Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Thursday, July 2, 2020

My Plans and Hopes for Paris in July 2020

My Plans and Hopes for Paris in July 2020

Website for Paris in July 2020 - Hosted by Thyme for Tea

Thyme for Tea has hosted Paris in July for ten years, this is our sixth year as a participant.  This is a great event. It is a good way to meet bloggers outside the book Blog World.  Maybe most of us figure we don’t have a  Paris trip coming up soon but we can still visit  one of Cultural capitals of the World thanks to Paris in July.

Every year I design my own image for the event (The official one is really perfect).  This year I found a lovely post card created by Picasso.

I even have have an official song for The Event, The Summer I Read Colette by Rossane Cash.

“Welcome to the first week of Paris in July 2020, the 10th anniversary of sharing our love of Paris, and all things French through our blogging community. There are so many ways to celebrate Paris - literature, food, wine, theatre, language, history, holidays, and of course music”.  From Thyme for Tea’s opening statement.

I have some no doubt  overly ambitious plans for Paris in July but here is what I hope to read.


RITUALS FOR THE DEAD Religion and Community in the Medieval University of Paris WILLIAM J. COURTENAY

Ambition and Desire: The Dangerous Life of Josephine Bonaparte by Kate Williams

James Joyce and The Question of Paris by Catherine Flynn

Marie Antoinette’s World by Will Bashir

Marc Chagall by Jonathan Wilson

The Flaneur: A Stroll Through Paris by Edmund White

PROUST’S DUCHESS how three celebrated women captured the imagination of fin-de-siècle paris by Caroline Weber


Fear by Gabriel Chevallier.  A classic account of France during WW One

Missing Person by Patrick Modiano . A Paris detective story by a Nobel Laureatte

The Parisian by Isabella Hammad

The Memoirs of Two Young Wives  by Honore de Balzac
Short Stories 

For sure I Will post on at least one set in Paris Short Story by Mavis Gallant, hopefully several.

I have selected Short Stories by two of France’s greatest writers, Emile Zola and Guy de Maupassant

I have hopes to read Paris based Short Stories by 20th century English language writers i admire such
As Alice Adams, Shirley Hazzard, Paul Boules, and Hortense Callisher. We also have collections of Short Stories by Colette, Marcelle Ayme and Emanuel Bove, in translation.

I hope to get to Short Stories by two of my favourite writers, translated from Yiddish, Chava Rosenfarb and Blume Lempel, both lived in Paris for several years.

I look Forward to Reading the marvelous posts by participants and offer my thanks to Thyme for Tea for giving us this oppurtunity

Mel u
Ambrosia Bousweau.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

The Reading Life Review - June 2020

June Authors 

Column One

1. Sam Liptzin - Belarus to USA - prolific Yiddish author
2. Fradel Shtok - Austro-Hungaria to USA - Yiddish language stories focusing on women
3. Jane Boules - USA to Morocco - Two Serious Women
4. Sarah Hames-Jacklyn - Poland to Canada, Short Stories, well known Yiddish Theater Preformer

Column Two

1. Amos Elon - USA - historian focusing on Jewish history, author of The Pity of it All - The German Jewish Experience - read but no post
2. Avrom Reyzen - Belarus to USA - Yiddish author
3. Mavis Gallant - Canada to France
4. Alison Mac!eod. Canada to USA   Multi awarded novelist, author of two Short Story Collections

Column Three

1. Danielle Evans - USA - highly regarded Short Story Writer, author Before You Suffagate Your Fool Self
2. Ruby Cowling - UK - author The Paradise - I hope to follow her work from now on
3. R. L. Maizes - USA - Short Story Writer. We Love You Anderson Cooper
4. James Joyce - Ireland

Column Four

1. Kelly Link - USA - highly regarded Short Story Writer
2. Jonah Rosenfeld - Ukraine to USA - Yiddish Short Story Writer
3. Pingmei Lan - China to USA - 2019 Pen Short Story Winner
4. Chikodili Emelumdu - Nigeria - 2020 Caine Short Story Prize Finalist

Birth land of Authors

1. USA - 7
2. UK - 2
3. Austria- 1
4. Poland - 1
5. Belarus - 1
6. Canada - 1
7. Ireland - 1
8. Ukraine- 1
9. China - 1
10. Nigeria- 1

During June, 2020 12 female writers were featured and five men, nine deceased and eight living.  Ten writers were featured on The Reading Life for the first time. Nine of the authors immigrated from their birth country.

Blog Stats

As of today there has been 6,059,525 page views

Country of Origin of Visitors

1. USA
2. India
3. Hong Kong
4. Germany
5. Russia
6. UK
7. Phillipines
8. Turkmenistan

Blog traffic is about fifty percent from pre-pandemic days.

The top most viewed posts were

1. The Flood - by Thakazhi Sivaankarow
2. Flush - A Biography by Virginia Woolf
3. The Flowers of May by Francisco Arcellana
4. A Piece of Bread by Francois Coppee
5. Overboard by Ivy Ngeow

Future Plans.

I Will be focusing on literary and nonfiction works with a Paris Focus In July,I Will do a post on that soon.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

“What to do When Your Child Brings Home a Mami Wata” - a Short Story by Chikodili Emelumdu- One of five finalist for The 2020 Caine Prize for African Literature.

“What to do When Your Child Brings Home a Mami Wata” - a Short Story by Chikodili Emelumdu- One of five finalist for The 2020 Caine Prize for African Literature.

Published in The Shadow Booth: Vol. 2, 2018

You can read all five stories and learn about the importance of The Caine Prize here.Here

A very interesting interview with Chikodili Emelumdu

An interview with a link to three of her earlier stories as well as very interesting bio data provided by the author.

I first began reading and posting on The Caine Prize Stories in June 2011.  I think I was the first blogger of any sort to post on them.  Now book bloggers, country specific  cultural blogs and African focused political blogs take interest in what countries are represented in the nominations in subsequent years.

This is Chikodili Emelumadu’s  second time to have a story in the final five for The Caine Prize.  In 2017 her story “Bush Baby” was among the finalists.

“What to do When Your Child Brings Home a Mami Wata” is a delightful very creative story.  Kind of a mix of Science Fiction, satire on advise to parents works and a genre of short works I am just getting into, weird fiction.  It is also a saltire on government prose.  It is also a kind of mini-course in Ibo riverine folk lore about semi humanoid acoustic creatures.  The purpose of the paper is to tell parents of boys what to do if their son has a Mami Wata”
paramour. Deeper in, the story can be seen as mocking extremism in sexual conservatism.  Evidently the Mami Wata goes almost exclusively for teenage boys.

From the opening paragraphs I knew I was reading something very special:

“Please note: ‘Mami Wata’ (also known in various other regions as ‘Mammy Water’) is used in this context as an umbrella term for both genders of the popular water entity (i.e. Mami and Papi Watas) and does not represent those other mer-creatures without the appearance of absolute humanoid traits. For these other non-humanistic water entities including but not restricted to: permanent mermaids and mermen, crocodile fellows, shark-brides, turtle crones and anomalous jelly blobs of indeterminate orientation, please see our companion volume, ‘So You Want to Kill a Mer- Creature?’ which will guide you through the appropriate juju framework to avoid or deflect repercussions and will elucidate general and specific appeasement rituals. See also, ‘Entities and Non-entities: The Definitive Legal Position on Aquatic Interspecies Marriages, Non-Marriage Couplings and Groupings”

This story reads like something the Jonathan Swift who wrote “A Modest Proposal” would admire and respect.

I cannot imagine anyone not loving this story. You will find this a welcome pleasure in these times, I certainly did.

Shirley Jackson shortlist 2015
Caine Prize shortlist 2017
Curtis Brown First Novel Prize winner 2019
AKO Caine Prize Shortlist 2020
She was born in Nigeria and moved to the UK at an early age then she and her family moved back to Nigeria as she moved home.  As a child her parents made her read English classics and the complete Encyclopedia Brittanica.

For sure I would purchase a collection of her stories. I hope to follow her for a long time.

Mel u

Sunday, June 28, 2020

“Mlle. Dias de Corda” - A set in Paris short story by Mavis Gallant. First published January 4, 1993 in The New Yorker

“Mlle. Dias de Corda” - A set in 
Paris short story by Mavis Gallant.  First published January 4, 1993 in The New Yorker

This story is included in The Collected Short Stories of Mavis Gallant and her collection, Across The Bridge.

Buried in Print’s Mavis Gallant Project 

Mavis Gallant

April 11, 1922 - Montreal

1950 - moves to Paris

September 1, 1951- publishes, in The New Yorker, her first short story.  She would publish 116 stories in The New Yorker. 

February 18, 2014 - passes away in her beloved Paris

Buried in Print is doing a full read through of the short stories of Mavis Gallant,one of the masters of the form.  She began in March 2017 and anticipates finishing in the fall of 2020.  I have access to about half of her stories and have been following along as I can since March 25, 2017, starting with "The Other Paris".  The full schedule is on her blog and all are invited to join the project.

Today’s story is narrated by a Parisian woman. The story is structuted around the changes in Paris that upset her and the chsnges wrought in her life when Mlle. Dias de Corda rented a room from her.

“YOU MOVED INTO my apartment during the summer of the year before abortion became legal in France; that should fix it in past time for you, dear Mlle. Dias de Corta. You had just arrived in Paris from your native city, which you kept insisting was Marseilles, and were looking for work. You said you had studied television-performance techniques at some provincial school (we had never heard of the school, even though my son had one or two actor friends) and received a diploma with “special mention” for vocal expression. The diploma was not among the things we found in your suitcase, after you disappeared, but my son recalled that you carried it in your handbag, in case you had the good luck to sit next to a casting director on a bus. The next morning we had our first cordial conversation. I described my husband’s recent death and repeated his last words, which had to do with my financial future and were not overly optimistic.”

The move in date 1975.

When she first moves in the narrators son is still at home.  Later she describes her daughter in law as of “mixed descent” because two of her grandparents were Swiss.  

We get a good picture of her preoccupations in these lines:

“I suppose no amount of coaching at a school in or near Marseilles could get the better of the southern o, long where it should be short and clipped when it ought to be broad. But, then, the language was already in decline, owing to lax teaching standards and uncontrolled immigration. I admire your achievement and respect your handicaps, and I know Robert would say the same if he knew you were in my thoughts.”

She speaks of “Asian colonization” of her neighborhood.

She begins more and more like a Parisian version of a Brexit supporter or an American Xenophobe:

“According to this report, by the year 2025 Asians will have taken over a third of Paris, Arabs and Africans three-quarters, and unskilled European immigrants two-fifths. Thousands of foreign-sounding names are deliberately “lost” by the authorities and never show up in telephone books or computer directories, to prevent us from knowing the true extent of their progress.”

Of course her math makes no sense and no one knows anything about the report.

As time goes by, long after she moved out, Mlle. Dias de Corta begins to appear on French TV.  Following her Career helps narrator stay connected to a Paris in which she increasingly feels is “not her Paris”.

In just a few Gallant illuminates the attitude of many Parisians to what they see, in a politely expressed fashion, as degredation of the City they loved.

Like Buried in Print remarked, this is one of my favourite Mavis Gallanf Stories.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

“Cicadas and the Dead Chairman” by Pingmei Lan - A 2019 Pen America Best Debut Short Story Prize Winner

“Cicadas and the Dead Chairman” by Pingmei Lan - A 2019 Pen America Best Debut Short Story Prize Winner

“Cicadas and the Dead Chairman” by Pingmei Lan. Was First published in Epiphany, Fall/Winter 2018.

An interesting interview with Pingmei Lan

A Conversation With Pingmei Lan on her creative process 

The annual Pen America Best Debut Anthology of Short Stories is a smart  way to get a feel for the state of the American Short Story.  This year’s collection has twelve stories chosen for the Dau Prize,
out of hundreds nominated, by the judges Danielle Evans, Alice Sola Kim, and Carmen Maria Machado, all by writers who had never published fiction before 2018.  Each author receives $2000.00.

I posted last month on “Today, You’re A Black Revolutionary” by Jade Jones.

Today’s story takes place in China in 1976, shortly after the death of Chairman Mao Zedong.  The impact of this on his devotes was immense.

The narrator is grown woman reflecting on her experiences as seven year old girl, as she was when the Chairman passed. Both of her parents were graduates of re-education camps.

“ONE DAY, I decided to ask Dad about the old maid. My parents were propaganda writers for the Department of Education eager to please their party secretary. Dad, however, had a bad cough from his days in an education camp. So sometimes he gazed out the window when he was supposed to be working. This is what he was doing while Mom slaved over “Virtues of China’s Own Brand of Democracy.”

This is a strange, weird and wonderful story, focusing on the relationship of the precocious girl with a mentally impaired homeless woman.  It is from her the girl first heard about death.

I loved these lines for the way they show the woman’s memories, intermingling myth and half understood realities:

“She lived in a cave for ten years and ate mushrooms that grew on the walls. She was a white snake who turned into this thing when she ate the magic ginseng roots from the Manchurian mountains. I preferred to think of her as having been born that way, with hair frosted by Yan Wang’s brew to prove her connection to the underworld. Her eyes too, they had this dark pull, at once mercurial and warm. Her lashes were pale and shiny like the hooks fringing a Venus flytrap. I imagined men who inched closer, willing to latch on. They’d follow her into this other place, where gremlins made decisions to either feast on the dead or send them back to life untouched.”

After this, I was hooked.

She befriends the woman.  One day a group of workmen begin to harass her and menace the girl.  They take off running.

“When I squinted, I saw a ball of white light bursting through the pagoda’s canopy. Tian Gong, the sky’s emperor, seemed to be staring down at it, or at me, with disapproving looks. When my eyes began to water, I turned to see the old maid lying down on her side. On the back of her neck was a blue-black bruise. I rubbed my eyes. I was about to ask her about it when something small and hard fell on my head. I froze, a scream rasping in my throat.  She leaped up. “A cicada!” she said, picking the nugget of black out of my hair. “It’s dead. That’s why it was screaming. Her last song.” I breathed hard, unsure of what to say. She plopped back down to show me the cicada, then shoved it in her mouth. Maybe she only took a bite. Either way, a squirt of green liquid flew out, thin and curling, like a snake. I shut my eyes. But it was too late. She laughed and smeared something damp on my hand. “Look. Green blood. Isn’t that cool? No red. No red. No red at all! That’s what I like.” When I tried to reply that that was a dangerous thing to say, I threw up green bile.”

Normally I don’t quote so much text but here I just cannot resist.

I will leave the remainder of this in fact deeply tragic on numerous levels story for you to read. It presents a cruel society with little space for those who do not fit in.  The relationship between the two central characters was marvelously brought to life.

“Cicadas and the Dead Chairman” by Pingmei Lan justifies me in my decision to acquire this collection.  I hope so much to read a lot more of Pingmei Lan’s work.

Pingmei Lan grew up in Beijing, China. She received her MFA in creative writing from Pacific University in 2018. Her work appears in Epiphany, Tahoma Literary Review, Crab Orchard Review, and other publications. She lives in San Diego.

Mel u

Sunday, June 21, 2020

“A Cat Called Grevious” A Short Story by R. L. Maizes - 2018

“A Cat Called Grevious” by  R. L. Maizes - 2018

You can read today’s story here

Website of R. L. Maizes

I first became aware of R. L. Maizes in a tweet by a writer I have followed for many years, Ethel Rohan.

Before I met my wonderful wife, i was blessed with a long term companion, Mr. C, a.k.a Charles, Charlie or King Charles,a Siamese.  I was often met with this line from “A Cat Called Grevious”.

“Sometimes I think you love that cat more than you love me.”

This is a great cat story, one of the best.

As the story opens a childless couple who marriage is still ok but has seen better days, adopts a cat they found outside and is struggling to live. She has just had kittens but they are lost:

“Her kittens were gone, eaten by coyotes, perhaps. Every day she prowled through snowdrifts that hid the withered Colorado landscape, wailing as she searched for them. She returned at night, wet fur pasted down, shivering. Ignoring the bowl of warm milk and plate of sardines we put out, she crawled into the boot.
After a week, she stopped going out. She sat on the porch, long neck stretched toward a shark gray sky, howling for hours. We called her Grievous.”

  It takes work to get her inside.  Gradually they become more attached to Grevious.  The couple has been trying for a long time to have a Baby and they finally have a daughter.  As the years go by the daughter totally falls for Grevious.

Cat people, the best sort, will relate how Grevious slowly takes over the family.

The ending is shocking and maybe i was wrong to laugh at the terrible thing Grevious does.

This is included in her debut Short Story Collection, We Love Andersen Cooper. I hope to read more of her work.

R.L. Maizes is the author of the short story collection WE LOVE ANDERSON COOPER (Celadon Books, Macmillan). Her novel, OTHER PEOPLE’S PETS (Celadon Books), is forthcoming July 14, 2020. Her stories have aired on National Public Radio and have appeared in Electric Literature’s Recommended Reading. Her essays have been published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and have aired on NPR.
Maizes was born and raised in Queens, New York, and lives in Boulder County, CO, with her husband, Steve, and her muses: Arie, a cat who was dropped in the animal shelter’s night box like an overdue library book, and Rosie, a dog who spent her first year homeless in South Dakota and thinks Colorado is downright balmy. From her website.

Friday, June 19, 2020

“The Rivals” - A Short Story by Jonah Rosenfeld- 1929- translated from Yiddish by Rachel Mines - 2019 - included The Rivals and Other Stories - Published by Syracuse University Press

“The Rivals” - A Short Story by Jonah Rosenfeld- 1929- translated from Yiddish by Rachel Mines - 2019 - included in  The Rivals and Other Stories - Published by Syracuse University Press

Syracuse University Press is a world leader in the publication of Jewish heritage books.

The Rivals: “Konkurentn.” In Geklibene Verk, vol. 3 (Konkurentn Dertseylungen), 7–23. Vilnius: B. Kletskin, 1929.

As Rachel Mines tells us in her introduction to the collection most Yiddish fiction of the late 19th century and early 20th century

“A significant portion of the literature written in Yiddish and translated into English over previous decades presents a rather stereotyped and sentimental perspective on the European Jewish experience in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries: a shtetl life, not without its hardships and conflicts, but based on a firm bedrock of tight-knit Jewish families and communities.”

The stories of Jonah Rosenfeld, if the total story, “The Rivals” is an indication, present a side of shtetl life far from the world of Fiddler on the Roof.  The stereotype of a shtetl  Ashkenazi family involves a very close knit family, though not without some drama.  The father is knowledgeable in Talmudic lore and Ashkenazi tradition.  He is totally devoted to his family.  The wife is a dedicated homemaker.  A big family concern is finding good marriage matches for the children.  Respect for the father as the head of the family, even if his wife really runs things,is a given.  There is a deep family love bonding everyone, through good and bad times.

  Rosenfeld takes us into a very different world, lacking in sentimentality or reverence for tradition.  The stories of Jonah Rosenfeld, if the total story, “The Rivals” is an indication, present a side of shtetl life far from the world of Fiddler on the Roof,without sentimentality or a rose colored picture of family life, one in which love never turns to hate.

Jonah Rosenfeld (AKA Yonah Rozenfeld)

Born 1881 in Staryi Chortoryisk, Ukraine, then a part of the Russian Empire

1921 - Emigrates to New York City

Died July 9, 1944 in New York  City

“The Rivals” is narrated by a married man with a daughter ten, a son seven and one two.  His descriptions of his children are far from flattering, none sound healthy or well cared for.  Here is how he describes himself and his daily routine:

“A short man with a thin little beard and small black eyes—that’s me, myself, I—the husband of the wife and the father of the three kids. What do I do? Nothing at all—I do women’s work. Early in the morning, as soon as I get up, I start a fire and boil a kettle of water. Then I wake up my wife, give her a glass of tea, and walk her to the market. After that, I start with the kids: I get them dressed, wash them, and keep an eye on them.”

At lunch time he goes to take some food to his wife who supports the family selling vegetables at the market.  Inevitably a fight breaks out, clearly his wife is humiliated to have such a husband.  He describes violent encounters where they hit each other and he ends up leaving the house.  When he comes back he will look through the window.  The ten year old daughter is taking care of her brothers, helping her mother.  The narrator sees this as a threat.  She is trying to show his wife he is unnecessary, a useless drain on the family.

As the story develops we see a very real rivalry develop with the daughter not hiding her contempt for her father.  Rosenfeld portrays  family turmoil in a way I have not see before in Yiddish literature.
They come to hate each other.

I will leave the very striking close of the story untold.

From the publisher Syracuse University Press

“This collection Introduces nineteen of Rosenfeld’s Yiddish-language short stories—stories that explore the limits of loneliness, social anxiety, and people’s frustrated longing for meaningful relationships—to an English-reading audience.

From reviews
"Highly readable and enjoyable."—Gennady Estraikh, New York University

"This comprehensive collection of Jonah Rosenfeld’s piercing short fiction is an original contribution to the art of Yiddish short fiction in English translation."—Jan Schwarz, Lund University

"Mines' translation into readable, contemporary English grants overdue recognition to a writer whose work has been called by the YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe "a hidden treasure of modern Yiddish literature.""—Congress of Secular Jewish Organizations

I look forward to reading the other eighteen stories in the collection.

I offer my thanks to Rachel Mines for making his work available in English

Rachel Mines has a PhD from King’s College, University of London (2000), where she specialized in Old English language and poetry. A child of Yiddish-speaking Holocaust survivors, she has been studying Yiddish language and literature since 2007. One of her goals in translation is to make Yiddish literature available to college and university students, Jewish and non-Jewish, who would not otherwise be exposed to it. Rachel has taught at King’s College (London), the University of British Columbia (Vancouver), and now teaches at Langara College in Vancouver, where she lives. Aside from Yiddish, she is also involved in Holocaust education and outreach in Skuodas, Lithuania, where her father was born and raised. Her project website is

Mel u