janeajones' 2009 book junket 2

TalkClub Read 2009

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janeajones' 2009 book junket 2

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Edited: Jun 27, 2009, 11:50am

The year is half over -- time for a new thread. The old one is here: http://www.librarything.com/talktopic.php?topic=54970 .
I'm heading north on Monday to Savannah, GA; Washington, DC; Chautauqua, NY; and then to ramble through the southern part of Quebec province, so the postings will cease for 2-3 weeks.

Books read from the first thread are:
1. Some Prefer Nettles by Junichiro Tanzaki
2. A Mercy by Toni Morrison
3. Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi, NYBR ed.
4. The Vinland Sagas
5. The Gossamer Years by a Noblewoman of Heian Japan
6. The Ten Thousand Things by Maria Dermout
7. The Lacquer Lady by F. Tennyson Jesse
8. Exchanging Hats by Elizabeth Bishop
9. Baby Jesus Pawn Shop by Lucia Orth
10. The Poets Guide to the Birds
11. Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin
12. The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
13. Mothers and Shadows by Marta Traba
14. Floridays by Don Blanding
15. The Serpent's Tale by Ariana Franklin
16. The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire by C.M. Mayo
17. House of Day, House of Night by Olga Tokarczuk -- favorite so far this year!
18. As Long As It's Big by John Bricuth
19. Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters
20. Penelope: The Story of the Half-Scalped Woman by Penelope Schambly
21. Saints in Limbo by River Jordan
22. The Tale of Murasaki by Lisa Dalby
23. The Beauty of the Husband: a fictional essay in 29 tangos by Anne Carson
24. The Sugar Mile by Glyn Maxwell
25. The Man Who Died Twice by Edwin Arlington Robinson
26. The Country I Remember by David Mason
27. The Donner Party by George Keithley
28. The Golden Gate by Vikram Seth
29. The Piano Lesson by August Wilson
30. Grave Goods by Arian Franklin
31. In the Flesh Leibhaftig by Christa Wolf
32. Translations by Brian Friel -- missed this one earlier

edited to add authors that I was too tired to add last night.

Jun 26, 2009, 10:40pm

I agree re not being kosher to monkey with the dates vis Arthur and Gwenhwyfar. Read a book once about Arthur where they were eating potatoes. Holy Historical Inaccuracy, Batman.

Jun 26, 2009, 10:52pm

Potatoes?!?! -- Loved your review of The Perfect Summer -- I'll have to find a copy of it. I always wanted to be an Edwardian, if only that stupid war wasn't around the corner.

Jul 1, 2009, 10:19am

Just posting to say Hi and that I'm looking forward to your future posts. Enjoy your travels.

Jul 1, 2009, 1:10pm

I just looked up a description of #17 on your list. It sounds wonderful. I wish it were on Kindle. I put in a request; however, I am not sure how much attention Amazon pays to these requests. The majority of books on my Kindle are free downloads from PG and others.

Jul 1, 2009, 1:17pm

#5 - well, i just put in a request too, can't hurt, and it's on my wishlist... :)

Jul 1, 2009, 1:21pm

#6 Thanks! Maybe we could start a movement--get all of our friends (except for aluvalibri who wants the full textual experience - something to do with "penetrating the text") to request this book on Kindle or other books that we would like to read.

Jul 17, 2009, 8:50pm

Mary and Dan -- good luck with the Kindle requests! House of Day, House of Night is gorgeous, but I'm afraid I'm with aluvalibri -- I need to turn the pages of my books and smell the paper.....

Edited: Jul 18, 2009, 4:53pm

Just back from our NA road trip -- Savannah (to take a nostalgic old Girl Scout's look at Juliette Low's birthplace and eat a wonderful meal at the Pink House). DC (to visit son Ben and visit the American Indian Museum--Fritz Scholder, Indian not Indian exhibit; the Corcoran -- Maya Lin exhibit; and the Phillips -- a rather disturbing , often ugly exhibit, Paint Made Flesh; and the Library of Congress where we mostly reveled in the architecture and caught a glimpse of the Ballets Russe in a small exhibit). Chautauqua (to visit Mother and celebrate her 86th birthday and to see a very good production of Arcadia by Stoppard and the North Carolina Ballet. Then on to Ottawa and Montreal -- In Ottawa we visited the Canadian Museum of Art and discovered the Group of Seven and Tom Thomson and marvelled at the totem poles in the Museum of Canadian Civilization; in Montreal we happened upon the free outdoor blues venue of the Montreal Jazz festival and stayed up way past our bedtime -- and ate our way through Aboriginal, Indian and Italian restaurants.

What did I read? Well, mostly maps, tour books, museum guides, programmes, and local newspapers. I did manage a bit of Canadiana: The Tin Flute by Gabrielle Roy and The View from Castle Rock by Alice Munro -- reviews to be posted in the next day or two after I finish unpacking and laundry.

Jul 18, 2009, 6:11am

That's quite a trip! Welcome home!

Jul 18, 2009, 8:44am

Wow, you did a lot! What a great vacation! If you still have an appetite for totem poles and the stories of Native Americans, I can recommend the paintings and autobiographical writings of Emily Carr...

Jul 18, 2009, 4:56pm

Thanks for the welcome, Laura.

Julia -- I was somewhat familiar with Emily Carr's paintings, but I had no idea she was an author as well. Which of her books would you recommend??

Jul 19, 2009, 6:22am

I read 6 or 7 of the books authored by Emily Carr, but a couple of years have passed and I've forgotten much. Although she never seemed to aspire to be a Writer, she took her efforts seriously enough to do some re-writing of many of her journals. I found her books similar without being repetitive. For me, they were never boring. Her writing is honest, edgy, funny, sometimes not "politically correct"...refreshing.

One book that stands out is Klee Wyck which tells about the lives of the native people she encountered, painted, and lived among in British Columbia ca. 1941. She was very keen to understand and protest the injustices done toward Native Americans at that time.

I enjoyed her autobiography, Growing Pains, which captures the hardships, successes, and disappointments of her daily life. She was a very strong, independent, pioneer spirit, very sensitive to animals and sometimes to people. :)

If you end up liking any of her books, you will probably like them all. I know Susan Vreeland made a book about her called The Forest Lover but for me, I couldn't see how Vreeland (or anyone) could have improved on E. Carr's own writing.

Since I tend to gravitate toward non-fiction, I can recommend an interesting book called Totem Poles and Tea by Hughina Harold which has photos and descriptions of the native people and the landscapes where E. C. lived and worked.

If you just want something very light, you might want to try a little (96-page) anthology of Carr's writings called Emily Carr and her Dogs...

Have fun!

Jul 20, 2009, 4:00pm

Julia --Klee Wyck looks fascinating -- I've added it to my wishlist (which just keeps growing longer). Thanks for the tip -- Jane

Jul 20, 2009, 5:15pm

Hola Jane. Your trip sounds lovely. Welcome back though.

Edited: Jul 27, 2009, 3:10pm

My Canadian reading:


33. The Tin Flute by Gabrielle Roy (1909-83) and 34. View from Castle Rock by Alice Munro (b. 1931)

Roy's The Tin Flute a powerful, but depressing novel, published in 1945, is set in Montreal just as Canada is about to enter World War II. Upon its publication it was heralded as the first urban realistic novel of Canadian literature. It chronicles the poverty and hardships of the Lacasse family, beset by unemployment, too many children and illness. The focus of the novel is Florentine, the eldest daughter, and the only gainfully employed member of the family -- she works as a counter waitress in the local five-and-dime. Somewhat crass and rather shallow, she is nevertheless a survivor. As a reader, I wanted to shake some sense into her parents -- Azarius, her father, a wastrel dreamer, and Rose-Anna, her mother, described as the universal mater dolorosa in the introduction, but whom I found to be a passive-aggressive sufferer heedlessly bringing one child after another into an unwelcoming world.

Florentine's tale is a typical one of attraction to the bad boy while the good boy stands by to provide safety and salvation. Jean Levesque, an ambitious orphan, scorns the patriotism of those who are anxious to join the war effort, and is determined to make his way in the world through hard work and study. For him, Florentine is an amusing diversion. Emmanuel Letourneau, son of a middle class family, has joined the army, seeking to find some purpose in his life and in his choice -- he ponders the reason for the conflict and the enthusiasm of the recruits and accepts his role in the surge of history. While the plot of the novel is somewhat predictable, the strength of the writing lies in its ironic realization that the only way out of the grinding poverty will be through the war effort with its salaries and slaughter and in the vivid picture of the slums of Montreal and the struggle of those who lived there to survive. I was sometimes impatient with the book as I was reading it, but it has stayed with me in a way that many other books have not.

As a side note -- in an exhibition, entitled FACE TO FACE at the Canadian Museum of Civilization, Gabrielle Roy was one of two writers featured in the section labelled "We Inspired" (the other was Mordecai Richler).

Alice Munro's The View from Castle Rock is a collection of stories about her family's journey from Edinburgh's Castle Rock to settle and farm in Ontario. Drawing from accounts written by family members, she re-imagines the experiences of those she never knew and examines and ponders the lives of her grandparents and parents and her own adolescence in the late 40s and early 50s. Munro would have been a slightly younger contemporary of Roy's Florentine, but her rural, Anglicized life, though affected by the hardships of the Depression, was a far cry from the urban, grinding, hardscrabble life faced by the Lacasses.

Jul 20, 2009, 8:08pm

Any opinions on The Tin Flute? I have that one TBR.

Jul 20, 2009, 9:12pm

Christina -- I posted the book covers to make sure they appeared, and then went back to edit the posting to add the comments. I certainly recommend The Tin Flute, but it's not an uplifting or light read.

Jul 21, 2009, 9:48am

Welcome back from your vacation, which sounds wonderful with all those museum visits and shows. The View from Castle Rock has been on my wishlist a while now, years. Your comments only make me want to read it even more.

Edited: Jul 27, 2009, 3:10pm

35. The Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood

This is a reread in conjunction with the Atwoodian group who are discussing the book this month.

I had forgotten what a wonderfully delightful, engrossing and wicked book The Robber Bride is. Truly Atwood at her best.

It's the intertwined stories of 3 women, who encountered each other in University and whose lives are all disrupted by the beautiful, conniving, deceitful and mysterious Zenia. When we first meet them, they are middle-aged friends meeting each other for lunch at a Toronto restaurant called Toxique. Tony, a professor of military history, is obsessed with battles. Roz, a wealthy widow, an heiress and successful executive is raising smart-ass twin girls and a rather lost 20-something son. Charis, an aging hippie who works in a New-Age store, is bewildered by her glittering, ambitious daughter August(a). Although they thought they had buried Zenia 5 years earlier, she sweeps into the restaurant, spreading bewilderment, consternation and fear among the women.

What struck me this time through was the mythic dimension of the tale. Zenia is the dark side of Tony, Charis, and Roz -- what Diane Wolkstein calls the witchy, bitchy, miserable, woman -- Ereshkigal, Inanna's dark sister, whom Inanna must descend into the underworld to meet in order to come to the full realization of herself.

It's one of the oldest recorded myths in history -- Inanna -- "The Descent of Inanna": http://www-etcsl.orient.ox.ac.uk/section...

But Atwood's reinterpretation is thoroughly modern, and the trio of heroines also slyly resemble the three fairies in Disney's Sleeping Beauty as well as The Witches of Eastwick (originally published in 1984).

Wonderful characters, layers of suggestions, thoroughly entertaining.

Jul 27, 2009, 3:15pm

36. Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama

I didn't have a chance to read this during the election madness, but I'm glad I picked up now. Obama writes eloquently as one may imagine, but the thing that struck me the most about the book was the man's humanity. His stories about his life in Indonesia, Hawaii, organizing in Chicago and getting to know family in Kenya were fascinating and revealing about his character and development. 4 stars.

Edited: Jul 28, 2009, 1:23pm

37. Oh! A Mystery of Mono No Aware! by Todd Shimoda; Art by L.J.C. Shimodo
This is an ER ARC.

First of all, this book was a physical pleasure to read. The text pages were silky, the intervening pages were textured, the abstract paintings evoked both the art described in the text and the natural world, the heading of each chapter included a whimsical drawing.

mono: things, stuff
no: of
aware: emotion, especially a deep sadness
(as first defined in the book)

Oh! is a novel about a young Japanese-American man, Zack Hara, who has given up his technical writing job to visit Japan and try to awaken some kind of deep emotion. In Numazu, a city in the shadow of Mt. Fuji, he works at a school teaching English -- until his illegal status puts the school in jeopardy. One of his students, Professor Imai, a brain researcher, hires him to edit a paper he is writing. During a conversation, the professor introduces Zack to the concept of mono no aware, and Zack, with the professor's guidance, begins a search to understand and experience this particularly Japanese emotion.

My previous knowledge of mono no aware comes from reading Heian literature (especially The Tale of Genji and As I Crossed a Bridge of Dreams) and Noh drama, in which I understood it to be an intimate connection with the ephemeral quality of the natural world -- embodied in such activities as viewing cherry blossoms and moon-gazing. As a literary concept, the term does not come into use until the 17th century with the writings of Motoori Norinaga (rather as the concept of courtly love in medieval Western literature is articulated by later literary critics).

While I think my experience with Heian literature enriched my appreciation of the novel, such experience is certainly not necessary for an appreciation of the book, as the author, Zack and Professor Imai, provide ample illustration.

Zack's quest for emotional connection leads him to search for his immigrant grandfather's origins, to probe for motivations that led a group of four young people to join a suicide club and kill themselves in the Aokigahara Forest, to paint and break through his resistance to composing poetry, to probe a private secret in the professor's life. Yet he remains detached from the women in his life -- an anti-Genji? His quest is seductive and dangerous, as all good quests should be, and absolutely rooted in 21st century life with its technologies, bureaucracies, and mind-numbing distractions.

I'm still thinking about this book, but I do recommend it, and it's probably one I will revisit in the not too distant future -- if for nothing else to enjoy the sensuousness of turning the pages.

Jul 28, 2009, 11:17am

I am mystified.

Jul 28, 2009, 11:26am

Mystified by what?

Jul 28, 2009, 12:55pm

No longer mystified. Your initial post just said Mono no aware. I was thinking "Mono" as in the disease and the "no aware" had me mystified.

Jul 28, 2009, 1:00pm

I peaked before the review was posted too, just an image and title... but now there is a very nice review. Sounds fascinating.

Jul 28, 2009, 1:20pm

I have a bad habit of checking to make sure my html markers are working and then going back to write the reviews -- sorry for any confusion....

Jul 28, 2009, 6:34pm

re 22 This is such an excellent review of Todd Shimoda's Oh! A mystery of 'mono no aware' that I'll be hard-pressed to equal it when I write my own. I agree that this is a most sensual and intriguing book.

Jul 29, 2009, 6:23am

Fascinating! Looks like a really good book.

Jul 29, 2009, 10:41am

28> Julia -- I'm sure with your direct knowledge of Japan and the language that you'll have really good insights about the Shimodo novel. My knowledge of Japan is strictly from the armchair pages.

Jul 29, 2009, 4:55pm

@28: ...but the wonderful thing about reading is that you can "be there" without really "being there", as your astute comments on Oh! A Mystery of 'mono no aware' and other Japanese-related works (like the Genji and Dalby's Tale of Murasaki, etc.) prove!

Aug 1, 2009, 5:04pm

Dipping in and out of:


Novels into Film by George Bluestone and Film Adaptation ed. by James Naremore

Bluestone's book is generally acknowledged to be the first (1957) academic book on the adaptation of novels into films. Naremore's collection (2000) contains essays drawing on structuralist and post-structuralist theory to grapple with the ideas of adaptation, translation, signification, connecting film and novel.

Edited: Aug 4, 2009, 9:09am

38. Harriet Hume: A London Fantasy by Rebecca West

This is a rather odd little book about an ambitious politician who rises from obscure beginnings and his "opposite," an intuitive pianist who reads his mind. I have mixed feelings about the book. It strikes me as an allegorical parable of the struggle of the Mind vs. the Spirit. It started out quite delightfully, and as I was reading it, I thought it would take on more Jungian aspects rather like Hesse's Steppenwolf, but it never got much beyond the self-involved internal rantings of the protagonist, Arnold Condorex, whom I really disliked by the end of the book. It's the first book by West that I have read, and I'm not sure I'll seek out others any time soon.

Aug 2, 2009, 10:38pm

Interesting premise, but I won't run out and get that one.

Aug 3, 2009, 9:17pm

Great reviews, Jane! Just popping in to catch up. Seems I have an unread Todd Shimoda novel somewhere in my library...

Aug 4, 2009, 9:06am

This message has been deleted by its author.

Edited: Aug 4, 2009, 1:47pm

39. The Robber Bridegroom by Eudora Welty

A delightfully told fairytale set along the Natchez Trace featuring Mike Fink and the Harp brothers. Bandit leader Jamie Lockhart kidnaps the fair Rosamund and therein hangs a tale. Great fun.

Aug 4, 2009, 11:41am

Jane, you need to take the space out after the The Robber Bridegroom is one of my top-wanted VMCs, so it's good to hear you thought it a fun read.

Aug 4, 2009, 1:49pm

Thanks, Christina -- I was tired last night and LT wasn't cooperating -- I think I've fixed it now. I enjoyed The Robber Bridegroom, but my favorite of Welty's books is Delta Wedding -- gentle, beautiful and rather profound.

Edited: Aug 22, 2009, 5:10pm

A couple of detours from the usual reading --

When I was in fourth grade, I begged and pleaded with my parents to let me join the Weekly Reader Book Club, and for a year I was treated to books in the mail every other month or so. Although this was the only year, the delicious experience of opening a mail package with a book inside has never left -- hence my various flirtations with BOMC, QPBC, various Time-Life series, and now Amazon. I ran across a familiar title about a month ago, and decided to revisit my childhood pleasures by rereading the year's worth of books I got by mail. I had a couple of the originals, ordered a couple more -- the only one missing is David and the Phoenix -- any WR edition is currently beyond my budget. What I did read are:

41-44. No Children No Pets by Marion Holland remains my favorite -- a charming story of a family relocating from Philadelphia to a coastal town in Florida when their mother inherits a motel filled with elderly residents.

Danny Dunn and the Anti-Gravity Paint by Jay Williams is an amusing tale about space flight written at the onset of the space age.

Follow My Leader by James Garfield tells the tale a boy, blinded by a firecracker, learning to be independent and compassionate.

Ride Like An Indian by Henry V. Larom takes place on a dude ranch in Wyoming where Jerry is befriended by Sam, an Indian boy, who teaches him how to ride bareback. The relationship between white and Indian is a trifle patronizing, though probably sensitive for the times.

A Dog for Davie's Hill by Clare Bice features a young Scottish sheepherder and the dog he falls in love with.

The other detour has been a reread of novels and novellas I'm teaching this fall.

46-51. Joseph Andrews by Henry Fielding, Silas Marner by George Eliot, Death in Venice by Thomas Mann, Beloved by Toni Morrison, The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera and Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi.

Edited: Aug 17, 2009, 12:30pm

You did Weekly Reader Books too!

My favorites were The Snowstorm by Beryl Netherclift and The Kidnapped Circus by Richard Edward Wormser. Do you know if there's a complete list of Weekly Reader Books anywhere? Both of mine belonged in what was called the Senior Division. My favorite junior division book, which also won the 1967 Caldecott Medal, was Sam, Bangs, and Moonshine written and illustrated by Evaline Ness. We should start a Weekly Reader's Book Club just like the Virago club.

Edited: Aug 17, 2009, 4:57pm

OK, Mary -- you sent me hunting through my bookshelves for other Weekly Reader Books -- I found a few young reader ones that we got when I subscribed for Benjamin back in the early 80s -- his favorite was The Book of Giant Stories by David Harrison. Mine (and my daughter Caitlin's) was Christina, Katerina and the Box. I think the ones I got as a kid must have been in the junior division -- I do remember reading Sam, Bangs, and Moonshine sometime -- probably to one of the kids, but then I'm a fair deal older than you.

I googled Weekly Reader Book Club, but couldn't find a complete list -- there are over 600 books labelled Weekly Reader or Weekly Reader Book Club on LT. I'm game if you are for a Group thing -- do you think others would be interested?

Aug 17, 2009, 5:04pm


Let's send out messages to all our friends and see if they're interested in forming a group.

Aug 18, 2009, 1:12am

Wonderful! Other people reading kids' books! :)

Aug 18, 2009, 7:29am

Wonderful indeed! I collect kids' books, especially old ones, and I am thrilled when I discover a new one.
Following pour posts, Jane and Mary, yesterday I put a copy of The Snowstorm on my Amazon wishlist, but I think I will just go buy it...NOW!

Aug 18, 2009, 8:21am

43> Is there a way to sent out a message to multiple friends on LT?

44,45> Some of my favorite books are kids books -- I have a few shelves dedicated to them -- now, if only there were some grandchildren to share them with....

Edited: Oct 11, 2009, 8:23pm

52. Under the Sun by Hanne Marie Svendsen

This was a rather mesmerizing book about one woman's life, Margarethe Theide, and her interaction with the Danish community around her. While deceptively understated (very Scandinavian), the writing subtly combines elements of fairytale and folklore, political protest, psychological reflection, and linguistics. I read this book in fragments, as I was going to bed at night, and it certainly induced some interesting dreams. I plan to go back and read it again -- straight through, so I can get a better sense of the whole. Definitely recommended -- see also depressaholic's review on the book's main page.

Edited: Aug 18, 2009, 9:48am


Hanne Marie Svendsen has written a number of books, of which only one other has been translated into English - The Gold Ball. It, too, is a lovely book and well worth the read even if a hair less fine than Under the Sun.

Aug 18, 2009, 10:44am

jane/Mary - What an interesting sounding book. (Is that grammatically correct?...actually, don't answer that). Nice reviews here and by depressaholic.

Aug 18, 2009, 12:25pm

temptress! -- there's a "very good" copy of The Gold Ball on Amazon -- oops, it's gone....

Edited: Aug 22, 2009, 5:12pm

53. The Jam Jar Lifeboat & Other Novelties Exposed

A delicious little book of verse by the current Poet Laureate, Kay Ryan. Each of the poems is based on an entry in Ripley's Believe It or Not.

The Jam Jar Lifeboat

invented in 1831 by a man named Bateman who insisted it was unsinkable, sank the first time it was tested. -- Ripley's Believe It or Not

It was quixotic to think
the cold grey North Atlantic
might be survived in a jam jar boat.
It is not enough that one of something
can be made to float with its lid sealed tight.
One rat might survive one night
on a single treadmill bottle
but even that would be a battle.
Bateman always hated how small truths
extrapolated so poorly. He came up with
really good small ones almost hourly.

Edited: Aug 22, 2009, 5:12pm

54. The Days the Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan -- LTER ARC

An entertaining if not very profound historical romance. The novel spans the years from Canada's entrance into World War I through the building of the first hydroelectric power plant at Niagara Falls in the years following the war. The narrator/protagonist, Bess, is the younger daughter of a family that has fallen on hard times when her father loses his position. She falls in love with Tom Cole, a riverman, outside her family's social class. The usual conflict arises within the family, but Bess stays true to her heart. While the book has a tragic undertone and touches on political corruption, I found it a bit glib. Although there are some enticing descriptions of the Niagara landscape, the author really seems to be more interested in the intricacies of the dressmaking to which Bess and her mother resort to support the family. The inclusion of some photographs and newspaper clippings from the time teased with the possibility of a much richer and deeper story

Edited: Sep 5, 2009, 10:11pm

My Life in France by Julia Child

55. Saw the movie, was gifted the book -- it was a lovely, frothy bedtime escape for the the first week back to work -- and I didn't have to cook anything!

Sep 11, 2009, 12:51am

Can't wait to see the movie of this. We adore the Divine Meryl here.

Was it good?

Sep 11, 2009, 7:21am

The movie was very good, Murr.
Meryl is A B S O L U T E L Y F A N T A S T I C!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (as usual). I will be surprised if she does not get an Oscar nomination.

Edited: Sep 11, 2009, 7:48am

The movie was great in the parts with Meryl/Julia. Alas, part of the movie was also devoted to Julie/Amy(?). The friend I went with said the movie makers needed the Julie part because that's what attracted the younger viewers on whom movie makers depend. Personally, I could have used 100% Julia/Meryl.

Sep 11, 2009, 1:31pm

Meryl was, as always, wonderful (I've been watching her since she debuted at Lincoln Center in a supporting role in TRELAWNEY OF THE WELLS back in the early 70s). Stanley Tucci as her husband Paul was just right -- another great actor. The Julie story was OK. My husband went with my daughter and me and agreed it was a great chick flick with excellent acting on the parts of Streep and Tucci.

Edited: Oct 4, 2009, 4:48pm

I've just finished reading Toni Morrison's Beloved for the fourth or fifth time, and I'm sure it won't be the last time. This is THE great American novel. No one has confronted the terrors of slavery and the toll that both slavery and prejudice have taken on individuals and on our country as fully or as bravely as Morrison has. And I doubt that anyone else has the poetic gifts that she brings to her writing to make us see what has been done and what needs to be done.

If you are an American, and you have not read this book, shame on you. And what a treat you have in store for you if you dare to pick it up and engage with Morrison's vision. (*****)

Oct 7, 2009, 3:31pm

I haven't. But I did just buy it the other day and will promptly move it to the top of the TBR. I recently finished Uncle Tom's Cabin so I think it will be interesting to compare the two. Thanks for the nudge in that direction.

Oct 7, 2009, 7:11pm

Oh -- I'll be fascinated with your comparison of the two.

Edited: Nov 22, 2009, 5:36pm

I've been MIA, but I have been reading. Besides sophomore essays, lots has been rereading for classes:

Sakuntala by Kalidasa, the classic Indian dramatist -- a gentle, lovely, courtly romantic comedy.
poems from the Manyoshu and Kokinshu -- the earliest collections of Japanese poetry
5 or 6 chapters from The Tale of Genji
"Sohrab and Rustum" from Ferdowsi's Shahname -- tragic filicide in the name of national loyalty
"Lanval" and "Laustic" from The Lais of Marie de France -- gorgeous explorations of the vagaries of love and relationships

The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera -- I LOVE this book -- it's my favorite of Kundera's -- and the film as well -- Daniel Day Lewis as Tomas is to die for, and Juilette Binoche and Lena Olin are perfect as Tereza and Sabina. Perhaps I particularly identify with the book as the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia happened on my 20th birthday in 1968 -- I remember it vividly even now.

The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi -- wonderful, and again the film is wonderful too. Both take the young Marjane into adolescence and young adulthood trying to cope with life within and without the Islamic Republic of Iran. In many ways it echoes Nadine Gordimer's Burger's Daughter in a very different genre and venue.

56-58. My Lady Judge, Michaelmas Tribute, and The Sting of Justice by Cora Harrison -- the first 3 books in the Burren mystery series set in 16th c. Ireland focusing on the sleuthing abilities of Mara, a Brehon judge and scholar. You'll have to wait for next issue of Belletrista to read my review.

Edited: Nov 28, 2009, 10:14am

59. The Glassblower of Murano by Marina Fiorato

While a quick and easy read, this novel suffers from the author's seemingly not to have decided whether it was a modern romance or a historical novel. The chapters alternate between 17th-century and 20th-century Venice. In the 17th century, Corradino Manin is the most famed glassblower of Murano, but he operates under the repressive and watchful eyes of The Ten, the oligarchy that rules the city and guards its monopoly on glass and mirrors. His descendant, Leonora Manin, has returned to Venice, her birthplace, from London where she was raised, She is recovering from a disastrous divorce and seeks her artistic roots and heritage in Venice and the glass factories of Murano. As she tries to unravel the tainted history of her forbear, she becomes the first female glassblower in Murano and begins a relationship with a handsome Venetian police officer.

The most interesting passages in the book are about the craft and history of glass-making and the convoluted politics of 17th-century Venice. Unfortunately, the characters are not fully developed, and motivations for actions often remain murky -- even with the two protagonists. I don't know if the fault lies with a heavy editorial hand trying to make the novel appeal to a wide audience or to the inexperience of a novice novelist -- but the book tries to do too much, and hence fails to focus fully on what could have been a compelling historical tale.

Dec 4, 2009, 1:53am

Hi Jane - I been lurking occasionally, but haven't posted in awhile. I'll skip the Glassblower, but I really should read Beloved sometime...and The Unbearable Lightness of Being...and...you know, I should just spend a semester in Sarasota.

Dec 5, 2009, 11:21am

60. Telephone Ringing in the Labyrinth by Adrienne Rich

Adrienne Rich's collection of poems from 2004-2006 is at once cynical, nostalgic, and keenly observant of both the passage of time and the daily events of ordinary life. Highly imagistic, the poems reflect an old and wise sensibility:

"Dreamfaces blurring horrorlands: the border of poetry.

Ebb tide sucks out clinging rockpool creatures, no swimming back into sleep.

Clockface says too early, body prideful and humble shambles into another day, reclaiming itself piecemeal in private ritual acts.

Reassembling the anagram scattered nightly, rebuilding daily the sand city."

Edited: Dec 6, 2009, 1:50pm

61. The True Deceiver by Tove Jansson

Once upon a time in northern snowy Swedish climes there was a woman who every morning before dawn took a walk with her wolf-like dog, that had no name. Katri Kling has a head for numbers and a driving ambition: to move with her brother Mats into the mansion of Anna Aemelin, a children's illustrator. Once ensconced in a position as housekeeper/companion to the aging artist, she is determined to pay for the building of a boat that Mats has designed.

Jansson's novel is an exquisite gem exploring the mysteries and vagaries of human relationships. At the beginning of the novel each of the three major characters seems to be encased in a bubble of their individual personalities. Katri needs to control all the variables of her world; Mats is lost in the romance of sea-faring ventures; and Anna, a keen observer and intimate detailer of the world of the forest floor, is driven by her youthful fans to include flowery bunnies in her otherwise otherwise naturalistic woodscapes. Subtly each character each character evolves and influences the perceptions and actions of the others as the long Scandinavian winter begins to give way to spring. Jansson does not tie the novel up with a neat conclusion -- the ending is unsettling, but the reader leaves the book with a heightened awareness of how interconnected we all are.

I'm sure I shall revisit this book often , and I've already ordered the other books by Jansson that are affordably available in English.

The True Deceiver by Tove Jansson, a Finnish novelist who wrote in Swedish, was originally published in 1982. The ARC of the NYRB 's English translation by Thomas Teal does not contain the introduction by Ali Smith that will be included with published version.

Edited: Dec 7, 2009, 9:37pm

# 61 your poetry reading looks fascinating. you can always be counted on for obscure poetry references.

Jane, I'm assuming that, since you've read The True Deceiver, you are familiar with the Moomin books by Tove Jansson? I adored them when I was a child. If not, you should definitely check them out.

Dec 8, 2009, 10:55pm

Murr -- Rich is not really obscure in the US -- she's a pretty major figure in the poetry scene here.

I've now become aware of the Moomin books and am determined to find some, but they certainly weren't on my radar as a kid or a when my kids were little. Maybe my grandkids (if I ever have any) will be gifted with them!

Dec 8, 2009, 11:37pm

oh I know, I was actually referrring to the French and Persian poems you mentioned in 61.

Dec 8, 2009, 11:39pm

Jane, I got the Lais out the other night because of you and read them all! It was fun to reread them after 3+ decades. A little slippery trying to get the allegories but really pleasurable. Thank you for the nudge.

Dec 13, 2009, 11:34am

So glad you enjoyed revisiting Marie, Tui.

Dec 18, 2009, 1:14am

#64 It's been a long while since I read anything by Adrian, like since Dream of a Common Language or Diving into the Wreck. The Moomintroll books I've read more recently, not til I was grown up, and they ae great. I think I need to look for her adult books. I've only read the the Summer book, which might be aimed at young adults. If you are having trouble finding the Moomintroll books, I saw them at powells.com.

Dec 19, 2009, 6:45pm

solla -- I've ordered one of the Moomintroll books -- should be arriving any day.

Edited: Dec 19, 2009, 7:05pm

62. I was about to wrap this as a Christmas gift for my son and was lured into the pages. R. Crumb's Heroes of Blues, Jazz & Country (touchstone not working) is an illustrated compendium of America's early 20th musicians. R. Crumb started to draw and paint the musicians and bands for trading cards that would be included with LP recordings reissued (from pre-WWII 78s) by Yazoo Records. Eventually they were boxed into a set sold by record stores. This book reproduces the paintings along with biographical sketches of the artists and bands. While I appreciate the music of this era, I am certainly not an expert, or even a student, of the music. That said, I found the text fascinating (especially the highly descriptive information on Country String bands of which I knew nothing), and Crumb's illustrations evoke the period and whet an appetite for more. The text is by Stephen Calt, David Jasen and Richard Nevins.

The book is accompanied by a 21 song CD with recordings from 1927-1931, I can't comment on these since breaking into the CD pack would spoil the newness of the gift,

Does anyone know of a really good novel set in the music scene(s) of this era? I'd love to vicariously enter into the lives of these musicians.

Edited: Dec 24, 2009, 2:40pm

A couple of quick bedtime reads:

63. The Circus at the End of the World by Rosalind Brackenbury -- I was rather intrigued by this tale of Ulla, the juggler; her son Markie; the builder-vinter, Louis who took them into his home in Tasmania; and Tania, the young woman who would become Markie's lover. It's a gently told story of connections and disconnections, but I found the last chapter somewhat anti-climactic. It should have ended with the previous chapter. That said, I was quite surprised that I seem to be the only LT member who owns The Circus at the End of the World -- it deserves a wider reading.

64. Looking for Lily by Africa Fine wasn't as satisfying. Tina, a 30-something literature professor in South Florida, has her ordered life disrupted when Gillian, the aunt who raised her in Cleveland, begins to suffer from Alzheimer's and has to move in with Tina. Old family secrets are uncovered. While there are some intriguing premises to the novel, the narration seemed disjointed to me, relying more on the characters telling stories rather than the events unfolding (actually, that's part of what I didn't like about the last chapter of Brackenbury's book as well).

Dec 28, 2009, 9:58am

65. The Longest Journey is E.M. Forster's second novel published in 1922. I found it somewhat amusing, if a bit quaint. The book jacket blurb claims "as a novel of ideas it is one of Forster's most brilliant and provocative performances." I found the ideas neither brilliant or provocative, in comparison with say, Thomas Mann's Death in Venice. It has more in common with some of D.H. Lawrence's disquisitions on the conflict of the life of the mind vs. the life of the body -- spirituality vs. nature -- without the sexual frisson of DHL.

The protagonist is Ricky Elliot, an orphaned and lame young Cambridge graduate. He unfortunately falls in love with and marries the unimaginative, practical and conservative Agnes. While visiting his aunt, family secrets begin to be revealed that will lead both to liberation and tragedy. The novel is an interesting mirror into the class conflicts in Britain in the period between WWI and WWII.

Jan 1, 2010, 11:54am

This book junket has ended. I'm off journeying here: http://www.librarything.com/topic/79387