Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Projects for procrastination...

I moved to a new apartment a few weeks ago. I am still unpacking. I've done all the big stuff and now it's just down to the little annoying stuff. I keep coming up with new projects to do to keep me from having to finish unpacking. Like today. While I already have on my blog the original 1001 Books to Read Before You Die, the list was updated again recently (like in March) so all those new books need to be added to the list.

1001 Books to Read Before You Die - 2008/2010 Update*

1. The Elegance of the Hedgehog - Muriel Barbery
2. The Children's Book - AS Byatt
3. Invisible - Paul Auster
4. American Rust - Philipp Meyer
5. Cost - Roxana Robinson
6. The White Tiger - Arayind Adiga
7. Home - Marilynne Robinson
8. Kieron Smith, boy - James Kelman
9. The Gathering - Anne Enright
10. The Blind Side of the Heart - Julia Franck
11. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao - Junot Diaz
12. Animal's People - Indra Sinha
13. Falling Man - Don DeLillo
14. The Reluctant Fundamentalist - Mohsin Hamid
15. Half of a Yellow Sun - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
16. The Kindly Ones - Jonathan Littell
17. The Inheritance of Loss - Kiran Desai
18. Against the Day - Thomas Pynchon
19. Carry Me Down - MJ Hyland
20. Mother's Milk - Edward St. Aubyn
21. Measuring the World - Daniel Kehlmann
22. A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian - Marina Lewycka
23. The Accidental - Ali Smith
24. The Line of Beauty - Alan Hollinghurst
25. 2666 - Roberto Bolano
26. Small Island - Andrea Levy
27. The Book About Blanche and Marie - Per Olov Enquist
28. Suite Francaise - Irene Nemirovsky
29. The Swarm - Frank Schatzing
30. Your Face Tomorrow - Javier Marias
31. A Tale of Love and Darkness - Amos Oz
32. Lady Number Thirteen - Jose Carlos Somoza
33. The Successor - Ismail Kadare
34. Vernon God Little - DBC Pierre
35. The Namesake - Jhumpa Lahiri
36. Snow - Orhan Pamuk
37. Soldiers of Salamis - Javer Cercas
38. I'm Not Scared - Niccolo Ammaniti
39. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay - Michael Chabon
40. Bartleby and Co. - Enrique Vila-Matas

41. The Museum of Unconditional Surrender - Dubravka Urgresic
42. In Search of Klingsor - Jorge Volpi
43. Pavel's Letters - Monika Maron
44. Savage Detectives - Roberto Bolano
45. Dirty Havana Trilogy - Pedro Juan Guitierrez
46. The Heretic - Miguel Deliber
47. Crossfire - Miyabe Miyuki
48. Money to Burn - Ricardo Piglia
49. Margot and the Angels - Kristien Hemmerechts
50. Fall on Your Knees - Ann-Marie MacDonald
51. A Light Comedy - Eduardo Mendoza
52. Santa Evita - Tomas Eloy Martinez
53. The Late-Night News - Petros Markaris
54. Troubling Love - Elena Ferrante
55. Our Lady of Assassins - Fernando Vallejo
56. Deep River - Shusaku Endo
57. Waiting for the Dark, Waiting for the Light - Ivan Klima
58. The Twins - Tessa de Loo
59. The Holder of the World - Bharati Mukherjee
60. Remembering Babylon - David Malouf
61. The Adventures and Misadventures of Magroll - Alvaro Mutis
62. Before Night Falls - Reinaldo Arenas
63. Uncle Petros and Goldbach's Conjecture - Apostolos Doxiadis
64. The Triple Mirror of the Self - Zulfikar Ghose
65. All the Pretty Horses - Cormac McCarthy
66. The Dumas Club - Arturo Perez-Reverte
67. Memoirs of Rain - Sunetra Gupta
68. Astradeni - Eugenia Fakinou
69. Faceless Killers - Henning Mankel
70. The Laws - Connie Palmen
71. The Daughter - Pavlos Matesis
72. The Shadow Lines - Amitay Ghosh
73. The Great Indian Novel - Shashi Tharoor
74. Inland - Gerald Murnane
75. Obabakoak - Bernando Atxaga
76. Gimmick! - Joost Zwagerman
77. Paradise of the Blind - Duong Thu Huong
78. The Last World - Christopher Ransmayr
79. The First Garden - Anne Herbert
80. Kitchen - Banana Yoshimoto
81. Black Box - Amos Oz
82. All Souls - Javier Marias
83. Of Love and Shadows - Isabel Allende
84. The Ballad for Georg Henig - Viktor Paskov
85. Memory of Fire - Eduardo Galeano
86. The Beautiful Mrs. Seidenman - Szczypiorski
87. Ancestral Voices - Etienne van Heerden
88. Annie John - Jamaica Kincaid
89. Simon and the Oakes - Marianne Fredriksson
90. Blood Meridian - Cormac McCarthy
91. Half of Man is Woman - Zhang Xianliang
92. Love Medicine - Louise Erdich
93. The Young Man - Botho Strauss
94. Democracy - Joan Didion
95. Larva: Midsummer Night's Babel - Julien Rios
96. Professor Martin's Departure - Jaan Kross
97. The Witness - Juan Jose Saer
98. Fado Alexandrino - Antoni Lobo Antunes
99. The Christmas Orotorio - Goran Tunstrom
100. Baltasar and Blimunda - Jose Saramago
101. The Book of Disquiet - Fernando Pessoa
102. Couples, Passerby - Botho Strauss
103. The War of the End of the World - Llosa
104. Leaden Wings - Zhang Jie
105. The House with the Blind Glass Windows - Wassmo
106. Smell of Sadness - Kossman
107. Clear Light of Day - Anita Desai
108. Southern Seas - Montalban
109. Fool's Gold - Douka
110. A Dry White Season - Andre Brink
111. So Long a Letter - Mariama Ba
112. The Back Room - Gaite
113. Requiem for a Dream - Selby
114. The Beggar Maid - Alice Munro
115. The Wars - Findley
116. Quartet in Autumn - Barbara Pym
117. The Engineer of Human Souls - Skvorscky
118. Almost Transparent Blue - Rhu Murakami
119. Kiss of the Spiderwoman - Manuel Puig
120. Blaming - Elizabeth Taylor
121. Woman at Point Zero - El Saadawi
122. The Year of the Hare - Paasilinna
123. The Commandment - Jessica Anderson
124. The Port - Solian
125. The Diviners - Margaret Laurence
126. The Dispossessed - Ursula K Le Guin
127. The Optimist's Daughter - Eudora Welty
128. The Twilight Years - Ariyoshi
129. Lives of Girls and Women - Alice Munro
130. Cataract - Osadchyi
131. A World for Julius - Echenique
132. Play It as It Lays - Joan Didian
133. Fifth Business - Robertson Davies
134. Here's to You, Jesusa - Poniatowska
135. Season of Migration to the North - Salih
136. Heartbreak Tango - Manuel Puig
137. Moscow Stations - Erofeyey
138. The Case Worker - Konrad
139. Jacob the Liar - Becker
140. The Cathedral - Honchar
141. Day of the Dolphin - Robert Merle
142. The Manor - Isaac Bashevis Singer
143. Z - Vassilikos
144. Miramar - Mahfouz
145. Marks of Identity - Juan Goytisolo
146. To Each His Own - Sciascia
147. Silence - Shusaku Endo
148. Death and the Dervish - Selimovic
149. Garden, Ashes - Kis
150. Closely Watched Trains - Hrabal
151. Back to Oegstgeest - Wolkers
152. Three Trapped Tigers - Infante
153. Dog Years - Gunter Grass
154. The Third Wedding - Taktsis
155. The Time of the Hero - Llosa
156. The Death of Artemio Cruz - Fuentes
157. Time of Silence - Luis Martin Santos
158. Memoirs of a Peasant Boy - Vilos
159. No One Writes to the Colonel - Marquez
160. The Shipyard - Onetti
161. God's Bits of Wood - Sembene
162. Bebo's Girl - Cassola
163. Halftime - Martin Walser
164. The Magician of Lublin - Isaac Bashevis Singer
165. Down Second Avenue - Mphahlele
166. Deep Rivers - Arguedas
167. The Guide - Naravan
168. Gabriela, Clove, and Cinnamon - Jorge Amada
169. The Birds - Vesaas
170. The Deadbeats - Ruyslinck
171. The Manila Rope - Meri
172. The Glass Bees - Junger
173. The Devil to Pay in the Backlands - Rosa
174. The Tree of Man - Patrick White
175. The Burning Plain - Rulfo
176. The Unknown Soldier - Linna
177. The Sound of Waves - Mishima
178. Death in Rome - Koeppen
179. The Mandarins - de Beauvoir
180. A Day in Spring - Kasmac
181. The Dark Child - Laye
182. The Hothouse - Koeppen
183. The Lost Steps - Alejo Carpentier
184. A Thousand Cranes - Yasunari Kawabata
185. Excellent Women - Barbar Pym
186. The Hive - Camilo Jose Cela
187. Barabbas - Par Lagerkyist
188. The Guiltless - Hermann Broch
189. This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen - Tadeusz Borowski
190. In the Heart of the Sea - Shmuel Yosef Agnon
191. Ashes and Diamonds - Jerzy Andrzejewski
192. Journey to the Alcarria - Camilo jose Cela
193. Froth on the Daydream - Boris Vian
194. Midaq Alley - Naguib Mahfouz
195. A House in the Uplands - Erskine Caldwell
196. Zorba the Greek - Nikos Kazantzakis
197. The Death of Virgil - Hermann Broch
198. Andrea - Carmen Laforet
199. The Tin Flute - Gabriella Roy
200. Bosnian Chronicle - Ivo Andric
201. Pippi Longstocking - Astrid Lindgren
202. Joseph and His Brothers - Thomas Mann
203. Chess Story - Stefan Zweig
204. The Harvesters - Cesare Parvese
205. Broad and Alien is the World - Ciro Alegria
206. The Man Who Loved Children - Christina Stead
207. On the Edge of Reason - Miroslav Krleza
208. Alamut - Vladimir Bartol
209. The Blind Owl - Sadeq Hedayat
210. Ferdydurke - Witold Grombowicz
211. Rickshaw Boy - Lao She
212. War with the Newts - Karel Capek
213. Untouchable - Mulk Raj Anand
214. The Bells of Basel - Louis Aragon
215. On the Heights of Despair - Emil Cioran
216. The Street of Crocodiles - Bruno Schulz
217. Man's Fate - Andre Malraux
218. Cheese - Willem Elsschot
219. Viper's Tangle - Francois Mauriac
220. The Forbidden Realm - JJ Slauerhoff
221. The Return of Philip Latinowicz - Miroslav Krleza
222. Insatiability - Stanislaw Witkiwicz
223. Monica - Saunders Lewis
224. I Thought of Daisy - Edmund Wilson
225. Retreat Without Song - Shahan Shahnour
226. Some Prefer Nettles - Junichiro Tanizaki
227. The Case of Sergeant Grischa - Arnold Zweig
228. Alberta and Jacob - Cora Sandel
229. Under Satan's Sun - Bernanos
230. Chaka the Zulu - Thoms Mofolo
231. The New World - Welde Selasse
232. Kristin Lavransdatter - Sigrid Undset
233. The Forest of the Hanged - Liviu Rebreanu
234. Claudine's House - Colette
235. The Life of Christ - Papini
236. The Storm of Steel - Ernst Junger
237. The Home and the World - Robindranath Tagore
238. Pallieter - Felix Timmermans
239. The Underdogs - Mariano Azuela
240. Platero and I - Juan Ramon Jimenez
241. The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge - Ranier Maria Rilke
242. Solitude - Victor Catala
243. The Way of All Flesh - Samuel Butler
244. Memoirs of My Nervous Illness - Daniel P Schreber
245. The Call of the Wild - Jack London
246. None But the Brave - Arthur Schnitzler
247. Sandokan: The Tigers of Mompracem - Emilio Salgari

248. Eclipse of the Cresent Moon - Geza Gardonyi
249. Dom Casmurro - Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis
250. As a Man Grows Older - Italo Svevo
251. Pharoah - Boleslaw Prus
252. Compassion - Perez Galdos
253. The Viceroys - Frederico de Roberto
254. Down There - Joris-Karl Huysman
255. Thais - Anatole France
256. Eline Vere - Louis Couperus
257. The Child of Pleasure - Gabriele D'Annunzio
258. Under the Yoke - Ivan Vazov
259. The Manors of Ulloa - Emilia Pardo Bazan
260. The Quest - Frederik van Eeden
261. The Regent's Wife - Leopoldo Alas
262. The Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas - Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis
263. Martin Fierro - Jose Hernandez
264. The Crime of Father Amaro - Jose Maria de Eca de Queiros
265. Pepita Jimenez - Juan Valera
266. Indian Summer - Adalbert Stifter
267. Green Henry - Gottfried Keller
268. The Devil's Fool - George Sand
269. Facundo - Domingo Faustino Sarmiento
270. A Hero for Our Times - Mikhail Lermontov
271. Camera Obscura - Hildebrand
272. The Lion of Flanders - Hendrik Conscience
273. Eugene Onegin - Alexander Pushkin
274. The Life of a Good-for-Nothing - Joseph Freiherr von Eichendorff
275. The Life and Opinions of the Tomcat Murr - ETA Hoffman
276. Michael Kohlhaas - Heinrich von Kleist
277. Henry of Ofterdingen - Novalis

278. A Dream of Red Mansions - Cao Xueqin
279. Anton Reiser - Karl Phillip Moritz

280. The Adventurous Simplicissimus - Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen
281. The Conquest of New Spain - Bernal Diaz del Castillo
282. The Travels of Persiles and Sigismunda - Miguel de Cervantes
283. Thomas of Reading - Thomas Deloney
284. Monkey: Journey to the West - Wu Cheng'en
285. The Lusiad - Luis Vaz de Camoes
286. The Life of Lazarillo de Tormes - Anonymous
287. Amadis of Gaul - Garci Rodriguez de Montalvo
288. La Celestina - Fernando de Rojas
289. Tirant lo Blanc - Joanot Martorll and Marti Joan de Galba
290. The Water Margin - Shi Nai'an
291. Romance of the Three Kingdoms - Luo Guanzhong
292. The Tale of the Gengi - Murasaki Shikibu
293. The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter - Anonymous

*This is a list only of the new additions

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Oscar and Lucinda - Peter Carey

oscar and lucinda
peter carey
c. 1988
432 pages
completed 8/24/2010

read for: before i die challenge, 100 greatest novels, 1001 books

*may contain spoilers*

If there was a bishop, my mother would have him to tea.

Oscar Hopkins, a nervous and fidgety clergyman, was born to an English Evangelical minister, but left him to study the Anglican faith. Lucinda Leplastrier, an overtly modern feminist, was an unwitting heiress to a large fortune after her beloved Australian farm was sold off piecemeal by an accountant following the death of her parents mere months before Lucinda came of age. These two oddballs, square pegs living in a world of round holes, were drawn together by a mutual obsession with gambling, a compulsion that would lead to the ultimate wager that, in 1865 Australia, would change the course of their lives forever.

It took me a really long time to get through this book. I have a really frustrating issue with reading. No matter how much I am enjoying the story, the act of reading always makes me sleepy. I have no idea why! Because of this I often have to read in fairly small increments, no more than like 20-25 pages in one sitting. This can really make for slow going. And then, the longer the book is taking, the more frustrated I get. I wish I could figure out some way to not get so sleepy when I read.

To be completely honest, this was kind of a bizarre love story. Every single character, especially Oscar and Lucinda, were complete oddities. I couldn't help but laugh at the situations they would get themselves into, but then it would immediately become clear that they often had no idea how odd they were so while I was still laughing my heart would be breaking. These people were all equal parts hilarious and depressing. Which I guess was mirrored in the whole book itself. Equal parts hilarious and depressing. The best way I can think of to describe the tone of this book is quirky. Like I said, all the characters were total weirdos. This made certain characters, like Ian Wardley-Fish, totally endearing, and at the same time made other characters, like Mr. Jefferies, completely detestable. But it wasn't just the characters that were quirky, but the tone of the writing itself, its descriptions of places and people. For example, my favorite description of anyone in the novel, "Theophilius Hopkins was a moderately famous man. You can look him up in the 1860 Britannica. There are three full columns about his corals and his corallines, his anemones and starfish. It does not have anything very useful about the man. It does not tell you what he was like. You can read it three times over and never guess that he had any particular attitude to Christmas pudding." It was this attitude towards Christmas pudding that led to the rift between Theophilius Hopkins and his son Oscar.

Peter Carey has a very unique voice, though certain aspects of it kept reminding me of a wide variety of specific authors. For example, the quirky names and descriptions of people often made me think of Charles Dickens, whereas the matter-of-fact descriptions of certain body parts, functions, and ailments brought to mind Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Carey also uses a lot of words. I know that's a weird thing to say, but I mean...maybe I'm not sure exactly what I mean. The sentences were complex and the writing was often quite dense. But not in a bad way where it's hard to get past the language and into the story. If anything, I felt the density of the language only contributed to the story. Putting these different elements together lead to, as I said, a very unique voice.

Despite its humor and quirkiness, there are a lot of subjects addressed in this novel, such as 19th century feminism and the loneliness and ostricization (yes, I may have just made up that word) that came with such modern ideas. Lucinda was very much ahead of her time and was constantly thwarted and frustrated in her endeavors because of the limitations of her sex. The novel also focuses a great deal on religion, exploring different denominations of Christianity and the emergence of Darwinism. At least five prominent characters are vicars or ministers of some kind, all with differing views on their faith. Last month I posted a review of The Queen's Lady where I complained a lot about the way the author dealt with the complications of Christianity in Tudor England. I am happy to report that there will be no repetition of those complaints. Instead, I found Carey's examination of Victorian Christianity to be complex, intriguing, ambiguous and respectful. At no point did he try to say that any one idea was totally right or that any one idea was totally wrong. Everything was a valid idea.

Lastly, I should let my sister the librarian know that I will finally admit defeat and agree that "gewgaw" is a real word...albeit a stupid one.


Monday, August 9, 2010

The Summer of the Danes - Ellis Peters

the summer of the danes
ellis peters
c. 1991
245 pages
completed 8/9/2010

read for: brother cadfael chronicles

*may contain spoilers*

The extraordinary events of that summer of 1144 may properly be said to have begun the previous year, in a tangle of threads both ecclesiastic and secular, a net in which any number of diverse people became enmeshed: clerics, from the archbishop down to Bishop Roger de Clinton's lowliest deacon, and the laity from the princes of North Wales down to the humblest cottager in the trefs of Arfon.

Brother Mark, who once was Brother's Cadfael assistant in the abbey's herb garden, has gone on to become a deacon to Bishop Roger de Clinton and has been sent as an envoy to the newly appointed Bishop Gilbert in the North of Wales. Needing an interpreter, his old mentor Cadfael is allowed to accompany him. But what should have been a quick and pleasant foray in Wales quickly turns more deadly Cadfael and Mark find themselves thrust into the middle of warring brother princes and foreign invaders.

I think this has to be my least favorite installment in the Brother Cadfael mysteries simply because there was no mystery. I mean, someone was murdered, but no one really cared too much because of the immediate threat of war. In the last chapter there is a deathbed confession by the murderer, but by that time you'd kind of forgotten who it was that had been murdered so you really didn't care. And Cadfael was really in no way involved. I think I've said it before, but I really like the formulaic nature of the earliest episodes and the ones that stray from that formula aren't nearly as good.

I also had a big problem with the lovers in this edition. In each mystery, there are always two people who are already in love or who fall in love that Cadfael kind of has to help out, and normally they're incredibly endearing and worthy of Cadfael's devotion. Occasionally there have been a few that have taken some time for me to warm up to, but eventually they always win me over. Not this time. Heledd was frosty and malicious towards her father (though I do agree she had some cause for this) and even kind of mean to Brother Mark in the beginning. And I love Brother Mark. There is no need to go out of your way to make him uncomfortable just because you think it's funny.

So to sum up there was no real mystery and an unsatisfactory love story. I did enjoy learning more about Prince Owain of Gwynedd and his family, but that's not enough. Sad.


Sunday, August 8, 2010

Jim the Boy - Tony Early

jim the boy
tony early
c. 2000
256 pages
completed 7/22/2010

read for: tbr challenge

*may contain spoilers*

During the night something like a miracle happened: Jim's age grew an extra digit.

Jim is a boy living in a small town in North Carolina during the Great Depression. During the year he turns ten his life teaches him lessons on friendship, family, and what it means to be a man.

It's been a little while since I finished this book. My head has been in another space the past week since I just moved to a new apartment in Seattle with my sister the literature scholar. So this review is probably going to be a little short. I should have written it closer to when I had finished it.

This was a very quiet little book. Much of it was very sweet and somewhat idyllic: a small boy living with a mother and uncles who love him whose biggest problem seemed to be a competition with another boy from school to see who was better at everything. Things took a bit of a turn at the end and Jim came in contact with some much bigger issues (poverty and polio among other things). For the most part, though, I was reminded of books like Little Women and Little House on the Prairie with simple episodic life lessons.


Monday, August 2, 2010

By the end of August...

I don't really know how but July kind of got away from me. I got through basically nothing. I say this month will be different, but let's be for real. It won't be...

To Be Read by the End of August
Oscar and Lucinda - Peter Carey
Possession - AS Byatt
The Known World - Edward P Jones
On Beauty - Zadie Smith
Cleopatra's Daughter - Michelle Moran

To be read...

The King's General - Daphne du Maurier
The Scarlet Contessa - Jeanne Kalogidis
Purge - Sofi Oksaner
The Secret Confession of Anne Shakespeare - Arliss Ryan
Whiter Than Snow - Sandra Dallas
Mrs. Tim of the Regiment - DE Stevenson
The Mystic Art of Erasing All Signs of Death - Charlie Huston
Finny - Justin Kramon
Nightingale Wood - Stella Gibson
Where's My Wand? - Eric Poole
Empress Orchid - Anchee Min
Talking to Girls About Duran Duran - Rob Sheffield
My Name is Mary Sutter - Robin Oliveira
The Devil Amongst the Lawyers - Sharyn McCrumb
The Amelia Peabody Mysteries - Elizabeth Peters (series)

14 new books and 1 new series. Wow. Not too many added this month...