The OF Blog: July 2012

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows

One can argue over the merits of most books, and in arguing understand the point of view of one's opponent.  One may even come to the conclusion that possibly he is right after all.  One does not argue about The Wind in the Willows.  The young man gives it to the girl with whom he is in love, and if she does not like it, asks her to return his letters.  The older man tries it on his nephew, and alters his will accordingly.  The book is a test of character.  We can't criticize it, because it is criticizing us.  As I wrote once:  It is a Household Book; a book which everybody in the household loves, and quotes continually; a book which is read aloud to every new guest and is regarded as the touchstone of his worth.  But I must give you one word of warning.  When you sit down to it, don't be so ridiculous as to suppose that you are sitting in judgment on my taste, or on the art of Kenneth Grahame.  You are merely sitting in judgment on yourself.  You may be worthy:  I don't know.  But it is you who are on trial.

– A.A. Milne, Introduction

Some tales are so indelibly etched into our social fabric that it becomes almost impossible to say more than a simple "that was a true classic."  In re-reading Kenneth Grahame's 1908 "children's" novel The Wind in the Willows, all the usual tools in the critical kit ended up being set aside.  There is something universal about Grahame's characters and their plots.  Who hasn't known a Toad, full of reckless abandon and life?  Who hasn't sympathized with Mole as he ventures forth from his subterranean home and into a new life?  Rat's sagacity and capacity for friendship also appeals to readers, and Badger and Water Rat and even the pesky stoats and weasels haven't yet been given their due.  There is something archetypical about these characters, yet these anthropomorphic animals still possess a uniqueness that makes them all the more memorable because they are simultaneously themselves and representations of humanity as a whole.

For those living (and of course, growing up) in Edwardian England, six years before the terrible calamities of World War I, life was changing rapidly.  From the earliest industrial factories of a century before to the emerging motor cars, daily life could involve a mixture of traditional culture, replete with social visits and its attendant protocol, and technological innovations that had already begun to transform labor and society.  There are echoes of both inside The Wind in the Willows, as the gatherings of the four friends often contained references to then-modern life and the changes occurring within.

Too often, children's fiction writers try too hard to moralize, to create something that is instructive to children (and those adults who read to them).  Although The Wind in the Willows contain several passages that readers may have noted for their excellent moral value, the story itself does not pause to underscore these virtues.  Rather, The Wind in the Willows contains a freshness to it that does not brook confinement to singular definitions.  Take for instance this passage from the first chapter, as Mole is abandoning his home:

Never in his life had he seen a river before – this sleek, sinuous, full-bodied animal, chasing and chuckling, gripping things with a gurgle and leaving them with a laugh, to fling itself on fresh playmates that shook themselves free, and were caught and held again.  All was a-shake and as-shiver – glints and gleams and sparkles, rustle and swirl, chatter and bubble.  The Mole was bewitched, entranced, fascinated.  By the side of the river he trotted as one trots, when very small, by the side of a man who holds one spellbound by exciting stories; and when tired at last, he sat on the bank, while the river still chattered on to him, a babbling procession of the best stories in the world, sent from the heart of the earth to be told at last to the insatiable sea.

This passage too easily could have been trite and devoid of feeling.  Grahame manages to describe a scene in such a fashion, with his triple participles and twinned verbs, that the reader is invited to pause just a moment and recall the burbling sounds of a favorite creek or river.  Instead of being longueurs that delay us from the "meat" of the plot, these passages are essential to the themes being explored within the novel.  Plowing ahead, like Toad driving dangerously in one of his numerous cars, only leads to a vague sorrow that one did not stop to consider the lilies of the river valley or those quiet reposes that friends share.

Friendship lies near to the heart of the narrative.  Grahame's four main characters (Mole, Rat, Toad, Badger) each possess their charms and foibles and each are on display as they interact with one another.  Some readers (I am one) might read Toad's wildness and associate that with parts of their lives.  Others may see reflections of themselves (as children or as adults or in-between) in Toad's friends, who seek to wrest him away from his reckless, self-destructive behavior and toward the generous side of him that each of the three cherishes, even as they grow exasperated with his excesses.  Although Toad's larger-than-life personality is prominent throughout the main narrative, it does not dominate the larger tale, which touches upon matters of non-dogmatic morality and decency toward one's fellow beings.

Easily one could write pages and pages on The Wind in the Willows and barely scratch the surface.  But that is not really the point of the novel, is it?  Perhaps Milne says it best in that we do not judge the book but instead the book serves as a tool of judging our own characters.  How many works, fiction and non-fiction alike, can this claim be made of...and feel true?

Monday, July 30, 2012

Books that I'm currently in the process of reading

Although most, if not all, of these books will not be finished by the time July ends, I thought some might be interested in seeing just how I (or rather, the squirrels that read for me) approach reading.  I rather am a lineal, one book-at-a-time reader.  I sometimes just read snippets, set the book aside (especially if it's a non-fiction or poetry collection), and return to it at some later date.  Sometimes, months pass before I finish a book.  With that in mind, with no ranking by percentage complete or chronology, here is what is in progress:

Karl May, Winnetou (just finished the first chapter of the second book of four in the series; German)

Karl May, Winnetou:  The Apache Knight (English abridgement that is a horrid butchering of the storylines)

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Phenomenon of Man (English translation of an influential Jesuit/naturalist philosopher)

Milorad Pavić, For Ever and a Day (novel laid out as a dinner menu; translated from Serbian)

L. Annette Binder, Rise (just-released debut collection from an award-winning writer; I chose her "Halo" for consideration for the defunct BAF 4)

Richard Zacks, The Pirate Coast (slightly off-beat history of the First Barbary War and William Eaton's mad adventure that inspired the "the shores of Tripoli" line in the US Marine hymn.

Allen Ginsberg, Selected Poems:  1947-1995 (contains his greatest hits and then some; re-read)

Arthur Rimbaud, A Season in Hell and The Drunken Boat (bilingual French/English edition; re-read)

Charles Baudelaire, Les Fleurs du Mal (French; re-read)

Heinrich Heine, Gedichte (German poetry collection of his major poems)

Friedrich Hölswelin, Gedichte (another German poetry collection of the greatest hits)

Umberto Eco, Mouse or Rat?:  Translation as Negotiation (re-read of this non-fiction piece on translations)

Chelsea Monroe-Cassel and Sariann Lehrer, A Feast of Ice & Fire:  The Official Companion Cookbook (a ASOIAF-themed cookbook that has some interesting recipes)

Joseph Brodsky, Collected Poems in English (another poetry collection, this time by a Nobel Prize-winning poet)

Emilio Salgari, Sandokan alla Riscossa (Italian adventure novel from the early 20th century)

Cal Morgan (ed.), Forty Stories (free e-book anthology several talented writers that I have mentioned here or on Twitter in the past)

Sixteen in-progress books (not counting the 2-3 that I may start/revisit later today or tomorrow).  Not too bad.  Any of these you've read before/want to see reviewed in the future?  And for those curious about books that I've finished reading in July, the count stands at 30 at the moment.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Astrid Lindgren, Pippi Longstocking

Way out at the end of a tiny little town was an old overgrown garden, and in the garden was an old house, and in the house lived Pippi Longstocking.  She was nine years old, and she lived there all alone.  She had no mother and no father, and that was of course very nice because there was no one to tell her to go to bed just when she was having the most fun, and no one who could make her take cod liver oil when she much preferred caramel candy. (p. 11)
When I was nine, I was already a good reader, yet despite going frequently to the local library, I failed to read several well-known children's novels (many of which would today be relabeled as "Young Adult").  Although I have a vague recollection of the elementary school librarian mentioning Swedish author Astrid Lindgren's Pippi Longstocking, it was more in the line of things that were encouraged to some classmates and not to myself.  Perhaps I would have rejected it at that age, due to it being written by a woman and featuring a young girl on it.  I like to think not; I did love dearly Beverly Cleary's Ramona novels (or her Ralph S. Mouse stories).  Regardless of the reason, I never read Pippi Longstocking as a child.  I think that if I had, I would have found it to be a good read.  But try as I might, it is almost impossible to divorce the adult reader, with his concerns and world-awareness, from the remnants of the youthful reader who can imagine the mischief that could be achieved with companions and pets.

There is much to like about Pippi Longstocking.  Growing up in a teaching household, there were times in which my imagination clashed with the rules and expectations of the house.  Don't put your feet on the couch if you are wearing shoes.  Talk quietly at the dinner table.  "Give sugar" to elderly relatives, even if you hated the thought of kissing wrinkled cheeks heavily dabbed with mascara.  Pippi's carefree life, in which she does not fret over her missing father or her dead mother, would have appealed strongly to me.  I could see the nine-year old picturing himself as being a stand-in for Tommy, tagging along for Pippi's adventures.  Even though I loved school (or rather, the ability to take what I was taught and apply it to my own interests), there certainly would have been times that I would have loved for a Pippi to just come into the classroom and upend everything.  Lindgren does an excellent job in capturing that juvenile joie de vivre that too often fades with mounting expectations and obligations.

But the adult reader in me was troubled by a few passages early in the book.  Even setting aside that the novel was published in 1945 and that the library edition I checked out contains an older translation from before certain key edits, there were casual racist elements, such as this passage:

"I've never been in Egypt?  Indeed I have.  That's one thing you can be sure of.  I have been all over the world and seen many things stranger than people walking backward.  I wonder what you would have said if I had come along walking on my hands the way they do in Farthest India."

"Now you must be lying," said Tommy.

Pippi thought a moment.  "You're right," she said sadly, "I am lying."

"It's wicked to lie," said Annika, who had at last gathered up enough courage to speak.

"Yes, it's very wicked to lie," said Pippi even more sadly.  "But I forget it now and then.  And how can you expect a little child whose mother is an angel and whose father is king of a cannibal island and who herself has sailed on the ocean all her life – how can you expect her to tell the truth always?  And for that matter," she continued her whole freckled face lighting up, "let me tell you that in the Congo there is not a single person who tells the truth.  They lie all day long.  Begin at seven in the morning and keep on until sundown.  So if I should happen to lie now and then, you must try to excuse me and to remember that it is only because I stayed in the Congo a little too long.  We can be friends anyway, can't we?" (p. 17-18)

In early 21st century society, that sort of passage would not make it into a published children's book.  It is undeniably racist, what with the references to "lying natives" and the implication that the missing father is a lord over a native group (from what I have learned from looking up the series, this actually ended up being the case).  In the early-to-mid-20th century, even during the collapse of the colonial empires, such a passage would have been viewed as a more benign portrayal of "exotic" culture and European paternalistic attitudes.  Again, as I said above, the adult reader cannot divorce himself from the reading.

Yet despite this jarring passage, which thankfully is not replicated elsewhere in Pippi Longstocking, the novel was a pleasant diversion.  Pippi's innocent yet intransigent opposition to social conventions does contain a positive message for both boys and girls in that both can be the hero/heroine, the rebel against authority and the star of the show.  Lindgren subtly emphasizes the notion that although the actions of Pippi are extraordinary, there is a underlying universality to her motives that is both right and just.  Although this does not redeem the issue noted above, it does make the novel (especially now that many of the elements I read have been excised in newer editions) more palatable.

Pippi Longstocking is an exciting read, one that certainly would appeal to most children who like to read and to dream.  Although it contains questionable antiquated racial passages, it also contains several social commentaries, in particular gender roles, that are positive for children and adults alike today.  If I were a parent, I could see myself reading aloud all but two passages to my child and in the process, find myself imagining what it would be like to enjoy Pippi's freedom.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

A Children's Lit/YA Lit Reading Challenge

Over the past couple of days, I have been discussing the shortcomings of my childhood and early adolescent fiction reading with Dunja, the talented and lovely squirrel mistress who devised the Squirrelpunk cover art for my April Fool's Day.  She has decided that even in my advanced (albeit not yet decrepit) age that I need to rectify this gap in my reading with the following books that I must make an effort to read and possibly review, preferably over the next two weeks (I guess she, like others, want me to resume reviewing again after a few months' hiatus).  Not all of these are in English, but most are:

Emilio Salgari, Sandokan alla Riscossa; Il Corsaro Nero

Scott O'Dell, Island of the Blue Dolphins

Henryk Sienkiewicz, In Desert and Wilderness

Astrid Lindgren, The Brothers Lionheart (which I did read at her urging a few years before, but didn't review); Pippi Longstocking

Rudyard Kipling, Kim; Captains Courageous

Karl May, Winnetou

Branko Ćopić, Ježeva Kućica

Cesare Pavese, Verrà la morte e avrà i tuoi occhi

Not certain if the last two are juvenile/YA, but they shall be read...just as I must follow She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed.

In return, I sent her this list:

Wilson Rawls, Where the Red Ferns Grow; The Summer of the Monkeys

Beverly Cleary, The Mouse and the Motorcycle (or just anything by Beverly Cleary; she was/is awesome)

Madeleine L'Engle, A Wrinkle in Time (although it was duller when I re-read it a few years ago)

E.B. White, The Trumpet of the Swan/Charlotte's Web (the cartoon made me cry when I was 5)

Anything by Dr. Seuss

Jack London, The Call of the Wild

Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Robert Lewis Stevenson, Treasure Island

Johann Wyss, Swiss Family Robinson

A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

Thomas Rockwell, How to Eat Fried Worms

This should be an interesting project.  And yes, I have no qualms about reading/reviewing juvenile/YA literature, or at least the ones that do not suck.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

2012 SF&F Translation Awards winners announced

Just received this from Cheryl Morgan.  The winners were announced earlier today at FinnCon:

Winners Of the 2012 SF&F Translation Awards

The Association for the Recognition of Excellence in SF & F Translation (ARESFFT) is delighted to announce the winners of the 2012 Science Fiction and Fantasy Translation Awards (for works published in 2011). There are two categories: Long Form and Short Form. The jury has additionally elected to award two honorable mentions in each category.

Long Form Winner

Zero by Huang Fan, translated from the Chinese by John Balcom (Columbia University Press)

Long Form Honorable Mentions

Good Luck, Yukikaze by Chohei Kambayashi, translated from the Japanese by Neil Nadelman (Haikasoru)

Midnight Palace by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, translated from the Spanish by Lucia Graves (Little, Brown & Company)

Short Form Winner

"The Fish of Lijiang" by Chen Qiufan, translated from the Chinese by Ken Liu (Clarkesworld #59, August 2011)

Short Form Honorable Mentions

"The Boy Who Cast No Shadow" by Thomas Olde Heuvelt, translated from the Dutch by Laura Vroomen (PS Publishing)

"The Green Jacket" by Gudrun Östergaard, translated from the Danish by the author and Lea Thume (Sky City: New Science Fiction Stories by Danish Authors, Carl-Eddy Skovgaard ed., Science Fiction Cirklen)

The winners were announced today at Finncon 2012 <>, held in Tampere, Finland. over the weekend May[July?] 19-20. The awards were announced by jury member Irma Hirsjärvi and ARESFFT Board member Cheryl Morgan.

The winning authors and their translators will each receive an inscribed plaque and a cash prize of $350. Authors and translators of the honorable mentions will receive certificates.

Jury chair Dale Knickerbocker said, "The jury would like to thank all who nominated works, and compliment both the authors and translators for the fine quality of this year’s submissions. While both the winner and honorable mentions in the long fiction category had their supporters, we ultimately chose Huang Fan's novella Zero (translated from the Chinese by John Balcom) as the winner. The author skillfully weaves elements from the masterpieces of dystopian fiction into his own very unique text, and the translator successfully communicates the work's stark, frightening nature. Zero's surprise denouement takes Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle a step further, wedding it with a touch of Asimov's The Gods Themselves."

"This year's winner in the short fiction category, Chen Qiufan's "The Fish of Lijiang" (translated from the Chinese by Ken Liu) was described by our judges as "brilliant," "original," and "a lovely and devastating story, beautifully written and translated." It presents an interesting take on mental illness and wellness, work, and future technologies. In the tradition of the best SF, it offers a convincing extrapolation of the economic and consequent social changes that China has undergone in the past 30 years."

ARESFFT President Professor Gary K. Wolfe added: "I'm delighted that the hard work of our distinguished jurors has resulted in such an impressive list of winners and nominees, and--equally important--that the international science fiction and fantasy community has taken this award to heart in terms of supplying nominees and suggestions for nominees. Congratulations not only to the winning authors and translators, but to everyone who has helped make these awards a viable and invaluable project."

The money for the prize fund was obtained primarily through a 2011 fund-raising event for which prizes were kindly donated by George R.R. Martin, China Miéville, Cory Doctorow, Lauren Beukes, Ken MacLeod, Paul Cornell, Adam Roberts, Elizabeth Bear, Hal Duncan, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Peter F. Hamilton, Ann & Jeff VanderMeer, Nalo Hopkinson, Juliet E. McKenna, Aliette de Bodard, Nicola Griffith, Kelley Eskridge, Twelfth Planet Press, Deborah Kalin, Baen Books, Small Beer Press, Lethe Press, Aeon Press, Jon Courtenay Grimwood, Kari Sperring, Helen Lowe, Rob Latham and Cheryl Morgan.

The jury for the awards was Dale Knickerbocker (Chair); Kari Maund, Abhijit Gupta, Hiroko Chiba, Stefan Ekman, Ekaterina Sedia, Felice Beneduce & Irma Hirsjärvi.

ARESFFT is a California Non-Profit Corporation funded entirely by donations.


Some interesting choices, most of which I have yet to read.  Might need to rectify that shortly.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

My Locus Online contribution to their Roundtable discussion of non-Anglophone SF is now live

I wrote about Argentine author Angélica Gorodischer and Portuguese writer David Soares.  Here's the relevant link.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

What the Birthday Squirrel Bought for Me in 2012

Yes, it's that special day of the year, when the Birthday Squirrel visits me and enables me to get all sorts of cool things.  This year was no different.  In addition to two iTunes album downloads (Lincoln Durham's The Shovel vs. The Howling Bones and The Pines' Dark So Gold) and the recently-released Civilization V expansion pack for the Mac, my parents and I made a stop by my favorite used bookstore on our way back from eating lunch.  This is what the Birthday Squirrel's funds bought:

Normally, I wouldn't buy a cookbook, but for obvious reasons, this intrigued me.

Adding to my Lorca and Fuentes collections.

Thought I'd take a flyer on these two unknown (to me) writers.

Thought I'd have a different edition of the Baudelaire.  Taking a chance on the Kane.

So I'm 38 today

For the past few years, my birthday has arrived with feelings of trepidation.  Worrying about finding work, keeping work (a major scandal involving my last place of employment broke in the Nashville newspaper on my birthday last year), and lately my health have all dampened any celebratory impulses.

Not this year.  After four straight years of gaining weight and risking serious permanent damage to my health (through the development of fatty liver disease and high lipid/enzyme counts in my bloodstream, symptoms/consequences of gaining a lot of weight after giving up on myself, looks-wise, in 2007), I have walked something in the neighborhood of 350 miles (278 since May 1), been lifting weights regularly since February 11, and have shed about half of the weight gained over those four years.  With luck, by New Year's, I'll be in the best shape of my life since I was 23, when I was a muscular 5'11-6', 200 lb.  But I'm halfway there and there have been no "shortcuts" like that of 2006-2007.

I try not to be self-congratulatory here (I view personal statements here more as confessions of past faults and failed/incomplete goals), but the past few months, even though I've been out of work the entire time, have been a real godsend for me.  Attitude has mellowed some and I've re-discovered my love of exercise/walking.  Although I do have some nagging aches and pains (sore left groin/hip and a series of blisters on my left foot), for the most part, I feel so much better than I did a year ago, when I was a few dozen lbs. heavier.  It's made the unemployment bearable, as I've had something to shoot for in terms of goals and standards of excellence.

Should be interesting to see what the next 5.5 months will bring.  I suspect I'll be returning to work sooner than later (right now, I'm in the background check stage of a potential hire as a residential treatment teacher) and it will be much more difficult for me to pull off days like today, where I devoted just under 4 hours to walking and lifting weights.  But I will do something to achieve it.  And who knows, if I do reach it in the next 6-12 months, perhaps I'll even break my long-standing reluctance to post a picture of myself.  Not that any of you want to see a buff squirrelist when all you care about is hearing about the latest/greatest book, n'est ce pas? ;)

Edit:  It seems my family has finally embraced the fact that I'm a Squirrelist:


Thursday, July 12, 2012

Pre-Bastille Day Used Book Porn

A Haitian grammar and an intriguing 1978 National Book Award winner

Made a trip to McKay's for the first time in a few weeks earlier today (even though once I got there, I forgot the original reason for going, which was to find some books for one of my aunts – oops!).  Didn't buy much, in part because I wasn't for sure how much store credit I was going to receive for the 21 books I took in to be traded, not to mention buying a $27 new book, but there are some promising books here, including Walter Wangerin Jr.'s The Book of the Dun Cow.

The Walker book is the one new book I purchased today.  Reading the Høeg at some point because I've heard positive things about him.

Filling in the gaps in my reading of Onetti and Monterroso.

I'll read this Croatian poetry/essay book once I have learned enough Serbian to be reading fluent.  It might sound strange, but the two languages are about as different as North American and UK English, from what I can tell.  And of course, more Spanish poetry for me to explore.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom! - a reading to make up for the Eye of Argon and Rothfuss readings

Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom!

Doesn't this make Faulkner much more appealing than the two previous recordings? 

Rothfuss Ch. 30 - Where I read aloud something treacly

Rothfuss Ch. 30

Nearly a quarter through The Wise Man's Fear and I'm afraid this is going to be a dreadful slog, spiced with treacliness that makes me want to vomit.  Enjoy the recitation of pap.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Dear –––––––––––––– :

Dear self-published authors who think that using the term "indie" somehow validates your work,

Dear people who think that "book blogger" makes you stand out and be different from those cold-hearted, "mean" critics,

Dear beloved puissant publisher who thinks that I should be groveling right now,

Dear underappreciated and hard-working publicist/intern who sends unsolicited emails,

Dear reviewers who get too excited by a new release and then complain that they have a "huge TBR pile",

Dear anonymous commentators on blogs and other review venues who champion the notion that if you know nothing that you must shout that ignorance loudly to the world,

Dear readers of this blog who expect me to write according to their desires and not toward my inclinations,

Dear Abby,

Dear God, this is Margaret,

Deer roaming the fields by day,

Dear whoever thinks I actually have anything important to say anymore,

Dear ––––––––––,


Wednesday, July 04, 2012

A reading from Eye of Argon

A reading from Eye of Argon

Yes, you can listen to me read a few seconds from that timeless classic, Eye of Argon, by Jim Theis.  May your day be brightened by this.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Seeking new poems/poets to discover

Lately, my thoughts have returned to one of my first literary loves, poetry.  Spent part of the night reading and re-reading poems by Ernesto Cardenal and Antonio Machado and I seem to have an insatiable appetite for more poetry, especially that which expresses doubts, fears, and frustrations, such as this little poem from Machado:

Señor, ya me arrancaste lo que yo más quería.
Oye otra vez, Dios mío, mi corazón clamar.
Tu voluntad se hizo, Señor, contra la mía.
Señor, ya estamos solos mi corazón y el mar.

Lord, already you have torn me away from what I most loved.
Listen again, my God, my heart cries out.
Your will is done, Lord, against my own.
Lord, now my heart and the sea are alone.

This will do for a rough translation (the original contains some nuances that I am not yet willing to torture English syntax to approximate), but when reading poetry, I am of the opinion that I would much rather read it in the original and struggle toward my own interpretation than to read a rendering in another.  So here's what I'm asking of my readers (knowing that a sizable percentage read more than just English):

I would like to see some of your favorite poems/poets quoted here, in English if that's the language of composition, in another tongue if composed elsewhere.  I don't have to have a translation, as I would like to work out the rhythms and flows of metre and metaphor for myself.  Hopefully, there will be new poems/poets introduced here for me and for others.  So if you're up to it, please share in the comments.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

June 2012 Reads

And now, to list all the books I've read through 182 days of 2012:

203  Carlos Fuentes, La gran novela latinoamerica (non-fiction; Spanish; outstanding overview of Latin American literature over the past five centuries.  Only quibble was short shrift was given to the Macondo writers compared to the Crack group)

204  Julius Caesar, De Bello Gallico (non-fiction; Latin; first time reading the Gallic Commentaries in Latin.  Surprised how much Latin I've retained over the past 20 years)

205  George R.R. Martin and Daniel Abraham, A Game of Thrones, vol. I (graphic novel adaptation; well-done in places, but some of the artwork was meh for me)

206  Toni Morrison, Home (there's something under the surface of her just-released short novel about a Korean vet returning home that makes me want to re-read this; uneven in places)

207  Yoko Ogawa, The Housekeeper and the Professor (excellent)

208  Robert Jordan, Chuck Dixon and Andie Tong, The Eye of the World:  The Graphic Novel Volume Two (graphic novel adaptation that was mediocre in all departments.  Images here)

209  Cormac McCarthy, All the Pretty Horses (first Border Trilogy novel; outstanding)

210  Cormac McCarthy, The Crossing (second in the trilogy; excellent)

211  Cormac McCarthy, Cities of the Plain (third in the trilogy; excellent)

212  Various, The Essential Latin Language Collection (Latin; collection of 13 writings composed in Latin, from histories to Newton's geometric proofs to hymns and poetry; a classic trove)

213  Jamaica Kincaid, At the Bottom of the River (excellent)

214  Hari Kunzru, Gods Without Men (very good but uneven novel)

215  Antonio Machado, Antología poética (Spanish; re-read; poetry; excellent)

216  Mario Benedetti, Inventario II (Spanish; re-read; poetry; very good)

217  Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer, Rimas y Leyendas (Spanish; re-read; poetry and short fiction; poetry was outstanding, the fiction merely very good)

218  {REDACTED} - something I enjoyed very much, however.  You can guess who I read and what all you want, but I will never confirm or deny it.

219  Angélica Gorodischer, Opus Dos (Spanish; story collection; good-to-very good)

220  Josip Novakovich, Shopping for a Better Country (excellent series of essays from a Croatian-American writer)

221  Michael Cisco, Celebrant (it's Michael Cisco, it's weird, it's mesmerizing, I'll have to re-read it before reviewing it at some point in the future)

222  Matthea Harvey and Amy Jean Porter, Of Lamb (re-read; excellent)

223  László Krasznahorkai and Max Neumann, Animalinside (re-read; comments on Gogol's Overcoat)

224  Angélica Gorodischer (ed.), Mujeres de Palabra (non-fiction; Spanish; very good introduction to Latin American feminist writers/poets)

225  Angélica Gorodischer, Casta luna electrónica (Spanish; story collection; very good)

226  Woislav M. Petrovitch, Hero Tales and Legends of the Serbians (good yet antiquated – it was published in 1913, I believe – rendering into English of Serb folklore)

227  Modris Ekšteins, Walking Since Daybreak (non-fiction; I may write a piece on this history of Latvia during the 20th century/personal memoir later; very moving and excellent history from one of my favorite historians)

One of my shortest reading months in over a year.  Feel free to weigh in on books read or on questions regarding titles listed.

May 2012 Reads

Because there were only 30 days in June that I could procrastinate posting this...

39 books read, but 9 of those were read during the return trip from Kansas City May 5 or just after returning home.  As the temperatures climbing, my desire to read dropped (that and I wasn't reading e-books much due to switching to walking instead of riding the exercise bike at the gym for 30-40 minutes 4x/week).  When I post the June figures, that number has continued to dip, minus a rally the past three days that pushed me to 25 for that month.

Anyways, the list, with very brief comments:

164  Enrique Vila-Matas, Paris no se acaba nunca (Spanish; very good)

165  Ben Lerner, Leaving the Atocha Station (very good)

166  Howard Monnett, Action Before Westport, 1864 (non-fiction; picked up at a Kansas City Civil War battlefield museum; very informative about a battle I knew nothing about – it was the largest Civil War battle west of the Mississippi River – before the trip)

167  Mario Vargas Llosa, La civilización del espectáculo (okay, but disappointing, considering the author; non-fiction)

168  Imre Kertész, Fatelessness (excellent fiction from a Nobel literature laureate)

169  Bjornstjerne Bjornson, The Bridal March (so-so effort from another Nobel laureate)

170  Nalo Hopkinson, Chaos (very good YA novel)

171  Gwyneth Jones, The Universe of Things (good-to-very-good story collection)

172  Jain Sen and Rizky Wasito Edi, Garlands of Moonlight (graphic novel based on Malaysian legends; very good)

173  Jai Sen and Eric Bryden, The Ghost of Silver Cliff (graphic novel; good, but not as good as the first volume)

174  Isaak Dinesan, Out of Africa (non-fiction; despite some questionable commentary on the Kenyans, an interesting memoir)

175  Isaak Dinesan, Seven Gothic Tales (hit-or-miss for me; didn't help I was reading this while awaiting news if my brother and sister-in-law were having a boy or girl; it was a girl, by the way)

176  Mario Benedetti, La Tregua (Spanish; good)

177  Erri de Luca, Montedidio (Italian; a very moving tale)

178  Erri de Luca, God's Mountain (the English translation)

179  Machado de Assis, Mémorias Póstumas de Brás Cubas (one of Brazil's finest 19th century writers; Portuguese; very good)

180  Davis Soares, Batalha (Portuguese; I want to comment more on this animal fable later, but this short novel only confirms that he is one of the best writers in the world today, at least in my inflated opinion ;)

181  Nathan Englander, What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank (story collection; I chose it as a mid-year Best of 2012 candidate)

182  Helen Oyeyemi, The Icarus Girl (very good debut effort from a very talented writer)

183  Helen Oyeyemi, White is for Witching (Oyeyemi's third novel just confirms my high opinion of her; excellent)

184  Machado de Assis, Papéis Avulsos (Portuguese; very good)

185  Muriel Barbery, The Elegance of the Hedgehog (very moving tale; very good)

186  Cory Doctorow, The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow (non-fiction; well-presented overview of Doctorow's thoughts on technology, writing, and civil liberties)

187  Cynthia Robinson, The Will of Venus (average)

188  Jane Rogers, The Testament of Jesse Lamb (already reviewed)

189  Colette, La Maison de Claudine (French; very good)

190  Sigrid Undset, Jenny (decent but dated novel from another Nobel laureate)

191  Selma Lagerlöf, Jerusalem (this Nobel literature laureate's novel felt much "fresher" than most pre-1940 efforts; very good)

192  Banana Yoshimoto, N.P. (I have yet to have read a Yoshimoto novel that didn't grasp my attention; very good)

193  Tupelo Hassman, Girlchild (one of the best debuts I've read this year; discussed more in my mid-year Best of 2012 post)

194  Joyce Carol Oates, Mudwoman (the confused, abrupt ending almost destroyed what until then had been a very solid novel)

195  Dana Spiotta, Eat the Document (Spiotta is an outstanding talent and this was an outstanding novel that was a finalist several years ago for the National Book Award in Fiction)

196  Monica Ali, Brick Lane (Ali's debut novel, which earned her mention in Granta's list of Young British Writers.  Deserving of high praise)

197  Jamaica Kincaid, My Brother (non-fiction; moving, devastating, but a read I think most should do in the very near future.  Kincaid laid it all out here in this semi-autobiographical account of a dead brother)

198  Monica Ali, Alentejo Blue (good, but not as good as her debut)

199  N.K. Jemisin, The Killing Moon (mediocre)

200  Kathy Acker, Literal Madness (I need to re-read this before having a firmer opinion, but this was some trippy/weirdness on display)

201  Charles M. Shultz, Screća je...toplo kučence (re-read; Serbian; translation of one of my favorite childhood books, Happiness is a Warm Puppy; moved me even in translation, most of which I understood without need of a dictionary!)

202  Jamaica Kincaid, A Small Place (non-fiction;  excellent essays on the perniciousness of tourism on a Caribbean society, among other topics of discussion)

The June list will be up later today or tomorrow.  That one, like I said above, is shorter at only 25.  Feel free to weigh in on books listed here that you've read or if you have questions about any title listed.
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