rocketjk's 2024 reading rollercoaster

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rocketjk's 2024 reading rollercoaster

1rocketjk
Dez 26, 2023, 10:56 am

Greetings! I've greatly enjoyed five year's participation in Club Read and especially all the reading friends I've made here. To review: I live in Mendocino County, northern California, USA, but my wife and I came to New York City in June 2023 to spend a year here and see what we think. We're both New Jersey natives, with family (my wife) and old friends (both of us) in the NY/NJ area, so really this is like coming home. The longterm future is still in flux, though. (Well, isn't it always?). I'm retired, with a checkered past including, in no particular order, public radio producer, teacher, freelance writer and used bookstore owner, busman, waiter, dishwasher and publications coordinator at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco on the resume. My reading is an eclectic mix of fiction, history, memoirs, bios and more. In addition to the books I read straight through, I like to read anthologies, collections and other books of short entries one story/chapter at a time instead of plowing through them all at once. I have a couple of stacks of such books from which I read in this manner between the books I read from cover to cover (novels and histories, mostly). So I call these my "between books." When I finish a "between book," I add it to my yearly list. Cheers and happy reading one and all!

2rocketjk
Editado: Fev 28, 9:30 am

Keeping Track of Who/What/How/Where I Read

For the past several years I've been posting a personal thread in the Reading Globally group to keep track of where my reading takes me. However, whereas when I started that tradition it seemed like there were a few folks doing the same thing, I'm now the only one still posting in that way there, so I've decided to move my personal map pinning to my own CR thread. Here is my standard introduction to my Reading Globally thread:

I've had fun charting my travels the last fourteen years. 2023's reading brought me to 14 countries, including the U.S., and 8 states within the U.S. As always, there were also many "U.S. non-state specific" and "Non-country specific" books on the list.

I don't select my reading to purposefully "travel" in any particular way. Rather, I just have fun seeing where my more random reading choices take me!

Who
Female: 3
Male: 4

What
Novels: 5
Histories: 1
Contemporary (when published) Events: 1
Biographies: 0
Memoir: 0

How (Original Language)
English: 5.5 *
German: 0.5
Yiddish: 1

* The captions for Death in the Making were written in German by Robert Capa and translated into English. The original (1938) forward and the afterward for the 2020 edition were written in English.

Where
ASIA
China
Inheritance by Lan Samantha Chang

EUROPE
Poland
The Manor by Isaac Balshevis Singer

Spain
Death in the Making by Robert Capa et. al.

NORTH AMERICA
The United States
Non-State Specific
The Vaster Wilds by Lauren Groff

Minnesota
The Sentence by Louise Erdrich

Montana
The Ploughmen by Kim Zupan

New York
The Island at the Center of the World by Russell Shorto (history)

3labfs39
Dez 26, 2023, 12:23 pm

Welcome to Club Read 2024, Jerry! I was wondering if you have seen the Global Challenge group? It's where I track all my global reading. I cross-post relevant reviews to the Reading Globally regional threads. Just another option!

4rocketjk
Editado: Dez 26, 2023, 1:09 pm

>3 labfs39: Yes, I have a thread in that group. I use the two for different things, though. In my old Reading Globally thread (you can see the 2023 version here: https://www.librarything.com/topic/347485), I include every book I read and start a new thread every year. In my Global Challenge thread, I have on long thread in which a) I have a running list since my first joining LT in 2008 and b) I only include group-appropriate reading (i.e. books that are written by authors from the appropriate countries or at least take place in those countries). Hope that all makes sense. Cheers!

5labfs39
Dez 26, 2023, 4:31 pm

>4 rocketjk: That's right. I remember you joining the Global Challenge earlier this year. Sorry about that! I have actually toyed with starting a new thread in the GC this year to change from listing countries alphabetically, to listing by continent like Liz is doing. Her organization is impressive.

6kjuliff
Dez 26, 2023, 4:53 pm

>5 labfs39: Australia often missses out when the world is divided up into areas. It’s not part of Asia but is near it. It’s more Eurropean in population ethnicity but it’s nowhere near Europe. Did you have Australia in your challenge? Did people participate?

7rocketjk
Dez 26, 2023, 5:23 pm

>5 labfs39: I, too, divide my reading up by continent and then subdivide by country.

>6 kjuliff: I count Australia as Oceana. Does that not seem right to you?

8kjuliff
Dez 26, 2023, 7:30 pm

>7 rocketjk: Yes that’s the most correct categorization. Australia is a continent so it is some places just has its own category. Or Australasia. Many non-Australians would not think Australia when seeing Oceana.

9markon
Dez 27, 2023, 3:32 pm

Jerry, I look forward to hearing about your reading and further New York adventures in the new year.

10rocketjk
Dez 28, 2023, 10:18 am

>8 kjuliff: I think of Oceana as Australia and New Zealand, mostly. Is that not correct?

>9 markon: Thanks!

11kjuliff
Dez 28, 2023, 12:33 pm

>10 rocketjk: Yes I think it’s correct, but I’ve noticed others in this group - can’t remember which have listed the Pacific. Islands such as Fiji and Vanuatu. In doing so it gives the impression that Oceana doesn’t contain. Australia. It’s a hard one. Oceana is correct but perhaps just needs to be defined somewhere for clarity. And where would we putting Hawaii? If it’s geographic then Hawaii would have to be there. If it’s ethnic, no or geo-political, no. There’s also Melanesia which deserves a place.

12AlisonY
Dez 30, 2023, 11:14 am

Happy New Year, Jerry. Look forward to your great reviews in 2024.

13cindydavid4
Dez 30, 2023, 11:26 am

happy new year! looking forward to stealing i mean reading some of your finds

14rocketjk
Dez 30, 2023, 11:29 am

>12 AlisonY: & >13 cindydavid4: Thanks! I'm looking forward to following everybody's 2024 threads for the book suggestions and conversations, as well! Cheers!

15lisapeet
Dez 31, 2023, 9:27 am

Hi Jerry! Good to see you here, and hope to really see you in NYC one of these days soon!

16rocketjk
Dez 31, 2023, 1:46 pm

>15 lisapeet: Thanks! I was justing thinking about trying to arrange a get-together with you soon after New Year's Day.

17Ameise1
Jan 1, 4:50 am



I sincerely wish you health, happiness, contentment and many exciting books.

18ursula
Jan 1, 11:32 am

Just like last year, I will be following your thread (and hopefully saying more than I did last year).

19dchaikin
Jan 1, 7:00 pm

Happy New Year, Jerry. I like the sentiment in your opening post. What Singer will you start the year with?

20rocketjk
Jan 1, 11:50 pm

>19 dchaikin: Thanks! Happy New Year to you too, Dan. I've started The Manor, which takes place in Poland during the final quarter of the 19th century.

21rocketjk
Editado: Jan 2, 12:46 pm

Hello again to all! My reading for 2024 began as usual with a ramble though one of my Between Book stacks, in this case Stack 1. Here's what I read therein:

* “The Flagmakers,” excerpted from The American Spirit by Franklin K. Lane from Literature - Book Two edited by Thomas H. Briggs
* “Salt Lake City Lefty Earned Win on Lone Pitch” from Baseball 1963 edited by C.C. Spink
* "The Daughter of Lebonon” from Selected Writings of Thomas De Quincey edited by Philip Van Doren Stern
* Two poems by Abdul Wahab Al-Bayati from New Writing from the Middle East edited by Leo Hamalian and John D. Yohannan
* Day 4, Story 7 from The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio (translated by Wayne A. Rebhorn)
* “Americans, Stop Being Afraid!” by Wendell L. Wilkie from Collier’s Magazine - May 10, 1941

As mention in response to Dan's question, above, I have been working on a project whereby I'm reading all of Isaac B. Singer's novels in publication order, two books per year. The first book I begin in each calendar year and in each July comes off of the Singer list. So I'm beginning calendar year 2024 with The Manor, which takes place in Poland during the latter part of the 19th century. The rebellion of the Polish nobility against Russian occupation has just failed, and the Poles have more or less decided to shrug off the fact that they are under Russian rule and simply get down to business. Serfs have recently been emancipated and it is a liberal time for the country's Jews, who find themselves having to deal with many fewer restrictions in terms of where they can live and what pursuits they can legally follow. It is a good time for our hero, entrepreneur Calman and his family. Though as readers we know that liberal winds changed and chilled quickly for the Jews of Eastern Europe during this era. At the same time, strong currents of modernism are beginning to run through the communities of traditionally observant Jews of the area. I'm about 44 pages into this 442-page novel.

22arubabookwoman
Jan 2, 10:58 am

Will you combine reading The Manor with The Estate? I have the two in a single book, and I loved them both. I read them long enough ago that I can't remember whether the same characters carry over between the books, but I did think of them as one book. It's long been on my "Must Reread" list.

23rocketjk
Jan 2, 12:45 pm

>23 rocketjk: No, I'll be reading them separately, as that's how they were originally published. The first copy of The Manor that I was able to find when I went bookstore searching was a near first-edition hardcopy. It contains an author's note in which we read Singer's comment, "This volume, although it stands as an independent story, constitutes Part One of the complete saga of The Manor. Part Two is now in the process of being prepared for the English-speaking reader."

At 442 pages, The Manor is long enough on its own as a first book for the year. As per recent custom, I'll read Singer's next book, in this case The Estate as my first book started in July.

24lisapeet
Jan 2, 12:56 pm

>16 rocketjk: Yeah, let's do it!

25cindydavid4
Jan 2, 2:24 pm

>21 rocketjk: I am curious about that book, report back pls

26rocketjk
Jan 2, 2:39 pm

>25 cindydavid4: Well, you know me. I report back on everything! :)

27rocketjk
Editado: Jan 11, 10:58 am

My first review of the year is a long one, indeed. Sorry about that, Chief!

The Manor by Isaac Bashevis Singer



At the beginning of 2022, having completed my once-a-year Joseph Conrad read-through, I began a similar tradition with the novels of Isaac Bashevis Singer, although I changed the process to two novels per year, one at the beginning January and one at the beginning of July. So, now I'm up to Singer's fifth novel, The Manor.

Once again we are in Poland, this time in the later decades of the 19th century. The novel begins just after an 1863 uprising by the Polish nobility against what had become ongoing Russian rule has ended in humiliating disaster. With this nationalist movement quashed, Poland instead turns to business, and the modern world begins seeping into Poland: mines, factories, railroads begin appearing. For Poland's Jews, the period is one of liberalism. In the town of Jampol, one of the insurrectionists, Count Wladislaw Jampolski, has been banished to Siberia, and a Jew, Calman Jacoby, has managed to win the right to lease the count's large landholding and manor house. He judiciously allows the count's family to continue living in the manor house, in order to avoid offending the local Poles, and he begins making money growing and selling crops on the land and, in particular, selling timber to be used as railroad ties. So begins our tale, with Calman at the center of what becomes a whirlwind of cultural and religious change and the personal crises and moral choices, both good and bad, of an expanding group of characters.

Calman himself is an observant Jew. He expects his children to stay within that community and some do. But the Jewish community as a whole does not stand apart from the modernism taking hold in Poland, and Calman, to his woe, has lived to see a growing divide among Poland's Jews: those who demand adherence to the old ways, and those who look westward with approval at the assimilation of the Jews of France, Germany and elsewhere. To them, the exotic, "Asiatic" dress, the standing apart from Polish society as a whole, is a self-defeating lifestyle of superstition, destined to bring down further antisemitism on all of their heads. To the traditionalists, antisemitism is a constant, sure to come in future waves however they're dressed and however they worship. Faith in God and loyalty to the commandments is the only path. Calman's children, as they grow to adulthood, more or less split down the middle of this divide. One of his daughters goes so far as to run off with the count's son. But the world of the Polish nobility is on no more solid ground than the world of the Hassids. In the meantime, socialism, Zionism, nihilism, anarchism and more are debated and sometimes adopted. The roles of women in this world are changing as well. Although this topic is not made specific, the limitations faced by The Manor's female characters, and the extremely unsatisfactory choices they're forced into, become an undeniable theme of the novel.

I don't want to give the idea that Singer's presentation here is devoid of sympathy and even love for the ways and tribulations of the observant Jews. Indeed, his portrayal is laced strongly with affection and understanding. The storyline is a tapestry, or perhaps labyrinth is a better description, of interrelationships between members of the old world and the new, the Jewish society and the Polish Christians, interwoven amongst and strengthened by family, marriage, business and religion. The old world's concerns are offered with as much detail as those more modern leaning. This is a vivid picture of a complex society at a tipping point, full of memorable characters. And of course Singer was writing, and we are reading, within the context of hindsight. In the end, modernization did not save the Jews of Europe.

Here is a good example of the issues Singer is dealing with. Ezriel, Calman's son-in-law, has mostly left the old ways and is studying at university to become a doctor:

Ezriel had had great hopes that progress could be achieved through education. Yet knowledge itself turned out to be extremely precarious. The entities which were said to constitute matter seemed to have almost magical properties. Moreover, the various materialistic theories, and Darwinism in particular, had put almost all values in jeopardy: the soul, ethics, the family. Might was right everywhere. Man's ancient beliefs had been bartered for the telegraph. But what could Ezriel do about it? For him the old traditions were already destroyed. He was left with nothing but examinations and dread. He had forsaken God but he was dependent upon all kinds of bureaucrats. He had made a mistake, Ezriel felt. But what exactly had been his error? How could it be rectified? As he lay in the darkness, it occurred to him that the young man who had been found hanging in an attic room in the Old City and whose dissection Ezriel had witnessed must have had much the same thoughts as he was having now.

Here's one more quote I like a lot, one that shows more accurately the range of human emotion and reverence for the natural world that Singer displays through the novel, as Calman, about a third of the way through the story, contemplates his situation:

Calman sighed. He heard his grandson, Shaindel's Uri-Joseph-Yosele, awake and crying. Burek, the dog, barked. The cows in the stall rubbed their horns against the door. The spring was a warm one, and after two years of drought there were signs that the coming harvest would be fruitful. The winter crops had sprouted early, rain and sunshine had been plentiful: the life of the soil was as unpredictable as the life of man. Scarcity followed plenty. When the earth seemed to have grown barren, the juices of life flowed through her again and she blossomed once more. Who could tell? Perhaps God would still grant Calman some comfort.

When I first began reading The Manor, I wasn't particularly enamored. But the more I read, and the more the branches of Singer's story reached outward, the more absorbed I became, and in the end I can say it's a book I recommend highly. My copy is a near first-edition hardcover, published in 1967. Singer, in his Author's Note at the beginning, says in part, "This volume, although it stands as an independent story, constitutes Part One of the complete sage of The Manor. Part Two is now in the process of being prepared for the English-speaking reader. That Part Two was published in English in 1969 as The Estate. The two are often published together now in a single volume. My general procedure would call for me to read The Estate as my first book in July, but I may well decide to push that up some and read that novel while the details of The Manor are still fresh in mind.

Book note: I found my copy of The Manor sitting way atop a rather haphazard stack of hardcovers in the S section of the wonderful Westsider Books at Broadway and West 80th Street in New York. As I began reading, I found that many top right page corners had been turned down in increments of every 8 to 15 pages or so. There were too many such creases for me to imagine that some previous reader was making note of particular passages, so I assume that the creasing was this reader's way of noting progress, in lieu of using a bookmark. As I read, of course, I unbent them. Each time I did so, I couldn't help wondering just who that reader might have been, and imagining that my own progress through the book, and my gradual straightening out of those creases, in some way connected me to that person across time. I am happy to report that the creases continued to the end. My fellow reader had, like me, finished the book! Also, sometime during the early stages of my reading, I happened to slop some red wine out of my wineglass, such that a small wine stain now appears on the edges of a few pages. So now, perhaps several years hence, another reader will wonder who caused the stain, and who made the creases which, although now unbent, are still visible. Was it the same person or was it two different readers? No, I am not going to leave a note in the book. Let the next person have their own mystery.

28Ameise1
Jan 9, 11:45 am

Fantastic review and I was also impressed by your personal thoughts.

29rocketjk
Jan 9, 12:31 pm

>28 Ameise1: Thanks!

30dchaikin
Jan 9, 1:14 pm

>27 rocketjk: terrific. Again, you leave me anxious to read more Singer. The quotes are enjoyable and I’m really glad you ended up taking to the book.

31LolaWalser
Jan 9, 1:38 pm

Happy new year--that's a beautiful start with Singer.

32labfs39
Jan 9, 1:41 pm

Every six months I get a reminder that I want to read more Singer. Thanks for keeping the Singer love alive!

33rocketjk
Jan 9, 1:51 pm

>30 dchaikin: & >32 labfs39: Yes, would you kids please follow through and read a Singer novel or two? I would love to read your reactions.

>31 LolaWalser: Thanks! And a happy new year to you as well, my friend.

34labfs39
Jan 9, 2:06 pm

>33 rocketjk: LOL, right? To be fair, I did read Love and Exile and two books of children's stories, but no adult novels, 'tis true. I own The Penitent and two collections of short stories for adults. The Family Moskat is the one I want to read first though, as it has been on my wishlist for eons.

35dchaikin
Jan 9, 3:16 pm

>33 rocketjk: 🙂 you’re messing with my plans

36rocketjk
Editado: Jan 9, 10:15 pm

>35 dchaikin: "🙂 you’re messing with my plans"

Mwaaa ha ha! It seems my work here is done for the day.

37rocketjk
Editado: Jan 10, 4:13 pm

My post-The Manor "between book" reading took my back to Stack 1, like so:

* “Blackbeard,” excerpted from Buccaneers and Pirates of Our Coasts by Frank R. Stockton in Literature - Book Two edited by Thomas H. Briggs
* “El Paso’s Dees Walloped Four Homers in a Row” from Baseball 1963 edited by C.C. Spink
* "Dreaming” from Selected Writings of Thomas De Quincey edited by Philip Van Doren Stern
* "Pride and Fury" by Mahmud Darwish from New Writing from the Middle East edited by Leo Hamalian and John D. Yohannan
* Day 4, Story 8 from The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio (translated by Wayne A. Rebhorn)
* “Determined Lady: Carole Landis” by Kyle Crichton from Collier’s Magazine - May 10, 1941

I've now started The Vaster Wilds by Lauren Groff.

38lisapeet
Editado: Jan 28, 9:51 am

Ohhhh I’ll get on board that “read more Singer” train with you folks. That was a great review, Jerry.

39arubabookwoman
Editado: Jan 11, 9:35 am

>27 rocketjk: I'm so glad you liked The Manor. I think I told you that I read The Manor and The Estate as one book, and loved them. In fact I think they may have been my introduction to Singer, or at least one of the first things I read by him. For several years I've contemplated rereading the books, and your review has instigated that wish again. (A few years ago I reread The Family Moskat in lieu of rereading thus one). Oh how I wish there was more reading time!

40markon
Jan 11, 12:04 pm

Jerry, your review of The Manor is enticing. Singer is already on my list - I don't think I've read any of his novels, but did read several short stories long ago.

I've enjoyed listening to jazz, but have never taught myself much about its history. I've decided to remedy that, and am curious about any information you might recommend. This will probably be an ongoing project - I want to combine reading with listening, which will likely require some purchases as well.

I am starting with a children's book, A child's introduction to jazz by Jabari Asim with links to song samples. Also on deck is the PBS series (via DVDs from the library) and a book published in 1982 called American women in jazz: 1900 to the present by Sally Placksin (published 1982.)

Appreciate any direction you can give to help me focus.

41labfs39
Jan 11, 12:56 pm

>40 markon: Ooh, A Child's Introduction to Jazz sounds great for me to use with my nieces. Following...

42rocketjk
Editado: Jan 11, 5:27 pm

>40 markon: Yes, that Child's Introduction does look great.

A couple of survey histories, both fairly detailed, that I've read and really liked are:
Visions of Jazz: The First Century by Gary Giddins and
The History of Jazz by Ted Gioia

If you're interested in the very early history, a good book to try to run down is
Pops Foster: the Autobiography of a New Orleans Jazzman - When I lived in New Orleans, this slim paperback was available in all the museum bookshops and such. I don't know if it's still in print but it shouldn't be too hard to find online. I remember reading an essay by Winton Marsalis in which he talked about how influential this book was on him.

A fun and valuable autobiography is Music is My Mistress by Duke Ellington (I haven't read it yet, but have heard it's excellent, but also not to take every story Ellington tells as gospel.)

Also entertaining is At the Jazz Band Ball: Sixty Years on the Jazz Scene - A collection of columns by deservedly famous jazz writer Nat Hentoff.

Hope that helps!

43Ameise1
Jan 12, 3:37 am

Jerry, I haven't read anything by Singer yet and my library has very few books by him. Yesterday I picked up Golem. Have you read this?

44AlisonY
Jan 12, 6:21 am

I feel like a philistine - Singer is not an author I'm at all familiar with, nor have I ever seen his work in the 2nd hand bookshops I go to. Great review - I'm intrigued about him now.

45baswood
Jan 12, 9:35 am

I enjoyed your review of The Manor. I am now thinking about curious ways of marking the books that I take to the book swop - perhaps a series of numbers that look like some sort of code. Perhaps pencil notes in nearly discernible language. Messages to characters in the book.

46rocketjk
Editado: Jan 12, 12:56 pm

>43 Ameise1: No, I haven't read Singer's Golem. That is a rendering of an old Jewish folktale and I have read a couple of literary versions, most prominently The Golem by Czech writer Gustav Meyrink. fwiw, Singer's version is listed as juvenile fiction. I'm sure it's good, and perhaps as good an introduction to the folk tale as any other, although the original tale is quite dark, and Singer's kids' version is probably less so. (At least I hope it is!)

>44 AlisonY: I hope you find something good of Singer's to read. The Family Moskat is a great place to start, although it's a bit long.

>45 baswood: My own opinion is that purposefully leaving false clues is cheating, but surely this is a "to each his/her/their own" question. Have at it!

47markon
Jan 12, 2:20 pm

>42 rocketjk: Thanks Jerry. I have access to an audio version of Ted Gioia's book, so will probably start with that.

48rocketjk
Jan 12, 2:42 pm

>47 markon: I hope you like it. Gioia now has a substack page I like, mostly about the music and recording industry but not exclusively, and I get notices for new entries in my email.

49Jim53
Jan 12, 7:51 pm

>40 markon: >42 rocketjk: I've noted a few of these and hope to get to them some time this year. Thanks!

50FlorenceArt
Jan 13, 5:45 am

Great review of The Manor! I’ve never read anything by Singer and, like others, I feel I should remedy that.

51raton-liseur
Jan 14, 1:48 pm

I did not have the oppotunity to stop by and wave hello earlier in the year, as I wanted to devote enough time to your thread, which is difficult in this busy beginning of year. But at last, here I am.

>27 rocketjk: I think I have read one book by Isaac Bashevis Singer (can't remember which one) and I own one or two minor works from him. This is not an author I intend to read in a near future, but I enjoy reading your review, learning, and seeing that maybe I should revise my plan and give him a chance!

Happy 2024 reading year!

52rocketjk
Jan 15, 9:38 am

>51 raton-liseur: Thanks for stopping by. I understand that we all have (many) authors that we know to be of quality who nevertheless just don't make it onto our reading lists, planned or otherwise. If you do decided to give Singer a chance, the two books (of those I've read so far) that I'd most highly recommend are The Family Moskat and The Manor, which I've just reviewed as you know. Both are more or less family sagas that tell many stories within the framework of specific historical periods. The Family Moskat tells of Poland in early/mid-20th century, ending with German bombs falling on Warsaw. The Manor, as indicated in my review, takes us back to late 19th century Poland. I found both to be compelling, with perhaps a slight edge to The Family Moskat. A note that The Manor is represented as Part 1 of a story that continues in Singer's next novel, The Estate, which I have yet to read.

Happy 2024 reading to you as well. Cheers!

53rocketjk
Editado: Jan 16, 4:54 pm

The Vaster Wilds by Lauren Groff



Year-opening tradition #1 was my reading of an I.B. Singer novel. Year-opening tradition #2 is one that my wife and I share. At the beginning of each calendar year, we give each other to read the book that we each enjoyed most from the previous year (and that we think the other will enjoy). So this year my wife gave me The Vaster Wilds to read. (I gave her Ghost Season by Fatin Abbas.)

A young indentured servant with the regrettable name of Lamentations (more commonly known as Zed) has been brought against her will to early-days colonial Massachusetts. Filled with grief over the death of the young, mentally challenged daughter of "her" family who has been Zed's main charge, and wanting to leave behind her the famine and disease that is afflicting the colony and the cruelty that is her daily lot, one night she slips through a hole in the colony's stockade walls and escapes into the forrest. Her goal is to walk north for as long as she must until she reaches the territory where she will find the French, who she hopes will be kinder than the English.

The novel proceeds from there as an adventure of survival and a reverie on nature and God and memory, as well as innocence and guilt. As we are taken through Zed's daily and hourly struggle for survival, and her awe at the natural world she finds around her, for a long time we sail along (or at least I did) with admiration for Groff's imagination and powers of natural description. The details of Zed's quest: finding shelter and food, building a fire, evading the indigenous people who she assumes would do her harm as just one more treacherous white person are very believably and entertainingly rendered. Groff is very good at making us feel Zed's hunger and her growing physical pains and weakness, and Zed's philosophical musings, as well as the gradual filling in of her backstory, flow nicely. This includes the horrors of vulnerability and abuse that a young servant girl without a defender was highly likely to experience.

I found that things began to drag about midway through, but the book's final, say, 20% picked up again and the ending I thought fit perfectly.

I must admit that I was distracted more and more as the narrative went along with Groff's attempts to render the language in ways that she clearly imagined would put us more in mind of the era, but for me became irritants. I'm talking about things like leaving the "ly" off of adjectives (such as "The bear was terrific large") or using "did" for past tense rather than an "ed" ending (such as "The rapids did surge" rather than "The rapids surged") Eventually this artifice got on my nerves, especially because I didn't think it necessary. Also, as far as I'm concerned, the use (and certainly the overuse) of the verb "to marvel" (She sat and marveled at the night sky) and the adjective "wondrous" can be retired from English-language fiction writing henceforth and forever more. But those are all just my own peeves. I know there are many who are not distracted by such things.

So, in the end, I do recommend the book for folks who enjoy these sorts of fictional accounts of struggles through, and immersion, in nature. There is a certain amount of willing suspension of disbelief needed in terms of Zed's nature skills. Where did she get them? But I didn't really mind that element and it didn't take away from my enjoyment of Groff's accomplishment here.

54dchaikin
Jan 16, 12:55 pm

>53 rocketjk: so, I shouldn’t say I marveled at your wondrous review? I enjoyed your review and found it helpful. I can’t tell if i want to read this or not.

55labfs39
Jan 16, 1:05 pm

>54 dchaikin: Or better yet, I did marvel at your wondrous review. I'll pass, as I think I would find both the language and the miraculous outdoor skills irritating.

56rocketjk
Jan 16, 4:52 pm

>54 dchaikin: You may indeed tell me how much you marveled at my wondrous review! Just don't use those words in the novel you write about it. :) Or, I should say, don't use them more than once each.

57AlisonY
Jan 16, 5:04 pm

>53 rocketjk: Also enjoyed your review. What a lovely marriage tradition to have!

58rv1988
Jan 16, 10:34 pm

Wonderful reviews of both book, and I loved your little personal note about the previous reader. I buy a lot of secondhand books, and I always wonder about whose hands and whose eyes have encountered them before I did.

59raton-liseur
Jan 17, 11:46 am

>52 rocketjk: Thanks for those recs, I'll keep them in mind. The Family Moskat seems interesting indeed and a book I could like!

60rocketjk
Jan 17, 1:34 pm

>59 raton-liseur: fwiw, my (long, but what else is new?) review of The Family Moskat is here: https://www.librarything.com/topic/342766#7898508

61rocketjk
Editado: Jan 19, 3:04 pm

Here is my post-Vaster Wilds "Between Book" wander, once again through Stack 1"

* “The Story of Captain Kidd,” excerpted from The Book of Pirates by Henry Gilbert from Literature - Book Two edited by Thomas H. Briggs
* “Young Alou Colared Just Once in 49-Game Span” from Baseball 1963 edited by C.C. Spink
* "The Palimpsest of the Human Brain” from Selected Writings of Thomas De Quincey edited by Philip Van Doren Stern
* Two poems by Buland Al-Haidarifrom New Writing from the Middle East edited by Leo Hamalian and John D. Yohannan
* Day 4, Story 9 from The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio (translated by Wayne A. Rebhorn)
* “Chips in the Stars” by Richard English from Collier’s Magazine - May 10, 1941

I'm now reading (finally!) and very much enjoying The Sentence by Louise Erdrich.

62kidzdoc
Jan 19, 3:34 pm

I hope that you enjoy The Sentence as much as I did, Jerry.

63raton-liseur
Editado: Jan 19, 3:45 pm

Ditto! I read it in November I think, and it was one of my favourite books for 2023!

Edited for typos.

64rocketjk
Editado: Jan 19, 4:15 pm

>62 kidzdoc: & >63 raton-liseur: Yes, I am enjoying it immensely.

Darryl, you might be amused to learn that I bought a signed hardcover copy for my wife as a birthday present back during our month in Jersey City at the lovely Word Bookstore on Newark Street (now closed to traffic as a pedestrian mall, and very nicely done at that). When my wife and I visited the neighborhood again a month or so back, we were unhappy to see that the store was gone! However, a bit of research online reveals that they're still in business but moved to Hamilton Park (29 McWilliams Place).
https://jerseycityupfront.com/word-bookstore-jersey-city/

65kidzdoc
Jan 19, 7:05 pm

>64 rocketjk: Nice, Jerry! I haven't visited my home town in quite a few years, so I'll have to look at Google Maps to see exactly where the pedestrian mall on Newark Avenue is.

66rocketjk
Editado: Jan 19, 11:06 pm

Here's a picture of Rosie, our German shepherd, in the snow. My wife snapped the photo this morning during "off leash time" at the Great Hill in Central Park.


67dianeham
Jan 19, 11:06 pm

>66 rocketjk: she’s beautiful!

68FlorenceArt
Jan 20, 2:55 am

>66 rocketjk: Very elegant!

69ursula
Jan 20, 4:33 am

>66 rocketjk: Love it! Her attitude makes me remember Penny in the snow in Michigan, she could hear little mice-type things running under the deep snow. She would stop and listen and then pounce (in her mind probably with the grace of a fox, but in reality not so much) and dig. She didn't manage to get anything but we did see one run off from the hole she made!

70cindydavid4
Jan 20, 6:23 am

oh lovely! looks like fun!

71Julie_in_the_Library
Jan 20, 8:05 am

I love your dog photo. Thanks so much for sharing it!

72labfs39
Jan 20, 8:07 am

>66 rocketjk: I'm glad you made it to the off-leash park before your snow melted. She looks very alert.

>69 ursula: Ace does that pounce and dig thing too. In fact, sometimes he channels his inner kangaroo and bounces stiff-legged. Quite amusing

73rocketjk
Editado: Jan 20, 10:41 am

Thanks to all for the kind words. As she grew up in Lake and Mendocino Counties in northern California and we just moved here a few months ago, this is her first real snow experience. She's about a quarter husky, though, and seems to recognize the cold white stuff instinctually.

>69 ursula: Rosie used to do that in our front yard in California, though without the snow. We had a pretty sizable fenced in area for her to roam around in. She would stop, listen, pounce and dig, trying to catch gophers. She never did catch one as far as we know, but our front field was generally full of holes. The gophers were real pests, and they necessitated the use of raised beds with wire mesh beneath if you wanted to grow tomatoes or any other gopher-attracting vegetables. They are capable of pulling whole tomato plants straight down into the ground. My wife was the gardener and the tomatoes she grew were delicious. I helped with the construction of the raised beds out of cinder blocks and the placement of the wire mesh, though.

>72 labfs39: It's been in the low 30s down to the low 20s around here over the past few days. The snow's not melting any time soon, evidently.

74arubabookwoman
Jan 20, 11:07 am

>64 rocketjk: When my oldest son lived in Jersey City his condo was on Hamilton Park, and since it was a Silverman development, I suspect that the bookstore is in my son's building. Unfortunately, my son is now in Florida (and we followed him here), so we have no reason to visit JC any more (the other kids are in Brooklyn and Astoria).

>66 rocketjk: Rosie looks so regal!

75rocketjk
Jan 20, 11:55 am

>74 arubabookwoman: "Rosie looks so regal!"

Ha! Yeah, maybe, until you realize that that intense stare was probably her glaring at a squirrel. :)

76markon
Jan 20, 12:36 pm

Rosie is beautiful! Thanks for sharing.

77dchaikin
Jan 20, 9:05 pm

>66 rocketjk: love the picture! She looks like she’s in her element.

78rocketjk
Editado: Jan 22, 12:35 pm

The Sentence by Louise Erdrich



Until now I have been one of those stupid idiots who had never read any of Louise Erdrich's novels. Finally I rectified that by reading her much acclaimed 2021 novel, The Sentence. Given this book's 91 reviews on LT so far, I'd say that nobody needs a long review of this book at this late date from the likes of me. But here's what I will say: all the acclaim is warranted. This is a good-hearted book about community, friendship, love and identity. It is a book about a bookstore, and so brought me back quite vividly--and in a good way--to my own days of bookstore ownership. The story centers around a group of Native American women living in Minneapolis who together run the aforementioned bookstore including Tookie, our narrator, and Tookie's husband, Pollax. There is also Flora, a regular customer. Flora is a white woman who, sometimes to the amusement but also often to the annoyance of the store's employees, identifies strongly with Native American culture. Well, but this identification often takes the form of acts of kindness and positive action, so how annoyed can they be with her? But early in the novel, Flora dies and soon thereafter begins haunting the store, in particular targeting Tookie for her increasingly unwelcomed attention.

Then Covid hits, and everything is turned upside down. And then George Floyd is murdered and, since we are in Minneapolis, the world, already standing on its head, explodes. Erdrich does an astoundingly good job of recreating the feelings of uncertainty, fear, isolation and dread of those early Covid days, events which already, only a few short years later, have faded from my memory, or have at least lost their vivid, horrifying intensity. And then stir in the turbulence, anger and regret of the George Floyd protest and the violent, repressive response of the police.

But ultimately The Sentence is, as I said at the beginning, a book about community and reconciliation. The strength of friendships and the vital role that we can play in others' lives through straightforward acts of support, and by listening to each other. The revelations about Flora and her purpose, and about a strange, very old, book that enters the story along the way, come in due course. The ending is spot on and the whole enterprise was for me an entirely uplifting (in a non-maudlin way) and satisfying experience.

79Ameise1
Jan 22, 10:13 am

>78 rocketjk: Great review, Jerry. I'm putting it on my library list.
Six years ago I've listened to The Gathering and enjoyed it very much.

80kidzdoc
Editado: Jan 22, 10:55 am

Great review of The Sentence, Jerry. I also loved it, and I do need to read more of Louise Erdrich's work. I also enjoyed her novel The Plague of Doves.

81FlorenceArt
Jan 22, 11:15 am

>78 rocketjk: I still belong to that club of idiots you just left 😉 Evidently I need to rectify this! Thanks for the great review.

82kjuliff
Editado: Jan 22, 11:30 am

Mensagem removida pelo autor.

83rocketjk
Editado: Jan 22, 12:40 pm

>81 FlorenceArt: "I still belong to that club of idiots you just left 😉 "

Yes, I might have put that a little strongly. :) It was meant as a joke. It's just that almost everything I've heard about Erdrich's work, and for so long, has been positive, and after reading The Sentence I was slapping my head for having waited so long to try her work.

84raton-liseur
Jan 22, 12:43 pm

>78 rocketjk: Love your review, and love this book. This was my first adult novel by Louise Erdrich (I had previously read a child book and then some of her short stories), and it's one of my best read from last year.
I like how you described the theme of the book, ultimately about community and reconciliation. Such a nice way to put it.

85dchaikin
Jan 22, 1:46 pm

Terrific review. I have no problem being characterized as one of those idiots. It’s my own fault. 🙂 (there is a long list of other idiots-that-haven’t-read-(fill in author) clubs that I’m also a member of.) But seriously, this is encouraging, partially because I trust your sense of critique and your approval is encouraging specifically for this book.

86cindydavid4
Editado: Jan 22, 5:13 pm

I havent read her in awhile but did read love medicine,The Master Butchers Singing Club which I really loved the beet queen, and I vaguely remember The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse this one looks like its up my alley, thanks for the review

87labfs39
Jan 22, 4:46 pm

Erdrich's The Round House is excellent and won the National Book Award. I also really liked her children's trilogy, beginning with The Birchbark House.

88RidgewayGirl
Jan 22, 9:48 pm

>78 rocketjk: I'm glad you've discovered Erdrich and you have so many great books ahead of you.

89rocketjk
Editado: Jan 23, 11:06 pm

For some reason I landed several times in a row to Stack 1 during my "Between Book" reading. Post-The Sentence, I finally returned to Stack 2:

* “Penalty of the Siren” by F. Anstey from The World's Greatest Romances (Black's Reader Services) edited by Walter J. Black
* “Mrs. Smiff” by Collin Brooks from The Third Ghost Book edited by Lady Cynthia Asquith
* “Pros and Cons” by Jenny Bhatt from Each of Us Killers
* “Errors, Homers and a Buttock Play (World Series Game V)” by Si Burick (Dayton Daily News) from Best Sports Stories 1965 edited by Irving T. Marsh and Edward Ehre
* Day 4, Story 10 & Conclusion from The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio (translated by Wayne A. Rebhorn)
* "Knights with Wings" by Harold Lamb in Collier’s Magazine - May 10, 1941

Now I'm on to The Island at the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan and the Forgotten Colony that Shaped America by Russell Shorto. This is a history that had been recommended to my wife and me several times by different friends. So my wife took it out of the library, read it and loved it. Then she went out and bought a new copy to give to me as a Hanukkah present. The introduction has me hooked.

90cindydavid4
Jan 24, 3:45 pm

oh I loved that book! it led me to a historic fictional account of the same city of dreams which i highly recommend

91markon
Jan 24, 3:58 pm

>89 rocketjk: Oh dear, another one for Mount TBR. (Island at the center for the world)

92LolaWalser
Jan 28, 12:25 am

I haven't read Erdrich but every time I see her name I recall she was Edmund White's student (at a postgrad level). Probably not two names one would think of in the same breath, but he mentions her with admiration. Always meant to check her out based on that.

93lisapeet
Jan 28, 9:59 am

Just starting to catch up after a couple of weeks away—we're a group of prolific posters! Love the photo of Rosie in the snow. Jasper enjoyed what little we got too. And he does the stop-listen-and-pounce thing, but what he catches are... rocks. He loves rocks. Because our yard sits on top of a giant block of Fordham gneiss/Manhattan schist, there's nothing else burrowing underneath, none of the rabbits or chipmunks you'll find 10 blocks north in Van Cortlandt Park. So it's a good thing he likes those rocks so much.

>78 rocketjk: I always liked Erdrich's earlier works, but haven't kept up with her more recent stuff. I do have a copy of The Sentence, though, and hope to get to it one of these days.

The Vaster Wilds is also up toward the top of my pile. I've heard very similar things about the pacing from other folks who've read it, but I was taken enough with Matrix that I want to see where she goes with this one.

94rocketjk
Jan 28, 10:30 am

>93 lisapeet: I'll be very interested to read how well you enjoy The Vaster Wilds. Steph loved it, as I've noted above. Hope you're able to stay dry on this rainy Sunday.

95rocketjk
Editado: Fev 3, 5:37 pm

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



This is a fascinating, very well-written and deeply researched history of the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam, the town on Manhattan Island that was eventually taken over by the English and became New York City. Dutch holdings at the time ranged as far north as the settlement that eventually became Syracuse, NY, and as far south as the Delaware River. In grammar school in New Jersey in the 1960s, we were barely taught about the importance of New Amsterdam. Peter Minuit and Peter Stuyvesant became vaguely familiar names, but essentially no details about them were taught. We knew about the Dutch presence mostly through place names and through old storybooks like The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. But Shorto's narrative shines a bright light on the history of the Dutch in 17th century North America, and on the the degree to which Dutch influence molded the spirit of the multi-cultural, exuberant, dynamic city that New York City grew into.

Some important points:
The English colonies to the north and south of the Dutch were set up as religiously repressive Puritan outposts. "Heresy" was punished harshly. But the Netherlands during this time was the most liberal country in Europe, and freedom of religion and overall inclusionary policies were the word of the day. So people came to settle the incredibly fertile land in and around Manhattan, or to live and do business within the young city, from all over.

It soon became apparent that Manhattan Island, sitting as it did at the mouth of the massive Hudson River and having the best harbor for maritime activity on the east coast of North America, was the spot around which trade with Europe and exploration into the continent itself would revolve.

While the English chartered land in the New World for their citizens to take over and settle, the Dutch, as their global trade networks expanded, left the work to private companies, namely the Dutch East India Company and the Dutch West India company. Generally speaking, then, the Dutch set up trading centers to be run for the profit of these companies, rather than for the country itself. New Amsterdam, then, was an anomaly in that a true colony grew up. The way these trading posts were administered was that the company would send a director, who would run his post autocratically. Authority derived from the company. In the case of New Amsterdam, that director was Peter Stuyvesant, who ran the place with an iron fist and fought tooth and nail against the citizens who began agitating for a role in the decision-making process of the town and for their own rights as Dutch citizens.

It's this last point that provides the heart of Shorto's story. Most of the history of New Amsterdam was presumed lost, but in the early 1970s, a treasure trove of documents from the colony, handwritten, of course, and in 17th century Dutch, was discovered in the archives of the New York State Library in Albany. Shortly thereafter, a scholar named Charles Gehring, a specialist in the Dutch language of that time, was given the job of translating the 12,000 pages in the collection. As of the original 2005 publication of The Island at the Center of the World, Gehring, while still at work on the task, had made huge strides. What had emerged were day-to-day administrative records of the settlement, court minutes, and official letters. All sorts of historical details that help create a nuanced, multi-dimensional look at New Amsterdam written in the hand of its leading citizens.

One important figure, previously almost entirely unknown, who came to light was one Adriaen van der Donck, who came to the colony to work with Stuyvesant as his secretary, but soon turned against him and became the ringleader of those trying to wrest significant amounts of authority away his former boss. van der Donck made it all the way back to The Hague, where he argued before the Dutch governing body that New Amsterdam should be taken away from the Dutch West India Company (and Stuyvesant) and instead become a province of the Netherlands proper, with all attendant rights for its citizens. He came very close to succeeding. The fact that he didn't eventually meant the end of Dutch Manhattan. As trade wars between the English and the Dutch intensified, the Dutch West India company ignored Stuyvesant's pleas for soldiers and weapons to defend his wildly valuable island. When the English appeared in the harbor with gunboats and soldiers, reinforced by English settlers from the North who showed up armed on the colony's border, Styuvesant had no choice but to hand the place over.

Shorto does a great job of describing the Dutch culture and politics off the era, as well as their on again-off again conflicts with the English, and the ways that all this affected New Amsterdam's development. He also shows the many ways that the Dutch culture and mindset of New Amsterdam has influenced American attitudes over the centuries since and the ways in which American culture is different than it would have been had "original" 13 colonies in truth been entirely English in nature, as what became the prevailing American myth would have it.

Book note: My wife and I were told about this extremely interesting and entertaining history by friends of ours who are lifelong New Yorkers. Once we got to New York ourselves last June, my wife borrowed the book from our local NY Public Library branch and loved it. To ensure that I'd read it, too, she went out and bought a new copy which she then gave me as a Hanukkah present.

96Ameise1
Fev 3, 1:41 pm

Great review 😀

97labfs39
Fev 3, 2:49 pm

>95 rocketjk: Sounds fascinating!

98SassyLassy
Fev 3, 4:05 pm

>95 rocketjk: Sounds like really good background.

Have you read World's End by T Coraghessan Boyle? Lots of fun.

99dchaikin
Fev 3, 5:17 pm

>95 rocketjk: i’ve thought about this one, but I’ve never read such an enthusiastic review. I’m making a note. I learned a lot from your review.

Reading Edith Wharton and all those Dutch old family names who set the cultural trend in Old New York in the 1800’s through at least wwi, increases my curiosity.

100rocketjk
Editado: Fev 3, 5:36 pm

>96 Ameise1: Thanks!

>97 labfs39: I think you'd really like it.

>98 SassyLassy: You know, I've haven't read any of Boyle's books, though I've always thought his work would be up my alley. My wife speaks highly of his novels, though I don't think she's read one for quite a while.

>99 dchaikin: I hope you decide to check out Island at the Center of the World. I'd be very interested to learn your take on it.

101baswood
Fev 3, 6:12 pm

>95 rocketjk: fascinating

102rv1988
Fev 4, 5:14 am

>95 rocketjk: Great review, this sounds fascinating.

103cindydavid4
Fev 4, 10:29 am

>98 SassyLassy: Ive read many of his back in the day world's end was one, and the women which I read when i was reading loving frank There are a few titles that look famililar like talk talk and a friend to earth but not sure. he sorta vanished from my radar around 2010

104rocketjk
Fev 4, 3:29 pm

My post-The Island at the Center of the World "Between Book" reading, a wander through Stack 2, proceeded thusly:

* “Masked Ball,” anonymous,* from The World's Greatest Romances (Black's Reader Services) edited by Walter J. Black
* “Somebody Calls” by James Laver from The Third Ghost Book edited by Lady Cynthia Asquith
* “The God of Wind” by Jenny Bhatt from Each of Us Killers
* “The Annual Fall Anthem Sing Ends (World Series Game VII)” by Furman Bisher (The Atlanta Journal) from Best Sports Stories 1965 edited by Irving T. Marsh and Edward Ehre
* Day 5 Introduction & Story 1 from The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio (translated by Wayne A. Rebhorn)
* "Our New Army" by Gurney Williams in Collier’s Magazine - May 10, 1941

* Listed in the table of contents as “Berlin Memoirs.”

This evening I'll be starting The Ploughmen, a crime novel set in Montana, written by Kim Zupan.

105kjuliff
Editado: Fev 4, 7:27 pm

>104 rocketjk: This book The Ploughmen interests me. It’s not the sort of book I’d normally read, but for some reason I think I will like it.

106rocketjk
Fev 4, 11:39 pm

>105 kjuliff: Well, I'm only 20 pages in, but so far so good.

107dchaikin
Fev 5, 1:40 pm

>104 rocketjk: re the Decameron: your back on story 1?

108rocketjk
Fev 5, 3:20 pm

>107 dchaikin: Day 5 Introduction and Day 5 Story 1.

109dchaikin
Fev 5, 8:39 pm

>108 rocketjk: 😁 sorry. Missed that. Since I’ve prompted you, how’s it coming along?

110SassyLassy
Fev 7, 9:15 am

>100 rocketjk: Somewhat surprised you haven't read any Boyle as yet, as I think he would be right up your alley. World's End would be a great companion/antidote to The Island at the Centre of the World. I think Boyle is one of the few writers who is read fairly equally by both men and women.

>103 cindydavid4: Time to pick him up again.

111rocketjk
Editado: Fev 7, 11:26 am

>109 dchaikin: I'm enjoying the Decameron stories, but I'm not really being moved by them in any way. Once you get past their ribald quality, which is fun, they're just sort of light-hearted tales. I suppose they're one kind of window into the world of their time and place, but really, for me, one at a time, as I've been reading them, is just about right. I don't see how folks would sit down and read all 100 stories in one gulp. I'd be bored. Even if I read them as you did, one "Day's" worth of 10 stories at a time, by about the third story each time I'd just be pressing to get through them. But, certainly, to each his/her/their own. And I am happy to be slowly moving through them.

>110 SassyLassy: "Somewhat surprised you haven't read any Boyle as yet . . . "

I know. Me, too. Every time I see his books in a store, I think, "Why haven't I read any of those yet?" And then I go buy something else. Not sure why, really. One of these days! And thanks for your specific recommendation.

112dchaikin
Fev 7, 2:03 pm

>111 rocketjk: enjoying but particularly moved sounds about right. They’re amusing. I’m not sure where i might have said i read roughly one day at a time. I misspoke. I read roughly one story a day (ten days to complete one Boccaccio day).

113rocketjk
Fev 7, 3:45 pm

>112 dchaikin: "I’m not sure where i might have said i read roughly one day at a time. I misspoke."

Nah, I probably remembered your comment incorrectly.

114rocketjk
Fev 11, 3:31 am

The Ploughmen by Kim Zupan



The Ploughmen is a very effective but dark dual-character study about the springing trapdoor of loneliness and the sly banality of evil. The novel begins with a heartless murder in rural Montana. Soon it becomes apparent that we are going to spending a lot of time in this novel with the murderer. He is John Gload, orphaned in his early teens, who has learned soon thereafter that he is able to kill without remorse or revulsion. Very quickly, Gload has been captured and is sitting in a jail cell in Copper County. There he encounters Deputy Sheriff Valentine Millimaki, the book's main protagonist. The police have Gload dead to rights on this murder; they're certain of a conviction. But at the same time they are fairly sure that Gload, already in his 70s, has killed before, and often. He seems to respect Millimaki, however, so Millimaki's boss asks him to remain on night shift weeks past his regular rotation for that duty should be up, to see if he can get Gload talking about past crimes.

Millimaki has two additional problems. The first is that he is now barely seeing his wife, an ICU nurse who works days. The second is that he is the county's chief search and rescue officer. Working with his German shepherd, Tom, Millimaki has prided himself on finding wandering hikers and others lost in the Montana wilderness in time to save them. But now he is on a depressing run of finding people too late. With that on his mind, he has also to sit up all night listening to Gload, who gradually begins spinning stories of his life and his crimes. It turns out, as well, that the two men have elements of their past in common.

And so we watch the two men interact and develop, not a friendship, but an eery closeness. Gload is a man devoid of decency yet still beholden to his own sense of propriety. Millimaki is a decent man trying to maintain balance, alone in his cabin while his wife works by day and walking the hallway between jail cells at night.

So, as I mentioned above, this novel is pretty dark. But it is also beautifully written, especially when Zupan goes about describing the Montana countryside. Sometimes these descriptions enhance our sense of foreboding, but often they serve as a palliative and as a ray of hope. Millimaki's sense of decency adds another dimension of light to the dark spaces. At any rate, here's one of many such passages I liked which we read as Millimaki and his dog are out on a search and rescue mission:

After they set out the shepherd was immediately drawn to a streamed entering from the south and the going in that direction was slow: deep troughs and cutbacks and a twisted wrack of weathered plank and post and deadfall from some headland flood of the previous spring. Queer rocks lay atop the dirt as smooth and round as Jurassic eggs, and pinecones tumbled and abraded by the torrent lay all about like spined sea creatures of a past age. Grasshoppers wheeled up before them and rattled off into the weeds and sage.

While this is a novel about crime, it is not a whodunnit. That doesn't mean it's devoid of suspense, however, as we watch the relationship between Millimaki and Gload and read to find how each will be affected, even changed, by the other. You do come to care about Millimaki, the dialogue throughout is generally excellent, and both characters are memorable. This is not an easy read, as we spend a lot of time in very gloomy places. But my personal opinion is that overall this is quite a good psychological study and therefore a fine book.

Point of information: We are told that Millimaki is a Finnish name.

Book note: The Ploughmen was published in 2014. According the LT (and the rest of the internet) it is Zupan's only novel. I've had it on my shelves since May 2019. I have no memory of where I bought it, however.

115dianeham
Fev 11, 4:26 am

Also up late! I just downloaded an ebook sample of that - and it’s free on kindle unlimited. Definitely up my street.

116kjuliff
Fev 11, 10:01 am

>114 rocketjk: Interesting review. I tried this novel a few weeks ago after seeing it was on your list. After about 30 pages in I got a little bored and also wasn’t feeling well at the time. Think maybe I should give it another go.

117rocketjk
Fev 11, 3:52 pm

>116 kjuliff: Well, the style doesn't change much and there isn't really a whole lot of action, just interactions between several characters and quite a bit of lovely natural description. I would say maybe try another 30 or 40 pages or so, and if it's still not working for you, c'est la vie!

118dianeham
Fev 11, 4:02 pm

>114 rocketjk: His bio says he worked as a carpenter for 25 years and he has an mfa. My guess is he got the mfa later in his life. This sentence screamed mfa to me: He was vain of his lank black hair combed back slick, and so eschewed the addition of a hat to his costumery.

119cindydavid4
Fev 11, 4:06 pm

ROTFLAHO

120kjuliff
Fev 11, 4:33 pm

>117 rocketjk: More la mort for me then. I’m afraid I’m in a negative mood atm, and am reading an appropriate novel for my mood. It’s The Discomfort of Evening a debut novel brilliantly executed by a young write born in the 90s. Set on a backward farm in Holland 21C.

121rocketjk
Editado: Fev 11, 5:24 pm

>118 dianeham: Yes, there are some, shall we say, over-enthusiastic sentences of that kind, but not too many all in all. Mostly I found the writing to be evocative and effective. And I am very hard on over-writing and bad metaphors and such, so you may be sure that if the sort of sentence you quoted (which I agree is off-putting) were prevalent, I would be warning folks away. The passage I quoted is much more typical. That said, everyone's tolerance is different.

122dianeham
Editado: Fev 11, 5:53 pm

>121 rocketjk: I trust you!

ETA: if you’re wrong then I want to watch you (es)chew your hat.

123rocketjk
Fev 11, 11:19 pm

>120 kjuliff: You should probably pass then, at least for now. The book, as I mentioned above is dark in tone. If you're in a negative mood, this book won't help.

>122 dianeham: "I trust you!"

Thanks!

"ETA: if you’re wrong then I want to watch you (es)chew your hat."

Wouldn't be the first time. :)

Here's another passage I really liked. See what you think. This is during the same search and rescue mission described above:

Shadows like viscous ink slid down the coulee sides and gave sinister shape to the sandstone totems and crags accoutered with high-water jetsam and there were shapes enough among them to populate any dream or nightmare, even in a sound mind. Box elder trees with their eveningtime shadows came to resemble groping mandrake creatures, and raptors planing high overhead gave voice to them, and the roots of the dark pines lay atop the rutted ground like vipers.

The day was far advance when Millimaki and the dog stood among the bones of the ill-starred Hereford.* He stared at the bleached jumble about his feet as if it might be an augury he was meant to decipher but in his diminished state he could hardly unriddle the mystery of his own compass.


It's kinda sorta overwritten, I guess, but between the pictures the paragraphs draw and the mood they create, I found them ultimately effective nevertheless. More important, though, is Zupan's deft touch with character, more gradually built and much less easily shown via sampled quotes.

To be clear, I'm not urging anyone to read this book. I thought it was good, though.

* A long dead calf that the pair have come upon, described more fully in an earlier paragraph.

124dianeham
Fev 11, 11:46 pm

I’m looking forward to their long nights together.

125dchaikin
Fev 12, 1:37 pm

>114 rocketjk: terrific review. Was it the game that kept you up?

126kjuliff
Fev 12, 2:15 pm

>123 rocketjk: I did a pass , and for someone in a negative mood chose an odd book - The Discomfort of Evening by a brilliant young Dutch writer Lucas Rijneveld. It’s disturbing but not grueling. Remarkable by a debut novelist.

127rocketjk
Fev 12, 2:42 pm

>125 dchaikin: Thanks! But, no, my late night reviewing session was the previous night. Just couldn't sleep . . . on thing and another. They say when it's the middle of the night and you're not sleeping you should get out of bed. On the other hand, they also say you should stay away from screens, so I was off the mark, there. I just decided to get the review finished regardless. It was a great game, though.

>126 kjuliff: Thanks for the heads up re Rijneveld.

128dchaikin
Fev 12, 8:48 pm

>127 rocketjk: I’ve told that you should get up and do something really boring. 🙂 But sometimes it’s nice to write late at night.

129rv1988
Fev 12, 11:12 pm

>114 rocketjk: Such an interesting review, and I liked the bits you excerpted. I'm also wary of overwriting, but you're making a good case for this book, I'll try it.

130rocketjk
Fev 13, 11:30 am

>129 rv1988: Thanks for your positive comment on my review. I feel like I might be out on thin ice with people trying the book based on my say-so, but I'll be very interested to see what y'all think. Anyway, it's only 256 pages, so not a great investment in time if it doesn't work for anyone.

131rocketjk
Editado: Fev 14, 8:04 am

My post-The Ploughmen "Between Book" reading provided a nice interlude, including one new addition:

* “A Second Espousal,” by Anton Grazzini from The World's Greatest Romances (Black's Reader Services) edited by Walter J. Black
* “Harry” by Rosemary Timperley from The Third Ghost Book edited by Lady Cynthia Asquith
* “Mango Season” by Jenny Bhatt from Each of Us Killers
* “Beanball Homicide” by Tim Cohane (Look Magazine) from Best Sports Stories 1965 edited by Irving T. Marsh and Edward Ehre
* “Kahramana” by Anoud from Iraq + 100 edited by Hassan Blasim – Newly added!
* Day 5, Story 2 from The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio (translated by Wayne A. Rebhorn)
* "Too Mad to Fight" by Walter Davenportin Collier’s Magazine - May 10, 1941

Last night I began Inheritance, Lan Samantha Chang's first novel. So far it's very enjoyable.

132labfs39
Fev 14, 10:21 am

>131 rocketjk: Iraq +100 looks really interesting. I'll look forward to your impressions.

133rocketjk
Fev 14, 8:34 pm

>132 labfs39: That first story is quite good as is the author's own tale. Anoud is a woman who has left Iraq and writes under a pseudonym because she has fallen afoul of the Iraqi government. She lives in New York City now. The idea behind the whole collection is interesting, too. But I will talk about that more when I write my review. ("Between Book" with 10 stories, so it will take me around 15 books read to finish the collection.)

134ursula
Fev 15, 9:25 am

Interesting about Iraq + 100, I read Palestine + 100 last year. Also interesting to me to see the title of that story - I see that it means "heroine" in Arabic. Turkish uses the word kahraman for hero/heroine.

135dianeham
Fev 17, 3:49 pm

Now I’m dying to know where you are getting an apartment. Extending your stay in ny? I figured you were up to something since I haven’t seen you. Sorry, I’m very nosy - or as we say in some parts of Philly "newsy."

136rocketjk
Editado: Fev 18, 9:39 am

>135 dianeham: "Extending our stay" is (I hope!) an understatement. We are going to sell our house in California and move here. The lure of family (for my wife) and friends (for both of us, as we both grew up in New Jersey) plus NYC culture has been enough for us to decide to settle in here. We're looking for an apartment on the Upper West Side. Steph wants to be close to her sister, who lives a short subway ride uptown from there. Plus with luck we'll be close to both Central Park and Riverside Park. That's a priority for all sorts of reasons but mostly to keep Rosie the German shepherd happy.

137cindydavid4
Fev 18, 11:19 am

Oh how exciting! If I lived there Id want to be on the upper west side. I bet its very expensive tho. Hope you can find something that wont break the bank!

138kjuliff
Editado: Fev 18, 12:07 pm

>137 cindydavid4: The Upper East is where I am I prefer the East Side north or south. I would prefer the Lower East Side but am sort of entrenched here.

139AlisonY
Fev 18, 11:47 am

>136 rocketjk: Well that's exciting news! I love house hunting (other people's, that is - far too stressful when it's my own) - keep us updated with all the details!

140dianeham
Fev 18, 2:08 pm

>136 rocketjk: How exciting! Hope you find the perfect place. Will you be moving lots of stuff from the west coast to the east?

141labfs39
Fev 18, 5:08 pm

Hooray! I look forward to seeing more of you and Stephanie at LT gatherings. Good luck with the house hunting. I'm really happy with the one I bought after moving East from Seattle.

142rocketjk
Fev 22, 9:48 am

>138 kjuliff: Yes, the East Side is very cool and I can easily see why you'd prefer that area, but we are committed to the West Side due to Steph's desire to be only a quick subway ride from her sister.

More generally, thanks, everyone, for the kind words about out search. We just found out yesterday that we were outbid for a place we'd put an offer in on. C'est la vie. The hunt continues!

>141 labfs39: Thanks! I am looking forward to being able to spend time with all my LT/CR pals who live or visit here once the dust settles. There is going to be a logistical nightmare coming down the pike in relatively short order.

143rocketjk
Editado: Fev 24, 1:47 pm

Inheritance by Lan Samantha Chang



Inheritance is a novel that takes us through three generations of a Chinese family, from the beginning of the 20th century up through the late-1980s. The narrative moves from the Chinese Revolution of 1911 through the gathering threat of Japanese imperialism, the Japanese invasion and occupation, the Chinese Civil War and the calamity (from the point of view of our protagonists) of the Communist victory and the family's exile to Taiwan. The focus is primarily on the women of the family, told often through the point of view of Hong, the daughter of novel's central figure, Junan. Although the storytelling is often in the third person, we understand that the perspective is Hong's and that she is relating the family history as it has been told to her or as she has pieced it together. This somewhat shifting narrative strategy I found to be largely effective. And as important, or perhaps even more important, as the historical events the family lives through, and are often drastically effected by, the novel takes us through a near-century of shifting attitudes and expectations of the roles and duties of women in Chinese society, from Hong's grandmother, who had spent 6 years with her feet bound before "the practice went out of fashion," to Hong's adulthood as a professional woman in the United States.

As noted above, the novel's central figure is Junan, the narrator's mother, who we follow from girlhood. Junan is beautiful and iron-willed, determined to pull her family through the national disasters whirling around them, even as her husband, Li Ang, is off rising through the ranks of Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist Army. The complicated relationships between Junan and her husband, but also between Junan and her beloved sister, Yinan, are at the heart of the story. Personal and emotional sacrifices, as well as unfortunate levels of pride and standards of propriety course through the storytelling.

This is a first novel. Chang has since gone on to write several more novels and story collections, none of which I have read. I found Inheritance to be quite enjoyable and often absorbing, though I did find it inexplicably slow going in some parts. The writing is straightforward and clear, and for me very effective on almost all levels. The characters are well drawn and complex, and their lives and relationships are much more fully drawn than I have perhaps indicated above.

There are a couple of flaws in the procedure for me, however. One is what I call the "shayna punim" (Yiddish for "pretty face") factor. Junan is strong-willed and physically beautiful, married to a man rising in power and prestige and able to a large extent to bend conditions to her will. I do sometimes weary of novels in which the protagonists have the advantages of physical beauty and strength to help propel them over obstacles that might hinder the rest of us mere mortals. The other is the fact that the characters occasionally make crucial decisions that seemed inexplicable to me, and that the quick paragraphs meant to explain these decisions, either presented at the time or later in retrospect, were opaque to me. Two or three times, I couldn't make out what Chang, through her characters, was getting at. At least twice, paragraphs that seemed to be meant to be explanatory were so cryptic as to leave me scratching my head. I can't decide whether the problem was that Chang was simply so sure of what she was getting at that she didn't realize she hadn't described things comprehensibly or that I'm simply a blockhead. I figure the chances at 50-50. Or, of course, perhaps Chang purposefully left things vague at those crucial points, though I'm not sure what the point would be.

At any rate, I found Inheritance very much worth reading, offering an interesting (if necessarily limited in focus) picture of Chinese society during extremely turbulent times, with memorable characters throughout. As a first novel, I'd say it's admirable indeed, and I will be keeping an eye out for Chang's subsequent works.

144Ameise1
Fev 24, 1:33 pm

Great rewiev 😃. Unfortunately my library hasn't got a copy of it.
Good luck with your house hunt. 🤞

145rocketjk
Fev 25, 12:21 pm

My post-Inheritance "Between Book" reading consisted of more time spent with Stack 2:

* “Anne Gillespie’s Character,” by James Hogg from The World's Greatest Romances (Black's Reader Services) edited by Walter J. Black
* “The Shades of Sleepe” by Ursula Codrington from The Third Ghost Book edited by Lady Cynthia Asquith
* “Life Spring” by Jenny Bhatt from Each of Us Killers
* “That Perfect Game” by Allen Lewis (The Philadelphia Inquirer) from Best Sports Stories 1965 edited by Irving T. Marsh and Edward Ehre
* Day 5, Story 3 from The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio (translated by Wayne A. Rebhorn)
* "The Promise" by Felicia Gizycka in Collier’s Magazine - May 10, 1941

Next it's on to Death in the Making, a book of photos of the Spanish Civil War by Robert Capa and two other photographers. The book also includes two explanatory essays.

146RidgewayGirl
Fev 26, 12:36 pm

>143 rocketjk: Wonderful review. I have loved everything by Lan Samantha Chang, especially her short stories and the novel All is Forgotten, Nothing is Lost, which I picked up solely because of the title. The Family Chao is also brilliant.

And how fun to be translating your sabbatical into a permanent residency! Good luck on the apartment hunt.

147rocketjk
Editado: Fev 28, 9:59 am

Death in the Making by Robert Capa, Gerda Taro and Chim



This photobook of powerful images from the Spanish Civil War is mostly comprised of images by famed war photographer Robert Capa but also contains several by Capa's collaborator and sometime romantic partner Gerda Taro and by a photographer known as Chim (born Dawid Szymin). (There are 111 images by Capa, 24 by Taro and 11 by Chim.) Capa was a Hungarian Jew, and Taro a German Jew. Both had fled to Paris to escape the rise in antisemitism. Chim was Polish. All three were fierce supporters of the Loyalist side, fighting against Franco's fascist armies (plus the Italian and German air forces).

The photos are remarkable, bringing to vivid life the faces of Loyalist soldiers and civilians alike. We see the smiling groups of soldiers in the war's early days when hope and camaraderie lit up these civilian solders' faces with the joy of the righteous cause. But we also see soldiers dying or freshly dead, killed in battle or in air raids. Fear and fatigue. The panic of civilian crowds running for bomb shelters. The shattered, exhausted faces of refugees. The horror of war, and the cruel, relentless crushing of dreams. The refusal to surrender. The book's forward was written by Jay Allen, a journalist who had been in Spain since 1930. The captions to the photos are by Capa himself, though they often provide more of a narrative of the overall experience than direct descriptions of the individual photos.

This book was originally published in 1938. The war was still going, but things were already looking very bleak for the Loyalists. Capa had already left Spain, heading off to China to photograph the Chinese resistance to the Japanese invasion, and Taro was already dead, killed after a year spent at the front when the jeep she was riding in was struck by an out-of control tank. Capa left the publishing of the book to others, and the result was a book of powerful photos but less than stellar production values: grainy photo reproductions and subpar paper stock. The book sold poorly. In 2020, however, the International Center for Photography in New York City teamed with the Italian publisher Damiani to produce a new edition, with greatly enhanced reproductions and much better paper stock. (I bought my copy at the ICP Museum.) The new edition contains an extremely helpful and interesting afterward by contemporary photography curator Cynthia Young, who has done a lot of work with Capa's photos.

The book's cover photo, now known as The Falling Soldier, is one of the most famous photos in combat photography history. It depicts an advancing Loyalist soldier an instant after being struck by a bullet. Capa claimed that he stuck his camera up over the lip of the trench he was in and snapped the photo of the advance without looking. In the 1970s, claims arose that the photo had actually been staged. Young, in her essay, makes no mention of this issue and instead takes the photo at face value. She does wonder why the photo was only used for the dust jacket and not included in the book itself. (I read about the "staging" issue on wikipedia and haven't looked into it further.)

Original editions of the book are rare and extremely pricy. This new edition isn't cheap either, but I can say for sure that the New York Public Library as at least one copy, and other libraries may have copies as well.

Here are a couple of online images of Capa's photos. The first is contained in the book. The second is not but gives a good idea of others depicting refugees that are there:




148labfs39
Fev 27, 5:10 pm

>147 rocketjk: Some years ago I read Robert Capa: The Definitive Collection. I wonder if the photos in your book were included in this one. I don't own the book unfortunately, so I can't check.

149RidgewayGirl
Fev 27, 5:18 pm

>147 rocketjk: Fascinating.

150SassyLassy
Fev 28, 9:53 am

>147 rocketjk: I've always loved Capa's photos. What a great project by the International Centre. Do you know if any other photographers are on their radar?

151rocketjk
Editado: Fev 28, 11:47 am

>150 SassyLassy: I don't know what their current projects are, but here's their website:
https://www.icp.org

152markon
Fev 28, 11:45 am

Sounds like two quite interesting books (Inheritance and the Capa photographs.) My library has The family Chao, so maybe I'll get to that one of these days.

Good luck apartment hunting!

153rocketjk
Editado: Fev 28, 1:12 pm

Well the post-Death in the Making "Between Books" coin flip came up Stack 2 again, and here's what I read:

* “A Spanish Kiss,” by Lafcadio Hearn from The World's Greatest Romances (Black's Reader Services) edited by Walter J. Black
* “The Woman in Black” by Daniel George from The Third Ghost Book edited by Lady Cynthia Asquith
* “Time and Opportunity” from Each of Us Killers by Jenny Bhatt
* “Hutch” by Dick Young (The New York Daily News) from Best Sports Stories 1965 edited by Irving T. Marsh and Edward Ehre
* Day 5, Story 4 from The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio (translated by Wayne A. Rebhorn)
* "Old Bones" by Bob Considine in Collier’s Magazine - May 10, 1941

Next up will be a baseball history, The Teammates: A Portrait of a Friendship about four members of the great Boston Red Sox teams of the late-1930s through early-1950s. The book is by historian David Halberstam. Seems appropriate as spring training games get underway.

154dchaikin
Fev 28, 9:57 pm

I’m also happy we have spring training again. Terrific review of the Capa photos.

155rv1988
Fev 29, 8:16 am

>143 rocketjk: Great review, and the book goes on the looming TBR!
>147 rocketjk: Fascinating and such moving photographs posted by you.

156dianeham
Fev 29, 4:38 pm

Jerry, I sent you a message about "questions for the avid reader" last week. I know you’re really busy right now. If you want me to make up a fun/no essay set of questions, I'd be glad to do that.

157rocketjk
Editado: Fev 29, 5:45 pm

Sure, fire away. Always happy to have suggestions. I'm most interested in questions that engender discussion.

158dianeham
Fev 29, 5:51 pm

>157 rocketjk: i’ll send another message then?

159baswood
Fev 29, 6:18 pm

>147 rocketjk: Very interesting review. There are various collections of Capra's photos around. I have sort of grown up with them ever since I got interested in Black and White photography.

160SassyLassy
Mar 1, 9:44 am

>151 rocketjk: Thanks for the link. That's a whole 'nother rabbit hole (and wallet hole)!