Banoo's (aka Brian) Books for 2009

Discussão75 Books Challenge for 2009

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Banoo's (aka Brian) Books for 2009

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Maio 26, 2009, 8:34 pm

Hello. Just joined this group (thanks nannybebette). Here's a listing of what I've read so far this year. I do review each book I read and those can be found both in the 50 Books group and in my library. And please don't take me seriously... seriously.

01. Stories of Anton Chekhov, Anton Chekhov
02. A Prescription for Love :P, Leeanne Marie Stephenson
03. Log of the S.S. the Mrs. Unguentine, Stanley Crawford
04. Please Don't Call Me Human, Wang Shuo
05. The Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson
06. The Giants, J. M. G. Le Clézio
07. Utz, Bruce Chatwin
08. Shadow Family, Miyuki Miyabe
09. 69, Ryu Murakami
10. The Nimrod Flipout: Stories, Etgar Keret
11. Terra Amata, J. M. G. Le Clézio
12. Prufrock and Other Observations, T.S. Eliot
13. Lost Paradise, Cees Nooteboom
14. The Tenant, Roland Topor
15. Fever, J. M. G. Le Clézio
16. Karnak Café, Naguib Mahfouz
17. The Lake, Yasunari Kawabata
18. Bayou Farewell, Mike Tidwell
19. Humpty Dumpty in Oakland, Philip K. Dick
20. This Earth of Mankind, Pramoedya Ananta Toer
21. The Turn of the Screw, Henry James
22. Child of All Nations, Pramoedya Ananta Toer
23. The Postman Always Rings Twice, James M. Cain
24. Ubik, Philip K. Dick
25. Cosmopolis, Don DeLillo
26. Hell, Yasutaka Tsutsui
27. Hauntings: Bangla Ghost Stories, edited by Suchitra Samanta
28. Footsteps, Pramoedya Ananta Toer
29. Audition, Ryu Murakami
30. In Praise of Shadows, Junichiro Tanizaki
31. Five by Endo, Shusaku Endo
32. My Loose Thread, Dennis Cooper
33. The New Life, Orhan Pamuk
34. Dark Water, Koji Suzuki
35. Diary of a Mad Old Man, Junichiro Tanizaki
36. House of Glass, Pramoedya Ananta Toer
37. The Ministry of Fear, Graham Greene
38. Seven Nights, Jorge Luis Borges
39. Blind Willow, Sleeping Women, Haruki Murakami
40. Gather the Weeds, Patrick Kilgallon
41. Smashed, Squashed, Splattered, Chewed, Chunked and Spewed, Lance Carbuncle
42. Dante, Dante Alighieri
43. Almost Transparent Blue, Ryu Murakami
44. A Dog's Heart: An Appalling Story, Mikhail Bulgakov
45. Quicksand, Jun'ichiro Tanizaki
46. The Code of the Woosters, P.G. Wodehouse
47. In the Miso Soup, Ryu Murakami
48. Fire Ants, Gerald Duff
49. The End of the Affair, Graham Greene
50. Diary of a Bad Year, J.M. Coetzee
51. Broken April, Ismail Kadare
52. Chronicle of a Death Foretold, Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Maio 26, 2009, 8:47 pm

Hell of a list. Now I have the urge to go on a Graham Greene reading jag. Oh, welcome.

Maio 26, 2009, 8:47 pm

Wow, nice list. Welcome!

Editado: Maio 26, 2009, 8:55 pm

Welcome, Brian! I've been following your 50 book challenge thread and I am glad you joined us over here where I won't miss any of your wonderful reviews!

Maio 26, 2009, 9:10 pm

Thanks all for the welcome...

VisibleGhost... I loved Greene's The Ministry of Fear. I didn't love The End of the Affair. Love. Hate. Love. Oy, that book was tedious for me.

Maio 26, 2009, 9:12 pm


Maio 26, 2009, 9:21 pm

mmmMMMmmm some good reads there, Banoo. I look forward to checking out your reviews.

Maio 26, 2009, 9:33 pm

Welcome Banoo, that's an impressive list! I'll also be looking at your reviews and future reads.

Maio 26, 2009, 9:40 pm

I thought you sounded familiar. You steered me to a gumbo recipe once....Welcome!

Maio 26, 2009, 9:45 pm

Welcome! Ours is a very friendly group. I hope you like it here.

Maio 26, 2009, 10:12 pm

Thanks again everyone... this group is looking mighty friendly. I would have cooked up a big pot of gumbo if I would have known :D

Maio 26, 2009, 10:14 pm

I would have been here sooner if I would have known you were cooking gumbo...

Maio 27, 2009, 5:27 am

Welcom to the group! I will take some gumbo, too.

Maio 27, 2009, 8:57 am

Banoo, I'm not Cajun, but a fellow Louisianian from Pineville hereby challenges you to a gumbo cook-off. Meet you in the kitchen! 8^}

Editado: Maio 27, 2009, 6:17 pm

Can I request crawfish etouffee and an oyster po' boy with the gumbo? And some bread pudding?

Gumbo is the food of the gods. My late great aunt, who lived in New Orleans, came to New Jersey to visit us when I was a kid, and made gumbo for us to try. After eating it I thought I had died and gone to heaven! I went to Tulane for a couple of years, and the campus was not far from her house (near the intersection of St. Charles and Carrollton, where the St. Charles streetcar makes its turn), and would go there on Sunday for gumbo, red beans & rice or whatever else she was cooking.

Maio 27, 2009, 6:51 pm

This is ridiculous...I've just eaten and you have me drooling, kidz. I do love a good gumbo!

Maio 27, 2009, 11:52 pm

Welcome Banoo--some great reading your doing.

As a former 18 year resident of New Orleans, I can attest that it's difficult to get a bad meal anywhere in that city.

Editado: Maio 31, 2009, 5:53 am

53. The Haunted Doll's House by M. R. James

A creepy set of little short stories by a man who seemed to enjoy describing the appearances of houses and churches. I actually had to look this M.R. James up to see if he was an architect. He really does go on about the buildings. And, he uses funny antiquated words that aren't even in my dictionary.

But all of that aside, his stories were great. Fear is always just out of sight. You feel it but can't quite see it. Imagine the comfort of your pillow in your cozy bed. Now imagine stretching in bed and rolling over and sticking your hand under your pillow and into something that felt furry and had teeth... his stories are kind of like that... even with buildings and funny words.

Maio 31, 2009, 2:51 pm

I think I posted to this review on your other thread. Do you think it is a "read again" one or a "take one" read?

Maio 31, 2009, 7:29 pm

i seldom do a "read again" so i'd say "take one" with this one. some of the stories were really good, some so/so. i did enjoy the book as a whole.

Editado: Maio 31, 2009, 7:47 pm

54. The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy by Tim Burton

This is a strange book. It is very short. It is poetry by Tim Burton supported by little drawings by Tim Burton. I don't know what to say.

Most of the poems are about children who are different, mostly different in appearances, and most of these children have a hard time coping with these appearances. But if I was a kid drawn by Tim Burton I would definitely have issues. Some of the poems are slightly disturbing. Most are funny. Some are just bizarre. The artwork is great.

The Girl with Many Eyes

One day in the park
I had quite a surprise.
I met a girl
who had many eyes.

She was really quite pretty
(and also quite shocking!)
and I noticed she had a mouth,
so we ended up talking.

We talked about flowers,
and her poetry classes,
and the problem she'd have
if she ever wore glasses.

It's great to know a girl
who has so many eyes,
but you really get wet
when she breaks down and cries.

Jun 1, 2009, 5:41 pm

# 21: Now this is the same Tim Burton who does films? I never knew he was so talented!
If you like bizarre, try Ray Bradbury! He's always out of this world - or beyond our wildest dreams.


Jun 1, 2009, 8:35 pm

#22 i read a bunch of bradbury years ago in high school... recently started reading philip k dick. ubik scared the hell out of me. and, yes... same tim burton. it's a book you could easily read in the book store without even sitting down but i bought it because i loved the artwork.

Jun 30, 2009, 5:15 pm

Are you back yet? I thought this was a trip, not a move, man. We miss you.

Jul 7, 2009, 12:25 am

me guts is back and have been busy... still going through Anna K (which I feel should have just been named 'Levin'). I see the end in sight. At least there's more paper on my left than on my right.

will post a link to my moscow/st petersburg photos shortly.

thanks for reminding me to drop by and say hi... "Hi"....

Editado: Ago 20, 2009, 5:01 am

I'm currently STILL reading Anna Karenina and, yes, I do see an end in sight. I read a huge chunk of this little novel while visiting both Moscow and St. Petersburg and thought I'd share it with you. I reference several Russian books in the photos. I was able to visit the site of Bulgakov's Master and the Margarita, scenes from Tolstoy's War and Peace, Dostoevsky's neighborhood where Crime and Punishment took place, Pushkin's house where after a failed duel he died and a couple of others I'm probably forgetting.

Jul 7, 2009, 9:28 am

Brian, your photos and commentaries are enchanting! Thank you for that link!

Welcome home!

Jul 7, 2009, 12:45 pm

ditto what marise said.
I left a post for you on your 50 gig. Let me know if you have one you prefer or if you will continue to use both.

Jul 7, 2009, 3:47 pm

Fabulous pictures, Brian! Thanks for sharing!

Jul 20, 2009, 1:26 am

nearing the end of anna karenina and getting really excited about that... have a bunch of books lined up eager to be read and i'll be off to the annual dorkapalooza near seattle to carouse with a bunch of book lovin' people. stoked!!

Jul 24, 2009, 12:18 am

55. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

*** possible spoilers but not sure what constitutes a spoiler... i had a good sandwich ***

Tolstoy's book 'Levin'... I mean 'Anna Karenina' though large, seems small... though simple, is also complex. Over 800 pages for I love her, I despise her... he loves me, he despises me, I have a son, a daughter, he loves others? train tracks are great decision makers... why am I here?

My relationship with Anna started with infatuation, turned into indifference, then an extreme dislike bordering on hatred, and ended with pity... then I went and had a sandwich.

Levin on the other hand made me wonder if maybe in another life (if I believed in such things) I was a Russian farmer. Today I'm a Landscape Architect (not related to farming as much as I wished) with much the same questions and problems that troubled Levin throughout the book.

As with War and Peace, when I finished Part 7 and continued with Part 8, the last section of the book, I started to wonder if Tolstoy had problems with identifying that point where he should end a story. But as I read and reread parts of Part 8 I began to realize that it was my favorite part of the book... part, part, part... section!

Levin finds the answer to the question that had been bothering him... Why? And the answer he realized was with him all the time. He was just too busy looking around it.

I think I preferred 'War and Peace' to 'Levin'... I mean 'Anna Karenina'. But both books prove that Tolstoy was a master of transforming blank pages into many different lives... good stuff. good sandwich too.

Jul 24, 2009, 2:00 am

Thanks for sharing the incredible photos!

Jul 24, 2009, 8:03 pm

Congratulations on your very Hot Review for Anna Karenina!~! Very well done Brian. I am proud of you.
Enjoy your time with your reading/writing buddies in Seattle and enjoy the city. It's "hot" too!~!

Jul 25, 2009, 8:18 pm

The pictures are fabulous. I hope you'll share your St. Petersburg pictures too.

Editado: Ago 4, 2009, 10:57 pm

56. Dreamtigers by Jorge Luis Borges

I read a book while sitting in 24C in a big metal flying tube. A book written by Borges or dreamed by Borges or maybe it was just my dream, a dream about Homer or Shakespeare. It may also have just been symbols that I glanced at that only I could decipher in my own simple way. Could be the symbols were just forgotten memories or the stripes of tigers or falling rain. I dreamed this book. And I dreamed that I saw the face of Borges.

"A man sets himself the task of portraying the world. Through the years he peoples a space with images of provinces, kingdoms, mountains, bays, ships, islands, fishes, rooms instruments, stars, horses, and people. Shortly before his death, he discovers that that patient labyrinth of lives traces the image of his face."

I touched a face sitting in 24C in a big metal flying tube...

Editado: Ago 20, 2009, 5:02 am

#33... nb, it was because of the sandwiches. you cannot deny the merits of a great sandwich.

#32 & #34... here's st pete...

on another short note... my trip to seattle and vancouver was unbelievable. i met with a bunch of authors and readers and we discussed books, writing, and the finer points of... well, we just drank a lot and played bingo and walked in the forests.

and i came back with 24 new books for my collection including a 1919 copy of mark twain's saint joan of arc and a first edition of brautigan's willard and his bowling trophies.

fun times.

Ago 4, 2009, 11:22 pm

57. Natasha and other stories by David Bezmozgis

This was a collection of short stories loosely related (some looser than others) about Russian Jewish immigrants living in Toronto and how they adjust to Canadian life... eh.

Bezmozgis, as is the case with many 'new' writers, is compared to just about every living and dead writer that has made their mark in the literary world... well, forget about the comparisons. Bezmozgis speaks his own voice... oy, eh.

Short story collections are hard for me to rate. Some of these stories deserve 5 stars some 3. So if my math is correct, I give the book a 4. The title story 'Natasha' is probably my favorite story in the book and I'm assuming Mr Bezmozgis was partial to this one too since he stuck the name on the cover... although I like the title 'Roman Berman, Massage Therapist' better.

Ago 8, 2009, 2:31 am

#37: That one looks like one I would enjoy. Thank you very much for the recommendation.

Ago 9, 2009, 7:45 pm

58. Letters from My Windmill by Alphonse Daudet

Reading this book is like taking a little vacation in southern France in the mid 1800's. Not a bad place or time to be. Daudet had the ability to make the countryside come alive in his pages. His descriptions of the environment and his surroundings were beautifully rendered. This is a book of observations, folk tales, daily comings and goings as told from his windmill.

If you have ever passed the night in the open under the stars, you will know that while we are sleeping a mysterious world awakens in the solitude and in the silence. Then the streams sing even more clearly, and on their pools dance little lights like flames. All the spirits of the mountains come and go as they will, and the air is filled with faint rustlings, imperceptible sounds, as if one were hearing the branches burgeoning and the grass growing. The day gives life to the world of humans and animals, but the night gives life to the world of things.

Ago 9, 2009, 9:14 pm


Ago 10, 2009, 1:45 am


Ago 10, 2009, 3:01 am

#39: I will have to track that one down for sure!

Ago 11, 2009, 7:36 pm

59. The Bread of Those Early Years by Heinrich Boll

So this guy really likes bread because during or right after WWII he was poor and hungry. And he really hates his job. He fixes washing machines. And he likes the boss' daughter. Then he meets a girl he used to know when he was younger and he goes crazy with love. He really likes bread. He really hates his job. He doesn't like his boss' daughter anymore. And he remembers things. I think he should die. The dying part is how I ended the book.

Böll does interesting things with weaving color throughout his description. Green is a good color. And he kept the book short. And he made me want to eat bread. That's 3 things... so three stars.

Ago 12, 2009, 3:05 pm

I love your starring methodology, Brian!

Ago 15, 2009, 12:12 am

60. Trout Fishing in America by Richard Brautigan

This is the first time I've met Trout Fishing in America. And although I fished almost everyday in my youth and caught hundreds of Trout, I never realized that the guy with me was Trout Fishing in America. We'd always stop at Ledet's Supermarket and buy bread, ham, and a small jar of mayonnaise on our way to the trout rooms. We'd sit in our small boat with corks bobbing in the room and eat ham sandwiches. We'd look at the sky and see rabbits, angels, or toaster ovens in the clouds. And we'd appreciate the freedom to sit in a little boat with corks bobbing and eating ham sandwiches... with mayonnaise.

This book is a travel book of sorts. It reintroduced me to America. And streams. With trout. In another time. Trout Fishing in America is alright.

I remember mistaking and old woman for a trout stream in Vermont, and I had to beg her pardon.

'Excuse me,' I said. 'I thought you were a trout stream.'

'I'm not,' she said.

Ago 15, 2009, 10:03 am

61. Aimez-vous Brahms by Françoise Sagan

I've read two romance novels in my lifetime. The first, A Prescription for Love or STDs, was about a bunch of physically challenged people with weird eyes that sparkled, flaring nostrils and hair that was unruly. This, the second, was about a bunch of French lovers. And the French really know how to screw up and complicate love. Or maybe I just don't appreciate love's complexity. Or maybe I just don't give a shit. Anyway, the lady is old (39 years old! My goodness she's on death's bed). Her stupid and thoughtless lover that sleeps with young girls is 41 and the lady's new lover and cause of her confusion is 25. I'm not sure why I state the ages. Maybe because it's just mentioned in the book a million times.

I really must have enough of her, he thought; when I start worrying about a woman's vocabulary, the end is in sight.

What a riot!

So... the French, Paris, love... I'm going back to the crazy Japanese now.

Ago 15, 2009, 9:15 pm

I think I would be going back to the crazy Japanese after all that, too!

Ago 25, 2009, 8:48 pm

62. Salmonella Men on Planet Porno by Yasutaka Tsutsui

I've often thought that if I placed my left foot forward first instead of my right or sneezed 3 times in a row and held in the 4th or hiccuped and coughed just right, reality would probably shift a little to the side revealing a parallel reality, a reality that would at first appear slightly screwed and skewed but then would feel just like any another humdrum reality. I often think of such silly things. I often get the hiccups.

Tsutsui evidently hiccuped and coughed just right. This book of stories may at first seem absurd but when you stop and think about it, they could be the real thing. Isn't our reality absurd? Some of the stories though totally outlandish seemed familiar. Like any book of short stories some fall flat and some are just brilliant. The title story falls in between.

And now as my little fingers peck at this keyboard creating symbols that appear as insults to a tribe of people living in the remote jungles of Borneo I'm thinking I should have released that 4th sneeze.

Ago 28, 2009, 6:17 am

63. The Eye by Vladimir Nabokov

After reading a crazy Japanese book of short stories I jumped into this Nabokov and sputtered and paused and reread sections just to get my mind on the right track. Nabokov is a genius when it comes to stringing words together and I didn't want to skim over them. His words deserved my utmost attention. I loved some of his sentences.

The story was interesting. As I type this I'm wondering who I am, who I really am. The Brian that people see. I know what I see but I'm biased. I liked the idea that one continues to live through the memories of others and when that last person who remembers you dies, well, so do you... unless of course you wrote a bunch of books that bear your name in big letters on the front cover or you wrote and performed 'Purple Haze' or you just never die.

My favorite part of the story was in the end when the narrator visited the florist and looked into the mirror. I thought that what Nabokov did in those few pages was brilliant. If I say anymore I'll spoil it...

Guess I'm putting off Lolita so should get to that soon.

Editado: Ago 28, 2009, 2:16 pm

I find myself laughing hysterically at your segue from one book to another.

It doesn't matter if you know who you really are. Be whoever you are, do whatever you want, just as long as you don't hurt anybody. And remember, Brian, we are your friends.

Ago 31, 2009, 8:51 pm

64. Novel without a Name by Duong Thu Huong

This novel needs no name although I guess Novel without a Name is officially a name. It's about war, the Vietnam war, from the north Vietnamese perspective. The Americans are the bad guys... so are the south Vietnamese. The north won. But everyone lost. This is not a book of propaganda. It's a sorrowful tale of a society lost in the machine.

This is a brutal book. It's not filled with gruesome images of war but with pictures of a life lost. The narrator joined the war to fight for glory. Ten years later he realizes not only his mistake, but the mistake of a country that bought the ideals of dead men named Marx and Lenin with the blood of innocent people. His reminiscences of childhood life contrast starkly with his present situation. But it is these memories that keep him alive.

The tenor of the book was sluggish, hazy, muddy... the pace fast. You could feel the oppression in the jungles, the hunger and fatigue.

Duong Thu Huong is an excellent writer. Vietnam does not like her. Her books are banned.

Set 1, 2009, 12:04 pm

#51: Thanks for the recommendation on that one. I will look for it.

Set 2, 2009, 9:11 pm

65. Detective Story by Imre Kertész

1. A man is escorted into a building. The security camera captures him entering. He is questioned over some sort of alleged corruption in the government. Questioning is physical process. Early the next morning he is found dead. The security camera did not capture his death.

2. A blogger writes about the government's wrong doing and backs it up with documentation. In the early morning hours the secret police enter his house and he is thrown in jail. No trial. No questions.

3. A young man, son of a prominent businessman, is frustrated with his life. He feels trapped in a police state. He wants to change things. The secret police believe that there is an impending atrocity. Everyone is guilty but not everyone can be questioned. They hone in on the young man and his father. One thing leads to another. One can only move forward. It's destiny, and destiny is the leader of the secret police.

The first two situations are real. They happened recently on the planet I live on. The third situation takes place in Imre Kertész's Detective Story. This is a book that is probably more relevant today than when it was first published in Budapest in 1977. The current situations in the world have made everyone a little paranoid. We've all become a little neurotic, some severely psychotic. Unfortunately, it is the latter that generally rule our domains.

Detective Story is part horrific and part heartwarming. It is a comedy of errors. It is also a more enjoyable read than Liquidation. Plus, Kertész uses the word 'thingy' often. You just have to love a Nobel Prize winner that uses the word 'thingy'. I highly recommend this book to anyone who hasn't read any Kertész.

I'll be quiet now. I've probably talked too much...

Editado: Set 3, 2009, 7:20 pm

66. Willard and His Bowling Trophies by Richard Brautigan

Strangers would come into the room and say, "My God, what's that?" pointing at Willard and his bowling trophies.

"That's Willard and his bowling trophies," was always the reply.

"Willard and his what?"

"Bowling trophies."

"You mean bowling trophies?"

"Yeah, bowling trophies."

"What's he doing with them?"

"Why not?"

Constance and Bob live upstairs. Bob likes reading ancient Greek poetry and while reenacting scenes from The Story of O with Constance. Pat and John live downstairs. They live with Willard, a papier-maché bird that lords over a room full of bowling trophies.

That's one of the strange things about people living in apartment buildings. They barely know what anybody else is doing. The doors are made out of mystery.

The Logan brothers were good American boys who lived at home where mom baked cakes, pies and cookies and dad worked on transmissions.

If his wife were a transmission there would be a lot less cookies and pies and cakes in the house.

The Logan brothers were also bowling fanatics and won many trophies. But one night the trophies went missing.

Thus the book, Willard and His Bowling Trophies.

Oh, and the Logan brothers had three sisters. They did strange things. But you have to wait until the last chapter to find out about them.

Brautigan puts words together you wouldn't expect to see together but it works wonderfully and paints a little picture of Americana circa 1970's.

Set 4, 2009, 7:35 am

Hi Bannoo, Just delurking to say your last review has intrigued me! I loved the line:
That's one of the strange things about people living in apartment buildings. They barely know what anybody else is doing. The doors are made out of mystery.

Set 4, 2009, 9:25 am

yeah... i thought that was a beautiful line. brautigan is pretty good with the words. his metaphors are incredible too.

Set 4, 2009, 5:28 pm

Yeah, but don't forget about those Logan sisters!

Set 4, 2009, 10:40 pm


Set 5, 2009, 8:45 am

67. The Hunting Gun by Inoue Yasushi

This was a beautiful little book that took me by surprise. It is poetry in prose form... touching and sad.

A man is seen walking up a mountain with a pipe in his mouth and a gun strapped across his back. He is seen by the narrator as the personification of loneliness and writes a short poem about him that's published in a hunting magazine. The man recognizes himself in the poem and mails the narrator 3 letters to explain his cloak of emptiness and possibly share his burdens... and the story begins... a story of infidelity, sorrow, and loneliness.

The first letter is from the lonely man's mistress' daughter, the second from his wife, and the third from the mistress.

These three letters are enough to drive anyone up into the mountains on an early autumn morning with a gun.

"I and Misugi too will be sinners. And since it is impossible for us not to be sinners, let us be great sinners."

Set 5, 2009, 8:54 am

#59: I must find that one. It sounds irresistible. Thanks for the recommendation, Brian.

Set 5, 2009, 7:19 pm

These three latest books sound like must-reads. I'm a fan of Kertesz, so I'll be looking for Detective Story. And I somehow missed Willard and His Bowling Trophies back in the 60's. The Hunting Gun sounds like the sort of quiet, haunting Japanese literature I love. Thank you for the reviews.

Set 7, 2009, 8:55 pm

68. The Izu Dancer and Other Stories by Yasunari Kawabata and Yasushi Inoue

A book of short stories that offers a sampling of two great writers, Yasunari Kawabata and Yasushi Inoue.

The title story, The Izu Dancer is by Kawabata and is about a small troupe of traveling performers and a student infatuated with their young drummer girl. A beautiful little piece.

Inoue's contributions include The Counterfeiter, Obasute, and The Full Moon. All three stories deal with separation, loneliness, and alienation. Inoue takes the isolation, the loneliness of the character... a minor chord... and strokes it into the beautiful riff of nature. If he were a musician, he'd be singing the blues... with a smile as he looked out in his mind's eye over the mountains in the early autumn.

Kawabata is no stranger to me and I love his work. Inoue is fast becoming my newest friend in reading.

Set 10, 2009, 9:05 pm

69. The Narrow Road to the Deep North and Other Travel Sketches by Matsuo Bashō

Matsuo Basho was a poet. He traveled throughout Japan. He wrote poems about it... and short essays. Prose and poetry mix. It is a beautiful thing when the two meet seamlessly. was a great pleasure to see the marvelous beauties of nature, rare scenes in the mountains or along the coast, or to visit the sites of temporary abodes of ancient sages where they had spent secluded lives, or better still, to meet people who had entirely devoted themselves to the search for artistic truth. Since I had nowhere permanent to stay, I had no interest whatever in keeping treasures, and since I was empty-handed, I had no fear of being robbed on the way. I walked at full ease, scorning the pleasure of riding in a palanquin, and filled my hungry stomach with coarse food, shunning the luxury of meat. I bent my steps in whatever direction I wished, having no itinerary to follow. My only mundane concerns were whether I would be able to find a suitable place to sleep at night and whether the straw sandals were the right size for my feet. Every turn of the road brought me new thoughts and every sunrise gave me fresh emotions. My joy was great when I encountered anyone with the slightest understanding of artistic elegance. Even those whom I had long hated for being antiquated and stubborn sometimes proved to be pleasant companions on my wandering journey. Indeed, one of the greatest pleasures of traveling was to find a genius hidden among weeds and bushes, a treasure lost in broken tiles, a mass of gold buried in clay, and when I did find such a person, I always kept a record with the hope that I might be able to show it to my friends.

To talk casually
About an iris flower
Is one of the pleasures
Of the wandering journey.

Regardless of weather,
The moon shines the same;
It is the drifting clouds
That make it seem different
On different nights.
written by a priest

Autumn air whispers
A fallen leaf speaks gently
Basho is with us. Brian

Set 16, 2009, 9:00 pm

70. Nine by Andrzej Stasiuk

She wanted them to come back, to open the door and talk to her and touch her, because human pain is better than inhuman fear.

I've had this book for a while. Bought it because I liked the cover and the big red number '9' for a title was cool. I like the number '9'. But about the book...

I won't even attempt to pronounce this writer's name and compared to the street and neighborhood names in the book his name is as easy to say as 'Bob'. The book was originally written in Polish. The English translation was beautiful.

Stasiuk, or 'Bob' as I called him, writes like a poet. The prose is a bit stream-of-conscience like. Reading '9' is like being a wraith floating around the streets of Warsaw bumping into some of the seedy characters trying to get by in a new capitalistic society. It's a simple story. Pawel owes money to a loan shark. They are after him. He runs around the city and mixes with drug dealers and low lifers. But Stasiuk holds this simple tale together by introducing the main protagonist, the city of Warsaw in the 90's.

The book is dark. It is dismal. There are some light moments (the crippled cat not being one). I'm glad this book wasn't called '3'... because I might not have bought it.

"A book like this makes most British and American writing seem so asinine." - Tom Tomaszewski, Independent on Sunday

Read the entire review here:

And the NY Times review is here:

Stasiuk on Beckett's face: "I would like to go to Ireland. I'm a great Van Morrison fan. And Samuel Beckett is a first-degree star. Of all writers in the world, his face is the most beautiful. I have written two essays about his face. His way of ageing was just so much in tune with the way minerals and trees age."

The complete Guardian article is here:

Editado: Set 24, 2009, 7:48 pm

71. Magnetic Fields by Ron Loewinsohn

This book starts off like a crime novel with a couple of brutal scenes and some really screwed up characters. Then it's not.

Being violated... being the violator...

If this book is like a house and you just walked through the front door you would expect to be in the foyer or living room. You know that the door to the right will be a kitchen but when you look inside it's a porch. What you thought would be the bathroom turns out to be the garage... this book kind of does that to you. Nothing is quite what you expect but it's exactly what you thought it would be. The story appears to shift directions but then you realize that it really didn't.

It's not a philosophical book but it does make you think about 'where' you are and 'who' you are (sorry for the apostrophes... and now the parenthesizes). Think a bit Calvino but not as meta. Loewinsohn uses repetition and coincidence beautifully. Walls and mirrors will never be the same... I think I might prefer a room in the deserts of the West where the horizon is out of reach and there are no surfaces to hang a Dick Tracy print. My house no longer feels right.

Kind of hard for me to articulate my feelings about this book. Just read it. It is good.

"Lots of beautiful things," he went on, "are filled with pain and darkness. This house, next door."

Set 19, 2009, 6:54 pm

#65: Just read it.

OK, I will.

Set 19, 2009, 8:46 pm

Isn't it amazing how easily swayed we all are? If someone here says "Read it" then I just do. But I sure don't do what anyone else in my life tells me to do. At least, not without a fuss...

Set 24, 2009, 7:48 pm

72. The Following Story by Cees Nooteboom

An instant can last a long time. It can last as long as this short novel. If it were a long novel it could last that long. I don't think you can apply time to an instant.

Time is measured by our physical contact with the world... and with clocks. I think our soul measures time differently. Nooteboom is good with words. And he is great with ideas. When he puts the two together you get something like this book. It's short, in a physical sense, and long in a soulful way.

Herman Mussert goes to sleep in Amsterdam and wakes up in Lisbon and he talks about his life and then you realize what's going on.

I believe the mind could recall every detail of our life in a second but because we're still living in this shell of a body we wouldn't be able to understand it. Our mind is too smart for us.

Clocks served two purposes, in my opinion. The first was to tell people the time, and the second to impress upon me that time is an enigma, an intractable measureless phenomenon into which, out of sheer helplessness, we have introduced a semblance of order. "Time is the system that must prevent everything from happening at once."


If one is immortal oneself, the stench emanating from mortals must be intolerable.

Set 24, 2009, 8:47 pm

73. The Wasp Factory by Ian Banks

Something howled. Some animal - my God, I hoped it wasn't a human making that noise - screamed in torment. It was a rising, anguished wail, the note produced only by an animal in extremis, the noise you hope no living thing ever has to make.


What a delightful little book. It should have been a favorite pick in the 'beach reading' category since most of the story takes place on the dunes and shores of a small island in Scotland. Oh... but it is macabre and slightly offensive to animal lovers, what with burning dogs, catapulting hamsters wearing shuttlecock skirts, and homemade bombs and bunnies, it certainly is the SPCA's biggest nightmare. But there is a story here, an interesting story of growing up different. I guess you could call it one of those 'coming of age' books... with a twist.

Two years after I killed Blyth I murdered my young brother Paul, for quite different and more fundamental reasons than I'd disposed of Blyth, and then a year after that I did for my young cousin Esmerelda, more or less on a whim.

That's my score to date. Three. I haven't killed anybody for years, and don't intend to ever again.

It was just a stage I was going through.

This is a book you would either love or hate. 'The Times (London) called it "Rubbish". 'The Scotsman' says "There's nothing to force you, having been warned, to read it; nor do I recommend it."

'The Independent' calls it "One of the top 100 novels of the century" and 'The New York Times' says "Brilliant... irresistible... compelling."

Brian says "ask the Wasp Factory and pray before the alter of Old Saul for guidance on whether you should pick up this book. It is a delightful read if you find delight in dark, twisted minds".

Set 30, 2009, 8:44 pm

74. The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett

'Once I start a book I finish it. That was the way one was brought up. Books, bread and butter, mashed potato - one finishes what's on one's plate. That's always been my philosophy.'

... so says the queen... and I concur, for good or bad.

'At eighty things do not occur; they recur.'

... I'll have to wait a few years to validate that last quote...

One day (and I really think this book should start with 'Once upon a time...') the queen picked up a book from a mobile library... purely by chance, you see. It was not an exciting book... rather dry... a book by Ivy Compton-Burnett. But the act of reading proved interesting. So she got another and another and the queen became an avid reader and a less enthused queen. Such was the power of words.

The Uncommon Reader is a short novella... or witty fable. And although it is a light and fun read, it does offer interesting insights into what a reader is and how an involved prolific reader might just want to take that next step and pick up a pen and paper...

'Am I alone', she wrote, 'in wanting to give Henry James a good talking-to?'

It was Henry James she was reading one teatime when she said out loud, 'Oh, do get on.'

hehe... that was funny; so is the book.

Out 1, 2009, 8:43 pm

75. Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino

Marco Polo describes the many cities he's visited to Kublai Khan. Between the city descriptions Polo and Khan talk. This is Invisible Cities. If you're looking for story, if you're looking for character, if you're looking for lost symbols conjured up by a certain Brown... you won't find it here. You will find wonderful ideas and beautiful descriptions of cities and people. This was a little book that required a slow reading to enjoy the dense writing of Calvino.

One day I hope to look up at the city of Baucis and wave.

'After a seven days' march through woodland, the traveler directed toward Baucis cannot see the city and yet he has arrived. The slender stilts that rise from the ground at a a great distance from one another and are lost above the clouds support the city. You climb them with ladders. On the ground the inhabitants rarely show themselves: having already everything they need up there, they prefer not to come down. Nothing of the city touches the earth except those long flamingo legs on which it rests and, when the days are sunny, a pierced, angular shadow that falls on the foliage.

There are three hypotheses about the inhabitants of Baucis: that they hate the earth; that they respect it so much they avoid all contact; that they love it as it was before they existed and with spyglasses and telescopes aimed downward they never tire of examining it, leaf by leaf, stone by stone, ant by ant, contemplating with fascination their own absence.'

Out 2, 2009, 1:46 am

Wow!~! Have you been reading some books while I've been away from my computer or what??????????????????
I want to read every book you describe Brian. I think it is the way you describe them because they all cannot be that good. But there is no way I am not reading "The Narrow Road". It sounds absolutely fascinating.
I hope you have been well Brian. And I hope you keep reading good books. Just keep the St. off your thread. He'll ruin it. hee hee
love ya guy,

Out 3, 2009, 11:56 pm

Invisible Cities has been on Planet TBR far too long. I definitely need to bump it up!

Out 4, 2009, 8:45 pm

76. The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

This was a good old-fashioned ghost story, the kind of story that gets into your head, the kind that makes you lock the door... at least it was for me, especially that night, when reading about the noises coming from behind the locked door, and the dog was growling scared, and the noises didn't stop, and the lights went out...

Gothic, Victorian-like story of a woman in black in the northern coastal marshes of England. Trust me... you don't want to see her. But, HEY, it's Halloween month. This is a good one for October.

Out 6, 2009, 9:13 pm

77. The Bells of Nagasaki by Takashi Nagai

"Go to the mountains and meditate! If you stay in the hurly-burly of this world, you'll run around in circles without ever finding your way. You'll become the kind of person who just stamps and screams. But the blue mountains are immovable and the white clouds come and go."

This was Takashi Nagai's advice a few weeks after the atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. This book was non-fiction... unfortunately.

Takashi Nagai was a doctor, a nuclear physicist, and dean of the radiology department in the medical school of the University of Nagasaki and a devout Christian. On Thursday, August 9, 1945 at two minutes past eleven in the morning he was in his office about 700 meters from the epicenter of the blast. From first hand accounts he tells the story of life immediately before the blast, during the blast, and after the blast. That he survived is nothing short of miraculous.

The description of seeing up-close the results of colliding atoms is nightmarish. It starts with the sound of a plane and then... the blinding white light, darkness blacker than night caused by a cloud of debris covering the sun, the coming of a red tinted light, a drop in temperature, the invisible wind, the instant disappearance of a world known... and ends with the appearance of hell on earth.

"No. The sun must have exploded," said Choro.
"Maybe so... the temperature has suddenly dropped." Shiro's voice was thoughtful.
"If the sun explodes, what happens to the earth?" Now it was the anxious voice of Nurse Tsubakiyama.
"It's the end of the world," said Choro with resignation.
They remained silent and waited. No light returned. A minute passed. Someone's watch kept ticking in the darkness. Tick, tick, tick...

Takahi was a scholarly writer before the dropping of the bomb. Afterward, before his death in 1951, he became a poet, artist, humanist, and mystic and wrote over 20 books.

Out 7, 2009, 4:43 pm

The Bells of Nagasaki sounds like a must-read for me. Did you ever read Black Rain by Ibuse Masuji? If not, you might be interested in that as well, although it is fiction.

Out 7, 2009, 9:23 pm

Hey aruba... i haven't read Black Rain but Takashi talks about the black rain that fell... bad stuff, that rain. I'll look into the book by Masuji. I also have Oe's book Hiroshima Notes which deals with the same subject. I'm not sure I can read that many books dealing with human stupidity on such a grand scale.

Out 10, 2009, 3:42 am

I second the recommendation of Black Rain, an absolutely terrific book.

I have not read anything by Takahi, so I will look for The Bells of Nagasaki. Thanks for the recommendation, Brian.

Out 11, 2009, 7:44 pm

78. Savage Night by Jim Thompson

It's like this... whenever I read one of these 'hard-boiled' crime type novels I can't help but read it in a James Cagney's voice... you see. This I believe was my first Jim Thompson novel and I really did enjoy it. Carl Bigelow aka Charlie 'Little' Bigger arrives in a small town to take care of business for 'The Man' and runs into a little problem with the dames. Having bad teeth, damaged eyes, wearing platform shoes and suffering from consumption doesn't seem to stop him from getting the dames either.

Strange characters (including a hot dame with a baby foot), thrilling plot complete with twists, and an ending to die for... what more could you ask for?

"Sure there's a hell..." I could hear him saying it now, now, as I lay here in bed with her breath in my face, and her body squashed against me... "It is the drab desert where the sun sheds neither warmth nor light and Habit force-feeds senile Desire. It is the place where mortal Want dwells with immortal Necessity, and the night becomes hideous with the groans of one and the ecstatic shrieks of the other. Yes, there is a hell, my boy, and you do not have to dig for it..."

Out 11, 2009, 7:44 pm

I'll have to look up this Black Rain. Thanks for the rec...

Out 12, 2009, 6:28 am

#79: Looking for that one. Guess I should practice my Cagney voice.

Out 12, 2009, 7:42 am

#79 You know that's one great quote. I haven't tried that particular Thompson book yet so I am going to go hunt down a copy! Thanks.

Editado: Out 19, 2009, 1:33 am

79. The Confusions of Young Törless by Robert Musil

Törless is confused. He goes to an all-boys school. He is confused. He thinks of women. He thinks of men. Things happen. One boy steals. Other boys find out about the theft. They take advantage of this knowledge. Törless is confused. He wants to see cruelty. He's indifferent. He cares. He doesn't care. Visits to the attic and sermons, sermons flavored by Kant, sermons flavored by Indian traditions and myths, sermons served from a confused Törless. Törless is confused. Brian was confused. When Törless started to understand, Brian started to understand. Too much philosophical talk gives me headaches. Then we had WWI, and because we didn't know, we had WWII. Musil evidently knew, but Musil confused me. It was the confusions of an older Brian.

Dying is only a consequence of the way we live. We live from one thought to another, from one feeling to the next. Because our thoughts and feelings do not flow peacefully like a stream, they "occur to us", they drop into us like stones. If you observe yourself very carefully, you will feel that the soul is not something that changes its colours in gradual transitions, but rather that thoughts leap forth from it like numbers from a black hole. One moment you have a thought or a feeling, and all of a sudden there's another one there, as though it had sprung from nowhere. If you pay attention, you can even sense the moment between two thoughts when everything is black. That moment - once we have grasped it - is nothing short of death for us.

Well, dammit... I went and confused myself again...

Editado: Out 18, 2009, 11:51 pm

80. Poachers by Tom Franklin

Man but I loved this book of short stories! I never imagined southern Alabama could be so dark and deadly but there are many things I haven't imagined... yet. I might have to go back to Mobile and visit the place.

Like the blurbs spew out all over the cover of this book... Raymond Carver's in the south... a world created by Cormac McCarthy... imagination of Faulkner... yeah, I could see all of that. And I would add a bit of Stephen King's creepiness to the mix.

The book's namesake is the longest short story and probably one of my favorites. Reading it made me feel all humid and I think moss started growing on me. I know I had mud and muck stuck to my shoes. And getting bit in the neck by a water moccasin really does suck.

Interestingly I read a few reviews over at the Amazon site and the people who didn't like it didn't like it because of the cruelty portrayed to animals... um... what about the cruelty to the humans? What about the title 'Poachers'? Wasn't that sort of a clue as to what might be in the book?

One of the best southern pieces of literature I've read in a long time. It's not about mint juleps, and sisterly love, or making green fried tomatoes. It's about fighting to stay alive and staying alive to fight. It's the south I remember. It really is there.

Out 19, 2009, 2:46 am

I will give Poachers a try, but I am staying miles away from the confusing book!

Out 19, 2009, 2:59 am

wise you are alcottacre, wise you are. but i had to finish the confusion. i have to finish anything i start. poachers was not confusing, it was wonderfully dark and real and gritty. i understood that. i knew these kinds of people... southern alabama swamps, southern louisiana swamps... similar places, similar people... just the accents are different.

Out 19, 2009, 3:03 am

I am too old now for the 'finish what you start' reading I used to do when I was younger. If the book does not grab me by 50 pages in or so, it goes by the boards. Too many books out there for me yet to read to stick with what I am not liking!

Out 22, 2009, 3:33 pm


I'm added Poachers to be list. It sounds great. I liked your review so much that I gave it a thumbs up!

Out 22, 2009, 4:29 pm

I've also added Poachers to my Project Wishlist. I also want to tell you I am enjoying the heck out of your thread. What fantastic synopses/reviews.

Out 22, 2009, 4:42 pm

Hi There Nancy!

Out 22, 2009, 8:53 pm

Thanks whisper and nancy... it's hard for me to imagine someone not liking poachers and imagining usually comes easy for me :)

Out 22, 2009, 8:54 pm

my little halloween story...

100 Watt God

They were all wrong. They said to follow the light. The light was a place of happiness, a place of redemption. They lied.

The pain became a part of me. I carried it day and night. It was a hot pain. It was a hot, brittle pain that traced down the line of my back. I used to be supple of body, sharp of mind. But I could barely move and my thoughts were fragmented.

I'm not sure when this process of dying started. I guess with my first breath I began inhaling death. I felt full. I couldn't ingest much more.

I remembered a time... maybe yesterday... a forest. It must have been spring. The leaves were tender. Everything appeared green. The air smelled green. My friends and family wore green. We were healthy then. The world was life and it seemed everlasting.

But it didn't last. Our numbers diminished. My friends and family were disappearing. It wasn't long before I was left alone. I tried to scream but choked instead.

The leaves turned brown. The sun still shone but provided no warmth. I just wanted to curl up and drift away. I wanted everything to end. I spun my blanket tightly around me to shut out the decay of the world, to warm my spirit. My thoughts dripped. Memories faded. Movement, even it's memory, never existed. Darkness. Nothingness...

Then, eyes closed, I saw luminous red. I opened my eyes and saw splashes of bright color, halos, and prismatic rays. My body felt strong. I felt alive. I felt electric.

I shook loose from my wrappings and stood. All around me was life. I could hear the leaves whispering and the clouds expanding. The earth trembled beneath me as worms enriched its body. I saw the sun hiding behind the tree trunks. I saw it slowly descending sending gauzy arms shooting down to the forest floor. I was still alone but heard birds. Their song was so clear, so sharp, like bells in the forest... yet they frightened me.

It was when I raised my arms that I realized I was different. There was a power, a pull, down the length of my back. It was this unfamiliar strength that alerted me. The body my soul lived in for so long a time (or so short a time) possessed a new instrument. I had wings. So death was just a short transition period. It was an afternoon nap. It wasn't a crushing hammer blow or step of a boot and then nothingness. Death was a process. I was an angel... but an angel still of this world.

My wings were translucent green, the color of new leaves, and contained yellow eye patterns. I knew the symbol of the eyes represented wisdom. My thoughts of flying were all it took for my wings to wave. My feet left the ground. I was fluttering through the forest canopy like a leaf blown in a spring wind. The sun was down. Shadows disappeared. And then I saw the light.

That light called me. It wanted to comfort me. It said I belonged. I thought of flying to the light and my wings took me. The light became bigger, it's pull greater. I knew this was the place that angels dwelt. I had the eyes of wisdom on my wings.

The evening darkness receded. White exploded around me. I felt warmth in that light. I was blinded by its brilliance. Blindness is not black. It is white. It is comforting. My wings brought me straight into the light. It was hard. It was hot. I repeatedly flew into it and each time it took a little away from me. My wings expelled a powdery mist. They were losing that magic that allowed them to carry me. I screamed at the light. With each thrust I became weaker.

Around me lay other angels... angels with tattered wings and dried husks for bodies. The light did not welcome me. The light did not welcome any of us. It shines above me as I lay on this dead wood floor. It watches over me as I lay waiting for another transformation, or, for the heavy step of a boot.

Brian Doucet
22 October 2009

Out 22, 2009, 9:23 pm

This is VERY creative Brian!

Out 24, 2009, 5:39 am

Thanks Whisper. It was fun putting down.

Out 24, 2009, 7:47 am

Don't you just love it when writing flows naturally and you feel so darn proud of what you accomplished? Again, good job!

Editado: Out 26, 2009, 2:04 am

81. Valis by Philip K. Dick

I'm not sure how to rate this book. It was good, at times tedious (I'm really not into theological debates or philosophical musings)... but, I liked Horselover Fat aka Philip Dick aka the insane guy.

So take one crazy guy slightly twisted in the head due to taking too many 'uppers', let one of his girl friends jump out of a window, let his wife leave with the kid, kill off another one of his girl friends and then set the poor guy on a course trying to figure out just what we humans are and where are we going. Oh, and be sure to throw in a pink laser beam containing mysterious information and aim it at his brain, and surround him with a handful of other wacky characters. Dip into Greek mythology, gnosticism, Christianity, and an unexplained dead cat... well, it's explained how it died but not the why it died, well, according to little Sophia, the new messaih, the why is because it was stupid. Put all of this together, bring a sane, stable mind to the table (yourself I'm assuming, but I may be wrong) and watch yourself unravel.

It's fiction. It's partly autobiographical. It's a crazy new religion, if I were to use religion in a general sense that's defined as why we're here and where we're going and what we should do to go where we're going.

It confused me until Eric Lampton (Eric Clapton/Peter Frampton combination, name-wise with the mind of Jim Morrison??) and Mini (Brian Eno??) came into the picture and confirmed that all of this was indeed crazy. But then, Horselover Fat came back and I was confused again.

I really don't know what I'm saying here. I really don't know how to discuss this book. I do want to read The Chronicles of Narnia. Funny thing that this book would lead me to that book. But then nothing is really funny... except for Kevin's dead cat.

And one more thing... my number 714 was mentioned in this book. That's cool. Maybe I'll go to India now. Something needs to be found.

Out 26, 2009, 2:13 am

#96: Since my mind is none too stable to begin with and I have no desire to see it unravel further, I think I will pass on that book.

Out 26, 2009, 2:46 am

alcottacre... it was one of the craziest books i've read this year. crazy probably because there were so many 'truths' mixed in with insane beliefs... pkd was a genius with ideas and his writing is incredible, but this book shows just how messed up he was in his later years... sad actually...

i had a cousin like him (not a writer guy, just an insane guy) so a lot of the rambling i've heard before.

Nov 3, 2009, 9:38 pm

82. Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury

... the failure to relax a particular tension can lead to madness.

That's probably my favorite line in this short little book about writing. Ray Bradbury put together a few essays about how he writes. He came across kind of nerdy, but hey, he did write The Illustrative Man, one of my favorite science fiction books. I could have done without the poems that ended the book but I read them too. This was my second reading and he said the same thing the second time around... word for word. Funny that.

Nov 8, 2009, 8:08 pm

83. Teatro Grottesco by Thomas Ligotti

If you're one that has nightmares (or daymares) this book will seem familiar. If you're one that usually dreams of fluffy bunnies and flowers that may change if you read this book. What is a nightmare but a familiar place or action that is intensified, put under a magnifying glass until it's presence is overwhelming? I enjoy my nightmares when I can get them because there's always the surety of waking up even if that option isn't evident during the action. Reading Ligotti is like having a waking nightmare... you can always close the book, but would you?

Thomas Ligotti creates people and places that appear just off the edge of what we might consider reality. Pegged as a horror writer, he doesn't build suspense and surprise you with sudden attacks from hideous beasts. He doesn't charge at you with ax brandishing crazy people. Forget the ghosts, spirits and vampires that lurk in other horror tomes. Ligotti's prose slowly wraps around you and pulls you down into places that appear believable, places that seem familiar, and peopled by characters that you may have met (most are of the artistic character). Before you know it, he has brought you into a town you'd rather not visit and introduced you to people you'd rather not know. The horror of Ligotti lies in the familiar that is just slightly skewed.

Outside the walls of the Crimson Cabaret was a world of rain and darkness. At intervals, whenever someone entered or exited through the front door of the club, one could actually see the steady rain and was allowed a brief glimpse of the darkness. Inside it was all amber light, tobacco smoke, and the sound of the raindrops hitting the windows, which were all painted black. On such nights, as I sat at one of the tables in that drab little place, I was always filled with an infernal merriment, as if I were waiting out the apocalypse and could not care less about it. I also like to imagine that I was in the cabin of an old ship during a really vicious storm at sea or in the club car of a luxury passenger train that was being rocked on its rails by ferocious winds and hammered by a demonic rain. Sometimes, I thought of myself as occupying a waiting room for the abyss (which of course was exactly what I was doing) and between sips from my glass of wine or cup of coffee I smiled sadly and touched the front pocket of my coat where I kept my imaginary ticket to oblivion.

Nov 13, 2009, 10:47 pm

84. Imperium in Imperio by Sutton Griggs

"The Bible which the white people gave us, teaches us that we are men. The Declaration of Independence, which we behold them wearing over their hearts, tells us that all men are created equal. If, as the Bible says, we are men; if, as Jefferson says, all men are equal..."

I don't even need to finish the above quote from Sutton Griggs' book Imperium in Imperio for one to see where that simple logic leads. It's clear, but all still so murky in practice.

This book was self-published in 1899 and sold door-to-door or revival tent-to-revival tent making it a best seller of its day. In this book Griggs, a Baptist minister and social activist, creates a scenario where African Americans start a government within a government complete with a mirror congress in Waco, Texas (Waco... so many strange things about that place).

He was a prolific writer, not a great writer... but greatness isn't necessary if the message is clearly conveyed. And it is... in this book.

Now considering the quote above I wonder what Griggs really thought of women, and whether their sex was included in Jefferson's famous quote...

Her pretty face bore the stamp of intellectuality, but the intellectuality of a beautiful woman, who was still every inch a women despite her intellectuality.

Nov 13, 2009, 11:16 pm

You know Brian;
I think sometimes that people just don't quite "get" you or you would have a hot review for almost every book you review.
Your reviews are always unique to all others,
always very thoughtful and mindful, fascinating, some are even quite hypnotic. One day "they" will figure it all out and be begging you to write books instead of just reviews.
You are one talented guy.

Nov 14, 2009, 3:43 am

#101: I am adding that one to the BlackHole. It looks very interesting. Thumbs up for your review!

Nov 14, 2009, 6:22 pm

Congratulations on your hot review listed on today's home page!

Editado: Nov 16, 2009, 12:17 am

thanks whisper... but i don't see it. nothing hot from me.

*edit* my settings only showed the first four reviews... after setting it to 10 i see others. thanks whisper.

Nov 15, 2009, 8:02 pm

85. Quicksand by Nella Larsen

The 2 page introduction written by T.N.R. Rogers nearly drove me to tears with the description of the life of Nella Larsen. And then I moved on to the book and got a little pissed-off with Helga Crane, the main protagonist and the alter-ego of Nella Larsen.

Helga was born to a Danish mother and West Indies father. The father split when Helga was just a young girl and the mother remarried to a white man. They had another daughter and the dark little Helga was basically abandoned. Now you have to admit that is a pretty sad affair.

Helga is educated. She teaches at a southern African-American school. She's got job security and people who love her. But she's restless. Not happy with the current state of affairs of the school. She must move on but needs to hurt the feelings of a couple of men first.

Chicago. Woe is her. No money, no job. But she networks, gets a job and moves to New York's Harlem district where she lives with the high society in a Harlem Mansion. But she's restless. Not happy with the current state of affairs. She must move on but needs to hurt the feelings of a few people first.

Denmark. Her Aunty and Uncle welcome her with open arms. She lives in luxury. Dresses to the nines. Goes to concerts and high society artsy parties. She's proposed to by a prominent artist. But she's restless. Not happy with the current state of affairs. She must move on but needs to hurt the feelings of a few people first.

New York City. Rich. Mingling with the best of Harlem. Lovers past and present. But she's restless. Not happy with the current state of affairs. She must move on but needs to hurt the feelings of a few people first.

Alabama. A preacher's wife. Poor. Birthing like a rabbit. Playing Martha Stewart to the local ladies. But she's restless...

Now I understand that not being fully African-American and not being fully Anglo Saxon at the turn of the century was a precarious position to be in. But it seems she was generally accepted into each place she ran off to. She was just never satisfied. Aside from being materialistic she was also an egoist. She scorned her African-American culture and disdained the Anglo Saxons. Her problem didn't seem to be a racial problem. It appeared to be a personal issue of not 'counting your blessings'.

In my life I've run away from places I didn't like and like Helga was happy for the first couple of years then grew dissatisfied with each locale. But I learned to appreciate the good things about each place I lived. Made new friends. Looked at the world in wide-eyed wonder. But damn Helga, you had friends, wealth, acceptance and still groaned about how hard your life was. You were blind to your blessings. Belittled the friends you had and ruined your life in the process. You have no one to blame but yourself...

Helga reminded me of Anna Karenina. I didn't like Ms Anna but in the end felt pity for her. In Quicksand, I didn't like Ms Helga and in the end still didn't like her. But I enjoyed the book.

Nov 16, 2009, 12:26 am

#106: I must ask - what drove you to tears about the life of Nella Larsen?

Nov 16, 2009, 1:04 am

The early part, when her family abandoned her at around the age of 5 because of her color, and the older part, when she tries to reconnect with her half-sister but the half-sister claims to not know about her (though when N Larsen died the half-sister, sole remaining heir, seems to have accepted Larsen's estate)... In just 2 pages that's a lot of sadness. Her life between the early part and the older part seems to reflect helga... that part i don't like or don't 'get'.

Nov 16, 2009, 1:08 am

OK, thanks for the additional info, Brian.

Nov 22, 2009, 7:00 am

86. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

I read this book and fell in love with a woman named Janie. And I think given the chance she would have loved me back for I would never have wanted to change her. Zora Neale Hurston created this woman and for that I feel much obliged. I imagine Janie is back in Florida, sitting on her porch and telling jokes and laughing and playing games. And I would love to stumble on to her porch, grab a chair and play a game of checkers with her. Later we could go fishing.

She knew things that nobody had ever told her. For instance, the words of the trees and the wind. She often spoke to falling seeds and said, 'Ah hope you fall on soft ground,' because she had heard seeds saying that to each other as they passed.

This is a story of real people, people that just jump off the page (or porch) and into your heart. Though the characters were African Americans in the early 20th century, I felt that they could have been any flavor of the human race in practically any century and in any place. Their zest for life was infectious. And their wisdom was overabundant. When told to keep a secret one woman simply says "Ah jus lak uh chicken. Chicken drink water, but he don't pee-pee".

One of the main characters of the story is the small town porch. Without the porch the story could not have been told. The porch was the heart of the community. It was a place to go to lift the spirits (and drink the spirits) and share the wonders of each day. Everyone should have a porch they can go to. I think the porch could be the answer to many of the world's problems (well, that, and bacon).

Zora Neale Hurston wrote this book in 7 weeks. She must of been a woman possessed because the tenor of the book is pitch-perfect.

Janie stood where he left her for unmeasured time and thought. She stood there until something fell off the shelf inside her. Then she went inside there to see what it was. It was her image of Jody tumbled down and shattered

That's just beautiful writing. And one of my favorite parts is when ZNH personifies the buzzards. I really did love Janie and I loved this book (Thanks Belva for the recommendation).

After reading Sutton E. Griggs and his "oh we are oppressed and must fight or die" and then Nella Larsen and her "woe is me for being neither black nor white", Zora Neale Hurston's joy of life in the face of adversity was a refreshing song.

Nov 22, 2009, 7:10 am

I wholeheartedly agree with Belva in message 102! Your reviews are incredible!

What a wonderful writer you are! In particular, I loved your articulate comments regarding book #85! I'm adding that one and book #86 to the huge pile of tbr that I've accumulated in 2009.

And, I simply want to say I'm very glad you are a member of the 75 challenge group!

I do hope you are returning in 2010.


Nov 22, 2009, 7:42 am

#110: If that book was not already in the BlackHole, your review would have put it there!

Nov 23, 2009, 3:21 pm

Great review, Brian! You've convinced me.

Dez 1, 2009, 8:12 pm

87. Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy

Oh my goodness... This is a western novel that doesn't sanitize the west like the television shows Gunsmoke or Bonanza did. This novel peels off it's skin and pisses in it and drags it through bloody viscera, blackened ears, and spit. It's what I imagine part of the wild west was really about in the early/mid 1800's. And I'm glad I was conceived later in life.

What I do know is I wouldn't have survived one breath with that gang of scalp harvesters. I can't sleep when I'm cold. I like to take baths. Wearing another's blood unnerves me (not that I ever really wore blood before). I don't do well in the presence of someone losing limbs, especially heads. And I don't spit well. And you have to spit. And you have to spit at the right time and in the right place. Attitude is all about spitting. One wrong spit could get you killed.

So a gang of bad-asses roam the southwest collecting scalps from 'injuns' and anyone else they happen to kill. Imagine the four horsemen of the apocalypse, but more of them. Imagine the movie 'Natural Born Killers' with a whole bunch of Mickey and Mallory's set in the west...

The story follows the 'Kid', a 16 year old man, shot twice at the age of 15, and will more likely kill you than answer a simple question. He joins up with the scalp harvesters and ventures west towards the coast. Many things happen. Bloody and terrifying things.

And then there's the Judge, the hairless philosopher and all-round crazy man. If Satan is ruler of the earth, the Judge is surely Satan.

He never sleeps, the judge. He is dancing, dancing. He says that he will never die.

Death can be creative. Death can come in many ways. And I believe McCarthy has described them all.

Dez 2, 2009, 3:50 pm

Back to #110: On your recommendation, I picked up the audiobook of Their Eyes Were Watching God. Only a short way into it, but from the way you talk about the book, you would LOVE it read by Ruby Dee. I'm probably going to have a car accident, because it's so mesmerizing...

Dez 2, 2009, 6:26 pm

115... i looked this up. thanks for the tip. seems there was a tv movie movie based on this book back in '05 where ruby dee played 'nanny'. halle berry played janie... i could live with that :)

and please keep your eyes watching the road.

Dez 3, 2009, 4:58 am

Judge Holden is my pick for the most unnerving character in literature.

Editado: Dez 3, 2009, 9:08 pm

88. Hear the Wind Sing by Haruki Murakami

Civilization is transmission. When it comes to pass that things that should be expressed and transmitted get lost, civilization itself comes to an end. Click... Off.

I believe that the word should in Murakami's quote above from his book Hear the Wind Sing aka Happy Birthday and White Christmas makes this statement obviously subjective. And with that I question whether this book should have been written. Civilization would certainly have continued without it and indeed it did in the western countries (I'm assuming here) because this, his first book, was never published outside of Japan (again assuming again).

Written in the first person, a person with no name, the story follows this no-name person during a couple of weeks or so of his summer vacation while back in his hometown from Tokyo university. He drinks beer with his friend Rat, reminisces about past girlfriends, and sparks up a relationship with a new girl with nine fingers. Then he goes back to school. And thus civilization is saved by this nameless person chronicling his two weeks in a small town near the coast. Thank you. I like civilization, just wish it could be more civil.

The book did have great moments as does most of Murakami's books (ummm... assuming again since I haven't read ALL of his books). And if I continue with this review it will be longer than the book itself. It's short. Only 130 pages. And those pages are only 4 inches by 6 inches.

Here's a short conversation from this short book with his new nine fingered girlfriend...

"Last year, I dissected a cow."
"You what?"
"I slit open the belly, but all I found was a handful of matted grass in one of the stomachs. I put the grass in a plastic bag and took it home with me. Put it on my desk. Then whenever something went wrong, I'd just stare at that lump of grass and think. Why do cows chew and chew and regurgitate and rechew this disgusting stuff over and over again?"

Fun read. A few good moments. Nothing spectacular. It is his first. Civilization is declining.

Dez 4, 2009, 3:22 am

#118: I have not heard of this one by Murakami. Thanks for the review, Brian. I will look for it.

Dez 5, 2009, 8:36 pm

>114 Banoo: - Wow! Your review of Blood Meridian really caught my attention. The only other Cormac McCarthy that I've read is The Road. It was great but somewhat disturbing. Sounds like Blood Meridian might fit that description too.

Dez 9, 2009, 7:43 pm

89. Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata

A married man goes to the mountains during spring deep in the snow country, the north western mountain region of Japan. He is an idler. Wealthy. A city man from Tokyo. Coming down from the mountains and into a inn he meets a geisha and his soul is stirred. And though he revisits the inn during the years that follow, both he and the geisha know that the relationship is but a wasted effort.

Kawabata takes a simple relationship between a man and a woman and melds it into their natural environment and seasonal setting. They become the snow that falls, the turning maple leaf, the isolated village, the shadowy mountains, and in the end... the milky way. Reading Kawabata is reading poetry in prose. He is not about complicated plot lines. His books are not, and should not, be 'page turners'. They should be read slowly, each line savored... only then might you feel what it's like for the entire Milky Way to roar into your being.

I was in Kyoto last week and visited Takayama and the mountains surrounding that area. I brought with me Blood Meridian for the brutal contrast of time and place. Back home, Kawabata came to mind and I picked this book up and scenes from the book echoed some of the places I saw and experienced. When travels and fiction meet, a sort of magic occurs.

From behind the rock, the cedars threw up their trunks in perfectly straight lines, so high that he could see the tops only by arching his back. The dark needles blocked out the sky, and the stillness seemed to be singing quietly.

The air in the earthen-floored hallway was still and cold. Shimamura was led up a ladder before his eyes had become accustomed to the darkness. It was a ladder in the truest sense of the word, and the room at the top was an attic... although there was but one low window, opening to the south...

"Listen! The crows. That frightening way they sometimes have. Where are they, I wonder? And isn't it cold!" Komako hugged herself as she looked up at the sky.

Following a stream, the train came out on the plain.

Dez 9, 2009, 7:45 pm

#120... Hey PorchReader (and i too love a good porch with a rocker), Blood Meridian is a brutally descriptive book. The Road was also my first McCarthy and I wasn't too sold on him. I remember it being bleak with not enough hope thrown in. Well Blood Meridian... forget about hope. It is an unforgettable read. The Judge will stay with you for a long time. I recommend it.

Dez 9, 2009, 11:12 pm

Thanks very much for the photos!


Dez 9, 2009, 11:58 pm

You're welcome. As I was reading the book these passages reminded me of the photos I took. The river photo... it was actually taken from the train I was on.

Dez 10, 2009, 1:33 am

I agree with Linda. Wow!

Dez 13, 2009, 11:43 am

90. Yu Li, Confessions of an Elevator Operator by Jimmy Qi

This guy, Yu Li, he works in an elevator. He pushes buttons. He's like a NASA astronaut. Elevator's are technical things. He also protects an A-list actor (although he doesn't know who he is), a B-list actress (although he doesn't know who she is), and a director (although he doesn't know who he is). So he's like a NASA astronaut and James Bond. He's also young, single, horny and has acne.

This is a short story novel showcasing one of China's promising new writers. The book is funny... and sad in it's portrayal of the most populace country in the world.

Dez 13, 2009, 7:32 pm

#126: Yu Li looks like an interesting book. I will see if I can find a copy. Thanks for the review and recommendation, Brian.

Dez 14, 2009, 11:17 am

91. It's Not an All Night Fair by Pramoedya Ananta Toer

I forget who said (want to think it was Pamuk), "Every man's death begins with the death of his father", but it is that quote that this book kept whispering in my head. This is a simple story, a sad story, a story of death... a son returns home to central Java to see his dying father and tries to find meaning in his father's life and in his own in a world that makes little sense.

I looked out of the window again. Rubber plantations followed, fast one after the other. Small towns which I often used to pass through before, I now passed through again. And scores of memories, some bitter, some pleasant, invaded my thoughts at their own will. And it was then that I realized: sometimes a man isn't strong enough to fight against his own memories. And I smiled at my realization. Yes, sometimes unconsciously man is too strong and drowns his own awareness. I smiled again.


On this earth men aren't born into the world in swarms nor do they return to the earth in swarms. One by one they come. One by one they go. And those who have not gone anxiously await the moment when their souls will fly away to who knows where...

Dez 14, 2009, 11:21 am

#127... Here's the beginning of the book online. I love the 3 month elevator operator training core content.

Dez 14, 2009, 5:27 pm

#129: Thanks for sharing the link, Brian. I will take a look at it later when I have a bit more time.

Editado: Dez 16, 2009, 11:20 am

92. The Passport by Herta Muller

Herta Müller is the latest to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. That in itself does not ensure that her books are great. This book was a dud... it just sucked. A bunch of Germans live in Romania under Ceausescu's dictatorship and they want to move to Germany but can't get passports... well they can, it's just not easy. Whoring your daughter though is good for passports and it helps if your daughter was already a whore. Mother was too. And there's an owl that flies around informing the village of death. And a bunch of bleak, depressing images. And flour. And a church with it's door locked. And Windisch and his bicycle.

She writes this book kind of like a Dick and Jane book. Short sentences. To the point... for instance... There were grey cracks between the blinds. Amalie had a temperature. Windisch couldn't sleep. He was thinking about her chewed nipples.

It's a short book. Time wasted was short. It bored me. Bleakness is bleak. I hope her other books are better. I'll give her another chance. Herta looks cool. I credit her with coolness. I now end this review.

Dez 16, 2009, 6:21 pm

Brian, I hope you are joining us in the 2010 group. It is now up and running!

Dez 16, 2009, 7:17 pm

132... hey, it's still december 2009!! you're rushing time :)

i'll be joining the group when i get back to malaysia. i'm in georgia now visiting the parents. next year i'm pretty sure i will not be reading 75 books (or 50 books). my reading goals are tackling the big books. infinite jest and the complete works of edgar a poe are on my list. i'll also be taking some classes (never too old to learn new things) on top of what i expect to be one of our busiest years at work. so it looks like 2010 is gonna kick butt! and i'm looking forward to getting my foot involved in a kick or two.

Dez 17, 2009, 6:10 pm

#133: No rush - I just wanted to make you aware that the 2010 group is up. I am glad to see you are going to be back with us for another year.

Editado: Dez 21, 2009, 6:25 pm

93. The Hawkline Monster by Richard Brautigan

When reading Brautigan I just never know what's going to happen and when it happens I'm never sure what it is and sometimes things happen when I'm not reading the book because when I come back to the book it's different and I'm usually hungry.

Greer and Cameron, the man who counts, are wild west men. They're hired killers. So an Indian girl, Magic Child, hires them to kill a monster and in the process they fornicate a lot, drink tea, bury a dwarf, and set an elephant foot free. Really. This all happens... and more.

"I count a lot of things that there's no need to count," Cameron said. "Just because that's the way I am. But I count all the things that need to be counted."

A well-crafted book that unfolds like a piece of paper wadded in your pants pocket and washed a few times... I think. Some things may have happened while I was away.

Dez 29, 2009, 9:28 pm

94. Where All the Ladders Start by Ron Loewinsohn

Infidelity in high fidelity... that's this book. It's a beautiful book that you can hear as you read... sounds are used to propel the story.

David Lyman is a composer/conductor (and the main character in Loewinsohn's novel Magnetic Field(s)). He listens to the silence between sounds both in his music and in his life. Problem is... going through a mid-life crisis with a wife that creates a steady repetitive rhythm, a son beating to the sounds of punk, and a beautiful young musician blowing the flute (no pun intended... well intended a little bit but it's true) and idolizing him creates a noisy situation.

And when he had passed, the silence stitched itself back together again behind him.

This is it for the year for me... Happy New Year everyone. I'll be spending it flying over the Pacific... see you in 2010.

Dez 30, 2009, 2:53 am

Safe travels, Brian!

Dez 31, 2009, 1:52 pm

Peace, love and good will all coming your way from me dear Brian. I wish you the best in 2010.
big new year hug,

Jan 1, 2010, 2:52 am

Happy New Year, Brian!

Jan 3, 2010, 7:40 pm

Here's a link to my 2010 List...