M 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

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Sunday, August 30, 2015

Beatlebone by Kevin Barry (Forthcoming, 2015)






Beatlebone by Kevin Barry is all the proof we need of the literary  brilliance of the Irish.  It centers on John Lennon, in mid-career.  Seven years ago he bought an island off the west coast of Ireland and he has left his residence at the famous Dakota Hotel in New York City to find his island amidst the many coastal islands.  The West of Ireland is a magic place, one of the portals a spirit inhabited world.  It is only gradually revealed in the narrative that we are dealing with the famous John Lennon, considered the intellect and creative force behind the Beatles, but as it is revealed on the cover it is hardly hidden.  But still the slow revelation is very skillful executed.  

John hires a local guide who turns out to be a shape-shifter.  John is concerned the Dublin press will end up swarming all over him.  

The prose of Beatlebone is just incredible, surrealistic at times, then lyrical then journalistic.  More than once I was stunned by the images invoked.  I thought and hope I knew what was meant when John felt a portal to the underworld was opening for him in the west of Ireland.  The dialogues are just a sheer pleasure to read.  As the novel progresses the narrative method or perhaps it is the prose style more than this changes to seem like Kevin Barry is at times writing a journalistic account of Lennon's time looking for the island.  There are also flash backs to older days in the Beatles, accounts of "Scream Therapy", drug fueled parties and numerous very striking minor characters.  We learn how Lennon came to buy an island and are given some West of Ireland cultural  lessons. 

I am sure Beatlebone will be very well received.  I totally loved it.

I was kindly  given a review copy of this book. 


KEVIN BARRY is the author of the highly acclaimed novel City of Bohane and two short story collections, Dark Lies the Island and There Are Little Kingdoms. He was awarded the Rooney Prize in 2007 and won The Sunday Times EFG Short Story Prize in 2012. For City of Bohane, he was shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award and the Irish Book Award, and won the Author’s Club First Novel Prize, The European Prize for Literature and the IMPAC Prize. His short fiction has appeared in The New Yorker and elsewhere. He lives in County Sligo in Ireland. - publisher supplied data. 

Mel u




Friday, August 28, 2015

"Praca Maua" by Clarice Lispector (1971)


Feeling Lonely, Bored, Badly in Need of  a Night Out?  Join Clarice at Club Erotica.


" it was nearly three in the morning. The “Erótica” was full of men and women. Lots of housewives went there for fun and to make a little extra cash."


The Complete Short Stories of Clarice Lipsector, published August, 2015, translated by Katrina Dodson, edited and introduced by Benjamin Moser 


My Prior Posts on Clarice Lispector 


"Praca Maua", named after a street in  on the ocean, is a brilliant compelling story about a Rio stripper. She is thirty or so, married to a carpenter, their work hours mean they rarely see each other and she sleeps with customers at the bar she works at to make extra cash.  She does not hate her work at all, sometimes finds it exciting, sometimes boring.  Customers buy her drinks and she make commisions from this even though her drinks are just colored water.  She is friends with a man who also works the bar.  He takes hormones, comes from an upper class family, is popular with sailors, and has adopted a four year old girl on whom he dotes.  

The woman is perfectly realized.  She is a hooker for the easy money, beats working in a store.  Clarice does a great job of bringing her to life.  As the story closes, her and her man friend have a fight over a customer when the woman says he is so handsome she would sleep with him for free.  She achieves a brief ephinay as the story closes.

To me this story shows the very broad range of people and situations Clarice can write upon convincingly.  I read this story three times and liked it more each time.  I think the only right way to experience the short stories of Clarice is to read them all in publication order then go back and read as your instincts dictate.  

I think in time I will develop a sense of Clarice's presentation of the status of women in Brazil.  I think "Praca Maua" is an important part of this matter.

Me, I'm heading off to Erotica.  






"Pig Latin" by Clarice Lispector (1974)





What matters is the magnetic love she inspires in those susceptible to her. For them, Clarice is one of the great emotional experiences of their lives. But her glamour is dangerous. “Be careful with Clarice,” a friend told a reader decades ago. “It’s not literature. It’s witchcraft.” Benjamin Moser


The Complete Short Stories of Clarice Lipsector, published August, 2015, translated by Katrina Dodson, edited and introduced by Benjamin Moser 


My Prior Posts on Clarice Lispector 



I have now begun rereading the short stories of Clarice for a second, third or even fourth time.  Her work and person has cast the spell her readers are warned about.  When I first began reading her stories, eighty six in the collection, I planned to post on all of them, one at a time. Then I decided not really good for my blog, new and even old visitors will be turned away by eightty plus posts on a writer maybe they never heard about.  Ok I thought some more, long ago I did seventy five posts on Katherine Mansfield and almost everyday people from all over the world read some of them.  One big purpose of The Reading Life is just to be my reading journal.  I am now long term planning to reread all Clarice's stories again and do at least a brief post on each one.  No set time schedule.  I will also, hopefully eventually read her novels.  I have read her The Passion According to G. R.

"Pig Latin", with a reading time of under five minutes, is centered on a female English teacher.   She is described as not pretty, just ordinary.  Part of what we will get deeper into is how women identify with their preceived looks, accepting societies defining of the worth of women by their appeal to men as portrayed in the work of Clarice.  The woman is a very well regarded teacher and is on a train going to the airport.  Clarice, in the beautiful prose of Katrina Dodson, opens the story perfectly

"Maria Aparecida—Cidinha, as they called her at home—was an English teacher. Neither rich nor poor: she got by. But she dressed impeccably. She looked rich. Even her suitcases were high quality. She lived in Minas Gerais and was taking the train to Rio, where she’d spend three days, and then catch a plane to New York. She was a highly sought-after teacher. She prized perfection and was affectionate, yet strict. She wanted to perfect her skills in the United States. She took the seven a.m. train to Rio."

At first she is alone in her train car.  Then two rough to her looking men get in and sit opposite her.  They begin to speak in Pig Latin which as an English teacher Cidinha understands.  They are talking about how they intend to rape her.  She is a virgin.  She decides if the men think she is a prostitute from the favelas they will not want her.  

She stands up, exposes her breasts and does a samba, in her mind like a prostitute would.

The men say in Pig Latin that she is crazy and leave her alone.  But her luck is not good.  The conductor saw her dance and has her put off the train and arrested as a prostitute.  She ends up spending three days in a  jail.  

In "Pig Latin" Clarice has shown us the precarious status of single women in Brazil.  

The close of the story is very powerful, visually impacting.

"Finally they let her go. She caught the next train to Rio. She’d washed her face, she was no longer a prostitute. What worried her was this: when the two men had talked about nailing her, she’d wanted to be nailed. She was utterly brazen. Andway I’mway away utslay. That’s what she’d discovered. Eyes downcast. She arrived in Rio exhausted. Went to a cheap hotel. Quickly realized she’d missed the flight. At the airport she bought a ticket. And she wandered the streets of Copacabana, she miserable, Copacabana miserable. Then on the corner of Figueiredo Magalhães she saw a newsstand. And hanging there was the newspaper O Dia. She couldn’t say why she bought it. A bold headline read: “Girl Raped and Murdered on Train.” She trembled all over. So it had happened. And to the girl who had looked at her in contempt. She started crying on the street. She threw away that damned newspaper. She didn’t want the details. She thought: “Esyay. Atefay isway implacableway.” Fate is implacable."






  



Thursday, August 27, 2015

"One Hundred Years of Forgiveness" by Clarice Lispector (1971)



"What matters is the magnetic love she inspires in those susceptible to her. For them, Clarice is one of the great emotional experiences of their lives. But her glamour is dangerous. “Be careful with Clarice,” a friend told a reader decades ago. “It’s not literature. It’s witchcraft.” Benjamin Moser


The Complete Short Stories of Clarice Lipsector, published August, 2015, translated by Katrina Dodson, edited and introduced by Benjamin Moser 


My Prior Posts on Clarice Lispector 


"In Recife there were countless streets, rich people’s streets, lined with mansions set amid extensive gardens. A little friend and I would often play at deciding whose mansions they were. “That white one’s mine.” “No, I already said the white ones are mine.”  From "One Hundred Years of Forgiveness"

"One Hundred Years of Forgiveness" is about a poor young girl running the streets of Recife in North Eastern Brazil, just like Clarice once was.  The narrator would run through the rich parts of town, with her best friend.  They would fantasize that they owned the mansions.  Every day she would see beautiful roses at one of the houses and one day she got up the nerve to steal one.  The experience exilirated her and she began stealing roses everyday.  It brought a winderous beauty to her humble home.  

There is no big conclusions, no revelations but maybe realizing that you can steal a rose and bring it home was a big revelation to a poor young girl in Recife.  

Clarice (for better at worse, everyone in Brazil calls her that and I will from now on also) made me feel I was on the streets of Recife.  I think it is about the existential reality of poverty,  how  thievery can liberate.  

"It felt so good that I simply began stealing roses. The process was always the same: the girl on the lookout, while I went in, broke off the stem and fled with the rose in my hand. Always with my heart pounding and always with that glory that no one could take away from me."





Tuesday, August 25, 2015

"The Dinner" by Clarice Lispector. (1954) - Iréne Némirovsky and Clarice Lispector My 2015 Literary Crushes


"What matters is the magnetic love she inspires in those susceptible to her. For them, Clarice is one of the great emotional experiences of their lives. But her glamour is dangerous. “Be careful with Clarice,” a friend told a reader decades ago. “It’s not literature. It’s witchcraft.” Benjamin Moser


The Complete Short Stories of Clarice Lipsector, published August, 2015, translated by Katrina Dodson, edited and introduced by Benjamin Moser 




My Prior Posts on Clarice Lispector 




(Iréne Némirovsky 1903 to 1942).                            (Clarice Lispector 1920 to 1977)                


"But I am still a man. Whenever they betrayed or murdered me, whenever someone leaves forever, or I lost the best of what I still had, or when I found out that I am going to die—I do not eat. I am not yet this power, this structure, this ruin. I push away the plate, reject meat and its blood"  from "The Dinner" by Clarice Lispector.

So far this year I have developed two very strong literary crushes, one began on March 15 when I read the first published short story of Clarice Lispector, "The Triumph".  Just as Benjamin Moser warned,  her stories and her life have guest a spell over me, I see the witchcraft in her work.  My other crush is on Iréne Némirovsky.  I am now reading my way through her works.  There are common traits to both women.  Both were of Eastern European Jewish heritage.  Lispector's family fled in near poverty the Ukraine to escape terrible anti-Semitic programs settling in Recife in North Eastern Brazil when Lispector was very young.  Némirovsky's family fled the Kiev area of Russia after the revolution.  Her father was very rich and they moved to Paris.  Both writers made use of the language of their home country.  You can see deeply the impact of their cultural heritage from Jewish backgrounds in their work.   Both died before they should have, Lispector of ovarian cancer and Némirovsky in a German concentration camp at age forty.  I know this is selfish, but Némirovsky wrote about a novel a year and I deeply blame the Germans  for cheating me out of thirty novels.  Lispector's mother died young as a consequence of injuries sustained when she was raped in pogram in the Ukraine.  This loss had a life time impact on her.  


I have completed my first read through of The Complete Short Stories of Clarice Lispector and posted on a few of the stories.  I predicted in March on The Threshold Short Story Forum that this book would be at least the short story in translation event of the year and massive main stream print coverage has shown I was right in my prediction.  I think many short story people will count reading her stories as a very major reading life event.  I also read her novel, many consider it her masterwork, The Passion According to G. R.  Then I read Benjamin Moser's superb biography, Why This World A Biography of Clarice Lispector which I highly recommend.  

Lispector is a very "philosophical writer", Moser has stated she is the most important Jewish  writer since Kafka.  When I first read this I thought, "please spare me the literary hyperbole" but now I agree.
Moser helped me see Spinoza, the Yiddish tradition, and medieval Kabbalism in Lispector.  

 

The Dinner" reminded me a bit of Katherine Mansfield's early story "German Meat".  Lispector greatly admired the stories of Mansfield and had a deep empathy for her troubled too short life.  As the story opens our narrator is having dinner in a restaurant.  The narrator sees a man about sixty take a table, a powerful looking man of gravity.  He orders steak.  As the narrator observes him eating, he begins to feel almost nauseous.  The man is in no way inherently disgusting.  It his too fleshly embodiment and his fixation on his food that somehow revolts the narrator.  "The Dinner" is also a socially aware story, as is all her work.  The waiter knows he is the sort of man who will tip well so he is catered too in a toadying fashion.  At the close of the story the narrator tries to rise above his own nausea at his trapped in a body angst as seen in the closing lines of the story:

"But I am still a man. Whenever they betrayed or murdered me, whenever someone leaves forever, or I lost the best of what I still had, or when I found out that I am going to die—I do not eat. I am not yet this power, this structure, this ruin. I push away the plate, reject meat and its blood".




Monday, August 24, 2015

Número Zero by Umberto Eco (2015, translated by Richard Dixon)





A post by Ambrosia Boussweau 
European Correspondent, The Reading Life



It has been five years since I read a novel by Umberto Eco (1932, Italy).  I first read his The Name of the Rose and then The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana.  Both of these works are highly regarded works of art.  Of the two my favorite is The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana, about an antique book dealer.  These are challenging works that required serious attention.  

Número Zero, published in Italy in 2012 and a best seller there, is forthcoming in an English translation in November this year.  I was very kindly given an advance review copy.  

Numero Zero is set in Milan in 1992. The center of the story is a start up newspaper.  One of, perhaps the main, character is a writer who needs a job so he accepts an offer.  The work has a strongly noir feel in the shady world of Italian gossip and political scandal journalism.  We meet the several people recruited to work on the new newspaper.  Each person comes with their own baggage.  

The lead character is offered a big bonus to write an article in which he asserts that contrary to everything in the history books, Mussolini was not killed in 1945.  The person killed was Musolini's double.  We learn of various right wing plots to bring the real Mussolini back, in the story being pushed he was able to escape to Argentina with the help of the Vatican.   The writing of this story and his confusion over the possible truth and motivations behind it begins to take over the reporter's life.  

I am glad I was able to read this book.  It is only 208 pages and I find the Amazon prepurchase prize for a Kindle edition, $13.95, too high.  

This is a book for those eagerly awaiting anything new by the author, not for Eco neophytes.



Sunday, August 23, 2015

Jezebel by Iréne Némirovsky (1936, translated by Sandra Smith, 2010)


I offer my great thanks to Max for the gift card which allowed me to read this book.




Many great writers have died under cruel barbaric circumstances. I am, for reasons not entirely clear to me, very impacted by the knowledge that Iréne Némirovsky died at age forty in Auschwitz.   





Like most of her readers, my literary love affair with Iréne Némirovsky (1902 to 1942) began when I read her acknowledged by all master work Suite Francaise.  I then read her most autobiographical novel, The Wine of Solitude.  Next I read her very interesting David Golder centering on a White Russian family living in Paris.  From there I moved on to a very fun and wickedly funny novella about a teenage girl's revenge on her mother (Iréne Némirovsky did have "mother issues"), The Ball.  I also read her The Courilof Affair and Snow in Autumn, both deal with White Russians living in Paris.

Jezebel is a work of great psychological penetration.  Jezebel is, of course, a biblical adulterous, branded by history as a whore, a stealer of husbands.  Gladys Eyesenach, the lead character in Jezebel, is first presented to us at age sixty, on trial for mudering her twenty year old lover in a fit of jealousy.  The opening chapters shows us the trial, the various witnesses for and against Gladys and most of all Gladys herself.  At sixty, still possessesing significant sexual appeal and a decadent kind of beauty.  She is very wealthy, from her late husband.  

I do not want to at all spoil this powerful book for other Némirovsky lovers who have not got to it yet, but it presents a brilliant picture of a woman you are sure to hate.  It shows us a corrupt society where women internalize the idea that they are of value only as long as they are attractive and young.  There is a terrible conlict between Gladys and her daughter climaxing in a scene painful to read.  Némirovsky can write very visually and this scene will leap out for your throat.  We follow Glady's liife as she ages and is taken over by a fear she will lose her power over men.  We meet lots of interesting characters. I think this must be one of the first works of fiction in which the procedures for an abortion are openly talked about.  

The biographers tell us that Némirovsky's mother was a cruel woman, a terrible mother.   

Jezebel is a very powerful work.  My advice is first read Suite Francaise then ponder a read through of Némirovsky's oeuvre.  

I have begun her novel The Fires of Autumn.

Mel u