A Tale for the Time Being is easily one of the best books I read this year. Many great stories tucked into 400 pages, which seems long when you put itA Tale for the Time Being is easily one of the best books I read this year. Many great stories tucked into 400 pages, which seems long when you put it that way, but really is just right. Ozeki is a great writer, and her prose lingers in the mind long after the many moments of reading (like billions and billions of billions of moments) have passed. The stories of the young Japanese girl (Nao) and the Japanese-American novelist (Ruth) start off in their own little universes, but towards the end time and space twist and bend and fold to really bring them together. What I liked most about the novel was that, depending on my mood, I could read for plot (to find out what happened to Nao and her family, to find out more about the old anarchist feminist Buddhist nun Jiko's life, etc.) and I could slow down and really savor the act of reading (act of being a time being that was observing many moments of reading) and think about the numerous philosophical (and often humorous) questions raised by Ozeki. A special mention goes out to Pest(o), which will be my second favorite pet character of all time in literature (second only to Manchee of "Poo, Todd, poo!" fame)....more
**spoiler alert** This is the first book by Ron Rash that I read, and I will certainly read more of his work based on this experience. Rash brings the**spoiler alert** This is the first book by Ron Rash that I read, and I will certainly read more of his work based on this experience. Rash brings the daily existence of mostly poor or down and out people to focus with unsentimental language that is sparse, yet ripe. I liked all the stories here, but perhaps my favorite is The Ascent, in which Jared makes repeated trips to a fallen plane that authorities are still looking for, returning with a ring that his meth addict parents pawn off for drugs and a bike for him. He is no fool; he knows it is only a matter of time before the bike, which had been promised to him for Christmas, will also be pawned off, but he does not protest. He just visits the plane wreck that nobody has managed to find, despite the helicopters circling above. Like in The Ascent, not much happens in most of the stories in this collection; nothing much that is drastic from an outside point of view, that is. Otherwise a lot happens: an owl perches on a large tree, its eye set on the neighbor's girl, and the large tree has to come down to fend it off, and a pawnshop owner has to straighten out his meth addict nephew, and soldier comes home after killing a Japanese soldier in the Philippines, and Lily, the wife of a Lincolnite, has to kill a Mr. Vaughn, a Confederate, to protect her family with one of her knitting needles. The title story, Burning Bright, is especially well crafted, leaving us to wonder if it will ever rain again, and save the forest from the arsonist, and the arsonist from himself.
Recommended for fans of Raymond Carver, Alice Munro, and Tom Drury....more
Lately I have been trying to read more in Turkish. It has brought up some old frustrations. Long sentences, too many metaphors, unnecessary attempts aLately I have been trying to read more in Turkish. It has brought up some old frustrations. Long sentences, too many metaphors, unnecessary attempts at imagery, and the excessive use of ellipses... (Ha!) It is difficult to find (for me, at least) emotionally mature Turkish literature that is not melodramatic, yet enables me to feel something. The two extremes are easy to find, if I can manage the long sentences (I think my Turkish is regressing, so the 64-word-on-average sentences are killing me! But then again, I was always like this, and I find this problematic in all writing, not just Turkish. And no, I do not suffer from attention deficit.)
Mustafa Kutlu manages to be whimsical and profound, not trying too much to do either, and succeeding to do them just right. There are many little stories tucked away in the mere 100 something pages of Uzun Hikaye (Long Story, as in "Oh, it's a long story.") The narrator is the son of a jack-of-all-trades guy, and together they travel from small town to small town (a particular type of small town, a kasaba, strictly defined in Turkey as larger than a village and smaller than a city, with 2,000 to 20,000 residents today, but back then, much smaller) leaving whenever the father stands up to some injustice and is duly exiled or threatened by worse. Uzun Hikaye is a story of childhood, growing up, first love, and a touching relationship between a son and father, but it is, as a whole, the story of every small town or village, every boy growing up, falling in love, and learning to earn a living. It is also the story of the perpetual immigrant, forced to move from town to town in search of work and opportunity that is not stifled by politics and identity issues.
Some things are very nostalgic for those who know this kind of life, but even for me, the big city person that I am. Kids climbing trees to collect fruit (didn't I get a good thrashing from my mom when I climbed the fig tree, notorious for tricking children with its seemingly sturdy, thick branches, only to give in with a hollow crack when you least expect it? and the walnut tree that gave us delicious young walnuts, painting our hands like henna with the green husk of its fruit), kids making bow and arrows from wispy plants (we all wanted to be Indians, because they got the bows and arrows, while cowboys just pretended to have guns in their hands; I suppose in America boys would have plastic guns, but we didn't have that many of those to go around), boys getting in line to watch girls walk by... It is funny how my memories of Istanbul in the late 80s and early 90s is full of this stuff, just give different professions to the adults, make the fruit raggedy and full of worms because the trees grew in apartment building backyards with nobody paying attention to them, the children less innocent with the advent of MTV and Freddy Kruger (how do I even remember this stuff?), and cars... many, many cars.
I find it hilarious that father and son opened a bookstore with the hopes of turning it into a cultural center where the whole town would come to read great books and discuss them, and perhaps more (discuss politics, for example). I suppose not much has changed; Turks still don't read much. (A very small portion of the population reads a lot and the rest, nothing.)
Someone described Kutlu's writing saying that it was "like water," and I agree. There is an ease in his language, a confidence in the greater meaning of words that does not distract from their immediate utility.
My favorite quote: "Emret, emret findik kabuguna gireyim." ("Tell/order me, and I will fit myself into a hazelnut shell.") There is a lot of Turk in that one sentence, from the nut that defines a big part of Anatolia's identity (Turkey is the major exporter of hazelnuts in the world, though fresh hazelnuts is what I highly recommend) to the devotion to the lover, begging her to ask anything of him, anything, and he will do it, no matter how impossible (drama, melodrama, passion... things that we think of as Mediterranean, but actually are even stronger themes in the rest of Anatolia.)
I am not sure if the novella is translated (I attempted to look for English and German versions, but no luck.) There is a film, which is supposed to be different, but good.
Recommended for those who like the films of Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Vizontele (a Turkish film), Hukkle (a Hungarian film), and Waking Ned Devine. ...more
Just My Typo is a great collection of hilarious typos. There is a focus: single-letter/space/punctuation typos. And there is an organization: legal tyJust My Typo is a great collection of hilarious typos. There is a focus: single-letter/space/punctuation typos. And there is an organization: legal typos, religious typos, medical typos, etc. Of course, these can be organized any which way, and one way would appeal more to some than other, but Moir (or should I call him DrommonG Moir?) does a good job of compiling and organizing for my taste. I laughed a lot while reading the book, which was not ideal in the subway, but I really cannot complain. I noticed a few things: a) I laugh more when a bad thing is misspelled so it is harmless (e.g., "Armstrong Used Rugs!" Did he, now? Rugs! You don't say!); b) by far the most frequent misspelling quoted in the book is public --> pubic; c) children are confused about the spelling of cute, and most importantly, think that it is spelled just like cunt (who is teaching children to write that?! tsk tsk tsk...); and d) also common is a confusion between adulthood and adultery (same diff!).
As a molecular biologist and a technical writer, one of my favorite typos quoted in the book has to be the one where a student goes on and on about gnomes (which got me thinking about the genomes of gnomes, which, I assure you, is not easy thinking). This also makes me want to point out that to get the most out of the typos, one does have to know a bit (for example, I got the gnomes-->genomes typo right away, whereas most people might not have, since they might not know what a genome is [they should, of course, but that's a different book.]) So in a way, Just My Typo is also a subtle education about many facets of life.
Recommended for those who enjoy reading about language and grammar, and those who are learning English....more
Tanpinar published this novel (translated as The Time Regulation Institute) in 1961, and the story follows the life andWhat a rollicking crazy story!
Tanpinar published this novel (translated as The Time Regulation Institute) in 1961, and the story follows the life and adventures of a Hayri Irdal, who grew up in the pre-Ataturk Istanbul and lived through the modernization of the new republic. Never at home with modern ideas imposed on him by the likes of Dr. Ramiz (who is obsessed with pscyhoanalysis, and insists on trying to cure Hayri of his maladaptation to life by trying to incite him to dream the correct dream) and Halit Ayarci (the founder of the Insitute), Hayri Irdal is an unforgettable, lovable, bumbling, and often tortured character, who is well aware of the absurdity of the situations around him, but is helpless to change them.
The book starts with Irdal's introduction to why he is compelled to write his memoir. Perhaps this part is the only thing that I did not like in the book, being a bit slow, and annoying because it kept alluding to events that are being promised to be told. Then Hayri starts with the debt his father's father left to his father, a curse which neither man was able to lift, though they tried get-rich schemes and other methods. Having wasted all their money and hopes of building a mosque to pay back their debt (and end this curse!), the only thing they have to show for their adventures in the end is an old, foreign-made grandfather clock, which Hayri's father names Mubarek (which literally means sacred or holy or blessed). Of course, Hayri's aunt (his father's sister) is rich, but she herself lives like she will take all her riches with her to the grave, until one day... And this is when the story really starts picking up. I will not give spoilers here, but needless to say that there is alchemy, ghosts, corpses that wake up on their way to the burial, extended families that enliven and stifle, many absurd cases of slander, a very large diamond, the riches of a long lost treasure, several love affairs between the living and those on the other side, and, of course, "an institute that was founded to find its own purpose." Almost every story contains boundless humor and satire, as Hayri gets squeezed between his Ottoman ways and his modern future, very much like the nation itself. The absurdity reaches a high when the Institute is finally founded simply to help people keep their watches on time. Needless to say, the whole thing is completely useless and in a humorous Kafkaesque manner spins out of control, all the while making Hayri agonize in his lack of belief for the usefulness of the organization that miraculously made him rich and famous. The rise and fall of the Institute completes the modernization of Hayri's adult life, complete with indignant bureaucracy and a fickle, fad-obsessed public.
There are some great passages in the book, some truly genius and hilarious. Perhaps my only complaint was that some parts could have been tighter, perhaps a bit more editing, especially in the beginning and the end, especially considering that the book is rather lengthy.
Recommended for those who like ghost stories, clocks, satire, and humor....more
Ness has done it again. It should not surprise me, but it is still something that brings awe. The writing is brilliant, the characters are bloody goodNess has done it again. It should not surprise me, but it is still something that brings awe. The writing is brilliant, the characters are bloody good, and the plot... Well, if you are going to have issues with the book, you'll most likely have them with the plot.
The story is bleak. It's never happy-go-lucky. The plot is twisted back and forth and back again. Some things become clear as the adventure unravels; some, never do. In the end, it is the journey that counts, for the characters, and perhaps, for the reader. I do warn those who have to have to have to have everything neatly explained by the end of a book, though; you won't get that here. What you'll get is a great adventure, a page-turner, a great coming-of-age story, and three very likable characters, all in their own way.
Recommended for those who like Polish accents, foxes, and Knight Rider (I dunno, the descriptions of the technology somehow made me think of this old TV show!) ...more
Hawthorn & Child follows two London police detectives as they investigate a bunch of cases. They are sitting on a guy who is involved with organizHawthorn & Child follows two London police detectives as they investigate a bunch of cases. They are sitting on a guy who is involved with organized crime. They investigate a drive-by shooting. There is a guy who is receiving threatening emails. There is a nutter who breaks into a house. They talk to witnesses, visit crime scenes, discuss business with their boss. Throughout the novel we see a lot of Hawthorn's life, probably because he has the more interesting one, as he is gay and single. Sometimes, it takes a while to figure out just who is telling what for what reason. Eventually the who and what becomes clearer, not too soon, and not too clear, but the reason is not always revealed. In this regard, the book is certainly brilliant; the reader feels as lost as anyone would walking on to a crime scene and being thrown bits and pieces of random information about what might have happened and who might have been involved. It is also refreshing that the formula does not work here; this is not Law and Order, where the crime is solved within the allocated 45 minutes of airtime. In fact, hardly anything is solved.
Ridgway spends more time in Hawthorn's mind, and so Hawthorn appears to be the main character of the book. He is troubled, maybe depressed, but not complicated, in that complicated way. He dates, he fucks, and he goes around London with Child. Child, here, is the more experienced, and perhaps better detective. There is a lot that is not described precisely, and a lot of ambiguity. In the end, Hawthorn is a bit of a blur, and Child seems crystal clear despite the fact that the author did not sit the reader down and describe Child's life and personality while leaving Hawthorn in the shadows. Ridgway achieves this effect, partly, in the way he narrates each character, and the little things he chooses to show or leave out about them. Overall, it is very effective, and in a way, the reader sees Hawthorn the way he sees himself, unsure of his future, unsure of what to do, other than this one thing he is doing, policing, and the other, guys.
Recommended for those who need a refreshing, unconventional crime novel....more
A great collection for shorts that are on the longish side. I find it puzzling that some people thought the stories were not collected with a theme inA great collection for shorts that are on the longish side. I find it puzzling that some people thought the stories were not collected with a theme in mind. Really? The stories all deal with characters trying to cope with the Islamic Revolution in Iran, whether it be in the newly strange homeland or in exile (Paris, which was a popular destination for any liberal Iranian who could afford it). The stories depict life after the sharp turn the whole country took, leaving most baffled and confused and scared, and allowing some to enjoy unprecedented power and freedom. Freedom here is used in its most adult meaning, that nobody is truly free, that to be free means to have power, but even those with power are bound by the rules of the game that provide them the power they have, and on and on (one can argue that the liberals, with their Francophilia and their strict connections to the Persian past, were as free or not as the uber-conservative Muslims who came to rule the new country... freedom is just an illusion...)
Taraghi's characters are alive and most of them are on the liberal spectrum, living in a daze and fear after the Revolution. They mourn the thousands of years of superior Persian culture that is so adamantly protected by the new government (taking out or even owning, in some cases, antiques are illegal, etc.) yet utterly undervalued as the remnants of a decadent past that does not fit with the new conservative way of life (though it does, doesn't it?) They mourn having to leave their country for a freer life elsewhere, and inevitably they are poorer and misunderstood in this elsewhere; they go from being highly cultured, well educated, relatively wealthy people to living as immigrants in European countries or the USA. There is plenty of pain and suffering in these pages, but there is also a lot of humor. The stories concerning flights (invariably between Tehran and Paris) are hilarious, as all who live in another country and have to travel back and forth with "their own kind" have experienced the frustration, difficulties, and the hilarity of these kinds of flights.
I am always hesitant to read works in translation, but Sara Khalili does an excellent job in translating the language as well as the feeling in the stories, which makes for a delightful read.
Highly recommended for short story fans, antique smugglers, and international jet setters. ...more
a + e 4EVER is a well told story of two high school genderfreaks. The story has everything from identity politics to punk rock (or from lipstick to PVa + e 4EVER is a well told story of two high school genderfreaks. The story has everything from identity politics to punk rock (or from lipstick to PVC). The illustration style is perhaps too grungy for my aging taste, and requires a bit of getting used to in the beginning. But I cannot really imagine this story illustrated any other way. The sharp edges, the dark corners, the growling faces all fit perfectly. Part coming-of-age, part coming-out-and-staying-in, part music dump, and part high school drama, a + e 4EVER is all that teenage love stories wish they were: edgy, real, smart, funny, and very sexually aware.
Recommended for fans of Potential (Ariel Shrag) and Revolutionary Girl Utena (I know, strange pairing...) Also try Spit and Passion, and Blue is the Warmest Color (though you will find that a + e 4EVER is in a higher league than these two in terms of the real gender/orientation issues and sexuality content)....more
The best book I have read in a long while. Perhaps a bit too melancholic at times, what Wolf does with language and story arc is mesmerizing. I don;tThe best book I have read in a long while. Perhaps a bit too melancholic at times, what Wolf does with language and story arc is mesmerizing. I don;t need to say more.
To some, the way it is written may be inaccessible. This book requires focus, attention, and an understanding that you have to let go of understanding everything right away, that things will be revealed in good time. (That said, I read it during my commute in the subway, so certainly not too hard to understand or read by any means.)
Recommended to those who like to contemplate life, existence, and death....more
It is very hard not to be in awe of a 23-year-old McCullers after reading this book. Drawing from your own childhood and teenage years is one thing, tIt is very hard not to be in awe of a 23-year-old McCullers after reading this book. Drawing from your own childhood and teenage years is one thing, turning that into a deeply sad and absorbing tale that magnifies the all-too-real "problems" of the South is another.
Here, we meet a small town wriggling under the oppressive thumb of poverty and ignorance. There are four visionaries, who will never be that, but visionaries nevertheless. And their deaf and mute confidant. The lack of good communication is striking, where people find it hard to say what they think or believe they have been understood by those who hear them. In this regard, it was a good idea to read this book after Morrison's Beloved.
Beyond the hunger, the poverty, the ignorance and lack of education, beyond the racial lines that haunt every conversation, beyond it all, there is loneliness. This loneliness bleeds every one of the characters, bleeds them in their isolation, their desire to find someone to love/understand/listen, until it blurs their vision so much that when they are listened to, they think they are understood, and when they are hurt they think they are alive....more
I have not read anything by Connie Willis before, so now I am certainly going to read more. I also have not been so sad for having finished a book inI have not read anything by Connie Willis before, so now I am certainly going to read more. I also have not been so sad for having finished a book in a long time. The book is about one man's search for the elusive Bishop's bird stump. Now, if you did not understand the previous sentence, that's alright. The search will continue. And there will be a boat, a dog (who likes to snore, a lot!), three men in a boat (to say nothing of the dog!), Darwin, drownings, many many many different kinds of fish, the river Thames, many many dresses with ruffles, a cat (who likes to eat all kinds of fish), a butler (who likes to read books!), a lady (who likes to talk with the spirits), oh, and, time travel, of course. Waterloo and Napoleon will be discussed often. And the signing of the Magna Carta. And if a single act and a single character can change the course of history, or a single cat. There will be a series of women who resemble other women in the way they talk, walk, demand, and argue. And it will all make one humorous romp of a tangled story that goes from 2057 to 1888 to 1395 to 2018 to 2057 to 1888. And in the middle of it all, one pivotal, hideous bird stump. Oh, and how can I forget, the butler! In fact, two very able butlers. This book made me laugh out loud many times, made me wish I had a butler named Baine or Finch, contemplate owning a dog, wish I could linger in the Victorian times and travel down some river on a boat, and is the reason why I will read Three Man on a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog) by Jerome K. Jerome. ...more
I cannot find my copy!!! I cannot find the zines, either! I am so sad :( I have read most of Urban Hermitt's zines and the bound book, The Flow ChroniI cannot find my copy!!! I cannot find the zines, either! I am so sad :( I have read most of Urban Hermitt's zines and the bound book, The Flow Chronicles, when I was in grad school. The Hermitt is not really a hermit, as her queer+vegan adventures take her many places (from Oregon to Australia) as she meets many different people (crazy dumpster-divers to road-kill-eating environmentalists to skinheads to you-name-it). Sometimes the types of "alternative" politics and lives she describes, whether it be her own or those of the people she meets, were almost unbelievable to me, though I have met similar people with similar lives or have at least met people who would discuss such options (like never buying anything from a store and instead dumpster-diving for food and clothes as a non-consumerist choice). When I read the zines I always thought the language and the style of writing was unlike most zines; the storytelling was impeccable and well-edited, her language crisp, clean, and funny, and her attitude well-balanced with just the right amount of criticism and understanding towards her life choices as well as others'. I remember at some point when I went back to order the next zine (I read them well after she wrote them) I saw the bound book, which was no surprise, considering the quality of her writing and how interesting her stories were. I highly recommend all of Urban Hermitt's writings to those who are curious about radically-yet-not-so-radically different lives that one can lead in the capitalist, consumerist western world, those who like travel narratives, good story-telling, queer politics, and, uhm, interesting culinary alternatives. (Some of the zines as well as The Flow Chronicles are available from Microcosm Publishing, microcosmpublishing.com)...more