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Showing posts from July, 2019

Summerbook #11: The Plague

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The Plague, by Albert Camus I've been meaning to read this book for something like 20+ years, and I finally got around to it, and it's about...the plague.  A real honest-to-goodness episode of bubonic plague.  Which is great!  But I had somehow developed the impression that it was a metaphorical, not-actual plague, so I was surprised when it really was plague. In Oran, a largeish North African port city, in the 1940s, rats start staggering out into the street and dying -- by the thousands.  Nobody quite knows what this could mean, but pretty soon there are a few sick people...and then a lot of sick people.  The story is told by four or five men, but primarily from the perspective of Dr. Rieux.  He sends his wife off to a TB sanatorium just before the outbreak, and he is the first to realize that the mystery illness is plague, and urges quarantine measures and closing the city to reluctant city councilors.  Throughout the epidemic, he works himself to exhaustion, knowing t

It's almost WIT Month!

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And I'm back, just in time! Every August, Meytal hosts Women in Translation Month at Bibliobio .  There is always tons of good information, stuff to think about, and great suggestions for books.  And this year there's a variety of images, too!  I like this one because I like purple and green together. I put three books aside on my 20 Books of Summer list for August.  Since I haven't read them yet, I've lifted the book descriptions: Purge by Sofi Oksanen : Oksanen is a Finnish-Estonian writer, and this novel is written in Finnish but set in Estonia (the languages are related).  It's all about Soviet-occupied Estonia and survival, and I'm really looking forward to it.  A disheveled girl arrives on an older woman's doorstep, and "as their stories come to light, they reveal a tragic family drama of rivalry, lust, and loss that played out during the worst years of Estonia’s Soviet occupation." Paradise of the Blind by Duong Thu Huong:

At Large and At Small

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At Large and At Small: Familiar Essays by Anne Fadiman Anne Fadiman is always good for essays.  This is just kind of a random collection, and they're very enjoyable.  I liked the one about ice cream, and the one about mail, and "Coleridge the Runaway" did not exactly endear Coleridge to me, but it did make me want to read the biography she mentions:   ...it is impossible to read this book without imagining what it would be like to talk with Coleridge (dazzling), have him as a houseguest (arduous), walk with him in the Lake Country (fun for the first forty miles), lie with him in a field to study the moonlight (damp). You can't have a Fadiman collection without mention of the Arctic, and this essay, "The Arctic Hedonist," is great.  Whereas "Under Water" will deliver a gut-punch.  And "Procrustes and the Culture Wars" is just as relevant now as when it was written. "Anger and fury," observed Swift, "though they ad

Summerbook #10: The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge

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The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge, by M. T. Anderson and Eugene Yelchin This was such a cool book!  I really enjoyed it.  It's very unusual. For centuries, the elves and the goblins have been at war with each other, on and off -- mostly on.  Now, the elves are sending a gift to the goblin King as a peace offering -- an ancient carved jewel that they found buried, and that seems to depict a goblin battle.  The emissary is a scholar, Brangwain Spurge, who has studied elf and goblin history.  His goblin host is another scholar, the archivist Werfel; he will show Spurge around town while they wait for an audience with the King, Ghohg the Outworlder.  Werfel is eager to show Spurge his beloved goblin culture and anticipates wonderful scholarly discussions, but it doesn't turn out that way. This story is actually told from three viewpoints.  Most of the text is Werfel's story from his point of view.  Then, Spurge is sending telepathic visual reports of his experiences b

Summerbook #9: The Wanderer

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The Wanderer: Elegies, Epics, Riddles, by unknown Anglo-Saxons I sure wish I could read Anglo-Saxon.  Alas, I cannot, and if I ever get enough time to study it I'll probably be too old to learn it very easily.  (I probably already am; it was easy to learn the Russian alphabet at 19, but I cannot seem to learn the Greek alphabet now.  Maybe I just need to try harder.)  Anyway, we don't have a lot of Anglo-Saxon literature; you can fit it all into one good-sized book.  This is a collection of pieces, some from the Exeter Book, some from other sources, that I suppose is meant to serve as an introduction to Anglo-Saxon literature that isn't too difficult to enjoy. Some of the pieces should be familiar to anyone who has taken a little bit of English literature: Caedmon's Hymn , the Dream of the Rood , a few short selections from Beowulf (why?) .   But this collection is interesting because it features a lot of material that isn't as familiar.  I was happy to finall

Slightly Chipped

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Slightly Chipped*: *Footnotes in Booklore, by Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone This is one of those fun books about the joys of antiquarian book-collecting.  The Goldstones find their entertainment in going on day trips to book dealers or book fairs, and buying beautiful first editions that they just can't resist.  They are not wealthy, but they do give the impression of having boundless leisure for browsing in bookshops. There are humorous descriptions of book dealers and book sales, a section on mysteries, and a fascinating story about Cudjo, a Jamaican rebel hero.  Just a nice mix of stories like that. Because the copy I read was a hardback in brand-new condition, I thought this was a pretty recent book, but it turned out to have been published in 1999.  It has an extensive chapter on the brand-new phenomenon of online book dealing, and how to enter this new world.  Why would anybody want to buy a book without inspecting it first?  Will Amazon take over the used-book world an

Summerbook #8: Jamaica Inn

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Jamaica Inn, by Daphne du Maurier It was a dark and stormy night!  No, really, that's how it starts.  Mary Yellan is traveling to the Jamaica Inn; her mother's dying wish was that Mary go to live with her aunt at the inn.  Uncle Joss, however, turns out to be a terrifying tyrant who is clearly up to some really bad things.  At first, Mary thinks it must be smuggling, but it's much worse.  Mary has few friends to turn to.  There's the quiet-spoken but strange vicar a few miles away, and Jem, Joss' younger brother -- a horse-stealer and a rogue -- and Mary has little chance of saving her aunt on her own. It's a classic Gothic story, with lots of foreboding, lonely moors, and storms, set...sometime in the 19th century, but it's hard to know when.  I'd guess earlier rather than later.  Mary is a tough, likable heroine. I must say I didn't love the ending.  It was not a surprise, but it was a bit of a let-down.  This is the second time in less tha

My TBR, A-Z

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Brona posted this fun meme on her blog -- I don't know where she got it from -- and I thought I'd join in.  For one thing, I love the image! Just post a list of A-Z, and fit a title to each one!  Brona very impressively had a title for each letter, even X.  I bet I cannot do that well.  However, that's at least partly because I keep a lot of my book wishlist on the shelves at work.  I keep track of the books I purchase on a spreadsheet so I know when they've arrived.  It's easy to add a field that marks the books I want to read.  Of course, I also want to read books that I didn't purchase...I keep a mental list of those, or check them out when I spot them, so I don't forget.  Anyway, here we go: A -- A ncilla to Classical Reading, by Moses Hadas B -- B lack Renaissance, by Miklos Szentkuthy C -- C oming Up for Air, by George Orwell D -- D ouglass: Autobiographies E --  E xtraordinary Delusions and the Popular Madness of Crowds, by Charles Mac

Summerbook #7: The Book of Chameleons

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The Book of Chameleons, by Jose Eduardo Agualusa This is an Angolan novel, originally written in Portuguese.  I was intrigued by the premise, and also I like chameleons, but there are no actual chameleons in this story.  There's a gecko though, and I also like geckos. FĂ©lix Ventura sells genealogy.  If you have some money, but no family background, Ventura will fix up a nice respectable -- even illustrious -- family history for you.  His story is narrated by the gecko who lives on his walls (who is also the reincarnation of Jorge Luis Borges).  Ventura has sold quite a few new histories, and a couple of them are going to meet in interesting new ways to illuminate a murder mystery gone cold, while the gecko gains the name of Eulalio and has visionary dreams. I liked this novel pretty well, though I won't claim to have understood the whole thing.  It seemed very dreamlike to me, even the parts that were not dreams.  It's also very short.  I would read another Agualusa

Summerbook #6: Roderick Random

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The Adventures of Roderick Random, by Tobias Smollett Why on earth would I read a very long 18th-century picaresque comedy-drama that is practically unreadable by modern standards?  Well, as with so many things, it's John Bellairs' fault.  I am a big fan of his books, and like many of the more obsessive Bellairs fans, I think it's neat to do things connected with them.*  In one of the later books, Professor Childermass informs Johnny that the reason his brother Perry's proper name is, preposterously, Peregrine Pickle, is that their father was a fan of Tobias Smollett.  The professor himself is named Roderick Random.  So why not see what ol' Dad Childermass admired so much? Roderick Random was Smollett's first, and most famous, novel, published in 1748.   After that come Peregrine Pickle and Humphry Clinker , and I do have both, but who knows if I'll read them.  Smollett was in the same London as so many other famous Georgian writers, but he mostly thou