The OF Blog: November 18-30 Reads

Sunday, November 30, 2008

November 18-30 Reads

Since I had plenty more reading time with the Thanksgiving holiday (not to mention many of the books I chose to read were under 300 pages), there are many more books on this list than is my norm for two weeks these days:

336 Jorge Volpi, El jardín devastado - This 2008 fable/short novel by Volpi might be reviewed in a piece later in the year. Certainly enjoyable.

337 Jorge Volpi, No será la Tierra - This 2006 novel of his uses the lives of three fictional women from the former Communist Bloc and the United States to make a case about the dangers of greed and ambition. Perhaps Volpi's best novel.

338 John Ruskin, The Lamp of Memory - Part of Penguin's Great Ideas reissue of 60 collected essays, I found Ruskin's comments on architecture and society to be fascinating.

339 Kelly Link, Pretty Monsters - I reviewed this briefly in a link found below.

340 Walter Banjamin, The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction - like the Ruskin, part of the Penguin series. Liked this one even more than the Ruskin.

341 Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar, A Mind at Peace - Very good work set in Turkey just after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in 1920.

342 Jeremy C. Shipp, Sheep and Wolves - Recently reviewed.

343 Jeffrey Ford, The Drowned Life - see above.

344 John Langan, Mr. Gaunt and Other Uneasy Encounters - still see above.

345 Álvaro Uribe, La parte ideal - 2006 collection of essays by one of Mexico's more prominent authors and essayists. Good stuff.

346 Elias Khory, Yalo - Recently reviewed. One of my favorite novels for 2008.

347 Brian Francis Slattery, Liberation - Will review this in December. Very, very good.

348 Jeff VanderMeer, Predator: South China Sea - Planning on reviewing this in tandem with another tie-in novel, this one by Brian Evenson. What I read was good, as I read it for the adventure aspects and didn't look for VanderMeer to employ past styles which might have been detrimental to the story. I enjoyed it and I know why I enjoyed it, so I'll try to hold off until near the end of December before explaining further, okay?

349 Dennis McKiernan, City of Jade - I first read his Mithgar epic fantasy novels several years ago and despite the clichéd character types, I did find that on occasion, his character interactions were fairly good. This was not one of his better novels, as the plot was very disjointed and the setup for the finale was odd. Obviously, he has more in store for this particular story, but it certainly didn't read like a typical duology/trilogy setup; too herky-jerky in pacing.

350 Álvaro Uribe and Olivia Sears (editor and translation editor), Best of Contemporary Mexican Fiction - see the review.

351 Jorge Volpi, El fin de la locura - Volpi's 2002 novel is on par with his other novels, which is a very good thing, of course.

352 Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius, War Land on the Eastern Front: Culture, National Identity and German Occupation in World War I (re-read from 2000) - Liulevicius is a former professor of mine at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and as I'm about to start a unit on World War I, I turned to his book as one of the sources I'll use for teaching about the cultural aspects of the war to my students. It covers a neglected field of study and it brought back memories of his undergrad class on the Cultural History of World War I while reading it.

353 L. Timmel Duchamp, De Secretis Mulierum - First of two books in Aqueduct Press's Conversation Pieces that I've read. Plan on discussing this much more in a few weeks. Enjoyed it.

354 Lisa Tuttle, My Death - see above.

355 Jordan Krall, Squid Pulp Blues - a collection of three related novellas, this book is an example of "bizarro fiction," where the shocking, unsettling events are purposely put in there to create a sense of displacement, if not the occasional disgust, in the reader. While I can't say I "enjoyed" it, I did find Krall's techniques to be effective; I certainly won't forget how I kept reacting to what was transpiring in the stories. Will read future stories, if they are brought to my attention.

In Progress:

Gabriel García Márquez, Cien años de soledad

Javier Negrete, Salamina

Arnold Zweig, The Case of Sergeant Grischa

Javier Negrete, El espiritu del mago

Thirty books total read in November, my highest total since June. With any luck, I might top 380 for the year.


Wm. said...

Oy. Larry, are you some species of speed reader? Even on my best weeks I can only turn over three or four books. And one of those turgid doorstoppers often takes a week by itself (try reading 'Maia' in a day).

And the retention...that must be a bugger.

Wm. said...

p.s. Larry, I forgot to ask. We just got a copy of Roberto Bolaño's '2666' at the library. Have you had a chance to examine it? I'm considering getting the Spanish version, as it looks like it just might be brilliant, but I haven't read a word of Bolaño's stuff before.

Larry Nolen said...

I have a gift, I guess, for being able to process images/words at an extremely high rate, with comparable retention rates to someone who reads 40-60 pages/hour.

As for 2666, yes, I read it in Spanish this summer and loved it. It really is brilliant, but it also helps to be familiar with Bolaño's other writings, as he's wont to mix in references to his other books. I'm beginning to develop a literary mancrush on him, it seems, importing 3 of his books from Spain in the past two months, despite the shipping costs...

Wm. said...

Ah, one of those writers, revealing slow and piecemeal. Damn adumbrating sneaks.


Anonymous said...

aren't the penguin things beautiful? I've started buying them just because the covers are so lovely, even when I have the contents already or have no intention of reading them, and I never do that.

Larry Nolen said...


Yes, but it makes for quite a fascinating puzzle to put together.


Yes, they are quite nice. I'm looking forward to Jeff's reviews of all 60 of them once he returns to blogging later this month. Unless of course you're plotting to usurp the throne ;)

Anonymous said...

So, Larry, you just read really, really fast? Because I'm dumbfounded at how you manage to read so carefully and thoroughly and retain so much and yet get so much read.

I read a lot, I think, compared to most people, but I'm lucky to get through 100 to 120 books in a year. This year there will be far fewer, as I've had to wade through a period of illness. Depression can work havoc on concentration!

Larry Nolen said...

Pretty much. I read lines at a time instead of words, with as much comprehension. It's something that I wasn't taught how to do, but rather once I realized that I didn't have to conform to expected reading patterns (word to word, moving eyes like old manual typewriters), that I began to read faster with the same comprehension levels. Now, if I try to slow it down, I lose comprehension, because my brain isn't as engaged.

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