dchaikin 2018

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dchaikin 2018

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Edited: Jan 1, 2018, 5:46pm

It's Jan 1 and I have reading plan, but not a reading thread plan. So, keeping it simple for the moment. I'll put the plan below later. It involves attempts at Omeros, Deuterocanonical books, the New Testament and Gabriel García Márquez...you know, all of his works. I know it's all pretty specific, really full, of suspect reality, of, well, a lot of religious texts (I'm not religious, but will try to be respectful), and wholly lacking in new literature. Fortunately I do a lot of audiobooks and they aren't planned.

Edited: Mar 12, 2018, 7:58am

Currently Reading:   Currently Listening to:


Next in study bible will be Baruch
Ratner's Star (audio) by Don DeLillo, read by Jacques Roy (started listening Feb 22)

Jan 1, 2018, 7:41pm

Sounds like a good plan! I do always enjoy reading your year-long author projects, even if I don't comment all that often.

Jan 1, 2018, 8:32pm

...wholly lacking in new literature I'm with you there. There's certainly enough to keep going with just Márquez, let alone any of your other projects.

Jan 1, 2018, 9:49pm

Thanks Cait!

Sassy - I have a full year planned. I'll get it down here eventually. Of course, there's always a little drop of dreamy optimism in these plans.

Jan 1, 2018, 11:50pm

Hi Dan! Starring your thread - I’m sure I’ll find lots to interest me here.

Jan 2, 2018, 12:02am

My shelf of books read from 2017

Jan 2, 2018, 12:03am

Hi Paul - really nice to see you back this year.

Jan 2, 2018, 1:45am

All the best for 2018, Dan! I like your idea of putting last year’s reading physically together.
I can’t help thinking you’re missing a trick by reading Omeros on paper whilst listening to another book on audio. Walcott is poetry you have to listen to - in your head at least. But a great idea to bring some Caribbean warmth to cold winter days!

Jan 2, 2018, 3:55am

Glad to have found your thread. I always enjoy you reviews so I'll be following again.

Jan 2, 2018, 10:42am

Sounds like an interesting year. I hope you're enjoying Miss Burma - I liked it and wished it had continued up to the present day.

Thanks for stopping by my thread.

Jan 2, 2018, 5:51pm

Hi Dan--I'm looking forward to following your reading this year, and hopefully commenting more.

Jan 2, 2018, 7:30pm

Here I am, and there is a non-zero chance I have just dumbed down your thread by a factor of 10.

Happy new year, Dan!

Jan 2, 2018, 8:06pm

Looking forward to following your reading again this year.

Jan 2, 2018, 8:28pm

warm welcome to everyone

>9 thorold: Mark, you might be on to something. But I listen on my commute and I'm not actually a great listener, so it's not like I'm thinking of Miss Burma when I'm sitting somewhere far away from traffic, reading Walcott. My problem is to figure out what to read when. Can't read a bible in the office, far too awkward. Lunch will go to Walcott.

>10 OscarWilde87: Thanks OW.

>11 markon: Hi. Miss Burma brings me in, the turns me away, then brings me in again. I'm assuming it's based on a true story - and it is a stunning story.

>12 arubabookwoman: Hi! Nice to see you posting again. Love your reviews.

>13 katiekrug: no no and no. You merely increase the snark potential. and thanks.

>14 valkyrdeath: ditto Gary. Thanks.

Jan 2, 2018, 10:04pm

Happy New Year Dan. Just placed my star.

Jan 2, 2018, 10:07pm

>7 dchaikin: Nice shelf. :)

Looks like you are keeping up with your planned reading quite well.

Edited: Jan 3, 2018, 12:27pm

>15 dchaikin: Reading life is always more complicated than it looks, isn't it? What I was getting at was that I found it made a huge difference reading Walcott when I had heard what it sounds like in his voice. I've only heard him reading excerpts from it (in the tapes that came with an OU postcolonial lit course I did), but that really made the poem come alive for me.

Jan 3, 2018, 1:20pm

“through the caging wires of the noon sky”

I’m neglecting my thread, which still needs some set peices. But just haven’t had focused time, and I’m still finding my reading pace, having started two books Monday, and finished Esther today. Derek Walcott has my attention. Wish I could share his affect, from such as the line above. But probably needs context. And, I don’t even know anything above Walcott yet.

Edited: Jan 3, 2018, 1:39pm

“Philoctete limped to his yam garden there. He passed
Through the estate shuddering, cradling his cutlass,

bayed at by brown, knotted sheep repeating his name.
“Beeeeeh, Philoctete!” Here, in the Atlantic wind,
the almonds bent evenly like a candle flame.

The thought of candles brought his own death to mind.
The wind turned the yam leaves like maps of Africa,
their veins bled white, as Philoctete, hobbling, went

between the yam beds like a patient growing weaker
down a hospital ward. His skin was a nettle,
his head a market of ants; he heard the crabs groan

from arthritic pincers, he felt a mole-cricket drill
his sore bone. His knee was radiant iron,
his chest was a sack of ice, and behind the bars

of his rusted teeth, like a mongoose in a cage,
a scream was mad to come out; his tongue tickled its claws
on the roof of his mouth, rattling its bars in a rage.”

Jan 3, 2018, 1:38pm

>16 NanaCC: thanks Colleen!

>17 AnnieMod: somewhat, Annie, regarding the plan. Enough thet I keep planning.

>18 thorold: Mark, thanks for pointing this out. I’ll do a YouTube search at some point. Honestly, it’s pretty good in the voice I’ve conjured. So, maybe I’ll wait a tiny bit.

Jan 3, 2018, 2:16pm

Keep on posting the poems Dan. And of course with all your classical reading you will know who Philoctete was - I had to google him.

Jan 3, 2018, 2:38pm

Bas, Sophocles leaves a some impact on how we view him. But relocate this “Philoctete” to St. Lucia and have him represent the African history of the Caribbean, by about page 24.

Jan 3, 2018, 9:10pm

Stopping by to hang my star.

Can't read a bible in the office, far too awkward.
This is where a Kindle becomes incredibly useful!

Jan 3, 2018, 9:36pm

but, does a study bible work electronically? Like in a usable way? Goodness, Susie, why didn't I think of this sooner? Thank you! And welcome to my still unfurnished online home in CR.

Edited: Mar 12, 2018, 7:59am

A list of books read, 2018
(links go to review on this page)


1. ** The Book of Esther, with Deuterocanonical additions (read Jan 1-3)
2. **½ Miss Burma (audio) by Charmaine Craig, read by the author (listened Dec 11 - Jan 4)
3. ** Wisdom of Solomon (or Book of Wisdom) (read Jan 4-7)
4. *** Mrs. Fletcher (Audio) by Tom Perrotta, with several readers. (listened Jan 5-15)
5. ***** Omeros by Derek Walcott (read Jan 8-18)
6. ****½ Collected Stories by Gabriel García Márquez (read Jan 18-25)


7. ****½ Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel (read Jan 25 - Feb 2)
8. *** The Book of Joan (audio) by Lidia Yuknavitch, read by Xe Sands (listened Jan 29 - Feb 5)
9. ***½ Frankenstein, or, The modern Prometheus (Audio) by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (Jan 17-24, Feb 5-7)
10. ****½ Collected Novellas by Gabriel García Márquez (read Feb 5-11)

11. *** Ben Sira (read Jan 26 - Mar 1)
12. **** Beyond Black by Hilary Mantel (read Feb 28 - Mar 8)
13. ***½ In Evil Hour by Gabriel García Márquez (read Mar 9-11)

Edited: Mar 12, 2018, 8:00am

A list of books read, in order of date published

bce The Book of Esther, with Deuterocanonical additions
~175 bce Ben Sira
~38 Wisdom of Solomon (or Book of Wisdom)
1831 Frankenstein, or, The modern Prometheus by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
1962 In Evil Hour by Gabriel García Márquez
1984 Collected Stories by Gabriel García Márquez (original collections ~1955, 1962 & 1972)
1989 Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
1990 Omeros by Derek Walcott
1990 Collected Novellas by Gabriel García Márquez
2005 Beyond Black by Hilary Mantel
Miss Burma by Charmaine Craig
Mrs. Fletcher by Tom Perrotta
The Book of Joan by Lidia Yuknavitch

Edited: Mar 12, 2018, 8:11am

Some stats:

Books read: 13
Pages: 1864; Audio time: 37:41 (~1.4 days, ~1047 pages)
"regular books"**: 6
Formats: Paperback 8; Audio 4; ebook 1;
Subjects in brief: Novel 6; Ancient 3; Classic 2; Short stories 2; Poetry 1; Science Fiction 1;
Nationalities: United States 3; Columbia 3; Israel 2; England 2; Egypt 1; St. Lucia 1; Mexico 1
Genders, m/f: 6/5; mixed: 0; unknown 2
Owner: Books I own 9; Library 4;
Re-reads: 0
Year Published: 2010's 3; 2000's 1; 1990's 2; 1980's 2; 1960's 1; 1800's 1; 0's 1; bce 2;

Books read: 932
Pages: 252,454; Audio time: 1141:06 (47 days, or ~31,697 audio pages)
"regular books"**: 602
Formats: Paperback 500; Hardcover 209; Audio 115; ebooks 68; Lit magazines 38
Subjects in brief: Non-fiction 408; Novels 239; Biographies/Memoirs 174; History 155; Classics 94; Journalism 83; Poetry 81; Science 73; Speculative Fiction 62; Ancient 59; Nature 54; On Literature and Books 47; Anthology 45; Graphic 43; Essay Collections 33; Short Story Collections 33; Juvenile 32; Drama 18; Mystery/Thriller 13; Interviews 13
Nationalities: US 578; Other English speaking countries 161; Other countries: 193
Genders, m/f: 608/242
Owner: Books I owned 616; Library books 243; Books I borrowed 64; Online 10
Re-reads: 18
Year Published: 2010's 191; 2000's 265; 1990's 162; 1980's 104; 1970's 48; 1960's 34; 1950's 23; 1900-1949 28; 19th century 15; 18th century 0; 17th century 3; 16th century 3; 0-1499 5; BCE 52

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

**"Regular Books" excludes audio, lit magazines, small poetry books, juvenile, graphic novels, podcasts, etc. It is just meant to count regular old books that I picked up and read.

Edited: Mar 12, 2018, 8:00am

A post of covers

Books read this year

Audio Books listened to this year

Jan 5, 2018, 4:31am

>18 thorold: Inspired by this I found this short extract of Walcott reading from Omeros on YouTube - wonderful!

Jan 6, 2018, 2:04pm

>30 wandering_star: Thanks for finding and posting this link. I'm not going to check it out just yet, not quite ready, but I will.

Jan 6, 2018, 9:48pm

>25 dchaikin: I read through a whole Bible on my Kindle. The great thing about the Kindle (for me anyway) was the built in dictionary and ability to look stuff up on Wikipedia for some additional info; the ability to just text little notes to myself, and highlight things. You can also compare different versions if you download more than one version. amazon offers some e Bibles for free too.

Jan 6, 2018, 11:32pm

I’m constantly looking stuff up on my phone. And then if I don’t have it for any reason I keep all this stuff in my head that I need to try to remember to look up as soon as get (or find) my phone. My concern is that i’m focusing on a specific version that has a lot of notes and kindle historically has been pretty crappy with notes. The version I’m using has a 2017 edition and I tried a sample and the notes appear to be handled well. I haven’t bought it yet but I probably will since I’ll be using this version throughout the year.

Jan 6, 2018, 11:45pm

Omeros is wondrous. Keep in the background of of your mind as you read it, The Iliad, The Odyssey and Ulysses -- as well as American history with the Native Americans -- and European history with the Caribbean -- the depths just grow deeper. And don't forget Dante,

Jan 7, 2018, 10:24pm

Hi Jane. You know i have you in mind as I’m reading because it was your suggestion that brought it too my attention and made it sound interesting. I think a slideshow was involved. I’m having little moments of awe as I read. It requires enough concentration that I put down for a few days and I’m starting over today without distractions from other books.

haven’t read Ulysses or Dante, will have to do without. Might need to look up some Caribbean history. Wouldn’t mind knowing what a laurier cannelles tree was (cinnamon laurel?).

Jan 8, 2018, 3:34am

Dropping off my star, Dan. I see you have set yourself another literary ironman challenge - best of luck with it. Will be following with interest.

Jan 8, 2018, 1:23pm

Hi Alison. Literary ironman challenge : ) I hope that’s not how my brain sees it. I don’t think I’m temperamentally structured for reading challenges.

Edited: Jan 9, 2018, 10:25am

>36 dchaikin: I'm guessing it's Family Lauraceae, Genus Cinnamomum, and then a species, so Cinnamon laurel would be one member, along with: http://www.theplantlist.org/1.1/browse/A/Lauraceae/

Camphor, cassia buds, and avacado are all well known products that come from various members of the family

Here is a photo of the Cinnamomum camphora in California to give you an idea of its size:

Photo from Urban Forest Ecosystems Institute


ETA we need polaris here

Jan 9, 2018, 12:37pm

Sassy - thanks! I dropped a question on Paul’s profile page

If this helps : It’s in the opening line of Omeros, and it seems to be a tree used to make little canoes around the Caribbean island of St Lucia

Edited: Jan 10, 2018, 7:46am

ETA - this was my last from 2017...

56. A Good Man : Fathers and Sons in Poetry and Prose edited by Irv Broughton
published: 1993
format: 290 page hardcover
acquired: from a downsizing neighbor (and poet)
read: Dec 24-31
rating: 4

List of all 83 contributors:
Massimo Taparelli A'Azeglio, Sherman Alexie, John Alexander Allen, Sherwood Anderson, Robert Bagg, Richard Blessing, David Bottoms, Irv Broughton, Michael Dennis Browne, Robert Olen Butler, Lewis Carroll, Raymond Carver, Fred Chappell, Alan Cheuse, Robert P. Tristram Coffin, e.e. Cummings, Peter Davidson, James Dickey, George Garrett, Paul S. George, Brewster Ghiselin, Robert Gibb, Gary Gildner, Herbert Gold, Donald Hall, Robert Hayden, Samuel Hazo, Ernest Hemmingway, Bill Henderson, Norman Hindley, David Huddle, Andrew Hudgins, William Humphrey, Richard Jones, Donald Justice, Galway Kinnell, Claude Koch, Ted Kooser, Stanley Kunitz, Greg Kuzma, Philip Levine, Thomas Lynch, Guy de Maupassant, James J. McAuley, Peter Meinke, W. S. Merwin, John N. Morris, Howard Moss, Pablo Neruda, Lewis Nordan, Frank O'Connor, Keith Orchard, Peter Oresick, Simon J. Ortiz, Coventry Patmore, Sir Walter Raleigh, Thomas Reiter, Theodore Roethke, Gamble Rogers, Stephen Sandy, Jonathan Schwartz, Richard Shelton, Stephen Shu-ning Liu ,Louis Simpson, William Jay Smith, Matthew J. Spireng, William Stafford, Lucien Stryk,James Tate, Henry Taylor, Dylan Thomas, John Updike, Robert Penn Warren, Jerome Weidman, Tom Whalen, John Hall Wheelock, Miller Williams, Clive Wilmer, Thomas Wolfe, Geoffrey Wolff, David Wright, James Wright, Paul Zimmer

A collection of really high quality if sometimes obscure poetry and very short stories or personal essays with a strong poetic feel. The contributions range in eras and many could not have been that easy to find. A handful of classics or classic authors, some gems from earlier (and throughout) the 20th century, but many were originally published in the 1970's & 1980's. A significant portion are from 1990-1992, and I think this period defines the feel. Broughton was very attuned to the American literary feel of this era, and back cover flap tells his previous book was a collection of interviews of American authors. He put a lot of effort in this selection.

The affect on me of this collection was along the lines of that of a literary magazine, with the notable differences in the consistent high end sense and reward and that it is all, entirely, 100% male—male authors writing about men and boys and themselves, with limited references of moms, daughters, sisters, girlfriends and few, if any, other women.

The contributions are grouped into sections and the opening section was my favorite, and struck me with the strong characterizations, and another favorite section was called "Beautiful Dreams, Vicious Realities". Particularly memorable entries include an opening poem by James Wright titled Father (which I posted in the 2017 CR poetry thread), and great entries by Sherwood Anderson, James J. McAuley, Frank O'Connor, Samuel Hazo, Stephen Sandy, with a beautiful poem on a new born baby, Robert Hayden, Donald Hall, Sherman Alexie (who couldn't have been well known then), Greg Kuzma, Paul Zimmer, Miller Williams, Robert Olen Butler (from is 1993 Pulitzer Prize winning novel, A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain), Stanely Kunitz, Peter Davison, Donald Justice and so on. I encountered many of these authors for the first time.

It's probably not a book to read straight through, although I did that and got a little overwhelmed maybe, but a rewarding book for poetry readers.

Jan 10, 2018, 12:21pm

>41 dchaikin:

That sounds interesting. My poetry reading is in its low point just now (the last few things I tried were awful) but that sounds like a way to bounce back.

Jan 10, 2018, 1:33pm

>39 SassyLassy: aha!

laurier-cannelle (1.I.i). A plant native to St Lucia. Botanical name Aniba firmula, the tree’s common name on St Lucia consists of the French names of two aromatic plants, bay and cinnamon, both known and used for cooking and ritual since ancient times.


Jan 10, 2018, 1:45pm

Jan 10, 2018, 1:48pm

>42 AnnieMod: Annie - not sure it’s a poetry “bounce back” book, but maybe it is. The problem might be finding a copy.

Jan 10, 2018, 1:50pm

>41 dchaikin: I admire your fortitude in entering all those contributors. Sounds like a nice collection.

Jan 10, 2018, 4:34pm

>45 dchaikin:

My library does not have it. I wonder if I want to try with a ILL or just grab a copy from Amazon :)

The poetry that got me off track again was the modern blank verses type that just does not work very well for me - especially when it is trying to be too clever for its own good. An anthology is a better idea then trying to work through a 1 author collection in such times so... we will see.

Jan 10, 2018, 6:16pm

>44 dchaikin: Thanks for that link. Lovely tree - you could certainly make a canoe out of that. Same family, different genus. I see that rosewood is also in that genus. Such things are never seen in these parts!

Jan 11, 2018, 7:14am

>46 baswood: fortitude or mindless obsession? It's a really nice collection

>47 AnnieMod: I have had trouble with the recent poetry magazine and other recent publications (recent being within the last several years). I sense these magazines have some pressure to break new ground and do so by finding poetry in innovative styles. But it makes it harder to find the access points or rhythms. Blank verse I'm generally ok with.

>48 SassyLassy: : ) I hadn't realized Laurel and bay were the same thing (laurel is a type of bay). This is a different genus altogether, but looking it up lead to me finding the origin of the word baccalaureate...(rewarding link for the curious and those who can't help themselves: here)

Jan 11, 2018, 7:28am

I really admire your continued exploration of poetry, Dan. Most people would not bother, and don't see the relevance in this digital age. I do love poetry but I seldom think to write about it. I recently bought a large volume of Carol Duffy's work which I've yet to dig into.

Jan 11, 2018, 1:51pm

>49 dchaikin: Both poetry and prose seem to suffer from the same ailment - editors are too afraid not to be considered too boring so they keep pushing for new stuff and it does not always work. I know that there should be some place for the new stuff but...

I have the latest Best American Poetry volume on my night stand and planning to start working through it soon(-ish). Maybe that will work better than trying to catch the poetry in the magazines directly.

Jan 11, 2018, 7:41pm

A couple excerpts from A Good Man:

From Expecting Fathers by Stephen Sandy
I put him down too fast on the bunting in the cradle
Near the stove he'll sleep beside. His arms startle,
Reach up, catching at the air, the fingers clench,
The Moro reflex, reaching for a branch.

I hear the tiny yodel, a far blood-curdling yell
As if he called out to me, shouted in fear
A half a field, not half a yard, away
I sit back, drawing great blanks on the years to come.

from Funeral Poem for My Father by Greg Kuzma
Let the house fall in
around us, let the roof fall in,
our hammer is missing or we can’t
find it. I think I saw it
on the porch, or it was in the
drawer last week, last year.
Where did I see it last? Or
in a dream? I don’t know how
to fix things. All I know is how
to break them, or wear them out.

And a full poem, Carol of a Father by Samuel Hazo

He runs ahead to ford a flood of leaves—
he suddenly a forager and I
the lagging child content to stay behind
and watch the gold upheavals at the curb
submerge his surging ankles and subside.

A word could leash him back or make him turn
and ask me with his eyes if he should stop.
One word, and he would be son again
and I a father sentenced to correct
a boy’s caprice to shuffle in the drifts.

Ignoring fatherhood, I look away
and let him roam in his Octobering
to mind the memories of those few falls
when a boy can wade the quiet avenues
alone, and the sound of leaves solves everything.

Jan 11, 2018, 8:05pm

>50 avaland: Like everything else, poetry is an exploration for me. As a later-comer to actually enjoying reading, I was lucky to have a neighbor to our first townhouse who happened to be on his way to becoming Texas state poet Laureate (more Laurels...). He allowed me to see the human side of poetry and removed a world of inaccessibility separating it from me. I have no idea what it is about poetry, but I wish I could write it. It's more along the lines of how I try to think.

>51 AnnieMod: Maybe Annie, about the editing. Could also be the nature of how art and poetry is viewed or an effect of the lack of esteem poetry holds.

Jan 11, 2018, 8:33pm

1. The Book of Esther, with Deuterocanonical additions

composition: Original is maybe from the 300’s bce. Additions are maybe from about 100 bc
format: 15 pages in paperback version of The HarperCollins Study Bible : New Revised Standard Version, Including the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books With Concordance
acquired: 2012 from amazon
read: Jan 1-3
rating: ??

I don't really know how to review Esther. The original is a cute story with a lot humor hidden in the text about an incompetent and silly Persian king who gives a freehand to his adviser, Haman. When a Jew, Mordecai, is disrespectful of Haman (for no apparent reason), Haman schedules an empire-wide pogrom against the Jews. Mordecai, apparently in over his head, has a wildcard, his niece is the queen. Unfortunately, she mustn't be a very pleasant queen because the king doesn't see her much. In the ultimate seen Esther risks her life by walking in the king uninvited. The plan works, Haman is hung, Mordecai becomes the king's new adviser, and the Jews are saved (and get to kill lots of people). This reversal is the origin of the Jewish holiday of Purim. It being an anti-gentile story may explain why Christianity dropped this holiday. Not sure.

This version I read is from the Greek translation and includes many small changes and several prominent additions. This is how I wrote about it in 2014, without having actually read this version:

There are two Esters - A Hebrew version, in the Jewish Bible, and an extended version in Greek, which is in the Catholic Old Testament. (the extra parts are called the Greek Additions)

The Hebrew version of Ester is entirely secular, and never once mentions God in any clear way. The only other biblical book not to mention God is Song of Songs. (There may be one, very subtle reference to God in Ester - when Mordecai claims alternative help could come from "some other quarter"). In the Greek additions there are prayers and religious justifications of any questionable events by the heroes. Further the Hebrew version has a lot of humor, albeit generally as a sort of biting irony and not a laugh-out-loud type. But, it's integral to the story. The Greek version basically cleans out any of this humor, keeping the story didactic.

Having now read it I can confirm that is all true, but also that I didn't mind this version. Some additions are silly, but it's readable, the prayers actually increase the drama, and the scene where Ester walks in on the king is elaborated and quite entertaining when she faints. What stands out to me this time is how much effort this version put into avoiding all the Jewishly impure aspects of what Esther does and eats and, well, sleeps with.

...but, honestly, I don't know what else to say about it. It's a quick read that slipped by without leaving barely any impact on me.

Jan 11, 2018, 9:02pm

>53 dchaikin: I would encourage you to take a poetry class, perhaps online from a reputable institution. I think you would find it interesting....

Jan 12, 2018, 11:04am

So impressed by all your readings and mostly by your reading intention list: a lot of the authors are unknown to me. I'll try to follow up here. :)

Jan 14, 2018, 10:33pm

2. Miss Burma by Charmaine Craig, read by the author

published: 2017
format: 13:21 Overdrive audiobook (~370 pages, hardcover is 355 pages)
acquired: library borrow
listened: Dec 11 – Jan 4
rating: **½

I enjoyed the first sections of this novel on audio as Craig, an actress who reads this herself, captures some interesting aspects of the mixed racial atmosphere of British Burma before, during and after WWII. Burma/Myanmar is a fascinating place with a remarkably complex history. And Craig has a great story to tell, based on the life of her mother and her mother's parents.

Craig's heritage is kind of complicated. She is American born. Her mother, Louisa Benson Craig, was from Burma and was half Jewish and half Karen. Her maternal grandfather, Saw Benson, was a descendant of a Jewish community within Burma. This community, and all the European and Indian communities are pretty much gone, after having been there for a couple hundred of years. Her maternal grandmother, Naw Chit Khin, was a variety of Karen. The Karen name encompasses melange of peoples in Burma who aren't all really related, but all are minorities in a country whose government is adverse to any non-Burmese. During the long British rule a community of Christian Karen worked closely with the British government, enjoyed a reprieve of racial subjection, and played an important role in clearing the Japanese from Burma during WWII. This was her mother's community.

Burma is a crazy place. When the Japanese invaded, they were supported by the Burmese independence movement and one of the first things these groups did under Japanese control was massacre non-Burmese minorities, including Karen. Once this caused problems for the Japanese it was stopped, but the damage was done and the mentality never left the Burmese political center.

So this is a quite a setting for a novel. And Louisa Benson really did win the Miss Burma award in 1956 (?), running as a Karen minority. The novel covers the trajectory of Craig's maternal grandparents and then her mother. It starts out really well, although there were a few writing oddities early on. For example, eyes can be expressive, but can they communicate long sentences with complex and precise grammar? Several times? From different characters?

But as the book progresses it becomes clear that the author is limited and the trend of this long novel stretches her abilities. She has some strengths. But she seems to really only have one style, roughly to make every single moment magical or emotionally moving in some way. That doesn't apply to this whole story. But she forces it. And when the story gets awkward, she tends to compensate by writing at length around this and avoiding the problem in the center (in this case maybe a family awkwardness). To me the book just fails. It gets silly and borderline dishonest (and makes the reader wonder how much license she really took with Burmese history).

Overall this is a good story that needed either a more experienced, or more talented writer, one could manage pacing over the long course, and change styles. It's still maybe worth reading because it is an amazing story within quite a wild real context. But it's not a very good novel.

Jan 14, 2018, 10:36pm

>55 avaland: Lois - I've been thinking about this

>56 Lunarreader: Hi! And thanks.

Jan 15, 2018, 6:47am

>57 dchaikin:
Hi Dan, sorry to hear your last book was not so good.
I hope the following ones we'll be better, and in all cases I'll be glad to read your reviews!

Jan 15, 2018, 4:46pm

>59 chlorine: thanks Clémence. Current audiobook has issues too. But there’s always the next one.

Jan 15, 2018, 10:36pm

57> Oddly intriguing and timely with the issue of the Rohingya crisis.

Jan 15, 2018, 11:01pm

your reading plan is so interesting. the only item listed that I have any experience with is Marquez. looking forward to adding new TBRs as you review them!

Jan 16, 2018, 6:53am

>57 dchaikin: Very interesting review, thank you. It's always such a shame when someone can come up with a good concept but not deliver it.

Jan 16, 2018, 10:46am

Somehow I have only just found your thread. I love the photo of the books you read last year - the eclectic mix made me smile.

I don't read poetry, and don't know much about it, but I would like to find time for it. Of the three excerpts you posted in >52 dchaikin:, the Stephen Sandy spoke to me in a way the other two didn't, and made me want to read more. I had a similar reaction to some T.S.Elliot I happened to find lying around at my dad's house last time I visited.

Jan 16, 2018, 10:52am

3. The Wisdom of Solomon

composition: maybe ~38 ce in Alexandria
format: 30 pages in paperback version of The HarperCollins Study Bible : New Revised Standard Version, Including the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books With Concordance
acquired: 2012 from amazon
read: Jan 4-7
rating: ???

I think I had something like Proverbs in mind, or at least in the back of my mind, when I first saw this. Proverbs is a quirky and entertaining book. This was something else, and goes down as one of the most boring biblical books.

This Wisdom of Solomon, also called The Book of Wisdom, is composed as if King Solomon was the author. He addressed the book to other rulers and gives them advise on being just, and how much better it is to be just than wicked...even if the wicked may enjoy life more, live for the day and maybe even live longer, they will come out badly in the end. Solomon then switches to first person and speaks about how he is just a regular person, and about his love of wisdom. He praises wisdom and explains how much more he values it than he values wealth (he had both, of course). The book ends with some biblical history and long section on the Exodus where various sufferings of the Egyptians are contrasted with blessings from God on the Jews. In the history and the (rose-tinted) Exodus story, no one is named, it's all generalized.

What makes this book unusual and interesting is that it is heavily influenced by Greek and Roman philosophy. This study bible cites a lengthy and remarkable library of ancient books in the notes, and they include Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Seneca, Aeschylus among others as influences. Also Philo is cited repeatedly. He was a prominent, Greek-influenced Alexandrian Jewish scholar I had never heard of. Plato's Phaedra is prominent in the notes because that's Plato professes there of the immortality of the soul, a concept used here with emphasis. It's really a Greek concept more than a Jewish one, apparently not directly expressed in Jewish bible at all (something I didn't realize. Of course, this book is not part of the Jewish bible, despite its Jewish authorship).

The book was clearly written in an atmosphere where Greek philosophy was prominent. Wikipedia and my study bible both have the book as a written Alexandria, in Greek. It may have been a response to anti-Jewish riots in Alexandria in the first century, possibly with a major one in the year 38. If that's they case, then the whole purpose of the book would seem to be to buck up a down-trodden Jewish community. And this would explain it's emphasis on oppression of the righteous by the wicked.

There a number of interesting oddities in the lines, on the emptiness of life (specifically a wicked one but you can extrapolate), on how it makes sense that someone could mistake the beauty of nature for god, and even a quick summary of the scope of knowledge of the time. But, as book of philosophy by implication, with a long drawn out dull and inaccurate lecture on the Exodus (in this version the Jews were practically pampered, and all the horrors in Exodus and Numbers are ignored) it's not a great read.

Jan 16, 2018, 11:16am

>61 janeajones: Yes, very timely. And the Rohingya attacks makes sense in this racial-purity context. Craig paints Aung San as part of this Burmese purity movement, although more open to working with minorities than some, and that this led to his assassination. Not sure where Aung San Suu Kyi and her recent silence fits into that.

>62 shuwanted: Thank you. I hope you enjoy CR as you will find your TBR's with expand exponentially. ..but, maybe not so much from my thread of obscure stuff

>63 wandering_star: Yes, true. I think Craig writes well in some ways. IMO, this was too much for her. And it's not easy to write about family when there are awkward aspects.

Jan 16, 2018, 11:23am

>64 rachbxl: I love that Sandy poem, and that's only the end of it. It all builds up to that. I find reading poetry a little different from other literature and that it requires me to be in a different mindset, or in a different collection of mindsets. I always find the adjustment tough at first, or at least uncertain. This book, for example, I picked up it because I needed a break from whatever I was reading. And then I put it down and then it kind of hung around and suddenly I was looking forward to it.

Jan 16, 2018, 3:14pm

4. Mrs. Fletcher (Audio) by Tom Perrotta

readers: Carrie Coon, Finn Wittrock, Alexandra Allwine, JD Jackson, Nicky Maindiratta, Jen Richards, Sarah Steele, Arron Tveit
published: 2017
format: 8:30 overdrive audiobook (~236 pages, hardcover is 309 pages)
acquired: library borrow
listened: Jan 5-15
rating: 3

In this playful variation on The Gradutate, when single-mom Eve Fletcher's son goes to college, named, of course, BSU, she adapts to being alone by getting addicted to online porn.

This is the only novel I have listened to by Tom Perrotta, an author who has had some success with getting his novels made into movies. He can write humor with some sense of effortlessness to it and I imagine he has some flexibility in what he wants to write about. So, I'm assuming he chose, maybe even went out of his way, to write a book that builds up sexual tension, and seems for a time to be entirely about the sex. He has some build up with under-dressed characters in non-sexual situations. Like where a Eve happens to not be wearing a shirt when her ex-husband calls. Or in another scene where a two woman talk in a gym changing room, and hug in a non-sexual manner, but also not wearing any clothes. This is all gratuitous and points to where the book is going.

The ending changes the overall impression a little. And there is something to be said for the two memorable characters he does create. Eve's adjustments to her empty nest and other adjustments later on are kind of moving, and she is always likable, even when Perrotta does some weird things with her. And Eve's son, Brendan, is a spoiled self-centered high school jock who pretty had the life he wanted in high school and doesn't adapt well to college. Yet Perrotta creates a curious character with Brendan, who actually has no idea how much he is upsetting the people around him and suddenly finds himself alone.

I'm mixed on this novel. I see in reviews that sex isn't Perrotta's usual thing. And while I'm fine with it as part of novels, this felt designed such that the it was the purpose, cheapening everything else and making we wonder why I'm was listening...or maybe uncomfortable with my own interest. But the other stuff does have something to it. This could be viewed as how an otherwise decent author tries to generate some sales by writing about sex and internet porn. I didn't hate it, and I appreciated that he changes the impact with the ending. But I'm probably not going to read him again.

Jan 17, 2018, 10:41am

68> Sounds like it might be fun book to listen to, but I don't think I'd like to read it.

Jan 17, 2018, 6:36pm

A Good Man sounds like an interesting anthology. I might look for it as a potential gift for my dad.

Jan 18, 2018, 8:25pm

>20 dchaikin: Stopped in for a belated hello and was completely sidetracked by your quote from Omeros and wandered down the rabbit hole. What wonderful imagery! And the historical tie-ins don't feel forced, which I like. Walcott is one of the Nobel Laureates that I have not yet read. Usually I'm put off by poetry, but this captivated my attention quickly. I'll look forward to your complete review.

Edited: Jan 19, 2018, 7:27am

>69 janeajones: - Yes, exactly. Good for my commute.

>70 mabith: - If you can find a copy, M. Are your parents poetry readers?

>71 labfs39: - Lisa, check out the link from >30 wandering_star: and you'll fall in all over again. His voice is deep and formal mixed with a Caribbean lilt (oddly reminds me of Morgan Freeman). It's a special book. I can tell now that my review will not do it justice.

>30 wandering_star: if you see this, thanks for link. I finally checked out Walcott reading the first section here, as I neared the end, and his voice changes the whole book (not to mention my pronunciation of Achille. I pronounced it like Achilles, but without the s. Something like a-kill-ee. He pronounces it a-sheel.)

Jan 19, 2018, 7:22pm

>72 dchaikin: Yes, my dad's a big poetry reader, and the main reason I've always read a fair bit of poetry (and why I started writing it as well).

Jan 20, 2018, 12:11pm

I also am now eager to check out more poetry, after reading your thread. Wonderful bits that you've included here--thank you.

Jan 21, 2018, 11:07am

>73 mabith: he would love this. (Ok, replace “would” with “would likely “)

>74 ipsoivan: thank for this note. Poetry wants more love and attention.

Jan 21, 2018, 11:10am

Apropos of nothing (especially as it’s Sunday)

There was no Thursday. What should have been Thursday was a physical, jellylike thing that could have been parted with the hands in order to look into Friday.

- Márquez, from Monologue of Isabel .

Jan 22, 2018, 11:56am

I just caught up on your wonderful thread. I always find interesting and entertaining conversation here, as well as, a few rabbit holes lurking about.

Jan 22, 2018, 3:00pm

>76 dchaikin: I wish it were Thursday, and I were looking for Friday!

Jan 22, 2018, 3:25pm

>76 dchaikin: ah, Isabel, watching it rain in Macondo. It’s been a while since I read that. The first Márquez I read was Nobody Writes to the Coronel, which we read as a set text in Spanish class when I was 17. We had a fabulously enthusiastic teacher who was a huge fan of Márquez, and I see now that she went way beyond what she needed to do to get us through that exam; in doing so she set me up to read the rest of his work (I’ve read just about everything he wrote, and it’s time I re-read a few). I didn’t think twice about it at the time, but I’ve often been grateful to her since.

Jan 23, 2018, 9:25am

>77 NanaCC: thank you for such a nice comment, and glad you came by

>78 labfs39: : ) Mondays...

Jan 23, 2018, 9:34am

>79 rachbxl: goodness Rachel, that was a pretty special teacher and high school experience. I’m hoping to read most of his work over the year, of course I’m only on book one. And I’m really grateful to find someone who knows him well. Any suggestions for guidance? Please feel free to post any thoughts on his works here.

Edited: Jan 24, 2018, 9:25am

Just more random lines:

Laura Farina saw the paper butterfly come out. Only she saw it because the guards in the vestibule has fallen asleep on the steps, hugging their rifles. After a few turns, the large lithographed butterfly unfolded completely, flattened against the wall, and remained stuck there. Laura Farina tried to pull it off with her nails. One of the guards, who woke up with the applause from the next room, noticed her vain attempt.

“It won’t come off,” he said sleepily. “It’s painted on the wall.”

- from Death Constant Beyond Love

Some random bits, I can add story attributions later

...and for the third time in twenty centuries there was an hour of confusion, chagrin, and bustle in the limitless empire of Christendom...


...and the exasperated and unhinged Elisenda shouted that it was awful living in that hell full of angels.


After having his coffee, Tobías could still taste a trace of night on his palate.


At my age there’s so much time left over for thinking that a person can become a regular prophet.


...and they all held their breath for the fraction of centuries the body took to fall into the abyss

Edited: Jan 24, 2018, 11:47am

Wondrous poetic prose. I think beyond 100 Years of Solitude, Love in the Time of Cholera is my favorite.

Jan 24, 2018, 12:41pm

I recently read Love in the Time of Cholera and I agree with you whole-heartedly on the sheer beauty of Marquez's words, even in translation.

Jan 24, 2018, 3:36pm

Love in the Time of Cholera is my favourite, too.

Edited: Jan 25, 2018, 5:47pm

>57 dchaikin: That sounds like it could have been a fascinating book. Too bad it didn't work. I wonder if it was because she tried to fictionalize her family's story, rather than just writing a memoir?

I'm loving your quotes from Marquez. Makes me want to go back and reread the ones I've read, and read the ones I haven't. I have the first volume of his autobiography, Living to Tell the Tale on my shelf that I would like to get to soon.

Jan 25, 2018, 7:44pm

>83 janeajones:, >84 RidgewayGirl:, >85 rachbxl: noting. Something to keep me going through his work in the 80's

>86 arubabookwoman: For Miss Burma, a memoir would have been a much different book. I think Craig likes how she writes and that she conceived the book with that style. Also, I think the book works well with her style as the base, I just think it got out of hand somehow. Living to Tell the Tale was published when the NYTimes was my only source of books. It was the first I had heard of Márquez

Edited: Mar 12, 2018, 8:27am

Finally, my reading plan, part 1, the biblical books


Tobit (20)* - read in 2013
Judith (20) - read in 2013

⁃ Additions to the book of Esther (15)
⁃ Wisdom of Solomon (30)

⁃ Ecclesiasticus, the Wisdom of Jesus son on Sirach (74) - Ben Sira

⁃ Baruch (14 with Letter of Jeremiah)
⁃ Addition to the Book of Daniel (11)
⁃ The Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Jews (4)
⁃ Susanna (4)
⁃ Bel and the Dragon (3)

⁃ 1 Maccabees (42)
⁃ 2 Maccabees (29)
⁃ 1 Esdras (20) (same as Ezra)

⁃ Prayer of Manasseh (3)
⁃ Psalm 151 (2)
⁃ 3 Maccabees (15)
⁃ 2 Esdras (41)
⁃ 4 Maccabees (36)

New Testament

⁃ Matthew (57)
⁃ Mark (37)

⁃ Luke (55)
⁃ John (41)

⁃ Acts of the Apostles (54)

⁃ Romans (23)
⁃ 1 Corinthians (24)
⁃ 2 Corinthians (16)

⁃ Galatians (10)
⁃ Ephesians (9)
⁃ Philippians (7)
⁃ Colossians (7)
⁃ 1 Thessalonians (6)
⁃ 2 Thessalonians (4)
⁃ 1 Timothy (8)
⁃ 2 Timothy (5)
⁃ Titus (4)
⁃ Philemon (4)

⁃ Hebrews (17)
⁃ James (7)
⁃ 1 Peter (8)
⁃ 2 Peter (5)
⁃ 1 John (7)
⁃ 2 John (2)
⁃ 3 John (2)
⁃ Jude (3)

⁃ Revelation (29)

*parentheses note # of pages in my book. Only useful for relative lengths, but still useful in that way.

Edited: Mar 12, 2018, 8:27am

Reading plan, part 2 - Gabriel García Márquez

- Collected Stories, 350p
--- Eyes of a Blue Dog (1955)
--- Big Mama's Funeral (1962)
--- The Incredible and Sad Tale of Innocent Eréndira and Her Heartless Grandmother (1972)

Collected Novellas, 288p
--- Leaf Storm (1955)
--- No One Writes to the Colonel (1961)
--- Chronicle of a Death Foretold (1981)

In Evil Hour, 192p (1962)
One Hundred Years of Solitude, 383p (1967)
The Autumn of the Patriarch, 255p (1975)
The Fragrance of Guava, 126p (1982, with Plinio Apuleyo Mendoza)
Love in the Time of Cholera, 348p (1985)
The General in His Labyrinth, 248p (1989)
- Strange Pilgrims (1993)
Of Love and Other Demons, 160p (1994)
News of a Kidnapping, 291p (1996)
Living to Tell the Tale, 484p (2002)
Memories of My Melancholy Whores, 115p (2004)

Edited: Jan 26, 2018, 3:45pm

5. Omeros by Derek Walcott
published: 1990
format: 325 page Paperback
acquired: December
read: Jan 1-5, restarted Jan 8-18
rating: 5

From about 1667 to 1814, as the British and French fought for supremacy in the Caribbean and elsewhere, the strategically important island of St. Lucia was fought over numerous times and changed hands fourteen times. It became know as the "Helen of the West Indies". This is Walcott's pick-up point for his masterpiece.

It is, in it's simplest sense, a story of the island of St. Lucia, one that brings in its history of conquest, extermination and slavery, and apparently the author's personal history, along with some selected context from around the world, and that focuses on the economic classes on the island, especially on the poverty. Walcott, in a magical touch, Homerizes everything. The poor islanders are given Homeric names, Achille, Hector, Philoctete, Helen and, of course, Omeros, who is blind. (Omeros is the phonetically correct spelling of the ancient Greek Author, Όμηρος.) Virgil's Sybil becomes Ma Kilman. The Englishman is named Denis Plunkett, and his Irish wife is Maud. The narrator never tells us his name, or that of his lost girlfriend he seeks to find or overcome, while neglecting his wife and children. Dante and Joyce leave their own traces, although I haven't read them couldn't appreciate this much.

Achille (pronounced A-sheel) and Hector do come to battle over Helen, Philoctete struggles with an infected and unhealing wound on his leg, and blind Omeros sees a great deal. And there is a vast finicky ocean to get lost in.

I've been shy to review this because I am not able to capture the impact of its language. The story is originally just context, an excuse for the expression Walcott makes of it. And it's astounding, even more so if you can apply Walcott's own voice, with its St. Lucian/Caribbean lilt. It's something to live in for a bit.

I found that I was ok following, and then about halfway through I was completely lost. (Achille is passed out on a boat, and winds his way to a river and then he's walking back across the ocean floor. I couldn't quite workout that he had gone backwards in time, to an African village along the banks of a large African river, even if I could get the generally hallucinatory feel.) So, I started using Shmoop, and then, as Walcott the narrator travels through the western major cities, bumping into James Joyce and whatnot, unnamed of course, I became completely dependent. I would read the Shmoop summary of a chapter first to get the story, then read the chapter itself for the language. Certainly a hackneyed way to read this. But it got me through with a degree of appreciation. If I was left with a sense it evolved for a time into something a little plot heavy, that probably says more about my reading style than the contents.

The overall impact for me was the sense of presence Walcott creates. Everything has a spiritual impact, or lives, in this language, in direct counter to that. Poverty, accidents, tourism, development all live as tragic counters to weakening divine spirits of these decedents of slavery. Parallels are brought in, heavily, with the extermination of the North American Indians, especially the well documented massacre at Wounded Knee, in 1890, in the midst of the ghost dance. Walcott, in interviews, says that he is angry. But his poem is not exactly, or not simply that. It's both more circumspect and, on the surface at least, pledging some variation of hope.

Jan 26, 2018, 6:46pm

>90 dchaikin: Sometimes you need a bit of help. Did you enjoy the reading experience?

Jan 26, 2018, 8:51pm

I'm hoping I can get to Omeros soon. It sounds fascinating.

Jan 26, 2018, 9:41pm

>91 baswood: The beginning, from the first page, was wonderful for me. The language striking but the story sense is confusing, but and then I would reread it and see it how it comes together, so there's the sound and his quirks of how he puts it. Also I felt his most powerful stuff came up early on. Maybe that's just a first-time-reading affect. Once I got lost, it got a frustrating. Shmoop helped, but, it's not really an ideal way to read it and enjoy it.

>92 mabith: Hope you give it a try, M. It's a pretty special work.

Jan 26, 2018, 11:30pm

Omeros is a wondrous epic poem, but it does help to have the literary grounding: Dante's terza rima, Homer's Iliad, even Joseph Campbell's The Hero's Journey. Joyce's Ulysses is nice, but not so necessary, if you've read about the book. The language is gorgeous. Walcott transforms the epic from aristocratic heroism into ordinary peoples' reality and historic perspective. Achille's dream/sunstroke vision is his "hero's" journey into the underworld where he discovers his ancestors. It's a poem rich in literary and historical allusions. My 10* book.

Jan 27, 2018, 1:29pm

Thanks Jane. There are a lot if trips to the underworld, Achilles treasure search with the concrete block, the ghost boat the narrator finds himself on, to the cave, maybe even Plunkett’s drive through the island. Will my eyes open when I read Dante?

Jan 27, 2018, 1:40pm

>90 dchaikin: A very interesting review of Omeros. I know I probably won't read it, but I always feel as if I've learned something after visiting your thread.

Jan 27, 2018, 3:44pm

Excellent review of Omeros. I don't think I'll be reading this anytime soon, although your review made me more interested than I had been. Having a guide to one's reading is more wise than hackneyed.

Jan 27, 2018, 7:33pm

It's been interesting reading your thoughts on Omeros. You've almost make me want to read it, but I've had so little luck with poetry that it doesn't sound like something I'll get on with.

Jan 27, 2018, 11:33pm

95> probably. Dante is illuminating. Especially The Inferno.

Jan 30, 2018, 4:35pm

>88 dchaikin:, >89 dchaikin: That's a very ambitious reading plan, Dan.

Jan 30, 2018, 11:59pm

>90 dchaikin: I think if I started reading this, I would end up reading (or re-reading) a lot of other things for background and get totally sidetracked.

Jan 31, 2018, 7:21am

>96 NanaCC: Thanks Colleen. Maybe this is one to consider trying?

>97 RidgewayGirl: Kay, I agree. But there are guides and there are guides. Shmoop was like emergency help that happens to be free and immediately available, but basic and with a very snarky tone, which isn’t ideal for this. If I had thought ahead a bit, I would have looked up a better guide.

>98 valkyrdeath: Omeros is different from shorter poetry. It’s written to be read as a narrative, so the impact is different and it fits better with the mindset of us used to reading a book. Still, it’s its own kind of thing.

>99 janeajones: Dante - will get there. Need the New Testament first. Maybe other things too.

Edited: Jan 31, 2018, 7:27am

>100 avaland: will see, Lois. I had a good January. I’ll adjust with reality and what is working.

>101 labfs39: Possible, Lisa. Just need, you know, Iliad, Odyssey, Aeneid (only book VI though), Dante and Joyce, you know, to get started. A little prep. : ) (My own prep was a bit incomplete) It can be enjoyed on its own, too.

ETA Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee is helpful too. : )

Edited: Jan 31, 2018, 5:33pm

6. Collected Stories by Gabriel García Márquez
translators: Gregory Rabassa & J. S. Bernstein
published: 1984
format: 343 page paperback
acquired: December
read: Jan 18-25
rating: 4½
Original collections:
Eyes of the Blue Dog: stories 1947-1955, English translation 1968. Translated by Gregory Rabassa
Big Mama’s Funeral: stories 1962, English translation 1972. Translated by J. S. Bernstein
The Incredible and Sad Tale of Innocent Eréndira and Her Heartless Grandmother: stories 1968-1972, English translation 1978. Translated by Gregory Rabassa

Márquez spent his youngest years away from his parents, living in the Columbia coastal town of Aracataca with his grandparents, who he explains were both great story tellers. His grandmother would mix in fanciful aspects to her stories without breaking her tone, as if she was telling all fact. He has explained these were huge influences on his writing. And it seems he was always writing.

This is my first step into Márquez. I will follow him in mostly a chronological manner, and this collection includes some of his earliest published work. The first story, The Third Resignation, was published in 1947 when Márquez was 20 years old. What this collection offers in an evolution in the writing of talented and creative story teller.

Eyes of the Blue Dog, the first collection, is weakest and yet the one I find I have the most to say about, because of how his writing changes from story to story. Several things are notable about the earliest stories, The Third Resignation, The Other Side of Death, and Eva is inside her cat. They have striking opening lines, with words like "sharp", and phrases like "cold, cutting, vertical noise", they are psychoanalytical, idea heavy, and rather dull to read, leaving this reader interested, but counting pages till the end. The Other Side of Death ends "in the other world, the mistaken and absurd world of rational creatures,” A phrase that is maybe revealing as to where Márquez was headed. These stories all have very different approaches, and strengths. In the title story a man has an intimate conversations with a woman in his dreams, one he can see, but can't touch, and who he completely forgets as soon as he wakes, even as she keeps telling him how to find her. It's an exploration of desire and relationships. It's a good story, but most notable because of different way to approaching what he is exploring. Whereas the most compelling story for me, the first one where I forgot to count the pages, was straight forward. Titled The Woman Who Came at Six O’Clock, it's only a conversation, a flirtatious and manipulative one between between a woman and a bar tender in an empty bar. There are five more stories after that, and I would say each one is just a much better story, much more readable, then the earlier ones, but still very imaginative. And, in each story, it seems he's getting closer to home.

Every story in Big Mama’s Funeral is well developed. One might say a maturing author developing into mastering his abilities. The stories are starting to feel like pieces of a larger worlds, like Márquez is just giving us a window and that he could keep going on and I wouldn't have minded. Most of these stories are very much his world in small town coastal Columbia, in Aracataca, which gets mentioned in the last story, the title story. Characters reoccur, the tone changes, and there is a heavy, if dark or darkly tinted, humor. In the title story the tone is hyper-formal. "...and for the third time in twenty centuries there was an hour of confusion, chagrin, and bustle in the limitless empire of Christendom...

The author of The Incredible and Sad Tale of Innocent Eréndira and Her Heartless Grandmother is not experimenting so much as making his points through story telling. In the opening story, A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings, an angel falls into a town and becomes something like a zoo attraction. He doesn't speak and doesn't interact with anyone, just stoically bides his time until his wings heal and he wordlessly flies off. What is Márquez saying? The main sense in all these stories is of a fairy tale, but with all the dark elements, with wonderful characters, usually leaving us with a sense of how small they are in a strange wider world they will never understand. When the outside world comes, it seems everyone always ends up losing something to them, and when they branch out, the characters just disappear. Several of these are really quote terrific, and they all leave something to think about, even if it seems mostly through the authors restraint. He just has a way of writing up strange or fantastic events in the same flat fairy tale tone and it leaves the reader wondering.

So, a fun a collection and a good start for my tour through his work.

Jan 31, 2018, 7:30pm

>103 dchaikin: I did take a two-trimester course in college where we followed the Odyssey myth through the Iliad, Odyssey, Aeneid, Sappho, The Golden Ass, the entire Divine Comedy, etc and ended with Ulysses. Needless to say, it was a great, if daunting amount of reading. Unfortunately, that was 32 years ago, and my memory is not what it used to be. Of all the things about growing older (artificial hips, arthritis, etc.), the thing I miss most is my ability to absorb and retain huge amounts of information. These days I'm lucky to remember where my phone is!

Jan 31, 2018, 7:38pm

>105 labfs39: P.S. I bought a new translation of the Inferno today. It's a bilingual addition (not that I read Italian) translated by Robert Pinsky. I've only had the Ciardi translation.

Jan 31, 2018, 8:13pm

So, therefore, before you could Omeros, you would have to read all of that over again, and forget it all again, then you will be ready! That's a really cool course you took, by the way.

(I'll bet you remember a lot more than you realize. If not words, at least impressions and whatever that ties into. )

And, goodness, haven't thought about Dante translations yet. Years ago I picked up an old used and beat up Modern Library edition, with at 1932 translation. (The book is a 1950 paperback). Guess that's probably not the way to go. My in-laws have an elegant set, one of those you are afraid to open, from 1966 (don't know the translation date). So that won't work either. hmm.

Jan 31, 2018, 10:32pm

Love the progression of the Marquez stories. Don't know them all, but I have taught "The Very Old Man with Enormous Wings" and and am familiar with Innocent Erendira -- sounds like a good start to Garcia-Marquez.

Jan 31, 2018, 10:37pm

I would have liked that lesson, Jane.

Feb 1, 2018, 2:49am

>104 dchaikin: Very interesting review of the Garcia Marquez short stories!
As a side note, I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one who is counting pages (though I have to say I tend to it all the time, regardless of whether I like a book or not, for some weird reason).

Feb 1, 2018, 6:59am

Clémence - I always keep track of my pages read. But when I’m struggling I’ll peak to the end of a story or section and try to convince myself to read those ten more pages or whatnot. A good sign I’m really enjoying a book is if I have no idea how many pages I just read.

Feb 2, 2018, 4:47am

I am going to enjoy your chronological reading through Garcia Marquez.

Feb 3, 2018, 4:29am

What bas said! Interesting review on the collections. I'm ready for more!

Feb 4, 2018, 11:17am

>105 labfs39:, >107 dchaikin: I took a similar course where we read The Odyssey, Cold Mountain, Middle Passage, Perceval, Going After Cacciato, Rime of the Ancient Mariner, and watched O Brother Where Art Thou. It was a really fascinating look at journeys - is it to something or away from something, is the journey in and of itself the most meaningful part, can an odyssey be one of the mind, etc. Would be a fun way to set up a book club based on a thematic set of reads.

Feb 4, 2018, 12:37pm

>112 baswood:/>113 OscarWilde87: thanks both

>114 janemarieprice: and another fascinating course. I hadn’t considered Perceval as on the map I’m following, but maybe I should add that to the long plan. Haven’t seen O Brother Where Art Thou either. Thanks for reminder.

Feb 4, 2018, 2:47pm

Chretien's Perceval is good, but Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival is wondrous -- much longer though.

Feb 4, 2018, 7:41pm

>116 janeajones: And von Eschenbach's Parzival leads to Matterhorn, a magnificent novel about a young man's physical and psychological journey in the Vietnam War.

Feb 4, 2018, 9:24pm

You guys gotta cut this out...

Feb 4, 2018, 9:26pm

Feb 5, 2018, 2:36am

>117 labfs39: I don't quite see how Parzival leads to Matterhorn. Could you explain the relationship?

Feb 5, 2018, 9:18am

>118 dchaikin: this was, of course, humor. I’m enjoying all the titles and connections.

Edited: Feb 5, 2018, 2:02pm

And don't forget to take in The Mabinogion and the wonderful Owen Glendower. I mean whats wrong with Wales apart from all the rain. Agree with Jane about Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival

Feb 5, 2018, 5:34pm

>114 janemarieprice: That sounds amazing!

Feb 5, 2018, 8:36pm

>120 chlorine: We were talking about books that follow in the tradition of Odysseus, the epic journeyer, and meandered off a bit ourselves. When Jane mentioned Parzival, I was reminded that it was the basis for the novel, Matterhorn. Although set in Vietnam during the war, Matterhorn uses the story of Parzival as the framework. It tells the author's story of going from Yale to the Vietnam War and how that "journey" impacted him.

Feb 6, 2018, 1:49pm

>124 labfs39: Thanks for your answer!
A combination of Parzival and Vietnam seems intriguing, I'll try to keep Matterhorn in mind.

Feb 6, 2018, 7:22pm

>125 chlorine: It was a favorite read of mine from a couple of years ago. When I finally caught on to the Parzival theme, I started reading it over again. I hope you get to it sometime.

Feb 6, 2018, 7:27pm

>104 dchaikin:

Wonderful review.

I had never read his stories - I am not sure if they were never translated into Bulgarian or I had just never seen them but it was almost surprising to see that he had written some stories. I read some of his novels in my teens and I really like his style and story telling technique. It is probably time to get back to him...

Feb 8, 2018, 8:24am

I've finally managed to get to your thread and am very impressed with your plans and organisation!

I'm also interested to see that you've given Like Water for Chocolate a four-and-a-half star rating. I've had this book for years, but in Spanish, which basically explains why I've neglected it. I'm hoping your review (when it appears) will encourage me to dust off my Spanish!

Feb 8, 2018, 9:09am

>128 Rebeki: LWfC is great fun and really brilliantly done. My review won’t capture it. But if you try it, it will tell what you need to know about whether you want to read it. It brings you in itself, as it did me. I was just going to try it out because another Márquez looked intimidating, and then I got into it without my full consent.

Feb 8, 2018, 3:39pm

>129 dchaikin: Sounds promising!

Feb 8, 2018, 3:50pm

129> Have you seen the 1992 film of LWfC? It's lovely: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0103994/reference

Feb 8, 2018, 3:59pm

I've been reading your thread but just realized I've never managed to post anything.

I loved the movie of Like Water for Chocolate, and I had the book in Spanish, but I didn't get around to trying to read it before learning Italian ruined my Spanish.

Looking forward to your continued García Márquez reading as well. One Hundred Years of Solitude is one of my favorite books ever.

Feb 8, 2018, 10:20pm

>128 Rebeki:

I also have the book in Spanish which is why I haven't read it yet since it's been 9 years since I left Argentina and haven't read a book in Spanish since. But I just brought my copy of the book with me to Japan so that is is me telling myself it must be read soon! It's just getting hard having to balance the reading between all these languages!

Feb 9, 2018, 2:58am

Interesting catching up on all the Márquez comments. Yet another author I still have to get to. I'm pretty sure One Hundred Years of Solitude has been on my wish list for a number of years now. You may well push him up the list with your thread!

Feb 9, 2018, 9:05am

>131 janeajones: I saw the movie, LWfC, ages ago and remember mainly my impression of entertaining weirdness. It left a mark and the book has been on my mind since I discovered there was a book behind it.

Like Water for Chocolate begins with a recipe and then moves on the crazy story without ever changing tone from the recipe instructions.

Pardon, all, I’m distracted. Catching a flight to Israel for a geology conference on salt at the Dead Sea. That sentence has me all riled up in expectation and fear. Traveling alone, which I don’t do, and internationally. I’m both excited and wondering what I’ll screw up. Sigh. I did prep well by spraining my ankle Sunday.

So, I’ve been distracted all week and had trouble reading and now I’m surrounded by time and books. In paper I have Márquez’s collected novellas (reading The Leaf Storm), The Theatre of War, and The Chalk Circle Man, a mystery. Electronically I just purchased the study bible I’m already reading, Beyond Black (Hilary Mantel), and The King Must Die, Mary Renault’s take on Theseus (part 1). I picked up the Mantel because of the Backlisted Podcast that Wandering Star mentioned. That podcast is smart and silly, fun and addictive all at once. The hosts are really knowledgeable and casual.

So, brain is a bit splattered. No clue if I’ll be posting a lot while I’m traveling or not at all.

Feb 9, 2018, 4:34pm

>135 dchaikin: Good luck with the conference Dan, I hope everything goes well!
Are you speaking or attending?

Feb 10, 2018, 10:21am

Speaking - but I think about everyone attending is expected to speak. Thank. Less panicky now.

Feb 10, 2018, 3:27pm

>135 dchaikin: Good luck with your speaking engagement. It sounds, um, fascinating? ;-) Will you have time to go sightseeing at all?

Feb 11, 2018, 12:17am

Lisa - yes. Yesterday I was free all afternoon in Jerusalem and wandered through the Old City. Today there is a short tour. Then some time Friday afternoon and Saturday and Sunday. (Unfortunately Friday afternoon and most of Saturday is Shabbat and practically everything is closed, like musuems, restaurants around my area and any Judaica shops. )

Edited: Feb 11, 2018, 7:55am

Hi Dan, I guess the conference starts tonight, so you are at the Dead Sea. What an experience! Have you been to Israel before? And best of luck - hopefully you'll have met so many conferees by the time you need to speak that it will seem like talking to a bunch of friends. And P.S., I took a look at the conference program and am really impressed!

Feb 11, 2018, 10:32am

>135 dchaikin: Good luck with the conference! I often found business travel a great way of finishing books that have been hanging around forever. Even if you spend a lot of time socialising with your opposite numbers from other institutions and discreetly trying to find out what they're really up to, it still usually leaves a lot of dead time for reading, especially if it's 2 a.m. or something back home and no-one can email you with urgent questions about where you left the key to the coffee cupboard...

Feb 11, 2018, 12:39pm

I'm hoping to read Like Water for Chocolate this year. It's so neat when a book really gets under your skin unexpectedly.

Good luck with your conference!

Feb 11, 2018, 4:47pm

>140 auntmarge64: wait, how did you find the conference? I’m impressed. I didn’t even say Penrose. I was in Israel with family in 2012, it was a family trip, 14 of us. I’m mostly relaxed now. I know some people, but none very well.

>141 thorold: this isn’t really a business conference. It’s more academic, which means if there is any time, the added another thing in. Busy days. But field trips should be amazing.

>142 mabith: thanks Mabith. I think you would enjoy LWfC. It’s, you know, completely unnecessary. Just for fun, but really good fun.

Feb 12, 2018, 8:34am

Your trip sounds exciting. Good luck!

Edited: Feb 12, 2018, 11:37am

>143 dchaikin: wait, how did you find the conference? I'm a retired librarian, Dan :) Anyway, you wrote geology conference on salt at the Dead Sea and it wasn't hard to find what conferences were being held at the Dead Sea this month - especially on salt. Actually, since you're listed on the program, I could have searched by name, probably. It's a really interesting list of topics being presented, I must say, and every time I become aware of someone on LT who does such specialized work I'm even more impressed by the people here.

For anyone else who wants to check out Dan's conference, here it is: https://www.geosociety.org/GSA/Events/Penrose_Conferences/GSA/penrose/1802israel...

Edited: Feb 12, 2018, 1:14pm

Hi >144 NanaCC: hi Colleen. Thanks

>145 auntmarge64:I'm a retired librarian, Dan“ - great response. I’m generally impressed when I learn about the real people here behind our usernames. My field is quite special, but I’m just a little part among a fascinating crowd (many of whom are here).

Feb 12, 2018, 3:06pm

I just checked out the conference and read your topic. Sounds fascinating although it remains a mystery to me what you it might be about. Great that your job takes you to fascinating places like Israel. I've never been but from what I hear I should definitely plan a trip!

Feb 12, 2018, 4:34pm

>135 dchaikin:

Good luck with your conference - I know I am way out of my depth when I know all the words in the title of an article but I still have no idea what the article is all about :)

I thought that I hate traveling alone until the first time I did... now I really dislike traveling with other people - when I am on my own, I can handle pretty much anything; with other people I end up being the guide and trouble-solver.

Feb 12, 2018, 4:56pm

That’s funny, Annie.

>147 OscarWilde87:Sounds fascinating although it remains a mystery to me what you it might be about.
>148 AnnieMod:I know I am way out of my depth when I know all the words in the title of an article but I still have no idea what the article is all about

Sorry, seismic jargon, you know, carefully designed to try to get the right attention. It basically means something like, “hey, we did something good here”

Feb 12, 2018, 5:00pm

PS Beyond Black is brutal. I don’t mean the writing is bad, it’s brilliantly brutal. Heavy exploration into the emptyness of suburban life.

Feb 13, 2018, 7:26am

Have fun Dan! Haven't been to the Dead Sea in 20 years. From the rate it was drying up back then I'd be interested to see how much of it has disappeared in that time.

Plenty of salt there to keep you busy!

Feb 13, 2018, 10:31am

Hope the conference is going well and you are enjoying yourself (if not at the conference, then on your free time). The hubby did a few scientific conferences during his tenure married to me (before retirement). He did not like the speaking bit, and the conferences were in places like Florida and Pasadena (on the topic of remote sensing, so a fair number of geologists attended, he says). I prefer book trade shows.

Feb 13, 2018, 12:34pm

>151 AlisonY: That’s cool, Alison. The Dead Sea is dropping 1m per year as all the water is pretty much used upstream. So it’s 20m lower. But you can’t tell at the resorts because water control keeps the level constant there. As far as I can tell there is no serious discussion on addressing this problem.

>152 avaland: Well, just finished my talk. So smooth sailing the rest of way, except for my ankle. Very interesting that Michael was involved in remote sensing.

Edited: Feb 14, 2018, 9:41am

>153 dchaikin: - Hurray, the talk is over and you can enjoy the rest of the time!

Feb 14, 2018, 6:03pm

>153 dchaikin: I think he was part of a group of scientists who developed a program....

Feb 15, 2018, 8:30pm

Dan, I hope you are having a wonderful trip and your conference sounds fascinating to me. I've little experience with conferences (my industry is all trade shows) but I hope you have been able to enjoy it despite the stress.

Feb 20, 2018, 5:26pm

I'm home again. I have a lot to update, but probably too worn out to do it soon. However, I didn't read all the much while away. Time was an issue, but when I had time I found it hard to concentrate on reading. Too much else going on. Finished Marquez Novella collection mostly on the way there. While there i started Beyond Black, The King Must Die, and The End of the Land, by David Grossman which I picked up Sunday in Tel Aviv.

>154 auntmarge64: after the talks we spent two days looking at geology around a salt done. It was quite wonderful. I might drop a few pictures here later.

>156 janemarieprice: Thanks Jane. It was fascinating.

Feb 20, 2018, 8:13pm

Welcome home, Dan. I'm glad your trip was a success. Please do post pictures!

Feb 21, 2018, 4:05pm

>157 dchaikin: Welcome home! The salt dome outings must have been a wonderful experience!

Feb 22, 2018, 10:18pm

>157 dchaikin: Pictures, yes!

Feb 23, 2018, 7:39am

Some coming...once I find the time and energy. And, >159 chlorine:, it was quite wonderful. I look at these things all the time on seismic data, so it was quite a rush to actually walk along and through a salt dome.

Feb 24, 2018, 2:48pm

some pics. First, the world from atop a salt dome. This is along the top of Mt. Sedom.

(If you have a good eye for rock layers, you might notice the light and dark layers of rocks in the foreground turn vertical and then upside down as they run off in the distance. They were completely surrounded by mobile salt at some point. )

Feb 24, 2018, 2:53pm

A room of salt. The vertical walls are pure salt. The brown stuff on top is called caprock. It's what is left over when all the salt dissolves.

Feb 24, 2018, 3:13pm

Oooooh, I love aerial geology photos! These made my day! The salt walls are fascinating.

Welcome back, Dan!

Feb 24, 2018, 3:28pm

Jerusalem - just silly shots, including my favorite meal

Feb 24, 2018, 3:30pm

>164 avaland: Thanks! I should point out it's not aerial. I mean it wasn't a drone or whatnot, I was standing on an overlook.

Feb 24, 2018, 3:33pm

>166 dchaikin:

You are higher than it, it counts as aerial. :) Thanks for sharing the pictures.

Feb 24, 2018, 3:39pm

Tel Aviv - more silly shots

Feb 24, 2018, 3:42pm

>167 AnnieMod: : ) I had to convince myself and look it up since I always associate aerial with something from an air plane. Ha. Thanks for correcting me.

>164 avaland: Sorry!!

Feb 24, 2018, 4:18pm

>169 dchaikin:

Not trying to correct you at all - you were technically correct - it just does feel like one so on the principle that if it quacks as a duck and moves like a duck, it probably is a duck, I call it that. Strictly speaking aerial photography does mean photography from a flying object. But the adjective on its own does not imply it and I had seen similar non-strictly aerial photos tagged with it. So if we need to get really technical, it is not aerial but in the spoken parlance, it qualifies.

In all cases, it is a wonderful picture.

Feb 24, 2018, 4:42pm

Thanks Annie. : )

Feb 24, 2018, 4:43pm

Great pictures! Is it allowed to take some salt home? Now that would add a special touch to a meal. ;)

Feb 24, 2018, 4:48pm

These are from my favorite stop.

Edited: Feb 24, 2018, 4:59pm

more from the same stop - Wadi Perazim

Feb 24, 2018, 5:08pm

OK, now that I have hammered everyone's browser, some explanation. These last two sets of pictures are from a lacustrine formation called Lisan. That means they were formed at the bottom of an old fresh water lake that used to exist where the Dead Sea is now and extended a lot farther than the current sea. The white/dark patterns are annual cycles. The dark layers are clay, the white layers are a mineral called aragonite. Here the aragonite crystals in the white layers are in the shape of little needles. Which means that they formed something like ball bearings until they were cemented. So the layers accumulate and every 1000 years or so a large earthquake occurs (this is the Middle East, it's not that uncommon) and entire sections gave way and contorted into these elegant patterns.

I purposely posted the explanation after the pictures, because we appreciate some things more when we don't understand them. And these exposures are exceptional.

Feb 24, 2018, 5:16pm

Last set. These are (1) originally flat beds tilted vertical by the rising salt dome (2) bed in salt breaking up as the salt moves (3) contorted layers in salt and (4) Lots wife : ) She's about 4000 years old...

Feb 24, 2018, 5:53pm

Thanks for posting the pictures! They're so interesting and beautiful. We did take the kids to a tour of a salt mine while we were in Germany and both of them licked a wall, just to see. Did you?

And Chagall! I did get to see some of the art from the Tel Aviv museum of art -- there was a special show of it in Berlin -- and the museum really has an extraordinary collection.

Glad your trip went well.

Feb 24, 2018, 6:02pm

Great pics! I visited in 1989...such a long time ago!

Feb 24, 2018, 6:31pm

Enjoyed the pictures.

Feb 24, 2018, 7:25pm

Fascinating pictures! That meal does look especially good.

Feb 24, 2018, 7:42pm

Just beautiful, Dan, thanks! Those patterns are gorgeous.

Feb 24, 2018, 9:46pm

Your pictures are amazing. The “sciencey”part of me is in awe.

Feb 25, 2018, 3:06am

Love the photos :)

Feb 25, 2018, 10:04am

>173 dchaikin:, >174 dchaikin:, >175 dchaikin: - I love these and thank you for the explanation! I was going to ask about the swirls if you didn't tell us.

Feb 25, 2018, 11:35am

enjoyed the photos, thanks

Feb 25, 2018, 12:24pm

Great pictures and thanks for the subtitles!

Feb 25, 2018, 5:01pm

>177 RidgewayGirl: Good call on the Chagall, Kay. Cool about the Berlin show. It's a terrific are museum. (I didn't lick the salt...I know, bad geologist. Plenty others did, and I took their word for it.)

>178 Tess_W: Thanks Tess, and welcome over here in CR. I imagine it was a different place in 1989.

>179 baswood:, >183 .Monkey.:, >185 tonikat:, >186 chlorine: Thanks!

>180 mabith: That meal was so good. We don't seem to do hummus here like there. Hot falafel, cold hummus and whatever the meat was (beef? lamb? I didn't ask). Wonderful. Coffee was good too.

>181 auntmarge64:, >182 NanaCC:, >184 fannyprice: Those patterns are even more amazing when you are surrounded by them on all sides and everywhere you look you are in awe. And then you look back where you just looked, and there's so much more than what you saw before. Ever corner you turn in the wadi where they are exposed is another gallery. Wonderful place. (you're welcome, Kris)

Feb 25, 2018, 5:05pm

PS - of course, it all looks better on a big screen...for those who do a lot of LT by smart phone, like me.

Feb 25, 2018, 5:25pm

Sounds like a great trip and fabulous pictures. I must show my husband who has a great (hobby) interest in geology.

Feb 25, 2018, 6:26pm

Wonderful pictures! I like the "silly" ones too. The Hoodoos in Alberta are created in much the same way as your salt walls with caprock in >163 dchaikin: except they are sandstone. Geology is fascinating, isn't it?

Feb 27, 2018, 6:40pm

Wonderful photos! I've only been on the outside of a salt dome at the Avery Island dome that the Tabasco sauce plant uses, but I don't think they let you go inside. I've always wanted to though.

Edited: Mar 1, 2018, 8:02am

>175 dchaikin: Art speaks for itself.

Those are some amazing rocks! I didn't know salt could be a force to overturn layers so dramatically! Very cool. And those fold axis in the soft deformation, textbook.

There are a few special places that can tell their stories, I don't know about you but i get such a charge out of those kinds of places. Brings me back to why I love geology so much.

Edited: Mar 1, 2018, 8:32pm

>189 AlisonY: it's a good hobby, Alyson

>190 VivienneR: Viv - my geological brain is having trouble with this, but those hoodoos are really cool. Visually similar, origins dramatically different, well from some perspectives

>191 janemarieprice: I have wanted to tour the Tabasco mine at Avery Island...I think there are tours...or maybe you need special permission. Would be really cool

>192 stretch: Kevin - I thought you might appreciate these. That's just a hint of what we see in the seismic and in wells where thick sequences are upside down. Salt creates some seriously weird and fantastic stuff.

Wadi Perazim isn't really salt related. Cause is aragonite needles. But, yeah, charge is a good word. I think geologists can be spontaneously created in the wadi.

Mar 1, 2018, 8:32pm

PS - I am reading. A little anyway.

Edited: Mar 1, 2018, 9:02pm

>193 dchaikin: Oh I got the aragonite. Mixed the two comments its a lot to react too. We have Oolitic limestone formations that exhibit some of the same behavior due to the New Madrid fault albeit on a far less dramatic scale. perfect little spheres of agargonite are slippery little bastards. In undergrad it had us utterly confused for a good week or two. It was cleary a beach environment as evident by the cross-bedding but just below the top of the bed is this metamorphic wavy jumble it made no sense until they showed us the "sand box"

Mar 1, 2018, 9:42pm

>173 dchaikin:, >174 dchaikin: Awesome. I do so love geology (amateur rock jock only). Thanks so much for posting the photos (even your favorite meal!)

Mar 6, 2018, 8:28pm

>195 stretch: That's cool, good painful brain lesson for an undergrad...or anyone else...

>196 avaland: most welcome, Lois.

Mar 6, 2018, 8:30pm

I have five reviews to catch up on, and four are from a some weeks back now. Maybe I can put in a some quick reviews...

Edited: Mar 6, 2018, 8:44pm

7. Like Water for Chocolate: A Novel in Monthly Installments with Recipes, Romances, and Home Remedies by Laura Esquivel
Translation from Spanish: 1992 by Carol Christensen and Thomas Christensen
Originally published: 1989
format: 246 page paperback
acquired: married in ??
read: Jan 25 – Feb 2
rating: 4½

Way back when, was I college senior?, I saw the movie Like Water for Chocolate. I don't even think I knew what independent movies were then...and actually I can't say for sure that this movie qualifies, but it was along those lines. An oddball but strikingly memorable artsy movie. It wasn't till I looked through my future wife's books many years later that I even realized there was a book behind it.

Anyway, finally picked the book up as I was looking for things to read a night and nothing was working. I gave this a few nights try, brain in full resist for whatever reason, and then realized I was really enjoying it.

This is a recipe book gone haywire, in the world of Pancho Villa on the Mexican side of the border. Following some weird tradition Tita is raised to take care of her mother in her old age, so she can't marry, and instead focuses on the food...but she makes the mistake of falling in love. Actually, she makes a lot of little mistakes that tend to escalate a bit.

Each chapter is a recipe and begins with recipe instructions and then crazy things start to happen, but the tone never chances. Sparks fly to the tone of adding a little more salt or peppers. Really, this is a great fun, and exceptionally well done. Recommended to anyone.

Mar 6, 2018, 9:01pm

8. The Book of Joan (audio) by Lidia Yuknavitch
reader: Xe Sands
published: 2017
format: 7:10 overdrive audiobook (~199 pages, 288 pages in hardcover)
acquired: Library
listened: Jan 29 - Feb 5
rating: 3

An audiobook I searched out partially because I'm reading all these biblical books and the title fit that theme, and partially because of some reviews here on LT, notably by Lois (avaland). Lois later posted something to the effect that she kind of wished I wouldn't read it - and probably good advice, but I was already in.

The book starts through the voice of Christine, who lives in space with a colony of privileged survivors that is tethered to a very damaged earth for resources. The colony members were born normal on earth, but have changed (Yuknavitch says "evolved"). Their skin is white, like chalk color white, and they've lost their sexuality, organs changed and sex impossible. The skin offers fresh parchment for tattoos, including entire texts. The sexual changes offers room for some creative gender role bending and mixing.

The book is fun enough and we learn about this world, and eventually about Joan, as it progresses. It's goes along in some interesting directions. I never minded listening, but when I thought about, I would always end up with a lot of empty-feeling whys. I think this one is best for those already into the scifi/speculative end of things.

Mar 7, 2018, 6:56am

9. Frankenstein, or, The modern Prometheus (Audio) by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
readers: Simon Templeman, Anthony Heald, Stefan Rudnicki
published: 1831 (second edition. Original is from 1817)
format: 8:41 Overdrive audio (~241 Pages, typical paperback is ~270 pages)
acquired: library borrow
listened: Jan 17-24, Feb 5-7
rating: 3½

Looking in library for available audiobooks, this one came up as always available, as in the library has an unlimited number of copies to lend out. I was surprisingly charmed by the beginning where Robert Walton writes his sister numerous letters about his plan to sail through the arctic. It takes a while before Victor Frankenstein shows up, and in the mean time I found Robert's language charming in its elaborate formality and extended vocabulary. But he's only the setting. When Victor begins the narrate, the sense changes.

This is a fun and curious classic. I was never able to figure out this Victor Frankstein. How much was he telling the truth? How was he not able to see how cruel he was? Why did he break down in the ways he did, and how much of the harm done was by him perhaps intended, or at least permitted? If you think about it, it's possible Victor committed these crimes and just pinned them on his monster. A curious book. Victor drove me a little crazy, hence the lower rating that after 200 years later is probably lower than it really deserves. No recommendation, since you probably already know if you want to read this or not.

Mar 7, 2018, 1:36pm

>200 dchaikin: I tried to warn you off.... :-) btw, I think the skin grafts thing, the way Michael and I took it, was that there were great draping portions of skin ...or if not draping, then many folds. A minor thing on the whole, I suppose....

Mar 7, 2018, 3:34pm

Enjoying your reviews.

Mar 7, 2018, 7:54pm

>202 avaland: You get two-fold credit, inspiration and wise unheeded advice. I had trouble with the skin grafts because every time I tried to visualize them I got a little queasy.

>203 janeajones: Thanks Jane. Trying to nudge my way back into the flow here.

Edited: Mar 18, 2018, 7:09pm

10. Collected Novellas by Gabriel García Márquez
translators Gregory Rabassa & J. S. Bernstein
published: 1990
format: 281 page paperback
acquired: December
read: Feb 5 - 11
rating: 4½

It's a pity I waited so long to review these, but these novellas are the work of a, using the word of my flight attendant, master. Not sure I can capture much now.

Leaf Storm (1955)
This is a story of transition. In Márquez's fictional Macondo the Banana growers move in giving the town a burst of activity and industry, then this all fades and the town slowly reverts back to its former insignificance. The story here is about a doctor who comes to town and stays with a family, and doesn't leave until he's encouraged to move two houses down. Over the course of time this doctor runs a strong and then weakening practice, stops practicing, becomes reclusive and finally manages to accrue the hatred of most of the town. But the story, which switches narrators without warning, is largely about the family that originally boards him.

This story stands out for its various layers of complexity that I could pick up on a read through it. It's a very ambitious work and mostly works brilliantly
I was sitting across from the Indian woman, who spoke with an accent mixed with precision and vagueness, as if there was a lot of incredible legend in what she was recalling but also as if she was recalling it in good faith and even with the conviction that the passage of time had changed legend into reality that was remote but hard to forget.

No One Writes to the Colonel (1961)
A fully depressing story because it's hard not to like the colonel and his wife, as they starve waiting for a military pension to arrive that never will arrive.

Chronicle of a Death Foretold (1981)
Quite fun stuff about a murder that isn't a mystery. The narrator is part of the tale, but tells the tale as if he were a journalist writing an investigative essay, interviewing every key character and then trying to read between the lines. What comes out is psychologically meaningful and even touching, but does a lot of different stuff along the way.

Mar 7, 2018, 8:20pm

Mar 10, 2018, 4:49pm

>201 dchaikin:, Have you heard the story about how conservative pundits went crazy about "liberal snowflake" students who read Frankenstein and had sympathy for the monster? And then got trolled for completely missing the point of the book? lol

>202 avaland:, That is exactly the way I imagined the skin grafts too, Lois. Kind of like a human version of the sharpei dog, but not cute at all. Shudder.

Mar 10, 2018, 5:18pm

>207 fannyprice: These pundits are funny, but in a really sad way. Part of the Bubba voting block.

Mar 12, 2018, 7:45pm

>199 dchaikin: You've got me curious about Like Water for Chocolate now. I've heard the title quite a few times but never really knew anything about it until coming across some reviews here recently.

I've enjoyed catching up with your reviews.

Mar 12, 2018, 9:18pm

Thanks Gary. Like Water for Chocolate is a fun book.

Mar 12, 2018, 9:19pm

I have a part 2 thread up, so closing this one.

link below and also here: https://www.librarything.com/topic/288371
This topic was continued by dchaikin 2018 part 2.