Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction and Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel and post Colonial Asian Fiction are some of my Literary Interests





Sunday, December 11, 2016

"Massimilla Doni" by Honore de Balzac (1837, a short story component of The Human Comedy)



My Comedie Humaine read through project is nearing close..  I have read all of his most famous works.  Balzac wrote very fast at a speed powered by fifty cups of coffee a day, legend has it.  A good bit of his shorter works are kind of formula stories about the sexual and romantic antics of the wealthy.




Sixteenth century Venice has a special place in the heart of numerous classic authors, from Stendhal and Balzac to Mann.  Anna Karenina and her lover escaped the frowns of society there.

  There are 41 novels, twenty novellas and twenty short stories in The Comedie Humaine.  So far I have completed 79 of the 91 works.  Balzac intended it to be a complete portrait of French life.   The works in the cycle include novels always listed in the top hundred of the world to works only those doing a read through would attempt.  Balzac loved Paris and portrayed the city in great detail.  Some say no city anywhere ever had a better chronicler than Balzac.     

This story is very much a standard Balzac story about love and sex among the nobility of Venice.  Emilio, a prince and heir to a palace falls for Massimila, the wife of a duke.  The duke is much older and keeps an opera singer as a mistress.  Massimila loves him back but the relationship remains Platonic meet a misadventure causes Emilio to meet and fall in love with her sexually.  

There are lots of very interesting political reflections on Venice that can be seen as comments on Balzac's France.  There are wonderful descriptive passages of interiors, clothing, faces, and food.  Much of the story deals with the world of opera, as music and social setting.

This is mostly a work for those doing a read through of Balzac's Human Comedy.

Mel u


Friday, December 9, 2016

The Pen and the Brush How the Passion for Art Shaped Nineteenth Century French Novels by Anka Muhlstein (2016)







Balzac's Omelette and Monsieur Proust's Library both by Anka Muhlstein are as delightful a pair of books as one can find on French Literature.   Her new book, The Pen and the Brush How the Passion for Art Shaped Nineteenth Century French Literature is a wonderful account of how their experience of painting influenced the giants of French literature, Balzac, Flaubert, de Maupassant, Zola, and Proust.   

Mulhstein details the ways the authors encountered art, the depiction of painters in their work, and the influence different painters had on their literary methods.  Starting with Balzac, where else could one begin, she talks about the most featured painters in the Comedie Humaine. I am currently working on a read through of this and as a first reader it is hard for mr to keep track of all the times a painter appears in the full works.  Muhlstein very interestingly explains how Balzac's style was influenced by the painters he admired.

One of my favorite works by Emile Zola is The Drinking Den.  I love the hilarious scene when the family of a young Nana make an outing to the Louvre.     As the book progress in time through the 19th century up to the cross century Proust,  we see different painters come into fashion and how each writer had their own favorites.

i will, I hope, be reading in this field for year to come and this book will increase my appreciation of the great power of these writers.

Muhlstein is very deeply read and has a profound knowledge of the visual arts.  Her work will be of value to everyone from those with advanced degrees from the Sorbonne in 19th century French literature to general readers.  Her style is charming and her manner warm.

I highly recommend a visit to the publisher's web page, Other Press.  They offer an elegantly diverse selection of works.

pa

Anka Muhlstein is the author of biographies of Queen Victoria, James de Rothschild, and Cavelier de La Salle; studies on Catherine de Médicis, Marie de Médicis, and Anne of Austria; a double biography, Elizabeth I and Mary Stuart; and most recently, Balzac’s Omelette and Monsieur Proust’s Library (Other Press). She won the Goncourt Prize for her biography of Astolphe de Custine, and has received two prizes from the Académie française. She and her husband, Louis Begley, are the authors of Venice for Lovers. They live in New York City  - from the publisher webpage

Mel u

Friday, December 2, 2016

"Delilah" By Hitomi Kanehara (2011, included in Digital Geishas and Talking Frogs, Best Japanese Short Stories of the 21th Century )





                                                                                      Hitomi Kanehara



When I first participated in Dolce Bellezza's Japanese Literature Challenge  in July of 2009 I had just begun my blog.  After Dark by Haruki  Murakami was  my first Japanese authored work.  From this start I went on to read numerous works by Japanese authors, participating in Japanese Literature Challenge  for eight years.  I have come to see the post World War Two Japanese novel as one of the great cultural treasures of literary history.  After a while I came to see much of Japanese literature as involved with an attempt to depict the cultural  consequence of Japan's loss.  They did not just lose a war, as the Germans did, the very foundation of their belief system, their culture and religion was destroyed when the Emperor told his subjects he was not a god.  This is very clear in the works of the two giants of the genre, Kenzaburo Oe and Yokio Mishima.  This year's challenge runs until at least the end of the year.  The challenge web page has lot of great reading ideas.


Pico Iyer in his very elegant and erudite introduction to Digital Gieshas and Talking Frogs Best 21th  Century Japanese Short Stories sees the stories as evolving from the destruction of the authority of Japanese father figures, from the Emperor who is a false god to the grandfathers who came home defeated, to the youths raised with no foundation of values.  Samurais were just figures in magna and cartoons, women in Geisha attire worked at car shows. The young lived in a semi tribal style,reveling in western music, video games and sex,   Hitomi Kanehara is one of the greatest chroniclers of the lives of the disaffected young, especially that of women,focusing on their sexual activity and relationships.

My main purpose here is to let those interested in Japanese literature know about the collection below.  (your first venture in this genre should be The Oxford Book of Japanese Short Stories).



Table of Contents:

  • The floating forest / Natsuo Kirino
  • The bonfire / Toshiyuki Horie
  • Ikebukuro West Gate Park / Ira Ishida
  • To Khabarovsk / Yoko Tawada
  • As told by a nocturnal witness / Jungo Aoki
  • Super-frog saves Tokyo / Haruki Murakami
  • The diary of a mummy / Masahiko Shimada
  • The female novelist / Maki Kashimada
  • Tsunami / Keichiiro Hirano
  • The sea / Yoko Ogawa
  • The no fathers club / Tomoyuki Hoshino
  • Delila / Hitomi Kanehara
  • My slightly crooked brooch / Noboru Tsujihara.

"Delila" by Hitomi Kanehara centers on a young  rootless Tokyo woman who has just gotten a job in a small bar.  She ends up having sex with the two men working there, there is no pretension of emotional connection.

Hitomi Kanehara was born in Tokyo in 1983. She dropped out of high school at the age of 15 to pursue her passion for writing, with the support of her father, Mizuhito Kanehara, a literary professor and translator of children’s literature. She wrote her first novel Hebi ni Piasu (‘Snakes and Earrings’) at the age of 21. The novel won the prestigious Akutagawa Prize and the Subaru Literary Prize. Her other works include Autofiction (Shueisha Publishing Co., 2006), and Hydra (Shincho Publishing Co., 2007).
from Comma Press

Mel u

Thursday, December 1, 2016

The Reading Life Review November 2016 by Ambrosia Boussweau




Blog Stats for November, 2016

Visits to Date  4,371,234

top visitor home countries

  1.  U S A
  2. The Philippines
  3. India
  4. The Netherlands
  5. Germany
The top American states were California and New York.  World wide the top city of residence is the greater Manila area.  As always the most read posts are on older short stories by Filipino authors.  Second to this is consistently Mel's posts on Indian short stories.  There ae currently 2974 published posts.

Literary Biographies on The Reading Life 

Mel has asked me to advice you that going forward he wishes to read and post on all literary biographies as they are newly published.  if you are an author or publisher of such a work, please contact us concerning a review.

In November Mel posted on two very recent literary biographies.
  1.   Beryl Bainbridge A Biography Love By All Sorts of Means by Brendan King(2016)
  2.  The Nėmirovsky Question The Life, Death and Legacy of a Jewish Woman in 20th Century France by Susan Rubin Suleiman, forthcoming 2017



As he has in the last few years, Mel enjoyed participating in German Literature Month.  

 Readings For German Literature VI November 2016

1.  The Glass Bead Game by Hermann Hesse

2.  Royal Highness by Thomas Mann

3. A Small Circus by Hans Fallada

4.  Rosshalde by Hermann Hesse

5.  "Did He Do It" by. Stefan Zweig

6.  Journey Into the Past by Stefan Zweig (second reading, no post, posted on in Nov 2015)

7.  The Emigrants by W. G. Sebald

8.  "The Ballarina and the Body" by Alfred Doblin

9.   Confession by Stefan Zweig

10. Schlump by Hans  Herbert Grimm

11.  "Flower Days" by Robert Walser (1911, no post)

12.  "A Summer Novella" by Stefan Zweig 

13.  "Kleisr in Thunder" by Robert Walser. (3rd reading, no post)

14.  Effie Briest by Theodore Fontane




Mel continued his read through of Beryl Bainbridge

Future Reading Plans


Mel has begun rereading Bleak House.  I am sure he will read more Bainbridge, hopefully continue his read through of Balzac's Human Comedy.  he has told me he plans to read some 21th century Japanese short stories soon.

Ambrosia 

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Effi Briest by Theodor Fontane (1895, translated by Hugh Rorrison andHelen Chambers, 1995)







http://rereadinglives.blogspot.com/2015/08/former-people-last-days-of-russian.html

I have read few 19th century German novels. I was very glad last year when j saw Effie Briest by Theodor Fontane was on short term sale as a Kindle for $1.95. Amazon reviewers described it as a German Madame Bovary.

After completing the novel I found an excellent article in The New Yorker by Daniel Mendelson focusing on the heroines in the novels of Theodor Fontane. After reading tgis article,I don't see a eyed or feel like writing a descriptive blog post. 

When we first meet the title character Effis Briest she is her late teens, the daughter of an affluent Prussian   family.  Fontane made me feel I was there with the family.  He does a very good job of letting us see how very young and naive Effie is when she agrees,with the urging of her parents, to marry a rich man twenty years her senior.  She is very excited and looking forward to having her own house.  There are very well done descriptions of buildings and natural scenery.  Throughout the figure of great Prussian Premier Bismark lurks in the background.  Gradually she becomes board and is led into an affair. 

Oxford University has three of Fontane's novels available as Kindles. I could see myself reading them one day.. My  first impression is he mostly read  as a cultural entity.

Mel ü 






Wednesday, November 23, 2016

"A Summer Novella" by Stefan Zweig (1906, translated by Anthea Bell)








My Readings For German Literature VI November 2016

1.  The Glass Bead Game by Hermann Hesse

2.  Royal Highness by Thomas Mann

3. A Small Circus by Hans Fallada

4.  Rosshalde by Hermann Hesse

5.  "Did He Do It" by. Stefan Zweig

6.  Journey Into the Past by Stefan Zweig (second reading, no post, posted on in Nov 2015)

7.  The Emigrants by W. G. Sebald

8.  "The Ballarina and the Body" by Alfred Doblin

9.   Confession by Stefan Zweig

10. Schlump by Hans  Herbert Grimm

11.  "Flower Days" by Robert Walser (1911, no post)

12.  "A Summer Novella" by Stefan Zweig 

13.  "Kleisr in Thunder" by Robert Walser. (3rd reading, no post)


When I first saw the story title, "A Summer Novella" I assumed the work was a novella.  It is not and I cannot help but think this might be Zweig having a bit of fun with his readers.  Like many of his works, the story is structured as one man telling a story to another.  In this case the story is set at a nice hotel.  One man relays the events he set in motion when he made up an anonymous love letter, just for a joke, and sent it to a young girl staying at the hotel with her parents.  He can see she is shocked and intrigued.  He decides to send her more increasingly ardent letters.  He watches her reading them in the hotel dining room when her parents are not around.   Soon he sees her suriptiously eyeing a dashing young Italian man staying in the hotel.   She seems convinced he is her mystery lover.

The man listening to the story tells the narrator he should expand it into a novella.  

I found this a clever story.


Mel ü

 




Injury Time by Beryl Bainbridge (1977, republished 2016 by Open Road Integrated Media)






Dame Beryl Bainbridge is regarded as one of the greatest and most prolific British novelists of her generation. Consistently praised by critics, she was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize five times, won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize and the W. H. Smith Literary Award, and twice won the Whitbread Award for Novel of the Year.   She was born in Liverpool in 1932 and died in London in 2010.



Works Read to Date

Harriet Said

The Bottle Factory Outing

According to Queenie

Young Adolf

Sweet William 1976

An Awfully Big Adventure 1989

Injury Time


Injury Time is a witty, perceptive account of a middle aged married man's affair with a woman, Binny, who has three children.  Binny is tired of being the "woman on the side", only able to see Edward when he can squeeze in time away from his wife.  When Edward stops by her place, they have to wait until her ten year old goes to bed before they can have sex,leaving about fifteen minutes before Michael has to leave.  


Edward is a somewhat hapless chap, working in dull job and in a marriage with Helen which, if not loveless, is hardly passionate.  And he has a mistress – albeit one with three unruly children at home, and no intention of staying submissively in the shadows.  His mistress rejoices in the absurd name Binny. Binny is getting very sick of this.  Michael is always telling her how he wished he had more time for her.  Edwards mangeses an alibi for an evening and to try to calm down Binny,he invites a work friend and his wife over to Binny's place for dinner.  

The dinner party turns into a darkly hilarious disaster starting with Binny's a bit drunk friend and neighbor Anne intruding.  But then the real disaster occurs when three strangers,two men and a woman stage a random home invasion.  They have in mind holding the two couples as hostages against the police,seeking to arrest them.   The invaders tie them up.  Things get pretty weird.  I will leave the remaining plot untold.  



Open Road  Intergrated  Media  is a dynamic high quality  publisher with over 10,000 books and 2000 authors on their well organized web pages. The prices are very fair and the formatting of their E Books is flawless.  

The Beryl Bainbridge books are only being offered for sale in the USA