kidzdoc's Second Assault on Mount TBR in 2012

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Este tema fue continuado por kidzdoc's Third Assault on Mount TBR in 2012.

CharlasClub Read 2012

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kidzdoc's Second Assault on Mount TBR in 2012

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1kidzdoc
Editado: Ago 22, 2012, 10:27pm












Currently reading:



Friendly Fire by A.B. Yehoshua
The Empty Family by Colm Tóibín
Mihyar of Damascus: His Songs by Adonis

Completed books:

January:
1. Volcano by Shusaku Endo (review)
2. False Friends: Book Two by Ellie Malet Spradbery (review)
3. A Disease Apart: Leprosy in the Modern World by Tony Gould (review)
4. Best Mets: Fifty Years of Highs and Lows from New York's Most Agonizingly Amazin' Team by Matthew Silverman (review)
5. Walkabout by James Vance Marshall (review)
6. Swamplandia! by Karen Russell (review)
7. Letter from the Birmingham Jail by Martin Luther King, Jr.
8. Mister Blue by Jacques Poulin (review)
9. Stained Glass Elegies by Shusaku Endo (review)
10. Botchan (Master Darling) by Natsume Soseki (review)
11. The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson
12. Guadalajara by Quim Monzó (review)

February:
13. 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
14. Erasure by Percival Everett
15. Who's Afraid of Post-Blackness?: What It Means to Be Black Now by Touré
16. Memed, My Hawk by Yashar Kemal
17. India Becoming: A Portrait of Life in Modern India by Akash Kapur (review)
18. The Three-Cornered World by Natsume Soseki
19. Angel by Elizabeth Taylor
20. Kokoro by Natsume Soseki
21. The Golden Country by Shusaku Endo
22. The Patience Stone by Atiq Rahimi

March:
23. Professor Andersen's Night by Dag Solstad
24. Amsterdam Stories by Nescio
25. Your New Baby: A Guide to Newborn Care by Roy Benaroch, MD (review)
26. Fragile Beginnings: Discoveries and Triumphs in the Newborn ICU by Adam Wolfberg, MD (review)
27. There but for the by Ali Smith
28. The Deportees and Other Stories by Roddy Doyle
29. When the Garden Was Eden: Clyde, the Captain, Dollar Bill, and the Glory Days of the New York Knicks by Harvey Araton (review)
30. Walk on Water: Inside an Elite Pediatric Surgical Unit by Michael Rudman (review)
31. Suffer the Children: Flaws, Foibles, Fallacies and the Grave Shortcomings of Pediatric Care by Peter Palmieri (review)
32. Tonight No Poetry Will Serve by Adrienne Rich

April:
33. Little Misunderstandings of No Importance by Antonio Tabucchi
34. One with Others by C.D. Wright (review)
35. The Missing Head of Damasceno Monteiro by Antonio Tabucchi (review)
36. Boundaries by Elizabeth Nunez (review)
37. Panther Baby by Jamal Joseph (review)
38. The Map and the Territory by Michel Houellebecq
39. Waifs and Strays by Micah Ballard (review)
40. Gillespie and I by Jane Harris (review)
41. Natural Birth by Toi Derricotte (review)
42. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (review)
43. Thirst by Andrei Gelasimov (review)
44. When I Was a Poet by David Meltzer (review)
45. Book of My Mother by Albert Cohen (review)
46. The Lepers of Molokai by Charles Warren Stoddard

May:
47. Colonoscopy for Dummies ~ Special Edition by Kathleen A. Doble
48. Map of the Invisible World by Tash Aw
49. A Planet of Viruses by Carl Zimmer
50. State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
51. The Leopard by Giuseppe Di Lampedusa (review)
52. The Line by Olga Grushin
53. What Is Amazing by Heather Christle
54. Painter of Silence by Georgina Harding
55. The Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright
56. The Treasures of Destiny by Laurie Harman Wilson
57. Confusion by Stefan Zweig
58. Foreign Bodies by Cynthia Ozick
59. The Undertaker's Daughter by Toi Derricotte

June:
60. Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
61. The Patient Survival Guide: 8 Simple Solutions to Prevent Hospital- and Healthcare-Associated Infections by Dr. Maryanne McGuckin
62. Three Strong Women by Marie NDiaye
63. Scenes from Early Life by Philip Hensher (review)
64. The Loss of El Dorado: A Colonial History by V.S. Naipaul

July:
65. God's Hotel: A Doctor, a Hospital, and a Pilgrimage to the Heart of Medicine by Victoria Sweet (review)
66. Being Sam Frears: A Life Less Ordinary by Mary Mount (review)
67. Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel (review)
68. The Making of Modern Medicine: Turning Points in the Treatment of Disease by Michael Bliss (review)
69. The Earth in the Attic by Fady Joudah
70. Pure by Timothy Mo (review)
71. Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast by Natasha Trethewey (review)
72. My Michael by Amos Oz
73. Popular Hits of the Showa Era by Ryu Murakami (review)
74. Subduction by Todd Shimoda
75. Like a Straw Bird It Follows Me, and Other Poems by Ghassan Zaqtan
76. Palace Walk by Naguib Mahfouz (review)
77. The Bus Driver Who Wanted to Be God and Other Stories by Etgar Keret (review)
78. Memoirs of a Porcupine by Alain Mabanckou
79. I Was an Elephant Salesman by Pap Khouma

August:
80. Palace of Desire by Naguib Mahfouz (review)
81. Head Off & Split by Nikky Finney
82. Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil
83. The Devil in Silver by Victor LaValle (review)
84. Parnassus on Wheels by Christopher Morley
85. Swimming Home by Deborah Levy
86. Sugar Street by Naguib Mahfouz
87. The Yips by Nicola Barker
88. Silence by Shusaku Endo (review)
89. Lucretia and the Kroons by Victor LaValle (review)
90. The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng (review)

2kidzdoc
Editado: Ago 13, 2012, 2:55am

TBR books read in 2012 (books on my shelf for ≥6 months):

1. A Disease Apart: Leprosy in the Modern World by Tony Gould
2. Swamplandia! by Karen Russell
3. Botchan (Master Darling) by Natsume Soseki
4. The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson
5. Guadalajara by Quim Monzó
6. Memed, My Hawk by Yashar Kemal
7. The Three-Cornered World by Natsume Soseki
8. Kokoro by Natsume Soseki
9. The Patience Stone by Atiq Rahimi
10. The Deportees and Other Stories by Roddy Doyle
11. Little Misunderstandings of No Importance by Antonio Tabucchi
12. One with Others by C.D. Wright
13. The Missing Head of Damasceno Monteiro by Antonio Tabucchi
14. Waifs and Strays by Micah Ballard
15. Gillespie and I by Jane Harris
16. When I Was a Poet by David Meltzer
17. Map of the Invisible World by Tash Aw
18. State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
19. The Leopard by Giuseppe di Lampedusa
20. The Line by Olga Grushin
21. Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
22. The Loss of El Dorado: A Colonial History by V.S. Naipaul
23. My Michael by Amos Oz
24. Popular Hits of the Showa Era by Ryu Murakami
25. Palace Walk by Naguib Mahfouz
26. Palace of Desire by Naguib Mahfouz
27. Parnassus on Wheels by Christopher Morley
28. Sugar Street by Naguib Mahfouz

Books purchased in 2012:

1. The Map and the Territory by Michel Houellebecq √
2. Fragile Beginnings: Discoveries and Triumphs in the Newborn ICU by Adam Wolfberg, MD √
3. The Irish Americans: A History by Jay P. Dolan
4. The Bus Driver Who Wanted to Be God and Other Stories by Etgar Keret √
5. The Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright √
6. Suffer the Children: Flaws, Foibles, Fallacies and the Grave Shortcomings of Pediatric Care by Peter Palmieri √
7. The King of Kahel by Tierno Monénembo
8. The Secret Piano: From Mao's Labor Camps to Bach's Goldberg Variations by Zhu Xiao-Mei
9. The Greenhouse by Audur Ava Olafsdottir
10. Thirst by Andrei Gelasimov √
11. Foreign Bodies by Cynthia Ozick √
12. Painter of Silence by Georgina Harding √
13. Three Strong Women by Marie NDiaye √
14. Foreign Studies by Shusaku Endo
15. The Enormity of the Tragedy by Quim Monzó
16. Hitch-22 by Christopher Hitchens
17. The Coward's Tale by Vanessa Gebbie
18. Trapeze by Simon Mawer
19. HHhH by Laurent Binet
20. The Undertaker's Daughter by Toi Derricotte √
21. What Is Amazing by Heather Christle √
22. Scenes from Early Life by Philip Hensler √
23. Pure by Timothy Mo √
24. Capital by John Lanchester
25. The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson by Robert Caro
26. Our Lady of Alice Bhatti by Mohammed Hanif
27. Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel √
28. London Under: The Secret History Beneath the Streets by Peter Ackroyd
29. Divorce Islamic Style by Amara Lakhous
30. Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast by Natasha Trethewey √
31. Memoirs of a Porcupine by Alain Mabanckou √
32. Is Just a Movie by Earl Lovelace
33. Like a Straw Bird It Follows Me, and Other Poems by Ghassan Zaqtan √
34. The Making of Modern Medicine: Turning Points in the Treatment of Disease by Michael Bliss √
35. The Dream of the Celt by Mario Vargas Llosa
36.. God's Hotel: A Doctor, a Hospital, and a Pilgrimage to the Heart of Medicine by Victoria Sweet √
37. The Earth in the Attic by Fady Joudah √
38. Massacre River by René Philoctète
39. Manual of Painting and Calligraphy by José Saramago
40. I Was an Elephant Salesman by Pap Khouma √
41. I Am a Japanese Writer by Dany Laferrière
42. Jim and Jap Crow: A Cultural History of 1940s Interracial America by Matthew M. Briones
43. Being Sam Frears: A Life Less Ordinary by Mary Mount √
44. Head Off & Split by Nikky Finney
45. Life on Mars by Tracy K. Smith
46. Confessions of a Young Novelist by Umberto Eco
47. Missing Soluch by Mahmoud Dowlatabadi
48. Why Niebuhr Matters by Charles Lemert
49. Globalectics by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o
50. Black in Latin America by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
51. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
52. Always in Trouble: An Oral History of ESP-Disk', the Most Outrageous Record Label in America by Jason Weiss
53. Season of the Witch: Enchantment, Terror, and Deliverance in the City of Love by David Talbot
54. Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo
55. Inside by Alix Ohlin
56. The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova
57. Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil
58. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
59. Skios by Michael Frayn
60. The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng
61. The Yips by Nicola Barker
62. The Teleportation Accident by Ned Bauman
63. Swimming Home by Deborah Levy
64. A Word Child by Iris Murdoch

3kidzdoc
Editado: Ago 11, 2012, 7:54pm

Books acquired in 2012:

January:
1. Best Mets: Fifty Years of Highs and Lows from New York's Most Agonizingly Amazin' Team by Matthew Silverman (2 Jan; LT Early Reviewer book) √
2. The Map and the Territory by Michel Houellebecq (3 Jan; Kindle purchase) √
3. The Lepers of Molokai by Charles Warren Stoddard (7 Jan; free Kindle download) √
4. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt (8 Jan; gift book)
5. Walkabout by James Vance Marshall (8 Jan; NYRB Book Club) √
6. There but for the by Ali Smith (9 Jan; ordered from Alibris 30 Jan) √
7. I Am a Cat by Natsume Soseki (9 Jan; ordered from Alibris 30 Jan)
8. The Samurai by Shusaku Endo (9 Jan; ordered from Alibris 30 Jan)
9. Confessions of a Mask by Yukio Mishima ((9 Jan; ordered from Alibris 30 Jan)
10. Coin Locker Babies by Ryu Murakami (9 Jan; ordered from Alibris 30 Jan)
11. Black Talk, Blue Thoughts, and Walking the Color Line: Dispatches from a Black Journalista by Erin Aubry Kaplan (10 Jan; LT Early Reviewer book)
12. Up in the Old Hotel by Joseph Mitchell (11 Jan; ordered from Strand Book Store on 27 Dec)
13. Runaway Horses by Yukio Mishima (11 Jan; ordered from Strand Book Store on 27 Dec)
14. The Temple of Dawn by Yukio Mishima (11 Jan; ordered from Strand Book Store on 27 Dec)
15. The Golden Country by Shusaku Endo (11 Jan; ordered from Strand Book Store on 27 Dec) √
16. Deep River by Shusaku Endo (11 Jan; ordered from Strand Book Store on 27 Dec)
17. Letter from the Birmingham Jail by Martin Luther King, Jr. (15 Jan; free download) √

February:
18. Panther Baby by Jamal Joseph (2 Feb; free ARC) √
19. Angel by Elizabeth Taylor (4 Feb; NYRB Book Club) √
20. Class War?: What Americans Really Think about Economic Inequality by Benjamin I. Page (10 Feb; free e-book from U of Chicago Press)
21. India Becoming: A Portrait of Life in Modern India by Akash Kapur (15 Feb; LT Early Reviewer book) √
22. Amsterdam Stories by Nescio (29 Feb; NYRB Book Club) √

March:
23. Your new baby: A guide to newborn care by Roy Benaroch (6 Mar; free Kindle download) √
24. Fragile Beginnings: Discoveries and Triumphs in the Newborn ICU by Adam Wolfberg, MD (11 Mar; Kindle purchase)
25. The Irish Americans: A History by Jay P. Dolan (17 Mar; Kindle purchase)
26. The Bus Driver Who Wanted To Be God & Other Stories by Etgar Keret (17 Mar; partial book purchase from Barnes & Noble gift order)
27. The Grief of Others by Leah Hager Cohen (17 Mar; Barnes & Noble gift order)
28. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (17 Mar; Barnes & Noble gift order) √
29. Londoners: The Days and Nights of London Now--As Told by Those Who Love It, Hate It, Live It, Left It, and Long for It by Craig Taylor (17 Mar; Barnes & Noble gift order)
30. The Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright (17 Mar; iBooks order)
31. When the Garden Was Eden: Clyde, the Captain, Dollar Bill, and the Glory Days of the New York Knicks by Harvey Araton (20 Mar; Kindle gift book) √
32. Assumption by Percival Everett (20 Mar; Kindle gift book)
33. The Barbarian Nurseries by Héctor Tobar (20 Mar; Kindle gift book)
34. A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters by Julian Barnes (22 Mar; Kindle gift book)
35. The Man Within My Head by Pico Iyer (25 Mar; Kindle gift book)
36. Walk on Water: Inside an Elite Pediatric Surgical Unit by Michael Rudman (25 Mar; borrowed book) √
37. Knickerbocker's History of New York, Complete by Washington Irving (26 Mar; free Kindle download)
38. Suffer the Children: Flaws, Foibles, Fallacies and the Grave Shortcomings of Pediatric Care by Peter Palmieri (26 Mar; Kindle purchase) √

April:
39. Store of the Worlds: The Stories of Robert Sheckley (3 Apr; NYRB Book Club)
40. The King of Kahel by Tierno Monénembo (15 Apr; Kindle e-book)
41. The Secret Piano: From Mao's Labor Camps to Bach's Goldberg Variations by Zhu Xiao-Mei (15 Apr; Kindle e-book)
42. The Greenhouse by Audur Ava Olafsdottir (15 Apr; Kindle e-book)
43. Thirst by Andrei Gelasimov (15 Apr; Kindle e-book) √
44. Book of My Mother by Albert Cohen (16 Apr; Archipelago Books 2011 subscription) √
45. My Struggle: Book One by Karl Ove Knausgaard (16 Apr; Archipelago Books 2011 subscription)
46. As Though She Were Sleeping by Elias Khoury (16 Apr; Archipelago Books 2011 subscription)
47. Foreign Bodies by Cynthia Ozick (17 Apr; Kindle e-book) √
48. Painter of Silence by Georgina Harding (17 Apr; Kindle e-book) √
49. Bleak House by Charles Dickens (22 Apr; free Kindle e-book)
50. Three Strong Women by Marie NDiaye (28 Apr; Amazon UK order)

May:
51. A Planet of Viruses by Carl Zimmer (3 May; free e-book from the University of Chicago Press) √
52. Colonoscopy for Dummies ~ Special Edition by Kathleen A. Doble (3 May; free e-book) √
53. Foreign Studies by Shusaku Endo (6 May; Strand Book Store)
54. The Enormity of the Tragedy by Quim Monzó (6 May; Strand Book Store)
55. Hitch-22 by Christopher Hitchens (6 May; Strand Book Store)
56. The Coward's Tale by Vanessa Gebbie (6 May; Strand Book Store)
57. Trapeze by Simon Mawer (6 May; Strand Book Store)
58. HHhH by Laurent Binet (6 May; Strand Book Store)
59. The Undertaker's Daughter by Toi Derricotte (6 May; Strand Book Store) √
60. What Is Amazing by Heather Christle (6 May; Strand Book Store) √
61. Confusion by Stefan Zweig (8 May; NYRB Book Club) √
62. Scenes from Early Life by Philip Hensler (8 May; The Book Depository)
63. Pure by Timothy Mo (8 May; The Book Depository)
64. Capital by John Lanchester (19 May; The Book Depository)
65. A Mind of Winter by Shira Nayman (19 May; LibraryThing Early Reviewer book)
66. The Treasures of Destiny by Laurie Harman Wilson (20 May; ARC e-book) √
67. The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson by Robert Caro (21 May; History Book Club)
68. The Complete 2012 User's Guide to the Amazing Amazon Kindle by Stephen Windwalker and Bruce Grubbs (29 May; free Kindle e-book)
69. Our Lady of Alice Bhatti by Mohammed Hanif (30 May; Kindle e-book)
70. Last Orders by Graham Swift (30 May; gift book (J.N.))
71. The Patient Survival Guide: 8 Simple Solutions to Prevent Hospital- and Healthcare-Associated Infections by Dr. Maryanne McGuckin (31 May; LT Early Reviewer book)
72. Subduction by Todd Shimoda (31 May; LT Early Reviewer book)
73. Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel (31 May; Amazon UK)

June:
74. Ride a Cockhorse by Raymond Kennedy (4 June; NYRB Book Club)
75. London Under: The Secret History Beneath the Streets by Peter Ackroyd (26 June; City Lights Books)
76. Divorce Islamic Style by Amara Lakhous (26 June; City Lights Books)
77. Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast by Natasha Trethewey (26 June; City Lights Books)
78. Memoirs of a Porcupine by Alain Mabanckou (26 June; City Lights Books)
79. Is Just a Movie by Earl Lovelace (26 June; City Lights Books)
80. Like a Straw Bird It Follows Me, and Other Poems by Ghassan Zaqtan (26 June; City Lights Books)
81. The Making of Modern Medicine: Turning Points in the Treatment of Disease by Michael Bliss (26 June; City Lights Books)
82. The Dream of the Celt by Mario Vargas Llosa (26 June; City Lights Books)
83. God's Hotel: A Doctor, a Hospital, and a Pilgrimage to the Heart of Medicine by Victoria Sweet (26 June; City Lights Books)
84. The Earth in the Attic by Fady Joudah (26 June; City Lights Books)
85. Massacre River by René Philoctète (28 June; City Lights Books)
86. Manual of Painting and Calligraphy by José Saramago (28 June; City Lights Books)
87. I Was an Elephant Salesman by Pap Khouma (28 June; City Lights Books)
88. I Am a Japanese Writer by Dany Laferrière (28 June; City Lights Books)
89. Jim and Jap Crow: A Cultural History of 1940s Interracial America by Matthew M. Briones (28 June; City Lights Books)
90. McTeague by Frank Norris (30 June; free Kindle e-book)
91. Being Sam Frears: A Life Less Ordinary by Mary Mount (30 June; Penguin eSpecial)

July:
92. Head Off & Split by Nikky Finney (2 July; Books Inc.)
93. Life on Mars by Tracy K. Smith (2 July; Books Inc.)
94. The Moon, Come to Earth: Dispatches from Lisbon by Philip Graham (2 July; University of Chicago Press free e-book)
95. Confessions of a Young Novelist by Umberto Eco (4 July; City Lights Books)
96. Missing Soluch by Mahmoud Dowlatabadi (4 July; City Lights Books)
97. Why Niebuhr Matters by Charles Lemert (4 July; City Lights Books)
98. Globalectics by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o (4 July; City Lights Books)
99. Black in Latin America by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (4 July; City Lights Books)
100. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander (6 July; Kindle download)
101. Always in Trouble: An Oral History of ESP-Disk', the Most Outrageous Record Label in America by Jason Weiss (6 July; City Lights Books)
102. Season of the Witch: Enchantment, Terror, and Deliverance in the City of Love by David Talbot (6 July; City Lights Books)
103. Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo (6 July; City Lights Books)
104. Inside by Alix Ohlin (6 July; City Lights Books)
105. The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova (8 July; Kindle download)
106. Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol (9 July; NYRB Book Club)
107. Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil (25 July; Kindle download)
108. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce (25 July; Kindle download)
109. Skios by Michael Frayn (25 July; Kindle download)
110. Religio Medici and Urne-Buriall by Sir Thomas Browne (31 July; NYRB Book Club)

August:
111. The Devil in Silver by Victor LaValle (7 August; LTER book)
112. Wheel with a Single Spoke and Other Poems by Nichita Stănescu (8 August; Archipelago Books subscription)
113. Prehistoric Times by Eric Chevillard (8 August; Archipelago Books subscription)
114. A Word Child by Iris Murdoch (10 August; Kindle download)
115. Swimming Home by Deborah Levy (10 August; The Book Depository)
116. The Teleportation Accident by Ned Bauman (11 August; AbeBooks)
117. The Yips by Nicola Barker (11 August; AbeBooks)

4kidzdoc
Editado: Abr 25, 2012, 9:38pm

5bragan
Abr 18, 2012, 9:47am

I love that picture. It's like an illustration of my life. :)

6StevenTX
Abr 18, 2012, 10:14am

Looking at the comments on the Pulitzer Prize at the end of your first thread, I was wondering how we might objectively measure if the Pulitzer is indeed the weakest of the major awards. The best criteria I could think of is to compare the average LT reader ratings of the books that win the various awards. Rather than hijack your thread with a lot of data, I thought it would be most appropriate to post it as a new thread in "The Prizes" group. The results were as surprising to me as they probably will be to you:

http://www.librarything.com/topic/136025

7kidzdoc
Abr 18, 2012, 3:04pm

>5 bragan: Same here (at least for my reading life)!

>6 StevenTX: Thanks for taking the time to do this, Steven! I've posted a comment on the thread you created.

8SassyLassy
Abr 19, 2012, 11:06am

Do you find the same thing applies to your reading of nonfiction Pulitzer prize books?

9kidzdoc
Abr 19, 2012, 11:58am

>8 SassyLassy: Do you find the same thing applies to your reading of nonfiction Pulitzer prize books?

By that, are you asking if I find the books selected as finalists for the Pulitzer Prizes in History, Biography and Nonfiction to be disappointing? No, definitely not. I was pleased that Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention won this year's History Prize, and several LTers have raved about The Swerve: How the World Became Modern, this year's Nonfiction Prize winner, which also won the National Book Award for Nonfiction last year. One of my favorite books of 2010, The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer won in this category last year, along with several others I've read and loved in past years, especially The Social Transformation of American Medicine and Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II. I have several unread books in each of these categories that I'm eager to read, as well.

10SassyLassy
Abr 19, 2012, 12:05pm

Glad to hear that the nonfiction categories still hold up for you, as they have always been the ones I pay attention to. I too have been disappointed with much of the fiction and tend not to use the Pulitzer as a reference for novels.

11avaland
Abr 19, 2012, 3:35pm

>re: The Orange Prize. My feeling with regards to placing debut novels against those novels by more accomplished novelists is that it makes the award more susceptible to the "golden girl of the moment" sort of thing. (you are correct about the number of debut novels, I mistakenly thought Esi Edugyan's novel to be her first).

>re: Pulitzer: Well, as far as my reading goes, I don't see the Pulitzer any better or worse than other awards generally, but I also find that each award suggests a certain something that it is looking to communicate with its pick (whether that be a conscious thing or not) - if you know what I mean. I don't think I can quite articulate it, but, for example, it shows up in hindsight in the history of the Nobel - the certain 'eras' of awards as noted here.

The Pulitzer has been more than a bit prone to "a man's life" sort of theme (I used to joke that if a woman wanted to win a Pulitzer, she should write a story about a man) and interestingly, 3 of the last 10 winners have been set or partially set in my home state of Maine.

I sometimes think that all of the awards over the last 20 years or so have been trying to expand their horizons, so to speak - to become generally more heterogeneous and less predictable, perhaps to try to get away from the idea that a ___ award winner should be a certain type of book.

I'm no longer interested in awards directing what I read (the decade at the bookstore always reading ahead of the public sort of cured me of that)*, but I understand that many readers such as yourself look to reading award-winners as a reliable (or reasonably reliable) source of very good to excellent books, and as a community experience of reading books that others will also be reading.

*The last two awards I paid attention to, mostly to find new authors in those days before LT, was the Orange Prize and the Impac Dublin Award. In the latter, I still like to look at what some of the other countries' nominate.

>6 StevenTX: Will pop over to your new thread, steven, a bit later (I have to get some real work done!), it sounds interesting.

12kidzdoc
Editado: Abr 20, 2012, 8:01am

>10 SassyLassy: Right. It's a shame that an award as prestigious as the Pulitzer is so weak in the Fiction category, especially since there are far fewer major literary awards in the US than elsewhere.

>11 avaland: Your comment about the "golden girl of the moment" makes sense, Lois. I'm still surprised that The Tiger's Wife won last year's Orange Prize; I ranked it fourth out of the five shortlisted books I read last year, after The Memory of Love (easily the best book on the shortlist), Grace Williams Says it Loud (also a debut novel, but a superb one), and Room (excellent and unforgettable first half, somewhat disappointing second half and ending), but ahead of Annabel (well written, but deeply flawed).

BTW, much of my reading attention for the next few weeks will be focused on the Orange Prize shortlist. I'm reading Gillespie and I now; it didn't make the shortlist, of course, but it has received rave reviews on LT, and I love it so far. I'll start The Song of Achilles after I'm finished with it, followed by the other four shortlisted novels I haven't yet read, State of Wonder, Foreign Bodies, The Forgotten Waltz and Painter of Silence. I'd like to finish the shortlist by May 30th, when the Orange Prize will be awarded.

Interesting comment about literary prizes ("I also find that each award suggests a certain something that it is looking to communicate with its pick"). In my admittedly biased and incorrect view, the Pulitzer seems to focus largely on the problems of families and communities in American small towns, rural areas and suburbs, which makes my eyes glaze over. I'm thinking about books such as Olive Kitteridge, Gilead, The Echo Maker, After This, March, and Close Range: Wyoming Stories. These books may be well written and compelling, but you would have to put me in an empty room before I would read any of them. To be fair, the prize has taken a wider focus in recent years, with novels such as The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Middlesex, The Known World and The Plague of Doves. However, I still think of the Pulitzer (in the Fiction category only) as being an award for noncontroversial and nonthreatening books that would be popular in small town libraries in Iowa or Kansas, an enriched Pablum for the masses. I couldn't see the Pulitzer picking an edgy or provocative book, such as I Hotel, Open City or Salvage the Bones, all of which were selected as finalists or winners of the National Book Award or the National Book Critics Circle Award.

I also find the structure of the Pulitzers to be outdated and unhelpful, compared to the prizes which announce a list of finalists (including longlists and shortlists) several months before the award ceremony. The longlist announcements for the Orange and Booker Prizes generate a lot of excitement, encourage readers to choose a good amount of quality books, and helps the selected writers, and the publishers and bookstores that sell these books. The NBCC and the NBA each announce a list of finalists, but I'd like to see them give readers more time to buy and read these books before the award ceremony, as the major UK literary awards do.

I'm no longer interested in awards directing what I read...but I understand that many readers such as yourself look to reading award-winners as a reliable (or reasonably reliable) source of very good to excellent books, and as a community experience of reading books that others will also be reading.

Exactly. I'm far less interested in reading the winner of a particular literary award than in reading books which a group of knowledgeable people think are the best books. If I lived in a place with good independent bookstores, which carry carefully selected books from smaller publishers and university presses, and are staffed with intelligent and erudite employees, each of whom read widely and recommend books on an individual basis (read: City Lights), then these lists wouldn't be nearly as important or valuable to me. Having said that, I still find lots of gems in these bookstores that I wouldn't have heard about otherwise.

13rebeccanyc
Editado: Abr 20, 2012, 10:17am

I've been reading this discussion with interest, and I really wonder whether the Pulitzer should be given to fiction, poetry, etc. It is prestigious as a journalism prize, and of course Pulitzer himself was a journalist, and I really wonder whether they shouldn't consider focusing only on journalism and on nonfiction books, which are cousins of journalism. But I guess they have to do whatever the Pulitzer bequest told them to do.

14kidzdoc
Abr 20, 2012, 9:09am

>13 rebeccanyc: That makes sense to me, Rebecca.

15RidgewayGirl
Abr 20, 2012, 11:11am

I find the shortlists much more interesting than the actual winners. There's no way to objectively choose a "best" book* since a part of a novel is its interaction with the reader, someone different in every case. A list, however, can say "here are some books we think are worth considering," without the baggage of being the best of the best. So a longer span of time between the announcement of long list, shortlist and winner can only enhance the prize.

*I'm pretty sure my choices are objectively and scientifically the best ones, usually.

16dchaikin
Abr 20, 2012, 1:54pm

Darryl - I think you're on to something with the small town, rural, suburban themes of the Pulitzer winners. Add Tinkers to that list. Not sure what that means. Maybe this is the consensus what "American Life" is.

17kidzdoc
Editado: Abr 22, 2012, 5:25pm

Book #37: Panther Baby by Jamal Joseph



My rating:

Note: This review contains numerous spoilers and detailed information about the author's life and the history of Black Panther Party. Anyone who is seriously thinking of reading this book may want to skim it, or skip it altogether.

This gripping and inspiring memoir begins in New York City in 1968. Eddie Joseph, a 15 year old boy being raised by his doting and deeply religious grandmother, excels in school, but his experiences as a young child make him aware of the racial turmoil that exists within and outside of his "up south" community in the Bronx. As a first grader, he innocently kisses a white girl on the way home from school, and her parents then forbid her to ever speak to him again. During a summer trip to visit his grandmother's relatives in rural Virginia, he bloodies the nose of a white bully, who turns out to be the son of a local Ku Klux Klan leader, and he is forced to take the first bus back to New York after several KKK members pay a less than cordial visit to his aunt's house that evening.

Dr. Martin Luther King's assassination in May of 1968 radicalized many young blacks in America, and young Eddie was no exception. The Black Power movement had been gaining in strength and importance since 1966, when Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) chairman Stokely Carmichael first used the term to describe an alternative movement to Dr. King's Civil Rights movement, one which emphasized black solidarity in order to achieve political equality and socioeconomic independence. After seeing the Black Panthers on television, he is attracted by the young men wearing berets and leather jackets and toting guns, as they defiantly protest California legislators and policemen who wish to take away their constitutional right to bear arms. Eddie then decides to join the organization, along with his closest friends.

Eddie adopts the name Jamal, and becomes a devoted and respected young leader within the New York City chapter of the Black Panther Party. His youthful exuberance and radicalism is both encouraged and tempered by several older Panther leaders, most notably Afeni Shakur, one of the most influential women in the organization, whose own fame would be superseded by that of her son Tupac. The Panthers serve a vital purpose within black communities in the city, providing free breakfast and after-school programs for school children, distributing food to needy families, organizing tenants in substandard and unsafe housing to stand up for their right to live decently, combating the influx of illegal drugs in the community, and aiding individuals in need of medical care or legal aid, while distributing literature and eliciting donations to support their activities. Although many Americans viewed the Black Panther Party as a dangerous and subversive organization, liberal whites and Jews including Jane Fonda, Norman Mailer and Leonard Bernstein recognize their good work, and hold fund raising parties in their name.

The Panthers' more radical activities, particularly in Oakland and Chicago, come to the attention of FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, who proclaims that "{t}he Black Panther Party without question is the greatest threat to the internal security of the country." Local police, aided and encouraged by FBI agents, begin to crack down on Panther chapters throughout the country, raiding local Panther offices and engaging in shootouts with them, which include the notorious assassination of Chicago Panther leader Fred Hampton, who is shot to death at night, unarmed, as he sleeps alongside his pregnant girlfriend.

In April of 1969, Jamal and 20 other Panther leaders, known subsequently as the Panther 21, are arrested and charged with conspiracy to bomb several public building and to commit murder. The case draws local and national attention, as most blacks and liberal whites believe the charges are without merit. Jamal is eventually freed after several months of imprisonment along with several others, and the remaining incarcerated members of the Panther 21 are acquitted of all charges by a grand jury, which needed only 45 minutes of deliberation to find them free of guilt.

Jamal resumes his activities in the Party, but finds that the organization, both locally and nationally, has been fractured, due to the FBI's successful efforts to infiltrate it. This sowed widespread distrust and dissension within the Party, particularly between its West Coast and East Coast sections, and culminated in a split between Eldridge Cleaver, who favored revolution and violence, and Huey Newton, Bobby Seale, David Hilliard and others, who preferred to focus on community development and education. As a result, the local chapters' positive influences on the community wane in the early and mid 1970s, and the influx of illegal drugs, along with the migration of middle class blacks from inner city communities, increased unemployment, and cutbacks in city programs due to the worsening recession, decimate the inner city neighborhoods of New York City and most American cities.

He is arrested again, as he and other Panthers attempt to break up a local drug den by armed force, and he receives a 12 year sentence. He serves the majority of his prison time at Leavenworth, the largest maximum security federal prison in the United States, alongside the most dangerous of criminals, many of whom will never leave the prison alive. He begins to study and read intensely, writes several plays for fellow inmates, and obtains a bachelor's degree from the University of Kansas, graduating summa cum laude. Upon his release in 1987 he moves back to New York, where he reunites with his wife and children. He is hired by Touro College as a professor and counselor, writes several screenplays, which win several awards and earn him a fellowship in playwriting, and is subsequently hired to teach screenwriting at Columbia University, where he continues to work as a professor in the School of Arts.

Panther Baby is a fascinating account of a remarkable life, which kept my rapt attention from the first page to the last. Joseph is a gifted writer, and this book provided me with a succinct yet excellent insider's analysis of the Black Panther Party, the life of a former Panther, and the measure of this inspiring man. This is one of the best memoirs I've ever read, and I can't recommend it highly enough.

18kidzdoc
Abr 22, 2012, 1:57pm

Natural Birth by Toi Derricotte



My rating:

Toi Derricotte, an award-winning poet , professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh, and co-founder of the Cave Canem Foundation for up and coming African-American poets, wrote this collection of narrative poems in the late 1970s, when her son reached 16 years of age. It was originally published in 1983, and reissued in 2000 with a preface from the author.

In 1962, Derricotte was a college student in Detroit, a beautiful, bright and driven young woman and practicing Catholic. Early that year she became pregnant by her lover and future husband, and she had to withdraw from university. She was unable to return to her parents' house in Michigan, and traveled to a home for unwed mothers in a distant city during her seventh month of pregnancy. There was no room available at the home when she arrived, and she was placed with a nearby family until December, a month before her due date.

During her pregnancy, Derricotte read about the benefits of natural childbirth, and decided that she wanted to go through labor and delivery without analgesia. She did so, alone from her family, her lover, or the other young women in the home, and this powerful set of poems largely describes her excruciating experience during L&D, the unexpected numbness toward her son that she felt immediately after his birth, and with the loneliness, inadequacy and fear she experienced toward the end of her pregnancy. In this excerpt from "holy cross hospital", Derricotte poignantly describes the plight of three other pregnant women:

couldn't stand to see these new young faces, these
children swollen as myself. my roommate, snotty,
bragging about how she didn't give a damn about the
kid and was going back to her boyfriend and be a
cheerleader in high school. could we ever "go back?"
would our bodies be the same? could we hide among the
childless?
she always reminded me of a lady at the bridge
club in her mother's shoes, playing her mother's hand.

i tried to get along, be silent, stay in my own corner.
i only had a month to go—too short to get to know them.
but being drawn to the room down the hall, the t.v. room
where, at night, we sat in our cuddly cotton robes and
fleece-lined slippers—like college freshmen, joking
about the nuns and laughing about due dates—jailbirds
waiting to be sprung.

one girl, taller and older, twenty-six or twenty-seven, kept
to herself, talked with a funny accent. the pain on her face
seemed worse than ours...

and a lovely, gentle girl with flat small bones. the
great round hump seemed to carry her around! she never
said an unkind word to anyone, went to church every morning
with her rosary and prayed each night alone in her room.

she was seventeen, diabetic, fearful that she or the baby
or both would die in childbirth. she wanted the baby, yet
knew that to keep it would be wrong. but what if the child
did live? what if she gave it up and could never have another?

i couldn't believe the fear, the knowledge she had of
death walking with her. i never felt stronger, eating
right, doing my exercises. i was holding on to the core,
the center of strength; death seemed remote, i could not
imagine it walking in our midst, death in the midst of
all that blooming. she seemed sincere, but maybe she
was lying...

she went down two weeks late. induced. she had decided
to keep the baby. the night i went down, she had just
gone into labor so the girls had two of us to cheer about.

the next morning when i awoke, i went to see her. she
smiled from her hospital bed with tubes in her arms. it
had been a boy. her baby was dead in the womb for two
weeks. i remembered she had complained no kicking. we
had reassured her everything was fine.


I highly recommend this superb collection of narrative poems, but would advise you to get the 2000 edition that contains Derricotte's insightful preface.

19rebeccanyc
Abr 22, 2012, 3:31pm

Panther Baby sounds fascinating, and that was a great review, Darryl. Of the poetry too. There is a former Black Panther on the New York City Council, Charles Barron, and I wonder if he is mentioned in the book.

20kidzdoc
Abr 22, 2012, 5:38pm

Thanks, Rebecca. I don't remember seeing Charles Barron's name mentioned in Panther Baby. The book doesn't have an index, so I'm not able to easily look for Barron within it. I looked at his Wikipedia page, which says that he was recruited to join the Harlem branch of the Black Panthers in 1969 at the age of 18, which would make him two or three years older than Joseph. Joseph and the other members of the Panther 21, most of whom were active in the Harlem branch, were arrested in April of that year, and most spent the remainder of 1969 in prison. So, it's possible that they didn't meet until Joseph was released from prison, although I would bet that the two know each other.

21baswood
Abr 22, 2012, 6:00pm

Great review of Panther Baby and I learned a lot about the movement from your review. Of course the Black Panther movement was castigated by the right wing press in the UK, but there was much sympathy for the movement in the "underground press".

Good poem.

22kidzdoc
Editado: Abr 22, 2012, 6:19pm

>21 baswood: Thanks, Barry. The right wing in the US (the same lot that claim that Barack Obama is a closet Muslim and was not born in America) held the same reactionary view of the Panthers. In the town I first grew up in, Jersey City, New Jersey, located directly across the Hudson River from Lower Manhattan in NYC, the Panthers participated in the same type of beneficial community activities as the members of the Harlem chapter did. Joseph himself worked in the Jersey City branch for several months. This branch, as my mother reminded me, was very close to where we lived, and I passed by it every day on the way to and from the elementary school I attended. I mentioned somewhere that the author's face looked vaguely familiar, as he would have been in J.C. in 1968 and 1969, when I would have been seven or eight years old. I'll visit my parents next week and bring this book with me, to see if either of my parents (particularly my father, who volunteered for a church-based community action group that worked indirectly with the Panthers) recognize him.

23labfs39
Abr 22, 2012, 10:51pm

Two very different memoirs, but both sound fascinating. It's unlikely I would have looked for either without your excellent reviews. It will be interesting to see if your parents recognize any of the Panthers.

24kidzdoc
Abr 23, 2012, 4:51am

>23 labfs39: Thanks, Lisa. I'll post comments about this next week.

25kidzdoc
Editado: Abr 23, 2012, 6:33am

Book #43: Thirst by Andrei Gelasimov




My rating:

This short novel is narrated by a young Russian soldier during the War in Chechnya, who suffers horrible burns to his face and body when the Armed Personnel Carrier he is riding in is blown apart by a grenade. His comrades do not rescue him immediately, assuming he is dead, and then are horrified to see him breathing. After his rescue, he returns to his home village, where his most useful activity is scaring his neighbor's children into obedience. He spends his days in a vodka-fueled haze of memory, regret and bitterness, and the novel zips back and forth between past and present in a schizophrenic fashion. The narration is simple and banal, as in this passage:

Usually it takes about three days to get used to the idea that a friend has died. Not one and not two. Sometimes even three isn't enough. Each time you remember him, you tell yourself, He's dead. But it still feels like you're lying. Not in the sense that he isn't dead but in the sense that you're still not ready to say those words. You can say them, but they're empty. Unconnected to life. There's an emptiness between them and reality. You sense that gap, and you can't figure out what's there, inside it. So you repeat it as often as you can; he's dead, he's dead, he's gone. But you're lying anyway. At least until three days pass. Then it's pretty much OK.


I bought Thirst because it was one of the e-books published by AmazonCrossing that was on sale for 99 cents last weekend. I'm not convinced that I received my money's worth, though.

26kidzdoc
Abr 23, 2012, 8:12am

Book #40: Gillespie and I by Jane Harris



My rating:

Harriet Baxter is an 80 year old woman living alone in Bloomsbury in 1933. As she nears the end of her life, and while she possesses a full mental capacity, she decides to write a memoir about Ned Gillespie, a brilliant Glaswegian painter who never achieved the fame he deserved.

Harriet is a single and outspoken woman of good taste and independent means in her mid-30s, who travels from London to Glasgow to attend the 1888 International Exhibition of Science, Art and Industry. She is introduced to Ned after she has a remarkable encounter with his mother Elspeth and wife Annie, and she recognizes him from an art exhibition in London held several years previously. The two women befriend Harriet, who integrates herself into the lives of the Gillespie family, including their younger daughter Rose and her older, troubled sister Sibyl, along with Ned's overbearing mother and his secretive brother.

Harriet decides to lengthen her stay in Glasgow, as she becomes a somewhat awkward yet appreciated fixture in the Gillespie household. Sibyl exhibits increasingly strange and disturbing behavior, which strains the marriage and Annie's relationship with Elspeth, and culminates in a shocking crime that devastates the Gillespies and their new friend.

The novel shifts between 1888 Glasgow and 1933 London, as Harriet tells her side of the events that surrounded the crime and its notorious trial and aftermath, in order to set the record straight. The action and tension build in both settings, as Harriet proves to be an increasingly unreliable narrator, which left this reader fascinated and on the edge of his seat until the final page.

Gillespie and I is a devastating and brilliant accomplishment, with a deliciously unreliable narrator, superb and compelling characters, and a highly captivating story that ranks amongst the most enjoyable novels I've ever read. As other readers have mentioned, I wanted to start it again from the beginning immediately after I finished it, and its characters will remain with me for a long time to come.

27Cait86
Abr 23, 2012, 12:45pm

Great review of Gillespie and I, Darryl. I'm glad you enjoyed it. I just finished a book called The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan, which has an unreliable narrator who reminded me of Harriet. She is on trial for committing a murder in a lifeboat after a Titanic-like situation.

28catarina1
Abr 23, 2012, 1:53pm

I find that LT is a much more reliable source of good (intelligent) reading than any other source including the prizes. Because of all the good words last week for Gillespie and I, I ordered a copy from Amazon and started it last night after finally finishing The Road Home, which won the Orange Prize in 2008 - a good read but, from your review, not as good as this one. Thanks Darryl.

29baswood
Abr 23, 2012, 7:04pm

Another huge thumbs up for Gillespie and I. I am thinking that this would make an excellent read for my book club.

30kidzdoc
Abr 23, 2012, 7:42pm

>27 Cait86: Thanks, Cait. I look forward to your review of The Lifeboat; it sounds interesting.

>28 catarina1: LT is a great source for book recommendations, old and new, but my favorite source for new books is the Guardian, particularly the Saturday Review section, which has become a must read for me.

>29 baswood: I think that Gillespie and I would be a perfect book club choice, Barry. It's both well written and deceptively easy to read, and it could be read in a single day with no problem. The narrator's increasingly unreliable story lends itself to the possibility of different interpretations, and I think it would generate a lively and interesting discussion amongst members of a book club.

31DieFledermaus
Abr 24, 2012, 4:11am

Tempting review for Gillespie and I. I'll add it to the list of potential choices for my book club pick and will try to check it out in one of the bookstores. I usually like unreliable narrators.

32kidzdoc
Abr 24, 2012, 12:05pm

>31 DieFledermaus: Thanks, DieFledermaus. If you like unreliable narrators I think you'll love this book.

33kidzdoc
Editado: Abr 24, 2012, 4:03pm

Book #42: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller



My rating:

Madeline Miller grew up in Philadelphia, received her bachelor's and master's degrees in Classics from Brown, and spent the past 10 years, using her knowledge and love of The Iliad and the Trojan War, in writing this captivating novel, as narrated by Achilles' best friend and closest confidant Patroclus.

As the story opens, Patroclus, the son of Menoitius, King of Opus, describes his early years in his father's kingdom. He is an embarrassment to his father, as he is simple minded and slow of foot, particularly in comparison to the fleet-footed Achilles, son of Peleus, King of the Myrmidons, and Thetis, a lesser but still powerful sea-goddess. Patroclus admires and is attracted to this impossibly handsome and gifted young man after he wins a race in his father's kingdom.

Patroclus is banished from Opus after an unfortunate accident, and is sent to continue his education and training with Peleus. Patroclus and Achilles are soon attracted to each other, and become inseparable friends and cautious lovers, to the disapproval and dismay of Thetis, who views Patroclus as unsuitable and unworthy of her son. Achilles is prophesied to be the greatest warrior who ever lived, mainly due to his exemplary lineage, and is beloved within and outside of his father's kingdom.

The two young men further their education in life under the tutelage of the centaur Chiron, as they grow to love and respect each other and their inimitable teacher. After several years of training, Achilles is urgently summoned home, to lead the Myrmidons in battle against the Trojans, as Paris, son of the King of Troy, has kidnapped Helen, the Queen of Sparta and the most beautiful woman in the world. Her husband Menelaus and his greedy and power hungry brother, Agamemnon, call on the surrounding kingdoms to honor the oath from Odysseus at the time of her marriage, which compels them to aid him in reclaiming Helen from the Trojans.

Miller skillfully portrays the build up to and the major events in the Trojan War, including the drudgery of warfare and the squabbles between Achilles and Agamemnon and its tragic consequences, ending with the ultimate fates of Patroclus and Achilles.

The Song of Achilles is a remarkable achievement, one which is worthy of this year's Orange Prize, as its author has created a novel that is a beautiful love story and a page turning tale of war, jealousy and friendship. I would imagine that one of Miller's goals in writing this book is to introduce readers like myself who are naïve to The Iliad to the beauty and timelessness of this story, and she has succeeded in doing so. I will read Homer's classic works in the near future, and I'll eagerly return to The Song of Achilles for a pleasure filled re-read soon afterward.

34rebeccanyc
Abr 24, 2012, 4:21pm

You've intrigued me with both of these reviews, Darryl. I'll look out for both books.

35kidzdoc
Abr 24, 2012, 4:30pm

Thanks, Rebecca. As I mentioned in my 75 Books thread, I was a bit nonplussed to find an article about Madeline Miller in the NYT Style Magazine, T, as opposed to the Books section, which so far has ignored her and The Song of Achilles entirely:

Styled to a T | Madeline Miller

36kidzdoc
Editado: Abr 24, 2012, 7:52pm

Book #44: When I Was a Poet by David Meltzer



My rating:

David Meltzer (1937-), a noted Beat Poet, musician and long time San Francisco resident, moved to the city by the Bay in 1957, after he read two notable Beat poetry collections, Lawrence Ferlinghetti's Pictures of the Gone World, published in 1955, and Allen Ginsberg's Howl, which was released the following year. He befriended the two men, and also began to write poetry and fiction. He also played jazz guitar in the late 1950s and early 1960s, then became a part of the San Francisco rock scene in the middle of the decade, hosting jam sessions with artists such as David Crosby and Jerry Garcia. He later joined the psychedelic band Serpent Power, whose self titled album was proclaimed one of the best of the Summer of Love by Rolling Stone.

Despite his prolific output, When I Was a Poet is the first collection to be published by City Lights, which was released in 2011 as part of its Pocket Poets Series. The poems highlight the bohemian life of Meltzer, Ginsberg and their friends in 1950s San Francisco, with a style that favors but does not mimic that of his contemporaries. Meltzer, still active in his mid 70s, also writes about his life, and those close to him he has loved and lost, along with mid-century bebop and modern jazz, such as this tribute to legendary saxophonist Art Pepper:

Art's desire to get it all said
to all who thought him dead
in the joint & beside the point

Art's struggle to sing it all
through jazz warfare & tell
everything he knew in brass
speed rap stir crazy utopia
of muscle chops push it in your face
rough unrelenting grace

fierce Art pitbull clamps down
pulls edges out in time to break through
scream knotty beauty
toe to toe w/ any joe
who thinks they know better

Art tattoos blue needles into moonlight skin
junk light makes mirrors perfect
Art's smoke aches out of wounds

L.A. Art burritos & bebop
black guacamole serge zoots
Central Avenue cat copping

Pepper at Club Alabam
in Lee Young's band
all the chicks & the hatcheck chick
have big eyes for Art's horn


These poems, particularly "California Dreamin", are enjoyable to read. However, like most Beat poetry, they are best appreciated in a smoky club or cozy bookstore, preferably with the backing of a jazz bassist or small ensemble. I missed seeing Meltzer read from this book at City Lights last year, but I hope to be able to catch him live in performance during a future trip to San Francisco.

37labfs39
Abr 24, 2012, 5:57pm

Wonderful review of the Song of Achilles. I'm very tempted. Besides The Iliad, there is another well done treatment of the story: The Alexander Trilogy by Mary Renault. I read the second book, The Persian Boy. The series is very well received on LT and is supposedly quite true to known historical fact. Written in 1969, the books have stood the test of time well, I think.

38kidzdoc
Abr 24, 2012, 6:15pm

>37 labfs39: Interesting comparison, Lisa. On the back jacket cover of The Song of Achilles, Emma Donoghues says "Mary Renault lives again! Ravishingly vivid." And, the interviewer in the T Magazine article I mentioned asks Miller, "What do you think of being compared to Mary Renault?" Miller replied, "I’m very flattered. That’s a huge compliment."

I hadn't heard of Mary Renault or The Alexander Trilogy, but I'll add it to my wish list.

39baswood
Abr 24, 2012, 7:42pm

Great to see a poetry book in your reviews, and Meltzer is one I have not come across before. The beat poets first got me interested in reading poetry and so it was great to read about another one. Also a psychedelic album to chase down. I like the poem about Art Pepper.

40kidzdoc
Editado: Abr 24, 2012, 8:03pm

Thanks, Barry. You can see an excerpt from the reading that Meltzer gave of the poems in this book at City Lights last June:

http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=YC9vK5VtJ_I

I've corrected a typo in the poem; it's 'brass', not 'bras'.

41rebeccanyc
Abr 25, 2012, 7:40am

I haven't thought about Mary Renault in decades! I read something by her when I was in high school (maybe -- consulting LT author page -- The Bull from the Sea???), but I had no idea she was so highly regarded. I would like to read some of the ancient Greek literature myself, like the Iliad and the Odyssey, but am not sure when I might get to an ambitious project like that. I'll definitely follow your reading of the Iliad, Darryl.

42kidzdoc
Editado: Abr 25, 2012, 6:08pm

Book #45: Book of My Mother by Albert Cohen



My rating:

Albert Cohen (1895-1981) was an author and civil servant, whose Greek Jewish parents emigrated to Marseilles soon after his birth. He worked in Geneva through the 1930s, where his mother visited him regularly. He emigrated to Bordeaux and then London in 1940 during the German occupation of France. He urged his elderly and widowed mother, who was in failing health, to move with him to London, but she preferred to remain in Marseilles. Cohen was grief stricken once he learned of her death in 1943. He wrote a series of articles in tribute to her in La France libre during the war, which were later compiled and published as Le Livre de ma mère in 1954. It was translated into English by Bella Cohen, his third wife, and published as Book of My Mother in 1997. Archipelago Books released a new edition this month, which I received through my subscription with the publisher.

The book opens with a flowery ode to his late mother, then provides the reader with a detailed glimpse of his mother, a heavy set but attractive woman who served her husband and son with bottomless devotion and love, regardless of how she was treated by them. Albert was somewhat carefree, and wasted the extra money his mother gave him on the vacuous young women he favored. He subtly rejects his mother's old-fashioned advice, as he prefers to live for the moment and to take advantage of the freedoms that modern society affords him. He does love her, but takes her presence for granted, despite her health problems.

In the middle of the book, Cohen writes to her in sorrow and regret, as he finally realizes how much she meant to him, and how impoverished his life is without her:

I was cruel to you once, and I asked for your forgiveness, which you granted so joyfully. You know, do you not, that I loved you with all my heart. How happy we were together, what chattering accomplices we were—such garrulous good friends, talking interminably. But I could have loved you yet more and written to you each day and given you each day a sense of your importance, which I alone was able to give you and which made so you proud, you who were humble and unacknowledged, my little genius, Maman, my dearest girl.


His anguished cry in this portion of the book brought tears to my eyes, as I thought of my own elderly mother, and know that our days together on earth are numbered. (And, I'm tearing up again as I write this.)

Had the book ended at this point, I would probably have rated it five stars. However, much of the last half of the book is a maudlin and repetitive dirge, with frequent proclamations that "She is dead" and intermittent macabre details about his mother's interment.

He closes the book with a heart felt plea to his readers:

Sons of mothers who are still alive, never again forget that your mothers are mortal. I shall not have written in vain if one of you, after reading my song of death, is one evening gentler with his mother because of me and my mother. Be gentle with your mother each day. Show her more love than I showed my mother. Give your mother some happiness each day, that is what I say to you with the right accorded to me by regret; that is the grave message of a mourner.


This is a difficult book for me to rate. I have settled on a four star rating, as it touched and deeply moved me, and has affected how I view the very good but not perfect relationship I have with my elderly parents. However, the book's latter half was quite disturbing and nearly unreadable to me, as I felt as if I was looking into the intimate thoughts of a mentally disturbed man. I would highly recommend this book, but I would also suggest skipping much of the latter half starting from Chapter 14 and resuming with Chapter 28.

43kidzdoc
Abr 25, 2012, 9:16am

>41 rebeccanyc: I'm not sure when I'll get to The Iliad, Rebecca. I doubt that I'll read it before September, though.

44rebeccanyc
Abr 25, 2012, 9:47am

#42 affected how I view the very good but not perfect relationship I have with my elderly parents

Darryl, I don't think anyone has a "perfect" relationship with anybody, and probably especially with his or her parents. I've been impressed by your fondness for and devotion to your parents, as described over the years on your threads, so I think you're doing pretty well! As for knowing that your "days on earth" with your mother are "numbered," I would say from my own experience you will be glad later on if you can make the most of them now; without meaning this to be as gloomy as it probably sounds (but then, I do read a lot of gloomy books!), all our days on earth are numbered.

45StevenTX
Abr 25, 2012, 2:06pm

#33 - I bought The Song of Achilles last week based on other reviews here, so I'm glad you endorsed it too.

I read most of Mary Renault's novels long ago. They are all very good, and they inspired in me an interest in ancient history that made it my primary reading focus for several years.

When you read the Iliad and Odyssey I can recommend the translations by Robert Fagles.

46kidzdoc
Editado: Abr 25, 2012, 6:05pm

>44 rebeccanyc: True, I don't expect to have a perfect relationship with my parents, or anyone else. However, I can (and certainly want to) try to improve it in anyway that I can. Most of all, I don't want to have the deep regrets that Albert Cohen expressed so touchingly in Book of My Mother. Neither of them ask for much or make any demands of me, so it's relatively easy to take them for granted. I'll be very happy to see them on Monday, and spend the week with them, and with my younger brother, who lives nearby.

>45 StevenTX: Great. I hope that you enjoy The Song of Achilles as much as I did, Steven.

I'll look for Mary Renault's novels in the near future. I hadn't heard of her before reading the article about Madeline Miller in the NYT Style section.

Thanks for the recommendation of the Fagles translations for The Iliad and The Odyssey. Several other LTers in the 75 Books group also recommended him.

47baswood
Abr 25, 2012, 7:14pm

Very interesting review of Book of My Mother It is amazing how some books can just touch a chord that makes you think deeply about your own life and circumstances. They are the most difficult books to be objective about.

48StevenTX
Abr 26, 2012, 11:23am

Congratulations on having 3 reviews in the top 10 hot reviews at the same time, including #1 and #2!

49japaul22
Abr 27, 2012, 8:10am

I just started Song of Achilles and I'm loving it! Thanks for the review that pushed me into buying it now instead of later! I also purchased Gillespie and I since it sounds right up my alley. Planning to get to that soon as well.

Great reviews!

50kidzdoc
Abr 27, 2012, 9:37pm

>49 japaul22: Great! I'm glad that you're enjoying The Song of Achilles, Jennifer.

51kidzdoc
Abr 29, 2012, 1:09am

>47 baswood: Thanks, Barry. Right...that was a hard book to review or think about objectively, as it struck a deep emotional chord within me in the first half, but then repelled and disturbed me in the second half.

>48 StevenTX: Thanks, Steven!

52kidzdoc
Editado: mayo 27, 2012, 9:23pm

My planned reads for May are:

Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov (TIOLI challenge #1) {TBR} - reading
Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel (to be read in June)
Painter of Silence by Georgia Harding (#4) {2012 Orange Prize shortlist} - completed
The Undertaker's Daughter by Toi Derricotte (#11) - completed
The City in Which I Love You by Li-Young Lee (#11) {TBR}
The Line by Olga Grushin (#11) {TBR} - completed
The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie (#11) {TBR} (won't have time to read this month)
Source by Mark Doty (#11) {TBR}
The Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright (#12) {2012 Orange Prize shortlist} - completed
Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable (#12) {TBR} - reading
The Leopard by Giuseppe di Lampedusa (#14) {TBR} - completed
Lighthead by Terrance Hayes (#14) {TBR}
Splay Anthem by Nathaniel Mackey (#14) {TBR} - reading
State of Wonder by Anne Patchett (#14) {2012 Orange Prize shortlist} - completed
Foreign Bodies by Cynthia Ozick (#16) {2012 Orange Prize shortlist} - completed
Map of the Invisible World by Tash Aw (#21) - completed

53dchaikin
Abr 30, 2012, 10:15am

For real, or idealistic? For the usual person I would say they are crazy, but...you're not a normal reader. It's an inspiring list.

54kidzdoc
Editado: Abr 30, 2012, 10:25am

More idealistic than real, Dan. I use these lists as a guide to the books I'd like to read in a given month, and I typically end up reading roughly half of the books on the list. Four of these books are poetry collections (the Lee, Doty, Hayes and Mackey), and I'm nearly halfway through The Leopard, so it isn't quite as daunting a list as it would appear to be.

55rebeccanyc
Abr 30, 2012, 10:51am

As I said on your other thread, I loved loved loved the Master and Margarita. Hope you do get to it.

56Linda92007
mayo 6, 2012, 11:01am

Darryl, I also have several of your planned reads near to the top of my TBR list, especially The Master and Margarita, The Leopard and Bring Up the Bodies, which I will need to purchase. I love that you have included some books of poetry and will look forward to those reviews.

57StevenTX
mayo 6, 2012, 11:10am

Ditto to what Rebecca said about The Master and Margarita. The only other one on your list I've read is The Leopard.

58janemarieprice
mayo 6, 2012, 12:35pm

I've got The Master and Margarita on my TBR as well. If I have time to get to it this month, I'll try.

59kidzdoc
Editado: mayo 7, 2012, 8:00am

>55 rebeccanyc: I'm glad to hear that you loved The Master and Margarita, Rebecca. It's looking less likely that I'll read it this month, but I'm still planning to read it this year.

>56 Linda92007: Thanks, Linda. I'll definitely finish The Leopard within the next few days. I'll start Bring Up the Bodies this month, although I may not finish it until June.

>57 StevenTX: Let me know if you do decide to read The Master and Margarita this month, Jane. My main goal this month will be to finish the books on this year's Orange Prize longlist. I've read The Song of Achilles, Half-Blood Blues and, as of this morning, State of Wonder, and I have The Forgotten Waltz, Painter of Silence and Foreign Bodies left to go. The winner will be announced on May 30th.

I made a quick trip into NYC yesterday, and made an obligatory trip to Strand Book Store, just south of Union Square, where I picked up these books:

Foreign Studies by Shusaku Endo
The Enormity of the Tragedy by Quim Monzó
Hitch-22 by Christopher Hitchens
The Coward's Tale by Vanessa Gebbie
Trapeze by Simon Mawer
HHhH by Laurent Binet
The Undertaker's Daughter by Toi Derricotte
What Is Amazing by Heather Christle

I'm planning to go to Philadelphia later this morning, and get some more books at the Joseph Fox Bookshop near Rittenhouse Square before I fly back to Atlanta tomorrow. Once I arrive I'll check myself back into the nearest TBR Detox Unit.

60labfs39
mayo 18, 2012, 11:46pm

Hi Darryl, I haven't heard much from your corner lately. Should I star 75 Books instead? How is The Master and Margarita going?

61janeajones
mayo 19, 2012, 12:16am

Just stopping by to catch up with your reading and buying -- fascinating as always.

62kidzdoc
mayo 19, 2012, 10:38am

>60 labfs39: Hi Lisa; you're right, I haven't been keeping up with this thread lately. I've had an unusually busy month at work, and I've been devoting most of my activity to my 75 Books thread. Hopefully I'll be able to pay more attention to this thread soon, as the school year comes to a close in metro Atlanta and the kids stop passing their horrid infections to each other.

This year has been unusually busy at the hospital I work at, particularly for late spring, as we continue to admit a lot of patients with pneumonia, RSV bronchiolitis and asthma exacerbations. Usually these admissions slow down by mid to late March, but I admitted 10 new patients to the hospital last night, two with pneumonia and two or three with status asthmaticus (a severe asthma attack which cannot be adequately treated in the doctor's office or emergency department). My shift was supposed to have ended at 8 pm, but I didn't leave the hospital until just before midnight.

On the reading front, my main focus now is the Orange Prize shortlist, as I had planned to read all six books in advance of the prize announcement on May 30th. I'll meet that goal, as I've read five of the novels so far; here's my current ranking:

1. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
2. Painter of Silence by Georgina Harding
3. State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
4. Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan
5. The Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright (probably my least favorite book of the year)

I'll read Foreign Bodies by Cynthia Ozick next weekend, to finish the shortlist.

I'll start reading The Master and Margarita this afternoon, and I'll post my thoughts about it in the thread later today or tomorrow.

>61 janeajones: Hi, Jane! Thanks for your kind compliment. I'll write reviews of the books I've read recently soon. Here are some quick comments about my May reads:

A Planet of Viruses: This book was this month's free e-book from the University of Chicago Press, and it served as a superficial introduction to several notable human and nonhuman viral pathogens, including Ebola virus, SARS, West Nile virus and smallpox.

Colonoscopy for Dummies: I read this in advance of my first screening colonoscopy early this month. It's a free book (available as a PDF file here) sponsored by the drug company that made the colonoscopy prep I took. The text of the book was completely free of commercial bias, and only an insert in the last few pages discussed the actual product. I thought it was well written and informative, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who is about to undergo this procedure.

Map of the Invisible World: Excellent novel set in 1965 Indonesia about two orphaned brothers adopted by different families, during the last troubled months of President Sukarno's reign (which was portrayed in the movie "The Year of Living Dangerously").

State of Wonder: A well written and captivating but flawed novel about a research scientist for a US pharmaceutical company whose colleague is declared dead after traveling to the Amazon to look for a famed physician researcher, who has discovered an amazing drug used by a native tribe. It strained credulity at several points, but I enjoyed it overall.

The Leopard: The classic Italian novel about a regal family in Sicily at the end of the Risorgimento, which led to the unification of the states that make up present day Italy. Unfortunately, I didn't enjoy this book, which I found boring and trivial.

The Line: A very good novel set in the Soviet Union and based on an actual story, in which the residents of a neighborhood in an unnamed town stand in a line for months on end to purchase a prized item, and how it affects one particular family and those close to them.

What Is Amazing: A clever, quirky and humorous collection of poems by an up and coming writer, which I picked up after I read one of her poems in this book during National Poetry Month in April that was featured on the American Academy of Poets web site.

Painter of Silence: An excellent novel set in post-World War II Romania, which features a deaf and mute young man who seeks the young woman of the wealthy family his mother worked for before they fled the country. He communicates via paintings and drawings of people and objects, and through it he tells the story of the trouble and tragedy he faced in the years of separation from her. It would be a worthy winner of this year's Orange Prize, IMO.

The Forgotten Waltz: This was little more than a decently written chick lit novel, IMO. The lead character, Gina, was a smutty, immature and self-absorbed thirtysomething in Ireland who had no redeeming qualities and was intensely dislikable. She cheats on her husband, has an affair with a married man, and then is shocked to learn that he has slept with other women. I downgraded my rating of it from 2 stars to 1 star, and that still may be an overly generous rating.

63labfs39
Editado: mayo 19, 2012, 11:15am

I wanted to add my thanks--it was your recommendation that tipped the scales for me regarding The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. I'm currently listening to it on audio and loving it. I had read a lukewarm review in some journal and had decided not to seek it out. I'm glad I followed your advice instead! It is especially pertinent to be reading about cell cultures because my daughter got her first microscope, and I'm having fun making slides and cultures. :-)

Adding Map of the Invisible World to my list, as well as Painter of Silence. Will avoid The Forgotten Waltz like the plague. Thanks for the warning.

ETA: And I'm glad you enjoyed The Line!

64kidzdoc
mayo 20, 2012, 6:17am

>63 labfs39: I'm glad that you're enjoying Henrietta Lacks, Lisa. It was quite an accomplishment by Rebecca Skloot IMO, given the family's reticence to talk with her, and she did a great job in seamlessly melding the development of the HeLa cell line, the ethics of this case and medical ethics in general, and the story of Henrietta and the Lackses.

Map of the Invisible World and Painter of Silence were both superb; I gave each book 4-1/2 stars. Although The Song of Achilles will get my first place vote, on the Orange Prize shadow jury, as this year's winner, I suspect that the real judges will choose Painter of Silence as the winner. It was available to US customers as an Amazon Kindle e-book in April, but for some reason it was pulled from the e-shelves and won't be available here until November.

I did like The Line, which I received as a birthday gift last year. I've added her debut novel, The Dream Life of Sukhanov, to my wish list. I was interested to learn that she was the first Russian citizen to complete a four year bachelor's degree in the US, at Emory University in Atlanta, which is one of my alma maters.

65kidzdoc
Editado: mayo 28, 2012, 5:18am

I haven't been keeping up with this thread or reviewed books this month, due to a busy stretch at work and my activity in other groups. My major literary goal for the month was to complete this year's Orange Prize shortlist in advance of the May 30 award ceremony, and after I finished Foreign Bodies by Cynthia Ozick earlier this morning I had read all six titles. Here's my final ranking:

1. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
2. Painter of Silence by Georgina Harding
3. Foreign Bodies by Cynthia Ozick
4. State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
5. Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan
6. The Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright

I'll be one of the participants in this year's first ever LT Orange Prize Shadow Jury, which consists of any LTers in the Orange January/July group who have read all six shortlisted books by tomorrow, May 28. The jury will select a winning title on May 29, one day ahead of the actual award announcement.

66kidzdoc
mayo 27, 2012, 7:26am

I plan to resume reading The Master and Margarita in earnest for the Club Read group read tomorrow, after I finish my overnight shift (8 pm to 8 am) tonight, my last work shift of the month. In June I'll start reading books that seem to be good candidates for this year's Booker Prize longlist (Booker Dozen), starting with a group read of Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel in the 75 Books group, followed by these books that I've recently purchased:

Pure by Timothy Mo
Scenes from Early Life by Philip Hensher
The Coward's Tale by Vanessa Gebbie
Trapeze by Simon Mawer (published as The Girl Who Fell from the Sky in the UK)
Capital by John Lanchester

One of the Orange books I read this month, Painter of Silence, would be a good candidate for the Booker Dozen, IMO.

The longlist will be announced on July 16th, and I'll post the titles here and in the Booker Prize group, which I created last year.

67kidzdoc
mayo 27, 2012, 7:33am

In July, avaland and I will co-host the third quarter Reading Globally theme on Middle Eastern literature. We'll probably post an opening thread toward the end of this coming week, and I'll mention it here, as well.

68japaul22
mayo 27, 2012, 9:17am

Hi Darryl,
I'm really enjoying lurking on the orange prize shadow jury thread! I've only read Song of Achilles, which I loved, by I'm very interested in Painter of Silence and Foreign Bodies as well.

I'm curious how you found a copy of Painter of Silence. Looks like it's still only available for pre-order on amazon.

69kidzdoc
mayo 27, 2012, 9:46am

>68 japaul22: Thanks, Jennifer. Painter of Silence was briefly available as an Amazon Kindle book for US customers, and I bought my copy once the shortlist was announced. It was subsequently pulled from the e-shelves, and now won't be available here until September, I think. I haven't read any explanation of why this happened, but I would guess that the UK e-book was accidentally and temporarily made available to US customers, as the ASIN and ISBN numbers for my e-book from Bloomsbury Publishing are identical to those of the UK edition.

70labfs39
mayo 28, 2012, 12:55am

Thanks for all the prize list updates. Once the school year is over, I'm hoping I'll have more time to read and post. If so, I definitely want to get back on Reading Globally. Thanks for continuing to host these!

71japaul22
mayo 28, 2012, 7:01am

>69 kidzdoc: Guess I'll just have to wait patiently then! Looking forward to reading it after all the positive reviews!

72kidzdoc
mayo 28, 2012, 10:09am

>70 labfs39: You're welcome, Lisa. I'll definitely read and post more in the upcoming months, as we normally work less shifts and care for far fewer hospitalized patients in the summer months, when the kids are out of school and aren't as likely to pass on their germs to each other.

>71 japaul22: The six members of the LT Orange Prize Shadow Jury have cast their votes, and it looks as though either Painter of Silence (most total points) or The Song of Achilles (most first place votes) will come out on top. Jill (mrstreme), the creator of the Orange January/July group and one of the jurors, will determine how the winner will be decided, almost certainly later today.

I would gladly lend my Kindle version of Painter of Silence, but it's a non-lendable book.

73labfs39
mayo 29, 2012, 12:21am

It's almost as exciting as the real thing!

74avaland
mayo 29, 2012, 7:28am

Catching up on your reading, Darryl, which is varied and interesting, as always.

75kidzdoc
mayo 30, 2012, 3:13pm

Congratulations to Madeline Miller, whose debut novel The Song of Achilles was awarded this year's Orange Prize for Fiction tonight in London:

Madeline Miller wins 2012 Orange Prize for Fiction

76kidzdoc
mayo 30, 2012, 3:23pm

>73 labfs39: The LT Orange Prize shadow jury had a lot of fun in voting for our favorite choices: I'm sure that we'll do it again next year. As you probably saw, we chose Painter of Silence as our winner; I ranked it second, and I would have been happy if it had won the actual prize. I hope that it garners favorable attention once it is released in the US in mid-September, as it's an exceptionally good book.

>74 avaland: Thanks, Lois. Now that the Orange Prize has been announced and I've completed the shortlist and participated in the LT Orange Prize shadow jury (as the only male juror, shh), my focus will shift to reading potential candidates for the Booker Prize longlist—after I finish Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention and The Master and Margarita.

77detailmuse
Jun 6, 2012, 4:25pm

Really enjoyed catching up here ... and adding the following to my wishlist:

Gillespie and I
Book of My Mother, likely skimming as you recommend
The Social Transformation of American Medicine
Natural Birth, to pair with my recently acquired The Girls Who Went Away, about unwed pregnancy in the 1950s-'60s

78kidzdoc
Jun 9, 2012, 3:18pm

Thanks, MJ. I look forward to your thoughts about these books.

79kidzdoc
Jun 26, 2012, 8:08am

Finally, a book review!

Book #63: Scenes from Early Life by Philip Hensher



Scenes from Early Life has been touted as a possible candidate for this year's Booker Prize longlist. It's an autobiographical novel about the author's husband, Zaved Mahmood, who was born in East Pakistan in 1970, a year before the war of independence that led to the creation of Bangladesh. The young Saadi is the book's narrator, and he lovingly details his family of middle class Bengalis, focusing mainly on his father and maternal grandfather, both successful lawyers in separate practices who are dedicated but stubbornly independent, his mother and her sisters, and his maternal uncle, a ne'er do well who brings shame and causes rifts in the otherwise close knit extended family, who live together in the large home of his maternal grandparents in Dacca (now Dhaka), the major city of East Pakistan.

Saadi also describes the effects of the liberation war on his relatives and their neighbors. The conflict that led to the war began when the politically dominant West Pakistanis forcefully imposed their language and religious beliefs upon their eastern neighbors in the 1960s. A state of crisis was reached in early 1971, when the party of Bengali leader Shiekh Mujibur Rahman, referred to as Shiekh Mujib in the book, won a majority of the vote in Pakistan's first general election. The standing president of the country refused to permit Shiekh Mujib's party to form a government, and the Pakistani Army detained him and brutally suppressed his supporters in their homes and in the streets.

Despite the violence that surrounds them, Saadi's family remains largely intact, though strained by the disagreement between his father and his uncle. The novel shines brightest in its descriptions of Saadi's daily life and the relationships of the members of his family and those who come into their lives, particularly the musicians Amit and Altaf.

Scenes from Early Life, written with the help of Zaved Mahmood and his family, is a beautifully written and interesting glimpse into the life of a young child in an ordinary family touched but not destroyed by war. Hensher's ability to capture the language and feel of Bengali culture is very impressive, and indicative of the amount of work he put in to get the story right. I'll give it 4-1/2 stars, and I think it deserves a place on this year's Booker longlist.

80Linda92007
Jun 26, 2012, 8:27am

Excellent review of Scenes from Early Life, Darryl. One more for the wishlist!

81kidzdoc
Jun 26, 2012, 8:56am

Thanks, Linda! Unfortunately Scenes from Early Life isn't scheduled to be released in the US until January.

82labfs39
Editado: Jun 26, 2012, 11:18am

Thank you for adding some background history to your review as well, Darryl.

83baswood
Editado: Jun 26, 2012, 5:33pm

Great review of Scenes from Early Life, definitely one to add to the list, but tell me its not too cute like Room was.

84kidzdoc
Jun 26, 2012, 8:20pm

>82 labfs39: You're welcome, Lisa.

>83 baswood: Thanks, Barry. No, I don't think it's "cute" in the way that Room was. I did like that book, though.

85kidzdoc
Editado: Jun 27, 2012, 7:39am

I'm in San Francisco for the next two weeks on vacation, and I made my first pilgrimage to my favorite literary shrine, City Lights Bookstore. Here's what I bought:

Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast by Natasha Trethewey: The author was recently selected as the new Poet Laureate for the United States, and this is one of the two books by her that I hadn't gotten yet. This collection concerns the effect of Hurricane Katrina on the region she grew up in, whose local culture and traditions have been replaced by the casino industry and tourism, to the detriment of its poorer residents.

Memoirs of a Porcupine by Alain Mabanckou: A short novel based on an African legend, about a young Congolese boy who undergoes an initiation ritual that results in him acquiring a double, a murderous porcupine that fulfills his evil compulsions. This book was recommended by avaland, and I've read Mabanckou's earlier novels African Psycho and Broken Glass.

Divorce Islamic Style by Amara Lakhous: I enjoyed his earlier novel Clash of Civilizations Over an Elevator in Piazza Vittorio, and TadAD claimed that this novel was better than this one, which made it an easy choice for my wish list. It's also set in a multicultural neighborhood in Rome, and is about a Sicilian translator fluent in Arabic, who infiltrates a group of Muslim immigrants that the Italian secret service has determined is about to carry out a terrorist attack.

Is Just a Movie by Earl Lovelace: This novel, which was selected as the winner of this year's OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature, is set in Trinidad in 1970 at the end of the Black Power rebellion, and concerns a wannabe revolutionary and a dated singer, who join up and experience a series of adventures within their newly liberated but troubled community.

The Earth in the Attic by Fady Joudah, and Like a Straw Bird It Follows Me, and Other Poems by Ghassan Zaqtan: Linda92007 mentioned these two poetry collections by Palestinian authors in the upcoming Middle Eastern Literature thread in the Reading Globally group, and fortunately City Lights had both books in the upstairs Poetry Room.

The Dream of the Celt by Mario Vargas Llosa: MVL's latest novel to be translated into English, which is a fictionalized account of the life of Irish natonalist Roger Casement, who dedicated his life to the world's oppressed people before he was hung by the British government for treason. Mentioned (but not recommended) by rebeccanyc, the other charter member of LT's Mario Vargas Llosa Fan Club.

God's Hotel: A Doctor, a Hospital, and a Pilgrimage to the Heart of Medicine by Victoria Sweet: A newly published book about San Francisco's Laguna Honda Hospital, the last almshouse in the United States, written by a physician who worked there for more than twenty years, which received a glowing review in the New York Times last month. I'll almost certainly read this next week, and visit the grounds of the hospital before I leave the city.

London Under: The Secret History Beneath the Streets by Peter Ackroyd: I wasn't terribly fond of Acroyd's earlier book London: The Biography, but I did want to give this much smaller book a chance.

The Making of Modern Medicine: Turning Points in the Treatment of Disease by Michael Bliss: The only book which wasn't on my wishlist, which focuses on three events that occurred in the late 19th century and early 20th century that helped lead to a paradigm shift in the view of Western medicine: a smallpox outbreak in Montreal in 1885, the founding of Johns Hopkins Hospital and Medical School, the site of many groundbreaking discoveries and medical and surgical techniques, and the discovery of insulin.

There are still a bunch of books that are high on my wish list that I'm eager to acquire while I'm in San Francisco, so I'll make trips to other Bay Area bookstores along with at least a couple of more visits to City Lights in the coming days.

86janeajones
Jun 27, 2012, 12:07am

I hope your airline doesn't charge you too much overage charge for the weight of your books ;-)

87labfs39
Jun 27, 2012, 12:39am

I commented on your 75 post, but wanted to say hi so that you know I follow you here as well.

Both Memoirs of a Porcupine and Divorce Islamic Style are on my radar. Is the later humorous at all?

88kidzdoc
Jun 27, 2012, 6:08am

>86 janeajones: I have accrued enough miles on Delta to qualify as a Silver Medallion frequent flyer member for the past few years. That and my Delta SkyMiles AmEx credit card allows me to check in two pieces of luggage of up to 70 lb without charge. I'd have to buy a ton of books to even come close to those limits. :-)

>87 labfs39: Hi, Lisa! In his review of Divorce Islamic Style, Tad mentioned that it had the same "laugh-out-loud humor" as Clash Over Civilizations does.

89rebeccanyc
Jun 27, 2012, 6:54am

Great haul, Darryl -- or the first part of your haul!

I picked up Memoirs of a Porcupine when I was in Boston in May, but have yet to read it. And I can't say I completely recommend The Dream of the Celt; I was disappointed by it, but I remain an MVL fan. I'll be interested in what you think of Is Just a Movie as I was intrigued when I read about it on that prize thread, and I've never been able to get into Clash of Civilizations over an Elevator in Piazza Vittorio, but maybe I should try again.

90RidgewayGirl
Jun 27, 2012, 7:39am

Enjoy your time in San Francisco. I look forward to seeing what books you find.

91kidzdoc
Editado: Jun 27, 2012, 7:49am

>89 rebeccanyc: Thanks, Rebecca! I liked the two other novels I've read by Mabanckou, particularly Broken Glass, so I probably would have purchased Memoirs of a Porcupine even if Lois hadn't recommended it. I've corrected my comment about The Dream of the Celt, to reflect your disappointment in it; I'm still very eager to read it. I was also intrigued by the synopsis of Is Just a Movie that I read, and I was pleased (but not surprised) that City Lights had it in stock. I don't remember much about Clash of Civilizations, but I did enjoy it.

Lois (avaland) and I are co-hosting the third quarter theme in the Reading Globally group, which will focus on Middle Eastern literature. Many of the Club Readers are also members in this group, but I wanted to extend an invitation to everyone else. I've also started a thread in Reading Globally for an upcoming group read of The Cairo Trilogy by Naguib Mahfouz, which will coincide with the Middle Eastern literature theme and run from July 1 to September 30.

92Linda92007
Jun 27, 2012, 8:11am

Darryl, City Lights must be an incredible bookstore that you were able to find both Fady Joudah and Ghassan Zaqtan's poetry there. The poetry selection I find in most stores in this area is very limited. I'll enjoy being able to share thoughts on these collections with you. I am hopeful that both poets will be coming together this Fall to the NYS Writer's Institute, rescheduled from last semester's cancellation due to visa and travel problems.

93kidzdoc
Editado: Jun 28, 2012, 6:39pm

>92 Linda92007: City Lights is my favorite bookstore, due to its selection of world literature, European literature, fiction and nonfiction from small publishers and university presses, and its collection of thousands of books in the Poetry Room:

94detailmuse
Jun 27, 2012, 7:54pm

God's Hotel interests me for sure, and The Making of Modern Medicine. In what section of a bookstore do you browse for titles like these?

Enjoy your vacation!

95kidzdoc
Jun 28, 2012, 6:31pm

Book haul #2 from City Lights: only 5 books today, 4 of which came from my wish list:

Massacre River by René Philoctète: A novel based on a massacre that took place in 1937 on the island of Hispaniola, when the army of Generalissimo Rafael Trujillo of the Dominican Republic murdered approximately 20,000 Haitians living on the border of the two countries. In this story, a Dominican man attempts to rescue his beloved wife, a Haitian woman, from the carnage taking place in a small Dominican town. (This was the only book that wasn't on my wish list.)

Manual of Painting and Calligraphy by José Saramago: This is Saramago's first novel, which was originally written in 1976 and recently reissued in English translation, which concerns a struggling young artist who operates during the last years of the regime of Portuguese prime minister António de Oliveira Salazar.

I Was an Elephant Salesman by Pap Khouma: Recommended by rebeccanyc, this is a novel based on the lives of "anonymous African street vendors in cities across Europe", in which the author portrays himself as one of these faceless immigrants.

I Am a Japanese Writer by Dany Laferrière: A humorous novel about a writer who is given a large advance to write a novel, but finds himself unable to write a word of it. He proclaims that he is actually a Japanese author, and he gains fame and notoriety for the still unwritten book (I think).

Jim and Jap Crow: A Cultural History of 1940s Interracial America by Matthew M. Briones: This book looks at the diaries of Charles Kikuchi, a Japanese American who was forced into an interment camp soon after Pearl Harbor, then moved to the South Side of Chicago after his release, where he witnessed racial hysteria toward himself and other Asian Americans, and towards his African American neighbors and clients he served as a social worker.

96kidzdoc
Editado: Jun 28, 2012, 6:40pm

>94 detailmuse: MJ, City Lights had both books in its New Nonfiction section. It would probably be easy to find God's Hotel in any Bay Area bookstore (and I did see a poster of it prominently displayed at Bookshop West Portal here earlier this afternoon). However, I'd imagine that both books might be hard to find elsewhere; I'd probably look in the Health or Medicine section of a well stocked independent or university bookstore.

97rebeccanyc
Jun 28, 2012, 8:55pm

Nice haul! I didn't know Trujillo murdered all those Haitians -- only adds to his despicable career.

98labfs39
Jun 28, 2012, 10:45pm

I'm looking forward to your reviews of several of the titles in your second haul. I hope you can get to them soon! Massacre River is of particular interest because I know so little about the horrible history of Hispaniola-what little I do know comes from Edwidge Dandicat's books. She is such a powerful writer. But I think she is the only Haitian author I've read.

99janemarieprice
Jun 29, 2012, 7:18am

Way behind here (there and everywhere) but just wanted to pop in and say hello. I'm looking forward to your thoughts on Beyond Katrina.

100kidzdoc
Jun 29, 2012, 8:00am

>97 rebeccanyc: That act of genocide became known as the Parsley Massacre, as Dominican soldiers murdered anyone they encountered who couldn't properly pronounce the Spanish word for parsley, perejil. Those 20,000 victims were killed in less than one week, so it was one of the worst state sponsored massacres of the 20th century. I hadn't heard about Massacre River or its author before, and I probably would have passed over the book if it hadn't been selected as a book of interest by one of the employees of the bookshop.

>98 labfs39: Most of the books I bought yesterday at City Lights are shorter works, including Massacre River. I should be able to get to it later this month.

>99 janemarieprice: Hi, Jane! I'll almost certainly read Beyond Katrina in the next week or two.

101rebeccanyc
Jun 29, 2012, 8:04am

Not by a Haitian, but The Kingdom of This World by Alejo Carpentier is a great novel about Haitian history by a Cuban writer who moved to France.

102kidzdoc
Jun 29, 2012, 8:07am

>102 kidzdoc: Thanks for mentioning The Kingdom of This World, Rebecca. I've added it to my wish list.

103rebeccanyc
Jun 29, 2012, 8:17am

I think you would like it, Darryl, and you too, Lisa.

104kidzdoc
Jun 29, 2012, 8:53am

I'll look for The Kingdom of This World at City Lights next week. I saw his novel The Lost Steps there yesterday, and I wouldn't be surprised if this other one is also on the shelves in the World Literature section.

Oh, that reminds me; I had meant to check out the books that were recommended in the recent Guardian Books podcast on Latin American novels and poetry.

105rebeccanyc
Jun 29, 2012, 9:20am

I liked The Lost Steps better, but they are very different books. I also have Explosion in a Cathedral by Carpentier, which I hope to read soon, although I'm a little put off by the fact that it's a translation of the French translation from the Spanish, rather than a direct Spanish to English translation.

106kidzdoc
Jun 29, 2012, 9:59am

That's odd about the double translation of Explosion in a Cathedral from Spanish to French to English. I'll be curious to get your take on the book, and the translation of it.

107petermc
Jun 29, 2012, 10:13am

I have a few books (unread) on the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII, and will watch for your take on Jim and Jap Crow: A Cultural History of 1940s Interracial America with interest.

108wandering_star
Jun 29, 2012, 11:10am

That one jumped out at me too - look forward to the review!

109labfs39
Jun 29, 2012, 3:22pm

>101 rebeccanyc: Thanks for the recommendation, Rebecca. I read your review of The Kingdom of This World and immediately added it to my wishlist.

110kidzdoc
Jun 30, 2012, 1:14am

>107 petermc:, 108 I'll probably read Jim and Jap Crow in the next week or two.

111kidzdoc
Editado: Jul 5, 2012, 9:01am

Planned reads for July:

Being Sam Frears: A Life Less Ordinary by Mary Mount - completed
Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast by Natasha Trethewey
Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel - completed
The Coward's Tale by Vanessa Gebbie - reading
The Earth in the Attic by Fady Joudah - completed
God's Hotel: A Doctor, a Hospital, and a Pilgrimage to the Heart of Medicine by Victoria Sweet - completed
Like a Straw Bird It Follows Me, and Other Poems by Ghassan Zaqtan - reading
The Making of Modern Medicine: Turning Points in the Treatment of Disease by Michael Bliss - completed
My Michael by Amos Oz
Palace Walk by Naguib Mahfouz
Pure by Timothy Mo - reading
The Septembers of Shiraz by Dalia Sofer
To the End of the Land by David Grossman

112Linda92007
Jul 1, 2012, 9:22am

A very ambitious list, Darryl!

113kidzdoc
Jul 1, 2012, 9:34am

Thanks, Linda, although I'll probably add more books to this list. I'll finish God's Hotel today, and Bring Up the Bodies probably on Tuesday. Five of these books contain less than 100 pages, so they will be quick reads, and I'll probably read Jim and Jap Crow this month as well.

114kidzdoc
Editado: Jul 2, 2012, 3:18am

Book #65: God's Hotel: A Doctor, a Hospital, and a Pilgrimage to the Heart of Medicine by Victoria Sweet



My rating:


The original Lagunda Honda Hospital

Laguna Honda Hospital was built in San Francisco in 1867 as an almshouse, which provided medical and spiritual care and a sense of community to the early residents of the city who could no longer support themselves. After it served as a place of refuge for many of the survivors of the devastating 1906 earthquake, Laguna Honda was rebuilt in 1909 as a 1,178 bed facility at the base of Twin Peaks, making it one of the largest almshouses in the United States throughout the 20th century.

The concept of the almshouse dates back to medieval Europe, as a Christian tradition that existed in most larger communities. These almshouses, initially run by monks and nuns, became the earliest hospitals, the most famous being the Hôtel-Dieu de Paris, which was founded in the year 659 and remains in existence today.


Lagunda Honda Hospital, built in 1909

Lagunda Honda Hospital's main focus was on long term comprehensive care for people with dementia, traumatic brain injury, and end-stage illnesses such as cancer, alcoholic cirrhosis and, in later years, AIDS. It also provided rehabilitative care for patients with non-life threatening conditions whose physical limitations, lack of caretakers, poverty and homelessness, mental illness or substance abuse did not allow them to recuperate fully at home. Most of its residents lived there for months and years; some succumbed to a peaceful death surrounded by family members and hospital staff, and many were released to a supportive environment after they were physically and spiritually healed.

Victoria Sweet was a newly minted internal medicine physician who sought a position in which she could practice on a part time basis while she pursued a doctoral degree in the history of medicine. She was somewhat familiar with Laguna Honda from her medical training, but was skeptical that practicing in an almshouse was the right fit for her. She accepted a temporary two month position, and more than 20 years later she continues to practice there.

God's Hotel is Sweet's chronicle of her career at Laguna Honda, the patients, staff and colleagues who taught and enriched her, and the transformation of the hospital from one of the last almshouses in the United States to a newly built hospital and rehabilitation center. The hospital's changed mission coincides with the transition from 20th century medicine provided to patients by doctors, nurses and ancillary staff, to 21st century health care management, in which hospital administrators, government officials, insurance companies, efficiency experts and lawyers dictate what services "clients" should receive from the "system".


The new Laguna Honda Hospital and Rehabilitation Center, circa 2010

The author also describes her study of Hildegard of Blingen, a 12th century nun, theologian and medical practitioner, who wrote a textbook about medicine that combined the "four humors" theory of premodern medicine with her own knowledge of medical botanicals. Sweet's study of Hldegard formed the basis of her PhD in the history of medicine and resulted in an award winning book, Rooted in the Earth, Rooted in the Sky: Hildegard of Bingen and Premodern Medicine. In addition, Sweet also embarked on a pilgrimage from Le Puy in southwestern France to Santiago de Compostela in Spain, a 1200-mile journey based on a medieval route originally taken by St. James. She describes these two intellectual and physical journeys in detail, and how they influenced the care of her patients and her view of the ideal practice of inpatient medicine for chronically ill patients, one in which holistic and deliberate care (which she describes as "slow medicine") rather than stabilization and rapid discharge could be shown to be more cost effective, due to lower readmission rates and decreased cost of unnecessary outpatient medications.

God's Hotel is a powerful rebuttal and a loving testament from a wise and sensitive doctor practicing "in the trenches", one who works diligently to provide the best care to her patients, while bemoaning the negative effects of health care reform and the influence of bureaucrats who make untoward decisions by evaluating data rather than communicating directly with patients and those who provide direct care to them.

115baswood
Jul 2, 2012, 6:27am

Excellent review of God's Hotel Darryl. The pictures really point out the history of Laguna Honda Hospital. I wonder what percentage of medical practitioners in America would agree with your final paragraph. Pretty high I would imagine especially from those below consultant level.

116StevenTX
Jul 2, 2012, 10:43am

Very interesting review, Darryl. I knew of Hildegard of Bingen as a composer and poet (I have a CD of her music), but I had no idea she was also a medical pioneer.

Incidentally, until my retirement five years ago I was one of those bureaucrats. My job, though, was designing and managing the computer systems, not evaluating the data and implementing policy. I did, however, participate in fraud investigations and enforcement.

117SassyLassy
Jul 2, 2012, 11:14am

How many book buying days do you have left? This trip is dangerous for readers of your thread!

Adding my vote for The Lost Steps as a beautifully written book. I'm also adding The Kingdom of this World, Beyond Katrina and Rooted in the Earth, Rooted in the Sky to the wanted list. Like Steven, I only knew of Hildegard as a composer, but given her era, highly talented women in one field were usually highly talented in many, so I am looking forward to reading about her botanically based medicines.

118labfs39
Jul 2, 2012, 1:12pm

God's Hotel sounds fascinating. How do you feel the inclusion of her personal spiritual journeys affected her book? Are you still going to have time to visit the hospital? Too bad you couldn't visit the hospital of earlier years. Today the hospital sounds same-old, same-old.

119kidzdoc
Jul 2, 2012, 3:55pm

>115 baswood: I wonder what percentage of medical practitioners in America would agree with your final paragraph. Pretty high I would imagine especially from those below consultant level.

Good question, Barry. I suspect that most practicing physicians in the United States, including primary care providers, hospitalists (hospital based physicians, iike myself), and subspecialists would agree with that statement.

(We don't have consultants in the US, at least not in the way that the term is used in the UK, from what I understand. Here, a consultant, or consulting physician, is one who is asked to see a patient that is under the care of another physician. I may ask a gastroenterologist, neurologist, etc. to see a patient that I am caring for as the attending physician, or 'physician of record', so that doctor would be the consulting physician. On the other hand, the same physician may ask me to see one of his patients that he is the attending for; in that case I would be the consultant. This isn't terribly germane to your question or this discussion, but I thought I'd explain the difference.)

Back to your comment: There are physicians who are in high administrative positions within organizations such as the one I work for, such as a CMO, or chief medical officer of a health care system, or the medical director of a practice. However, I would suggest that the majority of these physicians, who are or were in clinical practice at one time, would also bemoan the transformation of American medicine to a commodity that began in the late 20th century.

>116 StevenTX: Thanks, Steven. I hadn't heard of Hildegard of Bingen before, and even after reading God's Hotel I didn't realize that she was such a polymath until I read her Wikipedia page last night.

Don't get me wrong; I do think there is a role for bureaucracy in American medicine. What I don't like in general is that policies are made about health care in the United States by bureaucrats who are not involved in direct patient care and do not incorporate input from patients and health care providers in their decision making processes. Dr. Sweet discusses this in some detail in the book, which I didn't discuss to a significant degree in my review of God's Hotel.

>117 SassyLassy: Ha ha! I'll be in San Francisco until Saturday morning, so that makes five potential days of book buying. After I finish catching up on LT I will go to Green Apple Books, my second favorite SF bookstore, to pick up several books that I didn't find at City Lights last week or Strand Bookstore in NYC earlier this year, particularly two award winning poetry collections, Head Off & Split by Nikky Finney and Life on Mars by Tracy K. Smith. I won't buy much more than those two books, though.

I haven't read The Lost Steps or anything by Alejo Carpentier yet, so I need to move this book a bit higher on my wish list.

>118 labfs39: Dr. Sweet's study of Hildegard of Bingen and her personal pilgrimage were essential to her growth as a physician and her viewpoint toward the patient as an individual and the benefits of "slow medicine" in providing cost-efficient care to the patients of Laguna Honda Hospital overall. In the book, she mentioned that she intends to create an Ecomedicine Unit, or ECU, where she could practice medicine in her deliberate and thoughtful manner and demonstrate that this method leads to improved outcomes, including lower readmission rates and decreased costs to the health care system.

120labfs39
Jul 2, 2012, 5:56pm

Interesting. I'm going to add God's Hotel to my obese wishlist.

Add me to the list of those enamored with Hildegard of Bingen. I have a CD with some of the music she composed, as well as The Journal of Hildegard of Bingen: A Novel by Barbara Lachman, which I am sorry to say I haven't read yet. There was also an interesting bit about her in a Teaching Company course called Medieval Heroines in History and Legend, taught by Bonnie Wheeler. Poquette led me to that resource.

121janemarieprice
Jul 2, 2012, 8:16pm

114 - Very interesting review. I know my dad would agree with you regarding medicine being overly administrated. He spends almost as much time now in meetings reviewing what conditions/treatments need to be called so insurance or Medicare will reimburse it as he does actually reading film or doing procedures.

122kidzdoc
Jul 3, 2012, 12:30am

>120 labfs39: Lisa, I forgot to say that I'm still planning to at least take a look at the Lagunda Honda Hospital campus, even if it's just from a distance. It's easy to get to, via MUNI Metro, as the Forest Hill station is just across the street from the hospital. As you mentioned, I'm not as eager to visit the hospital, now that I know that the older building has been demolished.

I'll add The Journal of Hildegard to my wish list. Given how many people here know about her and my interest in the history of medicine, I'm surprised that I hadn't heard of her before.

>121 janemarieprice: Thanks, Jane. I do feel fortunate compared to my friends who are in primary care practice, as I have to spend far less time than they in filling out paperwork to get a patient's insurance company to cover the cost of an outpatient medication, a laboratory or radiographic test or a referral to a subspecialist, which consumes a good portion of their work days. And, thanks to our superb case managers, I only rarely have to talk to an insurance company representative about the length of a patient's hospital stay.

123kidzdoc
Jul 3, 2012, 12:36am

Book mini-haul #3: I went to Books Inc. instead of Green Apple Books, as it was much closer to North Beach and had the two books I was looking for:

Head Off & Split by Nikky Finney: This book won the National Book Award for Poetry in 2011, and I'd been looking for it in bookshops since last fall.

Life on Mars by Tracy K. Smith: The winner of this year's Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, another book I've wanted to get for several months.

Granta 119: Britain: The latest issue, which features articles about modern Britain by several writers who are familiar to me, such as Gary Younge, Ross Raisin, Mario Vargas Llosa, Mark Haddon, Jon McGregor and Adam Foulds.

124kidzdoc
Jul 3, 2012, 1:40am

Book #66: Being Sam Frears: A Life Less Ordinary by Mary Mount



My rating:

I read an article in the online edition of yesterday's Observer (UK), which was an excerpt from a new e-book about a man with familial dysautonomia (FD), a rare autosomal recessive genetic disorder that mainly affects people of Eastern European Jewish descent. One in 27 of these individuals are silent carriers of the FD gene, as they carry one bad FD gene and one normal gene, and they are not affected by the disorder. If two FD carriers marry and each passes on the bad gene to the fetus, the newborn child will have this disorder. It has a variety of physical manifestations that affect the autonomic nervous system, which controls the function of a variety of different organ systems. Affected individuals have problems controlling their blood pressure and heart rate, and frequently have difficulty swallowing liquids and digesting foods. They also do not make tears, which can lead to progressive blindness, and have a decreased ability to sense pain. The average life span is 15 years, and 50% live to the age of 40. Affected individuals are generally intellectually normal, despite their numerous physical afflictions. Unfortunately, there is no known cure for this disorder.

The author was introduced by a mutual friend to Sam Frears, a Londoner who had recently celebrated his 40th birthday. She befriended him as well, and accompanied him as he participated in his usual activities of daily living. Sam is fortunate on one hand, as he was born to two prominent parents, Mary-Kay Wilmers, the editor of the London Review of Books, and the film director Stephen Frears, who took him to see the best specialists in the UK and the US after his diagnosis was eventually made. Sam relies on others to get about, due to difficulty in walking independently and progressive blindness, yet he leads a full and rich life, working as an actor and remaining physically active to maintain his body as best he can. He accepts his condition with grace and an infectious joie de vivre, along with an ability to laugh at himself that would be laudable for a person who wasn't so afflicted.

Being Sam Frears, one of the new series of Penguin eSpecials, was a touching and inspiring albeit brief look into the life of a very able disabled person, who is determined to live as normal a life as possible for as long as he can. The author did a superb job in portraying Sam and those who befriend, love and support him without pitying or coddling him.

Observer article and excerpt from Being Sam Frears: http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/jul/01/sam-frears-a-life-less-ordinary-ex...

125kidzdoc
Jul 3, 2012, 4:54pm

I forgot to post my favorite reads from the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s onto this thread. First, my top 10 novels from the 1980s:

The War of the End of the World, Mario Vargas Llosa
Midnight's Children, Salman Rushdie
The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro
The Stone Raft, José Saramago
Norwegian Wood, Haruki Murakami
The Real Life of Alejandro Mayta, Mario Vargas Llosa
Matigari, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o
Sent for You Yesterday, John Edgar Wideman
Life & Times of Michael K, J.M. Coetzee
The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis, José Saramago
A Wild Sheep Chase, Haruki Murakami
The Prospector, J. M. G. Le Clézio


Next, my favorite novels from the 1990s:

Death in the Andes, Mario Vargas Llosa
Disgrace, J.M. Coetzee
Blindness, Jose Saramago
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Haruki Murakami
Pereira Declares, Antonio Tabucchi
Waiting, Ha Jin
The Gospel According to Jesus Christ, José Saramago
South of the Border, West of the Sun, Haruki Murakami
Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha, Roddy Doyle
The Blackwater Lightship, Colm Tóibín


Finally, my favorites from the 2000s:

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
The Wizard of the Crow by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o
The Glass Room by Simon Mawer
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
By the Sea by Abdulrazak Gurnah
A Distant Shore by Caryl Phillips
White Teeth by Zadie Smith
Travelling with Djinns by Jamal Mahjoub
Gate of the Sun by Elias Khoury
Children of the Revolution by Dinaw Mengestu (US title: The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears)

126kidzdoc
Jul 4, 2012, 6:46pm

Book haul #4: My third trip to City Lights, where I bought five books from my wish list, along with one mistake purchase that I'll return before I leave San Francisco on Saturday.

Confessions of a Young Novelist by Umberto Eco: These essays are taken from the 2008 Richard Ellmann Lectures in Modern Literature at Emory University, an event that takes place every 2-3 years which features a single renowned author who gives four lectures that are free to the Emory community and the general public. I saw one of Mario Vargas Llosa's lectures when he appeared in 2006 (which formed the basis of his book Wellsprings), but I think I was out of town when Eco gave his lectures. The authors talk about their careers as a writer, the craft of writing, their influences, and the importance of literature in modern society.

Interesting...Paul Simon will give the next set of Ellmann Lectures, on February 10-12, 2013. Hopefully I can attend some or all of his talks. There aren't many Atlantans in this group to my knowledge, other than Ardene (markon) and Jenny (GCPLreader), but I'll mention the series here early next year, in case anyone else is interested in going.

Songwriter Paul Simon to give 2013 Ellmann Lectures

Why Niebuhr Matters by Charles Lemert: I've been interested to learn and read more by the 20th century theologian and intellectual Reinhold Niebuhr, and I own his book The Irony of American History, but I haven't gotten around to reading it yet. This seems to be an accessible introduction to Niebuhr, and I'll put this near the top of my TBR list.

Missing Soluch by Mahmoud Dowlatabadi: The New York Times had a nice profile of the Iranian author in its Arts section on Monday, as his most famous novel The Colonel has just been published in English translation in the US. (I bought it in London last summer, and I'll read it for the Reading Globally Middle Eastern Literature challenge soon.) The article mentioned that this novel, described as "perhaps the most important work in modern Iranian literature", was his only other novel that was available in English translation in the US; I saw it at City Lights last week, but forgot to get it. It's centered around a woman and her impoverished family in a remote village, whose husband has disappeared under mysterious circumstances. I'll also read it for the Middle Eastern Literature theme, probably in September.

Here's the link to the NYT article about Dowlatabadi:

An Iranian Storyteller's Personal Revolution

Globalectics: Theory and the Politics of Knowing by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o: This book, published in January, is taken from a series of lectures he gave at the University of California, Irvine, about the importance of postcolonial literature in permitting the Western reader to view these countries in a different framework, to allow for greater understanding of their societies and individuals.

Black in Latin America by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.: Gates, a renowned professor at Harvard who has also hosted numerous specials on PBS about African American culture, wrote this book about the little discussed but influential presence of people of African descent in Brazil, Mexico, Peru, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba.

My "mistake" purchase was The Neruda Case by Roberto Ampuero, the first novel published by a Chilean author known for his series of detective novels. In this novel, investigator Cayetano Brulé is enlisted the dying poet Pablo Neruda to resolve a secret that involves the military coup d'état that allowed General Augusto Pinochet to rise to power. The reviews of it have been mediocre, so I'll substitute it for a book I'd much rather read.

127rachbxl
Jul 5, 2012, 12:36pm

I was way behind so have just spent a pleasurable half hour catching up and adding all sorts of things to my wishlist. I always enjoy reading about what you've been reading, Darryl.

128kidzdoc
Jul 6, 2012, 8:05am

>127 rachbxl: Thanks, Rachel!

129kidzdoc
Jul 6, 2012, 8:47am

Book #67: Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel



My rating:

(A short review, as there are several excellent ones available within and outside of LT.)

The long awaited sequel to the 2009 Booker Prize winning novel Wolf Hall, which chronicles the rise of Thomas Crowell from a despised blacksmith's son to the right hand man of Henry VIII and arguably the most powerful man in England, lives up to its high expectations. She, Mantel, resumes the story after the execution of Thomas More, and focuses on the downfall of Anne Boleyn, Henry's second wife, who fails to bear him a male heir and becomes less desirable in his eyes. He becomes obsessed with Jane Seymour, the former lady-in-waiting to Anne and her predecessor, Katherine of Aragon, and Cromwell is given the task of uncovering information that would nullify his marriage to Anne, so that Jane can replace her as Henry's spouse.

She, Mantel, portrays Cromwell as the ultimate chessmaster, as he expertly and deviously manipulates his pieces and captures those of his opponent, while maintaining control of the board at all times until the final outcome is a foregone conclusion. Old slights and seemingly innocent comments by former friends and foes are used by Cromwell to his utmost advantage, to bring down Anne and to increase his own power and influence with Henry. As in Wolf Hall, the dialogue is witty and bitingly humorous, and the action filled narrative made this a book that was nearly impossible to put aside until its foregone conclusion.

Bring Up the Bodies is nearly as brilliant as Wolf Hall, as she, Mantel, proves again to be one of the contemporary masters of historical fiction. It certainly deserves to be included on the upcoming Booker longlist, and I will look on with interest to see if it can claim another prize for its fabulously talented author.

130kidzdoc
Jul 6, 2012, 10:26am

Book #68: The Making of Modern Medicine: Turning Points in the Treatment of Disease by Michael Bliss



My rating:

This short work by noted medical historian Michael Bliss of the University of Toronto focuses on three events that led to the transformation of the public view of medicine in North America, from a profession that was often powerless to alter the course of serious illnesses in the late 19th century, to one in which scientific advances and changes in medical education led to the possibility of cure of dreaded diseases and, more importantly, the hope for further cures in the early 20th century.

Bliss first describes the smallpox epidemic in Montréal in 1885, a disease preventable by vaccination at that time, which claimed the lives of over 3,000 residents within the city's limits in less than one year. The majority of the deaths did not occur among the poorest residents, who were largely vaccinated by their personal physicians in childhood. Instead, the victims were concentrated in the French Canadian population within and outside of Montréal, who erroneously believed that vaccination against smallpox was a dangerous tool designed by the English speaking medical community to sicken them. This opinion was supported and encouraged by several anti-vaccinationists in the French Canadian community, whose proclamations were eerily similar to those of the current lot of scaremongers in the anti-vaccine community.

The second story concerns the career of William Osler, the "father of modern medicine", who was trained and later taught at McGill University, before he accepted a position as Physician in Chief at the new Johns Hopkins Hospital and Medical School. Johns Hopkins was founded by a wealthy philanthropist, and the medical school was based on the training methods of the prestigious schools in Europe; as a result, Hopkins became the gold standard for medical education in the United States, even superseding the University of Pennsylvania, the oldest medical college in North America. Osler, one of the "Big Four" founding professors at Johns Hopkins Medical School, wrote the famed textbook The Principles and Practice of Medicine as he waited for the medical school to admit its first students, which was published in 1892 and continues to be widely read today; created the clerkship system, in which medical students moved from the classroom and laboratory to the hospital wards and clinics to observe direct patient care; and instituted the modern internship and residency programs for medical school graduates. His teaching methods, thoughtful approach to the patient and collegial collaboration with other specialists continue to be practiced and taught to this day.

The final segment describes the discovery of insulin by Frederick Banting and his colleagues at the University of Toronto in 1922. The hormone was isolated from pancreatic extracts, purified, and then tested on diabetic animals. It was first administered to a human patient at the Hospital for Sick Children in January of that year, and it had an immediate and long lasting effect, as the then teenage boy would live for another 13 years. The most famous of Banting's early patients was Elizabeth Hughes, the 15 year old daughter of the US Secretary of State Charles Hughes, who was close to death from starvation, the standard treatment for diabetes in August 1922, as she weighed only 45 pounds. She was brought to Toronto and administered insulin, which led to a remarkable recovery. Hughes went on to lead a full and active life until her death in 1981 at the age of 73. Banting was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1923 at the age of 32, and he remains the youngest Nobel laureate in this field.

At just over 100 pages, The Making of Modern Medicine serves best as an introduction to Bliss and his previous books, on which this one is based, and to the reader with little or no knowledge of the history of North American medicine. Thanks to this book I will read William Osler: A Life in Medicine and Harvey Cushing: A Life in Surgery, Bliss's noted biographies of these two giants of medicine, in the near future.

131rebeccanyc
Editado: Jul 6, 2012, 12:17pm

Just catching up, but great lists of books and great hauls. Fascinated to learn about the new Ngugi, which I haven't seen in stores here, despite, according to Amazon, its being published by Columbia University Press. I'll have to look for it up at Book Culture (they certainly haven't had it on display,) before succumbing to Amazon.

132kidzdoc
Jul 6, 2012, 11:22am

Thanks, Rebecca. I hadn't heard about Ngũgĩ's new book either, but City Lights had it on display on Wednesday. As I've probably mentioned previously, City Lights frequently has books on display from university presses and small publishers that I haven't heard of previously or had read about but couldn't find in any other bookstores. They have a brisk turnover of books, since they only buy a few copies of these books and because the store is a busy one, frequented by locals and tourists, which is one reason why I go there a couple of times per week every time I'm in town. Globalectics wasn't on the shelves on my previous two visits to City Lights last week, nor were Why Niebuhr Matters or Black in Latin America. I'll head there shortly to exchange the book I bought by mistake, and to take one last look at the new fiction and nonfiction shelves before I leave town tomorrow.

I'm also surprised that Book Culture didn't prominently display Globalectics, given its proximity and connection to Columbia.

What's this about "succumbing to Amazon"?

133rebeccanyc
Jul 6, 2012, 11:58am

"Succumbing to Amazon": I do my very best to buy books at real bookstores here in NYC (and in places I visit) to do my part to keep them in business, but sometimes I want a book that they don't have and so . . . I succumb to Amazon, or to the Book Depository if it's cheaper.

134kidzdoc
Jul 6, 2012, 12:06pm

Got it. For some reason I thought that Book Culture had somehow succumbed to Amazon!

Do you search for books using Book Culture's web site? I did that for a book I reviewed for Belletrista, which wasn't in the store but was in its warehouse. I ordered it, and bought it in the store a day or two later.

135rebeccanyc
Jul 6, 2012, 12:18pm

My punctuation was confusing. I've sort of corrected it.

I have looked books up on the BC website sometimes, and ordered them for store pickup, but it's not that hard for me to pop up there just to look around.

136baswood
Jul 6, 2012, 2:27pm

Those anti-vaccination scare mongers must drive you to drink and distraction Darryl. There ought to be a law against it, if it could be proved that their actions led to death from a preventable disease.

137kidzdoc
Editado: Jul 6, 2012, 6:13pm

I'm pretty certain that some parents have been prosecuted if not convicted of abuse if their child dies from an illness for which there is a vaccine available but the child was not vaccinated against—provided that the parents did not do so for religious or other "eligible" reasons.

In the past two or three years I've taken care of two children with bacterial meningitis due to Haemophilus influenzae type B, a bacterium against which there is a vaccine, HiB, which provides protection against serious H. flu infections such as meningitis, epiglottitis and pneumonia. In these cases I requested a social work consultation, but neither of their parents to my knowledge were referred to the state's child protective services agency, and I'm certain that neither were prosecuted for child abuse. In both cases the parents felt absoutely horrible about their decision, and promised to fully vaccinate all of their children ASAP.

I don't do primary care pediatrics, so the issue of unvaccinated children is largely a moot one for me, unless the parents have such alternative beliefs that they refuse to allow us to treat their child for the illness that led to the hospitalization. In my 12 year career that has only come up once as far as I can recall, when a mother refused to allow the medical staff to treat her daughter's asthma attack. As a result, the poor girl became so sick that she needed to be transferred to the hospital's PICU, or pediatric intensive care unit. We made a report to the state's child protection agency, which took temporary custody of the child and allowed us to treat the girl properly.

138kidzdoc
Jul 6, 2012, 7:51pm

Book haul #5: One last trip to City Lights, where I bought two books that were recommended by my friend Scott, who works there, and two more from my wish list:

Always in Trouble: An Oral History of ESP-Disk', the Most Outrageous Record Label in America by Jason Weiss: This book discusses the short lived ESP independent record label, which was founded by Bernard Stollman in 1964 in order to document the nascent free jazz movement in NYC, featuring future stars such as Albert Ayler, Pharoah Sanders and Sun Ra, along with local folk-rock bands like the Fugs and Pearls Before Swine. The label was a critical success, but it experienced political and financial difficulties during its short existence, which led to its demise in 1974. Weiss tells the story of the ESP label through an examination of Stollman, followed by a series of interviews with the artists that it recorded, and others who were influenced by the music.

Season of the Witch: Enchantment, Terror, and Deliverance in the City of Love by David Talbot: This book examines the transformation of San Francisco that began in 1967, the year of the Summer of Love, through the turbulent 1970s, when the city was rocked by wanton murders, political assassinations, riots and terror campaigns, which ended(?) in 1982, during the early years of the devastating HIV epidemic that shook the city's gay community.

Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo: Recommended by numerous LTers, this has been on my wish list since early this year.

Inside by Alix Ohlin: I mentioned this book earlier this week, as it has received rare reviews both here and in the UK and has been mentioned as a possible choice for the upcoming Booker Prize longlist.

139Mr.Durick
Editado: Jul 6, 2012, 8:36pm

Always in Trouble is now on my wishlist. In late '65 or early '66 I heard that the entire roster of ESP musicians was going to be playing over at Ithaca College that evening, I think for free; I was known among my cohort for my affection for the New Thing. I got to that concert; Albert Ayler didn't make it. Sun Ra's hands moved so fast on the keyboard I couldn't believe my memory of it. A few years back I watched the hands of a Russian pianist at a classical concert, and his hands blurred like Sun Ra's. My memory was vindicated. I mentioned that at intermission to a fellow I know, an astrogeologist or somesuch who played as a youth. He was astonished; "You don't typically hear names like Sun Ra around this concert hall."

After I graduated I spent time in the remote south for a couple of years then out in the Pacific for eight years in the Navy. That was before personal computers, let alone the internet. I never knew what happened to ESP, but the discs should still be in the cabinet. One of my unfulfilled plans for retirement was to put my records on CD's. Costco no longer sells the turntable that did it automagically. I wonder whether I will ever get it done.

Robert

140dchaikin
Jul 7, 2012, 8:23pm

Enjoyed your latest reviews. Always enjoy your posts on books related to medicine.

141kidzdoc
Jul 7, 2012, 11:08pm

Thanks, Dan. I haven't read as many books about medicine as I had planned to this year, but I'll try to pick up the pace from now on.

142kidzdoc
Jul 8, 2012, 3:11pm

Book #70: Pure by Timothy Mo



My rating: (3.3 stars)

The first novel to be written by Timothy Mo in over 10 years is set in contemporary Thailand, and the main character is Ahmed, who prefers to be called Snooky, a narcissistic ladyboy (transvestite) from a Muslim family in southern Thailand who does drugs on a regular basis and steals from upscale stores and his her straight male clients to support her decidedly non-Islamic lifestyle in the heart of Bangkok. She and her fellow katoeys are caught by vice squad officers in flagrante delicto during a drug fueled orgy, and Snooky is beaten and imprisoned after she taunts them. In exchange for her release from charges that could send her to prison for decades, she provides the vice squad with valuable information and agrees to work as an undercover agent for a local Islamic school that is suspected of carrying out acts of terror.

The novel consists of chapters narrated by the key characters: Snooky; Victor, a pompous Oxbridge professor and former British intelligence agent in Southeast Asia; Shakyh, the Pakistani mastermind of the Islamic school; and Umar, the school's spiritual leader, who secretly despises Shakyh and Snooky Ahmed. Victor's main purpose is to provide a historical backdrop for the rise of Muslim extremism in southeast Asia; Shakyh also serves in that role in addition to planning the group's increasingly more violent acts. Snooky becomes more radicalized, while she hides but doesn't disavow her ladyboy identity or her drug habit, and walks a dangerous tightrope as she provides the police with information about the group, knowing that she will meet a painful death if she is uncovered.

Pure is an interesting novel about the political history of Thailand and the rise of Islamic activity in southeast Asia. However, I found the novel to be overly clever and rather unfocused, one which would have benefitted from an experienced editor, which this book apparently didn't have. It has received rare reviews, and I wouldn't be surprised if it was selected for the upcoming Booker Prize longlist, but I would be disappointed if it did.

143baswood
Jul 8, 2012, 4:11pm

Good review of Pure, Timothy Mo Darryl. The scenario makes it sound like an adventure story.

144StevenTX
Jul 8, 2012, 6:40pm

Nice review, Darryl. The idea sounds interesting even if the execution is faulty.

145detailmuse
Jul 8, 2012, 7:58pm

I haven't read as many books about medicine as I had planned to this year, but I'll try to pick up the pace from now on.

That will be dangerous for my wishlist. (Yay!) I'd added God's Hotel and The Making of Modern Medicine from your descriptions upon purchasing them, so am glad to see your positive reviews. Now you've interested me in San Francisco's Season of the Witch too.

146SassyLassy
Jul 9, 2012, 10:39am

Interesting thoughts on the new Timothy Mo, which I had been looking forward to. I found the same editing problem in An Insular Possession, but really liked his Sour Sweet. However, after reading Tash Aw's Map of the Invisible World about insurrections in Indonesia, it still might be of interest to read about insurrection elsewhere in the region.

147kidzdoc
Jul 9, 2012, 8:29pm

>143 baswood: Thanks, Barry.

>144 StevenTX: Thanks, Steven. If I can use a sports analogy, I think that Timothy Mo swung for the fences with this book, and hit a fly ball that looked like a sure home run when it left his bat, but an outfielder caught it at the edge of the warning track, for a long and loud out.

>145 detailmuse: Thanks, MJ. I'll have to look at my library to see which medicine related book I'll read it. Oh...right. I forgot that one of my partners at work, who is also a voracious reader, just lent me her copy of White Coat Wisdom by Stephen J. Busalacchi, which is a collection of oral histories from physicians in Wisconsin, the state where my best friend practices as a pediatric neurologist. I'll see if I can get to it this month; if not, I'll read it in August.

>146 SassyLassy: I was disappointed in Mo's latest book, given the numerous positive reviews I had read about it. I'll be curious to see if it makes the upcoming Booker Prize longlist, and to see what other people here think of it when they do read it. One person on LT gave it five stars, but I seem to be the only one who has reviewed it so far. I own The Redundancy of Courage and An Insular Possession by Mo, but I haven't read either book yet.

I agree with you, I'd like to read other books from SE Asia about political insurrections and the rise of militant Islam. Hopefully we can get some good recommendations during the fourth quarter Reading Globally theme on China and Neighboring Countries.

148labfs39
Jul 10, 2012, 7:40pm

Congrats on a great haul in SanF and some intriguing reviews. I know you didn't care for Mo's book, but your review makes it hard to resist. The Making of Modern Medicine sounds like something I would enjoy reading, although I'm trying hard to trim my wishlist at the moment, not add to it.

149kidzdoc
Jul 12, 2012, 9:09am

Thanks, Lisa. Given its numerous glowing reviews, I'm eager to see if other readers like Pure better than I did.

150Trifolia
Editado: Jul 23, 2012, 2:42am

.

151kidzdoc
Editado: Jul 21, 2012, 8:07pm

Book #71: Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on Mississippi's Gulf Coast by Natasha Trethewey



My rating:

Natasha Trethewey, the newly selected Poet Laureate of the U.S. and current professor of English and Creative Writing at Emory University, wrote this book, a combination of memoir, history and elegy, about her family and other residents of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, which was decimated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Although the eye of the storm made landfall in Louisiana, the brunt of the winds and the associated coastal flooding was felt in cities such as Bay St. Louis, Pass Christian, Gulfport and Biloxi, Mississippi. Over 90% of these towns were flooded, and nearly all private residences and public buildings suffered moderate to severe damage. At least 235 people were killed in the state as a result, and the region continues to feel the effects of the storm seven years later.

Natasha Trethewey grew up in North Gulfport, a mostly African-American portion of the city, from the mid 1960s to the early 1980s. Although racial segregation and discrimination were formally outlawed by the time of her birth, its effects lingered in the Deep South for many years afterward, as many blacks continued to frequent stores owned by their neighbors and to employ local tradesmen. One of these men was her great-uncle Willie Dixon, known as "Son" to his family and neighbors, who used his earnings from his nightclub to repair, buy and sell rental properties in North Gulfport.

Her younger brother Joe took over the family business after Uncle Son's death, and his story of steady success followed by devastation and tragedy is the central element of this book. Although federal funding was allocated to the residents of central and southern Mississippi, government officials and local politicians diverted much of it to the wealthier residents and the growing tourism and gambling industries, leaving behind many of the region's poorer residents, both black and white. Trethewey describes the mismanagement of the coastal wetland by local developers, and how it contributed to the disastrous flooding. People employed as service workers by the gambling industry and in construction suffered mightily, as they lost their jobs and their homes in less than 48 hours. Many got their jobs back, but property owners increased their rents substantially, leaving many of them unable to pay their bills. Local businessmen, particularly in North Gulfport, were also adversely affected, due to ordinances that permitted the city to take over their land if their owners decided to rebuild their damaged properties.

Trethewey occasionally refers to an unforgettable quote by fellow Southern writer Flannery O'Connor to describe the feelings she and her fellow Mississippians shared in the aftermath of Katrina: "Where you came from is gone. Where you thought you were going to never was there. And where you are is no good unless you can get away from it." She also uses her own formidable skill as a poet to tell the stories of those whose lives have been ruined by the storm, such as Tamara Jones in her poem Believer:

The house is in need of repair, but is—
for now, she says—still hers. After the storm,
she laid hands on what she could reclaim:
the iron table and chairs etched with rust,
the dresser laced with mold. Four years gone,
she's still rebuilding the shed out back
and sorting through boxes in the kitchen—
a lifetime of bills and receipts, deeds
and warranties, notices spread on the table,
a barrage of red ink: PAST DUE. Now,
the house is a museum of everything.

she can't let go: a pile of photographs—
fused and peeling—water stains blurring
the handwritten names of people she can't recall;
a drawer crowded with funeral programs
and church fans, rubber bands and paper sleeves
for pennies, nickels, and dimes. What stops me
is the stack of tithing envelopes. Reading my face,
she must know I can't see why—even now—
she tithes, why she keeps giving to the church.
First seek the kingdom of God, she tells me,
and the rest will follow—says it twice

as if to make a talisman of her words.


She closes the book on a hopeful note, despite the serious trouble her brother finds himself in, and the reader is left with the sense that the survivors of Katrina will fight back against the odds and reclaim their livelihood and the heritage that defines the proud state of Mississippi.

Beyond Katrina is a powerful testament and statement by this uniquely gifted writer, whose talent will now receive wider attention in her new position as America's poet laureate. I look forward to her upcoming poetry collection Thrall, which will explore her relationship with her white father, a professor of poetry at Hollins College, and her experiences as an interracial child and young woman.

152rebeccanyc
Jul 21, 2012, 10:28am

Excellent review, Darryl, and sounds like a fascinating book.

153labfs39
Jul 21, 2012, 11:02am

Wonderful review of a book focusing on another devasted area besides New Orleans itself. I'm wondering how she interweaves the prose and poetry? Or are they separate sections?

154kidzdoc
Jul 21, 2012, 11:27am

Book #73: Popular Hits of the Showa Era by Ryu Murakami



My rating:

Ryu Murakami (1952-), who is no relation to the far better known Haruki Murakami, is a Japanese novelist and filmmaker who has written roughly 40 books about contemporary Japanese pop culture, only a few of which have been translated into English to date. Popular Hits of the Showa Era was written in 1994, but was not released in English translation until 2011.

This is an absurd comic novel and cultural satire set just after the completion of the Showa Era, which refers to the reign of Emperor Hirohito from 1926-1989. The first set of main characters are six young men, who are each nihilistic misfits that have been largely abandoned by their families and the larger society, but find common ground in each other and a shared interest in mindless violence and an elaborate and somewhat disturbing karaoke ritual. If you can visualize a group of Beavis & Butthead clones on steroids, you've got them pegged. They have little emotional connection to anyone, and they harbor an inexplicably deep hatred of Oba-sans, or aunties, the seemingly ubiquitous dowdy women past their prime period of attractiveness. As one of them says, "They always say that when human beings are extinct, the only living thing left will be the cockroach, but that's bullshit. It's the Oba-san."

One of the young men, filled with unfocused rage and vengeance, approaches an Oba-san who is unknown to him, and murders her in broad daylight. The woman is one of the members of the Midori Society, consisting of six thirtysomething women who all share the same last name and the same fate as unmarried, undesirable, purposeless and unfulfilled women who are equally as nihilistic and amoral as the young men. They learn who the killer is and take their revenge on him, which sets off a war between the two factions that is a cross between a bizarrely funny Looney Tunes cartoon and a mindlessly and increasingly violent B movie.

Despite all of this, I actually enjoyed this novel, which I found to be a biting critique of the nihilism, crassness and commercialization of contemporary Japanese pop culture, one in which its admirers seek instant gratification and bear no concern for the consequences of their behaviors or actions.

155kidzdoc
Jul 21, 2012, 11:34am

>152 rebeccanyc: Thanks, Rebecca. I'm surprised to say that I hadn't heard of Beyond Katrina before I discovered it at City Lights last month.

>153 labfs39: Thanks, Lisa. The devastation to the Mississippi Gulf Coast has been largely overlooked, but thanks to this book and Salvage the Bones, the Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Jesmyn Ward, the reading public now has a chance to learn about it. Beyond Katrina contains far more prose than poetry, and the poems in the book are found mainly at the end of chapters, or in a separate one, which is where the poem I quoted came from.

156janeajones
Jul 21, 2012, 2:48pm

Great review of Beyond Katrina, Darryl -- I'll definitely have to get this one.

157rebeccanyc
Jul 21, 2012, 3:30pm

Interesting review of the Ryu Murakami, but it doesn't make me want to read any more of them!

158kidzdoc
Jul 21, 2012, 5:46pm

>156 janeajones: Thanks, Jane. I'd highly recommend it and Native Guard, her poetry collection that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2007.

>157 rebeccanyc: Thanks, Rebecca. Some people would like Popular Hits of the Showa Era, but I wouldn't expect you to be one of them!

159baswood
Jul 21, 2012, 7:38pm

Enjoyed your excellent review of Beyond Katrina and thanks for providing the information for putting it into perspective.

160StevenTX
Jul 22, 2012, 10:48am

I enjoyed your review of Popular Hits of the Showa Era. This is the only one of Murakami's novels in translation that I don't own. It will stay near the top of my wish list.

161kidzdoc
Editado: Jul 22, 2012, 1:22pm

>159 baswood: Thanks for the kind compliment, Barry.

>160 StevenTX: Thanks, Steven. I read it for lilisin's Author Theme Reads group as you know, and I'll also read Coin Locker Babies and In the Miso Soup by Murakami during this quarter.

162janemarieprice
Jul 23, 2012, 9:55am

Great review of Beyond Katrina. I want to get to it eventually but am taking a little break from Katrina stuff for a while.

163dchaikin
Jul 25, 2012, 8:21pm

Loved your review on Natasha Trethewey on Katrina. Popular Hits of the Showa Era sounds curious.

164kidzdoc
Jul 28, 2012, 4:25am

Thanks Jane and Dan. Her newest collection of poems, Thrall, will be published next month.

165Linda92007
Jul 28, 2012, 8:27am

I appreciated that Amazon has posted a few excerpts from Thrall: Poems. Thanks for providing the link, Darryl. I have not read any of Trethewey's poetry, but I will be looking for it now.

166kidzdoc
Jul 29, 2012, 10:44am

Book #76: Palace Walk by Naguib Mahfouz



My rating:

The first novel in The Cairo Trilogy is set in a Cairene neighborhood in October 1917, just after the death of Husayn Kamal, the Sultan of Egypt. Kamal was chosen three years earlier as the figurehead of the land that was a part the Ottoman Empire but had been ruled by Great Britain since 1882. The previous leader, Abbas II, was deposed by the British at the onset of World War I, once the Ottoman Empire sided with the Central Powers and against Great Britain. Egypt was declared a British protectorate, which ended its semi-independent status and fueled the nationalist movement to expel the unwanted colonizers.

Palace Walk is centered upon al-Sayyid Ahmad Abd al-Jawad, a successful neighborhood shop owner in Cairo. He is a merciless tyrant at home, imposing his unbending will and strict Muslim beliefs on his family, but a beloved and devoted friend to many and a fervent lover of wine, women and song outside of it. The al-Jawad family includes Amina, al-Sayyid's pious and tirelessly devoted second wife, his two daughters, the beautiful and vain Aisha, and the homely but quick witted and razor tongued Khadija, and his three sons, Yasin, a government servant whose prodigious appetite for debauchery exceeds his father's; Fahmy, an idealistic law student and freedom fighter; and Kamal, the youngest of the clan, an irreverent young dreamer who has a nose for getting into trouble but loves everyone in his family passionately and unconditionally.

The al-Jawads and those closest to them each struggle with parallel internal conflicts, in keeping with the struggle of the Egyptian people torn between the protection from the ravages of war by British occupation and the burning desire for independence, between older religious traditions and emerging secular freedoms, and especially between the traditional and modern roles and rights of women in early 20th century Egyptian society. In addition, the three sons of al-Jawad each seem to serve as metaphors for different periods of modern Egyptian history, with Yasin representative of traditional Cairo, Khady of the troubled land during the British protectorate, and Kamal of the bright but uncertain future independent country.

Mahfouz does a masterful job in fully portraying each character, the bustling neighborhood that surrounds Palace Walk, and the deep tension and stifling oppression within the al-Jawad household. Palace Walk is a monumental work, one which is essential to an understanding of the history of modern Egypt, and an outstanding family saga that rivals any other in literature.

167rebeccanyc
Jul 29, 2012, 10:50am

Great review, Darryl!

168edwinbcn
Jul 29, 2012, 10:53am

Wonderful review of The Cairo Trilogy. Thanks.

169kidzdoc
Jul 29, 2012, 11:35am

Book #77: The Bus Driver Who Wanted to Be God and Other Stories by Etgar Keret



My rating:

The first collection of short stories by Israeli writer Etgar Keret published in English starts out brilliantly, with several surreal and fantastic tales that seem to be a witches' brew of the best of Jorge Luis Borges, mixed with a splash of Julio Cortázar and José Donoso. In the title story, a principled but misunderstood bus driver invokes a higher calling to serve one of his passengers, though with an unexpected result. In "Uterus", a young man despairs when his mother's organ, preserved for prosperity in a local museum, is sold and then hijacked by eco-terrorists. And, in "A Souvenir of Hell", a young Uzbek woman works at a convenience store which primarily serves the residents of Hell, who emerge from its mouth for one day of freedom every 100 years. However, the stories in the latter half of the book, particularly the lengthy Kneller's Happy Campers, were very disappointing to this reader. Despite this, I was sufficiently impressed and enthralled with many of Keret's stories, and despite my mediocre rating of The Bus Driver Who Wanted to Be God I will eagerly search for more of his books soon.

170kidzdoc
Editado: Jul 29, 2012, 12:27pm

Thanks, Rebecca and Edwin. I'll start Palace of Desire, the second book in The Cairo Trilogy, within the next week or two.

171baswood
Jul 29, 2012, 7:25pm

What a family you have outlined in Palace Walk. Great review Darryl.

172kidzdoc
Jul 29, 2012, 11:45pm

Thanks, Barry!

173rachbxl
Jul 30, 2012, 3:55am

Enjoyed your review of Palace Walk, probably one of my favourite books ever - you brought it all back. Hope you enjoy the rest.

174Linda92007
Jul 30, 2012, 8:11am

Fabulous review of Palace Walk, Darryl. It's difficult to see everyone enjoying this book so much, with so many great reviews, and not have the time to fit it in yet. But I have finished another of Mahfouz's books, Arabian Nights and Days, and am delinquent in finishing my review. Preview: It was wonderful.

175detailmuse
Jul 30, 2012, 9:44am

Wonderful review, Palace Walk sounds like a fascinating study of family and history. As first in the trilogy, does it feel complete on its own?

I read my first story by Keret in The New Yorker this year and then had to get Suddenly, A Knock on the Door. Your comments are a caution that maybe a little Keret at a time goes a long way.

176dmsteyn
Jul 30, 2012, 1:15pm

I bought The Cairo Trilogy while in Egypt in 2007, but haven't read it yet. It looks very enticing, and your review of the first part was wonderful. Thank you.

177kidzdoc
Jul 31, 2012, 11:06pm

>173 rachbxl: Thanks, Rachel. I'll probably start Palace of Desire tomorrow, and finish The Cairo Trilogy by the end of August.

>174 Linda92007: I'm glad that you enjoyed Arabian Nights and Days, Linda. I almost bought it at City Lights earlier this month, but didn't because I thought I already owned it (which I don't).

>175 detailmuse: Good question, MJ. I would say that Palace Walk stands on its own, but it doesn't feel complete at all. One important event occurs at the end of the book, but the stories of nearly all of the characters, the family as a whole, and the British occupation of Egypt, are unresolved.

>176 dmsteyn: Thanks for that kind compliment, Dewald. I hope that you get to The Cairo Trilogy soon.

178kidzdoc
Editado: Ago 6, 2012, 7:32pm

Book #80: Palace of Desire by Naguib Mahfouz



My rating:

The second novel in The Cairo Trilogy begins in 1926, seven years from where Palace Walk left off. Egypt is no longer a British protectorate, after the passage of the Unilateral Declaration of Egyptian Independence in 1922, but it has not yet won complete freedom from British rule. As a result, the country is in a state of relative calm in comparison to the 1919 revolution, but leaders of different factions, most notably Sa'ad Zaghlul of the Wafd Party, continued to press for independence. Egypt is ruled by its new King, Fuad I, the former Sultan of Egypt during the protectorate period. He and his wealthy supporters are more closely aligned with the British than with the populist Wafd Party, which adds to the nationalists' ever increasing calls for a government led by the people.

Palace of Desire continues the saga of the family of al-Sayyid Ahmad Abd al-Jawad, the Cairene merchant owner. He remains an iron fisted tyrant at home, demanding complete loyalty and strict adherence to the Qur'an by his wife and children, while he continues to enjoy the company of his friends, wine and women outside of it. The main character in this second novel is Kamal, al-Sayyid Ahmad's youngest son, who has matured from a wildly passionate and irreverent youth to become an intense but naïve student who loves philosophy and literature and is a fervent supporter of the Wafd Party. His greatest love, however, is for Aïda, the sister of one of his classmates and his closest confidant, who comes from a wealthy family that is aligned with the King rather than the Wafd Party, spends its summers in Paris, and has turned away from the strict teachings of Islam. Kamal's friends reflect the different middle and upper class segments of Egyptian society, and their political and philosophical discussions portray the different viewpoints held by them.

Meanwhile, Kamal's father and stepbrother Yasin provide comic relief, as the two continue to wallow ever more deeply in the mud of hedonism. Kamal's mother, his sisters and their families occupy a more peripheral role than they did in the first novel. There is also less tension and drama outside of the Abd al-Jawad family, due to the absence of British soldiers and street protests that ended four years earlier.

Palace of Desire isn't nearly as compelling as its predecessor, Palace Walk, but it is still a superb portrait of an ordinary middle class Cairene family and Egyptian society in the mid-1920s, and is highly recommended.

179labfs39
Ago 6, 2012, 11:17am

I'm not going to read your review yet, as I am just finishing Palace Walk, but I'm pleased to see the next book in the trilogy earned 4.5 stars from you. I will probably just keep chugging away in the Everyman's edition to the end. It seems much more like one book in this edition.

180rebeccanyc
Ago 6, 2012, 11:35am

I am really going to have to read the Cairo Trilogy, but I have no idea when. Too many other books on the TBR.

181kidzdoc
Ago 6, 2012, 12:32pm

>179 labfs39: Right, Lisa. I also own the Everyman's Library edition, and it does seem like one very large book (1313 pages of text). Sugar Street is the shortest of the three novels at 331 pages (if my math is correct), which I should be able to finish in a day or two.

>180 rebeccanyc: The final novel in The Cairo Trilogy would have to veer badly off of the tracks for me to give the entire work less than 4 stars. I suspect that the trilogy will end up being one of my top 10 fiction books of the year.

182kidzdoc
Editado: Ago 6, 2012, 6:22pm

As Rebecca mentioned in her thread, there is a new thread in the New York Review Books group for favorite NYRB Classics. I own roughly 50-60 titles and have read about half of them. Here's my top 10 list, in order of preference:

Troubles by J.G. Farrell
The Siege of Krishnapur by J.G. Farrell
Chess Story by Stefan Zweig
The Winners by Julio Cortázar
An African in Greenland by Tété-Michel Kpomassie
The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian by Nirad C. Chaudhuri
A Journey Round My Skull by Frigyes Karinthy
The Adventures and Misadventures of Maqroll by Álvaro Mutis
A Savage War of Peace: Algeria 1954-1962 by Alistair Horne
The Three Christs of Ypsilanti by Milton Rokeach

183kidzdoc
Ago 6, 2012, 7:33pm

>179 labfs39: Lisa, I decided to drop my rating of Palace of Desire from 4-1/2 stars to 4 stars.

184baswood
Ago 6, 2012, 8:00pm

Enjoying your reviews of the Cairo Trilogy, Like rebecca I have no idea when I will get to them.

185labfs39
Ago 7, 2012, 12:50am

#183 Hmm, what precipitated the change? I just started it today and am not very far in.

186kidzdoc
Ago 7, 2012, 6:32am

>184 baswood: Thanks, Barry.

>185 labfs39: I have a tendency to overrate books by 1/2 to 1 star, which I'm trying to overcome. I thought about similar 4-1/2 star novels I've read this year, and realized that Palace of Desire didn't quite reach their level. A more accurate rating would be 4-1/4 stars, still a book I would recommend, but not one I would highly praise.

187Linda92007
Ago 7, 2012, 8:40am

I'm enjoying the lists of NYRB favorites. Thanks, Darryl.

I also have a tendency to rate on the high side, but it's such a subjective process anyway and there is something to be said for consistency as an important factor. I keep thinking that with more practice at reviews, I'll settle into an approach that I can more readily articulate.

188StevenTX
Ago 7, 2012, 9:04am

I seem to have a hard time rating books lower than 3 or higher than 4, but I've been prone to give higher ratings lately for some reason. More than once recently I've rated a book, then written the review, then raised the rating by a half star because the process of reviewing it made me think better of it.

189kidzdoc
Editado: Ago 7, 2012, 1:07pm

>187 Linda92007: You're welcome, Linda.

I continue to struggle to adequately rate books, and I'll occasionally downgrade my rating of books that I had read at least one year previously. For example, I gave Confederacy of Dunces three stars when I read it in 2010, which I realized was at least one star too high after I looked at its LT page yesterday. I'm definitely less influenced by the opinions of others when I rate and review certain books, such as Room, The Finkler Question and The Sense of an Ending, but I'm not completely free of these opinions yet.

>188 StevenTX: I agree, Steven. The act of reviewing a book has caused me to change my initial rating of it more than a few times. It's far easier for me to rate books that I feel strongly about, good or bad; it's the books in the 3-1/2 to 4-1/2 star category that I have the most trouble with.

190rebeccanyc
Ago 7, 2012, 5:26pm

I've never been able to figure out how to rate books, because I read so many very different books and I can't compare their quality to each other or to some abstract standard. Also, I really don't understand how to make sense of other people's ratings, since it seems to me everyone has his or her own rationale.

191Nickelini
Ago 7, 2012, 6:02pm

Also, I really don't understand how to make sense of other people's ratings, since it seems to me everyone has his or her own rationale.

Yes, I agree it can be confusing. I personally rate books in comparrison to other books I've read of the same type, and not all books I've read against each other. For example, I might rate a very enjoyable YA novel 5 stars, but a Booker prize winner only 3.5. It doesn't mean that I think the YA novel is actually better quality than the Booker. I don't think the two should be compared to each other. I compare the Booker to other Booker-type books, and the YA compared to other YA books.

What really confuses me is when someone writes a glowing review but then gives the book 2 stars. THAT I don't get at all, and I see it all the time.

192rebeccanyc
Ago 7, 2012, 6:33pm

That system makes sense, Joyce; it's just, as you point out, I have no way of knowing what any individual reviewer means by the rating and so I'd rather just read the review, especially if it's by someone I "know."

193DieFledermaus
Ago 8, 2012, 4:00am

Excellent review of The Cairo Trilogy so far - makes it sound very tempting. I read Children of the Alley awhile back and liked it but for some reason haven't searched out more Mahfouz. (I think a friend might have just said it was okay.)

I have to agree with steven at #188 - I usually give my books high ratings. I tend to think that 3 stars is "okay" and less than three is "not worth it" but I usually find the things I read worthwhile even if it is just that they are entertaining or you learn something.

194kidzdoc
Ago 8, 2012, 7:45am

>190 rebeccanyc:-192 My rationale is similar to Joyce's. I try to rate books based on similar ones that I've read in a particular genre, and, when appropriate, how successful the author was in meeting his stated goals. I agree with you, Rebecca; the comments made by the reviewer is more important than the rating, as some people whose opinion I greatly respect (e.g. arubabookwoman and TadAD) rate books significantly lower than I and others do.

I compare the Booker to other Booker-type books, and the YA compared to other YA books.

Exactly.

What really confuses me is when someone writes a glowing review but then gives the book 2 stars. THAT I don't get at all, and I see it all the time.

I couldn't agree more! I generally disregard reviews like that those.

>193 DieFledermaus: Thanks, DieF. The Cairo Trilogy has been superb so far, and I'm eager to finish the last book in the trilogy, Sugar Street within the next week.

I agree with you; it's rare that I completely dislike a book or fail to find something of merit from my reading of it.

195kidzdoc
Ago 12, 2012, 8:55am

I finished Swimming Home by Deborah Levy early this morning, which is the third book I've read from this year's Booker Prize longlist. It's probably the shortest book of the Booker Dozen, at 157 pages, but it was a meaty and compelling read, with plenty of food for thought, in keeping with the judges' criteria for this year's longlist. I enjoyed it, as I gave it 4.5 stars, and I'll definitely read it again if it makes the shortlist. I'll submit a review of it, probably on Wednesday or Thursday, after I think about it a bit more.

Here's my longlist ranking so far:

1. Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
2. Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil
3. Swimming Home by Deborah Levy

My next longlisted book will probably be The Yips by Nicola Barker, but I'll read Sugar Street, the last novel in the Cairo Trilogy, first.

196kidzdoc
Ago 12, 2012, 11:30am

Today's Telegraph includes an excellent profile of Nicola Barker, author of The Yips:

Nicola Barker: From cult novelist to Man Booker favourite

197janeajones
Ago 12, 2012, 12:11pm

I try to be fair in rating similar books, but I have to admit, I'm really loath to give more than 4 stars to any book that doesn't have real literary merit. I consider 3 stars a pretty good rating, and 4 is probably the most I would give to a mystery or YA book unless they were really stellar and transcended the genre.

198kidzdoc
Ago 12, 2012, 8:18pm

Interesting comments, Jane. I previously thought of 3 stars as a mediocre rating, but I'm slowly starting to think of it differently. I'm also loath to give a nonliterary genre book more than 4 stars unless it is an exceptional read.

199labfs39
Ago 13, 2012, 1:29am

I think my ratings tend to be a little low, and one reason may be that I rarely give a book five stars unless I've read the book more than once. I want to know that it is as good the second time around and thus has continuing value for me. So if I read a book as a child and then again as an adult, it will often rate high, despite having (perhaps) less literary content as a children's or YA book. The test of time works well for me too, because sometimes when I've just read a book, I'm so in-the-book, that I effuse. Then two weeks later, I've half-forgotten it.

200kidzdoc
Ago 13, 2012, 7:40am

>199 labfs39: I probably give too many books a 5 star rating, on the other hand. In theory I like the idea of re-reading a book before assigning it 5 stars, but I don't think I could do that and make a significant dent in my TBR pile. I will change my rating of a book if my opinion changes about it, whether it's a recent read such as Narcopolis, or one that I've re-read years later, such as A Confederacy of Dunces, which I enjoyed on a first read but strongly disliked the second time around.

201Linda92007
Ago 13, 2012, 8:09am

I'm glad that you are finding worthy reads in this year's Booker longlist, Darryl. I'm more than happy to let you do the screening!

Interesting that your reaction to A Confederacy of Dunces is echoed in the LT review posted by BobNolin - loved it when he first read it but a re-read twenty years later did not hold up at all.

202rebeccanyc
Ago 13, 2012, 9:57am

107-200 Your posts illustrate just why I find it so hard to make sense of star ratings! And you, Jane, Darryl, and Lisa, are three people whose reviews and opinions I value. I'll stick to reviews!

203kidzdoc
Ago 14, 2012, 10:05am

>201 Linda92007: I'm definitely enjoying this year's Booker Prize longlist far more than last year's disastrous pile of (mostly) rubbish. I'm over 100 pages into The Yips; it's wacky as hell, and I'm not sure I could tell you what it's about yet, but I love it so far!

I saw that review of A Confederacy of Dunces over the weekend, and it does coincide with my view of the book.

>202 rebeccanyc: I agree, Rebecca. I think the review itself is far more valuable than the star rating.

204Cariola
Ago 15, 2012, 6:42pm

Now, how did I miss this new thread? Just stopping by to make sure it pops up on my home page. And to say that I finished The Song of Achilles this morning. I didn't expect to like it much, but I ended up devouring it, and it's close to the top of my best books of the year.

205kidzdoc
Ago 16, 2012, 12:23am

I finished The Yips by Nicola Barker late last night, my fourth book from this year's Booker Prize longlist. It was a crazy and dizzying rollercoaster of a ride, but a very enjoyable one. I'll give it 4 stars for now, but I suspect that I'll add an extra ½ star once I think about it a bit more.

Here's my current longlist ranking:

1. Bring Up the Bodies
2. Narcopolis
3. The Yips
4. Swimming Home

All four longlisted books have been very good to excellent, and so far I'm very pleased with the quality of this year's Booker Dozen. I'll read The Teleportation Accident by Ned Beauman this weekend, unless I receive The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng in the mail before then.

206kidzdoc
Ago 16, 2012, 12:24am

>204 Cariola: I'm glad that you enjoyed The Song of Achilles at least as much as I did, Deborah. As you mentioned in your review, I also want to read The Iliad, although it will be a first time read for me.

207kidzdoc
Ago 16, 2012, 11:57am

Book #83: The Devil in Silver by Victor LaValle



My rating:

Pepper is a fortysomething blue collar wise guy from Queens, New York, a big man whose height and girth are exceeded only by his unfiltered mouth, naïveté, and unique ability to make every bad situation much worse. His reverse Midas touch lands him in the psychiatric unit at New Hyde Hospital, after his chivalrous attempt to protect a neighbor causes him to engage in a brawl with three men, who unbeknownst to him are undercover NYC police officers. The cops drop him off at New Hyde, where he is supposed to spend the next 72 hours in observation until his court date.

New Hyde is a financially strapped and decrepit public hospital, and the psych ward, known as Northwest, is even more dilapidated and poorly managed than the separate Med/Surg units. Pepper finds himself surrounded by a colorful group of fellow inmates, who include a benign elderly woman, who serves as his greeter and guide; his African roommate, who is obsessed with contacting any government official, including Mayor Bloomberg or President Obama, that will investigate the inhumane treatment provided to patients on the ward; and a teenage girl, whose razor wit and even sharper tongue hide her deep vulnerability and sensitivity.

Unfortunately there is also one particularly malevolent being that resides there: a hairy man-beast of superhuman strength, who the other patients refer to as 'The Devil'. This creature terrorizes the patients, who believe that he is the cause for the mysterious deaths and disappearances that plague Northwest. Pepper encounters The Devil on his first night there, and barely escapes his deadly grasp.

Pepper's narcissism and bad luck continues to plague him, as his attempts to escape and to demand his rights land him in ever deeper trouble with the medical staff and the other patients. His 72 hour stay is progressively extended, even though most believe that he doesn't belong there. Despite this, he wins the trust of several patients, who enlist him in their fight to overcome The Devil.

LaValle also describes the broken mental health system in NYC, including the notorious death of Esmin Green at King's County Hospital in Brooklyn in 2008, the mistreatment of public citizens by the NYPD, and the sometimes tense race relations in the melting pot that is the Big Apple.

This was a delightful read, and a book which transcends easy classification: Is it a mystery? a horror story? a love story? literary fiction? or African American literature? I'd say yes to all of these descriptions. More importantly, it's a well written page turner of a novel, which I believe would be appreciated by a wide audience.

208Cariola
Ago 16, 2012, 12:07pm

83> That one sounds intriguing--on to the wish list it goes.

209kidzdoc
Ago 16, 2012, 12:37pm

Thanks, Deborah. I own two other books by Victor LaValle, Big Machine and The Ecstatic, but I haven't read either one yet. I'll get to them soon, though.

Jude (jdthloue) from the 75 Books group just informed me that LaValle also published a novella, Lucretia and the Kroons, which is a prequel to The Devil in Silver; Lucretia, or Loochie, is the teenage girl who appears in the novel. It's available as a Kindle Single for 99 cents, so I've just downloaded it, and I'll read it either today or tomorrow, after I finish Silence by Shusaku Endo.

210kidzdoc
Ago 16, 2012, 12:47pm

The nominees for this year's Hurston/Wright Legacy Awards, given to writers from the African diaspora, have been announced:

Fiction:
Crossbones by Nuruddin Farah
Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones
Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi
You Are Free: Stories by Danzy Senna
Salvage the Bones by Jessmyn Ward (winner of the 2011 National Book Award for Fiction)
Zone One by Colson Whitehead

Poetry:
Kingdom Animalia (American Poets Continuum) by Aracelis Girmay
The new black (Wesleyan Poetry Series) by Evie Shockley
Life on Mars: Poems by Tracy K. Smith (winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry)

Nonfiction:
Courage to Dissent: Atlanta and the Long History of the Civil Rights Movement by Tomiko Brown-Nagin
Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America by Melissa V. Harris-Perry
Harlem is Nowhere: A Journey to the Mecca of Black America by Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts (finalist for the 2011 National Book Critics Circle Award in Autobiography, and shortlisted for the 2012 Dolman Best Travel Book Award (UK))
One Day I Will Write About This Place: A Memoir by Binyavanga Wainaina
My Long Trip Home: A Family Memoir by Mark Whitaker

I've only read Salvage the Bones and Harlem Is Nowhere so far. I own Zone One, Life on Mars and One Day I Will Write About This Place. If possible I'd like to read all of these books by the end of the year, or by early 2013 at the latest.

211rebeccanyc
Ago 16, 2012, 3:14pm

The Devil in Silver sounds intriguing, especially, for me, with its New York angle. I've only read Mr. Fox, as I said on your other thread.

212kidzdoc
Ago 16, 2012, 3:23pm

Thanks, Rebecca. The Devil in Silver will be released next Tuesday, 8/21, in both the US and the UK.

213Mr.Durick
Ago 16, 2012, 4:23pm

Lucretia and the Kroons is also available as a Nook Book for 99¢. I'll get it if my internet connection is ever brought back up to speed.

Robert

214baswood
Ago 16, 2012, 4:37pm

A great review of Devil in Silver. My goodness are psychiatric units that bad in New York?

215kidzdoc
Ago 16, 2012, 5:54pm

>213 Mr.Durick: Thanks for mentioning that, Robert. I sometimes forget that there are other e-readers besides the Kindle (and iPad).

>214 baswood: My goodness are psychiatric units that bad in New York?

I don't have any direct knowledge of the hospitals and clinics in NYC. The only reason the Esmin Green case became public was because video was made available to the media, which shared it with the public. I suspect that it would have been swept under the rug had there not been such evidence, and I believe that there are far more cases of abuse and neglect within the public mental health system, in NYC and throughout the US (and in other countries, I would bet).

Most health insurance companies, both public and private, provide very little coverage for mental health in the plans they offer to subscribers. As a result, and because psychiatric inpatient and outpatient care does not involve revenue generating opportunities such as surgeries and well reimbursed emergency care, most of the mental health facilities here (except for the elite centers that specialize in treating wealthy clients such as drug abusing Hollywood types and other spoiled children) operate deeply in the red, with insufficient staffing by underpaid and overworked employees. As I'm sure you can imagine, the most vulnerable and voiceless populations receive the worst care, namely the chronically ill, the poor, and children without wealthy parents.

The children's hospital I work at routinely and inappropriately admits kids who are refused admission to the few inpatient psychiatric facilities in and around Atlanta, either because they have insufficient insurance coverage (whether it's public insurance like Medicaid or PeachCare, Georgia's Children's Health Insurance Program for low income families who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid coverage, or private plans with limited mental health benefits), or because they have chronic medical issues that are difficult to manage in a facility that isn't equipped to do so.

So, although the Devil in The Devil in Silver is a bit of a stretch, the portrayal of Northwest seems like an otherwise accurate one to me.

216Linda92007
Ago 16, 2012, 8:00pm

Great review of The Devil in Silver, Darryl.

I would add to the long list of mostly funding related issues that plague the mental health system, that there is a serious shortage of psychiatrists, and especially child psychiatrists. When I was working, finding providers for our consumers was an issue we struggled with constantly. Apparently it is not a specialty that medical students find attractive. Am I being too cynical to conjecture that the shortage is related to a combination of the difficult nature of the work, its lack of "glamour" and the low reimbursement rates associated with Medicaid? Many states seem to have some version of mental health parity laws, but they do little good if the providers are not available.

217kidzdoc
Editado: Ago 18, 2012, 9:24am

>216 Linda92007: Thanks, Linda.

Am I being too cynical to conjecture that the shortage is related to a combination of the difficult nature of the work, its lack of "glamour" and the low reimbursement rates asociated with Medicaid?

Not at all. Your observation is spot on. There is a shortage of pediatric subspecialists in general, especially child neurologists and psychiatrists, which is even more pronounced outside of major metropolitan areas or smaller cities that have medical schools. In my graduating class of 144 I doubt that more than three or four of my former classmates chose Psychiatry as a career, which was probably the smallest number that chose any major specialty. Conversely we had at least 12-15 future orthopaedic surgeons ($$$), but also 12-15 future pediatricians and nearly as many future family practitioners ($). Psychiatrists who work in public hospitals and/or care primarily for the poor and underserved are probably the poorest paid of all US physicians (1/2 $), and work long hours under stressful and difficult situations, and with a population whose illnesses are generally chronic and incurable.

I enjoyed the first few weeks of my Psychiatry rotation, the first one I completed as a third year medical student, so much so that I thought about choosing it as a career. However, I soon became depressed by the plight of three inpatients who I'll never forget. One was a recent Penn State graduate who began to have psychological problems during his senior year, and was later diagnosed with schizophrenia during my rotation. The second was a teenage girl with borderline personality disorder, which is one of the most difficult psychiatric conditions to treat. The last patient was a middle aged fireman or EMT who was one of the first responders to a horrible passenger airline crash the year before near Pittsburgh International Airport that killed everyone on board; he was suffering from a severe case of PTSD.

Taking care of sick kids in the hospital can occasionally be depressing, but none of them made me as depressed and emotionally drained as those three patients. I admire anyone who takes care of mentally ill patients on a regular basis; I couldn't do it.

218Nickelini
Ago 17, 2012, 12:23am

Interesting conversation ..... another area desperately in need of more practitioners is geriatrics. Aging population and all, but who wants to deal with old people who are at the end of their lives anyway? My 90 yr old father has a wonderful geriatrician--he's from Sri Lanka where I imagine the patient caseload is very, very different.

219kidzdoc
Ago 17, 2012, 12:29am

>218 Nickelini: Good point, Joyce. There is a dearth of geriatricians in the US as well.

220labfs39
Ago 17, 2012, 8:55pm

And obstetricians. Two of my old ob/gyns are now just gyns because of the liability insurance costs. There was a story in the paper about how women in rural parts of WA are having to drive for hours or go without.

221kidzdoc
Ago 18, 2012, 5:27am

>220 labfs39: That's definitely true in the area outside of Atlanta. We also lost our GYN support, as the adult/pediatric gynecologist that was on hospital staff was forced by her malpractice insurance company to stop providing consultative services and inpatient care to Children's patients, unless she was willing to pay a prohibitively high insurance premium.

My planned reads for August (updated 8/18/12):

Jeet Thayil, Narcopolis - completed
Victor LaValle, The Devil in Silver - completed
Victor LaValle, Lucretia and the Kroons - completed
Nikky Finney, Head Off & Split - completed
Christopher Morley, Parnassus on Wheels - completed
Nicola Barker, The Yips - completed
Ned Beauman, The Teleportation Accident
Tan Twan Eng, The Garden of Evening Mists - reading
Deborah Levy, Swimming Home - completed
Naguib Mahfouz, Palace of Desire - completed
Naguib Mahfouz, Sugar Street - completed
Elias Khoury, As Though She Were Sleeping - will read in September
David Grossman, To the End of the Land - will read in September
Edward W. Said, Out of Place - reading
Adonis, Mihyar of Damascus: His Songs - reading
Mahmoud Darwish, In the Presence of Absence
Shusaku Endo, Silence - completed
Ryu Murakami, Coin Locker Babies
Alix Ohlin, Inside
Colm Tóibín, The Empty Family: Stories - reading

222janemarieprice
Ago 18, 2012, 9:14am

207 - Great review and an interesting, although sad, discussion it inspired. I dropped the magazine with the interview of Lavalle in the mail yesterday. A good portion of it centers around his blending of genres. Hope you enjoy it.

223kidzdoc
Ago 18, 2012, 10:12am

Book #88: Silence by Shusaku Endo



My rating:

This brilliant novel, which is widely considered to be Endo's masterpiece, describes the persecution and fate of Japanese Christians and Portuguese Catholic priests in the years during the 17th century Shimabara Rebellion and its aftermath.

First, a little bit of historical background. Christianity in Japan began in the 1540s, soon after Portugal began to trade goods with that country. The first Jesuit missionaries were met with resistance in their first efforts to convert the Japanese to Catholicism, but soon a unique form of Christianity, which combined the teachings of Roman Catholicism and Buddhism, took hold. By the late 1570s there were over 100,000 active Christians in Japan throughout all social strata, primarily in and around the coastal regions of southwestern Japan.

In the late 1580s Toyotomi Hideyoshi assumed power over a newly unified Japan. As part of his effort to control the country, and fearing that the missionaries were a first step toward colonization of Japan by the Portuguese, Hideyoshi, an avowed Buddhist, banned Catholicism and cracked down on the missionaries and the daimyos, the territorial lords who oversaw the sometimes forcible conversion of their people to the Western religion. After Hideyoshi's death Christianity in Japan experienced moderate growth, with intermittent periods of persecution by the shogunate. Following the Great Genna Martyrdom of 1632, Catholicism was officially banned in Japan. In the following year the Tokugawa shogunate began to institute sakoku ("locked country"), a national seclusion policy which forbade foreigners from entering the country or Japanese citizens from leaving it.

In 1637 peasants in Shimbara, located in modern day Nagasaki Prefecture, rebelled against the feudal lord of the region, who taxed them to the point of starvation in order to pay for a new castle that was built in his honor. These peasants, who were mainly Christian villagers, attacked the castle, but were successfully rebelled by forces of the Tokugawa shogunate in 1638. In the aftermath of the Shimabara Rebellion, sakoku was enforced more strictly, and Christians were actively pursued and forced to renounce their religion once they were captured. Most were obligated to step on a fumie, a wooden or stone likeness of Jesus or Mary. Most of those who did so willingly were released, but anyone who refused or hesitated before doing so was brutally tortured and ultimately killed, along with their families. Hundreds of thousands of Japanese Christians and Portuguese missionaries died in this manner during the 17th century.

Silence begins in the Portuguese capital of Lisbon in 1638, as Father Sebastian Rodrigues and two of his fellow priests seek to travel to Japan. Their beloved teacher, Father Christovao Ferriera, has not been heard from since 1633, after he reportedly committed apostasy by stepping on a fumie in Nagasaki once he was captured and tortured. The Roman Catholic church leadership in Portugal is initially reluctant to grant permission to the priests to travel there, as they are aware of the persecution of Christians in Japan and the refusal of the shogunate to allow any commercial relationship with the Portuguese. Eventually the three are given the blessing of the church, and months later they arrive in the port city of Macao. There they are introduced to Kichijiro, a rather dodgy Japanese resident of the city, who wishes to return to his home country and agrees to accompany two of the priests there. The junk boat lands under cover of darkness near Nagasaki, and the priests make their way to the hills above Nagasaki. There they meet a group of hidden Christians in a nearby village, who are overjoyed to meet a Catholic priest. However, the Christians are soon uncovered by the local samurai, and Father Rodrigues is forced to flee to the surrounding woods, where he is eventually betrayed and captured, in a similar manner to Jesus' betrayal by Judas.

The novel begins as a series of letters by Rodrigues to Portuguese church officials, but then switches to a third person narrative after he is forced to flee. Unlike the Japanese Christians and the missionaries who preceded him, he is not physically tortured, but he is repeatedly encouraged to apostatize in order to save the lives of the captured villagers and his colleague, who was also taken into custody. Rodrigues experiences almost unbearable turmoil and a crisis of faith, as he cannot reconcile how a merciful God can stand by silently while His believers are willing to undergo extreme physical pain and death in support of their beliefs:

I knew well, of course, that the greatest sin against God was despair; but the silence of God was something I could not fathom. 'The Lord preserved the just man when godless folk were perishing all around him. Escape he should when fire came down upon the Cities of the Plain.' Yet now, when the barren land was already emitting smoke while the fruit on the trees was still unripe, surely he should speak but a word for the Christians.

I ran, slipping down the slope. Whenever I slowed down, the ugly thought would come bubbling up into consciousness bringing an awful dread. If I consented to this thought, then my whole past to this very day was washed away in silence.


Rodrigues' psychological torment intensifies, and he is eventually forced by the head samurai Inoue to make a decision: apostatize and betray his religion, in order to spare his life and the remaining villagers who have stepped on the fumie, or refuse, and condemn the villagers and himself to a long and painful death by torture.

Silence is a most fitting title to this fantastic novel, as it can refer to the silence of God while His believers suffer oppression, physical pain and death; the silence of the community while others are being persecuted; and the internal silence experienced by the individual who is forcibly isolated for his beliefs. The novel is ripe for interpretation and serious discussion, by Christians or believers of other faiths, and by those who would stand by idly and in comfort while others are forced to suffer due to poverty, religious belief or minority status. Beyond that, Silence is a very well written and compelling drama, which would be an enjoyable read on a much more superficial level. It is easily the best book I've read by Endo to date, and certainly one of finest 20th century Japanese novels I've ever read.

224kidzdoc
Editado: Ago 18, 2012, 10:51am

Book #89: Lucretia and the Kroons by Victor LaValle



My rating:

This novella, which serves as a prequel to LaValle's latest novel The Devil in Silver, is about Lucretia ("Loochie") Granger, a girl who lives with her mother in an apartment in Queens, NY at the turn of the millenium. Her 12th birthday party was ruined by three mean girls from her school who were unwanted guests invited by Loochie's mother. Her best friend Sunny, a girl who lives in the same building, was undergoing treatment for cancer at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis at that time. Loochie saves a portion of her ice cream birthday cake and plans a private birthday party for herself and Sunny once she returns to Queens two months later. Unfortunately on the day of the party Sunny has apparently been kidnapped by the Kroons, the "neighbors" in a sealed off apartment just above Loochie's home, who are the survivors of a family of crackheads that terrorized the children of the neighborhood in the 1980s and 1990s. Loochie climbs the fire escape to rescue her friend, but she is forced to flee for her own life from the murderous, zombie-like Kroons. She enters a bizarre version of Flushing Meadows Park, the site of the two previous World's Fairs in NYC, through a room in the apartment, while the Kroons are in hot pursuit of her.

This was an interesting horror story, but it isn't essential to a reading of The Devil in Silver, and it wasn't nearly as good as that very enjoyable novel.

225deebee1
Ago 18, 2012, 11:55am

> 223 Fantastic review, darryl! This book is obviously a must-read, but I think I would need to be in a certain mood to be able to get the most out of it. What I've read of his, a short story from the collection The Final Martyrs which is also about the persecution of the Christians, I found too oppressive that it put me off a bit. I'm sure it was only because I was not in the "proper" mood then. It is not a happy subject by any means.

226kidzdoc
Ago 18, 2012, 12:21pm

>225 deebee1: Thanks, deebee! I found Silence to be an intense and thought provoking, but it was also a relatively easy and short read, at just over 200 pages. I also read a short story written by Endo about this same community, but the book I read it in was entitled Stained Glass Elegies. Checking...the story I read was entitled Unzen, and it was about a tourist to the site where thousands of Christians were tortured and killed during the Shimabara Rebellion.

227baswood
Ago 18, 2012, 2:40pm

Excellent review of Silence Darryl and so interesting to compare your review to the one posted by rebecca to see how different readers approach a good piece of literature. Differences of opinion is what makes the reviews on LT so interesting.

228kidzdoc
Ago 19, 2012, 11:24am

>222 janemarieprice: Thanks, Jane!

>227 baswood: Thanks, Barry. I completely agree with you; reading the reviews from those who have different viewpoints about a book is both interesting, particularly for the books that I've read, and instructional, as I'm far more of a novice reader than most people, especially in this group. I've enjoyed participating in selected group or theme reads, which I've done a much better job of this year than in previous ones.

229kidzdoc
Ago 19, 2012, 8:03pm

Today's Poem-A-Day, from the Academy of American Poets:

The Man with the Hoe
by Edwin Markham (1852-1940)

Bowed by the weight of centuries he leans
Upon his hoe and gazes on the ground,
The emptiness of ages in his face,
And on his back the burden of the world.
Who made him dead to rapture and despair,
A thing that grieves not and that never hopes.
Stolid and stunned, a brother to the ox?
Who loosened and let down this brutal jaw?
Whose was the hand that slanted back this brow?
Whose breath blew out the light within this brain?
Is this the Thing the Lord God made and gave
To have dominion over sea and land;
To trace the stars and search the heavens for power;
To feel the passion of Eternity?
Is this the Dream He dreamed who shaped the suns
And marked their ways upon the ancient deep?
Down all the stretch of Hell to its last gulf
There is no shape more terrible than this —
More tongued with censure of the world's blind greed —
More filled with signs and portents for the soul —
More fraught with menace to the universe.
What gulfs between him and the seraphim!
Slave of the wheel of labor, what to him
Are Plato and the swing of Pleiades?
What the long reaches of the peaks of song,
The rift of dawn, the reddening of the rose?
Through this dread shape the suffering ages look;
Time's tragedy is in the aching stoop;
Through this dread shape humanity betrayed,
Plundered, profaned, and disinherited,
Cries protest to the Powers that made the world.
A protest that is also a prophecy.
O masters, lords and rulers in all lands,
Is this the handiwork you give to God,
This monstrous thing distorted and soul-quenched?
How will you ever straighten up this shape;
Touch it again with immortality;
Give back the upward looking and the light;
Rebuild in it the music and the dream,
Make right the immemorial infamies,
Perfidious wrongs, immedicable woes?
O masters, lords and rulers in all lands
How will the Future reckon with this Man?
How answer his brute question in that hour
When whirlwinds of rebellion shake all shores?
How will it be with kingdoms and with kings —
With those who shaped him to the thing he is —
When this dumb Terror shall rise to judge the world.
After the silence of the centuries?

This poem was inspired by the painting L'homme à la houe by Jean-François Millet, and was meant to 'protest the plight of the exploited laborer'.



This poem was first read at a New Year's Eve Party in 1898, to great critical acclaim, which increased after it was published the following year, in The Man with the Hoe and Other Poems.

230kidzdoc
Ago 20, 2012, 12:07am

I just finished The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng, my fifth book from this year's Booker Prize longlist; I'm struggling to find words to describe how much I loved it. For the moment it becomes my favorite longlisted novel, just slightly ahead of Bring Up the Bodies:

1. The Garden of Evening Mists
2. Bring Up the Bodies
3. Narcopolis
4. The Yips
5. Swimming Home

So far all five novels have been superb, and even my last place book would rank higher than all but two of last year's longlisted novels, namely The Sense of an Ending and The Stranger's Child. I'll read The Teleportation Accident by Ned Bauman this coming week, and read the remaining six longlisted books in September.

231baswood
Ago 20, 2012, 12:31pm

Like the poem Darryl and the picture looks like it would make a great front cover for Earth, Emile Zola Now that is a great novel about the hapless life of the nineteenth century French peasantry.

232kidzdoc
Ago 21, 2012, 10:44pm

Thanks, Barry. I'll keep my eye out for Earth.

233kidzdoc
Ago 22, 2012, 10:04pm

Book #90: The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng



My rating:

This story begins on the last day of Teoh Yun Ling's career as a Supreme Court justice in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur in the mid 1980s. Yun Ling has had, by every measure, a remarkable and successful life despite extreme hardship and loss. She was born to privilege, as a member of a wealthy Straits Chinese family, but at the age of 17 she and her older sister Yun Hong were captured by Japanese soldiers and taken to a prison camp hidden within the jungle of the Malayan Peninsula. The prisoners were brutally tortured there, and only one survived at the end of the war: Yun Ling.

After she completes her law studies in England, she returns to Malaysia to practice, serving as a prosecutor for the Malayan government in the trials of captured Japanese Army soldiers. Her sister's death continues to haunt her, and she decides to honor her sister's memory by building a Japanese garden, as Yun Hong loved them dearly. In 1951 she returns to the home of a family friend, Magnus Pretorius, a South African tea planter in Cameron Highlands in the Malayan state of Pahang, whose friend Nakamura Aritomo is a highly regarded gardener—and the former chief gardener to Emperor Hirohito of Japan. Yun Ling struggles to overcome her deep hatred of the Japanese, and works under Aritomo as an apprentice, helping him to rebuild his own garden while learning the craft from him.

However, the tranquil mountainous setting also hosts the Malayan National Liberation Army, a group of communist guerrilla soldiers who are at war with the colonial government during the Malayan Emergency. Colonists such as Pretorius are frequent targets of the guerrillas, subject to robbery, assault and murder, but Yun Ling is also at great risk, as she also prosecuted captured guerrillas after the war trials had concluded, and the communists in the area are aware of her presence there.

As Yun Ling becomes closer to Aritomo, she learns more about the hidden roles he assumed during the Japanese occupation, as she seeks to discover what happened to the other prisoners in the camp, and to achieve closure and inner peace with herself, her family and with him.

The novel is filled with numerous additional characters, story lines and themes, which delicately intersect and overlap each other. Certain seemingly insignificant events in the early and middle sections of the book become clearer as the book progresses, as Eng masterfully creates a story that requires close attention from the reader, similar to that which is necessary to understand and appreciate the finer aspects of a Japanese garden.

The Garden of Evening Mists is an almost indescribably beautiful, rich and rewarding novel with multiple layers that are expertly weaved into a coherent work of art. Tan Twan Eng deserves to be commended for this astonishing work, which would be a worthy winner of this year's Booker Prize.

234avidmom
Ago 23, 2012, 12:36am

Great review. The Garden of Evening Mists sounds wonderful so I'll add it to my growing wishlist. "Japanese garden" reminded me of when I was a kid and my mother would take me to the Missouri Botanical Gardens in St. Louis to see the gorgeous Japanese garden which has gotten bigger and more gorgeous since I left - the largest in North America covering 14 acres. You might be interested in reading this: http://www.mobot.org/hort/gardens/japanese/intro/

235DieFledermaus
Ago 23, 2012, 1:51am

>210 kidzdoc: - Thanks for posting that list - I was thinking of reading Sister Citizen since it was a recommendation for The New Jim Crow and my library has it as an ebook.

Fantastic reviews of Silence and The Garden of Evening Mists. Glad to hear that your overall impression of the Booker selections for this year is positive.

I was also wondering - since there's been some discussion of New Yorker articles on your thread in the past - if you read the recent article about standardizing medical care which compared it to, uh, The Cheesecake Factory. I thought it was pretty interesting but was wondering if the author may have been a bit overly positive by cherry picking examples.

236deebee1
Ago 23, 2012, 6:11am

Great review of a very worthwhile read. Though it may not be obvious to the outsider, resentment of the Japanese because of atrocities they committed during the war run deep across Southeast Asia, especially among the older generation. The Japanese, to cultivate good will among its neighbors, have adopted the strategy of providing substantial economic and development aid regionally, but these "good acts" have also hushed up discussion and compensation on a longstanding issue that until now they have refused to acknowledge -- the issue of comfort women (institutionalised sex slave system). I don't know if Teoh Yun Ling, or any of the women in the book became one of them, but certainly they would have been witness to brutal acts, and as prosecutor later, Ling would have become even more familiar with the depravities. All I mean to say is just that it is very good to know that stories like this from this region which touch on a raw subject, still sensitive for many individuals and governments, and have so far barely reached Western audiences, are starting to get broader and much-delayed attention. I have this book, too, and will certainly read it soon.

237Linda92007
Ago 23, 2012, 8:17am

Excellent review of The Garden of Evening Mists, Darryl. And thanks also to deebee for the background information. I am very anxious to read this book.

238kidzdoc
Ago 23, 2012, 9:01am

>234 avidmom: Thanks, avidmom. Eng does talk about the origin and structure of Japanese gardens in The Garden of Evening Mists. I was surprised to learn that they derived from the Chinese gardens of antiquity, although the Japanese developed their own style and aesthetic.

>235 DieFledermaus: You're welcome, DieF. I look forward to your review of Sister Citizen, should you decide to read it.

This year's Booker Dozen has been vastly superior to last year's disaster, as four of the five books I've read have been superb.

Thanks for the reminder about that New Yorker article. I subscribe to the magazine, but I haven't been keeping up with it lately. I'll make it a point to read Big Med in the next day or two, and talk about it here.

>236 deebee1: Thanks, deebee. I am aware, at least on a superficial level, of the deep resentment that older generations in SE Asia hold toward the Japanese for not accepting full responsibility for the atrocities they committed in the 1930s and 1940s in China, Malaysia and elsewhere. I read Iris Chang's The Rape of Nanking several years ago, which was eye-opening and horrifying, and I was not surprised that the Japanese army would commit the same atrocities when they invaded Malaysia. And, if I remember correctly, Eng's debut novel The Gift of Rain also described the crimes committed during the Japanese occupation of Malaysia. You're right; several women in the prison camp in The Garden of Evening Mists are forced to become sexual slaves to the Japanese soldiers.

>237 Linda92007: Thanks, Linda. The Garden of Evening Mists will be published in the US on September 4th.

239Cariola
Ago 23, 2012, 9:13am

I'm looking forward to this one--a fine review, Darryl.

240kidzdoc
Ago 23, 2012, 9:26am

Thanks, Deborah!

241baswood
Ago 23, 2012, 6:03pm

The Garden of Evening Mists has gone on my to buy list, excellent review

242kidzdoc
Ago 23, 2012, 8:47pm

Thanks, Barry.

243kidzdoc
Editado: Ago 24, 2012, 10:20am

The speculation for the winner of the upcoming Nobel Prize for Literature has begun, as the UK betting firm Ladbrokes has announced its odds for the award:

Haruki Murakami leads race for Nobel prize for literature

Here are the leading candidates, according to Ladbrokes:

Haruki Murakami 10/1
Mo Yan 12/1
Cees Nooteboom 12/1
Ismail Kadare 14/1
Adonis 14/1
Ko Un 14/1
Dacia Maraini 16/1
Philip Roth 16/1
Cormac McCarthy 16/1
Amos Oz 16/1
Alice Munro 20/1
Enrique Vila-Matas 20/1
Eduardo Mendoza Garriga 20/1
Les Murray 20/1
Ngugi wa Thiong'o 20/1
Chinua Achebe 20/1
Assia Djebar 20/1
Thomas Pynchon 20/1

There are several authors on this list who are unfamiliar to me, particularly Cees Nooteboom, Dacia Maraini, Enrique Vila-Matas and Eduardo Mendoza Garriga. One of my FB friends recently mentioned Cees Nooteboom to me, and I plan to buy his book Roads to Santiago next month. I'll read Mo Yan's novel Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out in the fourth quarter of the year, and I'll continue to read novels by Amos Oz this quarter. Oz would be my choice for this year's prize.

244Cariola
Editado: Ago 23, 2012, 9:38pm

I read a novel by Nooteboom a few years ago and did not really care for it (way, way too dark), and I'm not a big fan of Roth or Munro. I'm only familiar with a handful of others on the list.

Um, is something missing from that last sentence . . . or am I missing something?

245lilisin
Ago 24, 2012, 1:58am

Murakami seems to be the favorite to win every year! And yet, never mine.

246kidzdoc
Ago 24, 2012, 6:25am

>244 Cariola: Um, is something missing from that last sentence . . . or am I missing something?

Do you mean my sentence about Oz being my choice for this year's Nobel Prize? That's correct; I would like to see Amos Oz win this year, although I'd be very happy to see Ngugi win as well. Unfortunately Ngugi hasn't published a novel or other work of fiction since Wizard of the Crow in 2006, so I'm a bit less excited about him this year. Oz has written at least two books since then, his memoir A Tale of Love and Darkness and his short story collection Scenes from Village Life, both of which I loved.

>245 lilisin: Lilisin, do you mean that Murakami is not the author you prefer to win the Nobel Prize? Which author would you choose?

247SassyLassy
Ago 24, 2012, 8:51am

Um, is something missing from that last sentence . . . or am I missing something?

I had the same thought too. It seems to be somewhere between Enrique Vila-Matas and Life and Death are Wearing Me Out which it looks like you will be reading in the fourth quarter.

Impressive list and interesting odds. Glad you posted them. I have been trying to get Life and Death are Wearing Me Out for some time and it is always unavailable. When I saw your post, I checked again and there was one copy, which I ordered, so thanks! Having said all that, and even though Mo Yan is one of my favourite authors, I don't think he has a big enough body of work yet for the Nobel Prize.

I had not heard of Les Murray and looked him up and found this: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/nov/22/les-murray-poet-life-profile

248Cariola
Editado: Ago 24, 2012, 10:04am

247> Yes, that's exactly where I got a bit confused.

249kidzdoc
Ago 24, 2012, 10:31am

>247 SassyLassy: Ah, I see it now. I used an apostrophe mark instead of a quotation mark in creating a hyperlink for Eduardo Mendoza Garriga. It's now fixed; thanks to you & Deborah for pointing this out.

I only have two books by Mo Yan, the novel Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out, which I haven't read yet, and a short memoir, Change (SB-What Was Communism?), which was okay (my review of it is the only one on LT). I know almost nothing about him, so I don't have an opinion about his Nobel chances.

Thanks for the Guardian article about Les Murray. The only reason I've heard of him is that the bookies have given high odds for him to win the Nobel Prize in the past few years.

BTW, these odds are far from fixed, and they will change more rapidly as the prize announcement date nears. In keeping with tradition the date has not yet been made, but the other Nobel awards are being handed out between October 8th and 15th.

250Cariola
Editado: Ago 24, 2012, 1:30pm

The Nooteboom that I read was Lost Paradise. I only gave it two stars (and a not very positive review).

251lilisin
Ago 24, 2012, 3:15pm

It's just that in previous years I've always felt that there were better choices to win over Murakami. This year I haven't read enough of the other authors to be allowed to have an opinion on who should win.

252kidzdoc
Ago 24, 2012, 3:48pm

>250 Cariola: Thanks, Deborah. I won't pick that book up.

>251 lilisin: Right. I don't think Murakami has the body of work that many of the others do, and although I'm a fan of his, I wouldn't put him in the same category as Amos Oz, Ngugi wa Thiong'o or Assia Djebar.
Este tema fue continuado por kidzdoc's Third Assault on Mount TBR in 2012.