Bas!)

94DieFledermaus
Jan 28, 2015, 12:19am Top

Wonderful review of The Orchard Keeper - thumbed. That one wasn't on my McCarthy radar, but I'll look for it now. I've read a couple and have The Road, All the Pretty Horses, and, err, Child of God on the pile.

95FlorenceArt
Jan 28, 2015, 4:40am Top

>94 DieFledermaus: The Road was one of the most beautiful books I read these last few years. Maybe the most beautiful, with parts of Ulysses.

96dchaikin
Edited: Jan 28, 2015, 3:31pm Top

>94 DieFledermaus: thanks Maus. Child of God is his third novel. I will try to get to it in late February.

>95 FlorenceArt: maybe i will re-read the road later this year. I wasn't planning to.

97janeajones
Jan 28, 2015, 9:39pm Top

Lovely review of The Orchard Keeper -- I've not read any McCarthy, but your review of this one intrigues me. I'll keep it on my radar.

98dchaikin
Jan 29, 2015, 11:12pm Top



2. All Joy and No Fun : The Paradox of Modern Parenthood (Audio) by Jennifer Senior, read by the author (2014, 8:20, 320 pages in paperback, read Dec 18 - Jan 4)

Senior writes about what parenting does to parents. She starts off by bringing up the research showing that adults without children are happier than parents. Then she looks into why, at every age of the childhood. The introduction was fascinating and I loved every chapter in this book.

Had I not waited so long to review this, I would have gone on in more detail about things, like how there is no set cultural pattern in the US for how Dad's should act as parents today, so their are no expectations, while Mom's are tortured by the guilt of unrealistic expectations. But, I did wait too long and all that stuff has faded from the enthusiastic context I had it in. Too bad, this as a great book.

Anyway, I was entertained that she chose to come to Houston, my home town, specifically to study families with young, preadolescent children... because we Houstonians are so obsessed with after-school activities.

Senior runs (or is part of?) and early childhood group in Minneapolis. She is is a public speaker and a terrific reader.

Highly recommended to parents, and on audio.

99mabith
Jan 29, 2015, 11:39pm Top

Glad to hear such a good review of All Joy and No Fun. I'm patiently waiting my turn on the library hold list for the audiobook. I'm not a parent, but I have ten (soon to be eleven) nieces and nephews and this stuff always interests me.

100ursula
Jan 30, 2015, 1:37am Top

>98 dchaikin: I'm glad more focus is being brought to these sorts of topics. I remember the pressure I felt with my kids to give them a perfect childhood, which I didn't manage to do (shocking!). I hope that eventually some of that societal pressure will ease off and maybe give some parents a break.

101japaul22
Jan 30, 2015, 8:58am Top

>98 dchaikin: sounds interesting. I'll look to see if my library has it. As a parent of two little kids in the highly competitive parenting area of washington, DC, I bet this will be appropriate for me.

102StevenTX
Jan 30, 2015, 12:36pm Top

Enjoyed your review of The Orchard Keeper. I read most of McCarthy's novels back to back a few years ago, but got diverted onto another project before I got to this one.

103dchaikin
Jan 30, 2015, 9:19pm Top

>99 mabith: Yeah, it's very good. I'll think you'll like it, but I'm not sure it will help you with all those nieces and nephews.

>100 ursula: She really goes into the guilt Mom's feel - to want to spend time with their kids, and to enjoy that time...and of course, the failure to make your kids happy, even though you don't have much actual say in that...which is something I hadn't really thought about.

>101 japaul22: Good. It's one I would recommend to you. But, if you get it, get through the introduction, then I think you will know if you want to continue. And, try audio.

>102 StevenTX: You've been a lot of places I hope to get to in the book world. Having read most of Outer Dark and The Road, I noticed some differences with The Orchard Keeper. It's much more lyrical in it's use of sound and description. Where the language in Outer Dark reinforces an Armageddon-like atmosphere, the language in The Orchard Keeper brings out something quite different. If that interests you, you might give it shot. Also, The Orchard Keeper has a lot of likeable, even almost normal, characters.

104DieFledermaus
Jan 30, 2015, 11:00pm Top

Glad to see you liked All Joy and No Fun and thanks for the reminder about the book - I read some reviews when it came out and thought it sounded interesting, but it slipped my mind. Looks like the library has it, so I'll add it to the list.

105mabith
Jan 30, 2015, 11:26pm Top

>103 dchaikin: Oh I didn't mean it would help me with the kids, but with their parents!

106dchaikin
Jan 31, 2015, 12:41am Top

For my own reference:

The Sunday Guardian

Mr. Macabre: McCarthy and the never-ending war :
Cormac McCarthy turned 80 yesterday. His unyielding, apocalyptic prose puts him in the highest echelons of contemporary literature, writes Aditya Mani Jha.

http://www.sunday-guardian.com/bookbeat/mr-macabre-mccarthy-and-the-never-ending...

107dchaikin
Jan 31, 2015, 8:35am Top

>104 DieFledermaus: Maus - I'll be interested in your take

>105 mabith: Ok...that does make more sense. Yeah, it might be quite revealing in that way. Then you will have to convince them to read it too. :)

108dchaikin
Jan 31, 2015, 11:47am Top



3. This is How You Lose Her (Audio) by Junot Díaz, read by the author (2012, 5:08, 224 pages in paperback, listened Jan 5 - 9)

Meh. That's my emotional response in full. I should be more respectful because Díaz does some interesting things here. He is constantly looking at the life of Dominican immigrants in New Jersey, mostly impoverished, with families marked by distant and philandering fathers, their son's struggling with with these tough, uncommunicative male role models.

Mostly he narrates through Yunior, the womanizing, Dominican-English slangy, cursing but entertaining and somewhat sympathetic voice of most of Díaz's published work, including The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. I liked Yunior telling Oscar's story, but this is not a novel. It's a collection of short stories, and after one or two, I kind of wanted to hear something pretty or eloquent again, and Yunior is neither. There are a few stories here not narrated by Yunior, one by a woman, but these aren't that good and Díaz fails to narrate them well in audio (He does a pretty good job with Yunior).

The most highly regarded story here is "Invierno". It captures Yunior's first entrance to the United States, trapped at home with his brother and non-English speaking mother. His father nearly absent. But my favorite was "The Pura Principle". In "The Pura Principle" Yunior tells of the of his brother's losing battle with leukemia. I found the masculine inability of either brother to really communicate, or to expose any emotional weakness but instead to simply curse and shrug each other off, something of a powerful counterpoint to their mortality staring so hard down at them. It's like a wresting of reality with an imaginary fantasy of toughness.

Is "imaginary fantasy" too redundant? Anyway, if you feel compelled to read this, go ahead, it's short. But keep your expectations in check. And if you don't feel compelled to read it, don't.

109dchaikin
Jan 31, 2015, 5:43pm Top



4. Poetry October 2014 : Poetry from the United Kingdom (read Dec 12 - Jan 9)
edited by Don Share

There is, apparently, quite a divide between British and American poetry, a problem that started about 25 years ago or so. I find this odd. One consequence is that practically all the authors here, no matter how highly regarded they are in the UK, have never been published in Poetry magazine. Also, on the Poetry Foundation website, almost all their bios are very thin.

So, this a was good in that there are a whole bunch of names I didn't know, but it was bad in the sense that, well, every poetry issue is a whole bunch of names I don't know, only this issue lacked the supporting background about who these authors are. There is one very good essay by Todd Swift that reviews four young British poets and gave me a little sense of a foundation. (Link here) This led me to discover Emily Berry, who is otherwise not in this issue but has two terrific poems on the Poetry Foundation website. (Link to Berry's page here)

Poets
(Asterisks mark favorites. The last several poems were much lighter and a bit fun which is I think why I liked them more.)

Leontia Flynn
Kathryn Simmonds
Mir Mahfuz Ali
Colette Bryce
Liz Berry
Ruby Robinson
Matthew Francis
Julian Stannard
Hugo Williams - three poems based on his experiences on dialysis
Caleb Klaces
Hannah Lowe
Claire Trévien
Tim Wells - a cockney and one-time something like a one-time skin head who reads in accent at length. One poem goes on at length on a specific toilet bowl.
John Wilkinson
Pascale Petit
David Harsent
James Brookes - reviewed in the Todd Swift essay
Rory Waterman
Sophie Collins
Martin Monahan
Sam Riviere
Frances Leviston
Toby Martinez de las Rivas - - reviewed in the Todd Swift essay, and heavily praised
Amy Key
David Wheatley*
Kathryn Maris*
John Greening*

Prose

Colette Bryce - Omphalos : Returning to the troubles of a Northern Irish childhood
Todd Swift - Four Englands : Four Debut British Poets Being Variously English* - A review of four books of poetry: Division Street by Helen Mort, Dear Boy by Emily Berry, Sins of the Leopard by James Brookes and Terror by Toby Martinez de las Rivas

Link to issue: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/toc/2444

110baswood
Jan 31, 2015, 7:14pm Top

>109 dchaikin: They are all new to me Dan... I must move in different circles, or perhaps its just the one circle and thats the problem.

111Cait86
Feb 2, 2015, 6:18pm Top

I've been waiting for your thoughts on The Orchard Keeper since you first mentioned it - thanks for an excellent review. I've loved the three McCarthy novels I've read (The Road, No Country for Old Men, and All the Pretty Horses), but I haven't read any of his novels in a couple of years. Your post "my head hurts..." made me laugh because that's how I feel reading McCarthy - I love his use of language, but trying to think it through is often very challenging. Every time I go to pick up The Crossing I put it back down, because I just don't often have the mental energy to tackle him. I'm hoping your year-long project will inspire me to read at least The Crossing this year. Looking forward to your next review!

112dchaikin
Feb 2, 2015, 9:09pm Top

>110 baswood: Honestly, I would have been very impressed if you knew more then a couple names. My impression is that keeping up with the leading current names in poetry could be a full time job.

>111 Cait86: Thanks! This has been rewarding. Maybe i should quit Kenneth Lincoln though. The Crossing is far enough off i'm trying very hard not to think about it yet...but i'm failing at that because i know i'm hoping I get there in June or July. Think about reading it along with me then ??

113DieFledermaus
Feb 2, 2015, 10:12pm Top

>108 dchaikin: - I read a piece by Diaz in the New Yorker and I think it was an excerpt from this book. It was readable enough, but the narrator was really irritating and I decided I didn't want to read a whole book about a whiny, self-pitying cheater. Sounds like there might be a lot of that from your review.

114dchaikin
Feb 2, 2015, 11:48pm Top

>108 dchaikin: oye...yes, a lot...an it's annoying...

115dchaikin
Feb 3, 2015, 11:52pm Top



5. The Country Life (Audio) by Rachel Cusk, read by Jenny Sterlin (1997, 13:18, 352 pages in paperback, listened Jan 9 - 21)

Stella Benson really caught my attention with her precision of language (brought out wonderfully by the narrator, Jenny Sterlin). She tells us how she is about to leave her life, dump her London flat (which her parents own), and set out for her job in English country side. She lets her parents and love interest know by mail.

I think it's only after she gets there that we get the sense of how hyper aware she is of every second, each moment described in precise, sometimes penetrating detail, but with lack of some kind of sense. The book is forced to slow down...way down...but also builds and maintains a charm and humor.

Her job, by the way, is taking care of a disabled teenager of a very wealthy, landed and dysfunctional family, apply named the Maddens. She picks them apart and gets herself into some humorous scenarios involving far too much alcohol. Her charge, nineteen-year-Martin who is in a wheel chair, has a charm and naive integrity gradually comes across and stands out especially amongst his family. Although the books ending...well anyway, Stella is interesting study in the rational failure of an extreme and careful rationality.

I wouldn't warn anyone off of this. The language isn't lyrical, but there is a slow magic within it. But, it's hardly a book that needs to be read. I do hope to read or listen to another book by Rachel Cusk.

116dchaikin
Feb 5, 2015, 1:52pm Top



6. My Promised Land by Ari Shavit (2013, 430 page library hardcover, read Jan 5 - 24)

I was ready to toss this book after 50 pages...

Shavit has some writing habits I don't like. He manipulates everything and he pronounces where it seems he should just to present the information. When he reports an interview of someone, he is likely to spend more time reporting what he said to them rather then what they said. With Israel the conversation is already manipulated enough. But, I was reading for a book club and I had encouraged us to read this particular books. So, I persevered.

And I feel I was rewarded. Despite all of the above, Shavit's pronouncements appear valid and his sense of history and reality in terms of Israel are important and revealing. This is an important and valuable book and I felt, on closing, very happy to that I didn't quit and kept on reading.

Shavit is direct and honest about the 1948 Israel independence war and the why. This is newly uncluttered information for me. He discussed the 1936 Arab revolt and the Jewish response, a collective sense of Jewish militarization that has never subsided. I wasn't aware of how organized and strategic and thorough the Arab removal was in 1948, how its resulting ethnic cleansing was justified on grounds of defense. I actually thought most Arabs were scared off. I didn't realize they were systematically evacuated under fire (there is no paper trail of any Israeli strategy directing this). Nascent Israel did not feel it could repel Arab armies if it was infiltrated with Arabs of mixed persuasions. So Arab villages, many ancient, were completely cleared in more or less unprovoked attacks. This means so much to the present situation. This, plus the settlements, and the inability to undo any of it, is fundamental to the lack of peace around Israel.

Shavit taught me many other things too. He covers the role Ben Gurion played in the national psyche, a Western European style secular Zionism that gave Israel a communal cooperation over 25 years. And he covers the post-1973 lack of focus as this identity began to dissolve. As Israel has become less Western-European-secular-Zionist, by which I mean a larger part of the Jewish population is made up of those from outside Europe (around 50%), or from Soviet Union's collapse in 1989 (1 million people), and as it became more religious, especially ultra-orthodox, the cultural unity, one that was essentially enforced up till 1973, has been lost. What led to the success in 1948 and 1967 (the six day war) started to become reduced after the Yom Kippur War in 1973. Shavit chronicles this and Israel's history since with a penetrating insight and threatening sense of the future.

He considers himself liberal and at one-time was very active in the Israeli peace movement. His disenchantment is a large part of this book. He looks at why the peace movement was never realistic or in tune with Israel's reality.

As an about face, I find myself recommending this to anyone interested in Israel.

117NanaCC
Feb 5, 2015, 2:00pm Top

Some great reviews, Dan. I 'm glad you continued reading My Promised Land after those first 50 pages, as it sounds like you got a lot out of it.

118FlorenceArt
Feb 5, 2015, 3:37pm Top

>116 dchaikin: Interesting review. I think I should read something about Israel's history. I suppose it's impossible to read a fully impartial account, so several different viewpoints, hopefully honest though partial, may be the answer. I will put this book in my wishlist for later consideration I think.

119dchaikin
Feb 5, 2015, 5:10pm Top

> 117 Colleen, Thanks. And, I'm glad I kept at it too.

>118 FlorenceArt: Flo - I don't imagine there is really an impartial account. It's a very interesting hyper-alive place, not just a place with a messed up history. Shavit tries to capture all of it, with mixed and limited success. His historical perspectives are of value. I don't know that I would recommend anyone start here...but I don't know where I recommend starting. I guess you and I are starting somewhere with the OT. (I read Song of Songs yesterday and today.)

120baswood
Feb 5, 2015, 7:05pm Top

Excellent review of My Promised Land Despite it's liberal bias it seems to have hit the right note in the retelling of fairly recent history. I will keep it in mind if I want to catch up on a commentary on the history of Israel.

121janeajones
Feb 5, 2015, 11:27pm Top

Israel seems to be a morass at the center of so much of the conflict in the MidEast. I'm very conflicted about the whole situation, and I'm not sure reading is going to resolve any of my conflictions. That said, I appreciate your review of My Promised Land, Dan.

122dchaikin
Feb 5, 2015, 11:45pm Top

>120 baswood: thanks Bas. And yes, I think he does hit the right note in terms of trying to have an honest and complete-ish perspective.

>121 janeajones: Jane - reading never does resolve our internal conflicts, does it? It merely allows us to dwell on them for a bit.

123rebeccanyc
Feb 6, 2015, 4:47pm Top

I have to confess I've been avoiding McCarthy since I hated The Road so much; however, I do have All the Pretty Horses on the TBR because a friend gave it to me. Enjoyed catching up with your other reading too.

124Cait86
Feb 7, 2015, 5:39pm Top

>112 dchaikin: - Count me in for The Crossing whenever you get to it! I also own Cities of the Plain and Blood Meridian.

125dchaikin
Edited: Feb 7, 2015, 6:18pm Top

>123 rebeccanyc: R - wondering what you didn't you like about The Road

>124 Cait86: Blood Meridian was published after Suttree, the book I'm most intimidated by. I should get to Blood Meridian in April, but maybe May.

126rebeccanyc
Feb 8, 2015, 8:26am Top

>125 dchaikin: It's a long time since I read it (and pre-LT reviews, so I can't jog my memory), but I thought it was unrelievedly grim (not that that's usually a deterrent for me), and I was really annoyed by the the disappearance (????) of the mother (although I get that this is a father-son narrative), and I might have thought some of it was predictable. But it was mercifully short!

127dchaikin
Edited: Feb 8, 2015, 9:41am Top

Interesting. I recall Urania thinking there just wasn't much there. Maybe by 'predictable' you have the same sort of thing in mind. I really liked it at the time, but I feel i was a different reader then (it was post-Lt but pre-Club Read)

ETA - I did not review it, but in my comments section for the book I wrote "Terrifying!"

128dchaikin
Feb 20, 2015, 11:07pm Top



7. Ecclesiastes (Read January 8 - 25)

I read this in The HarperCollins Study Bible : New Revised Standard Version, general editor Harold W. Attridge (2006, 14 pages within Paperback)

For a short book of only 12 chapters and all of 14 pages in my edition, Ecclesiastes gets a lot of attention. I've read authors who say everyone should read at least two books from the bible - Job and Ecclesiastes, because these two books really challenge the reader's thinking. They both hover around that question of what the meaning of life is in an immoral world full of injustices, which means they explore that one question we all have about the world, why?

Ecclesiastes approaches the question through something like a nihilism. "Vanity of vanities; all is vanity." That's the opening line. Life is meaningless, "all is vanity and chasing wind." That's chapter 1 in a nutshell, in voice of our narrator, Qohelet, translated into Greek as Ecclesiastes, or the preacher. He talks to us in first person and he's likeable even as he presents us with the hollow summary of life, because he doesn't want it to be so. He tells of all the searching he has done to find...what exactly...something like the meaning of life. He has searched wisdom and found the search hopeless,
For in much wisdom in much vexation,
and those that increase knowledge increase sorrow.
Poor guy. But he persists, following his failed search of wisdom with a search of pleasure - yes those pleasures, but also the pleasures of work and of success and in building. And and ends up in the same place, lost without meaning.

Then something funny happens, although it's fairly subtle. He begins to question whether wisdom has any value at all since the wise die and are forgotten the same as any fool or, for that matter, the same as any other mindless animal. Now this is kind of an interesting thing, the bible telling us life has no meaning. You are going die and be dust, just give up now. You almost don't notice that Qohelet just took down wisdom.

And, when he moves to injustice, ("Moreover, I saw under the sun that in the place of justice, wickedness was there, and in the place of righteousness, wickedness was there as well. I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for he has appointed a time for every matter, and for every work." ), you might nod your head at the wickedness, and overlook the divine judgment in the second sentence altogether.

Things come around to a more regular Biblical viewpoint. By chapter 11 we are told "Rejoice...but know that for all these things God will bring you into judgement." And when the book closes the book says simply, "For God will bring every deed into judgement, including every secret thing, whether good or evil." So, it all ends conventionally for the Bible. Don't worry about meaning, just have faith. And we are told to enjoy life, but within reason since judgment is coming.

But it's not the end and the comfort of faith that leads readers to dwell on this book. It's the opening hard questions. We are led, momentarily at least, to thinking that life really is meaningless. And, if you don't have faith, well, that is where the book leaves you. Kind of dreary. It's a most curious addition to this rather intolerant collection of a religious history.

129Poquette
Feb 21, 2015, 11:04pm Top

Interesting review of Ecclesiastes, but as you know, I see it quite differently. I had at first decided not to write a review, but I cannot stop thinking about it so have spent the day trying to get it out of my system and have posted comments on my own thread. So now we have dueling reviews! hahaha!

130dchaikin
Edited: Feb 21, 2015, 11:39pm Top



8. Outer Dark by Cormac McCarthy (1968, 262 page Kindle e-book, read Jan 27 - 31)

This is McCarthy's second novel, and wow, what a change. Kenneth Lincoln says this book lays the foundation of all McCarthy's future work. The atmosphere feels post-apocalyptic, with carnage, insanity, hopelessness and even characters that act like demons. But, this is pre-automobile eastern Tennessee. No date or cultural timing references are given, but critics constantly say the era is around the year 1900.

And yet, it is so compelling. It's a hard book to stop reading. When I finished, late into the night, I couldn't put the book down and let it go. I went back and read the beginning again and then started looking up reviews and commentary online. For all the horrors, I found it a fun, addictive book. I just kept wondering about.

Culla and Rinthy Holme, brother and sister living in extreme poverty in an isolated structure practically in the wilderness, conceive a child in incest. The guilt, while never spoken, is a focal point. It sets their fate. This is Culla's dream the day before birth (page 4)
"There was a prophet standing in the square with arms upheld in exhortation to the beggared multitude gathered there. A delegation of human ruin who attended him with blind eyes upturned and puckered stumps and leprous sores. The sun hung on the cusp of eclipse and the prophet spoke to them. This hour the sun would darken and all these souls would be cured of their afflictions before it appeared again. And the dreamer himself was caught up among the supplicants and when they had been blessed and the sun began to blacken he did push forward and hold up his hand and call out. Me, he cried. Can I be cured? The prophet looked down as if surprised to see him there amidst such pariahs. The sun paused. He said: Yes, I think perhaps you will be cured. Then the sun buckled and dark fell like a shout. The last wirethin rim was crept away. They waited. Nothing moved. They waited a long time and it grew chill. Above them hung the stars of another season. There began a restlessness and a muttering. The sun did not return. It grew cold and more black and silent and some began to cry out and some despaired but the sun did not return. Now the dreamer grew fearful. Voices were being raised against him. He was caught up in the crowd and the stink of their rags filled his nostrils. They grew seething and more mutinous and he tried to hide among them but they knew him even in that pit of hopeless dark and fell upon him with howls of outrage."
Culla will, of course, not be cured of his sin. When the baby is born, he takes it and abandons it in the woods, then returns back to the baby and almost retracts (this happens in a reverie of incomprehensible and yet fascinating syntax and obscure vocabulary).

What plays out seems to be a condemnation of the pair to endless wandering. But there are curiosities and such hopeless darkness in the forms of poverty and violence. Culla will have something like the mark of Cain. He is always suspected of crimes he has nothing to do with, and finds himself running and running. And there are these three guys following him, acting like demons and massacring everyone he befriends. Rinthy chases after the baby. But, while her wanders are fruitless, she is always met with kindness and protected.

The book plays it's dark self out darkly. I haven't read Divine Comedy, but I wouldn't be surprised if the passage through purgatory and hell has some parallels here. But part of what makes this book work is the humanity of the characters. We come to like so many of these characters we meet so briefly. They charm even in the flaws and even as we know that what is coming to them is not good. And I haven't mentioned the tinker - the peddling salesman who pushes his wares on cart, hated by pretty much everyone he encounters and yet smiles his way along. He is another central curiosity, and he is the one who finds the baby.

It's a book that makes we wonder about what it is about religion that made McCarthy hate is so passionately and yet feel compelled to encounter it in such gory intimacy.

Recommended highly for those willing to wade into this kind of stuff.

131dchaikin
Feb 21, 2015, 11:16pm Top

>129 Poquette: dueling reviews - awesome! I will check your thread once we get the kids to sleep.

132detailmuse
Feb 22, 2015, 2:44pm Top

Dan you've inspired me to read Ecclesiastes! Hmm I have to see how Suzanne saw it differently.

133dchaikin
Feb 22, 2015, 10:27pm Top

>132 detailmuse: Nice of you to say that. Thanks. This read of Ecclesiastes seems to have gotten a couple people interested - I guess it's that kind of text, one a lot of us are curious about. And yeah, it's been interesting to see how Suzanne and I can see it so much differently. It seems to be a book that leads to a wide variation of interpretations.

But, then, I think I have a somewhat quirky response to the bible in general...

134dchaikin
Edited: Feb 23, 2015, 12:14am Top



(I do NOT like this disturbing cover!)

9. Poetry November 2014 - The Translation Issue (read Jan 9 - Feb 2)
edited by Don Share

Those interested in translation may find this issue and all the varieties of translations within of interest. This was a valuable for me personally because I have never been comfortable with poetry in translation. But I got to like a lot of these poems. (It was the poem by Bertolt Brecht that really broke down a barrier for me. His poem would work in any language, here). I still think translation of poetry can only work well sometimes.

The poem by Grigori Dashevsky, from "Ithaca" is a gem. He mixes reflection on his own life with that Odysseus upon finally returning home, dressed as a pauper studying his reflection in a puddle. Dashevsky lived long enough to approve the translation, but not long enough to see it published. (The poem can be found here). Another really powerful poem was Abraham Sutzkever's The Blade of Grass from Ponar, thinking about his Jewish village in Lithuania that was wiped out during WWII. (The poem can be found here)

There is a terrific essay on the French and German origins of the English language and how some poets play these words off each others. The essay is The Medium of the English Language by James Longenbach, and I highly recommend it, although it will take some time (The essay can be found here here)

Poems and translations
Reginald Gibbons' and author's translation from Russian of Ilya Kutik
John William Narins's translation from Russian of Lev Oborin
Gwyneth Lewis's translation from Welsh of Dafydd Ap Gwilym (14th century)
Tom Kuhn's translation from German of Bertolt Brecht* (1898 - 1956)
Yuki Tanaka and Mary Jo Bang's translation from Japanese of Shuzo Takiguchi (1903 - 1979)
Ming Di and Jennifer Stern's translation from Chinese of Liu Xia
Jennifer Grotz and Piotr Sommer's translation from Polish of Jerzy Ficowski (1924 - 2006)
Fanny Howe's poem based on apparently bad English translations of Russian poet I.F. Annensky (1855 - 1909)
David St. John discusses Larry Levis's poem based on a poem in French by François Villon (1431 - 1463)
Katherine M. Hedeen's translation from Spanish of Cuban poet Víctor Rodríguez Núñez
Mary Ann Caws's translation from French of Yves Bonnefoy
Suji Kwock Kim and Sunja Kim Kwock's translation from Korean of Ko Un
Suji Kwock Kim's poem after Ko Un, with Sunja Kim Kwock
Matthew Rohrer poems with Japanese poets Matsuo Bashō (1644 - 1694), Yosa Buson (1716-1784) and Kobayashi Issa (1763 - 1828)
David Wheatley's translation from Irish of Seán Ó Ríordáin (1916 - 1977)
Rosanna Warren's translations from French of Max Jacob (1876 - 1944)
Valzhyna Mort's translation from Russian of Grigori Dashevsky** (1964 - 2013)
Tony Hoagland and Martin Shaw''s translation from Irish of Seán Ó Coileáin (1754 - 1817)
Zachary Sholem Berger's translation from Yiddish of Abraham Sutzkever* (1913 - 2010)
Maia Evrona's translation from Yiddish of Abraham Sutzkever*

Essays
Geoffrey Brock - Exhuming Vallejo
Gwyneth Lewis - Extreme Welsh Meter
James Longenbach - The Medium of the English Language*
James Longenbach - A Yard Beyond the Moon

The issue is available online here: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/toc/2464

135Linda92007
Feb 23, 2015, 8:22am Top

Dan, although I know I will never read Ecclesiastes, I thought your review was great. Thanks also for the information on Poetry November 2014. Although (or maybe because) I am proficient in only one language, I find issues of translation fascinating, and even more so when applied to poetry. This issue may motivate me to subscribe to Poetry.

136rebeccanyc
Feb 23, 2015, 5:21pm Top

>134 dchaikin: I'm favoriting this post so I can come back and read the poems when I have more time.

137dchaikin
Feb 23, 2015, 10:38pm Top

>135 Linda92007: Thanks Linda. I'm not as caught up in complications of translation of themselves as some are in CR. But I do think about it when I'm reading translated works (like the OT). It seems most prose can be translated pretty well, but translated poetry can be so confusing. Anyway, the issue left me thinking about translation issues a lot.

>136 rebeccanyc: Thanks R. Don't forget that last link, which as the issue entries in order. Everyone poem is followed by a short essay by the translator about the translation of that poem. I'm just realizing that's a pretty useful bit of info that I forgot to mention in my review.

138kidzdoc
Mar 6, 2015, 6:00am Top

Hi, Dan! Great review of the two McCarthy novels. I own Suttree, but haven't read it yet, and I thought I owned The Road, but it isn't in my LT library.

I'm glad that you liked My Promised Land; hopefully I'll get to it this summer.

139baswood
Mar 6, 2015, 6:29am Top

Great review of Outer Dark by Cormac McCarthy.

He is a writer I will probably not read (unless my bookclub chooses him), but it is good to read your reviews to get some idea why people rate him so highly.

I would have a similar problem with Ecclesiastes, because I cannot understand the concept of Faith.

140dchaikin
Edited: Mar 6, 2015, 9:14am Top

>138 kidzdoc:,>139 baswood: - this is a nice surprise, thanks for stopping by.

Darryl - i'll start Suttree next week.

Bas - can't predict if you would like McCarthy, although I suspect you would appreciate his unwillingness to follow the conventions of inoffensiveness. (Pardon the convoluted wording) And, i like your last comment. Not sure whether I understand it or not. I think that term has many many personalized variations of meaning.

141FlorenceArt
Mar 7, 2015, 1:25pm Top

>139 baswood: I'm intrigued. What concept do you not understand that prevents you from reading McCarthy?

I can't say I really understand faith either, having never felt it or the need for it, but the Bible has a lot to offer besides that. I would even say that reading it from a religious perspective, although I'm sure it has its rewards, might lead to missing a lot of what makes it interesting.

142dchaikin
Mar 7, 2015, 2:54pm Top

>141 FlorenceArt: that's a microcosm of why we are reading, no? To find what all the religious directed uses are missing- thr whole historical and literary/artistic context.

143FlorenceArt
Mar 7, 2015, 4:25pm Top

>142 dchaikin: What I find fascinating is that of all the potentially great literary works of that time, the Bible survived thanks to the religious history it is attached to. And thanks to it we find echoes of some of these lost works.

144StevenTX
Mar 7, 2015, 7:56pm Top

I enjoyed your review of Outer Dark, and I'm intrigued by your observation that McCarthy hates religion passionately. I didn't pick that up in my reading, but saw just cultural and literary references. Did you see The Road as being anti-religious?

145dchaikin
Mar 7, 2015, 8:46pm Top

>144 StevenTX: The Road is godless. I wouldn't call it anti-religious though.

But, it's a good question about Outer Dark. Did i get that right? I'm trying to work out my thought process. There are several religious aspects - the odd preacher in the dream (from the long quote in my review), a lunatic preacher late in the novel, the devil like character and his two minions. Then there are several preaching moralists, including the blind man at the end. And there is the initial sin of incest. My take is that this shows a fascination with religion and a desire to expose it to nature's reality. He's playing off what we want and hope, which can be associated with religion, with a reality that is indifferent. There is no hope. So, it felt to me like an intentional religious exposé. None of the religious aspects of the book offer any comfort.

146dchaikin
Mar 7, 2015, 8:52pm Top

>143 FlorenceArt: Yes. I wonder about what was lost, and what it was the led to these parts being preserved. And what is it exactly that is preserved in them.

147baswood
Mar 8, 2015, 6:38pm Top

>141 FlorenceArt: sorry it was my badly worded comment. I did not mean to link the concept of Faith to McCarthy.

148FlorenceArt
Mar 9, 2015, 3:05am Top

>147 baswood: No, I didn't think that, but what is the connection? Or is it just two books you don't feel like reading? but why don't you want to read McCarthy?

149avaland
Mar 9, 2015, 6:58am Top

Dan, just trying to catch up.

>84 dchaikin: I really enjoyed your review comments on this "first" McCarthy.

>130 dchaikin: I've not been tempted to read more McCarthy...until now. How interesting. McCarthy seems like he would be a fascinating author to informally study (as you are doing), but I seem to already be fascinated with others. So, if you don't mind, I'm just going to enjoy your reviews ...

150baswood
Mar 9, 2015, 5:36pm Top

>148 FlorenceArt: Too much violence and too much pessimism, but I could be wrong on both counts having never read him.

151dchaikin
Mar 15, 2015, 10:47am Top

Phew, lost contact here a week and now I'm so behind. Dare i say hopelessly.

>149 avaland: thanks Lois. The idea that I tempted you, ever so briefly, with McCarthy is a nice compliment.

>150 baswood: too early to know if you are right, but the McCarthy's I've so far haven't been too violent and the pessimism isn't strangling. I don't think pessimism is the right word, he just has an alternative and rather unsentimental variety of hope.

152AlisonY
Mar 15, 2015, 3:24pm Top

Enjoying your reviews. McCarthy intrigues me - I have Suttree and Child of God on my wish list as my first McCarthy's, but for some reason I'm still hesitant about him. I can't get the measure of whether I'll enjoy his writing or not. There might be too much metaphor and similie overload for me. Look forward to reading your review of Suttree - might help make my mind up!

153dchaikin
Mar 15, 2015, 4:22pm Top

>152 AlisonY: "metaphor and similie overload " - this is not a problem with McCarthy. I don't even associate these things with his writing.

Child of God - I'll review it soon, but i might not have much to say. It has its moments, just know that it revels in necrophilia. I seem to mind that more now than when I actually was reading it. I think McCarthy was having fun with trying to make the reader uncomfortable. Suttree should be my next book - except for various distractions...

154AlisonY
Mar 15, 2015, 6:58pm Top

>153 dchaikin:: hmmm. Clearly I missed the necrophilia bit in any reviews I read. Don't quite see that floating my boat.

155dchaikin
Mar 15, 2015, 7:19pm Top

>154 AlisonY: for what it's worth, he handles it with humor.

156DieFledermaus
Mar 16, 2015, 5:41am Top

>130 dchaikin: - Another great McCarthy review. I enjoyed the passage you quoted (well, maybe "enjoyed" isn't the right word to use with McCarthy). You are definitely making his early works sound tempting!

157dchaikin
Mar 16, 2015, 8:49am Top

Thanks Maus. Outer Dark seems to have accidentally lingered in my mind. I still think about it. And I love that excerpt, love how he drags it out with so few words.

158dchaikin
Mar 16, 2015, 8:41pm Top



--. The Song of Songs (Read Feb 4-5)

Sometimes I just don't have anything to say.

159dchaikin
Edited: Mar 16, 2015, 9:17pm Top



10. HHhH by Laurent Binet (2009, 327 page trade paperback, read Jan 9 - Feb 2)
translated from French by Sam Taylor

I get intimidated by books, actually I find the intimidation an odd form of attraction. But there was nothing to worry about here. For such a dour subject, this was a really fun book.

Binet gives a history of the assassination of Nazi leader Reinhard Heydrich during WWII. Heydrich was a key Nazi leader. He was also very young and considered a possible successor the Hitler at some point in the future. He was assassinated in Prague on May 27, 1942 by a two men flown in from England. One was a Slovak, Jozef Gabčík, and the other was a Czech, Jan Kubiš. When the Nazi's couldn't find the assassins they randomly wiped out the Czech town of Lidice, killing all the men, almost all the children and imprisoning all the women in Ravensbrück concentration camp. And then they advertised the massacre, resulting a something like a PR blow with a major popular backlash. Lidice became a rally point for all allied countries. There is a lot of death in this book, as goes with the subject of WWII.

That is all interesting, but it's Binet's style that makes the book work and keeps it entertaining. It's written as if the narrator is telling the reader about his process of research, as if the book itself were a journal of an obsessed researcher. He talks about struggling to capture the experience of history when capturing it is impossible. And he can't even know himself what the experiences really were like.

I would argue the book is highly stylized and does not feel not like a real journal. The writing is too clean and neat and too simple with no slang and few casual mannerism of expression. This is a bit ironic because he contrasts himself with the wordy introductions of Victor Hugo and then tells us, "So I've decided not to overstylize my story." Yet, that is exactly what he has done. But, it works, it's enjoyable, sad and thought provoking on several levels. Recommended.

160dchaikin
Edited: Mar 16, 2015, 9:33pm Top



11. Augustus : The Life of Rome's First Emperor (Audio) by Anthony Everitt, read by John Curless (2006, 15:35, ~400 pages in paperback, listened Jan 23 - Feb 12)

Everitt once served as Secretary-General of the Arts Council of Great Britain. Along with The Rise of Rome, he has written generally well regarded biographies of Cicero, Hadrian and this one of Augustus.

I wouldn't want to dissuade anyone from reading this and discovering just how clever Augustus was and how ruthless and how much of his success was due to political calculation, timing and patience. He was the right guy to end the republic and you didn't want to be on the wrong side of his maneuvers. But, having said all that, this served mainly as noise to distract me during my commute.

161dchaikin
Edited: Mar 25, 2015, 11:11pm Top



12. Child of God by Cormac McCarthy (1973, 197 page trade paperback, Read Feb 10-13)

Holy necrophilia. Mentally off and completely unsocial, Lester Ballard loses his land and carries on alone in a filthy abandoned house. He is full of desires, partly influenced by his habit of stumbling upon lovers in their cars, but he is unable to understand them. And then things just seem to take on a logic of their own. And there is a logic to it.

I enjoyed reading this, but it bothers me now thinking about it. It's funny and I think McCarthy was having fun. I imagine him not taking himself very seriously, other than working over the writing craft itself. I think he was poking fun at society by seeing how this creature would make his way in it. And I suspect he was intentionally trying to disturb and provoke his readers.

I don't think this is the one McCarthy book anyone should read, but if necrophilia and a few other rancid things don't turn you off, it's a fun book of an odd sort.

162reva8
Mar 17, 2015, 7:28am Top

Just catching up on your thread. I've been looking for a good commute book, perhaps Everitt's Augustus is it. I like Curless' voice (I'll admit I know of it because I secretly indulge in gunslinging Westerns, which he often narrates). Binet sounds intriguing, but I'm going to give McCarthy's necrophilia a pass... I enjoy your reviews.

163AlisonY
Mar 17, 2015, 7:32am Top

>161 dchaikin:: enjoyed your review of Child of God, Dan. Still can't quite decide about McCarthy - guess I just need to try one some of these days. Any particular one that you would recommend as a starter?

HHhH sounds good. Added to the wish list mountain.

164dchaikin
Mar 17, 2015, 7:57am Top

Reva - I'm not otherwise familiar with Curless, but he read well. It's a decent commute book. For me the best audio books for my commute sound like NPR and the second best are easy to follow history or science books. This falls in the second category.

Alison - Thanks. Not sure what to recommend. I have the sense you like difficult big books. If that's true, then you might dive in the border trilogy starting with All the Pretty Horses, or you might try the violent Blood Meridian. But i haven't read those yet. Of the ones i read, my favorite is The Outer Dark. Not everyone likes The Road, but it's an easy read.

165AlisonY
Mar 17, 2015, 8:06am Top

>164 dchaikin:: cheers Dan. I definitely don't actively seek out difficult books - some of them just seem to have turned out that way this year!! Will have a wee flick through some of them next time I'm at the library. I can't quite put my finger on what genre his books fall into - maybe that's what I'm struggling with.

166baswood
Mar 17, 2015, 2:52pm Top

>12 avaland: I am definitely not reading McCarthy now

167dchaikin
Mar 19, 2015, 2:22am Top

Recovering from the flu. Wasn't able to read Tuesday, or even sit up. Today I could make it through graphic novels, so I went through four of them (liked American Born Chinese the best).

>165 AlisonY: Alison - critics tend to put McCarthy down as a successor to Faulkner, but he has a very contemporary feel even in his early works from the 1960's (and I haven't read Faulkner, so I can't say what the means anyway). He is southern Gothic, but surely unique in several aspects. He has a strong independent streak to his writing.

>166 baswood: :)

168japaul22
Mar 19, 2015, 7:20am Top

Sorry to hear you've been sick! I got the flu this year, too, for the first time as an adult, and it was not fun. Hope you're feeling better soon.

169tonikat
Edited: Mar 19, 2015, 1:32pm Top

I'm fascinated by your McCarthy reviews, I've read two of his later novels. It'd be nice to work through from his early stuff, but what stuff, do I really want to follow these themes, I don't know, I'm guessing he gets right into them beyond surfaces in his own way, in those I have read this doesn't lack a profound sense of things, in Blood Meridian whilst it wasn't religion it reminded me of that depth and power.

I'm a big believer in vitamin c for colds and flu, you probably don't need to know that, hope you pick up soon.

170Poquette
Mar 19, 2015, 3:38pm Top

Get well soon, Dan! ;-)

171dchaikin
Mar 20, 2015, 12:41am Top

>168 japaul22:, >169 tonikat:, >170 Poquette: & Annie from the what are you reading thread. Thanks for the well wishes. But you know, for years i've been trying to find a way to be too sick for work, but healthy enough to watch the first day of the NCAA basketball tournament. I finally nailled it. It's been a good day.

>168 japaul22: I wouldn't recommend The Orchard Keeper to most readers, even here, as much as I liked it, but you may really enjoy it. McCarthy does something different with the language in his first novel. He puts a great deal more effort into the sounds of the words and the effect is special. There is none of the gruesome stuff as in, apparently, all his other novels. As for Outer Dark, I think most readers would enjoy it on some level, although few would use the word "enjoy".

172AnnieMod
Mar 20, 2015, 3:09am Top

>171 dchaikin:

Ah, then things are not as bad as they sound :) Enjoy the basketball - surprisingly a lot of people seem to work from home these few days in my office... one wonders why...

173dchaikin
Mar 22, 2015, 1:05am Top



13. Poetry December 2013 (read Feb 3 - 13)
edited by Don Share

Wish I had reviewed this sooner. I really enjoyed this issue, but then when I read it I was really in the right state of mind and flow for it. I though it was nice to finally read an issue without a theme and just enjoy a kind of random but very good collection of poems. The highlight of the issue is a very long poem by Terrance Hayes, How to Draw a Perfect Circle. It starts with the idea of drawing without looking down at the paper and without lifting your pencil. And then it moves to a true story about a crazy man stabbing a policeman in the eye unprovoked. And then he digs down into who the crazy man was. The effect is powerful, but then how the beginning ties to the rest and how elegantly it's told and, well, you can read it if you want here. Lots of other good stuff here. I've listed all authors below and starred the ones I liked the best.

Bill Manhire
Dunya Mikhail*
Knar Gavin* - I really liked her stuff, but she also won me over with poem on inarticulate brachiopods
Tom Clark*
Terrance Hayes**
Robyn Schiff
Rob Schlegel
Melissa Broder - got a lot of attention in the podcast. I thought her poems here were over dependent on the shock factor of using "fuck" & "cock"
Afaa Michael Weaver* - someone I would like learn more about
Claudia Emerson*
Molly Peacock
Gerald Stern
Darrel Alejandro Holnes
Rachel Gavins*
Solmaz Sharif*
Wendy Xu*
Hannah Gamble
Danez Smith*
Ocean Vuong
Larry Eigner** - The printed issue includes a collection of his letters, which weren't that interesting. But the e-issue extras also included scans of his first poems published by Poetry. Wow. (You can find them on the website)

Link to the issue: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/toc/2466

174dchaikin
Mar 22, 2015, 1:19am Top



14. Serial : Season One, Fall 2014 (Podcast) by Sarah Koenig (8:29, roughly the length of a 230 page book, Listened Feb 13 - 19)

I'm cheating calling this podcast a book, but I related to it mostly in the way I relate to audiobooks. Serial is the most successful and most downloaded podcast ever. There is reason, and it's not because you need to listen to this. You don't. Ultimately it's probably pointless. But Sarah Koenig makes it interesting. There is something in the way she approaches this murder, and how she explores whether the young man convicted really could have done this, and then how she reacts to what she finds. It's just very addictive and somehow rewarding. Koenig is part of radio show The American Life. Like the show in general, she makes the people she interviews somehow become interesting mainly just because of what they reveal about themselves.

175dchaikin
Mar 22, 2015, 2:08am Top



15. Lila by Marilynne Robinson (2014, 262 page hardcover, Read Feb 14-27)

This novel focuses on the Lila, John Ames's much younger wife. It's not narrated by her, but her unschooled voice is prevalent. It's her story and memories and perspective. And her life is rough and really sad and Ames is really nice. And they do have something to offer each other. And it's interesting as she ponders over certain striking lines in Ezekiel and Genesis. It's a nice story and a tragic one.

The effect for me was softer than that of her other two books in this trilogy. I love Home and I find Gilead fascinating in a couple different ways. All three books have the same soft subtle prose that quietly contains an interesting and colorful complexity. They can surprise on re-reading. But somehow Lila was less then those first two to me. I think the combination of Robinson's prose and the character Lila's very rough not-at-all subtle life felt a little artificial to me.
“It felt very good to have him walking beside her. Good like rest and quiet, like something you could live without but you needed anyway. That you had to learn how to miss, and then you'd never stop missing it.”

176avaland
Edited: Mar 22, 2015, 8:04am Top

Hope you have recovered from the flu, Dan. That's no fun.

>161 dchaikin: Sorry to back up on you a bit after you have moved on, but I'm always a bit fascinated when a writer has intention to "disturb" their reader (remember, I live in the land of Joyce Carol Oates), and I find there is usually a reason they do this—unless it is meant to be only gratuitous (as in horror novels). Oates, for example, does this to get us to think, or rethink what we think we know, or to look at something with new eyes, so to speak. Do you think McCarthy is just having fun with the reader, or did he want us to consider something that we might take away from the novel?

177RidgewayGirl
Mar 22, 2015, 8:03am Top

Everything I hear about HHhH makes me want to read it more. I may have to break down and order a copy.

178ELiz_M
Edited: Mar 22, 2015, 7:10pm Top

>174 dchaikin: I listened to Serial this past winter and agree with your assessment. It's an interesting case study and radio experiment. I think in oral storytelling, it must be incredibly difficult to narrate something without forward momentum. While I enjoyed the podcast, the incessant waffling was difficult to enjoy.

Luckily?, I had a wondrous synchronicity with my reading. I've already forgotten the details, but there are some marvelous parallels between Adnan's trial and Ivan Dmitri Karamazov's trial.

179VivienneR
Mar 22, 2015, 1:39pm Top

Dan, I'm still desperately trying to catch up with threads and finding it a losing battle but I just had to comment on your excellent review of HHhH by Laurent Binet. It sounds an intriguing book and, like >177 RidgewayGirl: I may just have to order a copy.

180dchaikin
Mar 22, 2015, 4:15pm Top

>176 avaland: Lois, I think the real question is what is that something he wants us to take away. There is no easy answer to that. I'm pretty sure his purposes are cross with JCO, based on your reviews. JCO wants to understand the villian. McCarthy has it all figured out. It's what he is telling us that is obscured. At this point I still associate McCarthy with Edward Abbey (in outlook, not writing skill). The world is very clear to him. There is a natural way to things and it's indifferent to our hopes, desires, technology and social or religious conventions. And part of that wildness is inside ourselves. Lester Ballard's problem is that he doesn't know how to control it, so he just avoids living people and then goes with what he wants. I think McCarthy could have accomplished his purposes many other ways. But I think it was just fun to him to use this route. Not all his writing is fun or funny. I can't get over the idea that maybe he had Suttree in mind while writing this book. That was his first major work (and to many, his best work). And that maybe he saw this as a simpler outlet. I must be way off base on my neat simple analysis. But I don't see my error yet.

181dchaikin
Mar 22, 2015, 4:20pm Top

>177 RidgewayGirl:/179 - no need to break down. It's a great and fun book. Just try a Kindle sample if you're seriously interested. Glad my review sparked your interest.

>178 ELiz_M: Adnan and Dmitri? Or Ivan's dream? Must be Dmitri and the debate on the known and unknown...oh goodness my memory is fuzzy. Interesting comparison. Dmitri is faced with similar kind of evidence.

182ELiz_M
Edited: Mar 22, 2015, 7:15pm Top

>181 dchaikin: Ooops, I did mean Dmitri.

I think somewhere in Serial a law-type person (maybe the retired policeman that reviews the evidence with Sarah?) says something along the line of "If Adnan is innocent, he is the unluckiest man on Earth" and that seemed to apply equally well to the evidence against Dmitri -- how unlucky did he have to be for all the circumstances to go against him as they did?

183avaland
Mar 23, 2015, 6:28am Top

>180 dchaikin: "...and part of that wilderness is inside ourselves." Very interesting. As in nature being an expression of the inner self? (that's a theme in 18th century Romanticism), but I know he's associated with the Gothic, particularly Southern Gothic, so... stories that reflect in various ways our dark inner natures (that's an oversimplification, of course. I've been informally studying the Gothic in literature off and on, and am into American Gothic now, but have not specifically read up on Southern Gothic yet).

184rebeccanyc
Mar 23, 2015, 7:29am Top

>173 dchaikin: Whenever you review poetry, I remind myself that I should read more poetry and I star your post so I can come back to it. So I've done it again this time, and hope that maybe this time I will come back to it and start reading more poetry!

>175 dchaikin: The Robinson trilogy is also one I mean to get to someday. I've had Gilead on the TBR for several years.

185dchaikin
Mar 24, 2015, 9:05am Top

"He stopped in the center of the room, arrested in the quadrate bar of dusty light davited between the window and its skewed replica on the far wall..."

Suttree

186dchaikin
Mar 24, 2015, 9:21am Top

>182 ELiz_M: - I wasn't thinking about it that way, but yeah. Of course it's a little different in fiction where the bad luck is contrived. : )

>183 avaland: - I like reading your thoughts from the gothic books. They fit McCarthy, as much as he tries to not fit in anywhere but his own logic.

>184 rebeccanyc: - poetry is tough for me too, and i think for a lot of readers. Reading poetry is in absolute conflict with accomplishing reading a book. You can read the words of a book and be done. You can't do that with poetry. You have to have a different mindset and approach. You are just exploring, and for me at least, ultimately take random bits that work for you and leave a lot on the page.

187rebeccanyc
Mar 24, 2015, 9:52am Top

>186 dchaikin: I read a lot of poetry as a teenager, and my father was a big reader of poetry, but in my adult years I don't have the patience, I guess.

188dchaikin
Edited: Mar 27, 2015, 10:15pm Top



16. Electric Universe: The Shocking True Story of Electricity (Audio) by David Bodanis, read by Del Roy (2005, 6:41, ~300 pages in paperback, listened Feb 25 - Mar 4)

Lots of thin stuff coming up. Apologies. This was more noise for my commute. It is fun as it reads, but overall has too much biography, is very very thin on actual science, is terribly (dis)organized, and has gaping holes (you won't find the name Nicolas Tesla inside, for one.)

189dchaikin
Edited: Mar 27, 2015, 10:16pm Top



17. Behind the Beautiful Forevers : Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity (Audio) by Katherine Boo, read by Sunil Malhotra (2012, 8:15, ~250 pages in paperback, listened Feb 29 - Mar 9)

The problem with this one is that I'm just a bad person. I got bored listening to terribly poor people in a slum in Mumbai living insanely terrible poor hopeless lives, where being good at garbage sifting is considered a financial windfall for you family. Really, people shouldn't live like this. But yet I gave up on it, switched to Electric Universe, then gave it a second chance and finished.

The only serious criticism I can lay on this, other than that it must have some fictional aspects to it as Boo reads minds, is that it's anecdotal. But, it's more than that. Boo provides an interview at the end that is quite moving and puts things in perspective. One less serious criticism is that I found it odd that the reader was a man (who does very good Indian accents).

190dchaikin
Edited: Mar 25, 2015, 11:53pm Top



18. The Rabbi of Casino Boulevard by Allan Appel (1986, 287 page hardcover, Read Mar 7-16)

This was book club selection, although I missed the meeting and didn't even finish the book until the day after the meeting (see last five words of first sentence in previous post).

Nothing serious here, it's totally frivolous and all that, except that I actually liked it.

Our rabbi, who is really a terrible rabbi and not a particularly good Jew, has found his niche in a small casino town in California. His congregation is all older and they all gamble seriously, but generally non-destructively. The rabbi doesn't gamble, isn't married, doesn't date and has come to be viewed as lucky.

Then he starts to date a non-Jewish Japanese girl. Some members find it terrible he is forming a relationship with a woman who isn't Jewish. Some find it terrible he's dating at all. And some relish it. And there is luck, and some perverse and quite entertaining reading of the Zohar, and eventually our rabbi finds himself in a real problem.

No worries about realistic stuff here, including dialogue and relationships. You wouldn't know he lives in a Christian country as the only characters are from the congregation or his Japanese girlfriend, or related to his girlfriend. Lots of other problems. But that's not the point. Three and half stars, where the half star means it was fun.

191rachbxl
Mar 26, 2015, 6:03am Top

Hope you're fully recovered from your flu by now, Dan. I keep hearing about Serial here on LT, and you've tipped the balance; I just downloaded it. I just had a little listen to the first minute or so - I like her voice. Sometimes I just don't feel like reading on the train, and I'm not into audiobooks at the moment. I think this might fill the gap.

I haven't read Behind the Beautiful Forevers, but the India issue of Granta includes some of Boo's photos from the slum. Interesting. (Your conclusion that you're a bad person made me laugh).

192AlisonY
Mar 26, 2015, 6:04am Top

Loving your last few reviews, Dan. I'm not sure you've persuaded me to read any of the books, but you definitely put a smile on my face!

193FlorenceArt
Edited: Mar 26, 2015, 6:59am Top

>189 dchaikin: Well I'm a bad person too, and a coward. When the reading gets too uncomfortable, I just put down the book. So I guess I wouldn't enjoy Behind the Beautiful Forevers. The Rabbi of Casino Boulevard sounds like fun though.

194dchaikin
Edited: Mar 26, 2015, 9:04am Top

A note for my own reference.

Cormac McCarthy's words unique to Suttree: http://www.johnsepich.com/cormac_mccarthy/words_unique_to_suttree.pdf

Even better:
http://johnsepich.com/cormac_mccarthy/

195reva8
Edited: Mar 26, 2015, 10:53am Top

>189 dchaikin: I did not finish this book either, but for very different reasons (round here, we call it "Behind the Beautiful Reviews").

(Edited because it wasn't clear which book I was referring to)

196DieFledermaus
Mar 26, 2015, 11:34pm Top

I thought HHhH sounded like something I'd be interested in when it came out, your review confirms that. I do like things that have weird structures. Also recently read Prague in Danger, a history of the Nazi occupation of Prague, and they had a lot about Heydrich in it. The author described the assassination, and I was surprised at just how much bungling there was on both sides.

Child of God is on the pile, I knew what it was about when I got it. I didn't think of it as a funny book though - your description is a bit different from the other ones I've seen.

Glad to hear you're recovering from the flu.

197dchaikin
Mar 27, 2015, 9:15am Top

>191 rachbxl: feeling mostly notmal now, thanks. i think you'll like Serial. It has an addictive quality to it. And i would like to see Boo's photos. I'll check if any are available online.

>192 AlisonY: thanks Alyson.

>193 FlorenceArt: hi Flo. I'm thinking if that's true, then you have a strange definition of comfort...between the bible and de Sade. I don't think you're a bad person.

198dchaikin
Mar 27, 2015, 9:19am Top

>195 reva8: Reva, i'm so curious what your reason was (or reasons were) for not finishing Behind the Beautiful...

>196 DieFledermaus: Maus - you might like HHhH, and you might not find Child of God funny.

199StevenTX
Mar 27, 2015, 11:00am Top

I enjoyed catching up on your reviews and was relieved to learn I'm not the only bad person here.

200dchaikin
Mar 27, 2015, 10:14pm Top

201NanaCC
Mar 28, 2015, 11:10am Top

Just back from vacation, and doing a lot of catch up. You have been doing a lot of interesting reading. I'm still not sure about McCarthy, although I do have No Country for Old Men sitting on the shelf. Maybe some day.

202avaland
Mar 29, 2015, 6:00am Top

>186 dchaikin: I liked what you said to rebeccanyc about poetry.

And, like the others, I enjoyed your last few reviews of "thin stuff."

203dchaikin
Mar 29, 2015, 10:43pm Top

>201 NanaCC: Colleen, Welcome back. It will be a while before I get to No Country for Old Men.

>202 avaland: Hi and thanks. :)

204dchaikin
Edited: Apr 1, 2015, 6:43pm Top



19. 13517092::Boxers by Gene Luen Yang (2013, 325 page paperback, Read Mar 18)
20. 13517093::Saints by Gene Luen Yang (2013, 170 page paperback, Read Mar 18)

This is an interesting take on the Boxer Rebellion in China from 1900 and touches on the reasons behind the rebellion. There is a lot of play on moral conflicts and on what drove rural Chinese to such violence and to massacre peaceful unarmed Christian Chinese civilians.

Each book follows one adolescent on different sides. In Boxers a nice farm boy becomes a rebel leader and finds himself instructing his rebel men and woman to kill all Christians. In Saints, a young girl runs away from home, joins a Christian missionary, and becomes inspired by Joan of Arc. She only slowly realizes the contradiction between Joan's uprising against the English in France and her hope to protect Christian Chinese from those who are basically uprising against the English (and all foreigners) in China.

But don't expect much authentic historical detail, or even psychological insight. Yang keeps most details vague and pores in a lot of Chinese mythology. He has his purposes for this.

I liked it, thought the illustrations were nice, but I didn't feel there was all that much to it overall. In hindsight it feels romanticized. Reality is dirtier.

205rachbxl
Mar 30, 2015, 6:11am Top

Just popping in to tell you that you were quite right; I am already addicted to Serial. Apart from it being gripping story extremely well told, the way Sarah Koenig speaks is music to my poor ears. I spend my working life (as a conference interpreter for an international organisation) being forced to listen to so much bad English (or 'Globish', as we call it), English dumbed down to the lowest possible common denominator; hearing a native speaker who knows her language and isn't afraid to use it is a real pleasure for me.

206AnnieMod
Mar 30, 2015, 8:16pm Top

>204 dchaikin:

Being a YA book, it cannot go that deep into the dirty details. Plus the Chinese gods and so on were integral part of the story here (and not so much in the real world as far as I know). Good to see that you did not hate these though :)

207dchaikin
Mar 30, 2015, 10:40pm Top

>205 rachbxl: yes, addictive. And Sarah Koenig is terrific...although I never thought of her from that perspective. You have a unique professional life.

>206 AnnieMod: not sure I agree Annie. I think he could have done more and stayed YA. I think he chose not to. I do agree the Chinese mythology was integral and part of the point.

208AnnieMod
Mar 30, 2015, 11:28pm Top

>207 dchaikin: Could have - that I agree. I just did not expect much more than this going into the book I think - which is why I ended up liking it a lot more than you did. Reading too much YA lately which lowers my expectations on how far authors go into them... I think I need to be careful about that - I am not sure I am making it consciously.

209dchaikin
Edited: Apr 1, 2015, 6:44pm Top



21. American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang (2006, 233 page paperback, Read Mar 18)

Yang mixes his experiences being raised in the United States by Chinese-born and culturally Chinese parents with stories from Chinese mythology. Not knowing anything about Chinese mythology, I thought the combined effect was terrific. He includes a brutal picture of how American culture portrays Chinese in America.

It's funny how things work, but while reading I really enjoyed the Chinese mythology aspect, but in hindsight I mainly remember the racist aspect. Yang creates a virtual sitcom where a "normal" American adolescent boy in a perfect little world is visited and horrified by his Chinese cousin who fits every Chinese racial extreme - smiling, talking funny, eating disgusting food and knowing everything, all marked by canned laughter. This sitcom story is just randomly mixed in between the stories of a monkey god kicked out of heaven and of something that probably closely resembles Yang's actual adolescence. Then at the end Yang puts together how both the "normal" boy and the Chinese boy are both aspects of his self image - of what he wants to be and what he fears. And his inability to deal with or understand who he is.

I don't think I actually expected to like this. Instead I found it a terrific graphic novel that I expect I will remember.

210bragan
Apr 1, 2015, 1:55pm Top

>209 dchaikin: I think American Born Chinese is going on my wishlist. If only because I really enjoyed those Avatar: The Last Airbender graphic novels of Yang's that I read recently, including some interesting and amusing comments in the annotations.

211dchaikin
Apr 1, 2015, 6:40pm Top

I think I'm curious about Avatar, not sure. These three books left with a very good impression of Gene Luen yang.

212dchaikin
Edited: Apr 2, 2015, 7:55am Top



22. We Won't See Auschwitz by Jérémie Dres (2011, 200 page paperback, Read Mar 18-19)
translated from French by Edward Gauvin
preface by Jean-Yves Potel

Not much to see here. Dres graphically chronicles a trip he took to Poland with his brother to look at his family's history and at the existing Jewish life there. He makes an effort to avoid covering the Holocaust, to focus instead on Jewish life now and on Poland's sense of its own Jewish history.

I didn't know that almost all Jews left Poland in 1968! There were only 300,000 survivors of WWII out of 3.5 million pre-war Jews. Mostly the survivors were those exiled to Russian Gulags when Russia controlled eastern Poland before the German invasion. Of those 300,000, maybe 40,000 stayed in Poland after WWII (I don't recall the exact number). But in 1968 all Polish Jews had their Polish nationality revoked and practically all of them left the country.

So, unfortunately, this doesn't leave much for Dres to cover, other than a rushed search for his family's history. (He only had about a week in Poland). So, there is not much to the book.

It's very much a journalist's trip and I guess a journalists book. So we get a somewhat detailed look at specific people he met and interviewed, but only an anecdotal overall picture with lots of details that hint at some things but don't clearly say anything. Either he lost the big empty picture in the details, or maybe he exposed the emptiness of the big picture with the details. Depends on your perspective, I suppose. But it's odd to read his expressed optimism, and that leads me to think the former.

The artwork is much like the cover, but without color.

213AlisonY
Edited: Apr 2, 2015, 3:39am Top

>212 dchaikin:: I was really intrigued by your review of this book. I had a wee 'look inside' on Amazon - an usual approach to this topic through a series of little comic strip sketches. A good idea - shame it didn't deliver, but it certainly raised a few very interesting facts.

You've really piqued my interest on what happened in 1968. I also knew nothing about this, and it seems incredible that this anti-Semitism and persecution continued to the point of driving most of the Jews out of Poland.

I'd love to read an independent account of this period in history. Most of the books I've looked at online seem to be Jewish written aimed at a Jewish reader (one good one looks to be Forced Out: The Fate of Polish Jewry in Communist Poland), or Polish / Communist sympathetic, but it would be interesting to read a truly independent account. Another interesting book looks to be After the Holocaust: Polish-Jewish Conflict in the Wake of World War 2 (sorry - touchstones not working on that one).

I can't get my head around why anti-Semitism keeps rearing it's head century after century. I'm sure there must be an interesting book out there somewhere that examines this in a much wider context than Poland.

214dchaikin
Apr 2, 2015, 8:16am Top

Alison - those two books both sound interesting. I'm open to Jewish and Polish perspectives, although i think Poles are mostly silent. What is interesting to me is that so much of prewar Poland was Jewish, many towns and cities were 40 or 50 % or more Jewish in population. The Holocaust completely changed the ethnic dynamic of Poland, and yet the country kind of shrugs it off. They lost so much and don't seem particularly botherd by that. (It was entertaining to me to learn about Poles who find out they have Jewish heritage and want to rediscover it)

This little graphic novel might not be a bad place to start for post-war interest. For pre-war, the is probably a library and there is Nobel Laureate Isaac Singer.

215mabith
Apr 2, 2015, 9:46am Top

>212 dchaikin: I didn't realize Poland had done that either. Shows how much more I need to read about post-WWII European history. That's one reason why I really liked 1941: The Year that Keeps Returning, it took you through present day Croatia and examined the ripples resulting from the waves made in WWII. I'm really not sure what kind of optimism one could take from that situation though, so it would probably bother me too.

216AlisonY
Edited: Apr 2, 2015, 9:56am Top

>214 dchaikin:: Sorry, you're right - mostly the Poles have been silent. I read a bit further into a few books that I thought were written by the Poles, but it turns out they also were from the Jewish perspective.

Bizarrely, I've been educated a little on this whole new area of history (to me) today by reading some Amazon reviews of the book Fear: Anti-Semitism in Poland After Auschwitz. There are clearly a number of Catholic Poles who have read the book and taken great exception to the one-sided account of what happened to the Jews in Poland. The main counter argument seems to be that the Jews in Poland were perceived to have welcomed the Soviets with open arms during WWII, and to have been treated favourably by the Soviets, hence appearing to collude against the Catholic Poles, many of whom were killed by the Soviets or sent to slave prison camps in Siberia.

One person comments that when the Nazis were persecuting the Polish Jews, many Catholic Poles hid Jewish families, but that there are allegedly no records of Jewish families helping to shield any Catholic Poles from the Soviets.

Ah, more history I need to read up on now...

217kidzdoc
Apr 2, 2015, 10:36am Top

Nice review of American Born Chinese, Dan. I enjoyed it as well.

218janeajones
Apr 2, 2015, 8:09pm Top

Whew! -- Overwhelmed to catch up here, Dan.

Cormac McCarthy I'm afraid is just not my cuppa of tea, though I did enjoy reading your reviews.

re: 158 The Song of Songs -- you might want to pick up Inanna, the Mesopotamian myth as a provocative comparison/contrast.

I'm intrigued by Boxers by Gene Luen Yang and American Born Chinese -- may have to hunt those out.

Robinson's trilogy is at the top of my list to read when I finally retire -- in 4 weeks!

219rebeccanyc
Apr 3, 2015, 3:12pm Top

>212 dchaikin: When I was in eastern Europe in the early 90s, I took a sidetrip to Krakow so I could go to Auschwitz. I don't really talk about it much, but suffice to say at that time it was so recently after the fall of the Soviet Union that the site was much as the Soviets had left it: a monument to the heroic Red Army with each ethnic/national group treated equivalently so you would never know it was almost entirely Jews who had been killed.

>215 mabith: I admired 1941: The Year That Keeps Returning too.

220reva8
Apr 11, 2015, 8:24am Top

>198 dchaikin: Sorry for the late reply: I'm just catching up on everyone's threads. I didn't finish Katherine Boo's book, even though she's much better than many other writers on the topic, because I couldn't shake off the feeling of a tourist's gaze, looking upon the exotic (impoverished) Orient. I'd recommend Kalpana Sharma's Rediscovering Dharavi instead: she's a journalist who has lived in the city and worked there for years, and her insight and compassion are only matched by a genuine respect for the people she encounters. I'm sorry if I'm not putting this well!

221dchaikin
Apr 11, 2015, 9:28am Top

whoops, limited LT time and i have not been to my own thread in a while.

>215 mabith: (& >219 rebeccanyc:) - I'm interested in 1941 : The Year that Keeps Returning. I recall being fascinated by Rebeccanyc's review...although I don't recall anything from the review.

>216 AlisonY: that's a lot of new information to me. Is all that in the book, or just in the criticism of the book?

>217 kidzdoc: hey Darryl. Thanks!

>218 janeajones: i will keep Inanna in mind. I read a few comments about how they were considered related, then how they no longer are...although Biblical criticism is never really so conclusive like that. Robinson has something to offer. Enjoy retirement!

>219 rebeccanyc: in the 1990's! Strange world. Must have been a great experience.

>220 reva8: Makes sense to me. i'll keep Rediscovering Dharavi in mind...although admittedly i'm not quite ready to dive back into the topic.

222rebeccanyc
Apr 11, 2015, 11:51am Top

>221 dchaikin: I don't know that I would call it a "great" experience, but it was something I felt compelled to do, being reasonably close (i.e., in eastern Europe, possible to take a train from Prague to Krakow, and from Krakow to Budapest, etc.).

223AlisonY
Apr 11, 2015, 12:05pm Top

>216 AlisonY:: hi Dan - that's just someone's criticism of the book on Amazon, but it's the only little snippet I found on why the Catholic Poles turned so heavily against the Jews in their own country.

224dchaikin
Apr 12, 2015, 4:43pm Top

>222 rebeccanyc: Great is maybe not a great word for that. I would like to see Auschwitz and have its impression on me. I think it's an important part of our history. I won't like it, but I would value it and consider it great in that way. That is how I view and value my visit to Yad Vashem.

>223 AlisonY: Good to know. I would like to read something that factually tackles that view.

225rebeccanyc
Apr 12, 2015, 7:24pm Top

>224 dchaikin: Yes, I see what you mean. At the time I was there, the impression was filtered through the Soviet manipulation of the site.

226Poquette
Apr 17, 2015, 2:31pm Top

Just catching up — some intriguing books you've been reading that I probably won't get to. You know how it is. ;-)

227rebeccanyc
Apr 17, 2015, 3:11pm Top

Here is a link to a recent article in the New York Times about preserving Auschwitz: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/16/arts/international/at-auschwitz-birkenau-prese...

228Polaris-
Apr 26, 2015, 2:00pm Top

Great to catch up with your thread Dan!

Really enjoying your reviews - especially the early Cormac McCarthy books. Was very interested to read your comments on My Promised Land as well.

229dchaikin
Apr 26, 2015, 4:50pm Top

Hi Paul. I just finished The Lemon Tree, another variation of the history of Israel. Although it might be ages till I comment on it here. If I find time, it will put into the Isaiah thread for a while.

230Polaris-
Apr 27, 2015, 5:00am Top

>229 dchaikin: Dan - that touchstone took me to a schmaltzy looking Ladies' Guild favourite... Sandy Tolan's Lemon Tree looks to have a varied approach to the run-of-the-mill history in that it seems to be focused on a pair of friends from each 'side' of the conflict. I look forward to your comments on that one - long or short.

Will you review the Malcolm Gladwell I noticed up top was recently completed. How was it? David and Goliath (boy! does this title have a few other touchstones! - shoulda called it Goliath and David) - looks fascinating. Not read anything by him yet, but I remember some of the publicity radio stuff he did sounded very interesting, and he is an interesting man.

231wandering_star
Apr 27, 2015, 5:59am Top

Thanks for the Gene Luen Yang reviews. I had Boxers and Saints on my wishlist on the basis of American Born Chinese, which I thought was excellent. Sounds like they are not quite up to the mark.

232dchaikin
Apr 28, 2015, 8:52pm Top

>230 Polaris-: ha! Yes, Sandy Tolan's The Lemon Tree. I didn't check. Just stuck the title in brackets. I thought Tolan was pretty balanced on the Palestinian/Israeli take. The book is slow, but gives you a lot to think about after you are done.

And Gladwell is fun. I think people find him smart and useful. I found him smart and fun. Perfect for my commute.

>231 wandering_star: hard to say that Boxers/Saints is not up to American Born Chinese. It's just that I found a place to connect with ABC and therefore really got attached to it.

233dchaikin
Edited: May 17, 2015, 11:07am Top



23. The Book of Isaiah (Read Feb 14 - Mar 23)

I read this in The HarperCollins Study Bible : New Revised Standard Version, general editor Harold W. Attridge (2006, 85 pages within the Paperback edition)

Two things struck me with Isaiah, the importance of the work, which I knew a little about going in, and the tone, which was unexpected. The text has, in places, a life to it. It can be striking, and it makes this one of the most interesting and enjoyable parts of the bible I've read so far. Mind you there are dull plenty of dull parts too.

For the first time in the bible the text is preaching that kind of crazy way I imagine preachers preaching. Raving, talking about judgment and sin and the terrible things coming our way, berating us for our bad and vain behavior. And then talking about a time after judgment, which few will survive, a remnant. But they will find themselves in a sort of living paradise of plenty, led by a great leader, as messiah of sorts, a Davidic descendant ("A shoot shall come out from the stock of Jesse"). And the world will look to them, in little Judah, in Jerusalem, as leaders of the world. The present dangers will dissolve.
Isaiah 2:4 -
they shall beat their swords into ploughshares,
and their spears into pruning-hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more.
The dangerous nations, characterized as wild carnivores, lions, leopards, bears, snakes, will cease to harass the Israelites
Isaiah 11:6-9
6 The wolf shall live with the lamb,
   the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
   the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
   and a little child shall lead them.
7 The cow and the bear shall graze,
   their young shall lie down together;
   and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
8 The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
   and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.
9 They will not hurt or destroy
   on all my holy mountain;
   for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
   as the waters cover the sea.
And then in the midst of all this carrot and stick are pronouncements and descriptions of God. He is here, more clearly then in the early historical books, the only God, the foundation of the universe. And Isaiah even sees him:
Isaiah 6:1-8
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. 2Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. 3And one called to another and said:
‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory.’
That phrase Holy, holy holy is preserved, in Latin, as the preface to the Roman Catholic Eucharist: "Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus, Dominus Deus Sabaoth" , Sanctus being Latin for holy.

Isaiah, the mythical prophet, lived in 8th century BCE and saw the fall of the northern kingdom of Israel, and the sacking of the southern Kingdom of Judah by Assyria under Sennarcherib. But the book carries on beyond this era, mentions Cyrus the Great, the Persian emperor from early 6th century who allowed the exiled Israelites to return to Judah after the Babylonian exile. The tone changes with the time period covered. The early, sterner parts are called the first Isaiah, and the later parts, with a hopeful poetry, are called the second Isaiah, and even the Third Isaiah.

It's the Second Isaiah that Christianity mainly pulls from. It's the most hopeful part of the book, with unclear promises of a future servant who will suffer. In the New Testament, Jesus of Nazareth will quote directly from this second Isaiah, and by doing so, announces to his followers that he is the new Messiah, the Christ. The NT has several references to Isaiah, mainly this second Isaiah. And, having read it, I can imagine I understand why. It is really the most colorful part of this book and the most hopeful. And this servant, whatever he is supposed to be, is worth thinking about.
from Isaiah 53
5 But he was wounded for our transgressions,
   crushed for our iniquities;
   upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
   and by his bruises we are healed.
...
7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
   yet he did not open his mouth;
   like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
   so he did not open his mouth.
...
10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him with pain.
   When you make his life an offering for sin,
   he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days;
   through him the will of the Lord shall prosper.

234Polaris-
May 16, 2015, 3:46pm Top

Fascinating commentary Dan.

235dchaikin
May 16, 2015, 8:27pm Top

Thanks Paul!

236rebeccanyc
May 17, 2015, 10:50am Top

237dchaikin
May 17, 2015, 11:02am Top

Thanks Rebecca!

238dchaikin
Edited: May 17, 2015, 12:49pm Top



24. The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid (Audio) by Bill Bryson, read by the author (2006, 7:39, ~220 pages in paperback, listened Mar 23-30)

I hope to never read another Bryson again. He reads his books so perfectly that there is no better way to take them in then listen to him read them. At least that is my impression after listening to this, and, recalling from a while back, listening to him read One Summer: America, 1927. It also comes after getting used to his voice and after partially listening to someone else read his A Short History of Nearly Everything.

As for the book itself, it's hardly a memoir, but both much more and much less than that. He uses his childhood in Des Moines, Iowa, born in 1951, to write about 1950's America, and particularly small town America. He'll touch on his own experiences and then break off to the bigger pictures. He, in that Bryson way, makes a charming history that is largely entertaining because of how unnecessary it is, and yet it becomes important here.

Among the pieces of information inside are the peculiar childhood of Katz, and that Bryon's father was one of the great baseball writers of the 1950's and 1960's, maybe the one great writer in the "fly-over" states. There is a bit of baseball in here too, as there was in One Summer, which only makes these books better.

239DieFledermaus
May 19, 2015, 5:24am Top

Good review of Isaiah. This is probably a bit bad, but reading about all the animals made me think of the subcategory of YouTube videos with different animals being friends.

240dchaikin
May 19, 2015, 8:46pm Top



25. Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys. by Viv Albertine (2014, 418 page Kindle ebook, read Apr 2-11)

I started this having no idea who Viv Albertine was, because timjones raved about it and I loved the title and what it implied. And, although I can't say what it is that the title implies, the book is precisely that. A rush of stuff, images, energy, hormones.

Viv Albertine was the lead guitarists of the Slits, a kind of forgotten all girls punk band from the 1970's, fronted by a larger than life fifteen year old singer, Air Up*. She was intimately part of the punk rock scene in its nascent days before it had any definition, and a large part of her circle of friends and lovers became something in every which way. She dated Mic Jones of The Clash before there was a Clash (Train in Vain** is about her.). Her first band included a then unknown and quirky Sid Vicious.

The book covers her days as a kid soaking the atmosphere and as a young adult, holding a band together in the 1970's. And then, anticlimactically because it's no longer such a rush, she carries on through her years of marriage, motherhood, cancer and eventual return to music. Great stuff.

*There is a terrific documentary on YouTube:here

**that's a link to a video.

241dchaikin
May 20, 2015, 2:10pm Top

>239 DieFledermaus: Trying to picture theae leopards and snakes cuddling. I thought it was just a weird part, until i read the idea of the animals as tribes, then it clicked - nice Jewish animals and mean goyim animals.

242ursula
May 22, 2015, 3:06pm Top

>240 dchaikin: That sounds like a really interesting one. I'll have to check if I can get the ebook from the library.

243dchaikin
May 22, 2015, 8:40pm Top

Usula, Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys. is great fun. And good for stressful stuff, like traveling or moving. You can take it in with low concentration.

244dchaikin
May 23, 2015, 1:30pm Top



26. Zealot : The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth (Audio) by Reza Aslan, read by the author (2013, 8:08, ~230 pages in paperback, listened Apr 13-19)

Aslan really really wants you to agree with him, but he has also put together an interesting, scholarly, early history of early Christianity. His main premise is that Jesus, the person, was a militant leader attempting to lead a militant insurrection against foreign/Roman control of Judea.

If you like, his argument goes something like this: Palestine under Rome was a hot bed of rebellion, especially after the death of Herod, the most powerful Roman client king of Judea, in 4 bce. There were numerous recorded rebellious leaders and revolts in the era, including the more famous ones in 66 ce and 134 ce (The Bar Kochba Revolt), both of which concluded in the complete destruction of Jerusalem and most of Judea. The 66 ce revolt led to the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, and later to the siege of Masada. Roman response to the 134 ce revolt pretty much wiped out the Jewish presence in Judea until Herzl came along. Many of these rebellion leaders called themselves a Messiah, with the idea that what Judea needed to fend off Rome was not resources and strategy, but a great leader, a Messiah, and a lot of faith. In this context, Jesus, by announcing himself a Messiah, a Christ, could have meant nothing else then to proclaim himself the leader of a militant revolt to free Judea of Rome. Of course, it didn't work and then something much different become of his following. But the story we know of Jesus, the one Pontius Pilate had some sympathy for and wanted to kind of find a way to save, is one of historical reworking for the benefit of Christian followers at a later time.

Don't take my word for it, read Aslan. It's actually a pretty flimsy argument, which is why Aslan spends so much time very insistently making his points, an real annoyance in audio (although he reads very well otherwise). But it's also an argument that is entirely consistent with the historical record. It explains why Isaiah, particularly the second Isaiah, was so popular in the era and so influential to Christian writings. The book of Isaiah has a lots of Messiah and Messiah-like prophecies and it's a book of hope. This aspect of hope will be incorporated into Christianity. It made this book a great paring with my reading of Isaiah.

Aslan then moves into the post-Jesus history which is, quite frankly, absolutely fascinating. Although I think most of what he goes over here is well trod ground...but I'm not sure. I haven't read anything about it before. This version of history is worth knowing, even if it's wrong. But it takes some explaining: Aslan's idea is that the brother of Jesus became the leader this the Christ-movement after his death. This is James, of the Book of James, and his movement became very sizable, but remained Jewish. James kept links to the Jewish leadership, even if they hated each other, and he followed Jewish law. And Peter, who left Judea for Rome and helped spread Christianity amongst the Jewish population there, was essentially a follower of James. Separately, another Jew, Saul, used Jesus to come up with ideas that completely abandoned Jewish law. He re-named himself Paul. At odds with James and the Jerusalem Jewish Christians, he also went to Rome where he ended up at odds with Peter. However, Paul preached to non-Jews and made some converts. Both Peter and Paul would end up executed. Later, the 66 ce revolt took out the center of the James movement. Without Jerusalem Christians, Christianity had freedom to evolve, and the non-Jewish Pauline converts came to dominate the religions. Later, this Christianity wanted Roman acceptance. In the New Testament, over half the books are traditionally credited to Paul. James gets one book. Also, there was no room for an anti-Roman Judean freedom fighter. So Rome became nicer, Jews were given most of the blame for Jesus's execution, and Jesus become a savior for all mankind.

245dchaikin
Edited: Jun 9, 2015, 12:26am Top

copying shamelessly from RidgewayGirl, books read by date published

BCE Ecclesiastes
The Book of Isaiah
1965 The Orchard Keeper by Cormac McCarthy
1968 Outer Dark by Cormac McCarthy
1973 Child of God by Cormac McCarthy
1979 Suttree by Cormac McCarthy
1981 Tar Baby by Toni Morrison
1986 The Rabbi of Casino Boulevard by Allan Appel
1989 Jephte's Daughter by Naomi Ragen
1992 Jazz by Toni Morrison
A world Lit Only By Fire : The Medieval Mind and the Renaissance, Portrait of an Age by William Manchester
1997 The Country Life by Rachel Cusk
2003 A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
2005 Electric Universe: The Shocking True Story of Electricity by David Bodanis
2006 Augustus : The Life of Rome's First Emperor by Anthony Everitt
American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson
The Lemon Tree : An Arab, A Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East by Sandy Tolan
2008 Outliers : The Story of Success (Audio) by Malcolm Gladwell
2009 HHhH by Laurent Binet
2011 We Won't See Auschwitz by Jérémie Dres
The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka
2012 This is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz
Behind the Beautiful Forevers : Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo
2013 My Promised Land by Ari Shavit
Boxers by Gene Luen Yang
Saints by Gene Luen Yang
Zealot : The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan
David and Goliath : Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell
2014 All Joy and No Fun : The Paradox of Modern Parenthood by Jennifer Senior
Poetry October 2014 by Don Share
Poetry November 2014 by Don Share
Poetry December 2014 by Don Share
Serial : Season One, Fall 2014 by Sarah Koenig
Lila by Marilynne Robinson
Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys. by Viv Albertine

246avidmom
May 23, 2015, 8:07pm Top

>244 dchaikin: I liked Zealot too and really liked the whole political/historical picture Aslan tried to paint. My biggest complaint was the way he took stuff in the New Testament out of context to make his arguments. Uncool. So I was literally arguing with the book as I read it.

247dchaikin
May 23, 2015, 9:32pm Top

I haven't read the NT (yet), so I didn't notice. Interesting.

248avidmom
May 23, 2015, 9:38pm Top

I had had so many "hey, wait a minute" moments while reading Zealot that I made a point of always having my New Testament with me while I read it!

249dchaikin
May 23, 2015, 11:04pm Top

Ha! That wouldn't have worked on my commute while listening and driving. But I'm impressed you did that and glad to know I shouldn't just take his word for things.

250FlorenceArt
May 24, 2015, 5:11am Top

I read a bit about Zealot a while ago and came away with the impression that I wouldn't much like it, that it was more about making a sensation than serious scholarly research. Although I know that Aslan is a scholar, not just some journalist out to make a best-seller. I don't know, you make it sound interesting but I would certainly resent his insistence on forcing his theories on me. Could be worth a try nevertheless.

251dchaikin
May 24, 2015, 8:17am Top

>246 avidmom:, >248 avidmom:, >250 FlorenceArt: - i asked Jonathan about Reza on his thread and he gave me a really interesting answer. Here is a link : http://www.librarything.com/topic/191028#5165272

252mabith
May 24, 2015, 9:09am Top

Thanks for that link about Aslan! I've had Zealot on the list for a while, but I think I'll skip it now. It wouldn't be a clear-sighted read for me anyway, since I know very little about the New Testament. That's the only reason I purposefully look up book reviews ahead of time - when it's non-fiction and I want to see how other experts view the authors theories.

253StevenTX
May 24, 2015, 10:54am Top

I enjoyed your review of Zealot, though it does sound more like speculation than history.

254avidmom
Edited: May 24, 2015, 1:35pm Top

>251 dchaikin: Thanks for that link!

ETA: Interesting story about Aslan's dodging of the NT questions. If you're interested, I cited some specific times I thought Aslan was taking things out of context in my review last year:

https://www.librarything.com/topic/172371#4830716

255dchaikin
May 24, 2015, 7:47pm Top

>252 mabith: mabith, You might still consider this book. It has a good story, with lots of good information. But also there just isn't much out there like it - a serious effort to think through the history from a non-Christian, non-Jewish and not-irreverent perspective. He just doesn't have a lot of the baggage most other authors on this topic have. (Note: Aslan grew up in a non-religious Muslim household of Iranian immigrants to the US. He was baptized as a teenager, but gave up his Christianity after a short time. I can't recall if he is now atheist or Muslim)

>253 StevenTX: Steven, speculation and imaginative reconstruction is the nature of this kind of thing.

>254 avidmom: Susie, I'll just have to read the NT and see what I think. I re-read your review (which I had read last year and which led me to consider the book with warning. I would never have read after reading your review, but I was happy to listen to it. :) ). I need to read those examples within the larger context myself to see where you are coming from. But I'll certainly keep them in mind.

256dchaikin
May 24, 2015, 7:57pm Top



27. David and Goliath : Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants (Audio) by Malcolm Gladwell, read by the author (2013, 7:00, ~200 pages in paperback, listened Apr 20-24)

My first Gladwell. He reads wonderfully.

I'm not sure what to make of this, or whether there truly is a unifying theme of value. I see this as a collection of curiosities of social psychology, or, if you like, a collection of trivia. Each episode is interesting in itself. Gladwell excels at saying the same thing in many different ways, so that you sort of realize he is repeating himself, but don't quite mind. And, of course, there is value in saying the same thing in different ways. He is entertaining. But mostly this all washed past me.

Another way to say that is that this was a pleasant distraction during my commute.

I hope to try all his books in audio.

257Polaris-
May 25, 2015, 11:44am Top

>244 dchaikin: Excellent review of Zealot Dan. I also have this one on the wishlist and I would still like to get it. Sounds fascinating to me.

Malcolm Gladwell sounds like a very good read too.

258dchaikin
May 26, 2015, 10:47am Top



28. The Lemon Tree : An Arab, A Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East by Sandy Tolan (2006, 352 page library Hardcover, read Apr 14-26)

The story of a kind of friendship between a Palestinian resistance leader, Bashir, and an Israeli Jew, Dalia, who grew up in the home he was evicted from in 1948. They first meet in 1967, in the aftermath of the six-day war. In this odd period of low security and low violence Bashir takes a bus to his old home, knocks on the door, and Dalia, a teenage Israeli soldier, answers and invites him in.

Tolan documents their story as way of covering the history of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. He is meticulous with his facts and documentation. He remains impartial (kind of, as Dahlia is not an Israeli equivalent of Bashir, she is just a regular citizen) and manages to sympathetically cover the Palestinian perspective without neglecting the Jewish one.

Unfortunately the reading experience gets kind of dull. There is so much history that is just sort of wedged in there and there is not all that much to say about Bashir and Dalia's friendship other than a few interesting conversations and an important open letter.

The overall affect is thought-provoking. I found it quite moving to imagine this young idealistic Israeli girl just after the six day war trying to reason with a Palestinian, and this young man talking to her, listening and stating his case while, without her knowing, he is deeply involved in the resistance. Two idealistic young people with clashing misunderstandings in civil affectionate discussion. And then there is the after - some 40 years later Bashir has spent most of his life in prison and there is no reconciliation. This is not Northern Ireland. Nothing has been resolved - or even learned. That is sad and worth thinking about.

259dchaikin
May 26, 2015, 10:52am Top

>257 Polaris-: Hi Paul. I think Reza is worth a look. Gladwell is fun.

260dchaikin
May 26, 2015, 10:54am Top

Flooding in Houston. Hasn't affected me negatively, but with my office close for the morning, this is how I'm spending my free time. : )

261baswood
May 26, 2015, 11:06am Top

Happy free time Dan. Enjoyed your review of The Lemon Tree: An Arab A Jew and the heart of the Middle East. Unfortunately one can't see a resolution anytime soon and so the book seems to have told it like it is.

262dchaikin
May 26, 2015, 11:52am Top

>261 baswood: yes, that seems to be how it will be.

263janeajones
May 26, 2015, 7:14pm Top

Stay safe -- the flooding is all over the national news.

264dchaikin
May 26, 2015, 7:53pm Top

It's strange. I know there is flooding everywhere, not just downtown Houston, and I'm really sad about Wimberly in the hill country, but it hasn't really effected me on Houston's northwest side. I'm watching my son play little league baseball on a soggy but dry-enough field.

265StevenTX
May 26, 2015, 10:55pm Top

I'm glad you're high and dry, Dan. We've had flash flooding here in Dallas but nothing yet like Houston and San Marcos. We're under another warning right now as yet another storm is moving through, but my house is on high ground and not in any danger. It's been amazing to see lakes that were drying up after three years of drought fill up in just three weeks.

266rebeccanyc
May 27, 2015, 8:50am Top

Glad you're safe from the flooding -- I was wondering about you.

267lesmel
May 27, 2015, 9:04am Top

>260 dchaikin: I'm glad you weathered (too soon for a pun?) the storm and flooding! I sat on my couch all day watching the news. It was like a train wreck. I couldn't look away. There was a flash flood alert issued again for surrounding counties as I drove into work this morning. *sighs*

268dchaikin
May 27, 2015, 9:15am Top

>267 lesmel: Another huge storm this am. Scary huge.

269lesmel
May 27, 2015, 9:35am Top

>268 dchaikin: Yep...but a whole lot faster this time. I think I missed most of the storm since I'm so far south. I looked at the track on the weather map. I'm very glad I wasn't awake for most of that.

270NanaCC
May 27, 2015, 10:08am Top

I've been watching some of the scenes on the news, and it looks very scary. Stay safe!

271dchaikin
May 27, 2015, 8:10pm Top

All good by me. Hoping you're OK too, Leslie.

>265 StevenTX: not fair Steven, we don't have high ground in Houston.

272lesmel
May 27, 2015, 9:24pm Top

>265 StevenTX: If Lake Travis would just benefit from the endless rain! I stalk the lake numbers in the Houston Chron almost obsessively now. Travis, Canyon Dam, Conroe, Houston, & Livingston are the lakes the Chron covers.

>271 dchaikin: All is well here. Even my grass is drying out with all the sun we got today!

273DieFledermaus
May 29, 2015, 12:18am Top

Glad to hear that you weren't affected by the flooding!

I had Zealot on the library list - I have no problems reading "I want to be a bestseller"-type nonfiction about religion (I probably couldn't do anything too academic) - so it was great to read your review. Will probably want to check out some of the other reviews and make sure to have some salt when I get to the book.

274dchaikin
May 29, 2015, 12:33am Top

>273 DieFledermaus: Maus, Reza is imperfect and clearly not for everyone, but still interesting. I'm glad I listened to the book.

275kidzdoc
May 29, 2015, 6:29am Top

Nice review of The Lemon Tree, Dan. I thought I owned it, but it isn't in my LT library.

I'm glad to hear that you haven't been personally affected by the flooding in the Houston area.

276lesmel
May 29, 2015, 1:11pm Top

Dan, how did you hold up with the new round of rain? Other than my dog getting soaked, there was hardly any effect on my end of town. Yay!

277dchaikin
Jun 10, 2015, 12:35am Top

>275 kidzdoc: - thanks Darryl!

>276 lesmel: - Leslie, the rain is past and now the heat has arrived...

278dchaikin
Jun 10, 2015, 12:35am Top

I have started a new thread. Nothing there yet but my lists.

Group: Club Read 2015

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