Hello from beautiful Utah. Sunday Caught My Interest did not get published last weekend as I was traveling, first to Salem to pick up my mom and then to Salt Lake. My father is undergoing his final 6 days of radiation for Oral Mouth Cancer and I am the designated driver for the week. My brother had the duty last week and now it is my turn. My mom came along for the ride to keep my company and help out although she flew home on Friday. . Last week was a flurry of preparation and this week is lots of commuting to the treatment center and drives for my father. My mom and I already made one trip to King’s English Bookstore and I went again when I was on my own. I listened to part of The Sword of the Templars by Paul Christopher which is a good travel “read” engaging enough but not too literary (f it is too literary, I want to take notes which is not conducive to mindful driving). And I finished The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson while not a light read, it is very good – haunting. I find myself walking up at night and thinking about it. I have also started The Hamilton Case by Michelle De Kretser.
Here is what caught my interest this week:
While I am away, I miss my cat. Himself misses me, in part, because the cat spends the majority of his time telling Himself he is the wrong person. Cats are such individuals – with personality, philosophies, conversations, and thoughts on the world – which if you are lucky, they will freely express to you. My cat was dumped in the country as a kitten and it took a long time for him to even venture into the backyard. He had been in the big, wide world and it was not all it is cracked up to be. When I was reading Diane’s (Bibliophile by the Sea) review of Henri, le Chat Noir: The Existential Musings of an Angst-filled Cat by William Braden, and I came across this line, “In general, Henri does not trust the out side world…” I knew I had to read this book. Each musing is accompanied by a different picture of Henri. I think this one will go on my Christmas list.
Sometimes it is the opening line of a review that grabs my attention. In this case, it is Kimbofo’s review of The Swallows of Kabul by Yasmina Kahadra:
This is the third novel by Yasmina Khadra that I have read: the first, The Attack, was set in war-torn Israel; the second, The Sirens of Baghdad, was set in war-torn Iraq; and this, Swallows of Kabul, was set in war-torn Afghanistan.
All three books explore long-established cultures being torn apart at the seams, usually from within — and while considered and intelligent, all are unbearably bleak with little joy in the narratives.
Perhaps it is because I am in Utah which has a distinct, long established culture; perhaps it is because I finished The Orphanmaster’s Son and in reading the review, I see a parallel between the two books. The Orphanmaster’s Son was- also a grim book but well worth the effort. My interest is further piqued when I read about Khadra, a former Algerian army officer who wrote under a pseudonym to escape censorship regulations. Algeria is a country that fascinates me and I wonder how much of the author’s experiences influence his work. The Swallows of Kabul tells the story of two couples living in Kabul under the Taliban. One of the men, wondering the streets in angst, comes across a public execution of a prisoner guarded by the husband of the second couple. This all sounds very depressing but Kimbofo says the writing and the narrative tension make it a worthwhile read.
On the search for something lighter, Guy Savage of His Futile Preoccupations… introduces me to a new detective in his review of Fred Vargas’s mystery The Ghost Riders of Ordebec. There are eight Commissaire Adamsberg mysteries, all translated into English, with The Ghost Riders being the latest and the first being The Chalk Circle Man. Adamsberg is from the Pyrenees and, in the first novel, he is a recent transfer to Paris when a mysterious series of blue chalk circles are drawn in different parts of the city. Not socially adapt, but a genius in solving crimes, Adamsberg and his associate (who has more conventional methods of crime solving) work the case. The last book in the series sounds very interesting with lines like this, “Perhaps there’s an ancient cloud around here, some mist, a disturbance, a memory still hanging in the air.” This seems like a detective I should get to know.
Sometimes I am in the mood for something different and The Indextrious Reader provides just the thing with a review of a modern take on the epistolary novel. The Antagonist by Lynn Coady consists of a series of e-mails by Gordon Rankin Jr. to a former classmate, the author of a novel that contains a character drawn from events from Rankin’s own life. Rankin is furious and in the subsequent e-mails we learn of his version of his life. The emails range from funny to heartbreaking and cover themes such as male friendship, father-son dynamics, and the angst of living with a black cloud over your head for Rankin is described as a “King Midas in reverse”.
This next book is available on E-Readers only but it seems particularly apt as the Booker Long List was recently announced. Winston’s Dad reviews Flippo Bologna’s novel The Parrot (translated by Howard Curtis). Three authors, rivals, are fighting to receive a major literary prize. The writers remain unnamed throughout the novel known only as The Beginner, The Writer, and The Master. Each are at different moments in their career and each has a very different motivation for winning the prize. If you are in the mood for a satire about writing and culture – this one may be for you.
Finally, JoAnn of Lakeside Musing has a wonderful post about the Modern Library Food Series – worth checking out if you like both food and reading. And both Kevin From Canada and Farmlane Books have posts on The Booker Long List