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Trinity College Library, Dublin
1. Sayaka Murata, Convenience Store Woman, trans. Ginny Tapley Takamori, Japanese, novella, 2016/2018:
2. Janis Londraville, Kiss, Sable!, American, non-fiction, 2018:
3. Joy Williams, The Quick and the Dead, American, novel, 2002, Kindle: 1/2
4. Johan Lier Horst, When It Grows Dark, trans. Anne Bruce, Norwegian, mystery, 2016/2017:
5. Eimear McBride, A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing, Irish, novel, 2015: 1/2
6. Violet Trefusis, Hunt the Slipper, British, novel, 1937: 1/2
7. Ernest Hemingway, To Have and Have Not, American, novel, 1937: 1/2
8. Robert Mueller, The Mueller Report, American, investigative report, 2019: 1/2
9. Miriam Toews, A Complicated Kindness, Canadian, novel, 2004, Kindle:
10. Michael Crummey, Galore, Canadian, novel, 2009:
11. Tea Obreht, Inland, American, novel, 2019:
12 Heather Lende, Take Good Care of the Garden and the Dogs, American, memoir, 2010: 1/2
13. Liza Wieland, Paris, 7 A.M., American, novel, 2019:
Looking forward to your postings this year, Jane.
Muriel Spark, The Comforters
J.T. Glisson, The Creek
Magda Szabo Katalin Street
Edna O'Brien, The Little Red Chairs
Kelly Barnhill, The Girl Who Drank the Moon
Madeline Miller Circe
Paul Harding Tinkers
Jonas Jonasson, The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden
I rated them all 4 1/2 *s -- I guess I like a bit of imperfection in my masterpieces.
You have a great list of 2018 favorites. I'm a Spark fan but haven't read that one.
I look forward to seeing where your reading leads you this year.
I love your intro thread description of how the dismal political situation, has been desperately enervating for your reading. Enervating - that's a perfect word for something I think many on LT are feeling.
Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata, trans. from Japanese by Ginny Tapley Takamori
Keiko Furukara narrates this short novel about her life as a clerk in the Hiiromachi Station Smile Mart. She has worked there for 18 years since she first got the position as the store opened -- it was a brand new convenience market in a business district, and she had just finished school. In the culture of the store, she finds her perfect niche. The employees' behavior is outlined in the company manual, and all the stock is displayed in a manner most employed to catch the customers' attention and highlight the store's current sales and promotions. She eats, sleeps and lives for the position she has found despite mounting pressure from her family to find a "real" job or better yet, to get married.
In elementary school, Keiko had learned to cope with her peers by simply keeping silent. The few times she had reacted to situations, her reactions, perfectly logical to her at the time, were deemed totally unacceptable -- for instance, when two boys got into a fight, and everyone was yelling at them to stop, she simply picked up a shovel and hit one over the head. This and a few similar occurences led her loving parents to try to find an elusive "cure" for her.
While it is difficult for someone not intimately knowlegeable about Japanese culture and the kind of exploration/satire Murata is employing, for me, as a Western reader, the novel seems to be exploring the reality and coping mechanisms employed by someone on the autism/Aspergers syndrom scale. The book is wry and has some definite humorous moments as well as a fairly strong message about "living and let live."
2. >11 janeajones: Well that sounds good, doesn't it! Added to my wishlist.
Kiss, Sable! by Janis Londraville
I read this book because this week I'm having lunch with my cousin who wrote it. It's the true story of a very old horse she adopted from Whippoorwill Horse Rescue. When Janis adopted Sable, she was underweight with rain rot spots. Over the course of a summer with much veterinary care and careful, personalized feeding, the 26 year old mare recovered into a stable old age. In Kiss, Sable!, Sable tells her own story making this a charming tale for horse-loving pre- and early teens. The climax is perhaps when she is reunited with Margaret, now a young mother, but Sable's "girl" who , from the age of five until she left home, owned and trained and rode Sable through the hills of Western Tennessee. If you know a horse-loving youngster, she or he would enjoy this heartwarming tale. All proceeds from the sale of the book go to the care and feeding of adopted horses.
The Quick and the Dead by Joy Williams
Joy Williams is probably an acquired taste -- acquired by those who savor gallows humor and tenuous connections between life and death. Generally speaking her characters are not the kind of souls one would want to spend much time with, but they do tease the mind for a couple of afternoon or evening reads. The Quick and the Dead takes place during one summer in an unidentified Southwestern desert town. The main characters are three motherless sixteen year-old girls.
Alice, the central character, has been raised by her Granny and Poppa as her mother decamped shortly after she was born. Her school friend, Corvus, has recently lost both her parents in a freak flash flood. Annabel, a newcomer to the town, has arrived from New England with her father Carter, who is literally haunted during the night by his late wife, Ginger. Alice wants to live a singular life, and although she sees earth-threatening calamities around every corner, she is the most daring. Corvus is buried in grieving and unsure how to proceed. While trying to remember and memorialize her mother, Annabel hates the desert and longs for the "normal" life she has been dragged from.
Peripheral characters include the founder of a Wildlife Museum populated by the stuffed animals he has hunted all over the world, a piano player who wears a tuxedo all the time, an eight-year old girl who despises the man her mother is seeing, a seductive gardener who enchants Annabel's father, and a drifter -- a young stroke victim -- who believes a monkey lives in his brain.
The book was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and is brilliantly written, as are all Williams' novels (I haven't read her short story collections). Williams's landscapes contribute to or counterpoint the bizarre and bleak vision she has of the modern society.
Yep, I still live in Japan! And yes, you can read my review here on my 2018 thread. I posted my general thoughts and review and then I honed in on a few of the spots that talk about Japanese society.
I'm not so sure that I would agree about Keiko being on the autism scale. Introverted, uninterested in the traditional meanderings of society, and certainly a personality that likes patterns and orderliness, but I don't think that implies any sort of mental disorder. I mostly think she was a very rambunctious child with lots of personality but it was hit out of her by Japan's tendency to want its citizens to be homogeneous in behavior to ensure a properly working society. She then decided that to survive this society she would have to obey its rules to the fullest, and I really think that is what the book is trying to say. But I also say this as someone who is very much uneducated in austism, but very much aware of the cogs of Japanese society.
I appreciate your analysis. As I noted, I am quite unaware of Japanese social norms, so your insight is appreciated. I don't think Aspergers is a a mental disorder, just a different way of of dealing with society that is somewhat oblivious to accepted ways of interacting with other people. Most individuals on the Aspergers scale are highly intelligent, if somewhat emotionally challenged.
When It Grows Dark by John Lier Horst
Snow, snow and more snow. William Wisting, the protagonist/police officer of this mystery, must shovel out his driveway at least fifteen times during the short course of the book; a roof laden with heavy snow collapses on hime and traps him beneath it for at least an hour; tire tracks and footprints in the snow are clues to solve the mystery. It made me cold in 76 degree FL weather -- the reason why this western NY, snow belter is happily ensconsed in FL.
That said, I have mixed reactions to this prequel of a popular mystery series featuring Detective Wisting. I found the writing in the first third of the book really plodding and slow-going. I wasn't sure anything of interest was developing, but I was cozy in bed, so I kept reading. The plot about a 60 year old COLD-case caught the attention of then young Officer Wisting, and he began to investigate the clues of a murder and robbery of a large amount of cash being transferred from one bank to another by a private hauling service.
Suffice it to say, this is the case that offered Wisting an opportunity to become an investigative Detective. I've not read any other books by Horst, but since I have one still on my TBR, I shall get to it soon.
>avaland -- thanks, Lois
A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing by Eimear McBride
I wish I liked this book better than I did because I think the writing is quite brilliant. It's a stream-of-consciousness narrative of a coming-of age story of an Irish Girl probably in the 1970s-80s, though both the time and place of the novel are generic, rather than specific. Likewise, the characters, the Girl, her Brother, her Mammy, her Uncle and all the other minor characters remain nameless throughout.
Many reader/reviewers have found the novel difficult to read, despite its glowing critical reviews and many literary prizes. Although the language is fragmented, using only full stop periods as punctuation -- I found the narration flowed -- sometimes lyrically, more often savagely sordid. It was the girl's journey through the novel that I found difficult
"Skating on the beach. I dreamed it. Empty sort on a yellow sky day cliff. In the evening of it. All alone though gulls are there. Cormorants I know. Chicks and hens. Buttery throt calls squawks. Dipping fish out. Wheeling in it turn and dive. Flutter like a panic wings that they would all fall down above me. I hate those bird feet hanging. rubbery storm air as though blowing over the water. Coursing I think. That clouds and wind skiteing sand spray floats of it up. Catching at the back of me."
"I met a man. I met a man. I let him throw me round the bed. And smoked me, me, spliffs and choked my neck until I said I was dead. I met a man who took me for walks. Long ones in the country. I offer up. I offer up in the hedge. I met a man I met with her. She and me and his friend to bars at night and drink champagne and bought me chips at every teatime.... I met a man who gave me a smack. I met a man who cracked my arm. I met man who said what are you doing out so late at night. I met a man. I met a man. And wash my mouth out with soap. I wish I could. That I did then. I met a man. A stupid thing. I met a man. Should have turned on my heel."
In some ways the plot itself is cliched -- a dysfuntional family -- after the elder brother suffers from a brain tumor and the Girl is born, the father deserts the family. The deeply religious (Roman Catholic) mother is left to fend for herself and her children -- at times compassionately, at times self-pitying and violent. The brother and sister are close, the sister sometimes protective. At 13, the girl is molested by her uncle and spends the rest of her adolescence tryng to fill the void in her being with sexual encounters. The conclusion of the novel is ambiguous.
When I was about half way through the novel, I read this interview with McBride that I found illuminating:
I'd only recommend this novel to readers who are fascinated by the lengths to which the English language can be stretched and don't mind graphic sexuality.
Hunt the Slipper by Violet Trefusis.
Well, I didn't remember reading this novel and just reread it. None of it remained in my memory, so it obviously didn't leave an impression on first reading (either that or I'm going quite senile). I think I must have been more amused this time, as I found it quite a souffle. It follows the ups and downs of a romantic liaison between Nigel and Caroline, his neighbor's wife. Nothing serious here, but a pleasant way to while away some time.
Here's my first review:
I found this a somewhat amusing book about vapid members of upperclass English society in the 1930s. In her Introduction, Lorna Sage describes the book as "a splendidly malicious commentary on England, and the on the aristocratic English society that she (Trefusis) had escaped...." If that's your thing -- enjoy.
To Have and Have Not by Ernest Hemingway
So we were in Key West a few weeks ago and, of course, visited the Hemingway house. My husband picked this one up at the bookstore. It turns out that neither of us had read it though we had seen the film, which is to put it lightly, a very loose adaptation. No place for Bogey and Bacall in this novel.
To Have and Have Not, published in 1937, is Hemingway's gritty panoramic vision of Key West in depression era Key West -- a time when he lived there, but was also travelling in Europe, involved in the Spanish Civil War, and perhaps flirting with some Communist ideology. The plot hangs on the story of Harry Morgan, a down-on-his luck boat captain who is forced by economic circumstances to charter his boat for illegal smuggling activities. It all ends violently and badly.
However, the aspect of the book I found most interesting was that wide angle lens on Key West:
the frame houses with their narrow yards....Conch town, where all was starched, well shuttered, virtue, failure, grits and bleached grunts, under-nourishment, prejudice, inter- breeding and the comforts of religion; the open-doored, lighted Cuban bolito houses ...the pressed stone church, its steeples sharp, ugly triangles against the moonlight... a filling station and a sandwich place, brightly lighted beside a vacant lot where a miniature golf course had been taken out; past the brightly lit main street with the three drug stores, the music store, the five Jew Stores, three poolrooms, two barbershops, five beer joints, three ice cream parlors, the five poor and one good restaurant, two magazine and paper places, for second-hand joints...and....
We see WWI Vets brawling in a bar; the wealthy, sleeping soundly, or not so soundly, on their yachts; writers and pseudo-intellectuals drinking and womanizing too much; the Conchs, scrabbling for any kind of a living -- and Hemingway's prejudice-tinged view of blacks, Cubans and Asians (not a pretty picture).
Not a great book, but an interesting peek into a particular time and place.
Is there much to see at the house?
Robert Mueller, The Mueller Report
I downloaded the PDF file of The Mueller Report because I thought I should read it for myself. It was a bit of a slog, though coherently and even succinctly written -- it took me 2 weeks to get through it. I can't say I learned a whole lot that was new as I've become a bit of a news junky, following this Presidency both on TV and in newspaper reports. The number of contacts among trump campaign operatives and Russians as described in Volume I is staggering, and in Volume II, the evidence that the the president has tried to obstruct justice in both the Mueller investigation and in congressional investigations is totally convincing to me. But go and read it for yourself.
A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews
This is a coming-of-age story set in a small Mennonite town, East Village, in southern Manitoba. The narrator-protagonist, Nomi (Naomi) Nickel, lives with her father Ray as she completes her senior year of high school -- envisioning nothing in her future except killing chickens in the local slaughter house. Her elder sister Tash (Natasha) had escaped the town three years earlier with her boyfriend, and her mother, Trudi, left shortly afterward under unexplained circumstances. She's not doing well in school, especially in her English class, as her teacher refuses to accept any of the subversive topics she wants to write about. The events of the year mirror that of millions of teenagers in small towns -- taking up with a new boyfriend, smoking pot, going to wild parties, worrying about her hospitalized best friend, but Nomi also takes care of the household and her father, a devout Mennonite whose life has been shattered by the loss of his wife and his life as he knew it. I found the book beautifully written with descriptions of the natural world, Nomi's speculations about her parents' lives, and her periodic pondering of how she navigates her own life. The novel is funny and sad, but not the least bit sentimental.
I think you are missing a crucial word or phrase in the above. :)
>47 janeajones: Nice comments on the Toews novel. I haven't read this one, but the others of hers that I have read were very good. I'll add this one to my "read soon" list.
Way to go, slogging through the Mueller report.
>41 janeajones: I found your Hemingway review fascinating. I have in mind making him a theme for reading one year...but I’m not yet sure I will like him. (Colm Toibin has a introduction to James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room where he says the influence if Hemingway is really clear. Caught my attention)
Galore by Michael Crummey
This is a sprawling multi-generational book of two families, the Devines and the Sellers, set in a the small Newfoundland fishing village, Paradise Deep, from the mid 19th c. through World War I. It begins with a miraculous "birth" of a naked, pale, white man rescued from the belly of a beached whale. But the history of the families goes back further to the mysterious feud between the Widow Devine and "King-me" Sellers the matriarch and patriarch of the two families. Crummey explores the hard-scrabble Newfoundland life through times of plenty and times of scarcity. The stories of the families are told through multiple viewpoints that work to keep the reader engaged in the lives and trials of a surprising variety of characters. A highly entertaining read.
Lovely header photo of the library at Trinity. I've been there and it's so impressive.