Reading: 2021

Titles Read = 211

Black Wave — Michelle Tea
Sex, drugs, and a postmodern apocalypse.

Sometimes a Great Notion — Ken Kesey (+)
There’s a lot of living in this novel. Epic.

The Professor — Charlotte Brontë

The Rainbow — D. H. Lawrence

Mercy of a Rude Stream: Requiem For Harlem — Henry Roth (+)
Part 4 of the author’s autobiographical novel.Possibly the best most under appreciated American writer of the last century

Mercy of a Rude Stream: From Bondage — Henry Roth (+)
Part 3 of the author’s autobiographical novel. Roth’s treatment of his character’s sexuality is a revelation.

The Folding Star — Alan Hollinghurst
Gay sex seems to be much more descriptive than non-gay sex, although sometimes reading it is indistinguishable from a professional Twister match.

L’Argent — Émile Zola
A good narrative of early Capitalism and eternal Greed. Is it different now than in 1870?

Second Person Singular — Sayed Kashua

The Last Taxi Ride — A. X. Ahmad
Entertaining but not overly engaging.

De Niro’s Game — Rawi Hage
Hint: the final twist parallels The Deer Hunter.

The Flood — J. M. G. Le Clézio

Hummingbird Salamander — Jeff VanderMeer
Nope. This might be my last VanderMeer.

Arcadian Nights — John Spurling
If you took classical literature in college, these stories are quite familiar; however, if you are new to the stories of ancient history and myth (at least the Western version) then these are very approachable renderings.

A Book of American Martyrs — Joyce Carol Oates
I sometimes think JCO generates her big fat books out of themes and stories she collects and subsequently plugs into a simple text to generate extra interest and extra pages (à la creative writing school boilerplate fiction). Here, I strongly felt the boxing theme was forced into the narrative but after finishing this novel, I’m not so sure.

Old Rendering Plant — Wolfgang Hilbig

Seven Samurai Swept Away in a River — Jung Young Moon
A Korean author answers the age old question: “Wa’s up?”

Libra — Don DeLillo
Less a story of the assassination than a treatment of Oswald. Still, it’s old news and tedious.

Teeth — Hannah Moskowitz
Gay Fish Boy?

Dancing in the Dark: My Struggle Book 4 — Karl Ove Knausgârd
Booze, pedagogy, and premature ejaculation.

Forever Flowing — Vasily Grossman (+)
A shorter work with a familiar gulag narrative replete with a great deal of editorial comment on the evils of Stalin and Lenin, not so much for the Communism, but more so for the way it was implemented. One thought that sticks: The communist Russian state needed enemies so they manufactured them from their own people, resulting in fear and the Gulag. A key word here is Slavery.

Vengeance Is Mine — Mickey Spillane
Spillane has an outdated view of women.

Foundation: Foundation 1 — Isaac Asimov
I actually read this long ago but it’s probably time to fill in a bit of classical science fiction. And now I notice there is a video version of Foundation coming to Apple TV.

At Dusk — Hwang Sok-yang
I’m always impressed with Korean literature.

Up the Down Staircase — Bel Kaufman
Too Vinnie Barbarino? It’s not that this has aged but rather that it represents a very personal historical view of the inanities which remain in similar endeavors to this day. Think Fast Times at Ridgemont High or Clueless or specifically Teachers with the great Richard Mulligan.

The Case of the Sulky Girl — Erle Stanley Gardner
Interesting how the author closes one novel (case) with the introduction of the next novel (case).

The Case of the Velvet Claws — Erle Stanley Gardner
The first Perry Mason.

The Arabian Nights — Hasain Haddawy (+)
Great translation but there are so many variations on the stories that it’s probably best to read several versions.

Parade — Hiromi Kawakami

Maigret On the Defensive — Georges Simenon

America Is Not the Heart — Elaine Castillo
Nice. Narrative flips between fear of violence in the Philippines and the struggle to advance in the American dysphoria. Note abundance of references to language and to food.

The Public Burning — Robert Coover (+)
Dick Nixon vs. the Rosenbergs. A fascinating narrative.

The Betrothed: I Promessi Sposi — Alessandro Manzoni (+)

Pot-Bouille — Émile Zola (+)

The Belles of Bruges — Georges Rodenbach

The Beach At Night — Elena Ferrante

Indian Killer — Sherman Alexie
Complex social issues wrapped in a murder mystery. Well done.

The Caretaker — A. X. Ahmad
Good tension involving immigration, global politics, and murder.

Readopolis — Bertrand Laverdure

The Line of Beauty — Alan Hollinghurst
The world of art, literature, and homosexuality sharpened by AIDS.

Robert B. Parker’s Blind Spot — Reed Farrel Coleman

Shirley — Charlotte Brontë
Unfortunately, tedious.

Attack of the Killer Frogs — Peter Clover
Just for fun.

The Year of the Comet — Sergei Lebedev

Borne: A Novel — Jeff VanderMeer (-)
In an apparent post-apocalyptic world there are ersatz magical creatures named Mord and Borne? Silly.

The Warden — Anthony Trollope
Starting a new career reading Trillope.

A Pair of Blue Eyes — Thomas Hardy
Ever since Native in HS I have been a Hardy fan. Although this is not on the A-List, it’s a good story but don’t expect anything too shocking. Compare rendition of affair on the cliff to Dickey in Deliverance: Dickey scared me but I could see Hardy as a comic scene in a romantic movie.

The Domino Boys — D. M. Mitchell

The Last Rectangle and other Short Stories — Akram Najjar

Boyhood Island, My Struggle Book 3 — Karl Ove Knausgârd

The Eighth Detective — Alex Pavesi
Well thought out narrative structure. Fun.

Under the Udala Trees — Chinelo Okparanta
Growing up lesbian in a repressive society.

A Lie Someone Told You About Yourself — Peter Ho Davies
A well-observed representation of parenthood. Good.

Pacific Heights — Paul Harper

Robert B. Parker’s Buckskin — Robert Knott

Robert B. Parker’s Revelation — Robert Knott

Robert B. Parker’s Blackjack — Robert Knott

NW: A Novel — Zadie Smith
Engaging. Question: I have always espoused that it is immaterial to know a person’s ethnic background but sometimes such knowledge is key to the theme of the work. Think of Joe Christmas.

My Friend Maigret — Georges Simenon

Maigret’s First Case — Georges Simenon

The Madman of Bergerac — Georges Simenon

L’Ombre chinoise — Georges Simenon

Nexus — Henry Miller (+)
The Rosy Crucifixion Book 3. More philosophical.

Plexus — Henry Miller (+)
The Rosy Crucifixion Book 2. Miller trades literate jabs just like Joyce.

Sexus — Henry Miller (+)
The Rosy Crucifixion Book 1. Intriguing naughtiness common to Miller novels.

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall — Anne Brontë
Definitely an early feminist text.

Group Portrait with Lady — Heinrich Böll (+)

The Talisman — Sir Walter Scott
King Richard in the Holy Land.

The Liar’s Dictionary — Eley Williams

Lanark: A Life In Four Books — Alisdair Gray (+)

Chatter: Poems — Neil Hilborn

No Name — Wilkie Collins (+)
Collins is generally designated as a secondary novelist but I really enjoyed this one.

Bunny Lake Is Missing — Evelyn Piper
Entertainment.

The Winter Queen — Boris Akunin
Fandorin, Erast Fandorin. A literary ancestor to James Bond .. and from Russia (with love?).

The Melancholy of Resistance — Lásló Krasznahorkai (+)

The Spell — Alan Hollinghurst
The Boys In the Band meet The Return of the Native.

The Pit — Frank Norris
Wheat. Wheat. Wheat. The story of how wealthy capitalists can manipulate the market and on the other side of the world a child goes to bed hungry because bread is too expensive for the family to buy.

Outer Dark — Cormac McCarthy
From the author’s backwoods Tennessee period.

The Bridge on the Drina — Ivo Andric (+)
A Balkan history told through the life of one bridge. Very powerful. Award winning even.

Ragnarok: The End of the Gods — A. S. Byatt

Ratner’s Star — Don DeLillo
The bat cave? What is it about this esteemed author that escapes me?

First Person Singular: Stories — Haruki Murakami
I’d conjecture that the author was cleaning out a drawer.

The Tool & the Butterflies — Dmitry Lipskerov
A strong and evocative narrative and I agree that without their dicks, men bring little to the table and should stand aside and let women take over.

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead: A Novel — Olga Tokarczuk
Did the deer do it?

The Death of Vivek Oji: A Novel — Akwaeke Emezi

A Man In Love: My Struggle Book 2 — Karl Ove Knausgârd
Proust or just a detailed diary?

Sperm Wars: Infidelity, Sexual Conflict, and Other Bedroom Battles — Robin Baker
Who knew? Is this a good read for religious fundamentalists?

The Friends of Eddie Coyle — George V. Higgins
Here both the book and the movie were quite good.Mitchum tips it for me.

Tornado Alley — William S. Burroughs

Reiko: A Japanese Ghost Story — James Avonleigh
Ghosts are different in Japan.

Trafik — Ricki Ducornet
See also Joseph McElroy’s Plus.

Psychedelic Apes: From Parallel Universes To Atomic Dinosaurs – The Weirdest Theories of Science and History — Alex Boese
Nothing really new but a succinct accounting of unusual (not really weird) events in the history of science and history.

Robert B. Parker’s The Bridge — Robert Knott

Robert B. Parker’s Bull River — Robert Knott

Robert B. Parker’s Ironhorse — Robert Knott

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry — Neil Degrasse Tyson
Good. Interesting. Informative. Yet gentle on our brains.

Life and Fate — Vasily Grossman (+)

The Franchiser — Stanley Elkin

Little Dorrit — Charles Dickens (+)

No One Is Talking About This — Patrician Lockwood
Freewheeling prose, very current, and emotional.

Jack: A Novel — Marilynne Robinson
The Gilead quartet concludes.

The Infatuations — Javier Marías

Le Cousin Pons — Honoré de Balzac

Going Native — Stephen Wright

Cam Girl — Isa Mazzei
Teen angst meets the sex industry, or How To Be So Wrong But Make So Much Money.

The Bride of Lammermoor — Sir Walter Scott

The Pornographers: A Novel — Akiyuki Nozaka
Interesting. I would have thought this narrative exposing the development of a pornographer (as a business, not as a crime) would have been obvious for years but this is actually the first time I have read or heard about it. “That little bare ass man has—up and down, up and down it goes. It makes you sad just to look at it.”

What Are You Going Through — Sigrid Nunez
Interesting. Thought provoking.

Girl A — Abigail Dean

A Death in the Family: My Struggle Book 1 — Karl Ove Knausgârd
Is this six part novel series the Recherché of the 21st century?

Mexican Gothic — Silvia Morena-García
Beware the Gloom! Like so many horror stories, this one is a little musty. Think of it as Rorschach Goes to the House of Usher.

La Joie de vivre — Émile Zola
Irony right there in the title.

Hades, Argentina — Daniel Loedel (+)
The Argentine Dirty War remembered. A complex and intimate meditation on love, guilt, and the decisions that haunt us forever. — Kirkus. Traditional flash-backs but with ghosts. Well done.

The Blind Earthworm in the Labyrinth — Veeraporn Nitiprapha
Worth reading twice.

The Room Next Door — Nicolas Papaconstantinou

Further Tales of the City — Armistead Maupin
What do Jonestown, Sitka, and Barbary Lane have in common?

Lit Up — David Denby
Literature, reading, and High School students. The mush starts to come together.

Baby Moll — John Farris
Hard Case Crime.

The Max — Ken Bruen
Hard Case Crime.

House Dick — E. Howard Hunt
Hard Case Crime.

The Door — Mary Roberts Rinehart
Traditional who-done-it: complexities, twists, revelations. Noticed far more variety of detail than Simenon.

Honey In His Mouth — Lester Dent
Almost reminded me of the original Mission Impossible .. with real killers.

Fade To Blonde — Max Phillips
Hard Case Crime.

Choke Hold — Christa Faust
Our favorite sex worker writes another crime novel.

Histories — Herodotus (+)
High praise for detail and historical importance but reading this one is a bit of a chore.

The Silver Swan — Benjamin Black
Banville again. Didn’t hold my interest.

Zorrie — Laird Hunt
A life .. and more Indiana. Have to admit that the early episode with painting clock dials with radium put a damper on the narrative to follow.

Zadig — Voltaire

Parallel Stories — Péter Nádas
Long. Exhausting. Spermy.

Monestary — Sir Walter Scott

Romola — George Eliot
Take a pile of historical fiction, focus on Florence in a time long ago, drop several historical names, and throw in a common Victorian story of love, pursuit, mistaken identity, and quaint morals, and you get Romola. The excitement is palpable.

The Untouchable — John Banville

East Is East — T. C. Boyle
A bewildered foreigner being pursued by the authorities in an unfamiliar part of America? Is this the Sushi Curtain?

Galápagos: A Novel — Kurt Vonnegut (+)
The quintessential Last Man irony where mankind is wiped out except for a sparsely populated tour boat to the Galapagos Islands where a new breed of humans thrives amongst the iguanas and blood finches.

Transcendent Kingdom: A Novel — Yaa Gyasi

Patrimony: A True Story — Philip Roth
As a man grows older he remembers his youth and especially his father. Autobiographical.

More Tales of the City — Armistead Maupin

My Brilliant Friend — Elena Ferrante

Le Faute de l’Abbé Mouret — Émile Zola
Death by daisy. Lush, poetic, not high on the R-M list.

The Fifth Child — Doris Lessing

Boy Toy — Barry Lyga
After school special with naughty bits and fastballs.

Imperial Bedrooms — Bret Easton Ellis

They Were Divided — Miklós Bánffy (+)

Wieland; or the Transformation — Charles Brockton Brown
Very early American Gothic. Mildly spooky.

Homegoing — Yaa Gyasi

Lila — Marilynne Robinson
More Gilead.

Suttree — Cormac McCarthy (+)

La Cousine Bette — Honoré de Balzac
I’m not aa big Balzac fan but this one is pretty good. As is much of Balzac, knowledge of the complete Comedy exposes the interconnection of characters and events in this and many other stories and novels.

A Martian Examines Christianity — Arthur Levett ***
My 9th grade math teacher had an angel that didn’t know mathematics and needed explicit, detailed instructions to do the simplest things. But that was different: Angels and Martians may not be true but mathematics is a fact. Levett codifies the many facts and debunks the many myths that primitive man developed into the concept of a god and the supremacy of faith. The real surprise is that such absurdity is still believed. Some fun logic and Socratic wrestling in this one.

Robert B. Parker’s Someone To Watch Over Me — Ace Atkins
A blunt treatment of a fictional sleaze who works out of Florida (and Boston) procuring underage girls for prominent politicians and business moguls who also happens to own a small island convenient for private parties. Roman à clef?

The Aosawa Murders — Riku Onda
Can we ever know the truth .. the whole truth? Remember, it’s all fiction.

Christine Falls: A Novel — Benjamin Black
John Banville.

An Instance of the Fingerpost — Iain Pears (+)
Long, detailed treatment in the form of a historical period told from multiple viewpoints (Rashoman Effect). Lots of twists and reversals. An engaging narrative that flies by .. it is a big fat book.

The Marble Faun: Or, The Romance of Monte Beni — Nathaniel Hawthorne
I read that this novel was a departure for Hawthorne. I agree and it didn’t work for me. But was it the world classic Italian art or just that I couldn’t handle a character called Donatello that wasn’t green.

Bedtime Eyes — Amy Yamada
Three intense studies of highly personal relationships. often smutty.

History. A Mess. — Sigrún Pálsdóttir
Not sure of this one. Rereading may be required.

An Ice-Cream War: A Novel — William Boyd
Great narrative relating events in Africa during The Great War .. stuff that never seems to be commonly known. Remember the Louisa?

Villette — Charlotte Brontë
The usual narrative of a young Victorian woman making her way in the world but with a little gothic mystery and an inconclusive ending.

Une Page d’amour — Émile Zola
A lesser known novel from the Rougon-Macquart world but pretty good. Sad.

Carnival: A Novel — Rawi Hage

Lookout Cartridge — Joseph McElroy (+)
Read very carefully.

Innocents Abroad — Mark Twain
An historically interesting commentary on the author’s tour of Europe and the Holy Land, with the objective travelogue infected by the wit and opinions of the author. Conclusion: the reality of the Old World is a disappointment compared to the anticipated glory represented in the fictional representations. Art triumphs; reality attracts flies.

Earthlings — Sayaka Murata
I’m uncertain about this one: Is it a gross and evil mess or is it a powerful metaphor for escaping from our impersonal and stultifying civilization? From being orally raped to eating choice parts of friends/not-friends, there’s a lot to consider in this small, disturbing novel.

Stealth — Sonallah Ibrahim

Ghost Town — Robert Coover
Every B-Western trope with a decidedly postmodern twist.

The Balcony — Jean Genet (+)
Don’t miss the excellent cinema version of Genet’s play from the ’60s .. especially Leonard Nimoy.

They Were Found Wanting — Miklós Bánffy
Love and war in Transylvania: Book 2.

Miss Iceland — Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir

Agnes Grey — Anne Brontë

Looking For Bapu — Anjali Banerjee
Juvenile.

The Pilot; or, A Tale of the Sea — James Fenimore Cooper
Even at sea there is a Natty Bumppo character. And who is the mysterious pilot? Cooper’s answer to Scott’s The Pirate.

Interior Chinatown — Charles Ya
Clever execution of important theme but not a favorite read. Interesting: Asians were in America before the Irish and Italian immigrations, yet Asians are still viewed as foreigners whereas the Irish and Italians are considered good Americans. Why is that? And why are Asians grouped with African-Americans on questionnaires .. why not a category like Irish/African American?

Jailbird — Kurt Vonnegut

Cities of the Plain — Cormac McCarthy (+)
The final volume of the excellent Border Trilogy. If you love testosterone you’ll really like these three novel. If you’re a feminist .. not so much.

Tomboyland: Essays — Melissa Faliveno (+)
Highly enjoyable essays (memoir) recalling the evolution of a tomboy in the mid-west. Good read.

Home: A Novel — Marilynne Robinson
Gilean #2.

Medea — Rachel Cusk
Reimagining the Greek story in a modern drama.

Maigret and the Millionaires — Georges Simenon

Maigret and Monsieur Charles — Georges Simenon

Maigret and the Informer — Georges Simenon

Taco Noir — Steven Gomez (-)
Pleasant short stories interrupted by thematic recipes. Nope.

Goth Girl Rising — Barry Lyga
Ah, youth.

Just Kids From the Bronx — Arlene Alda
An interesting collection of life growing up in the Bronx. The unspoken idea is that such a diverse and famous group of people came out of the Bronx but how does that compare to, say, Brooklyn, or Chicago .. Cleveland even.

People’s History of the United States — Howard Zinn (+)
You know it’s true.

Bukowski in a Sundress: Confessions from a Writing Life — Kim Addonizio
Definitely a female point of view but still full of relatable observations.

Maigret and the Death of a Harbor-Master — Georges Simenon

Maigret Afraid — Georges Simenon

Maigret Has Doubts — Georges Simenon

Maigret and the Killer — Georges Simenon

The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956 Abridged: An Experiment in Literary Investigation — Aexandr Soltzheritsyn (+)
OK .. abridged .. life is short and the abridgment was by the author. If you’re ever feeling put upon, depressed, or in any way feeling sorry for your life or the cruelty of society or politics, take down this book and read. What I don’t understand is how Republicans seem to gravitate towards Russia.

Mary Barton: A Tale of Manchester Life — Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell
The workers in the mills are starving while the mill owners are just getting richer. Nothing has changed.

In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash — Jean Shepherd
A collection of Jean’s Indiana memories held together by the fiction of a visit as a successful New Yorker reminiscing with a local bartender who is also an old buddy from back in the days. But Digger O’Dell was on Riley, not Fibber.

Reveries of the Solitary Walker — Jean-Jacques Rousseau

San Miguel — T. C. Boyle
Fascinating view of a little-known part of California history. I remember in Spanish class reading the story of the lady and the goats on one of the other Channel Islands and of course there is The Island of the Blue Dolphins, but most people (even Californians) are only familiar with Catalina Island. This is a good story not only of the islands but also of the people who braved the isolation and the elements in a not-too-distant past.

Six Walks in the Fictional Woods — Umberto Eco
Getting serious about literature? Eco will expand your mind and you will like it.

The Watery Part of the World – Michael Parker
Not me but I have corresponded just to verify that we are not related. Strong narrative of North Carolina’s Outer Banks.

The Spy: A Tale of the Neutral Ground — James Fenimore Cooper
This is one of those stories where the action probably took place where a White Castle sits today .. on a one-way street. It’s often amusing to realize that the wild frontier was often only a reasonable commute from the center of the future metropolis.

Homeland Security Ate My Speech: Messages from the End of the World — Ariel Dorfman
The author having escaped authoritarian Chile has a lot to say about Trump and America.

The Black Book — Orhan Pamuk

Against Interpretation — Susan Sontag
Essays. Strong insights into films, although I could only wrap my brain around what the author was saying in very few instances. She was a deep thinker that should not fade into history.

John’s Wife — Robert Coover
A postmodern view of small-town USA (interestingly compared to Sherwood Anderson). Quite a trip.

The Secret Garden — Frances Hodgson Burnett
Juvenile but relevant literature, if a little didactic. Remember all the books and stories you read as a kid or had read to you?

A Daughter of the Middle Border — Hamlin Garland
Personal history. Biography? Memoir? It’s important to remember the growth of this country. Read The Son of the Middle Border first.

They Were Counted — Miklós Bánffy (+)
Volume 1 of the Transylvania Trilogy. This is so good. Bánffy is called the Hungarian Tolstoy and I have to agree: depth of narrative, readability of prose, vividness of characters and events, and beaucoup de pages.

The League of Frightened Men — Rex Stout
Early Nero Wolfe. Fun.

Solar — Ian McEwan
What happens when social drama meets global warming?

La Rêve — Émile Zola
Religion. Love. Class. Tragedy.

The Crossing — Cormac McCarthy (+)
Border Trilogy 2.

Blithedale Romance — Nathaniel Hawthorne
Shades of Trilby. Zenobia should have been a much better developed character and the entire idea of Blithedale was unfortunately tossed off as mere background. As you might suspect, a narrative which starts with a Veiled Lady involves a certain amount of mistaken/revealed identity. Not bad but quite disappointing.

Operation Shylock : A Confession — Philip Roth
Remember .. It’s All Fiction.

Snow — John Banville