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Markon (Ardene) is present in 2020

Club Read 2020

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1markon
Edited: Jan 4, 5:55pm Top

2markon
Edited: Jan 4, 7:38pm Top

Hi, I'm Ardene, and like everyone on Club Read, I spend a lot of time reading for fun. I think my best reading experience in 2019 occurred early with Jane Crow & Song in a Weary Throat. Jane Crow is a biography about Pauli Murray, and Song is Murray's autobiography. That isn't to say I didn't read anything else that was good, but that stands out as a highlight for me.

In 2019 I spent a fair amount of time paying attention to point of view, and noticing where multiple points of view worked well and where they didn't.

Other favorite reads in 2019 include

Fantasy
Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett
The Raven Tower by Anne Leckie
Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones

Historical fiction
A tree grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith (my first time reading this)
Cantoras by Carolina de Robertis
Fruit of the drunken tree by Ingrid Rojas Contrearas

Science fiction
Rosewater Insurrection by Tade Thompson (I haven't finished the trilogy yet.)
Velocity weapon by Megan O'Keefe

I did notice that I read hardly any nonfiction, and that all biography & memoir. So with trepidation I'm setting a goal of one nonfiction book a quarter that isn't biography or memoir. No other goals except having fun.

So does Foursome: Alfred Stieglitz, Georgia O'Keefe, Paul Strand, and Rebecca Salsbury by Carolyn Burke count towards this goal? I think so. I also recently purchased The four: the hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google by Scott Galloway. And Sassy Lassy listed Threads of life: a history of the world through the eye of a needle by Clare Hunter on her best books of 2019, a book on needlework arts that sounds quite interesting. In other words, it won't be hard for me to find candidates, but to pick one and stick to it may be trickier.

Link to 2019 thread

3markon
Edited: Yesterday, 3:05pm Top

First Quarter Reads

Children of Ruin by Adrian Tchaikovsky

January
1. Foursome: Alfred Stieglitz, Georgia O'Keefe, Paul Strand, and Rebecca Salsbury by Carolyn Burke
2. The fall of Richard Nixon by Tom Brokaw
3. Thrice the brinded cat hath mew'd by Alan Bradley
4. Lost children archives by Valeria Luiselli*****
5. Edge of doom by Amanda Cross/Carolyn Heilbrun (reread)

February
6. Resurgence by C. J. Cherryh (science fiction)
7. Scarlet Fever by Rita Mae Brown
8. Manhattan: mapping the story of an island by Jennifer Thermes (history of Long Island in maps and words for juvenile audience)
9. LaGuardia: a very modern story of immigration by Nnedi Okorafor (graphic novel)
10. A better man by Louise Penny (mystery)
11. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
12. The late scholar by Jill Patton Walsh (mystery)
13. Bookman's Wake by John Dunning (mystery)

March

Insert link to 2nd quarter reads here.
Link to Bingo card here.

4markon
Edited: Jan 4, 7:35pm Top

Am ordering a hard copy of Lost children archive by Valaria Luiselli. I've been listening to it as an audiobook at night, and keep falling asleep and losing my place. It looks like there is not a wait list for the large print version at the library, so I will soon have a copy in my hands.

In the meantime, I have too many other items started, including Rosewater Redemption by Tade Thompson and Dead Astronauts by Jeff Van der Meer, both science fiction, and the previously mentioned Foursome by Carolyn Burke.

I really should return the rest to the library.

5dchaikin
Jan 5, 9:36pm Top

Hi Ardene. I’ll be following. Hoping you’re getting something out of Lost Children Archive.

6wandering_star
Jan 6, 10:42am Top

In 2019 I spent a fair amount of time paying attention to point of view, and noticing where multiple points of view worked well and where they didn't.

That's really interesting. Was it a conscious choice or something you came to realise over the year? And any conclusions about what works?

I too often make reading resolutions about non-fiction, but rarely find at the end of the year that I have a strong memory of the non-fiction that I did manage to read. I'll look out with interest for your NF reviews (as well as all the others)!

7markon
Edited: Jan 8, 12:57pm Top

>5 dchaikin: Part of the reason I'm getting a hard copy is that I need to be able to look back at what I've read periodically & I can't do that with the audio. I'm enjoying it so far, though not having names for the boy or the girl annoys me sometimes.

>6 wandering_star: I think it started off earlier in the year with some things where multiple pov irritated me. For example, The ten thousand doors of January by Aliz Harrow. I devoured the protagonists pov, but had to finish her story b4 going back & reading the 2nd pov. (They were presented in alternating chapters, but I cheated & read one pov first.)

I think it's important that the reader be able to easily identify the pov & time & place. I read some stories (Velocity weapon for example) where 3 points of view were represented in 3 places, and knowing the time something happened mattered.

And I think that whether it works or not depends primarily on the skill of the author.

Well see what happens with the nonfiction. Just finished my first one.

Thanks for stopping by!

8avaland
Jan 10, 4:23pm Top

Will be stopping in from time to time to see what you are reading. I read very little SF & F these days, but that doesn't mean I don't like hearing about :-)

9markon
Jan 12, 1:54pm Top

>8 avaland: Good to see you Lois! You're welcome to get your SF/F fix here!

10markon
Edited: Jan 12, 2:15pm Top

Foursome: Alfred Steiglitz, Georgia O'Keefe, Paul Strand, Rebecca Salsbury by Carolyn Burke.

Why this book? Saw it in passing on a new book shelf. And thought it would be good to know more than I did about O'Keefe. I discovered O'Keefe in my mid-twenties, when I started paying a bit of attention to art – woman artist, sexuality, independence and OMG the COLOR PALETTE. I've seen some of her work at the Art Institute in Chicago, but looked at most of it through book reproductions.

I knew Steiglitz was a photographer, ran art galleries, and had a relationship with O'Keefe. Strand and Salsbury I didn't know anything about.

So, yes, I learned quite a bit about these four people, and something about their relationships, although the writing kept me at a distance – it was writing about them, rather than writing that got in their heads, or humanized them. Perhaps a biography or examination of O'Keefe's and Steiglitz' letters to each other would do that, or not, depending on the writer. (A year or two ago I read Julie Phillip's biography of James Tiptree/Alice B. Sheldon and that has become my gold standard.)

I did get a lot more information on these artists than I already knew, but at the end of the book I asked myself, what is the significance of the book? What is the significance of the artists? And I had trouble answering. The author doesn't address this, nor does she ever say why she chose to do a book on these four people.

It is easier to state the significance of Steiglitz and O'Keefe. Steiglitz hosted art exhbits in New York that presented American and European artists to the USA and promoted photography as a fine art form when it was relatively new on the scene. He was also a photographer in his own right.

O'Keefe was primarily a painter and brought an individual and American sensitivity to her art and was one of the first American artists to paint abstract art. She was also the first woman artist in the US to make a living with her art. She was known for her independence from the critics, and was financially successful during her lifetime.

Strand and Salsbury James are lesser known. I think they are included in this book because their “coupledom” parallelled Steiglitz and O'Keefe's in some ways. Also, Strand and O'Keefe were romantically involved at one time, and Steiglitz had a great influence on Strand, and O'Keefe on Salsbury James.

Strand was a photographer & film maker and a protogee of Steiglitz. He had to work a “day job” a lot longer than O'Keefe & Steiglitz. He and Rebecca Salsbury were married for about 25 years. Strand eventually broke with Steiglitz. He became a socialist and during the McCarthy era moved to France where he lived the last 25 years or so of his life.

Rebecca Salsbury married and supported Strand, helping set up photography and film travel, and it also sounds like she acted as a go between between he and Steiglitz. There was some personal and professional jealousy, at least on Steiglitz' part, but he controlled the exhibits he hosted, although Salsbury Strand did much of the work of setting them up behind the scenes. She also worked a day job much of her married life to Strand. She had trouble finding her medium, eventually settling on reverse glass paining after moving to Taos, NM. She also instigated a revival of colcha embroidery. Georgia O'Keefe's first visits to New Mexico were with Salsbury James and they stayed in contact the rest of her life.

ETA: I guess the significance of the book is that it did discuss the complicated relationships among these four people and show how they influenced each other.

Overall a dryer read than I'd hoped, I'll give it 3.5 stars.

11baswood
Edited: Jan 12, 4:17pm Top

>10 markon: So are you tempted to look further into their work? Certainly three of them were famous enough in their day. Back in the 1970's before digital photography there were plenty of art books featuring the work of Strand and Steigltz as well as the paintings of O'Keefe.
Enjoyed reading your review.

12dchaikin
Jan 12, 5:49pm Top

Also enjoyed your review.

13kidzdoc
Jan 12, 9:31pm Top

Great review of Foursome, Ardene. I was fortunate to see a comprehensive exhibition of O'Keefe's work at Tate Modern in London in 2016. I didn't buy the catalogue, though, and I may do so when I return to London this spring, to learn more about her, and Alfred Stieglitz, in particular.

14markon
Jan 17, 5:58pm Top

>11 baswood:, >12 dchaikin:, >13 kidzdoc: Thanks for stopping by. I'm more drawn to O'Keefe's work, and might pick up a biography (or a book with reproductions of her art) if I run across one.

15markon
Jan 17, 6:02pm Top

The fall of Richard Nixon: a reporter remembers Watergate by Tom Brokaw

I was in 7th & 8th grade during the Watergate fiasco, and thought of politics as boring. This book fulfilled my goal of getting an idea of what played out chronologically, but I didn't find it especially interesting. Apalling yes, but not interesting.

16markon
Edited: Jan 31, 11:24am Top

Finished an audio of Flavia de Luce Thrice the brinded cat hath mew'd by Alan Bradley last night. As usual I am easily amused by Flavia's voice, but found the ending abrupt and messy.

Why brinded and not brindled?

17markon
Edited: Jan 26, 2:31pm Top

I seem to be going through a period of slow reading. I'm not complaining, but this is unusual for me. Normally I have lots of books checked out from the library, and multiple books to read, depending on mood, energy level, and the environment I'm in.

Right now I have only nine items out from the library, and am actively reading two of them. One is a light audiobook I started last night for my bedtime read – I usually manage 10-30 minutes before I fall asleep. It has to be an easy read because I have to find my place again every night.


The second book is Lost Children Archive, by Valeria Luiselli. This book is a pleasure to read, and many others in this group have commented on it. It's the story of a family traveling cross country one summer and unraveling. I've just finished the first half, told by the mother, who focuses not just on her family, but also on the fact of immigrant children in detention, and an audio she's creating about them, hence the title of the book. I've started the 2nd half, the same journey told by the 10-year-old son.

I'm not clear if it's this book that is making me read slowly, or if it is related to my word for the year, present. I'm trying to be more present in the moment, in what I'm doing and feeling, rather than planning, looking ahead, or looking back. And I'm finding a lot of titles that I'm interested in are too fast-moving or action oriented.

(And yet, when I ordered the oldest Georges Simenon's novel in English at the library, The Bells of Bicete, and discovered it was the interior thoughts of a man felled by a stroke, my reaction, even though I was enjoying the writing, was that this was too slow a novel, so that may not be what's going on.)

It's difficult, because my list of books I want to read is long, but I want to take the time to experience and enjoy the ones I do read as best I can. I'm planning to enjoy the slowness while it lasts.

18RidgewayGirl
Jan 26, 2:31pm Top

>17 markon: When I read Lost Children Archive last year, I ended up returning the library copy and buying one because I found that the book demanded to be read more slowly than I thought I could manage (at that time there was a hold list for it). It wasn't a book I wanted to rush through.

I agree that it's important to fully experience a book, no matter how many books are waiting to be read.

19dchaikin
Jan 26, 10:21pm Top

Really glad you’re enjoying LCA. I listened so I can’t comment on the reading speed. (She reads it herself and it’s perfect.) It was a really absorbing book for me. I always had it on my mind, even for a long time after I was done.

20markon
Jan 31, 11:19am Top

>19 dchaikin: Absorbing is a good word.

Lost Children Archives by Valeria Luiselli

Not sure what I can say about this novel, except it will be one of, if not the, best I read all year. And I'm not sure how to explain that statement. I don't want to analyse this book. (Maybe that will come later.) Meditative in tone, elegiac? Poetic, intellectually solid, connected to the past historically and via literature. Grief and beauty. Depth, resonanting. Echoing? I was frustrated early on with the children not having names, but by the end they do have names, and yet have their parents taken good care of them? To some degree about how children pick up on atmosphere, make statements, place facts in their own world. And experience things adults would like to protect them from but can't. Connections.

Like I said, I don't know what to say. This is a beautiful book that is staying with me.

21dchaikin
Jan 31, 2:56pm Top

I recognize that feeling! So glad you enjoyed it so much.

22labfs39
Feb 2, 10:52am Top

Hi Ardene, nothing to add at the moment, only popping up to say I'm lurking.

23kidzdoc
Feb 9, 10:31am Top

I'm glad that you enjoyed Lost Children Archive, Ardene. I'll start reading it next week.

24markon
Feb 9, 3:15pm Top

>22 labfs39: Great to see you're here Lisa! Thanks for stopping by.

>23 kidzdoc: Hope you enjoy it Darryl.

25markon
Edited: Feb 9, 3:22pm Top

Finished two quick reads/comfort reads this week: Resurgence by C. J. Cherryh (part of the ongoing Foreigner series) and Scarlet Fever by Rita Mae Brown (fox hunting mystery series.)

Currently reading



The god of small things by Arundhati Roy (looking for something as engrossing as Lost Children Archive and not succeeding, but enjoying the read nevertheless)

Because the internet by Gretchen McCulloch (can't say I'm enjoying this one, but it is helping me understand behaviors of patrons at work – the patrons I tend to help with troubleshooting and computer training are mostly what McCulloch calls calls pre-internet people, with some post-internet people that have difficulty making a transfer from using their phone to using a computer.)

Listening to An American marriage by Tayari Jones, an interesting read.

Working on a “weeding” or “update and improving” project at work – going through children's non fiction to remove books that have old/inaccurate information or are in poor condition. We're in the 300s, and in another week I think we'll be bogged in the 398s (folktales and fairytales.)

Missed the last 3 exercise classes I wanted to go to, and am wondering if that is related to how blah I feel today. At least the sun has finally come out and I can take Milo for a walk to get us both moving. Had breakfast with some friends this morning, plan on attending a Mantra chant this afternoon.

Cooking? I may live on frozen meals next week, in hopes that I'll be inspired to cook when I'm off next weekend.

26AlisonY
Feb 11, 3:04pm Top

I'll be interested in what you make of The God of Small Things. It's on my TBR and I almost picked it up to read this week, but Blindness grabbed my attention first.

27markon
Feb 12, 10:35am Top

>26 AlisonY:: Ooh, I've only read one of Saramago's books (The gospel according to Jesus Christ), but it was excellent! I'll be interested to hear what you make of it.

28markon
Edited: Feb 12, 6:05pm Top

Finished two good and quick reads during my lunches this week and last.


Manhattan: mapping the story of an island by Jennifer Thermes
is a history of Manhatan Island in maps targeted for a juvenile audience, but I would also also recommend it for adults looking for an introduction to the island and New York City.


LaGuardia: a very modern story of immigration by Nnedi Okorafor
is a graphic novel which satirizes an American take on on immigration, using the conceit that aliens made first contact in Nigeria, where they have been accepted and welcomed, and the mixed response of the power structure and citizens in the US where they are not legally allowed (except while traveling through LaGuardia airport) but are welcomed by some and not by others.

I also finished two audiobooks, An American Marriage by Tayari Jones and A better man by Louise Penny, but need some time to reflect on them before I write anything.

29labfs39
Feb 12, 6:02pm Top

>27 markon: If you would like to try another Saramago, I would recommend The Elephant's Journey, as well as Blindness. Oddly, I couldn't get through the sequel, Seeing. I have also read The Double and The Cave. Although I didn't like them as much, they have stayed rather vivid in my mind. I will have to look for The Gospel According to Jesus Christ, since you liked it. I have three other Saramago books, but haven't gotten to them yet.

30markon
Edited: Feb 14, 4:55pm Top

>29 labfs39: Thanks, Lisa. I do want to read more of him, just not sure when. Blindness is on my wish list, and I'll keep The Elephant's Journey in mind.

31markon
Edited: Yesterday, 5:23pm Top



5: Resurgence by C. J. Cherryh
7: The fall of Richard Nixon by Tom Brokaw
24: Scarlet fever by Rita Mae Brown
25: An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

I forgot about this last year, but am adopting this card from the 2020 Category Challenge group, with a shoutout to LSHelby, who creates the cards every year.

For anyone interested in participating, this year's cards can be found here (post 173), and directions for using them here (post 153).

Link to 1st quarter reads here.

Link to 2020 Category challenge thread

32markon
Edited: Feb 14, 2:44pm Top

One of the categories on the Bingo card above intrigues me - published in your birth year. Thanks to the internet I can easily compile a list of things from that year that intrigue me.

Which one would you choose of the following?

Which that you have read would you recommend?

Winnie Ille Pu by A.A. Milne translated by Alexander Lenard (Latin) (My rudimentary Latin Skills aren't up to this, but I had to include it.)

The Winter of Our Discontent by John Steinbeck*

Ring of Bright Water by Gavin Maxwell*

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark*

China Court by Rumer Godden

Solaris by Stanislaw Lem

Call for the dead by John LeCarre*

The bronze bow by Elizabeth George Speare*

Tell me a riddle by Tillie Olsen (short story, in American Jewish Fiction: a century of stories, edited by Gerald Shapiro)*

The curve of time by M Wylie Blanchet

Blues for Mr. Charlie by James Baldwin*

Edited to update links.
* means I can get a copy at the library.

33thorold
Feb 14, 10:21am Top

I’ve read the Lem, Le Carré, Maxwell, Spark and Baldwin. All good in their different ways. Miss Jean Brodie is the one I’d pick as unmissable out of that lot.

Of the ones I haven’t read, I’d probably go for Steinbeck.

34markon
Feb 14, 3:15pm Top

>33 thorold: Thanks for responding Mark. I think it's going to be hard to choose the first one.

35thorold
Feb 14, 5:38pm Top

>34 markon: Have fun! BTW, you probably don’t want to make the list longer, but A severed head and A house for mister Biswas would be on my list (if I’d been born in that year...), and there’s also one of my favourite late-period Wodehouse novels, The ice in the bedroom as a less obvious choice.

36markon
Feb 15, 4:50pm Top

>35 thorold: I did notice A house for Mr. Biswas on the list, but didn't know enough about it to put it on the list. And you're right, I don't want to make it longer:)

37markon
Feb 15, 4:53pm Top


A better man by Louise Penny (Three pines series)
Penny is a good writer, and I love the emotional complexity of her characters. But there are things I haven't liked about her novels as well – the conspiracy within the Suerte du Quebec, and in the novel before this one how Gamache did what he'd always avoided before this, putting individual lives behind the “greater good.” And I'm getting a bit tired of how he's always the savior. Am curious to see what will happen in the next one – will Jean-Guy get his own book set in Paris?

A better man seemed painfully convoluted to me – too much technique showing through? I guessed who the killer might be, although there were plenty of suspects, and she did keep me guessing til the end. I especially found the climactic bridge scene excruciating, too drawn out.

What I found interesting about this novel was the way Penny articulated an indictment of the ways social media is used to damage others, an attitude I've seen popping up other places as well.

38labfs39
Feb 15, 9:36pm Top

>36 markon: I read A House for Mr. Biswas, but didn't overly care for it. I found the main character tedious. What did you like about it, Mark? I know many people do.

39thorold
Feb 16, 3:18am Top

>38 labfs39: Well, it’s a long time since I read it — I don’t know if I’d still enjoy it now, but I remember finding the main character endearing, and the way Naipaul obviously loves him despite himself rather wonderful.
And the unusual view of the post-colonial setting. But it’s obviously a book of its time, a lot of the reviews on LT are along the lines of “why did I let myself in for 600 pages of this depressing nonsense?” Naipaul is a writer people are very divided about, anyway, both because of some of his opinions and because his personal life was not always comme il faut.

40dukedom_enough
Feb 16, 5:55pm Top

>32 markon: Solaris suffers from being a two-stage translation (original Polish to French, then French to English) but is still one of the best SF novels of the 1960s.

41markon
Edited: Yesterday, 3:06pm Top

>38 labfs39:, >39 thorold:
Thanks for your comments on House for Mr. Biswas and Naipul. I've decided that my first read from my birth year will be
The curve of time by M. Wylie Blanchet, the story of her family's summer trips along the coast of British Columbia in the 1920s, early 30s, published a few decades later.

>40 dukedom_enough: I'm keeping Solaris in my pocket for down the road.

42markon
Yesterday, 3:09pm Top

Abandoning Because internet by Gretchen McCulough because it's due back in a few days, I'm just 4 chapters in, and I'm not finding it as entertaining as I hoped. (It is informative, but not, imho, entertaining.)

43labfs39
Yesterday, 3:16pm Top

>41 markon: The Curve of Time sounds wonderful, Ardene. I look forward to your thoughts as you read it. I spent 15 years in the Pacific Northwest and always wanted to take a trip like this up the Inland Passage. Somehow never got to it.

44markon
Edited: Yesterday, 3:20pm Top


An American marriage is Tayari Jones much talked about epistolary novel. Actually, after I listened to it on audio, I got a paper copy and realized the letters are a bit less than a third of the novel.

I would call it a novel about love – not happy ever after love, but enduring love, and the difficulty of loving someone over time, especially when you are physically separated for years.

There are three sections and an epilogue:
Bridge Music
Prepare a table before me
Generosity

The first chapters acquaint you with (Little) Roy & Celestial, a young married couple visiting Roy's parents in Louisiana, and Roy's wrongful arrest, trial, and imprisonment. In the letters back and forth between the two of them you see the stresses and changes in their lives once Roy is incarcerated. This section covers several years.

The second and third sections cover Roy's release from prison and travel back to Atlanta where he hopes to take up with Celestial as his wife. This is the bulk, about 2/3 of the book, but covers just a few days (and some flashbacks.)

I suspect that different readers will relate to the characters differently. These are the questions I had for myself when I finished: How/why do I feel more sympathetic to Roy than to Celestial? Is it the character, or the way the author writes the character? It seems to me like Roy's thoughts and feelings are explicated more than Celestial's, that I know his prison life better than her life without him. And yet at the end of the book, I discover that I didn't know the external facts of his life there at all, just his internal thoughts, emotions, needs. But I don't feel like I know Celestial well at all. And Andre is almost a blank, incidental to Roy or Celestial.

What gives this book depth to me is the portrayal of complex people with differing needs, and the conflicts that arise out of a desire to care for another person while caring for self.

45markon
Edited: Yesterday, 3:31pm Top

>38 labfs39:, >39 thorold: Thanks for your comments on A house for Mr. Biswas. I'm not adding it to my list.

>40 dukedom_enough: I'm keeping Solaris in my back pocket. I'll keep the translation issue in mind when I read it. Have you seen either the original or the most recent movie versions of it?

I thought I had posted the message in >45 markon:, earlier, but now can't find it as I go back through the thread. (My thread is not displaying message 41.) Apologies if what I've posted here is a duplicate that I can't see.

46markon
Yesterday, 3:29pm Top

>43 labfs39: Lisa, the first chapter was entertaining, and also explains something about where the title comes from. (And I'll have to go back and look at it, but the idea is that there is a "curve" to time, that you can stand in the present and see the past and future.)

47markon
Edited: Yesterday, 5:36pm Top

I've finished two more mysteries, one on audio & one in book format. Both were mediocre.

I was especially disappointed in the tone and plot twist in John Dunning's Bookman's Wake. Perhaps I am mis-remembering the tone of other books in this series, but I remembered them as being a bit more light-hearted. (audio)

The second one was The late scholar by Jill Patton Walsh who has, with permission of her estate, continued Dorothy Sayers Peter Wimsey series. I liked the first two of the four she's published best, and I wonder if Sayers had more than one book in plotting when she died. I know she had started Thrones, Dominations.

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