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





Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Reading Life Blogging Year 2013




2013 was an excellent blogging and reading year for me. Blogging has changed my life way for the better.  I for decades felt isolated and even odd in my love of reading.   Now I know I am one of millions of people that feel the same way.   

Here are some of the highlights of my blogging and reading year.

In March and April I focused on Irish short stories.  I did Q and A sessions with about seventy Irish writers.  This was a tremendous learning experience for me.   In May in the company of Max u, I went to Ireland where I met a number of writers, soaked up as much of Ireland as I could and ate some awesome food.  This was a peak life experience for me.  It was almost overwhelming to visit the grave of William Butler Yeats.


  


I continued to post on the work of Desmond Hogan whom  I had the honor of meeting.  This will continue in 2014 and beyond.  


I continued reading and posting on short stories by writers from the Philippines, the most viewed of any of the now 2007 posts on my blog.  I continued reading Japanese novels, though not as many as in previous years.  I read a good number of Indian short stories also. 

I began to post on collections of poetry, so far just by Irish writers.  I find posting on collections of poetry very challenging.  

In November, through my participation in German Literature Month, I discovered several new to e writers I want to read in full, chief among them Joseph Roth.  




I was given a large collection of Yiddish language works in translation by Yale University Press and am finding this a fascinating area.



In December I began something totally new for me.  In Cooperation with Sue Guiney,  project director, I began to post short stories and poems by at risk Cambodian Street Children being helped by the Anjali House Writing Project in Siem Reap, Cambodia.  I found these works deeply moving.  

One of the things my blog is about is giving what voice I can to the lost, the forgotten, those with no one to speak for them.  The Yiddish may be a destroyed civilization but there was never a culture more into the reading life.  The Irish are man for man and woman for woman, the world's greatest writers.
I am also very influenced in my thinking by the ideas of Edward Said and Declan Kiberd.  I see the Cambodian posts as the recreation of literature from ground zero.





I am not a scholar or an academic (though I don't defer to those who are).  I read stuff and I post on it. I don't like to be referred to as a "book reviewer".  
 
I started to make a "big reads" list as I did in the last two years but when I was at sixty books i quit.  

The top blog visitors countries are The USA, the Phillipines, India, Russia, England and Canada.  The top cities of residence are the greater Manila area, then Mumbai, then New York City, London, and New Delhi.  The top American states are Califorinia and New York.  

The writers who draw the most hits internationally are Katherine Mansfield and R. K. Narayan.

I am very proud of the extreme literacy and keen intelligence of my readers.  

I ended the year with 3062 Twitter followers.  Since blogger began including a statistics pack with their software The Reading Life (begun July 7, 2009), has had 2,226,423 pageviews. 

My greatest thanks are to those who take the trouble to write comments and the writers who did Q and A sessions.  There will be more in 2014.  

I will do another post where I talk about the future of The Reading Life.

Thanks to all visitors, even homework assistance seekers (just don't blame me if your professor says the ideas you take from  me are crazy).

I am always looking for reading suggestions. 


,
Be sure and come join in for Irish Short Story Month Year Four starting March 1, 2014
 








Monday, December 30, 2013

Fallmerayer the Stationmaster by Joseph Roth 1936







I just began to read Joseph Roth last month.  Discovering his work is one of the biggest things I feel thankful for in 2013, a great reading life year for me.   I wish I had found him decades ago but at least I will not end my reading life never having read his works.  So far I have read and posted on The Zedetzky March, The Emperor's Tomb, Leviathan, The Legend of the Holy Drinker, and a wonderful collection of observations he wrote for newspapers in Berlin.  

This will be the last post I do in 2013 on a literary work, other than month and year end posts.  

Fallmerayer the Stationmaster begins in Austria just before the start of World War One.   Fallmerayer is a very, according to the narrator, unremarkable man.  He works as a railroad station master, his father worked for the railroad also, he is married and is a very conscious employee.   One day something terrible happens that will change his life in ways he would never have thought possible.  Just beyond his station there is a terrible train wreck, with numerous casualties and injuries.  As he rushes to the wreck, his first thought is, "will I be blamed?"   He notices a woman who seems disoriented.  She says she is OK but the doctor says she is in shock and needs a few days rest.  The station master invites her to stay at his house for a few days.   He discovers she is a Russian countess (are there any Russian countesses  that are not trouble ?) and becomes fascinated with her.  In a few days she departs for Russia.   Shortly afterwards, the stationmaster is drafted into the Austrian Army and sent to fight in Russia.  I really don't want to spoil the wonderful plot of this great story.  I will say he reconnects with the countess at her estate in Russia and a completely marvelous if ultimately heartbreaking sequence of events occurs.

This work has a wonderful period feel.   The ending is deeply tragic.  

Please share your experience with Roth with us.

There is a good article by Michael Hoffman, who has so far translated ten works by Roth, here




Sunday, December 29, 2013

"When Problems Happen" by Victoria - From The Anjali House Writing Project. Siem Reap, Cambodia









Sue Guiney's Introductory Post  -Project Director - contains important links 



Victoria, like all the work shop participants, is just starting to learn English. Unlike European languages, the structure and grammer of the Khmer language does not share Latin roots with English, making it very hard to master. The two languages do not even share a common alphabet and Khmer is written from left to right.




My thanks to Victoria (a pen name as required under Cambodian privacy regulations)
for allowing me to publish this very interesting well written poem.



"When Problems Happen"


 by Victoria

 

In my dream I want to travel around the world.

When I see bad things happen to people

I want to help, too, but I don’t know who they are.

 

When I look to the sky

I see the bird fly in the sky.

I want to fly, too, but I don’t have a wing to fly.

 

I want to touch the sky,

but I can’t touch the sky,

because the sky is very high.

 

I feel unhappy because there is a flood in a country.

I want to help the people.

When their trouble is over I will help them to build a house.

 

 

 

 

Victoria, age 12 



 

One day at Khmer school I had a test. I did some tests and some I didn’t. One week after that, my teacher checked the tests.Some tests had good scoressome had bad scores. Then the next week my teacher gave the student record book and I saw that I had a good score. I had passed my exam. I took the student record book to give to my mother to see it. My mother was very happy and I was very happy too.


Mel u

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Romance of a Horse Thief by Joseph Opatoshu (1912, 67 pages)

One of the stars of the movie version was the author's son David Opatoshu, a very successful Broadway and motion picture actor.  This is sometimes shown on the Turner Classic Channel. 



Ruth Wisse in her introduction to Romance of a Horsethief described it as one of the first attempts to portray a criminal underworld in Yiddish literature. The central character of the story is a horsethief.   It can be seen as a corrective reaction to the perhaps overly romantic  works of Sholem Aleichem and others who depict the world of Fiddler on the Roof.   

One of the standard features of literatute devoted to criminals is an attempt to portray people and society in a very realistic fashion.  Some equate realisism with literature that stresses only the negative aspects of human nature but Opatoshu avoids that.  His villain has been a professional horsethief all his adult life.   He steals horses in Poland and takes them to Germany and vice-versa. There are two thieves in this story. Shloyme is in many ways a decent man.  He is a devout Jew, a good father who wants to find decent spouses for his children.  Zanvl, a much younger man, says a thief has no need for prayers or the rituals of the temple.  He is single and he attracts women drawn to the excitement of a "bad boy".   He has a lot of raw energy.   He and Rachael fall in love but Rachael cannot accept the life of the wife of a professional criminal and ends up marrying a Rabbi, as her father wants.  

The real villain of the story is a middeman, a former thief now considered a respectable businessman, who brokers the stolen horses.   

There is a lot of action and excitement in the story. The characters are not perfect. The village is controlled by a Cossack chief in exhile from his homeland.  He tolerates the widespread horse thiefery until his own prize horses are stolen.  I am glad to have read The Romance of the Horse Thief and hope to see the movie one day.


       1886 to 1954 born Poland, died New York City 

Joseph Opatoshu
(Yosef Opatovski)
 

 

O. was born on 1 January 1887 in Mlawa, Plotsk Gubernia, Poland. His father was a lumber merchant (the family lead yikhusfor the [tusfut] holiday, a Jew, a scholar, one of the first meschilimin Poland, he wrote songs in Hebrew. From age ten to twelve he attended the trade folkshul in Mlawa, learning with his father. At age fourteen he entered into a trade school in Warsaw. At the end of 1905 he went away to Paris, then went to the politechnium in Nancy, but after several months he returned to Mlawa. He began to write, and he became acquainted with Peretz.

In March 1907 he immigrated to America, where he worked for several weeks in a factory, carrying [fanander] English newspapers, and he became a Hebrew teacher, completing in 1914 his studies as a civil engineer, occupied, however for only a short time with a profession and he dedicated himself to literature.

In "Tsukunft" in 1920 he published programs for a drama "Beym toytn bet", in "Tsukunft", March 1922 he published a one-acter "In salon", and when in 1922 A. visited Poland, he collaborated with the material for a three-act drama "Heynt blut", which was staged on 25 October 1922 in the Central Theatre in Warsaw (Director: Zigmund Turkow).

In the same hear through "amateurs" there was staged in Poland a dramatization of A.'s "Roman fun a ferd-gnb".

 In December 1928 he was in Warsaw through the society "Forbert-film" under the direction of Jonas Turkow, who produced a film from A.'s novel "Di poylishe velder" with the participation of  Yiddish and well-known Polish actors. The same novel was dramatized by Jacob Vaksman and staged in 1928 in Lublin.



There are five novellas in the collection from which this comes.  Here is the publisher's (Wayne State University Press) description.



The five short novellas which comprise this anthology were written between 1890 and World War I. All share a common setting—the Eastern European Jewish town or shtetl, and all deal in different ways with a single topic—the Jewish confrontation with modernity.
The authors of these novellas are among the greatest masters of Yiddish prose. In their work, today's reader will discover a literary tradition of considerable scope, energy, and variety and will come face to face with an exceptionally memorable cast of characters and with a human community now irrevocably lost.

In her general introduction, Professor Wisse traces the development of modern Yiddish literature in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and describes the many shifts that took place between the Yiddish writers and the world about which they wrote. She also furnishes a brief introduction for each novella, giving the historical and biographical background and offering a critical interpretation of the work.


I think anyone with a serious interest in Eastern European literature would love this book.

Mel u

Friday, December 27, 2013

The Zelmenyaners A Family by Saga Moyshe Kulbak (1929 to 1935, in serialization)



The Zelmenyaners A Family Saga by Moyshe Kulbak was initially published in serial fashion in a Russian Yiddish language monthly publication based in Kulbak's home city,Minsk.   It began in 1929 and finished publication in 1935.  The lead article in the publication in which it appeared  was a laudatory article in observation of the 50th birthday of Josef Stalin.  The book is considered one of the comic masterworks of Yiddish literature.   

The Zelmenyaners A Family Saga is more a series of episodes about the Zelmenyaner family, Russian Yiddish Jews, than a plotted novel.   There were gaps at times of over a year between chapters so maybe Kulbak felt the chapters needed to stand on their own.   The over arching connection of the episodes is the attempt of the family to live according to the collectivist standards of the Soviet Union. There is nothing sharply critical of Soviet society (if there was then Kulbak and the publishers would all have been terribly punished).   The novel turns a lot on the characters and life events of three uncles and their families.  The younger family members, those under twenty, have little memory of life under the Tsar.  There is a good bit of generational conflict.   In a way you could see the theme of the book as about the struggle of the family to maintain their heritage while accepting the demands of living under communism.  



The book is very funny in places, very moving and has a lot to teach us about the times.   Kulbak was a very talented writer.  

I totally endorse this novel and see it as essential reading for anyone with an interest in Yiddish history in Stalin era Russia. 

From The Yale University 

This is the first complete English-language translation of a classic of Yiddish literature, one of the great comic novels of the twentieth century. The Zelmenyaners describes the travails of a Jewish family in Minsk that is torn asunder by the new Soviet reality. Four generations are depicted in riveting and often uproarious detail as they face the profound changes brought on by the demands of the Soviet regime and its collectivist, radical secularism. The resultant intergenerational showdowns—including disputes over the introduction of electricity, radio, or electric trolley—are rendered with humor, pathos, and a finely controlled satiric pen. Moyshe Kulbak, a contemporary of the Soviet Jewish writer Isaac Babel, picks up where Sholem Aleichem left off a generation before, exploring in this book the transformation of Jewish life.

Moyshe Kulbak (1896–1937) was a leading Yiddish modernist poet, novelist, and dramatist. Arrested in 1937 during the wave of Stalinist repression that hit the Minsk Yiddish writers and cultural activists with particular vehemence, and given a perfunctory show trial, Kulbak was shot at the age of 41. Hillel Halkin, an acclaimed translator of Hebrew and Yiddish fiction, is the author, most recently, of Across the Sabbath River: In Search of a Lost Tribe of Israel and Yehuda Halevi. Sasha Senderovich holds a Ph.D. from the department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at Harvard University.


I have decided to participate in The Russian Literature Challenge.  I am currently rereading  War and Peace and intend to read more Russian born Yiddish writers.  I have a collection of new translations of short stories by Tolstoy and also hope to get to that in 2014.  





The challenge is being hosted by Behold the Stars.  There are various degrees of commitment.  I hope to read at least six.

If you have any suggestions for Russian Yiddish writers, including Ukrainians, please let us know.


 

"Boyfriend and Girlfriend" by Chara. From The Anjali House Writing Project, Siem Reap, Cambodia







Sue Guiney's Introductory Post  -Project Director - contains important links 



Chara, like all the work shop participants, is just starting to learn English. Unlike European languages, the structure and grammer of the Khmer language does not share Latin roots with English, making it very hard to master. The two languages do not even share a common alphabet and Khmer is written from left to right.



My thanks to Chara (a pen name as required under Cambodian privacy regulations)
for allowing me to publish this very interesting well written story.









Boyfriend and Girlfriend


 by Chara

 

   One day I went to play football with my friends. One friend asked me, “Hey! What is your name?”

   I answered him, “Hey! My name is Linda and what is your name?”

   He told me, “My name is Rattanak. I’m 16 years old. I have one brother and two sisters. My brother is a very handsome boy. His name is Rattana and my younger sisters are very pretty girls. One girl is called Sophy and another girl is called Rina. I have one mother and one father. My father is a policeman. My mother is a housewife.” Rattanak asked me, “And how old are you? How many brothers and sisters do you have?”

   My answer is “I’m 16 years old, too. I have one brother and two sisters. One of my sisters is called Linna and another is called Linra and the one brother is called Sokunty.”

   When they were asking to know about their brothers and sisters they were very happy. Linda and Rattanak were students who studied in one class and sat at the same table.

   After one day, Linda and Rattanak are going to the supermarket. When they are going to the supermarket they are very close friends. After they had their talk about their families they knew each other well. So they were very happy and very close friends. In the supermarket when Linda bought something like sweets, Rattanak bought the same thing like Linda. Linda asked, “Why did you buy the sweets like me?”

   Rattanak answered, “Because I like to eat sweets.”

   Linda said, “Crazy boy,” and she smiled. Rattanak was smiling, too.

   After three years, Linda and Rattanak finished the university.Rattanak said, “Linda, can you be my girlfriend?”

   Linda said, “Wait. I want to think about this question because I want to find work first.” After she found a job Linda andRattanak were boyfriend and girlfriend.

   One day, Rattanak asked Linda a question. Linda said, “Hey,Rattanak. I can be your girlfriend but you have to take care of me.”

   Rattanak said, “Three months more and we will marry.” Now they are happy.

 

 

Chara, age 15 


Mel u

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

"Engine Trouble" by R. K. Narayan (1972)


R. K. Narayan should have won the Nobel Prize.   I have, I think, read and posted on all of novels and a number of his short stories.  Many of his works of fiction are set in the imaginary community of Malgudi, India.   Narayan wrote in English, publishing many of his stories originally in The Hindu.   There was a long running TV series (in Hindu) based on his stories, Malguidi Days.  You can watch many of the episodes, including this story, on Youtube.

"Engine Troubles" opens as a traveling carnival has stopped for a few days in Malguidi.  Narayan does a very good job in just a few paragraphs letting get a feel for the impact of the carnival.  The story is told in the first person and it was great when our narrator won a lottery.  The prize was a road engine.  If you are like me, you might not be sure what a road engine is but it is not for sure a car or a truck.  It is a steam roller used in paving.


Once he wins his troubles really begins.  He has to pay rent to the city to leave it on the vehicle, nobody can be found who knows how to drive it.   He thinks maybe he can sell it but nobody seems to want it.  A friend offers to let him store it for free so he hires an elephant and fifty porters to move this very heavy road engine.  This goes terrible wrong, the elephant injures a knee and a wall gets wrecked.  His wife is getting mad and may leave him because of all the expenses.  Things seem like they just keep getting worse for him.  

The story ends well.  "Engine Troubles" is not one of his more famous stories but it was a lot of fun to read.  I read this story in an excellent anthology of Narayan's short stories edited and introduced by Jhumpa Lahari.  Lahari, as do I, considers Narayan one of the twentieth century masters of the short story.  


Sunday, December 22, 2013

Everyday Jews: Scenes From a Vanished Life by Yehoshue Perle - 1935





My thanks to Yale University Press for a very generous gift of books.

Yehoshue Perle (1888 to 1943, Poland) was one of the most prolific and admired between the World Wars Yiddish language writers.  When Everyday Jews, set in a small community in Poland in the 1930s, was first published the left wing Jewish press was scandalized by the sexual content of the book.  

The book is told by a twelve year old boy living with his father, his step-mother and siblings.  The family has its share of issues, the step-mother probably has an affair, a daughter scandalizes the family with a miscarriage, and a forty year old woman renting a bed from the family tries to, and maybe does, seduce the narrator.  It is a struggle to make a living.  The step-mother is always throwing it in the father's face that her late husband had a lot more money than she did.  There are lots of romances, arranging a decent marriage is a top priority, and everybody worries about what the neighbors will think.  Of course there are concerns about what the Christians, the Gentiles, will do.  We see a lot of the restrictions under which Jews live.  The family lives in a small town and people are always talking about what is going on in Warsaw.  

Men were subject to be drafted into the Russian Army and in one great scene a son in the army has served his time and is coming home.  There is talk of him marrying the daughter of the head guard at the prison.  

The novel is pretty much a series of episodes in vanishing lives.  I found I wanted consistently to know what would happen next.  This is a grim story of a difficult to survive in world.  

Everyday Jews:  Scenes from a Vanishing World is considered a classic of Yiddish literature.  I am very glad I read this book.


The translation of this book by Maier  Dashell was the Winner of the fifth Fenia and Yaakov Leviant Memorial Prize in Yiddish Studies for an outstanding translation of a Yiddish literary work, given by the Modern Language Association of America

The best online article I could find on the author was at http://www.yivoencyclopedia.org/article.aspx/Perle_Yoshue

I could not find an image of him.


Mel u



"A Shtetl" by Isaac Meir Weissenberg (1906, 63 pages) - A classic Yiddish Work



The most important historical event of the last century was World War II. Central to an understanding of it and the world that came from it is an understanding of what happened to the Jews of Eastern Europe.  The holocaust was the greatest attack on the reading life the world has yet seen.  Never has there been a culture more respective of the reading life than that of Yiddish speakers.   

In Yiddish a shtetl refers to a small largely Jewish community.  

Included in the excellent anthology A Shtetl and other Yiddish Novellas edited by Ruth Wisse is an excellent overview of the origins of modern Yiddish literature.  I was fascinated to see that the short story was the form which first gained popularity.  Just like in Australia, Japan, and the USA the Yiddish short story blossomed along with the start of magazines aimed at the growing middle class of educated people who wanted stories about "real life" they could read in one setting.     

"A Shtetl" by Isaac Meir Weissenberg (1881 to 1938, Poland) is, according to Ruth Wisse, a leading 
authority in the field, an important classic of Yiddish literature.  Weissenberg, rather than romanticizing
the shtetl as many earlier and later writers did, tried to give a completely accurate worthy of Zola portrait 
of real life in the community.   He brilliantly portrays how organized crime begins to develop and its 
very ugly consequences for the community.  In one devastating scene, a casual word to a "fixer" 
about and old unpaid debt has the completely unwanted consequence of murder.   Three big  concerns
dominate the lives and thoughts of most of the residents of the shtetl, making a living, getting good
marriages for your children, and wondering what the Gentiles will do.  1906 in Poland was a period of 
great prejudice against Jews.  Vicious bands of Christian thugs, often Cossacks, would rampage through
Jewish communities, killing and destroying as they wished.  Weissenberg makes one such pogrom
come terrifyingly to life.   

There is a very comprehensive background article on the author here   http://www.yivoencyclopedia.org/article.aspx/Vaysenberg_Itshe_Meyer

There are five novellas in the collection from which this comes.  Here is the publisher's (Wayne State 
University Press) description



The five short novellas which comprise this anthology were written between 1890 and World War I. All share a common setting—the Eastern European Jewish town or shtetl, and all deal in different ways with a single topic—the Jewish confrontation with modernity.
The authors of these novellas are among the greatest masters of Yiddish prose. In their work, today's reader will discover a literary tradition of considerable scope, energy, and variety and will come face to face with an exceptionally memorable cast of characters and with a human community now irrevocably lost.

In her general introduction, Professor Wisse traces the development of modern Yiddish literature in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and describes the many shifts that took place between the Yiddish writers and the world about which they wrote. She also furnishes a brief introduction for each novella, giving the historical and biographical background and offering a critical interpretation of the work.


I think anyone with a serious interest in Eastern European literature would love this book.

Mel u 
 


Saturday, December 21, 2013

"The Whore of Mensa" by Woody Allan (1974)



"The Whore of Mensa" by Woody Allan (USA, 1935 ) is a hilarious one joke story any book lover with nobody to talk to about their passions, maybe men especially, will really enjoy.  (Mensa is a high IQ social club).  The women in "The Whore of Mensa" don't charge for sex. 

The story is told by a seen it all hard boiled pirvate detective who has been hired by a man who is being threatened with blackmail by a woman who has tapes of him discussing symbolism in "The Wasteland" with her.  The detective finds, operating out of the Hunter College Bookstore a ring of girs who you can pay to talk about very intellectual iterary topics.  

Here is the blackmail victim's explanation of why he needs the service.


Of course we wonder what draws a college student to become a whore of Mensa


I read this very entertaining story in this decent anthology.


As I read it I thought, gee my wife is great but it would be nice to have someone to talk about Yiddish literature Joseph Roth or Fiipino short stories with....

Mel u


"The Five-Forty-Eight" by John Cheever (1951)


John Cheever (USA, 1912 to 1982) wrote stories and novels set in suburban America, many are in the vicinity of New York City.   If you are familiar with  the American TV series Mad Men about advertising executives and their families, you have a good sense of Cheever's milieu.  I have previously posted on two of his most famous short stories, both of which I greatly enjoyed, "The Swimming Pool" and "The Big Radio".  The New Yorker published a number of Cheever's short stories, including "The Five-Forty-Eight" (a reference to a train that leaves NYC at that time for the suburbs. 

The story is told by a married business executive working in New York City.  He takes the train back and forth from the suburbs, everyday on the train that leaves at five-forty-eight.  One day he hires a new woman, they called them girls in those days, to be his secretary.  We learn, but we don't learn why at first, she has just gotten out of eight months of hospital confinement.   The man knows how to prey on the insecurities of women.  One day he suggests they go out for a drink after work.  She says she has whiskey at her place and invites him for a drink.  They sleep together and they next day he calls human resources and tells the to fire her.  Now his nightmare begins.  We learn she was confined to a mental hospital for eight month.  I won't give away more of the plot of this really good story other than to say it involves a gun on the train and him face down in the dirt.  Readers who have been treated like the was, will really like how this story ends. 

I read this story in the excellent collection below.


I hope one day to read more of his stories.

Mel u

Friday, December 20, 2013

"Last Night of the World" by Ray Bradbury

"""Do you know, I won't miss anything but you and the girls. I never liked cities or autos or factories or my work or anything except you three. I won't miss a thing except my family and perhaps the change in the weather and a glass of cool water when the weather's hot, or the luxury of sleeping."



I am a bit embarrassed to admit I have never read Ray Bradbury's classic dystopic  novel Fahrenheit 451 about an America in which books are outlawed and burned when rooted out.    I have seen the movie.  A few days ago in The Huffington Post there was an article listing ten classic short stories that can be read in under ten minutes.  ("Last Night of the World" will take you three minutes tops.). Among them was "Last Night of the World (1951, first published in Esquire) by Ray Bradbury so now I have at last read a work by Ray Bradbury.  Have you ever wondered how you would react if you knew today the world was coming to an end?  This story deals with this question.

I won't tell too much of the story as you can read it online if you want. A man comes home from work and tells his wife the world is coming to an end tonight.  He tells her all his coworkers had the same dream.  His wife asks will it be war, plagues, or what form.  He says the dream did not say.  As he and wife talk about and accept this, while in bed, his wife realizes a faucet is leaking and gets up to shut it off to prevent water bill from going up.  Then they laugh and say why bother.  As the story ends, we do get the feeling the world is coming to an end.  I really liked the last words of the husband, quoted above.  

I liked this story a lot, just Google it if you want to read it.  











Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Skin by Curzio Malaparte 1949

Question, I love the books published by The New York Review of Books, but I prefer the old cover before the book got labeled a classic- how do you react to the covers?





The Skin by Curzio Malaparte (1898 to 1957, Prato, Italy) is an amazing, incredibly intelligent and beautifully dark work of art.  It is set in Naples in 1943, the American Army has just taken Sicily from the Nazis.   The Skin combines the cultural depth of Ford Madox Ford, the seen it all veneer of decayed aristocracy of Gregor Von Rezzori, with depth of Joseph Roth.  I have thought and thought about what I might say about The Skin.  I can come up with nothing more than to say I hope to read this work once a year for the rest of my reading life.  

Curzio Malaparte (pseudonym of Kurt Eric Suckert, 1898–1957) was born in Prato, Italy, and served in World War I. An early supporter of the Italian Fascist movement and a prolific journalist, Malaparte soon established himself as an outspoken public figure. In 1931 he incurred Mussolini’s displeasure by publishing a how-to manual entitled Technique of the Coup-d’Etat, which led to his arrest and a brief term in prison. During World War II Malaparte worked as a correspondent, for much of the time on the eastern front, and this experience provided the basis for his two most famous books, Kaputt (1944; available as an NYRB classic) and The Skin (1949). His political sympathies veered to the left after the war. He continued to write, while also involving himself in the theater and the cinema. New York Review of Books.  


This work was translated by David Moore in 2012.  Prior translations were heavily bowdlerized.  There is an insightful introduction by Rachel Kushner, the author of Flamethowers. 

Here is the publisher's description:


This is the first unexpurgated English edition of Curzio Malaparte’s legendary work The Skin. The book begins in 1943, with Allied forces cementing their grip on the devastated city of Naples. The sometime Fascist and ever-resourceful Curzio Malaparte is working with the Americans as a liaison officer. He looks after Colonel Jack Hamilton, “a Christian gentleman … an American in the noblest sense of the word,” who speaks French and cites the classics and holds his nose as the two men tour the squalid streets of a city in ruins where liberation is only another word for desperation. Veterans of the disbanded Italian army beg for work. A rare specimen from the city’s famous aquarium is served up at a ceremonial dinner for high-ranking Allied officers. Prostitution is rampant. The smell of death is everywhere.

Subtle, cynical, evasive, manipulative, unnerving, always astonishing, Malaparte is a supreme artist of the unreliable, both the product and the prophet of a world gone rotten to the core.

The Skin is the NYRB Classics Book Club selection for November 2013.


Made into a movie, this would be near x rated.  There is something in this book to offend everyone! 


This is just a flat out brilliant must read book. Sadly this his only title published as an e book.  I hope more come out and I hope The New York Review kindly gives me a copy as they did of The Skin.


Mel u