Wednesday, 29 November 2017

What's In A Name 2017: The Summary
  click on the image to go to the
   challenge on The Worm Hole

In January I signed up for Charlie’s What’s In A Name 2017 reading challenge hosted on The Worm Hole. Given that I’m reviewing a book every Friday, it was rather easy to complete it although among the six categories there was at least one – an item/items of cutlery – that gave me a bit of a headache. Moreover, I couldn’t help entering three of the books in other reading challenges too, namely in Back to the Classics 2017 and the Epistolary Reading Challenge 2017.

I read and reviewed one book for every category of the challenge, but I made a list of twelve supplementing each of my actual reads with a suggestion for a book from the pen of a recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature who belongs to the opposite sex. I refrained from presenting any of the latter here on Edith’s Miscellany because I already featured a book written by all but one – William Faulkner – of these laureates for the perpetual Read the Nobels challenge.

Admittedly, I wasn’t overly impressed by Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle and Katie Flynn’s No Silver Spoon because both are quite out of my usual line for being a Gothic and a romance novel respectively. I’m no fan of either of these genres. In addition, I like it deeper, more contemplative or controversial. Even 4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster was a bit too mainstream to my taste although I found the basic idea of juxtaposing four alternative biographies of the same man to trace twentieth-century American history really compelling. In retrospect, I definitely preferred the remaining three books, namely the German classic Berlin Alexanderplatz by Alfred Döblin that I long wished to read, the epistolary novel Black Box by Israeli author Amos Oz and – my absolute favourite among the six – the classic Celebration in the Northwest by Ana María Matute from Catalonia.

And here’s my summary List of Twice Six Books including the categories for which I entered them, dates of release and original titles if they aren’t English:
  • A number in numbers:
    Paul Auster: 4 3 2 1 (2017)
    + Nobel Prize in Literature 1938 – Pearl S. Buck: 14 Stories (1961) in the Pocket Books edition of 1963, but if you have a better suggestion...
  • A building:
    Shirley Jackson: We Have Always Lived in the Castle (1962)
    + Nobel Prize in Literature 1949 – William Faulkner: The Mansion (1959)
  • A title which has an ‘X’ somewhere in it:
    Alfred Döblin: Berlin Alexanderplatz (1929), original German title: Berlin Alexanderplatz
    + Nobel Prize in Literature 1991 – Nadine Gordimer: Beethoven Was One-Sixteenth Black (2007)
  • A compass direction:
    Ana María Matute: Celebration in the Northwest (1952), original Spanish title: Fiesta al noroeste
    + Nobel Prize in Literature 1962 – John Steinbeck: East of Eden (1952)
  • An item/items of cutlery:
    Katie Flynn: No Silver Spoon (1999)
    + Nobel Prize in Literature 1932 – John Galsworthy: The Silver Spoon (1926), second book of A Modern Comedy, the sequel of The Forsyte Saga
  • A title in which at least two words share the same first letter – alliteration!
    Amos Oz: Black Box (1986), original Hebrew title: קופסה שחורה
    + Nobel Prize in Literature 1993 – Toni Morrison: Song of Solomon (1977)

Monday, 27 November 2017

Poetry Revisited: Silence Sings by Thomas Sturge Moore

Silence Sings

(from The Vinedresser and Other Poems: 1899)

So faint, no ear is sure it hears,
So faint and far;
So vast that very near appears
My voice, both here and in each star
Unmeasured leagues do bridge between;
Like that which on a face is seen
Where secrets are;
Sweeping, like veils of lofty balm,
Tresses unbound
O'er desert sand, o'er ocean calm,
I am wherever is not sound;
And, goddess of the truthful face,
My beauty doth instil its grace
That joy abound.

Thomas Sturge Moore (1870-1944)
English poet, author and artist

Friday, 24 November 2017

Book Review: The Dragon Painter by Mary McNeil Fenollosa a strictly patriarchal society it can be bad luck bordering on disaster for a man to grow old without a male heir to continue the family tradition, especially when it’s a glorious one. The cultural pressure can be so strong that a man resorts to steps that by modern western standards are rather drastic and strange, if not downright loathsome. Divorce or even murder and following remarriage to father a son with another, younger and presumably more fertile woman like English King Henry VIII is one way, marrying off a daughter and adopting the son-in-law is another. The latter is what the ageing protagonist of The Dragon Painter by Mary McNeil Fenollosa does in Tōkyo of the early twentieth century, when a friend of the family sends a young man from the mountains to him whose exceptional talent and commitment make him worthy to carry on the name of the famous family of painters.

Monday, 20 November 2017

Poetry Revisited: Nebbie – Mist by Ada Negri


(da Fatalità: 1892)

Soffro. – Lontan lontano
Le nebbie sonnolete
Salgono dal tacente

Alto gracciando, i corvi,
Fidati all’ali nere,
Traversan le brughiere

Dell’aere ai morsi crudi
Gli addolorati tronchi
Offron, pregando, i bronchi

Come ho freddo!... Son sola;
Pel grigio ciel sospinto
Un gemito d’estinto

E mi ripete: Vieni,
È buia la vallata.
O triste, o disamata,

Ada Negri (1870-1945)
poetessa e scrittrice italiana


(from Fate: 1892)

I suffer. – Far away
The mists in dreamy train
Rise from the silent plain
                       All gray.

The ravens black and high
The air with croakings fill,
Across the moorland still
                       They fly.

The trees their branches bare
Towards the clouds that drift
Imploringly uplift
                       In prayer.

I shiver! – I’m alone! –
Weighed down by the gray sky,
Floats in the twilight by
                       A moan,

Repeating to me: Come
And leave this gloomy vale,
Unloved one, sad and pale,
                       Oh come!

Ada Negri (1870-1945)
Italian poetess and writer

Authorized Traslation from the Italian
by A. M. von Blomberg.
Small, Maynard & Company, Boston 1904

Friday, 17 November 2017

Book Review: The Pigeon by Patrick Süskind small events that must seem utterly trivial to everyone unconcerned can fundamentally shatter our peace of mind, above all when they break our routine and evoke without warning unpleasant associations that unleash imagination. Who has never been haunted for no good reason at all by horror scenarios of the future emerging from the depths of our souls in most vivid colours and in most frightening detail? In retrospect, we often laugh at ourselves for having allowed them to put us into a state of alarm, occasionally even panic. The protagonist of The Pigeon by Patrick Süskind almost goes crazy when he finds a solitary bird cooing in the corridor in front of the door to his bedsit on an ordinary Friday morning. The bird seems to him the portent of evil and he can’t help seeing through his mind’s eye how the fundaments of his pleasantly eventless and solitary existence crumble and give way to chaos.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Back Reviews Reel: November 2014

There were four Fridays in November 2014 and consequently the archive of the month is filled with four book reviews. For the Books on France 2014 reading challenge and The Great War in Literature special I picked Journey to the End of the Night by Louis-Ferdinand Céline that became a famous classic although it’s a rather bitter satire. My next read was a collection containing The Garden Party and Other Stories by Katherine Mansfield first published in 1922. Then I presented an Austrian historical novel Brother of Sleep by Robert Schneider that was much acclaimed in the early 1990s. And my last review was of a contemporary novel from South Africa penned by one of the few female Nobel Prize laureates in Literature, namely None to Accompany Me by Nadine Gordimer.

Monday, 13 November 2017

Poetry Revisited: Gypsy Songs by Ben Jonson

Gypsy Songs

(from The Gypsies Metamorphosed: 1640)

The faery beam upon you,
The stars to glister on you;
A moon of light
In the noon of night,
Till the fire-drake hath o’ergone you!
The wheel of fortune guide you,
The boy with the bow beside you;
Run ay in the way
Till the bird of day,
And the luckier lot betide you!

To the old, long life and treasure!
To the young all health and pleasure!
To the fair, their face
With eternal grace
And the soul to be loved at leisure!
To the witty, all clear mirrors;
To the foolish, their dark errors;
To the loving sprite,
A secure delight;
To the jealous, his own false terrors!

Ben Jonson (1572-1637)
English playwright, poet, actor, and literary critic

Friday, 10 November 2017

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel our modern western culture we – women and men alike – claim for ourselves the right to be the architects of our individual future… and happiness, but it’s a rather recent achievement even for us. During the greater part of history here too the lives of people were by and large determined by others, notably by fathers, feudal lords, priests, Kings or Queens, and by seldom questioned unwritten rules. Individual happiness mattered very little, romantic love was of no importance in marriage matters. In Mexico of the early twentieth century the protagonist of Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel is supposed to willingly uphold tradition that demands of her as the youngest daughter to put last her own longing for happiness in marriage and to take care of her mother until she dies. Love is stronger than tradition, though, and the girl’s passion for cooking accompanies her on her painful and long way to empowerment.

Monday, 6 November 2017

Poetry Revisited: The Dream by Lola Ridge

The Dream

(from Sun-Up and Other Poems: 1920)

I have a dream
to fill the golden sheath
of a remembered day…
(Air heavy and massed and blue
as the vapor of opium…
fired in sulphurous mist…
quiescent as a gray seal…
and the emerging sun
spurting up gold
over Sydney, smoke-pale, rising out of the bay…)
But the day is an up-turned cup
and its sun a junk of red iron
guttering in sluggish-green water–
where shall I pour my dream?

Lola Ridge (1873-1941)
Irish-American anarchist poet and
editor of avant-garde, feminist, and Marxist publications

Friday, 3 November 2017

Book Review: The Artamonov Business by Maxim Gorky
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It‘s only natural (or it should be) that parents want the best for their children and that they try at least to open up for them as many opportunities for a better future as they can. Depending on the social and economic background, starting a business to provide for generations to come may seem a good idea, but a parent’s dream can all too easily turn into the child’s or grandchild’s nightmare if the nature, interests and ambitions of the founder don’t really correspond with those of the descendants or the business environment changes considerably. Set in Russia during the five decades before the Bolshevik revolution of November 1917, the classical family saga The Artamonov Business by Maxim Gorky shows three generations of factory owners as they rise to wealth producing linen and move step by step towards doom because the younger generation lacks entrepreneurial spirit and flexibility to adapt to the requirements of rapidly changing times.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Epistolary Reading Challenge 2017: The Summary
     Click on the image to go to the
     challenge on Whatever I Think Of

In February I signed up for the Epistolary Reading Challenge 2017 that Jamie Ghione hosted on Whatever I Think Of because it was the month of letters. I made a Longlist of 100 Novels in Letters, but of course, I couldn’t read all of them, nor did I plan to. Nevertheless, in 2017 I read and reviewed here on Edith’s Miscellany and on my BOOKLIKES blog Lagraziana’s Kalliopeion more epistolary fiction than I used to before, namely altogether eight of the 100.

My favourite epistolary novel of the year is Vita Brevis. A Letter to Saint Augustine by Jostein Gaarder, closely followed by So Long a Letter by Mariama Bâ and Black Box by Amos Oz.

And here’s my summary List of Epistolary Reads 2017 in alphabetical order by authors’ family names including dates of release and original titles if they aren’t English: