This month's review list was supposed to be Part Six of Twelve, but as we look back we notice we've only done parts One and Two. Whatever. This is now Part Three.
We'll start with the updated booklist from February, then dissect the ones we finally managed to read, and publish the new updated booklist separately.
A Cloistered War - Maisie Duncan
- A History of Malaysia - Barbara Watson Andaya & Leonard Andaya
- A History of Modern Indonesia - M.C. Ricklefs
- A History of Selangor - J. M. Gullick
A Map of the World - Jane Hamilton A Place Where The Sea Remembers - Sandra Benitez
- A Point of Light - Zhou Mei
- A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
A Tagore Reader - Amiya Chakravarty
- A Will For Freedom - Romen Bose
Abraham's Promise - Philip Jeyaretnam
- Agnes Smedley - J.R. & S.R. MacKinnon
Anthology of Japanese Literature - Donald Keene Art & Fear - David Bayles & Ted Orland
- Asian Labour In The Japanese Wartime Empire - Paul H. Kratoska, Ed.
- Baba Nonnie Goes To War - Ron Mitchell
Bang Bang in Ampang - Norman Cleaveland Believer Book of Writers Talking to Writers - Vendela Vida, Ed.
- Between Two Oceans - Murfett, Miskic, Farrell, & Chiang
- Bird by Bird - Anne Lamott
Buffalo Gals- Ursula K. LeGuin Burglars can't be Choosers - Lawrence Block Busman's Honeymoon - Dorothy Sayers Captives of Shanghai - David H. & Gretchen G. Grover
- Chandranath - Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay
Chinese Blue and White - Ann Frank
- Chinese Customs - Henri Dore
- Clay Walls - Kim Ronyoung
- Daniel Deronda - George Eliot
- Dictionary of the Khazars - Milorad Pavic
Early Views of Indonesia/Pemandangan Indonesia di Masa Lampau - Annabel Teh Gallop Encyclopedia of China - Dorothy Perkins Fantasies of the Six Dynasties - Tsai Chih Chung Faster - James Gleick
- Finnegan's Wake - James Joyce
Fragile Things - Neil Gaiman
- From Pacific War to Merdeka - James Wong Wing On
Fu Lu Shou - Jeffrey Seow Gaudy Night - Dorothy Sayers Golden Boy and Other Stories from Burma - Saw Wai Lwyn Moe
- Golden Gate - Vikram Seth
Glory - Vladimir Nabokov Have His Carcase - Dorothy Sayers
- How I Adore You - Mark Pritchard
How To Write A Damn Good Novel - James N. Frey
- In Pursuit of Mountain Rats - Anthony Short
- In The Grip of a Crisis - Rudy Mosbergen
In the Midst of Death - Lawrence Block
- Kempeitai, Japan's Dreaded Military Police - Raymond Lamont-Brown
- Kempei Tai: The Japanese Secret Service Then And Now - Richard Deacon
- Kim - Rudyard Kipling
- Krait: The Fishing Boat That Went To War - Lynette Ramsay Silver
- Kranji - Romen Bose
- Labour Unrest in Malaya - Tai Yuen
- Lest We Forget - Alice M. Coleman & Joyce E. Williams
- Life As The River Flows - Agnes Khoo
- Living Hell - Goh Chor Boon
- Malay Folk Beliefs - Mohd Taib Osman
- Malaya and Singapore During the Japanese Occupation - Paul H. Kratoska, Ed.
- Malaysia - R. Emerson
- Modern Japan, A Historical Survey - Hane Mikiso
- Mrs. Dalloway - Virginia Woolf
Murder Must Advertise - Dorothy Sayers
- Night Butterfly - Tan Guan Heng
- No Cowardly Past - James Puthucheary
Old Filth - Jane Gardam
- Operation Matador - Ong Chit Chung
- Orlando - Virginia Woolf
Outwitting the Gestapo - Aubrac
- Palli Samaj (The Homecoming) - Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay
- Power Politics - Arundhati Roy
- Prehistory of the Indo-Malayan Archipelago - Peter Bellwood
- Red Star Over Malaya - Cheah Boon Kheng
- Revolt in Paradise - K'tut Tantri
- Rhymes of Li Yu Tsai - Chao Shu Li
Robert van Gulik - Janwillem van de Wetering
- Rosie - Anne Lamott
Rouge of the North - Chang Ai Ling
- Shanghai Refuge, A Memoir of the WWII Jewish Ghetto - Ernest G. Heppner
Shantung Compound - Langdon Gilkey
- Singapore & The Many-Headed Monster - Joe Conceicao
Sisters and Strangers (Women in the Shanghai Cotton Mills) - Honig
- Sisters in the Resistance - Margaret Collins Weitz
- Soldiers Alive - Ishikawa Tatsuzo
Strange Tales of Liao Zhai - Tsai Chih Chung
- Strangers Always A Jewish Family in Wartime Shanghai - Rena Krasno
Strong Poison - Dorothy Sayers
- Taming the Wind of Desire - Carol Laderman
Tao Te Ching - Ursula K. LeGuin That Fellow Kanda - AUPE The Age of Diminished Expectations - Paul Krugman The Areas of My Expertise - John Hodgman The Art of Fiction - John Gardner
- The Art of the Novel - Milan Kundera
The Audacity of Hope - Barack Obama The Bafut Beagles - Gerald Durrell The Beatitudes - Lyn LeJeune The Book of Tea - Okakura Kazuko The Brooklyn Follies - Paul Auster The Burglar In The Library - Lawrence Block The Burglar In The Rye - Lawrence Block The Burglar Who Liked To Quote Kipling - Lawrence Block The Castle of Otranto - Horace Walpole
- The Crippled Tree - Han Suyin
The Death of Woman Wang - Jonathan D. Spence
- The Demon-Haunted World - Carl Sagan
- The Double Tenth Trial - C. Sleeman, S.C. Sillein, Eds.
- The End of the War - Romen Bose
- The Family: They Fuck You Up - Granta
- Malaysia - R. Emerson
- The Gift - Lewis Hyde
The Grand Guignol - Mel Gordon The Life of an Amorous Woman - Saikaku Ihara The Makioka Sisters - Junichiro Tanizaki
- The Malay Archipelago - Alfred Russell Wallace
- The Malayan Union Controversy, 1942-1948 - Albert Lau
The Marquis - A Tale of Syonan-To - E.J.H. Corner
- The Nanking Massacre - Katsuichi Honda
The Nine Tailors - Dorothy Sayers
- The Origins of The Second World War in Asia and the Pacific - Akira Iriye
The Other Side of War - Zainab Salbi, Ed.
- The Pacific War - Ienaga Saburo
- The Plague - Albert Camus
- The Price of Peace - Foong Choon Hon, Ed.
- The Rape of Nanking - Iris Chang
The Sabahan: The Life and Death of Tun Fuad Stephens - P.J. Granville-Edge The Singapore Grip - J.G. Farrell The Sins of the Fathers - Lawrence Block The Situation and The Story - Vivian Gornick
- The Tin Drum - Gunther Grass
- The Unabomber Manifesto - Ted Kaczynski
- The War in Malaya - A.E. Percival
- The Way of All Flesh - Samuel Butler
The World of the Shining Prince - Ivan Morris
- Three Came Home - Agnes Newton Keith
- To The Lighthouse - Virginia Woolf
- Tokyo Rose - Masayo Duus
Totto-chan - Kuroyanagi Tetsuko Travels in Siam - Henri Mouhot Tripmaster Monkey His Fake Book - Maxine Hong Kingston Vietnamese Traditional Water Puppetry - Nguyen Huy Hong
- War & Memory in Malaysia & Singapore - P. Lim Pui Huen, Diana Wong, Eds.
Woman of the Inner Sea - Thomas Kenneally
- Women in the Holocaust - Dalia Ofer, Lenore J. Weitzman, Eds.
Women of China - Bobby Siu
- Women, Outcastes, Peasants & Rebels - Kalpana Bardhan
- Writers' Workshop in a Book - Cheuse and Alvarez
Writing Fiction - A.B. Guthrie, Jr. Writing Past Dark - Bonnie Friedman
- You'll Die in Singapore - Charles McCormac
- Your Memory: A User's Guide - Alan Baddeley
- A Choice of Evils - Meira Chand
- Force 136:Story of A Resistance Fighter in WWII - Tan Chong Tee
- King Rat - James Clavell
- Murder on the Verandah - Eric Lawlor
- No Dram of Mercy - Sybil Kathigasu
- Rehearsal for War - Ban Kah Choon, Yap Hong Kuan
- Singa, Lion of Malaya - Gurchan Singh
- Singapore The Pregnable Fortress - Peter Elphick
- Sinister Twilight - Noel Barber
- Sold For Silver - Janet Lim
- Syonan - My Story (The Japanese Occupation of Singapore) - Mamoru Shinozaki
- The Fall of Shanghai - Noel Barber
- The Jungle is Neutral - F. Spencer Chapman
- The War Of The Running Dogs - Noel Barber
- You'll Never Get Off The Island - Keith Wilson
Out of that enormous number here are the pitiful few we managed to read between the first of February and today:
- A Cloistered War - Maisie Duncan
Recommended? Excellent read for those interested in the Second World War as it played out in the Pacific. Told by a Eurasian boarder at the CHIJ convent in Singapore, it includes details about the author's life after the war as well.
Reread? For research purposes maybe.
- A Map of the World - Jane Hamilton
Recommended? Highly. The subject matter, although deeply disturbing, is not my normal choice of reading fare. The book describes the death of a child (not the protagonist's) and the effect that it has on various people involved. I tend to avoid books about children because they, generally speaking, are just way outside my experience and I don't have any interest in the subject. Plus they tend to be cloying and sentimental, on the whole. And this book is very much about children and mothers and fathers and the like. Nevertheless, the author held my interest for every damned page. A good read, and, as I said before deeply disturbing.
- A Tagore Reader - Amiya Chakravarty
Recommended? This is a very accessible collection of Tagore's essays, short stories, speeches, plays, poems, and extracts from various of his longer works for readers who cannot avail themselves of the original. Although I would have preferred a less eclectic mix, I cannot fault the editor, who has done a noble job throughout. Excellent. I wish there were such a compilation in the original language (which, luckily, I can read).
Reread? Maybe, time permitting.
- Abraham's Promise - Philip Jeyaretnam
Recommended? Given that the author has all kinds of prestigious academic attachments to his name, I was expecting a much better caliber of book. It's hard to feel any sympathy for the protagonist, who comes off as a really unlikable doddering ancient self-obsessed prick, quite frankly. The writer also throws in various characters along the way but leaves them too ill-limned to allow any real understanding of them or their motivations, self-knowledge, influence upon the protagonist. Sadly, the gay theme has been added as an afterthought, rather like an attempt to dress up an overcooked fowl with a heavy sauce.
Reread? No. If I could take back the hours spent on reading it the first time, I'd be happy.
- Buffalo Gals - Ursula K. LeGuin
Recommended? I've always been very fond of LeGuin's writing. This little collection of short stories and poems does not disappoint, although I liked Catwings better.
Reread? Some day, some day.
- Burglars can't be Choosers - Lawrence Block
Borrowed? Yes. Blame the S-person. Retro me, Satanas!
Recommended? Lawrence Block is a find for me, and quite the treat. This is one of his books in which the protagonist is a professional burglar who runs a bookstore on the side. Delightfully witty dialogue and an intriguing mystery with less blood and guts and more smarts. Read it if you're into mysteries, lesbians, smart women, bookstores, or burglars.
Reread? Not really unless I need some tips on clever dialogue.
- Busman's Honeymoon - Dorothy Sayers
Recommended? Highly. Dorothy Sayers is probably one of the best mystery writers that ever lived. The breadth and depth of her knowledge on various arcane subjects (campanology? Yes, campanology!), and Peter Wimsey is, in this particular novel, new-wedded Lord to his bride and Lady, Harriet Vane. Wonderfully unsoppily entertaining.
Reread? Well, yes. But not till some of the other inhabitants of this damned list have met their due.
- Faster - James Gleick
Recommended? Probably not. Although the writer makes an interesting case for his argument of an artificially hastened tempo to modern life, he's really not saying anything most of us don't already know and feel pretty resentful about. But do give it to your country cousins if they're particularly out of touch.
- Gaudy Night - Dorothy Sayers
Recommended? Sayers explores a murder set among the scholars of a women's college and makes some astute observations on the psychological background of a poison-pen who attempts murder. The redoubtable Harriet Vane finds she must call on Lord Peter Wimsey's assistance in solving a mystery, and finds a whole new side of Lord Peter to explore, in addition to mystery and motives therefor.
Reread? Like I said, already, not till my list has shrunken somewhat.
- Have His Carcase - Dorothy Sayers
Recommended? Yes. Sayers is always worth reading. In this particular story, she employs an interesting twist which we all "could have thought of" if only we had.
Reread? Yada yada yada.
- In the Midst of Death - Lawrence Block
Reread? Probably Not.
- Murder Must Advertise - Dorothy Sayers
Recommended? Only to Sayers aficionados who don't care overly much for the lovely Harriet Vane. Sayers worked in advertising in her early years, although the stuff she talks about in this novel belongs to the early days of the industry. This is not one of her best, having become rather dated due to changing ideas about advertising, morality, and murder.
Reread? Probably not.
- Old Filth - Jane Gardam
Borrowed? We're not naming the responsible party. Ever.
Recommended? Highly. Although there's plenty there to annoy anyone who found imperialism and the raj unpalatable, there's also a great deal of charm and insight into the life of Sir Edward Feathers, otherwise known as Old Filth (Failed in London, Try Hongkong).
- Rouge of the North - Chang Ai Ling
Recommended? Highly. I now understand why Ms. Chang commanded such a following once. In this beautiful novel, she brings to life a China now long gone, peopled with colourful characters and language and exposes the mystery of the human heart. Was the butterfly dreaming he was an Emperor, or vice versa? Beautifully written and well worth reading.
Reread? Only ten thousand books to go.
- Strong Poison - Dorothy Sayers
Recommended? This is the first of the Lord Peter Wimsey murder mysteries in which Miss Harriet Vane appears. It's not Sayers' best work, but is still highly readable and enjoyable, and liable to fill one with appreciation for Sayers' skill in creating a romance in a murder mystery without any trace of revoltingly cloying emotion. As always, the dialogue of the Dowager Duchess of Denver is believably witty and highly entertaining. And though many accuse Sayers of having fallen in love with her own character, Lord Peter Wimsey is just the sort of feller to inspire such feelings in most female hearts.
Reread? Probably, for the dialogue, if nothing else.
- Tao Te Ching - Ursula K. LeGuin
Borrowed? Yes. A different, but nevertheless unnameable, maledictor.
Recommended? No. I really wish Western writers would not attempt to explain Eastern spiritualism. Haven't they ever heard the old saw, "That which can be explained is not the X," where X may be replaced with any spirituality of Eastern flavour that one chooses? Perhaps that's just my own prejudice, but I did not find this work particularly enlightening. Especially since Blofeld's definitive translation is probably closer to the original, though not without its detractors. In the event, I read it.
- The Age of Diminished Expectations - Paul Krugman
Recommended? For students of the economic history of the 1990s; economists; historians; and the like. Krugman is an excellent writer and possesses a clarity that is very helpful to one without a PhD in Economics.
- The Burglar In The Library - Lawrence Block
Recommended? Yes. It's good.
Reread? Not likely.
- The Burglar In The Rye - Lawrence Block
Borrowed? I'm not telling.
Recommended? Yes. Block is witty, funny, and his mysteries are well-constructed, with more depth and character(s?) than one expects from this genre.
Reread? Ten thousand, we say.
- The Burglar Who Liked To Quote Kipling - Lawrence Block
Borrowed? She-Who-Must-Remain-Unnamed (But Obeyed).
Recommended? Oh, yes.
Reread? Not likely. Same odds as previous book
- The Grand Guignol - Mel Gordon
Recommended? This is an interesting little book on the history of horror theater. It's pretty niche reading, and not for the weak of stomach. That said, it's fascinating for theater buffs, horror movie fans, and, of course, the sick and twisted.
Reread? Not likely.
- The Makioka Sisters - Junichiro Tanizaki
Recommended? Highly. This is a stately, beautifully written novel of life in pre-War Japan and the fall of a once-powerful family. Tanizaki is an observant writer. The novel flows rather like an Ozu film, slow, graceful, full of symbolism. Sad, yet enjoyable.
Reread? Not likely.
- The Marquis - A Tale of Syonan-To - E.J.H. Corner
Recommended? For scientists, anti-war activists, historians, Japanophiles, and their ilk. Corner was a botanist living in Singapore and Malaya around the time WWII broke out. He was fortunate to encounter several Japanese scientists and the Last Lord of the Tokugawa line who saw their mission as the preservation of scientific records rather than the imposition of Japanese imperialistic ambitions. If science held sway in the world, what could we not hope for? No wonder the superstitious, ignorant, and stupid oppose it.
Reread? For research purposes only, I promise (Bah!).
- The Nine Tailors - Dorothy Sayers
Recommended? This is one of Sayers' best in that it displays her astonishing knowledge of such an arcane subject as campanology (bell-ringing). The prose is rich with description of the foggy, waterlogged lands in which she spent her early life. A great read, for the interested.
Reread? Well, yes, but not till after ten thousand more books have been des-, as it were, patched.
- The Sins of the Fathers - Lawrence Block
Borrowed? From that unnameable person who is my fondestly adored reading and writing partner.
Recommended? Yes and yes again, although the subject is rather disturbing.
Reread? Not likely.
- Vietnamese Traditional Water Puppetry - Nguyen Huy Hong
Recommended? To those interested in the arts, culture, history, drama, Vietnam, puppetry, and the like. Rather technical but a thoroughly enjoyable book. It made me want to fly to Vietnam, gimpy leg and all, just to witness a performance.
Reread? Not likely.
- Woman of the Inner Sea - Thomas Kenneally
Recommended? Kenneally is an excellent writer, of that there is no doubt. This is an interesting, odd novel. For one thing, he obscures the tragedy that befell his protagonist to an incomprehensible extent. Perhaps that's for reasons of pace, but I found it a tad frustrating. Still, it's well worth reading, and richly evocative of Australian culture, history, politics, and the like, as well as the age-old themes of love and loss and pain, universal values.
Reread? Not likely.
- Writing Fiction - A.B. Guthrie, Jr.
Recommended? A good starting point for writers. Concise.
Reread? Regularly, I'm sure.