Reading 2017

Titles Read = 39

Muslim Girl: A Coming of Age — Amani Al-Khatahtbeh
A simple backstory to the creation of If you support racism, want to control women’s bodies, demand a ban on muslim immigration, or are just a a loud-mouthed bad-example of what it means to be an American, then this little book is required reading.

The Mise-en-Scène — Claude Ollier (+)
Ollier is a nouveau roman author from the sixties and it’s still this detailed, objective prose that I find so stimulating. Of course I’ve been a proponent of Alain Robbe-Grillet since the sixties when I fist read Le Voyeur, but there are many excellent examples of the new French novel that are not are mainstream as R-G. Ollier tells the detailed story of a French engineer in Morocco seeking a path through the mountains to a zinc mine. A lot happens but then again, not much happens. You have to read it to understand and to appreciate the nouveau roman.

Dendara — Yuka Sato (+)
Sato is known as a writer of weird fiction and this novel is a good example. It deals with a Village which controls its available food supplies by banishing anyone reaching the age of 70: they Climb the Mountain to die in the wilderness. But on the other side of the mountain is an enclave called Dendera which rescues those left to die, chosing continued life over death at an arbitrary age. Add a rampaging bear, fear of the plague, and unending starvation and the narrative gets both interesting and quite gory. Allegorical?

Hawksmoor — Peter Ackroyd
Lots of praise for this one but I wasn’t that impressed. The story is an intertwining of the construction of several English churches under the overview of Christopher Wren and an up-to-date investigation into the mysterious murders that are happening on the grounds of those now-historic churches. Toss in a hint of devil worship and the reader is supposed to be engulfed in the mystery. Maybe.

The Magician — W. Somerset Maugham
Trilby with a weak-ass Svengali.

Paradise — Donald Barthelme
An older man, semi-retired invites three nubile young women to share his over-sized apartment in New York. Paradise?

Coup de lune — Georges Simenon
Simenon explores the elements of French colonialism in Africa. Interesting and insightful.

The Painter of Battles — Arturo Pérez-Reverte (+)
This author tends to have two or more narrative lines going throughout each novel and this is no exception, be they separated by time or theme. Here is a man painting a mediocre mural of war who was once an honored war photographer who had a strong love interest who in the end contemplates the chance result of even a simple photo on real lives. Or is in a theoretical discussion of the value of a painting versus a photograph? Definitely worth reading … you decide.

Moshi-Moshi — Banana Yoshimoto
A favorite author. Yoshimoto writes in a simple, often ethereal style. This one is just simple. The turn in the love relationship is mildly unexpected but the followup pairing is perhaps cringeworthy. Ah, but who can understand the heart .. or other more naughty bits.

Tinkerbell On Walkabout — Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff
A short presumably juvenile mystery but clearly a good start for a series. A detective with a Japanese father and a Russian mother? I enjoyed the locale too.

Pilgrim At Tinker Creek — Annie Dillard (+)
A lush, intensely personal contemplation on life and the world. If you grew up in Brooklyn, this might seem almost like science fiction but there really is a world out there to be explored and held in wonder. A must read.

Violence: Six Sideways Reflections — Slavoj Zizek (+)
An extended essay on violence in the world. In many instances, the author’s analysis—problems and solutions—is spot-on but just when you’re expecting a real-world solution to violence right around the corner, you stop and realize that most of the world is too dumb to even realize they are acting against their own best interests. Zizek does make a good point that the true demonstration of Christian values is Atheism. Interested? Read the book.

The Magic Kingdom — Stanley Elkin
Take some children who are dying from obscure diseases for a last bit of fun at Disneyworld. Makes an interesting dichotomy where youths who will soon lose life in the real world are assumed to crave the gaudy artificiality of the Magic Kingdom. Did they skip Tomorrowland because the children would react negatively to the reminder that they really had no tomorrow? Read and see.

Under Fire — Henri Barbusse (+)
A strong, realistic depiction of French soldiers in trench warfare during WWI. Compare to All Quiet On the Western Front.

Uncentering the Earth: Copernicus and The Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres — William T. Vollmann
The story of Copernicus and the heliocentric view. Decent amalgam of astronomical details with non-scientific prose. Leave it to Vollmann.

Concrete — Thomas Bernhard (+)
A great writer. When it comes to fearless writing especially when dealing with the topic of death and disease, Bernhard is almost without peer.

The Illogic of Kassel — Enrique Vila-Matas (+)
Is Kassel illogical or just a McGuffin?

Hill — Jean Giorno
Lush description and an engaging story.

The Sense of an Ending — Julian Barnes

The Museum of Final Journeys — Anita Desai

Unfinished — Carol Oates
It’s the old dead twin comes back to school to warn her sister hack. Short juvenile. Why do I confuse Carol Oates with Joyce Carol Oates?

I Hate Martin Amis et al — Peter Barry
A dedicated but unsuccessful writer, working as a janitor, becomes a sniper in Sarajevo in order to gain experience for his next book. He calculates that a kill has the same value as 40 or 50 of Martin Amis’s published words.

Robota — Doug Chiang [with Orson Scott Card]
A short, Science Fiction story with graphics. Well done.Includes sample illustrations for both a movie version and a comic book version.

Mefisto — John Banville

The Way of Muri — Ilya Boyashov
Keep moving. There are many types of journeys.

Clouds of Witness — Dorothy L. Sayers

Deception: A Novel — Philip Roth

La Curée — Émile Zola
Shady finance and elicit love with a hint of the history of Paris.

Jimmy Jazz — Roddy Doyle
A short piece following up on the Barrytown trilogy.

In the Shadow of the Glen — John M. Synge

It Can’t Happen Here — Sinclair Lewis (+)
Sure. It has all come true unless we resist now!

Before We Visit the Goddess — Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Snakepit: A Novel — Moses Isegawa
Brutal. Realistic view of Uganda under Amin.

Fat City — Leonard Gardener
Amateur boxing and stoop labor, with the city of Stockton, California, standing in for William Kennedy’s Albany.

A Separate Peace — John Knowles (+)
It’s 1943 and the war is on. But at a small New England boys school, they’re still working out the battle plans on the playing fields and learning a lot about life in the process. The story involves the smartest boy in school who happens to room with the most athletic boy in school. Then tragedy strikes.

Naphtalene — Alia Mamdouh (+)
Baghdad in the ’40s and ’50s. Well worth reading.

Bruno’s Dream — Iris Murdoch
A lot of dizzying narrative to juggle. Murdoch does a fine job but it gets a little muddled. Possibly one of the “also-rans” from an excellent Irish author.

Rock n Roll Babes From Outer Space — Linda Jaivin
Fun, raunchy, but ultimately being too cool is tedious.

Maigret and the Old Lady — Georges Simenon