Archive for February, 2012

Words for Wednesday

From The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett

‘I read, I think,’ she said to Norman, ‘because one has a duty to find out what people are like,’ a trite enough remark of which Norman took not much notice, feeling himself under no such obligation, and reading purely for pleasure, not enlightenment, though part of the pleasure was the enlightenment, he could see that. But duty did not come into it.

To someone with the background of the Queen, though, pleasure had always taken second place to duty. If she could feel she had a duty to read then she could set about it with a clear conscious, with the pleasure, if pleasure there was, incidental. But why did it take possession of her now? This she did not discuss with Norman, as she felt it had to do with who she was and the position she occupied.


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For Your Amusement

In my Internet hopping this weekend I came across this wonderful posting. Unfortunately I don’t know how I got there so  I am unable to provide appropriate credit. It turns out there is an actual prize for odd titles called Bookseller/Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year (the wikipedia entry about the prize can be found here). The first prize was given in 1978 for Proceedings for the Second International Workshop on Nude Mice. There are even a book about the prize, How to Avoid Huge Ships and Other Implausibly Titled Books by Joel Rickett.  Last year’s winner sent my dental anxieties into high gear – Managing a Dental Practice: The Genghis Khan Way. There are some real winners on this year’s short list which follows below with commentary from TheBookseller.Com :

A Century of Sand Dredging in the Bristol Channel: Volume Two by Peter Gosson (Amberley). A book that documents the sand trade from its inception in 1912 to the present day, focusing on the Welsh coast.

Cooking with Poo by Saiyuud Diwong (Urban Neighbours of Hope). Thai cookbook. “Poo” is Thai for “crab” and is Diwong’s nickname.

Estonian Sock Patterns All Around the World by Aino Praakli (Kirjastus Elmatar). Covers styles of socks and stockings found in Estonian knitting.

The Great Singapore Penis Panic: And the Future of American Mass Hysteria by Scott D Mendelson (Createspace). An analysis of the “Koro” psychiatric epidemic that hit the island of Singapore in 1967.

Mr Andoh’s Pennine Diary: Memoirs of a Japanese Chicken Sexer in 1935 Hebden Bridge by Stephen Curry and Takayoshi Andoh (Royd Press). The story of Koichi Andoh, who travelled from Japan to Yorkshire in the 1930s to train workers at a hatchery business the art of determining the sex of one-day-old chicks.

A Taxonomy of Office Chairs by Jonathan Olivares (Phaidon). Exhaustive overview of the evolution of the modern office chair.

The Mushroom in Christian Art by John A Rush (North Atlantic Books). In which the author reveals that Jesus is a personification of the Holy Mushroom, Amanita Muscaria.

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Sunday Caught My Interest

We had a genuine snow event yesterday with 4-5 inches of heavy wet snow. Eldest and I decided errands were not going to happen so we spent the day inside watching the snow obscure the view and listen to the wind howl. I spent the day re-reading my friend’s manuscript and eldest sat writing a web series he and his friend are developing. Today the robins who arrived earlier in the month started peaking out from the evergreen trees and tweeting again today. I did manage to finish two books this week, After the Apocalypse: Stories by Maureen McHugh and The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett. I think it is helping get back into the swing of reading by starting off with short bursts.

Here is what caught my interest this week:

I can always count on Eva from A Striped Armchair to be reading a diverse and interesting set of books. This week she has two on my list. The first is a brief notation of a book she got out of the library this week called Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo. This is the first work by Journalist Katherine Boo who has previously won a Pulitzer Prize while working for the Washington Post for her series on homes for the mentally impaired. She is also the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship and other awards for her work in The New Yorker. The author spent three years with the occupants of the tin shacks and cardboard hovels of a slum in the shadows of the Mumbai airport. She chronicles the hopes and dreams of the people she meets contrasted by the harsh realities of their existence. Here is an excerpt of The New York Times review, “… exquisitely accomplished first book. Novelists dream of defining characters this swiftly and beautifully, but Ms. Boo is not a novelist. She is one of those rare, deep-digging journalists who can make truth surpass fiction, a documentarian with a superb sense of human drama. She makes it very easy to forget that this book is the work of a reporter. …. Comparison to Dickens is not unwarranted.”

The second book that caught my eye from Eva’s blog is Prospero’s Daughter by Elizabeth Nunez whose earlier novel Bruised Hibiscus is sitting on my to be read shelf. Nunez, who is from Trinidad, places this work on a small island off Trinidad in the late 1950’s.  A white doctor accuses a young, black man of attempting to rape his daughter. Nunez uses Shakespeare’s The Tempest to explore issues of race, class, and colonialism.  I have always liked The Tempest and how Shakespeare manages to explore the complicity of man and his relationships with so few characters and in such a limited space. If Nunez even manages to come somewhat close, this may be a work considering. Eva certainly thinks so writing:

I cannot emphasize enough how wonderful this novel was. As a postcolonial story, it’s masterfully layered and lends itself to multiple, close readings. As a piece of literature, Nunez’s play with The Tempest is smart and fun and powerful. And as a story, it’s impossible to not want to know how it ends or care for the characters involved…Nunez’s writing defies straightforward deconstruction or easy analysis, but it spoke to something deep within me, and I suspect it will speak to other readers as well. In case you haven’t guessed, I highly, highly recommend this to everyone.

Tomás Eloy Martínez is an  important South American journalist and novelist. He frequently challenged authority and lived in exile during the Argentinian Dictatorship in the 1970’s. Martinez’s last novel Purgatory was recently translated into English and published in this country. Jackie of Farmlane Books reviews the novel with somewhat mixed feelings. Even so, I am interested in this novel for two reasons. One reason is the first line of the novel, “Simón Cardoso had been dead thirty years when his wife, Emilia Dupuy, spotted him at lunchtime in the lounge bar in Trudy Tuesday.” Emilia’s husband disappeared shortly after they were married in a period of time when many Argentinians were disappearing. Emilia believes, all these years, that Simon is alive despite the witnesses who say otherwise and spends the next thirty years in a sort of Purgatory. The second reason is the subtlety of the novel. This is what caused Jackie the most problems when reading and I like quiet, subtle novels so I am intrigued to see what I would think of this one.

Finally Alyce of At Home with Books had a link to a short article on the mental health benefits of rereading. I come from a long line of re-readers and my youngest is definitely a re-reader (it was obvious from a very young age) so it was nice to find out there are actual benefits to rereading.

Happy Reading!

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Giveaway Winner

Thank you to everyone who stopped by and participated in the Literary Blog Hop. The giveaway winner was randomly chosen by eldest and is:

Anna Zed

Look for an email and congratulations.

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Words for Wednesday

(Photo courtesy of Dark in the Dark – an aficionado of all things macabre, a book reviewer and collector, and a pretty fantastic paper artist based on what I saw on the website.)

It is Edward Gorey’s Birthday and in celebration and the return of Words for Wednesday, below you can find the first lines from The Beastly Baby – a favorite. I wish I had taped the laughter of my youngest child when he rediscovered Edward Gorey as a teenager. I asked him what he was reading and it was The Beastly Baby. I was raised on Edward Gorey – doesn’t every mom read Edward Gorey to their children as bedtime reading? My mom still gets something Goreyish in her stocking each Christmas and I was delighted to find the house I stayed at just before the holidays held two Gorey fans complete with a Gorey shrine with prints, first editions, and lots of other treats for the eyes.

The Beastly Baby

by Edward Gorey

Once upon a time there was a baby.

It was worse than other babies. For one thing, it was larger.

Its body was not merely obese, but downright bloated.

One of its feet had too many toes, and the other one not enough.

Its hands were both left ones.

Its nose was beaky, and appeared to be considerably older than the rest of it.

Its tine eyes were surrounded by large black rings due to fatigue, for its guilty conscience hardly ever allowed it to sleep.

It was usually damp and sticky for it wept a great deal. It was consumed by self-pity, which in this case was perfectly justified.

It was capable of making only two sorts of noises, both of them nasty.

The first was a choked gurgling, reminiscent of faulty drains. It made this noise when it had succeeded in doing something perfectly atrocious.

The second was a thin shriek suggestive of fingernails on blackboards. It made this noise when it had been prevented from doing something particularly atrocious.

Fortunately, it was unable to walk.

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Sunday Caught My Interest

I came to the realization this weekend that I am not necessarily in a reading slump. Instead, I am in a finishing slump. I have at least four books strewn around the house in various stages of completion and I find myself looking for something to start rather than finishing what I have. Hopefully further breakthroughs will happen and I can get back to the joy of reading. I spent a lot of time this weekend looking at blogs from the Literary Blog Hop. While I like entering the giveaways, what I appreciate most about the blog hop is seeing what other people read and value about books.  Several of the bloggers were offering books I have read and enjoyed. A few showed me some new books that definitely caught my interest and there are at least a few blogs that I will be visiting again. Here is what caught my interest this week:

Sam Still Reading is an Australian Blog and the book she is giving away is Villain by Shuichi Yoshida. A young insurance saleswoman is murdered at Mitsuse Pass in Southern Japan. The novel, the first of Yoshida to be translated into English, is part thriller and part cultural study into the loneliness and isolation of Japanese young adults. The more I read about the author and the book, the more I want to read it. Hopefully I will win the giveaway – if not I hope the novel isn’t too hard to find.

I found two books for my list at Cat’s blog, Tell Me a Story, and they couldn’t be more different. The first is a thriller, Black Flowers by Steve Mosby. Who could resist a mystery that is advertized as, “This is not a story of a girl who disappears. This is a story of a little girl who comes back. And this return has ripples years and years later moving between three time periods and multiple narratives. The second is a  quieter novel, Obedience by Jacqueline Yallop, and it explores, in the words of Hilary Mantel, ” where and how we choose to draw the line between innocence and guilt, ignorance and complicity.” Mantel goes on to state, “Obedience also asks us to consider what ghastly harm is committed in the name of love. It”s rare to find a book that is seemingly so simple, but is really ambiguous and thought-provoking.” In present day France, 93 year-old Sister Bernhard is leaving her closing convent with her two remaining fellow sisters. As they wait, they reflect on the past and Sister Bernhard thinks back to the war when, in an eagerness for love, she commits an act that has devastating consequences for everyone around her.

I must confess I have a fondness for end of the world scenarios. It all started with reading Neville Shute’s On the Beach in high school (I had bad dreams for weeks) and of course many re-readings of Stephan King’s The Stand. Last night I was able to combine this love with my fondness for bad TV watching Ice Age 2012 (which stands very high on the list for world’s worse movies). And today Gavin of Page247 gives me a book of short stories to read, After the Apocalypse by Maureen McHugh. The reasons for apocalypse in this collection are varied: bird flu, computers gone a muck, dirty bombs, problems with food supply. All of which are quite plausible which makes it all the more scary. Gavin write, “These stories are about how American people cope, or fail to cope.  Simple, spare and devastating, sometimes even funny, they are filled with the unexpected and completely mundane.  These things could really happen, maybe even have happened.” Fortunately this one is on the shelf of the local library and I plan on picking it up on Tuesday.

On a lighter note, Danielle from A Work in Progress showcases a memoir highlighting a love of Paris, New York, and all things sweet. Paris My Sweet: A Year in the City of Light (and Dark Chocolate) by Amy Thomas sounds like one of the best food memoirs since Ruth Reichl’s Tender at the Bone. Amy leaves Manhattan to take a job in Paris with Louis Vuitton. During her time there she explores all the sweet things the city has to offer and struggles with being torn between two great cities. I have long wanted to visit New York and I hope to see Paris next year when youngest is in Austria. Since I love to make desserts, this sounds like a perfect light hearted read.

Finally, when two of my favorite book bloggers love a book,  I take notice. Jenny of Shelf Love writes:

…the overarching new story, of healing and change, is deeply powerful, and it’s so beautifully and sparely written that it almost comes as a surprise to find out how tense it is…”

And, from Eva of a Striped Armchair:

…then I picked it up, and found it was one of Those Books; the ones that I’ll always remember exactly how I was sitting as I began to read, and how I couldn’t quite catch my breath, and the mix of desire to turn the pages ever faster to find out what was going to happen next with the desire to slow down and reread every sentence because they were all so wonderful. One of Those Books that feel like sheer perfection, and that have me internally exulting: “This is why I read!”,

it immediately hits my radar. Then I come to find that the original recommendation comes from Gavin of Page247 and I am already sold. This is an unusual novel, tense, and at times angry, but it seems to be well worth the effort to read. Sherman Alexie calls it, “Ceremony is the greatest novel in Native American literature. It is one of the greatest novels of any time and place.” Tayo, a Laguna Pueblo Indian, returns from WWII, the Bataan Death March, and interment by the Japanese, as a damaged man who doesn’t quite fit seamlessly into the pueblo life. A medicine man talks to him about the power of stories, and the importance of being able to change our stories. He tells Tayo that the old rituals are not working for him because those rituals haven’t changed with the times. These are themes I grew up with (it is nice to have a mom who is a Jungian) so I am incredibly drawn to this book. I will leave you with a quote from the second page of the book as it seems so fitting for a weekend filled with bookish thoughts. Happy reading.

I will tell you something about stories,
[he said]
They aren’t just entertainment.
Don’t be fooled.
They are all we have, you see,
all we have to fight off
illness and death.

You don’t have anything
if you don’t have the stories.

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Welcome to Reflections of the Hinterland – I hope you are all enjoying the Blog Hop and Give Away, there are so many great books out there. Thanks to Judith of Leeswammes’ Blog for her organization. Most blog hops are geared toward very genre specific books but this one is for geared towards giving away books with more “literary merit”. Today I am offering one book to give away  – The Twin by Gerbrand Bakker (translated from the Dutch by David Colmer) and winner of the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. My review of the book can be found here. It is a quiet novel set on a Dutch farm, more introspective then plot heavy but well worth reading. The copy is a once-read paperback and is beautiful. Archipelago Books printed it an an unusual size (5 3/4″ x 7″) with a drop dead gorgeous cover. I must say, it did felt as good to read as it was well-written.

Here is a description of the book from Archipelago Books:

When his twin brother dies in a car accident, Helmer is obliged to return from university life to take over his brother’s role on the small family farm, resigning himself to spending the rest of his days ‘with his head under a cow.’

The novel begins thirty years later with Helmer moving his invalid father upstairs to have him out of the way as he sparsely redecorates the downstairs, finally making it his own. Then one day Riet, the woman who had once been engaged to marry Helmer’s twin, appears and asks if she and her troubled eighteen-year-old son could come to live with them on the farm.

Ostensibly a novel about the countryside, TheTwin is ultimately about the possibility or impossibility of taking life into one’s own hands. It chronicles a way of life that has resisted modernity, a world culturally apart yet laden with romantic longing.

Here are the rules:

  1. The contest is open to readers from the United States and Canada
  2. Please comment to this post with your email address to enter.
  3. Entries close 2/22/2012 at 11:00 pm (PST)
  4. I will randomly pick a winner and notify that person by email. They have three days to get back to me. If I don’t hear within that time frame, I will pick another winner.
  5. One entry per person
  6. You don’t need a blog to enter (just an email and a valid address to receive the book) not do you have to follow my blog (although followers are always welcome)
  7. Enjoy the blog hop – there are some great literary blogs on the tour and I plan to spend some of my weekend happily reading about books

Here are the rest of the blog hop participants:

  1. Leeswammes
  2. Curiosity Killed The Bookworm
  3. Lit Endeavors (US)
  4. The Book Whisperer
  5. Rikki’s Teleidoscope
  6. 2606 Books and Counting
  7. The Parrish Lantern
  8. Sam Still Reading
  9. Bookworm with a view
  10. Breieninpeking (Dutch readers)
  11. Seaside Book Nook
  12. Elle Lit (US)
  13. Nishita’s Rants and Raves
  14. Tell Me A Story
  15. Living, Learning, and Loving Life (US)
  16. Book’d Out
  17. Uniflame Creates
  18. Tiny Library (UK)
  19. An Armchair by the Sea (UK)
  20. bibliosue
  21. Lena Sledge’s Blog (US)
  22. Roof Beam Reader
  23. Misprinted Pages
  24. Mevrouw Kinderboek (Dutch readers)
  25. Under My Apple Tree (US)
  26. Indie Reader Houston
  27. Book Clutter
  28. I Am A Reader, Not A Writer (US)
  29. Lizzy’s Literary Life
  30. Sweeping Me
  1. Caribousmom (US)
  2. Minding Spot (US)
  3. Curled Up With a Good Book and a Cup of Tea
  4. The Book Diva’s Reads
  5. The Blue Bookcase
  6. Thinking About Loud!
  7. write meg! (US)
  8. Devouring Texts
  9. Thirty Creative Studio (US)
  10. The Book Stop
  11. Dolce Bellezza (US)
  12. Simple Clockwork
  13. Chocolate and Croissants
  14. The Scarlet Letter (US)
  15. Reflections from the Hinterland (N. America)
  16. De Boekblogger (Europe, Dutch readers)
  17. Readerbuzz (US)
  18. Must Read Faster (N. America)
  19. Burgandy Ice @ Colorimetry
  20. carolinareti
  21. MaeGal
  22. Ephemeral Digest
  23. Scattered Figments (UK)
  24. Bibliophile By the Sea
  25. The Blog of Litwits (US)
  26. Kate Austin
  27. Alice Anderson (US)
  28. Always Cooking up Something



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