a reader

an eudæmonistreading

2019

February

Deborah Levy. The Cost of Living. New York: Bloomsbury, 2018. [20]*
I put this on hold from the library for reasons I don’t quite remember at the moment and usually when that I happens I do not read the book because the moment for the book has passed, but this time I managed to read it and to enjoy the scenes – cinematically driven, choreographed – that reveal on so much of a view on the author’s life (or the life of someone the author presents as herself, because we must take these things on trust sometimes).
Yannis Ritsos. Eighteen Short Songs of the Bitter Motherland. trans. Amy Mims. St. Paul, MN: North Central Publishing, 1974 (1973). [19]*
Poems of protest.
Guy Gavriel Kay. Under Heaven. London: Penguin, 2010. [18.d]*
Reposeful reading.
Guy Gavriel Kay. The Lions of Al-Rassan. New York: Harper Prism, 1995. [17.d]*
Saw this on Twitter through that silly book cover meme and it looked interesting enough to put on hold at the library, forget about, and then when it finally arrives three months later wonder why I put it on hold. It arrived early, however, so I read it and enjoyed it.
Nan Shepherd. The Living Mountain. Edinburgh: Canongate, 2011 (1996, 1977). [16]
With two short chapters to go, I misplaced this book and so when I finally found it again I had rather lost the thread. It is a meditative book and thoughtful about nature – but it feels very distant and far removed.
Jósef Czapski. Lost Time: Lectures on Proust in a Soviet Prison Camp. trans. Eric Karpeles. New York: NYRB, 2018 (1987). [15]
A work of memory as much as a book about Proust’s novel. The hope for meaning and value.
Antonio Moresco. Distant Light. trans. Richard Dixon. New York: Archipelago, 2016 (2013). [14]
An uncomfortable book, like The Wall, but both more and less uncanny. It reminds me of the village of old Khndzoresk, built into the caves east of Goris, an abandoned town covered in vines that still seems strangely populated by its history.
Mariana Dimópulos. All My Goodbyes. trans. Alice Whitmore. San Francisco: Transit Books, 2019 (2010, 2017). [13]
Fragmented and broken, with the pieces not quite fitting together – like the narrator.
Xinru Liu. The Silk Road in World History. Oxford: OUP, 2010. [12.d.2]
For some reason I felt the need to read this again, primarily because I’d forgotten I’d already read it (though it did seem familiar in places). That is perhaps all that needs to be said for it (or see my note from 2013).
Scholastique Mukasonga. The Barefoot Woman. trans. Jordan Stump. New York: Archipelago, 2018 (2008). [11]
One is confronted here by a book of power – a personal reckoning and a historical one. When reading light books, one gives oneself over to the author, suspends disbelief (more or less) and takes the constructed world on its on merits, without limited reference to either the laws of physics or art. To place that same trust in such a tender work is to have one’s world upended – as it should be.
R. F. Kuang. The Poppy Wars. New York: Harper Voyager, 2018. [10.d]*
A novel that tries to do a great many things – school story, coming of age, war novel – and perhaps misplaces some of the details that are essential. Issues of pacing and character mortality. Verisimilitude in a way (death indiscriminate and unexpected), but hard to reconcile with the constraints of form (why have we engaged with these characters if they are to die in an aside?). First part of a trilogy, so perhaps this tension will be resolved/clarified in forthcoming volumes – but that is not something I am likely to find out.

January

Jenny Offill. Dept. of Speculation. New York: Vintage, 2014. [9]
Read it on the airplane returning home from vacation; it soaked up the time readily. It seems to demand those common book-review words – readable, fast-paced, etc. – but they are not quite right. A melancholy novel, the other side of Wedlocked, that offers the appearance of resolution to its characters and readers.
Kelly St. Clare. The Tainted Accords. 4 vols. Self-published, 2015–2018. [8.d]
Beach reading; a study in the expectations of world building – what can be transferred what cannot – and the extent to which this is (un)successful.
Olga Tokarczuk. Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead. trans. Antonia Lloyd-Jones. London: Fitzcarraldo, 2018 (2009). [7]
A peculiar book, not at all what I expected, and yet still satisfactory despite that.
Heather Havrilesky. What If This Were Enough. New York: Doubleday, 2018. [6.d*]
Essays on modern life/cultural criticism. Occasionally odd in their combinations, but at times the peculiarity strengthened the point.
Jess Kidd. Mr. Flood’s Last Resort. New York: Atria Books, 2018. [5.d*]
I kept seeing publisher tweets about Ms Kidd’s forthcoming book Thing in Jars, which sounds rather interesting, so of course I’ve been reading her backlist titles. It is amusing and strange and surprisingly light, like the foam on the sea.
Noémi Lefebvre. Blue Self-Portrait. trans. Sophie Lewis. San Francisco: Transit Books, 2018 (2009, 2017). [4]
I keep forgetting to put the books in the list in the order that I read them. It is curious. This book was odd, frenetic, and more a mood than a narrative. I seem to jumble it up with Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, which it does not in the least resemble.
Andrea Penrose. Wrexford & Sloane Mysteries. 2 vols. New York: Kensington Books, 2017, 2018. [3.d*]
Amusing plane fare.
Penny de Byl. Holistic Game Development with Unity. 3rd ed. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 2019 (2014, 2017). [2.d]
This was something I read for work, but it was interesting enough that I actually found myself reading it as a book, rather than just grooming it politely for publication. Entry-level stuff on a topic I am not particularly interested in, but did change the way I think about computer games, so there’s that.
Annemarie Schwarzenbach. Death in Persia. trans. Lucy Renner Jones. New York: Seagull Books, 2013 (1998, 2012). [1]
Starting the year off with a morose, discontented traveller talking to angels in the mountains of Persia.

(last revised: 17 February 2019)

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