Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Karl Rove Schlepping His Memoir Around Town

In the February 2008 issue of Vanity Fair, the editor, Graydon Carter, writes about Karl Rove schlepping his memoir around. A couple of exerpts follow:
As I write this, Bush’s “Brain”--a cruel put-down if ever there was one--is making the rounds of book publishers soliciting offers for his forthcoming memoir. “This book,” Rove writes in his proposal, “will be about my work as ‘the architect’ of George W. Bush’s successful campaigns and my role in his consequential--and controversial--Presidency.” You really have to admire the fellow’s positive attitude. It’s as if the captain of the Titanic landed ashore and began soliciting offers for his monograph on water safety...

... Published reports say that the protean efforts of Rove’s agent, the Washington lawyer turned literary envoy Bob Barnett, have mustered only tepid interest in the project ... Curiously, some of the publishers Rove visited found him to be arrogant, deluded, and apparently of the minority opinion that his former boss’s administration has been a thumping success.

Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward: Happy 50th Anniversary!!!

Photo by Mark Rupp

The Oakland Tribune reported today (29-Jan-2008) that Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman were married on this day in 1958.


Ms. Manitoba loves their style, their acting, and their humanity.

If you haven't seen them in Empire Falls ... oh, dear, you're missing something very fine. Highly recommended.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Books: The Updated 2008 Book List

Gee, what a surprise. The list has changed because I started working on the book, and realized I don't really need to read some of these books. Anyway, here's the updated list. Some more items have been moved to 2009.

So here's the list (and stop lending me books, goddammit, you KNOW I can't say No).

  1. A Choice of Evils - Meira Chand
  2. A Cloistered War - Maisie Duncan
  3. A History of Malaysia - Barbara Watson Andaya & Leonard Andaya
  4. A History of Modern Indonesia - M.C. Ricklefs
  5. A History of Selangor - J. M. Gullick
  6. A House in Gross Disorder - Herrup
  7. A Point of Light - Zhou Mei
  8. A Spy's Revenge - Richard V. Hall
  9. A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
  10. A Will For Freedom - Romen Bose
  11. Abraham's Promise - Philip Jeyaretnam
  12. Agnes Smedley - J.R. & S.R. MacKinnon
  13. Anthology of Japanese Literature - Donald Keene
  14. Asian Labour In The Japanese Wartime Empire - Paul H. Kratoska, Ed.
  15. Baba Nonnie Goes To War - Ron Mitchell
  16. Bang Bang in Ampang - Norman Cleaveland
  17. Beating the Blues - Thase & Lang
  18. Believer Book of Writers Talking To Writers - Vendela Vida
  19. Between Two Oceans - Murkett, Miskic, Farrell, & Chiang
  20. Bird by Bird - Anne Lamott
  21. Captains of Consciousness - Stuart Ewen
  22. Captives of Shanghai - David H. & Gretchen G. Grover
  23. Chandranath - Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay
  24. Chinese Blue & White - Ann Frank
  25. Chinese Customs - Henri Dore
  26. Clay Walls - Kim Ronyoung
  27. Colonial Masculinity - Mrinalini Sinha
  28. Daniel Deronda - George Eliot
  29. Dena-Paona - Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay
  30. Devdas - Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay
  31. Early Views of Indonesia/Pemandangan Indonesia di Masa Lampau - Annabel Teh Gallop
  32. Encyclopedia of China - Dorothy Perkins
  33. Extraordinary Popular Delusions - Charles Mackay, Andrew Tobias
  34. Fantasies of the Six Dynasties - Tsai Chih Chung
  35. Folklore of Tamil Nadu - S.M.L. Lakshman Chettiar
  36. Force 136:Story of A Resistance Fighter in WWII - Tan Chong Tee
  37. Fragile Things - Neil Gaiman
  38. From Pacific War to Merdeka - James Wong Wing On
  39. Gaijin - James Clavell
  40. Fu Lu Shou - Jeffery Seow
  41. Glory - Vladimir Nabokov
  42. Golden Boy and Other Stories From Burma - Saw Wai Lwin Moe
  43. Golden Gate - Vikram Seth
  44. Heart Politics - Fran Peavey
  45. How I Adore You - Mark Pritchard
  46. How To Write A Damn Good Novel - James N. Frey
  47. In Pursuit of Mountain Rats - Anthony Short
  48. In The Grip of a Crisis - Rudy Mosbergen
  49. Kempeitai - Raymond Lamont Brown
  50. Kempeitai:The Japanese Secret Service Then And Now - Richard Deacon
  51. King Rat - James Clavell
  52. Krait:The Fishing Boat That Went To War - Lynette Ramsay Silver
  53. Kranji - Romen Bose
  54. Labour Unrest in Malaya - Tai Yuen
  55. Lest We Forget - Alice M. Coleman & Joyce E. Williams
  56. Life As The River Flows - Agnes Khoo
  57. Living Hell - Goh Chor Boon
  58. Malay Folk Beliefs - Mohd Taib Osman
  59. Malaya and Singapore During the Japanese Occupation - Paul H. Kratoska, Ed.
  60. Malaysia - R. Emerson
  61. Modern Japan - Hane Mikiso
  62. Murder on the Verandah - Eric Lawlor
  63. Night Butterfly - Tan Guan Heng
  64. Niskriti - Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay
  65. No Cowardly Past - James Puthucheary
  66. No Dram of Mercy - Sybil Kathigasu
  67. Nonsense - Robert J. Gula
  68. Operation Matador - Ong Chit Chung
  69. Palli Samaj (The Homecoming) - Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay
  70. Pandit Moshai - Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay
  71. Power Politics - Arundhati Roy
  72. Prehistory of the Indo-Malayan Archipelago - Peter Bellwood
  73. Prometheus Rising - Robert Anton Wilson
  74. Reading Lolita In Teheran - Azar Nafisi
  75. Red Star Over Malaya - Cheah Boon Kheng
  76. Rehearsal for War - Ban Kah Choon & Yap Hong Kuan
  77. Revolt in Paradise - K'tut Tantri
  78. Robert van Gulik - JanWillem van de Wetering
  79. Rosie - Anne Lamott
  80. Rouge of the North - Chang Ai Ling
  81. Shanghai Refuge, A Memoir of the WWII Jewish Ghetto - Ernest G. Heppner
  82. Shantung Compound - Langdon Gilkey
  83. Singa, Lion of Malaya - Gurchan Singh
  84. Singapore & The Many-Headed Monster - Joe Conceicao
  85. Singapore The Pregnable Fortress - Peter Elphick
  86. Sinister Twilight - Noel Barber
  87. Sisters in the Resistance - Margaret Collins Weitz
  88. Sold For Silver - Janet Lim
  89. Soldiers Alive - Ishikawa Tatsuzo
  90. Strange Tales of Liao Zhai - Tsai Chih Chung
  91. Strangers Always A Jewish Family in Wartime Shanghai - Rena Krasno
  92. Syonan - My Story (The Japanese Occupation of Singapore) - Mamoru Shinozaki
  93. Taming the Wind of Desire - Carol Laderman
  94. Tao Te Ching - Ursula K. LeGuin
  95. That Fellow Kanda - AUPE
  96. The Age of Diminished Expectations - Paul Krugman
  97. The Areas of My Expertise - John Hodgman
  98. The Art of Fiction - John Gardner
  99. The Art of the Novel - Milan Kundera
  100. The Audacity of Hope - Barak Obama
  101. The Book of Tea - Okakura Kazuko
  102. The Brooklyn Follies - Paul Aster
  103. The Castle of Otranto - Horace Walpole
  104. The Death of Woman Wang - Jonathan D. Spence
  105. The Devil Finds Work - James Baldwin
  106. The Double Tenth Trial - C. Sleeman, S.C. Sillein, Eds.
  107. The End of the War - Romen Bose
  108. The Fall of Shanghai - Noel Barber
  109. The Family:They Fuck You Up - Granta
  110. The Jungle is Neutral - F. Spencer Chapman
  111. The LiteratureSituation & The Story - Vivian Gornick
  112. The Makioka Sisters - Junichiro Tanizaki
  113. The Malay Archipelago - Alfred Russell Wallace
  114. The Malayan Union Controversy, 1942-1948 - Albert Lau
  115. The Marquis - A Tale of Syonan-To - S.J.H. Conner
  116. The Mind's I - Hofstadter & Dennett
  117. The Origins of The Second World War in Asia and the Pacific - Akira Iriye
  118. The Other Side of War - Zainab Salbi
  119. The Pacific War - Ienaga Saburo
  120. The Physics of Star Trek - Lawrence Krauss
  121. The Plague - Albert Camus
  122. The Price of Peace - Foong Choon Hon, Ed.
  123. The Rise & Fall of the Knights Templar - Gordon Napier
  124. The Sabahan: The Life and Death of Tun Fuad Stephens - P.J. Granville-Edge, Rajen Devadason
  125. The Singapore Grip - J.G. Farrell
  126. The Ugly Chinaman - Bo Yang
  127. The Unabomber Manifesto - Ted Kaczynski
  128. The War in Malaya - A.E. Percival
  129. The War Of The Running Dogs - Noel Barber
  130. The Way of All Flesh - Samuel Butler
  131. The World of the Shining Prince - Ivan Morris
  132. Tokyo Rose - Masayo Duus
  133. Three Came Home - Agnes Newton Keith
  134. Totto-Chan - Kuroyanagi Tetsuko
  135. Travels in Siam - Henri Mouhot
  136. Tripmaster Monkey His Fake Book - Maxine Hong Kingston
  137. War & Memory in Malaysia & Singapore - P. Lim Pui Huen, Diana Wong, Eds.
  138. Virtual Reality - Howard Rheingold
  139. Women in the Holocaust - Dalia Ofer, Lenore J. Weitzman, Eds.
  140. Women, Outcastes, Peasants & Rebels - Kalpana Bardhan
  141. Writers' Workshop in a Book - Cheuse and Alvarez
  142. Writing Past Dark - Bonnie Friedman
  143. You'll Die in Singapore - Charles McCormac
  144. Your Memory:A User's Guide - Alan Baddeley
  145. You'll Never Get Off The Island - Keith Wilson
Updated with correct book titles and authors' names. So there.

Remember how I said, "I think I need to read more fiction. Yargh." Well, I put a buttload more fiction on the list now. Happy?

Astute followers of this blog and our real, if pitiful, life will notice that many of these books have been read before. Our excuse is, we need background material for the book, dammit.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Harvey Milk film: update

From yesterday's Leah Garchik column in the San Francisco Chronicle:
And Mark Abrahamson reports that at the Edge, political and cinematic fans are speculating that John Travolta would be right to play Dianne Feinstein* in the movie.

See previous entry about the film.

*Has Diane Feinstein's work in the Senate disappointed me? Nope. I never was a fan of hers. Ms. Manitoba was one of those San Franciscans ... many years ago ... who wore a "Dump Diane" button.

An Excerpt from Nickel and Dimed

An excerpt from Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich:

Friday evening: I’ve been in Minneapolis for just over fifteen hours, driven from the southern suburbs to the northern ones, dropped off a half a dozen apps [job applications], and undergone two face-to-face interviews. Job searches take their toll, even in the case of totally honest applicants, and I am feeling particularly damaged. The personality tests, for example: the truth is I don’t much care if my fellow workers are getting high in the parking lot or even lifting the occasional retail item, and I certainly wouldn’t snitch if I did. Nor do I believe that management rules by divine right or the undiluted force of superior knowledge, as the “surveys” demand you acknowledge. It whittles you down to lie up to fifty times in the space of fifteen minutes or so it takes to do a “survey,” even when there’s a higher moral purpose to serve. Equally draining is the effort to look both perky and compliant at the same time, for half an hour or more at a stretch, because while you need to evince “initiative,” you don’t want to come across as someone who might initiate something like a union organizing drive. Then there is the threat of the drug tests, hanging over me like a fast-approaching SAT. It rankles -- at some deep personal, physical level -- to know that the many engaging qualities I believe I have to offer -- friendliness, reliability, willingness to learn -- can all be trumped by my pee.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Book Recommendation

Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America (Paperback)
by Barbara Ehrenreich

I am thoroughly enjoying this one. It’s a real page turner. Nonfiction page turner. Ehrenreich takes low-paying jobs and describes her experiences and those of her co-workers. It reminds me of so many jobs I had in my late teens and throughout my 20’s. Except in those days you could live with 3 or 4 of your friends and get by on one job. Nowadays you need to be working 2 jobs. Exhausting!

Plus, what I haven’t read in reviews of this book is how funny Ehrenreich is. And humor is a welcome balance to the grimness of many (all?) of her subjects’ lives.
Highly recommended.

Books I want to read but won’t have the time to this year

Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets (Hardcover) by Sudhir Venkatesh

"Gang Leader for a Day is not another voyeuristic look into the supposedly tawdry, disorganized life of the black poor. Venkatesh entered the Chicago gang world at the height of the crack epidemic and what he found was a tightly organized community, held together by friendship and compassion as well as force. I couldn't stop reading, and ended up loving this brave, reckless young scholar, as well as the gang leader J.T., who has to be one of the greatest characters ever to emerge from something that could be called sociological research."
-- Barbara Ehrenreich

"Gang Leader for a Day is an absolutely incredible book. Sudhir Venkatesh's memoir of his years observing life in Chicago's inner city is a book unlike any other I have read, equal parts comedy and tragedy. How is it that a na•ve suburban kid ends up running a crack gang (if only for a day) on his way to becoming one of the world's leading scholars? You have to read it to find out, but heed this warning: don't pick up the book unless you have a few hours to spare because I promise you will not be able to put it down once you start."
--Steven D. Levitt, co-author, Freakonomics

Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and StickYou with the Bill) (Hardcover) by David Cay Johnston
“If you’re concerned about congressional earmarks, stock options (especially backdated options), hedge fund tax breaks, abuse of eminent domain, subsidies to sports teams, K Street lobbyists, the state of our health-care system, to say nothing of the cavernous gap between rich and poor, you’ll read this fine book—as I did—with a growing sense of outrage. Free Lunch makes it clear that it’s high time for ‘We the People’ to stand up and be counted.”
—John C. Bogle, founder and former chairman, The Vanguard Group

“With clarity, conciseness, and cool, fact-saturated analysis, Mr. Johnston, the premier investigative reporter on how industry and commerce shift risks and costs to taxpayers, sends the ultimate message to all Americans—either we demand to have a say or we will continue to pay, pay, and pay.”
—Ralph Nader

The Squandering of America: How the Failure of Our Politics Undermines Our Prosperity (Hardcover) by Robert Kuttner

"If I could assign one book to all the presidential candidates it would be this one. Robert Kuttner, perhaps the most insightful economic commentator in the country, has done it again."
--Barbara Ehrenreich
"The Squandering of America brilliantly explains how we once created a cooperative and equitable prosperity, how that economy was captured by a financial elite, and how to reclaim America's economic and political
--William Greider

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Oakland Scrapbook

Some photos I took around town today ...

Here's a beautiful image (silk screen?) at the corner of 53rd Street and Martin Luther King, Jr. Way in our dear grieving city of Oakland. Wish I knew the artist ... so I could give a credit here. It looks like there's a tag that says BIP GARY. Did I get that right? Well, whoever you are, this image is a beautiful heart-wrenching work! The text says: THE CHILDREN OF OAKLAND NEED JUSTICE

and others

(c) 2008 K Smokey Cormier

Monday, January 14, 2008

Films We Saw This Week

Casa de Los Gatos had a relatively uneventful week of reading, cat-harrassing, and watching films. We'll admit to a terrible weakness for BAD movies - MST3K bad - but we try to keep our hand in, so to speak (in what, we won't say) by occasionally putting a few good ones on our Netflix queue.

So it was that over the past week we saw two that really really impressed. (OK, we saw Invasion of the Giant Spiders too, and that was so bad it sucked black holes in the galaxy.)

Cache (Hidden; 2005; Winner, best director, Cannes Film Festival)

We put this one on the queue because we recently watched The Battle of Algiers, which was brilliant and deeply disturbing but also encouraging: the triumph of the human spirit over small-minded bureaucratic cruelty and the banality of evil. Cache, directed by Michael Haneke, stars Daniel Auteuil and Juliette Binoche, two of my favourite French film stars. Binoche reveals through her luminous portrayal of a middle-aged woman whose husband is hiding some very disturbing secrets her great talent as an actress; while Auteuil is painfully convincing as a man with something ugly in his past that he has successfully ignored for most of his life.

The French colonization of Algeria and the subsequent ill-treatment of the Algerians, both in their native country and as refugees in France, set the stage for a disturbing expose of racism. Maurice Benichou plays Majid, the victim of Auteuil's racism, and France's; and the stunningly gorgeous Walid Afkir plays Majid's son. The ending leaves one hanging, deliberately in order to be more disturbing. We're not going to spoil it for you. Suffice it to say that if you don't watch this one, you've missed out on some incredible filmmaking.

Daibosatsu-toge (Sword of Doom; 1966)

Starring Nakadai Tatsuya as Tetsue Ryonosuke. Special guest star Mifune Toshiro. Those who remember Nakadai as the aged King in Kurosawa's Ran know what a tremendous actor he is.

He does not disappoint. This is one of the best samurai movies ever made. It's a study of a psychopathic personality who edges closer to breakdown with every minute. He sets up the circumstances of his doom, and it finds and devours him. Nakadai is powerful as a man who has abandoned himself to his own internal chaos. Mifune gives his usual scene-stealing performance as a teacher of swordfighting to young samurai.

If you like Japanese film, samurai movies, martial arts, psychological drama, great camera work, this is a film to see. There is a definite Kurosawa feel to the camera work. B/W, beautiful, and disturbing.

Casa de Los Gatos returns to its regular viewing of truly stupid and pathetic movies today. We might just review a good one or two next week. Stay tuned.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Groucho: My daughter is half-Jewish

Was just watching this show on PBS about Groucho Marx. A woman was interviewed and she talked about a conversation she had with Groucho about anti-semitism in Hollywood. He said he once tried to join the Santa Monica Swim Club and they said "No Jews allowed." So he said to them: " Listen, my daughter is half-Jewish -- is it all right if she goes swimming in your pool up to her waist?"

Friday, January 11, 2008

Salman Rushdie: new book in June

Yahoo reports that Salman Rushdie is coming out with a new book in June. And it's set in Florence. I can't wait!!

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Books To Read in 2008 - Ms Manitoba

My dear wonderful friend, PolCat, talked with me in earnest in December of 2006 and convinced me that it would be a good idea to make a list of books that I intend to read in the coming year. I don't have to be rigid about it. Just use it as a guideline and it will help focus my reading. Especially that I'm trying to write a story about a lesbian in the 50's in New York City. So you'll see this list has lots of books about New York City, working class people, lesbians, women, and books about the 40's and 50's. Plus, there are lots of other books mixed in for variety.

Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie

Shame - Salman Rushdie

Prep: A Novel - Curtis Sittenfeld

Missing Men - Joyce Johnson

More Stories by Canadian Women - Edited by Rosemary Sullivan

Queerly Classed: Gay Men and Lesbians Write about Class - Edited by Susan Raffo

The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism - Naomi Klein

Proof a play - David Auburn

A Prayer for Owen Meany - John Irving

Seize the Day - Saul Bellow

Henderson the Rain King - Saul Bellow

The Adventures of Augie March - Saul Bellow

The Dangling Man - Saul Bellow

Longtitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time - Dava Sobel

Race: How Blacks and Whites Think and Feel About the American Obsession - Studs Terkel

Ellis Island Interviews: Immigrants and Their Stories In Their Own Words - Peter Morton Goan

Our Town -Thornton Wilder

All-Night Party: The Women of Bohemian Greenwich Village and Harlem, 1913 - 1930 - Andrea Barnet

Mole People: Life in the Tunnels Beneath New York City - Jennifer Toth

Small Craft Advisory: A Book About the Building of a Boat - Louis D. Rubin, Jr.

New York Panorama: The Best of 1930’s New York, as seen by the Federal Writers’ Project -- Federal Writers’ Project

New York 365 Days - From the Photo Archives of The New York Times

Greenwich Village: Culture and Counterculture - Rick Beard and Leslie Cohen Berlowitz editors

The New York World’s Fair 1939/1940 in 155 Photographs by Richard Wurts and Others - Selection, Arrangement and Text by Stanley Applebaum

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn - Betty Smith

Jazz - Toni Morrison

Call it Sleep -- Henry Roth [re-read]

You Can't Go Home Again - Thomas Wolfe

Underworld - Don Delillo

Manhattan Transfer - John Dos Passo

Fugitive Pieces - Anne Michaels

Irish Writers on Writing - Edited by Eavan Boland

The Poems of Emily Dickinson - Edited by R.W. Franklin

This Year You Write Your Novel - Walter Mosley

Love Poems from God: Twelve Sacred Voices from the East and West - Edited by Daniel Ladinsky

Inside Out: A Memoir of the Blacklist - Walter Bernstein

The Irish Americans: The Immigrant Experience - William D. Griffin

Our Times: The Illustrated History of the 20th Century - Editor in Chief: Lorraine Glennon

This Fabulous Century, Vol. V 1940 to 1950 - Editors of Time-Life Books

This Fabulous Century, Vol. V 1950 to 1960 - Editors of Time-Life Books

New News Out of Africa: Uncovering Africa's Renaissance - Charlayne Hunter-Gault

The Uncertainty of Everyday Life, 1915-1945 - Harvey Green

To Prove My Blood: A Tale of Emigrations & the Afterlife - Philip Brady

The American Irish Revival - edited by Kevin M. Cahill, M.D.

The Portable Beat Reader - edited by Ann Charters

Letters on Literature and Politics 1912 - 1972 - Edmund Wilson; Selected and edited by Elena Wilson

Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang - Joyce Carol Oates

Candyman - Simone Poirier-Bures

The Long Loneliness: The Autobiography of the Legendary Catholic Social Activist - Dorothy Day

Something in the Air - Marc Fisher

The Island at the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan and the Forgotten Colony that Shaped America - Russell Shorto

Consuelo and Alva Vanderbilt: The Story of a Daughter and a Mother in the Gilded Age - Amanda MacKenzie Stuart

On Doing Time - Morton Sobell

Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. - Ron Chernov

Lonesome Rangers: Homeless Minds, Promised Lands, and Fugitive Cultures - John Leonard

Bronx Primitive: Portraits in Childhood - Kate Simon

Beneath the Naked Sun Poetry by Connie Fife

Riding in Cars with Boys - Beverly Donofrio

Story and Structure - Laurence Perrine

Making a Literary Life: Advice for Writers and Other Dreamers - Carolyn See

Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing - Margaret Atwood

The Gangs of New York - Herbert Asbury

Writing New York: A Literary Anthology - edited by Philip Lopate

Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and For Those Who Want to Write Them - Francine Prose

The Fate of Elephants - Doug Chadwick

Stella Adler - The Art of Acting: preface by Marlon Brando compiled and edited by Howard Kissel (Applause Acting Series) (Hardcover)
by Howard Kissel, Stella Adler

The Road Past Altamont - Gabriel Roy

Writing Past Dark: Envy, Fear, Distractions, and Other Dilemmas in the Writer's Life - Bonnie Friedman

James Joyce - Edna O'Brien

The Kalahari Typing School for Men - Alexander McCall Smith

In the Company of Cheerful Ladies - Alexander McCall Smith

The Tears of the Giraffe - Alexander McCall Smith

The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town - John Grisham (nonfiction)

Meena: Heroine of Afghanistan - Melody Ermachild Chavis

Fierce Attachments: A Memoir - Vivian Gornick

American Hollow - Rory Kennedy

The Tree - John Fowles (text) and Frank Horvat (photographs)
Continues my obsession with trees

New York, New York : The City in Art and Literature [Hardcover]
By: Metropolitan Museum Art

Lucky Eyes and a High Heart: The Life of Maud Gonne - Nancy Cardozo

Up in the Old Hotel - Joseph Mitchell

Eamon DeValera - Tim Pat Coogan

Charming Billy - Alice McDermott

Staying Connected to Your Teenager: How to Keep Them Talking to You and How to Hear What They're Really Saying - Michael Riera

Gods and Heroes of the Celts - Marie-Louise Sjoestedt

The Music Lesson - Katharine Weber

The Romance of American Communism - Vivian Gornick

Simple Living - Jose Hobday

Writing a Novel - Dorothy Bryant

The Art of the Novel - Milan Kundera

How to Write a Damn Good Novel - James Frey

The Echo Maker - Richard Powers

The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers

Memoir of a Race Traitor - Mab Segrest

Ireland: A Social, Cultural, and Literary History 1791 - 1891 - James H. Murphy

A Leg to Stand On - Oliver Sachs

R is for Richochet - Sue Grafton

The Burglar on the Prowl - Lawrence Block

Little Scarlet - Walter Mosley

Cinnamon Kiss - Walter Mosley

Like Sound Through Water: A Mother's Journey Through Auditory Processing Disorder - Karen J. Foli

How the Irish Saved Civilization: The Untold Story of Ireland's Heroic Role from the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe - Thomas Cahill

The Botany of Desire - Michael Pollan

Purple Hibiscus - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Your Money or Your Life: Transforming Your Relationship With Money and Achieving Financial Independence - Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin

The Everything Guide to Writing a Novel - Joyce and Jim Lavene

Rereadings: Seventeen Writers Revisit Books They Love - edited by Anne Fadiman

A Book of Migrations: Some Passages in Ireland - Rebecca Solnit

The Healing - Gayle Jones [re-reading]

The Empress of Ireland: A Chronicle of an Unusual Friendship - Christopher Robbins

The Situation and the Story: The Art of Personal Narrative - Vivian Gornick

Juno and the Paycock - Sean O'Casey

Plough and Stars - Sean O'Casey

Ireland: A Novel - Frank Delaney

Catholic Girls: Stories, Poems, and Memoirs - Edited by Amber Coverdale Sumrall and Patrice Vecchione

All Will Be Well: A Memoir - John McGahern

Grace Notes - Bernard MacLaverty [re-read]

Lamb - Bernard MacLaverty

Cal - Bernard MacLaverty

Tales from Bective Bridge - Mary Lavin

The Beauty Queen of Leenane and Other Plays - Martin McDonagh

The Cripple of Inishmaan - Martin McDonagh

Triptych and Iphegenia: Two Plays - Edna O'Brien

Waterfront: A Journey Around Manhattan - Phillip Lopate

The Irish: A Treasury of Art and Literature - Edited by Leslie Conron Carola

The Illustrated History of New York - Ric Burns and James Sanders, with Lisa Ades

The Transformation of Ireland - Diarmaid Ferriter

The Story of the Irish Race - Seumas MacManus

Twice Over Lightly: New York Then and Now - Helen Hayes and Anita Loos

Crown of Empire: The Story of New York State - Paul Eldridge

The Epic of New York City: A Narrative History - Edward Robb Ellis

The Fifties - David Halberstam

Working Class New York - Joshua B. Freeman

The Illustrated History of Canada - edited by Craig Brown

Ireland: A Social and Cultural History 1922 - 2002 - Terence Brown

Wonderful Town: New York Stories from The New Yorker - edited by David Remnick

We Too Are Drifting - Gale Wilhelm

Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold: The History of a Lesbian Community - Elizabeth Lapovsky Kennedy and Madeline D. Davis

Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers: A History of Lesbian Life in Twentieth Century America - Lillian Faderman

The New York Irish - Edited by Ronald H. Bayor and Timothy J. Meagher

The New Art City: Manhattan at Mid-Century - Jed Perl

The Princes of Ireland: The Dublin Saga - Edward Rutherford

Books Read in 2007: Ms Manitoba

First, I am no where near the type of reader PolCat is. I am a slow reader. But reading is such a pleasure to me. Also, this has been a hard year for me emotionally and I've read mostly escapist literature.

Here goes ...

I read these books of poetry every year ... because I get so much inspiration from them.
Rice - Nikky Finney
The World is Round - Nikky Finney
If you haven't read Nikky Finney's poems, scrounge around and find her books. She is a national treasure.

Hell To Pay- George Pelecanos
Good mystery.

My Life in France - Julia Child and Alex Prud'Homme
A bit fluffy ... but there's substance too. I really liked it. I love books about France that are well-written. This book fits the bill.

Pearl - Mary Gordon
It took a while to get into it. It was good. But I really thought it was going to be a lot better. I do admire Gordon's writing.

Chasing Redbird - Sharon Creech
Really good book for 8 yrs old and up. My kids and I thoroughly enjoyed it. There was a lot of interesting stuff to chew on.

Seek the Fair Land - Walter Macken
Hard to get into for the first 25 pages because it was a little stilted or something. But it was good after that. Glad I read it.

The Alienist - Caleb Carr
Loved it. It appealed to the detective in me, the scientist in me, and the historian in me. Warning: It is gruesome and involves the murder of children.

Manhattan, when I was young - Mary Cantwell
It's a memoir about Cantwell being in her 20's and 30's in NYCity. Very good. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Her writing is really good.

Deception Point - Dan Brown [author of The DaVinci Code]
MYS/SUSPENSE; Unabridged Audiobook
Not recommended. Sleazy. Only picked it because my brain was mush at the time. There were at least 35 cliffhangers ... and it just got to the point where I would laugh at a new cliffhanger ... and not even care what happened to the person. That said, there was some cool/creepy technology. Cool from a purely intellectual point of view. Creepy from a human vs. Big Brother point of view. For example, mini-bots. Tiny tiny robots in the shape of bugs - literally a fly on the wall that listens to people's conversations. A person can "drive it" all over into and out of rooms, into and out of buildings ... and spy on people.

Dreaming of the Bones - Deborah Crombie MYS
Bought it in an airport. Again, brain was mush and I wanted something easy to read. It was okay. Nothing special. Although I really liked early mysteries by Crombie.

The House on Mango Street - Sandra Cisneros
Unabridged Audiobook
Great! I love this book. I read it every couple of years when I need a pick-me-up. And, the wonderful thing about this was Cisneros was the reader for the Audiobook. I just click with her sense of humor. I also like books whose narrators are 11 - 12 yr olds -- if they're written well that is. And this one is.

Housekeeping - Marilynne Robinson
Really good. Such good writing -- makes you envious the whole time: “Will I ever be able to write like this?" And you keep reading for the depth and crispness.
Quote: "Of my conception I know only what you know of yours. It occurred in darkness and I was unconsenting."

"Vesuvius at Home" - Adrienne Rich
Essay in a collection called On Lies, Secrets, and Silences.
The essay is Rich's urging to read Emily Dickinson in her entirety because Dickinson's poetry is so varied ... and much deeper and darker than most people think. It's a really good essay.

Locked Rooms - Laurie King
MYS Unabridged Audiobook
It's part of her Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series.
Very very good. I thoroughly enjoyed this. One of her best in the series.

Prisons We Choose to Live Inside -- Doris Lessing
5 lectures on such topics as:
-- How we absorb extremes into the mainstream
-- We’ve accumulated so much information about ourselves and our behavior yet we do not put it to use to make our society better
-- Demonizing people who you oppose
-- Brain-washing techniques
-- What humans do when they are part of group and how they are pressured to give up their individual opinions/thoughts -- and I know from experience -- it happens in progressive/leftist groups too.
-- One needs to maintain her/his individuality--true individuality, not just eccentricity; this will actually help society; Learn to distance yourself and look cooly at common ideas; question authority; read history and literature -- this can help
A couple of the lectures weren’t that good. But a couple were very good.
Recommended. It’s short.

The Queen and I - Sue Townsend
unabridged book on tape
This is the third time I’ve listened to it -- on my way to work in the car. It is hilarious!! I think the best thing to do is to listen to this version on tape. The reader is very very good.
I normally don’t give out descriptions ... but on this one I’ll make an exception. It’s a novel about a leftist radical becoming the Prime Minister of England in the early 1990’s and doing away with the monarchy. The Royals have to go live in a public housing “estate” called Hellibore Close. One of the first things they all have to do is have their carpets cut down by a neighbor called Spiggy because none of them believed the dimensions of the living room that was listed on the description of their bungalows. Charles and his sons are the only ones happy about the change. (He never wanted to be king anyway and now he gets to grow a little pig tail and plant a garden. The working class woman next door -- Beverly Threadgold -- really turns him on. His sons get to play in abandoned cars.) His parents fight over what Charles’ last name will be. Windsor from his mum or Mountbatten from his dad? Diplomatically, or maybe weasely, he takes the name of his great grandmother (I think) Victoria. His new name is Charlie Teck. His mother, Elizabeth Windsor, does connect with her neighbors although it often involves others translating for her - nobody can understand her because of her very posh accent. She even helps deliver a baby at one of her neighbor’s homes. Charles ends up in prison at one point because he’s defending the woman next door against a bobby. Oh, it is just too funny. With an undercurrent of seriousness too.

Water for Elephants - Sara Gruen
I know this was on many people’s Book Club lists ... that often turns me off. Am I a snob? Perhaps ... a little ... sometimes. But I loved this book. The writing was really good. And the story mooooooves!

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - J. K. Rowling
I love these books. I’ve always read children’s books. Rowling is so imaginative. If you’ve seen the movies ... or one movie ... and think you know what Harry Potter’s about ... nope! The movies are Hollywoodized -- made for tween boys. The books are waaaaay better. Details details details. And, she’s a good writer.

I was very behind in my Harry Potters, so this summer I also read:
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Let Me Finish - Roger Angell

Memoir. Very good. Recommended.

The Human Line - Ellen Bass
Poetry. I love her writing. Highly recommended.

The Anybodies - N. E. Bode
Children’s book.
My 10 yr old and I really enjoyed this.

The Nobodies - N.E. Bode
Not as good as The Anybodies. Too quirky in many places. Usually I love quirky. But I feel that the quirkiness in this book disrupted the flow of the story.

Dopefiend - Donald Goines
Goines is a very well known African American author, now deceased. But his books are almost always set in a certain milieu -- poor or working class African Americans struggling to survive ... often addicted to drugs and alcohol.
Depressing book. Recommended? Well, if you are naive about the world of dope fiends and want to learn a little bit more. But you will be journeying to a place that Dante knew nothing about.

Hugger Mugger - Robert Parker
A little fluffy. But his dialog is very good. He reminds me of Lawrence Block in that way.

Crusader’s Cross -- James Lee Burke
This is his best that I’ve read so far. The setting -- Louisiana -- is one of the main characters. No diatribes in this book even though there are some serious commentaries on contemporary life: racism, classism, the life of a veteran soldier, recovering from alcoholism. He writes all this with intelligence and heart and the complexity of the situations. His writing is so good. He also writes beautifully about the nature around him. You feel like you are there in the midst of a bayou in New Iberia. Nowhere else.
I highly recommend this book.

Jolie Blon’s Bounce - James Lee Burke
Another good one by Burke. Not as good as Crusader’s Cross. But it is good.

The Circuit: Stories from the life of a migrant child - Francisco Jiménez
I’m trying to read the same books that are assigned in my oldest daughter’s English class so I can a) enjoy those books myself; b) help her talk about books c) get to know more about what my daughter thinks about things ... generally enrich our conversations.
This is a great book. Not a happy one though. The life of a migrant child is frustrating and bleak ... besides joyful and rich with family life. The family moves a lot and the child’s main relationships are with his family. When he makes friends, the family moves soon after to chase down the jobs. And everybody in the family (unless you’re very young) works very very hard. You get to understand in a deeper way what the conditions of the labor camps are. The writing is very evocative ... and done so simply ... wish I could write like that.
Highly recommended. Good for 12 and above ... depending on the reading/emotional level of the child.

Killing Johnny Fry: A Sexistential Novel - Walter Mosley
It’s about a guy who we find out as the story unfolds is in the midst of existential angst. At the very beginning of the story he finds out that his longtime girlfriend is cheating on him. He actually walks in on her and her lover. He backs out quietly and leaves without saying anything. This sends him out into the world in turmoil. How does he cope? He rents a porno movie ... an unusual one that actually has plot and characterization. He identifies with the husband in the movie whose wife cuckolds him. The movie and finding his girlfriend with the other man -- both of these things -- have such a strong influence on the main character “Cordell” or for short “’L” that it jumpstarts his libido. And he starts having lots of sex with:
  • his girlfriend
  • next door neighbor
  • a very young artist who he promises to represent as an agent
He also quits his job as a translator to become an artist’s agent.
At first I thought the sex was interesting. But ... it’s like eating too much candy ... after a while, it’s just too much. I actually started getting bored. Not recommended. I hate to say this because I love Walter Mosley.

Kafka Was the Rage: A Greenwhich Village Memoir - Anatole Broyard
This book was a mixed bag for me. Parts of it I really liked; others were so-so. His writing is very good. The last part of the book he talks about sex in the late 40’s and during the 50’s in NYC. That part was very very interesting. Here’s an excerpt:
“Sex in 1947 was like one of those complicated toys that comes disassembled, in one hundred pieces, and without instructions. It would be almost impossible for someone today to understand how far we were from explicit ideas like pleasure or gratification. We were more in the situation of Columbus wondering whether the world was flat or round. Because they didn’t know how to make love, girls made gestures.” [Oh, I guess he thinks men DID know how to make love, eh? My opinion: You learn how to make love all over again with each new lover.] “They offered their idiosyncrasies as a kind of passion. In their nervousness, they brought out other, totally dissociated forms of extremity. They gave me their secret literature, their repressed poems and stories, their dances...
... The energy of unspent desire, of looking forward to sex, was an immense current running through American life. It was so much more powerful then because it was delayed, cumulative, and surrounded by doubt. It was fueled by failures, as well as successes. The force of it would have been enough to send a million rockets to the moon. The structure of desire was an immense cathedral arching inside of us. While sex was almost always disappointing in retrospect, the promise of it ennobled and abstracted us; it made us pensive.”

Cadillac Jukebox - James Lee Burke
Good. But he wrote a cheap trick plot device in the middle of the book. His main character, Dave Robicheaux, is awakened in the middle of the night. He had not been drinking. He is in a hotel room where a rival of his is having a party. The rival’s wife is an old lover of Dave’s. Dave is expecting his own wife to show up any time now. A woman enters his room while he’s sleeping and seduces him. Dave thought it was his wife but it was the old lover. I did not buy this. How could someone not notice that the person seducing him was someone other than his wife? Do they smell the same? Feel the same? Okay, some women think to themselves: “Men are dogs. So they just let them get seduced.” No. Not true. I thought it was bad writing. He made a mistake there.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Books: The Updated 2008 Book List

Well, since I actually went through almost ninety books last year, perhaps I can set the bar a little higher this year.

Here's the updated list. Some items have been moved to 2009. I figure it's more important to track and enjoy and read with purpose than to worry about how many of these damn books I can move out of boxes and piles on the floor. It's looking encouraging! By 2020, I might just be able to walk around the house again!

So here's the list (and stop lending me books, goddammit, you KNOW I can't say No).
  1. A Cloistered War - Maisie Duncan
  2. A History of Malaysia - Barbara Watson Andaya & Leonard Andaya
  3. A History of Modern Indonesia - M.C. Ricklefs
  4. A History of Selangor - J. M. Gullick
  5. A House in Gross Disorder - Herrup
  6. A Point of Light - Zhou Mei
  7. A Spy's Revenge - Richard V. Hall
  8. A Will For Freedom - Romen Bose
  9. Abraham's Promise - Philip Jeyaretnam
  10. Agnes Smedley - J.R. & S.R. MacKinnon
  11. Asian Labour In The Japanese Wartime Empire - Kratosha, Ed.
  12. Baba Nonnie Goes To War - Ron Mitchell
  13. Bang Bang in Ampang - Norman Cleaveland
  14. Beating the Blues - Thase & Lang
  15. Believer Book of Writers Talking To Writers - Vendela Vida
  16. Between Two Oceans - Murkett, Miskic, Farrell, & Chiang
  17. Bird by Bird - Anne Lamott
  18. Captains of Consciousness - Stuart Ewen
  19. Captives of Shanghai - David H. & Gretchen G. Grover
  20. Chandranath - Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay
  21. Chinese Blue & White - Ann Frank
  22. Chinese Customs - Henri Dore
  23. Clay Walls - Kim Ronyoung
  24. Colonial Masculinity - Mrinalini Sinha
  25. Daniel Deronda - George Eliot
  26. Dena-Paona - Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay
  27. Devdas - Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay
  28. Extraordinary Popular Delusions - Mackay
  29. Folklore of Tamil Nadu - S.M.L. Lakshman Chettiar
  30. Force 136:Story of A Resistance Fighter in WWII - Tan Chong Tee
  31. From Pacific War to Merdeka -
  32. Gaijin - James Clavell
  33. Glory - Vladimir Nabokov
  34. Heart Politics - Fran Peavey
  35. How I Adore You - Mark Pritchard
  36. How To Write A Damn Good Novel - James N. Frey
  37. In Pursuit of Mountain Rats - Anthony Short
  38. In The Grip of a Crisis - Rudy Mosbergen
  39. Kempeitai - Raymond Lamont Brown
  40. Krait:The Fishing Boat That Went To War - Lynette Ramsay Silver
  41. Kranji - Romen Bose
  42. Labour Unrest in Malaya - Tai Yuen
  43. Lest We Forget - Alice M. Coleman & Joyce E. Williams
  44. Life As The River Flows - Agnes Khoo
  45. Living Hell -
  46. Modern Japan -
  47. Niskriti - Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay
  48. Nonsense - Robert J. Gula
  49. Operation Matador - Ong Chit Chung
  50. Palli Samaj (The Homecoming) - Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay
  51. Pandit Moshai - Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay
  52. Power Politics - Arundhati Roy
  53. Prometheus Rising - Robert Anton Wilson
  54. Reading Lolita In Teheran - Azar Nafisi
  55. Rehearsal for War -
  56. Robert van Gulik - van de Wetering
  57. Rosie - Anne Lamott
  58. Singapore & The Many-Headed Monster - Joe Conceicao
  59. Singapore The Pregnable Fortress -
  60. Soldiers Alive -
  61. That Fellow Kanda - AUPE
  62. The Age of Diminished Expectations - Krugman
  63. The Art of the Novel - Milan Kundera
  64. The Book of Tea -
  65. The Devil Finds Work - James Baldwin
  66. The Double Tenth Trial - C. Sleeman, S.C. Sillein, Eds.
  67. The End of the War - Romen Bose
  68. The Family:They Fuck You Up - Granta
  69. The Jungle is Neutral -
  70. The Literature & The Story - Vivian Gornick
  71. The Marquis - A Tale of Syonan-To - S.J.H. Conner
  72. The Mind's I - Hofstadter & Dennett
  73. The Pacific War -
  74. The Physics of Star Trek - Lawrence Krauss
  75. The Plague - Albert Camus
  76. The Rise & Fall of the Knights Templar - Gordon Napier
  77. The Ugly Chinaman - Bo Yang
  78. The Sabahan - P.J. Granville-Edge, Rajen Devadason
  79. The Singapore Grip - J.G. Farrell
  80. The Unabomber Manifesto - Ted Kaczynski
  81. Travels in Siam - Henri Mouhot
  82. Virtual Reality - Howard Rheingold
  83. War & Memory in Malaysia & Singapore -
  84. Women, Outcastes, Peasants & Rebels - Bardhan
  85. Writing Past Dark - Bonnie Friedman
  86. You'll Die in Singapore - Charles McCormac
  87. Your Memory:A User's Guide - Alan Baddeley
  88. I wish this were all I had to read, but I'm looking for work, and in the interest of making myself somewhat more marketable, I have a boatload of books to read on managing and writing software requirements, C, C++, Java, programming in general, various tools and applications, database management systems, Oracle in particular, XML, HTML, website creation and maintenance, Web 2.0 (love those buzzwords), interviewing, systems management, Linux, UNIX, performance tuning, and how to deal with assholes you hate. That's work, I guess.

    So, who's taking my bet that I will finish reading the lot, or an equivalent amount, at least? And what's in it for me when I do?

    I'm working on three books right now - Bonnie Friedman's book, "Writing after Dark," Vendela Vida's "Writers Talking To Writers," and J.G. Farrell's "The Singapore Grip."

    I think I need to read more fiction. Yargh.

Books: Reviews 2007

These are the books we actually managed to finish reading over the course of the year. A million thanks to Ms. M for helping us create the list and pretty much stick to reading the books on the list. A million kvetches to Ms. M, and to Bri and to Certain Other Persons Who Shall Remain Forever nameless for handing me book after book after book that was NOT on the list with the words, "Oh, you've just GOT to read this!"
  1. Better Living Through Bad Movies - Sheri Zollinger and Scott Clevenger

    Borrowed? No.

    All I can say is, don't take this book to some public place where you expect to behave with decorum. I laughed out loud in the worst way, those snorts and thigh-thumping hoots and bellows and grunts that you make when something strikes you as really, really, unexpectedly, even shockingly, funny. Unfortunately, I tend to read at meals, so there was much dislodging of rice grains from mucous membranes to be performed. Not to mention the scandalized glares of fellow diners to contend with. Or the pleading of the occasional friend or partner for a read-out-loud, as in, "Whaaat?" "Whadya mean what?" "Well, you laughed." "Yes? And?" "Well, aren't you going to share?" Okay, more whining than pleading, but you get my drift.

    This is a thoroughly fun and enjoyable book, witty, devastating, delivering smackdowns on the most beloved of bad movies, in the best way. If you don't buy - and read - it, you'll probly die of regret. And no, you may not borrow my copy. I'm not letting it out of my sight.

    On the other hand if you want me to get you one as a prezzie, let me know, and I will.

    Recommended? Hell, yeah!

    Reread? Weekly.

  2. Dinosaur in a Haystack - Steven Jay Gould

    Borrowed? Briiii-yannnnnn!

    It took me the better part of three weeks to read this book. Actually, one might more accurately say it took me several months. I had started it twice previously, and put it down each time partway through because I couldn't bear to continue. I love good writing on any topic, and I love reading about science, especially biology and paleontology. So it caused me a great deal of distress that it took me so long to get through this book. I finally came to the conclusion that the writer's ego stood between the reader and the work. Really, given that Gould is writing about stuff I mostly drool over, it was most annoying to spend so much time on a single book. Furthermore, the book would have been greatly improved by omitting all the baseball yaya and the deity yaya and the biblical quotes. Dr. Gould is not a writer, but someone apparently successfully convinced him that he was. Informative book, if you don't mind digging through a lot of dirt for a few precious nuggets.

    Recommended? Are you a hardcore paleontology geek? With oodles of free time? If you answered no to either of these questions, move on, cher, move on.

    Reread? Good gawd, once is enough. I'm not even sure if I ever want to read anything by him ever again, although the topics are fascinating and the information, when you've dug down to it, is likewise.

  3. Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad

    Borrowed? No.

    I've owned this book for many decades. I think I first read it in my teens. I was shocked at some of the bald observations Conrad made (quite the shrinking violet in those days, or perhaps unaccustomed to the uglier side of colonialism - either interpretation works). Its generous use of words and terms that were considered racist rather inspired me to put the book down, and I did not pick it up again until my twenties, after my first viewing of Apocalypse Now. Rereading it, I felt as if I understood the writer better, but it was still a wrenching experience.

    In my thirties, I read Robert Silverberg's Downward to the Earth and found myself rereading Heart of Darkness, for comparison's sake, or something. And lately, the war in Iraq has forced me to view several movies about war, to crack open history books, to purchase for the first time books on the history of the Middle East, of Islam, of the role of women in Islam, of the coexistence of Islam and other religions - even my very own copy of the Qur'an. And, of course, to reread Conrad yet again. Each decade seems to bring an improved perspective. He was a brilliant and very talented writer. Imagine being born and raised in one culture, speaking one language, and achieving fame as a writer writing in a completely different culture and language. It's enough to incite a tiny flutter of xenophobia. Which, in a way, is what the book is about. Otherness. Lately, the more insane, virulent loons in this world have been repeating their favorite catchphrase - "Kill 'em all, let God sort them out." Conrad is the antidote. And it is good medicine, because ultimately bitter.

    Recommended?? No shrinking violets, goddammit. Highly recommended to all and sundry; students of Africa, colonialism, history, racism, and fiction writing at its best. Hold your nose, if you must, but read it anyway.

    Reread? Next decade, without a doubt.

  4. Moving Targets - Women, Murder, and Representation - Helen Birch, Ed.

    Borrowed? Don't think so. It looks like the kind of thing I'd buy myself as a gift.

    An excellent analysis of women's role in the criminal justice system both as criminals and as victims. A number of women contributed to this thought-provoking collection.

    Recommended? Highly readable and a MUST read for men, women, and little furry creatures of the reading variety. Also highly recommended for students of gender studies, criminology, psychology, writers, journalists, and true-crime aficionados.

    Reread? Maybe, but not for quite a while.

  5. My Life in France - Julia Child

    Borrowed? Yes.

    Someone handed me this with the terse warning "Fluffy." To be honest, it was a quick read but I found it far from fluffdom. Possibly because I love food, Julia's descriptions of her cooking lessons in France, and her exploration of French cuisine, are simply - delectable. Interestingly, Julia and her husband Paul Child were fairly left of center for their time, and this book is extremely revealing of how the political landscape has changed since Ms. Julia Child was a young woman. She sounds like a terrific person, smart, determined, and very clear about what she wanted out of life. I wish I'd had a chance to meet her, but reading her book was an enjoyable way of making her acquaintance and seeing through her eyes the beauty of La Belle France.

    Recommended? For anyone who loves food, cooking, wine, politics, gender studies, biographies.

    Reread? No. It was fun while it lasted, I wouldn't want to tarnish it by rereading. I still maintain, though, that it is NOT fluff.

  6. Republican Like Me - Harmon Leon

    Borrowed? No.

    The writer is clearly one of the people that, if you knew them as kids, was the class troublemaker. He was the kid who put chewing gum in other kids' hair, or stuffed tadpoles and worms down their shirts, or lit firecrackers in the back of the class. He is, apparently, a well-known reporter and standup comedian in the SF Bay Area. And he's good. He's an interesting writer, he's hella funny in an edgy, nervous-making kinda way, and in some ways he's brilliant. But you sure as fuck would not want to be hangin' with him when he pulls some of the stunts he writes about in this book. I mean, what kinda scrawny Jewish kid joins an antisemitic White power hate group for a lark? He's lucky to be alive, assuming, of course, that he still is. The book was a fun read, though.

    Recommended? Enthusiastically, assuming you're not on medication for your anxiety issues.

    Reread? Nah. It was fun while it lasted, but.

  7. The Early Stories (1883-1888) - Anton Chekhov

    Borrowed? No.

    Someone gave me this book a long time ago. I never got around to reading it because I had grown up reading the Russian writers - Dostoevsky, Chekhov, Tolstoy - in my misspent youf. I figured it would be more like rereading, and decided to save the book for a day and time when I had finished reading every other unread book on my shelves. Now that there are books piled up on every available surface (to say nothing of shelves), the time, I judged, was right to clear a path between bed and door, at least, if nothing else. Short stories are better for interruptive bouts of reading, and with five cats, one certifiably psycho, reading at Casa Los Gatos is nothing if not interruptive. So I put this book on the (most recent) pile.

    And I'm glad I did. Chekhov has a certain mastery of the short story form that I greatly admire. I think my short stories are my best work, also, though I'd be hard put to say why because I never work on them. They always come as lightning flashes of the Muse, a continuation of a conversation in my head that suddenly spills over onto paper, and afterwards I'm left feeling vaguely uneasy, as if I were speaking to a forgotten friend from a long time ago - looks familiar, but where do I know this person from? The story and I share the same intimacy. I recognize some things of me in there, but I have no idea how it got to be. Reading this collection - it's from his most prolific period, when he was churning out many little works, each a gem - gave me some ideas about the creative process. Chekhov's style is not mine, but his ability to capture a feel for the things he saw and heard, and encapsulate in a tiny space the atmosphere that must have existed around these incidents and people, is nothing short of magic.

    Recommended? Joyously. Cheerfully. Wickedly and unrestrainedly. With a warning that Chekhov's humour was often quite cruel, so this book should be avoided by shrinking violets.

    Reread? Someday.

  8. The Image - Isaac Bashevis Singer

    Borrowed? Nope.

    Isaac Bashevis Singer is, like Chekhov, a master of the short-story form. This book is a collection of his stories, some set in the Old World, some in the New. The stories have a transitional feel to them, but his ability to span decades and generations in a work five pages long is impressive. As is the keenness of his observations. Remarkably sexist, but perhaps appropriate for its era.

    Recommended? For those interested in Judaica, history, anthropology, fiction, good writing, and to students of the written word everywhere.

    Reread? Yes, but when?

  9. The Secret Sharer - Joseph Conrad

    Borrowed? No.

    My what a creepy story. What can I say? All through it I felt as if I were the protagonist and the antagonist. Conrad is a writer of rare skill and talent. This is a story of great psychological power, and one of his that I have never read or heard of before.

    Recommended? For the not-so-faint-at-heart; and for those who love reading and good writing.

    Reread? Oh, my, yes.

  10. Where Oceans Meet - Bhargavi Mandava

    Borrowed? No.

    What on earth possessed me to read this? I won't say it was shite - the writer has the ability to tell a tale. But not, in my opinion, very well. I read most of the book, to my great dismay. Why? Because I kept thinking, surely it's got to get better! It can't really be so bad. I mean, good lord, the writer was in residence at some hoity-toity writing programme. Surely they wouldn't have offered such a fine opportunity to some loser - which this writer is getting perilously close to being. Bah, humbug. At what point do you just force yourself to put the damn book down and move on? I must try to be better about this. And you know what? I got sucked into the cultural aspects of the book. Feh, I say. Never again.

    Recommended? Oh, no, absolutely not.

    Reread? I got rid of it already.

  11. Foreign Country - Jonathan Raban

    Borrowed? No.

    This book got rave reviews from some very well-respected authors and reviewers, including Salman Rushdie. I liked it very much in some parts, and not so much in others. Well-written, no doubt. I think it's one of those books that would be of especial interest to those who know something about sailing, or Africa, or what it feels like to be a white person in Africa. Or English.

    Recommended? For sailors, travellers, Afrophiles, and travel writers.
    Reread? No. Well, maybe. But not soon.

  12. Passions of the Cut Sleeve - Bret Hinsch

    Borrowed? No.

    A rather early study of gay culture in China throughout the ages. I believe this was the writer's PhD thesis. Interesting, but dated.

    Recommended? Not really.

    Reread? No.

  13. The Sleeper Wakes - Marcy Knopf

    Borrowed? No.

    This book is a collection of short stories by some of the literary lights of the Harlem Renaissance. Featured writers include Nella Larsen and Angelina Weld Grimke. Beautiful book, really powerful writing, and some of the writers are women I'd never heard of or never read. Includes some all-time favorites, like Zora Neale Hurston, but it's a book to be read and reread.

    Recommended? Heartily.
    Reread? Repeatedly.

  14. The Bride Price - Buchi Emecheta

    Borrowed? No.

    I've had this book forever, and why I didn't start it earlier I do not know. Twelve smacks in the head with a sheet of wet paper. Ow. Beautiful. The writer, who now lives in the UK, is very prolific, very talented, very very good. All that said, it's a very depressing story. But still worth reading. Don't take my word for it. And yes, it's available for loan, but you must return it, or 922 cats (and kittens!) may torment you.

    Recommended? Highly.
    Reread? Not for a bit, I'm afraid.

  15. Take the Cannoli - Sarah Vowell

    Borrowed? Sadly - No!

    It is my understanding that the writer is a highly acclaimed Hip Young Person. And I can't deny that she is a wordsmith. However, when she mocks Maya Angelou, I have to question her purpose. Perhaps she's just too terminally hip to tip a hat to other writers. For what it's worth, she's entertaining, but not memorable.

    Recommended? Only to those in pursuit of terminal hipatude.
    Reread? Why?

  16. Nectar in a Sieve - Kamala Markandeya

    Borrowed? No.

    Another writer who comes highly recommended and raved. I wish I'd put the book down when I started to feel disenchanted, but in my own defense, I felt if I could give Daniel Deronda another bash, I could certainly persevere with Kamala Markandeya. Frankly, this is one of those books that has become, to me, all too representative of Third World Literature, or, more accurately, Third World Writers Writing In English. The writer is talented, and can capture your interest, but the story is so unremittingly dreary and depressing. At least Buchi Emecheta's book had its delightful moments. This book was unending misery.

    Recommended? Only if you've stocked up on your psychoactive meds.
    Reread? I haven't. There isn't a stockpile large enough of happy pills, that is, for me to reread this.

  17. 'Tis Pity She's A Whore - John Ford

    Borrowed?? NO!!! Dammit.

    This is one of those plays that makes me grateful I was born in these times - even if global warming is proceeding apace, and the fish are dying out and there won't be any tigers or hippos in a decade, and we'll all be living on texturized soy protein. At least we won't have to deal with a misogynistic church and its maggoty mouthpieces, the educated classes. She's a whore because her brother seduced her, you see. Whereas he, the seducer, is a fine upstanding young - schmuck. And her husband, who beats her, is A Man Wronged. And her father who gets her married off is Merely Caring For His Brood. And the friar, who urges her to marry the wife-beater, is Simply Trying To Save Her Soul. Pardon my foreign language of choice, but fuck the lot of them, the self-righteous, hypocritical swine - no offense to swine, who are fine sources of protein, not to mention quite charming in their own right. In any event. It was a difficult read.

    Recommended? Certainly not, and I don't care if you are majoring in English Literature.
    Reread? Only on pain of suffering and death.

  18. The Post Office - Rabindranath Tagore

    Borrowed? No.

    This charming, sweet little play is a spiritual allegory. I found it irresistible, delightful, even though I don't care for deist superstition. It was not intrusive deism, just a very sweet allusion to something better in human nature. Or so it could be read. And so, certainly, did I read it.

    Recommended? Highly.
    Reread? Oh, yes.

  19. Rabbit-Proof Fence - Doris Pilkington

    Borrowed? No.

    The author is the granddaughter and grandniece of the three women who made the astounding trek across Australia that is commemorated in the book and film of the above title. The writer is not very skilled, but the book is worth reading for its glimpse at the lives of the Native Australians and the incredible cruelty they suffered at the hands of white Australians.

    Recommended? Yes.
    Reread? Not anytime soon, but not for lack of wanting.

  20. I Married A Barbarian - Dennis Bloodworth and Liang Ching Ping

    Borrowed? No.

    This is a sweet story of a long and enduring relationship between two people who came from the opposite sides of the world to settle in Singapore. I wasn't planning to read any love stories, but it's set in a period that is germane to The Book Writing Project, and I got caught up in the story anyway. No great literary masterpiece, but nice. And sweet.

    Recommended? Only for those who are interested in World War II, and the period between 1940 and 2005, or Asia, or - love stories, I guess.
    Reread? Probably not.

  21. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius - Dave Eggers

    Borrowed? Yes.

    This book got rave reviews from many well-respected authors and reviewers. Mr. Eggers, when it comes time for you to review my work, I hope you'll develop the same convenient amnesia that appears to be plaguing the entire current administration. This book is very clever.

    Recommended? For readers who enjoy cleverness.
    Reread? No. I prefer books that either move me or teach me.

  22. The China Study - Thomas M. Campbell and Colin T. Campbell

    Borrowed? Yes. Thanks, Jay.

    This book has changed my life. The Campbells have put together an excellent and much-needed epic on nutrition and human disease. The epidemic of diseases that faces the 21st century human is very different from the previous century. Our worries center around obesity, diabetes, atherosclerosis, heart diseases, cancer. Diseases of affluence and longer lifespans. Except, according to Dr. Campbell, it ain't necessarily so. Why are the wealthiest not the healthiest? Don't we have all the science, the research, the necessary tools? Let Dr. Campbell tell you why. If this book doesn't change your life, I'll eat my hat. Or you'll eat yours, or something. It'd be better for you than that hamburger, in any event.

    Recommended? Highly.
    Reread? Yes, as soon as I notice any evidence of slackment.

  23. The Easy Way To Stop Smoking - Allen Carr

    Borrowed? No.

    Okay, what's with the self-helpalooza? I'll tell you what. It's time to quit smoking, once and for all. When your lungs feel like hot buttered knives are ripping through them with every breath it is time to stub out the last little stinker and say goodbye to that feeelthy habit. This is an excellent book. Really. The book can be repetitive at times, but repetition is needed when trying to get rid of an ancient and deeply ingrained - and life-destroying - habit.

    Recommended? To any smoker trying to quit. To families and friends of smokers who want to help their loved one kick the habit.
    Reread? Every time I need to.

  24. You Must Set Forth At Dawn - Wole Soyinka

    Borrowed? Yes.

    What a wonderful book! It's so richly evocative of Africa, written with all the love that a person feels for their country and culture. It made me wish I was in Africa, it made me want to read a million books of African history and culture and language, and music, and art, and long for all Africana. It gave me hope. Africa can be the hope of the old world and the new world and the third world. It's funny, Jonathan Raban's book about Africana is the polar opposite of this, though well-written in its own way. Professor Soyinka has played a vital part in Nigeria's history, and is a writer of great talent and skill. I am glad he is still writing.

    Recommended? Oh, yes!
    Reread? Someday. After reading all the books on African history and culture.

  25. Women's Lip - TBD

    Borrowed? Gift

    An amusing little collection of feminist snark, which is going to feature on this blog sooner or later.

    Recommended? For amusement only.
    Reread? No.

  26. Pronatalism: The Myth of Mom & Apple Pie - Ellen Peck, Judith Senderowitz, Eds.

    Borrowed? Nope.

    This is an excellent collection of essays about the institutionalized pronatalism that has led the global population to increase by 50% over the last 40 years. Whatever happened to the ZPG movement? Forty years ago, governments concluded that the human population of the planet had grown too large and must be managed down to zero growth. Forty years later, we are seeing a vicious wave of pronatalism nearly unprecedented in previous history. Even as people endlessly whine about the rising cost of living, the pollution of the atmosphere, the water, the very earth, the crowded conditions of our cities, the lack of opportunities for young people entering schools and the workforce, we are breeding like cockroaches, with disastrous consequences, and no one is drawing the logical conclusion.

    Recommended? Highly. For anyone interested in women's studies, feminism, social studies, population studies, ecology, sustainability, and the fate of the world.
    Reread? As soon as ever I can.

  27. Daughters of a Coral Dawn - Katherine V. Forrest

    Borrowed? No.

    What possessed me to read this, I can't possibly imagine. I have a load of books by this author, all from a time when I was looking for books written by women, about women, preferably strong women. She's not a very good writer, but this was in the days before I discovered writers like Sandra Scoppetone, Sheri Tepper, and Sara Paretsky, and was looking for detective fiction to while away the time with. She is not a good writer at all, come to think of it. So why did I read this particular book? A thread over at Twisty Faster's turned into a discussion of feminist utopias in fiction, and this was one of the books mentioned in the thread. I thought it might provide good background for another project I'm working on. Suffice it to say that I've learned my lesson.

    Recommended? Good Lord, no.

    Reread? Perhaps I'll try again, if I get further on my project and get stuck.

  28. Dictionary of Asian Mythology - David Leeming

    Borrowed? No.

    An excellent, handy little reference, very useful for looking up things that you kind of know, or ought to know, or vaguely remember, about myths and legends of China, India, and every country around and in between.

    Recommended? Highly.

    Reread? As needed.

  29. Ethan of Athos - Lois McMaster Bujold

    Borrowed? No.

    I've always liked Lois McMaster Bujold as a writer of science fiction. She has a certain sly humour and charm. This book was lightweight, a quick easy read, and thoroughly enjoyable. Yes, it was part of the "feminist utopias in fiction" project. The project doesn't have a name yet, and it's not in any way related to "The Bobbed-Haired Girl" project.

    Recommended? Light reading, yes.

    Reread? Probably not.

  30. Martin Chuzzlewit - Charles Dickens

    Borrowed? No.

    Although it was slow to start, eventually, as all Dickensian dramas do, this book gripped me, and I couldn't turn the pages fast enough to find out what happened next. As always, the bad guys get their comeuppance, and the good their just reward, and of course Dickens is exceedingly verbose, but it was some 800 pages of enjoyment. Verbose but talented. With what skill he describes each scene, each character, how well he delves, without heavy-handed framing, the depths and heights of emotion. Bit cloying in the approved manner of the time, at times, but nevertheless a good read. Most interesting of all is his description of America.

    Recommended? Highly.

    Reread? Not for a good while.

  31. Palli Samaj (The Homecoming) - SharatChandra Chattopadhyay

    Borrowed? No.

    Reading another of this writer's works translated into English brought home to me the importance of a good translator. Regrettably, this translation was a bit too literal, and Bangla does not translate directly into English, so much of the beauty is lost, and the idiom is clumsy and ineffective. Nevertheless, as with all of SharatChandra's work, this novel deals with the mores of village life and the difference between the urbanized protagonist and his rural childhood companion, and the maze of relationships, customs, prejudices, and regulations that make up life in rural areas. The book would have been far more enjoyable in the hands of a skilled translator. I wish I could get a copy in the original!

    Recommended? Only in the original, or in a better translation

    Reread? Only in the original or a better translation

  32. Pather Dabi - SharatChandra Chattopadhyay

    Borrowed? Nicki.

    The translator of this work is excellent, and this is one of SharatChandra's finest novels. Loosely translated, Pather Dabi means "Right of Way." The novel chronicles the awakening of a young man to the injustices imposed by the society in which he is raised. In parts painful, in parts filled with pathos, excitement, rage, this is a novel to stir one's soul. The British did their best to suppress this work when it was first published. Read it and you'll see why.

    Recommended? Highly.

    Reread? Whenever I can.

  33. Tears of the Giraffe - Alexander McCall Smith

    Borrowed? Yes.

    An amusing little work of detective fiction about the adventures of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, set in Botswana. I believe the first of those works is about to be turned into a film. The writing is good, the characters well drawn and textured, and the writer captures the sweetness of the native culture along with its suffering from change. Good pace, interesting occurrences. It left me wanting to visit Africa, notably Botswana.

    Recommended? Yes, if you like detective fiction, light reading matter, and Africana.

    Reread? Probably not. Once you've read a piece of detective fiction, you know how it ends, and then what's the point?

  34. The Amber Spyglass - Phillip Pullman

    Borrowed? K.B.

    Oh, my. Phillip Pullman has written a fascinating trilogy, part science fiction, part fantasy, all thrilling. The writing was quite good, and although after the first book it became a little more predictable in parts, it was still a rollicking good read. It's being made into a film, and I saw the preview and felt as if I must read the book. The film is beautiful, if it all keeps the same high quality as the preview I saw. I can't wait for it to open. As for the books, I read all three volumes in a single night. So there.

    Recommended? Yes, if you like science fiction, fantasy, or fast-paced adventure. Definitely light reading, though.

    Reread? Maybe.

  35. The Boss Dog - M.F.K. Fisher

    Borrowed? Yes.

    I've always loved M.F.K. Fisher as a writer. There's a lyrical quality to her descriptions of scenes and people. Neither overly descriptive nor cloying, yet utterly sympathetic and very visual. This book, as you can tell from the title, is about a dog, and an excellent device was that dog as a way of describing the relationship between a woman and her two daughters and the time they spent living in France. As with all of Fisher's books, it was a veritable treasure of culinary and cultural information. A thoroughly enjoyable read.

    Recommended? Mais certainement.

    Reread? Someday when I have some free time!

  36. The Golden Compass - Phillip Pullman

    Borrowed? K.B.

    This is the first book in Phillip Pullman's trilogy, and I think the most exciting. His portrait of the little girl who is the protagonist is very good, I think. An excellent writer with a vivid imagination, I blame him for my subsequent insomnia.

    Recommended? Highly, for those in search of entertaining reading material.

    Reread? Probably, but not for years.

  37. The Subtle Knife - Phillip Pullman

    Borrowed? K.B.

    This is the final book in Pullman's excellent trilogy. I didn't like it quite as much as I liked the first, but it's still well written and well worth reading.

    Recommended? Yes.

    Reread? Maybe.

  38. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - J.K. Rowling

    Borrowed? Yes.

    Recommended? Hey, it was a fun read! Only if you have plenty of time to spare, and an interest in light reading material.

    Reread? No.

  39. Imaginary Homelands
  40. Shame - Salman Rushdie

    Borrowed? No.

    Recommended? Highly. It always amazes me how erudite and fluent a writer Rushdie is. Witty, acerbic, well-read, and unbelievably good.

    Reread? Definitely.

  41. In My Dreams - Kassandra Kane

    Borrowed? No.

    Recommended? No. This is a book of lesbian erotica, but I've read much better lesbian erotica. It's really more like the journal of a particularly unliterary and unerotic lesbian. I don't want to trash the author. I think she tried to write her experience. Unfortunately, her experience is not terribly interesting. Pity. There's a real need for good lesbian erotica.

    Reread? No.

  42. Japanese Gods and Myths -

    Borrowed? No.

    Recommended? Only for people who have absolutely no knowledge of Japan, or Japanese culture. Most of the material was familiar to me, and from better sources. Lately, I've developed a deep need to read about myths, legends, and folktales, and this book was an unsatisfying excursion into that arena. You'll notice no author's name was attached to this book. That's because there wasn't one. Perhaps the person who put it together was embarrassed by the elementary level of the information?

    Reread? Certainly not.

  43. On Beauty - Zadie Smith

    Borrowed? Yes.

    Recommended? Oh, yes. Zadie Smith never fails to amaze as a writer. I didn't expect to like this book - it's about rather mundane people, a college professor of BeyondWhiteness and his African-American wife, and his three boring children, one of whom is an aspiring Christian of the worst sort (you know, the type that wants to cram it down everyone else's throats). It turned out to be an excellent book, a really interesting look at the lives of people who might not be like us at all, and who may, or may not, seem boring, commonplace, of little interest, but who have their own particular qualities that are very interesting. Kudos to Smith for producing a fine work of art, full of dialogue that sounds very real, and characters who, despite their flaws and sometimes outright unlikeability are, nonetheless, real in feel if not in fact.

    Reread? Maybe.

  44. Red Sorghum - Mo Yan

    Borrowed? No.

    Recommended? Oh, deity, yes. Read this book if you only have time to read one more book in your life. My god, what a terrific writer Mo Yan is. I saw the film that was based on this book, produced by Zhang Yi Mou, who is an amazing director/producer, and I thought, I must read the book. Now, usually when I read a book after seeing the film, I am disappointed in either the film or the book. This time, I was simply ravaged by both. The subject is China before and during World War II and, as you can well imagine, those were the worst of times and the worst of times. The book (and the film) are unflinching in showing the devastation and suffering that was inflicted upon the populace by the Japanese invasion, yet the writing and direction were both so great that despite the horrors, you end up enjoying both book and film. The story of that hideous war is told through the portrait of the narrator's mother, an amazing woman, strong, self-aware, and utterly admirable. And of his father, a sometimes drunken lout, but madly in love with his wonderful wife, and capable of heroic deeds (as well as pissing in the wine she made). God, it's a great book. It will leave you shaken to your roots.

    Reread? Oh, hell, yes.

  45. Sometimes A Great Notion - Ken Kesey

    Borrowed? No. Lent.

    Recommended? Er. I really did not care for this book. I've liked most of Kesey's work, and it was surprising to me that I found this book so difficult to get through, so uninteresting, so ... tedious. At any rate, I did not finish it, though I tried several times. I've handed it off to someone else, with the hope that they'll return it saying it was absolutely wonderful, and I'll try it again then.

    Reread? Maybe. I'll try, anyway.

  46. Tipping the Velvet - Sarah Waters

    Borrowed? No.

    Recommended? Yes. Well, I liked it. I know lots of people didn't, but really, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It's a description of the life of a lesbian in (I think) Victorian England. Well-written, for sure.

    Reread? Maybe, if there's time.

  47. Water for Elephants - Sara Gruen

    Borrowed? Yes.

    Recommended? This is an excellent book about an elderly man reminiscing about his life in the circus. It's a page-turner, too, with a great sense of pace, a stunning power of description, unbelievable detail, yet never boring, a look at carny/circus life about a century ago, the card sharps and freaks, the oh-so-human pain and suffering and rough and tumble of people who make their living as nomads of the entertainment world. Well worth reading, too.

    Reread? Probably not, but not for lack of interest.

  48. You Shall Know Our Velocity - Dave Eggers

    Borrowed? Yes.

    Recommended? This is the second work of the author's that I've read. I really didn't like the first, and I was afraid I wouldn't like this, either, but it turned out to be an OK experience. Interesting, though not brilliant. Enjoyable, if nothing to write home about. There's a certain lack of maturity in the writing that reveals itself as artificially constructed episodes of life happening to people it's hard to care about, if that makes any sense. In any event. Read it if you want to.

    Reread? No.

  49. American Born Chinese - Gene Luen Yang

    Borrowed? Brian.

    Recommended? Highly. It was a fun read!

    Reread? No.

  50. Amerika - Franz Kafka

    Borrowed? No.

    Recommended? Always. I can read and reread Kafka endlessly, because I'm always discovering new things.

    Reread? Yes. I can't believe this book has sat on my shelf for at least five years now, and I only just read it!

  51. Anna Magnani - Patrizia Pistagnesi

    Borrowed? No.

    Recommended? For film buffs and Magnani fans.

    Reread? It's a filmography with photos of Magnani and essays by her friends. Fascinating woman!

  52. Believer Book of Writers Talking To Writers - Vendela Vida

    Borrowed? T3h N4m3l3ss

    Recommended? Only if you're really into reading interviews with writers. I'm halfway through, and my interest flags.

    Reread? Probably not.

  53. Bonfire of the Vanities - Tom Wolfe

    Borrowed? No.

    Recommended? You know, this book got such rave reviews as did Wolfe, and it took me the longest time to get around to reading it (over a decade) because I'm always terrified of being disappointed, and let me tell you. I was. Very. Terribly. Tragically, even. So can someone, anyone, tell me what's the rah-rah with this guy? Does he blow all the book reviewers, or do they get some percentage of his sales, or what? He's a wordsmith, no denying that, but bleah!

    Reread? NO!

  54. Crusader's Cross - James Lee Burke

    Borrowed? Yes. I'm not naming names. Actually, not so much borrowed as thrust upon.

    Recommended? Wow, yes. A writer of complexity, like bitter chocolate.

    Reread? If I live long enough.

  55. Daughters of the House - Indrani Aikath Gyaltsen

    Borrowed? No.

    Recommended? Oh, yes. This woman committed suicide, or was murdered in mysterious circumstances, but there were also accusations of plagiarism around her later books. If this novel is indicative of her talent, she would have no need to plagiarize. A powerful writer, with real magic in her pen.

    Reread? Yes.

  56. Death and Justice - Mark Fuhrman

    Borrowed? Madame X gave me this book long ago.

    Recommended? It's a very interesting read. Disclaimer: I'm pro-death penalty for certain crimes, and Madame X is anti-DP. She gave me this book to read to bolster her arguments against the DP. Fuhrman is a complex, often-reviled figure, but this book is well worth reading. FWIW, it has made me much more ambivalent about the death penalty.

    Reread? No.

  57. Devil's Guard - George Robert Elford

    Borrowed? No.

    Recommended? For reasons I don't quite understand, this book is very popular with a certain readership that I'm hard put to describe. Easy labels like "right-wing" or "conservative" don't really apply; it seems to appeal to people who hold different positions on various issues. In sum, this book purports to be about various Nazis who joined the French Foreign Legion and went to far-flung regions of the then-French Empire with the avowed aim of "preserving" it, that is to say, depriving the natives of those regions of their sovereignty, and often, their lives. It's a deeply disturbing book, to me, and I question its authenticity. The writer is, frankly, terrible, in addition to being quite the drum-beating demagogue. I did not enjoy this book, but can see how others might.

    Reread? No. It's no longer in my possession.

  58. Don't Know Much About Mythology - Kenneth C. Davis

    Borrowed? No.

    Recommended? This is an excellent book for students of folklore and mythology. Not so much for the serious student as the beginner. Very well written, and does an excellent job of summarizing myths and legends of various cultures around the world.

    Reread? Someday.

  59. Fun Home - Alison Bechdel

    Borrowed? Brian.

    Recommended? Yes, oh yes! Alison Bechdel is one of my favorite cartoonists. Her combination of excellent artwork, deep and biting dialogue, tackling complex social issues, quirky humour, and a real empathy for her various characters just has me loving her and her work, and this book especially. Maybe because her family is almost as dysfunctional as mine.

    Reread? If only I could!

  60. Fury - Salman Rushdie

    Borrowed? No.

    Recommended? Yes. Rushdie is the kind of writer you dream of reading. Like Kafka, his glorious work never fades or loses its charm.

    Reread? Yes.

  61. Ghost Baby - Wong Swee Hun

    Borrowed? No.

    Recommended? This book is a collection of short stories popular in Southeast Asia and very useful for terrifying bad children with. Unless that's your desired area of expertise, it's not for you. Maybe not even for me. I used to enjoy these types of stories, but the writer isn't very good, or perhaps I now long for more.

    Reread? Nope.

  62. Heroes & Other Stories - Karim Raslan

    Borrowed? No.

    Recommended? Um. Not really. Not bad, in a "young writer" sort of way, but nothing to, heh, write home about.

    Reread? No.

  63. Jai Bhim - Terry Pilchik

    Borrowed? No. I have no one to blame but myself.

    Recommended? This book is really very very specifically geared to (1) Buddhists (2) Of the Western persuasion (3)Probably British, more than other nationalities (4) Who might know something about the Untouchables (Dalit) of India, (5) Specifically, the followers of Ambedkar. I didn't finish it. I don't recommend anyone start it unless they meet at least two of the above criteria.

    Reread? Nein.

  64. Kuching Past & Present - Elizabeth Pollard

    Borrowed? No.

    Recommended? Another very specific book. Tailored to serious students of the history of Malaya/Malaysia, specifically Sarawak during the time of Brooke. And not very well-written, at that. It does include interesting information about Sarawak during WWII, though, if that's your interest.

    Reread? No.

  65. My Brother Jack - George Johnston

    Borrowed? No. I believe someone gave me this book, but I can't remember who. Or maybe someone did lend it to me, but well over a decade ago. It took me that long to read it. Fool that I am. This is a beautiful book, just beautiful. The writer is so amazingly talented and writes so well, so magically.

    Recommended? Highly. In fact, I want all the rest of his work, just for compare. He reminds me a bit of Robertson Davies, another gem of a writer whom I discovered fairly late in (my) life.

    Reread? Yes!

  66. On the Beach - Nevil Shute

    Borrowed? No.

    Recommended? Nevil Shute is a good writer, in the technical sense. That is to say, he doesn't have gaping plot holes, abominable grammar, poor sentence construction, or obvious flaws in his work. But he's not magical. However, he does capture the underlying pathos of a rapidly dying human race very nicely in this book. Depressing subject matter, rather dated, but worth reading on vacation or the like.

    Reread? No.

  67. Pioneers of Singapore -

    Borrowed? No.

    Recommended? Only for students of Singapore/Southeast Asia history.

    Reread? No.

  68. Plays, Vol. 2 - Bertholdt Brecht

    Borrowed? No.

    Recommended? I really like Brecht, and I really liked this collection of plays. I understand Brecht is not everyone's cup of tea, and neither is reading plays; I'd really like to see these performed. (Yes, to my everlasting shame and sorrow, I've never seen The Threepenny Opera staged.)

    Reread? Oh, if only I had time.

  69. Praxis - Faye Weldon

    Borrowed? No.

    Recommended? Highly. Faye Weldon is a powerful writer, with a powerful feminist sensibility. I really like her work. I give it two thumbs and two big toes up (or foot-thumbs, as my old friend Theo used to say).

    Reread? Maybe someday.

  70. Reality Isn't What It Used To Be - Walter Truett Anderson

    Borrowed? I think Brian either gave or lent this to me. Brian, speak now or forever wonder where this book went.

    Recommended? Oh, dear. I think it's an interesting book but not one I'd recommend to anyone who's not into postmodernism, post-postmodernism, and all that foofaraw.

    Reread? Nyet.

  71. Seventeen - Colin Cheong

    Borrowed? Unfortunately, I have to take the blame for this one too.

    Recommended? Gods, no. Terrible, terrible book, really vapid and silly and poorly written.

    Reread? Wish I'd never read it in the first place. One more precious irreplaceable hour of my life lost.

  72. Silences - Tillie Olsen

    Borrowed? No.

    Recommended? This book is a collection of essays and speeches given by Olsen to various different groups, at various different times, with the central theme being the silence of the artist. An excellent book, well worth reading.

    Reread? Yes.

  73. Singa - Gurcharan Singh

    Borrowed? No.

    Recommended? This book would only be of interest to readers of Malayan/Malaysian and Southeast Asian history, WWII, and the Indian diaspora. It looks to be self-published, and the writer is no literary genius, but for the subject matter it's highly interesting.

    Reread? Probably not.

  74. Singapore English In A Nutshell - Adam Brown

    Borrowed? No.

    Recommended? Only to academics with an overweening interest in the subject.

    Reread? Ye Elder Deities, no.

  75. Singapore's River - Linda Berry

    Borrowed? No.

    Recommended? This is a collection of photographs and essays about the Singapore river in the 60s or 70s. Good photos. Interesting tidbits of history. Borrow it from the library, if you can.

    Reread? No.

  76. Singin' and Swingin' and Gettin' Merry Like Christmas - Maya Angelou

    Borrowed? No.

    Recommended? Yes. I had no idea Maya Angelou had lived such an interesting - nay, fascinating life.

    Reread? Probably not.

  77. Spices & Condiments - J.S. Pruthi

    Borrowed? No.

    Recommended? This is a rather dry, technical analysis of the subject by one of the foremost scientists in the field. It just happens to be a (admittedly peculiar) interest of mine. Not for the unwary.

    Reread? For reference, sure.

  78. Stones From The River - Ursula Hegi

    Borrowed? No. Given as a gift a long time ago.

    Recommended? Another book that came with rave reviews, leaving me petrified at the thought of opening it for nearly a decade. Shite! My NY resolution #766 is to overcome that sort of gobshitery. Just read the fucking thing, dood, how bad can it be? Hegi is a good writer, but the book was just that - good, not blow-your-socks-off-great. Is it wrong of me to want orgasmically satisfying art?

    Reread? Na.

  79. Strange Tales of Liaozhai - Pu Songling

    Borrowed? No.

    Recommended? This is one of the earliest collection of scary stories (a genre of Chinese literature, thankewveddymuch), and I thoroughly enjoyed it. However, if you don't know anything about China, or Chinese history, customs, or literature, you might not find it quite so enthralling.

    Reread? No damn time, dammnit.

  80. The Alchemist - Jonson

    Borrowed? No.

    Recommended? Absolutely. Ben Jonson is another writer I discovered rather late in life - probly because too much of my misspent yoof was misspent reading science fiction, murder mysteries, and true-crime stories and studies of criminally insane types. More fool I. This is a wicked little play, amusing in its cruelty and thoroughly amusing, at that.

    Reread? But when?

  81. The Courtship of Robert Browning & Elizabeth Barrett - Karlin

    Borrowed? No.

    Recommended? I thought this would be some excellent background on the poets and their life together, but it is exactly what the title states. It begins and ends with the courtship of the two poets. Enjoyable, if rather academic, analysis of the two.

    Reread? No.

  82. The Ginger Man - J.P. Donleavy

    Borrowed? No.

    Recommended? Donleavy is a very amusing writer, if quirky. I like him, but he can be hard to take if you don't care for a too-sharp and sometimes cruel eye and tongue.

    Reread? No time.

  83. The Hollowing - Robert Holdstock

    Borrowed? No.

    Recommended? This is a very magical and beautiful piece of fantasy. I fear the writer, like Anne Rice, will get seduced into churning out endless, and finally boring, stories about the fantasy setting he has created. Well worth reading, though.

    Reread? Probably, if I can find the time.

  84. The Selfish Gene - Richard Dawkins

    Borrowed? No.

    Recommended? Yes. Richard Dawkins is thoroughly, enjoyably, and eminently readable.

    Reread? This book will probably be reissued within the decade. Science is just moving too fast.

  85. Tropical Vegetables - Periplus

    Borrowed? No.

    Recommended? Interesting only to those interested in the subject matter. Interestingly (yes, I know I'm using it twice in adjoining sentences, sheesh, consistency is the hob, et cetera), the writer is someone I know and sort of worked with decades ago.

    Reread? Reference maybe.

  86. Understanding Media - Marshall McLuhan

    Borrowed? No.

    Recommended? The danger of not reading books for a decade or two was painfully illustrated by this little tome. It's too fucking dated. Nothing about it made much sense anymore, because it was written before the days of the internet and cellphones and usability and human-computer interfacing. Sheesh.

    Reread? No, no, no.

  87. Who Killed Rosalind Yong? - Sit Yin Fong

    Borrowed? No.

    Recommended? You know, you're not going to find out who killed her anyway, so unless you're interested in true crime and grue, don't bother with this poorly written little book. It's a compilation of various crimes that occurred between 1950-something and 1980-something.

    Reread? Hell, no.

  88. Why I Am Not A Muslim - ibn Warraq

    Borrowed? No.

    Recommended? I picked up this book because I had just reread, and thoroughly enjoyed, Bertrand Russell's wonderful tome, "Why I Am Not A Christian." I am beyond disappointed. This book is very poorly written, leaping about from one topic to another and back again, and, as my father would have said, "No head, no tail, no middle." Poor construction, poor writing, and a tendency to quote Daniel Pipes, whose visceral dislike of Muslims makes it hard to read him. I nevertheless persisted to the bitter end, advisedly bitter. What a dreadfully vituperative piece of work! Regrettably, my knowledge of Arabic, Farsi, the Quran, et cetera, are insufficient to debate the content of the book, but its tone makes it too much of a chore. Would that I had given up the good fight a whole fuck of a lot sooner.

    Reread? Great Ctulhu, no. Never.

Well, that's it for books read this year.