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

Monday, December 31, 2018

The Reading Life Review - December 2018

December Authors 

Column 1- from the left

  1. Mavis Gallant - Canada to France
  2. Eleanor Catton - New Zealand -The Luminaries- 2013 Man Booker Prize Winner
  3. Sabrina Orah Mark -USA- Wild Milk -amazing Short Stories 

Column 2

  1. James Allan - USA - Prize Winning Historian of World War Two in Asia
  2. Sylvia Townsend-Warner- UK - The Kingdoms of Elfin
  3. Rhys Bowen - UK to USA- author many best sellers 

Column 3

  1. Yenta Marsh - Moldavia to Israel. Very prolific Yiddish language writer 
  2. Nella Larsen - USA - her classic work is Passing
  3. Joseph Opatoshu- Poland to USA. Yiddish writer

Column 4

  1. Blume Lempel - Ukraine to France then New York. Powerful Yiddish writer
  2. Edif Bautman- USA - The Idiot. Novel. Short listed for 2017 Pulitzer Prize 
  3. Francois Coppee - France. Charming short stories 

I posted on nine works by women, three by men, seven by the deceased and five by the living.  Six authors were featured for the first time, I hope to return to more by these wonderful writers, and six were old friends.

Eight wrote in English, three Yiddish, and one in French.

Blog Stats

As of today, my blog has received 5,523,314 page views 

There are 3459 posts online

Of the five most viewed posts for December, three were on short stories by authors from the Philippines, plus “A Saleswoman” by Colette and “The Auspicious Vision” by Rabindranath Tagore

Top Countries of origin of visits

U.S.A, India, Russia, The Phillippines, France, Germany, Canada, The Ukraine, and The UK.

Books I read in December but did not post on

  1. Kingdoms of Elfin by Sylvia Townsend Warner.  I love stories about the fey world and these are among the best.  16 stories first published in The New Yorker

  1. Bookmarked:  Reading My Way from Hollywood to Brooklyn by Wendy Fairey.  Interesting Reading Life memoir

  1. The Hare With Amber Eyes: A Family’s Century of Art and Loss by Edmund de Waal.  A beautiful masterwork.  I hope to post on this once I have meditated on it a white.

I Will do a seperate posts for my Reading Life hopes and plans for 2019 soon.

My great thanks to Max u for the Amazon Gift Cards.

To those who leave comments, you help keep me going.

To my fellow book bloggers, keep blogging.  

Mel u

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Amos Oz. in Memory

May 4, 1939. Born in Jerusleum 

December 28, 2018. Died in Tel Aviv

from The Times of Israel - Amos Oz, ‘Israel’s greatest writer,’ advocate for peace, dies at 79

My Post on his final novel, Judas, and two of his short stories

Amos Oz, a giant of Israeli letters for his works that explore human nature and the Israeli experience, died Friday at 79 from cancer, his daughter wrote on Twitter.
The Jerusalem-born author, an early proponent of a two-state solution with the Palestinians, spoke out countless times during Israeli military operations in Lebanon and Gaza, urging dialogue and restraint.
Oz, an Israel Prize laureate, was the author of dozens of Hebrew-language books including novels, novellas, short-story collections and essays, as well as around 500 pieces for Israeli and foreign periodicals. From Haaretz December 29, 2018 

Friday, December 28, 2018

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton - 848 Pages - Winner Man Booker Prize 2013

I am very pleased to have a wonderful novel to close out my posting for 2018.  The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton won the 2013 Man Booker Prize.

Set in New Zealand’s South Island in 1866, a gold rush is drawing fortune hunters, called in the local slang, diggers, from all over.  The Luminaries is a Grand work, fully ready to take a place among the 19th century novels on which it is lovingly modeled.  There are multiple central characters, numerous subplots, mysteries, murders, all driven by the greed for gold.  The plot begins when  Walter Moody checks into a hotel in Hokitika, the closest town to the goldfields, now with a wild west boom town feel, planning to equip himself to start prospecting for gold.  Instead he stumbled into a meeting of twelve men, trying to resolve a mysterious set of events.  Catton structures the novel around the Zodiac with each man representing a sign.  

There are Chinese men, a Maori and most of the men being single,a prostitute plays a central part in the story.

I got a real feel for life in New Zealand in 1866.  The characters are very well developed. The plot was quite  exciting and it did not feel long at all.  I was sad when I finished it I enjoyed the work so much.  

You can find numerous reviews of The Luminous online.  The Guardian said 2013 might be the best ever short List for The Man Booker Prize.

Here were the other short listed works.

Man Booker Shortlist 2013

We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo (Chatto & Windus)

Harvest by Jim Crace (Picador)

The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri (Bloomsbury)

Of these I have read and posted on the last three, all very good.

From Goodreads.

Eleanor Catton (born 1985) is a New Zealand author. Catton was born in Canada while her father, a New Zealand graduate, was completing a doctorate at the University of Western Ontario. She lived in Yorkshire until the age of 13, before her family settled in Canterbury, New Zealand. She studied English at the University of Canterbury, and completed a Master's in Creative Writing at The Institute of Modern Letters, Victoria University of Wellington. She wrote her first novel, The Rehearsal, as her master's thesis.Eleanor Catton holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she also held an adjunct professorship, and an MA in fiction from the International Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University of Wellington. Currently she teaches creative writing at the Manukau Institute of Technology. 

Most books I prefer just E reading, but I would enjoy having a copy of this wonderful novel just to be able to hold it once and a while.  

Mel u

Thursday, December 27, 2018

What Child is This - A Short Story by Rhys Bowen - 2018 - A Kindle Single

“What Child is This” by Rhys Bowen is an Amazon original short story, available only as a Kindle Single.  (It is included 
in The Kindle Unlimited Program).  

The story is set in London during the darkest days of the blitz with the city under nighly attack from German bombers.  It is Christmas Eve.  We are in apartment of a married couple.  The husband is a dock worker, an essential occupation that exempted him from military service.  She stays home.  Their first and only child, a daughter, died of dipteria a few years ago.  Food is very rationed but the husband has brought home a bag of sugar he says found on the docks.  An air raid is sounded.  The wife hates the shelter and refuses to go.   Their street is hit with phosphorus bombs which start fires water cannot essiliy put out.  There place is destroyed, including the wages of the husband.

I do not wish to tell to much of the emotion ladden plot.  The decide to spend The night in a Park but end up in an abandoned, they think, posh house.  They find all sorts of fancy foods but they also find a seven year old boy home alone.  His father is in the army in North Africa and his mother went out, she appears to be having an affair, and the boy fears she may have been killed in the bombing raid.  

Some very exciting and moving things happen. I enjoyed this story a lot, it showed the spirit of the English.

is the New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of more than thirty mystery novels, including The Tuscan Child and In Farleigh Field, the winner of the Left Coast Crime Award for Best Historical Mystery Novel and the Agatha Award for Best Historical Novel. Bowen’s work has won sixteen honors to date, including multiple Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity awards. Her books have been translated into many languages, and she has fans around the world, including seventeen thousand Facebook followers. A transplanted Brit, Bowen divides her time between California and Arizona. Visit the author at

Mel u

Monday, December 24, 2018

“Wild Milk” - A Short Story by Sabrina Orah Mark - 2018

Website of Sabrina Orah Mark - included Links to sime Short Stories

You May Read “Wild Milk here

“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”

Albert Einstein.

“When we say a story is like a fairy tale, what do we mean? Usually there is an evil stepmother, children on the verge of being eaten, spells, talking animals, forests, three wishes, three paths, three sons, magic eggs or beans or cakes. Usually there is hunger and a dead mother. Usually there is a witch. We turn to fairy tales not to escape but to go deeper into a terrain we’ve inherited: the vast and muddy terrain of the human psyche. Fairy tales, like glass coffins, like magic mirrors, give transparency to the reflection of the human gaze. Fairy tales are homemade stories turned inside out.” - 


Wild Milk, a debut collection of Short Stories by Sabrina Orah Mark, published by Dorothy, A Publishing Project, is drawing raves through the literary internet and in mainstream press reviews.  I really wanted to read one of her stories.

Today i will try to say a few things about the title story in the collection, “Wild Milk”.  

My reaction upon first reading (Reading time about five minutes or so) was “my this is strange”.  The opening lines made me think of a dystopic future day care facility designed to turn babies into future drones in Trump's America, a world steeped in ignorance with no anchor values.  

"On the first day of Live Oak Daycare, all the children are given shovels and a small bag of dirt. “We encourage the children—even the babies, especially the babies—to work hard, imaginatively.” Miss Birdy, my son’s teacher, winks. She sits my baby boy in the middle of the floor with his shovel and dirt. He is not even a year old. I look around. The babies are happy. I have never seen such happy babies. Chewing on their shovels. Spreading around their dirt. Miss Birdy gives me a hug. I wave goodbye to my boy, but he doesn’t see me. “Go, go,” says Miss Birdy. “He’s in good hands.” She shows me her hands. They remind me, for some reason, of my hands."

Schooling  for the children in the 99 bottom percent is playing in the dirt, meaningless activity.

As I read on in the story I see many plays on words, it begins to seem like a lesson in saying what you mean, on staying sane in a very dumbed down world, Alice in Wonderlandish.

The story on rereading might be best enjoyed as a surrealistic riff, another writer recently brought into print by Dorothy Publishing, Leonora Carrington came to mind, though her stories are a bit more linear.  

Miss Birdy tells the mother the milk, from her breast, is wild milk and cannot be used,. There is some much very interesting word play.  

Now I think maybe the story is about how being a mother can drive you crazy.

I can see it as about trying to know what is real, seeing the social interaction of children, caregivers themselves very surreal and mothets.

"Wild Milk", which I did read four times, was above all a lot of fun.

I will be reading many more of her stories in 2019, I hope.

From the author's website

"Sabrina Orah Mark grew up in Brooklyn, New York. She earned a BA from Barnard College, Columbia University, an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and a PhD in English from the University of Georgia. She is the author of the book-length poetry collections The Babies (2004), winner of the Saturnalia Book Prize chosen by Jane Miller, and Tsim Tsum (2009), as well as the chapbook Walter B.’s Extraordinary Cousin Arrives for a Visit & Other Tales from Woodland Editions.  Her collection of stories, Wild Milk, will be published by Dorothy in 2018.  Mark’s awards include a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, a Sustainable Arts Foundation Award, and a fellowship from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Her poetry and stories most recently appear in American Short Fiction, The Bennington Review,  Tin House (Open Bar), The Collagist, jubilat, The Believer, and have been anthologized in Best American Poetry 2007, Legitimate Dangers: American Poets of the New Century (2006), and My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me: Forty New Fairy Tales (2010). She has taught at Agnes Scott College, University of Georgia, Rutgers University, University of Iowa, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Goldwater Hospital and throughout the New York City and Iowa Public School System. She lives in Athens Georgia with her husband, Reginald McKnight, and their two sons."

Mel u

Saturday, December 22, 2018

“THE WOODEN SHOES OF LITTLE WOLFF” - A Short Story by François Coppée 1880


1842 born Paris

1908 died Paris

During Paris in July Year Eight in 2015 I read and posted upon one of the short stories of Francois Coppée, "A Piece of Bread".  In this story an affluent young Parisian Born to wealth joins the French Army during the Franco-Prussian War (1870. - 1871).  He learns a very valuable lesson from a poor soldier with whom he unexpectedly becomes friends which makes him a better man, more sensitive to the sufferings of others.  I enjoyed this story a lot.  

Coppeé has fallen out of fashion due to his participation in anti-Semitic societies and his anti-Dreyfus views.  I admit this does somewhat turn me against him but still he is a good, if kind of sentimental writer.  I have read now read three  of his stories and enjoyed them. All have a common theme, a self-absorbed man comes into very close contact with a very good hearted poor person, and is transformed into a better more emphatic man through this contact.  His stories are predictable but they are fun and worth the time.

The central character in today’s story focuses on a once rich young man who has today lost most of his inheritance at a casino.  It is deep in the Parisian winter.  He goes for a walk to try to calm himself.  He comes on a very young girl a sleep on a bench, alone.  A kind person had placed a gold coin in her shoe, enough to support her for a long time.  The man tells himself it is an omen,he will “borrow” the coin and use it to win back his loses.  He wins so much he breaks the bank at the casino.  He goes back to the girl, intending to repay her many times over.  She is gone.  Then he awakes from a dream.  He was sleeping in a coffee shop near the casino, having no money for a room.  Moral, he stops gambling, becomes a steadfast army officer and when ever he can he gives a gold coin to s starving child.

I read this story in a very well done anthology, A Very French Christmas: The Greatest French Holiday Stories of All Time, published by New Vessel Press.

From Goodreads.

Franois Edouard Joachim Coppe (1842-1908), was a French poet and novelist. In 1869 his first play, Le Passant, was received with approval at the Odon theatre, and later Fais ce Que Dois (1871) and Les Bijoux de la Dlivrance (1872), short poetic dramas inspired by the Franco-Prussian War, were applauded. Coppe was famed as Le Pote des Humbles (the poet of the humble). His verse and prose focus on plain expressions of emotion, patrotism, the joy of young love, and the pitifulness of the poor. He continued to write plays, mostly serious dramas in verse, two in collaboration with Armand d'Artois. He published his first prose work in 1875 and went on to publish short stories, an autobiography of his youth, a series of short articles on miscellaneous subjects, and La Bonne Souffrance, a popular account of his reconversion to the Roman Catholic Church. His other works include Madame de Maintenon (1881), Severo Torelli (1883), Les Jacobites (1885), Le Pater (1889) and Ten Tales (1890). (less)

Friday, December 21, 2018

Two Short Stories by Nella Larsen - "The Wrong Man" and "Freedom" both first published 1926

Nella Larsen

Born Aoril 13, 1891 - Chicago

Died March 30, 1964 - Brooklyn

Major Works

Quicksand - 1928

Passing - 1929 

Considered a leading literary member of the Harlem Renaissance Movement 

Larsen two novels both deal with a light skinned African American woman attempting to "pass" as white.  Her work treats issues of class, women's social roles in Chicago in the 1920s.  Her characters are upper class, affluent and educated.  Chicago in the 1920s had not yet felt great waves of people moving up from the south.  African American high society was a small world, the acceptable term was "Negro", social fraternities and sororities meant a lot, and the female standard of beauty was in favor of lighter skinned women.  Larsen in her work illuminated the psyche damage this caused.

She published two short stories in 1926, both are brief and both have a twist enfing.  The prose is very elegant.

In "Wrong Man" a woman is at a society party with her husband.  They are very happy.  She never told him she had been married and divorced before meeting him.  She wants it kept a secret.  Then who should be at the party but her ex-husband.  She approaches him and begs him not to say anything.  We learn at the end she had mixed things up, he was not her ex husband.  Cute Twist and for sure worth three or four minutes.

“Freedom” is a sharper story.  A man left his mistress to lead an expedition as an explorer.  He returned famous.  He finds his mistress died giving birth to his child.  Seeking freedom from gullt, he steps out of a ten story window.

A very informative article from The New York Times

I hope to read her two novels one day.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

On the Landing - Stories by Yenta Mash - translated from Yiddish by Ellen Cassedy - 2018

On the Landing - Stories by Yenta Mash - translated from Yiddish by Ellen Cassedy   - 2018

Yenta Mash

1922 - Born in Zquiriste, Moldavia

1941- Exhiled to a Siberian Gulag by Soviet Authorities, with her parents

1948 - after Seven years of hard labor under terrible conditions, she escape s and returns to Moldavia (there is a very exciting story about the escape in the collection)

1977- immigrates to Israel

1977 -  begins writing Short Stories in Yiddish based on her experiences

Having read a number of works by Blume Lempel on which Ellen Cassedy was cotranslator i was delighted to learn of her very recently published collection of stories by Yenta Mash.  (There is a link to one of her Short Stories, included in On The Landing in my previous post on Mash)

Much of Yiddish literature is about the immigration experiences of Russian and Eastern European.  Without emigration, Yiddish literature would have died in the Holocaust.  Even before then much of classic Yiddish deals with the impact of Czarist pograms.  Emigration also somehow liberated women from the dominant strctureres of family.  Upon arrival in New York City, women had to learn to cope with an entirely new way of life.  The wonderful short stories of Yente Mash taken together tell the story of a woman who makes two huge transitions, survives incredible hardship for years in a Soviet Labor Camp in Siberia (the set in Siberia stories are amazing), returning to her birth land in Moldavia she adjusted to post World War Two Society, only to move to Israel in her fifties.  There are great stories about immigrant life in Israel, getting adjusted to the rules of yet another society.

These are wonderful stories, a magnificent edition to Yiddish literature.

The collection opens with a story about a woman returning to her hometown after the war, trying to find anything or one she remembers.

From the webpage of Ellen Cassedy

Stories by Yenta Mash
Translated by Ellen Cassedy
With an afterword co-authored by Jessica Kirzane
Northern Illinois University Press, 2018

"A Yiddish Book Center Translation
Yenta Mash traces an arc across upheavals and regime changes, and across the phases of a woman’s life. Her characters are often in transit, poised “on the landing” on their way to or from somewhere else.
On the Landing opens by inviting us to join a woman making her way through her ruined hometown in southeastern Europe, recalling the colorful customs of yesteryear—and the night when everything changed. We then accompany women prisoners into the fearsome Soviet gulag in Siberia.  We see how the Jewish community rebuilds itself in postwar Soviet Moldova.  We join refugees struggling to find their place in Israel, where a late-life romance brings a blossoming of joy.

Drawing on a lifetime of repeated uprooting, Mash offers an intimate perch from which to explore little-known corners of the 20th and early 21st centuries. She makes a major contribution to the literature of immigration and resilience, adding her voice to those of Jhumpa Lahiri, W. G. Sebald, André Aciman, and Viet Thanh Nguyen. Available for the first time in English in Ellen Cassedy’s translation, her work is urgently relevant today as displaced people seek refuge across the globe."

Yenta Mash will, I hope become very widely read.  On the Landing is a great treasure.  I give my thanks to Ellen Cassedy

The afterword is very well done.  I read it before I began the stories and after I finished the collection.  

Mel u

Sunday, December 16, 2018

The Idiot: A Novel by Elif Bautman - 2017, 427 pages - Finalist for the 2017 Pulitzer Prize

Personal Webpage of Elif Bautman

The Idiot A Novel by Elif Bautman, a finalalist for the 2017 Pulitzer Prize, is a classic bildungsroman focusing on Selin, entering Harvard in the middle 1990s just as E mail begings to emerge as  a dominate way of communicating, starting first in elite colleges.  She is an American of Turkish ancestry.  She wants to learn Russian and is, for a 19 year very well read.  

Like most first year college students Selin wondered how to fit in, muses over whether or not she will find love (and have her first sexual encounter, ponders what classes to take and begins to redefine her relationship with her mother.

In cooperation with a boy in her Russian class, she places both of them as characters in an evolving E novel.  Selin tutors disadvantaged persons seeking to pass an exam to get a high school degree or become citizens.  She is told to not reveal she is a Harvard student.  I found these encounters really well done, exposing huge cultural gaps in American society.  A big chunk of the novel is devoted to her time in Hungarian Villages teaching English.

This book deserves a long post than this but I am getting behind in my posting. 

Here is a well done review from The Guardian

This is the publishers press release 

"A portrait of the artist as a young woman. A novel about not just discovering but inventing oneself.

The year is 1995, and email is new. Selin, the daughter of Turkish immigrants, arrives for her freshman year at Harvard. She signs up for classes in subjects she has never heard of, befriends her charismatic and worldly Serbian classmate, Svetlana, and, almost by accident, begins corresponding with Ivan, an older mathematics student from Hungary. Selin may have barely spoken to Ivan, but with each email they exchange, the act of writing seems to take on new and increasingly mysterious meanings. 

At the end of the school year, Ivan goes to Budapest for the summer, and Selin heads to the Hungarian countryside, to teach English in a program run by one of Ivan’s friends. On the way, she spends two weeks visiting Paris with Svetlana. Selin’s summer in Europe does not resonate with anything she has previously heard about the typical experiences of American college students, or indeed of any other kinds of people. For Selin, this is a journey further inside herself: a coming to grips with the ineffable and exhilarating confusion of first love, and with the growing consciousness that she is doomed to become a writer.

With superlative emotional and intellectual sensitivity, mordant wit, and pitch-perfect style, Batuman dramatizes the uncertainty of life on the cusp of adulthood. Her prose is a rare and inimitable combination of tenderness and wisdom; its logic as natural and inscrutable as that of memory itself. The Idiot is a heroic yet self-effacing reckoning with the terror and joy of becoming a person in a world that is as intoxicating as it is disquieting. Batuman’s fiction is unguarded against both life’s affronts and its beauty–and has at its command the complete range of thinking and feeling which they entail."

Her blog has bio data and links to lots of her articles