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

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Joseph Roth: A Search for the Wandering Jew by Dennis Marks - 2011 - 140 pages

 Wandering Jew:  The Search for Joseph Roth by Dennis Marks -2011

Born: September 2, 1894, Brody, Ukraine

Died: May 27, 1939, Paris, France

Spouse: Friederike Reichler (m. 1922–1939)

Partner: Irmgard Keun

His works 

  The Spider's Web (Das Spinnennetz) (1923, adapted in 1989 into a film of the same name)

 - from Wikipedia 

Marks starts his book by telling us it is not a biography of Joseph Roth, rather it is an attempt to understand his place in Europe between the wars.  It is very far from a panegyric, a subtitle might be “what was Roth trying to mask in his fictions and in his lies to so many people”.  It is also an account of what being a Jew from 

Mitteleuropa, (meaning Middle Europe, is one of the German terms for Central Europe) meant to Roth.  Mittleleuropa, in better days this included much of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, was a terrible place to be a Jew during Roth’s life.  He left Austria in just as Hitler took over and moved to Paris.  For years he was the best paid journalist in Europe but he preferred to live in “flea bag” hotels, squandering his income in cheap bars, and prostitutes.  His very rich Friend Stefan Zweig often had to get him out of trouble with never paid back loans.

Marks book is a personal story of his attempt to understand Roth beginning with explaining why Roth would give differing accounts of where he was born and of the social background of his parents.  Marks traveled to the places Roth resided, trying to find traces of his existence.

I have read all of Roth in translation and available as a Kindle,11 novels and the collections of essays available. Roth is as smart they come.  Marks tells us that The Radetzy March is for sure Roth’s masterpiece.  My sentimental favorite is The Hotel Savoy.

Dennis Michael Marks, was head of music at BBC Television in the 1980s and from 1993 to 1997 was general director of English National Opera. He was also a maker of television documentaries, broadcaster and author. Wikipedia
Born: July 2, 1948, Harrow, United Kingdom
Died: April 2, 2015, London, United Kingdom

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

The Reading Life Review - November 2020


This Month I decided to do two author collages, one on Australian writers and another for the remainder 

Column One

  1. Nancy Hale - USA - a very prolific writer.  I hope to read lots of her Short Stories in 2021
  2. Steve Wade - Ireland - author of Fields of Butterfly Flames - I have been closely following his work for seven years and look forward to reading much more.
  3. N. K. Jeminsin - USA - highly regarded and awarded science fiction writer - currently Reading her Broken Earth Trilogy 

Column Two

  1. Margaret Atwood.- Canada 
  2. Edward Westermann - USA - Historian focusing on Germany during WW Two
  3. Mia Alvar - Phillippines to USA - Author in The Country - Short Stoies about Filipinos all over the world

Column Three. 

  1. Anna Goldberg - USA to Austria - Author of  I Belong to Vienna
  2. Augustine Sedgewick - USA - author of Coffeeland: One Man's Dark Empire and the Making of Our Favorite Drug
  3. Robert Walser - Austria - 

Column Four

  1. Grimm Brothers - Germany
  2. Brian Kirk - Ireland -featured many times on The Reading Life
  3. Stefan Zweig - Austria 

In November I participated in The Annual Aussie Reads Challenge

Australian Authors

Column One

  1. John Lang - Australia - first novelist born in Australia 
  2. Rudd Steele - Australia - stories of convict Life 
  3. Barbara Boynton - Ireland to Australia- author Bush Studies, known for her stories about The lives of women settlers in the early days - a great writer 

Column Two

  1. Shirley Hazzard - Australia
  2. Henry Handel Richardson - Australia - prolific Multi- Genre writer
  3. Marcus Clarke - England to Australia - stories of The early colonial days 

Column Three

  1. Mary Fortune - Ireland (Belfast) to Australia - author of over 400 stories, mostly about crimes
  2. Catherine McNamara  - Australia - author of two Short Collections i highly endorse- Pelt and Other Stories and The Cartography of Ofhers.  I Will post on her again this Month
  3. Sylvia Petter - Australia - author All the Beautiful Liers - Award winning Multi-genre writer 

Birth countries of Authors

  1. Australia - 6
  2. USA - 5
  3. Ireland - 4
  4. Austria - 2
  5. Switzerland- 1
  6. Canada - 1
  7. Germany - 1 (I am treating The Grimm brother together)

Nine works by women were featured in November, 13 men.  Ten authors are living, 12 are deceased.

Blog Stats for November

There are 3832 posts currently on The Reading Life

There has been 6,169,410 Pages views since inception 

Home Countries of Visitors

  1. USA
  2. The Phillippines 
  3. Germany - highest Position so far
  4. India 
  5. Canada 
  6. UK
  7. France 
  8. Indonesia
  9. Macao - first time on list

Posts on Short Stories were featured 18 times, Plus a novel by Margaret Atwood (as part of my participation in Margaret Atwood Reading Month) and three works of non-fiction.

December Plans and hopes

I am very much looking Forward to Reading All The Beautiful Liers  by Sylvia Petter as well as Loving Modigliani by Linda Lappin.   I have been happily Reading Lappin’s work for over ten years.  

I have two long German novels I hope to finish one of these days - Cain and Abel by Gregor Von Rezori and The Man Without Qualities by Robert Musil.

You can get an idea of my near term hopes from The images on my Sidebar.

I offer my thanks to Max u for his kind provision of Amazon Gift Cards.

To those who take The trouble to leave comments, you Help to keep us going.

Mel u -curator  and founder 

With Ambrosia Bousweau - European Editor

Oleander Bousweau - Advisory Director  

Monday, November 30, 2020

“The Most Elegant Drawing Room in Europe,” The New Yorker, September 17, 1966. Plus A Start on my Short Story Plans for 2021.

 “The Most Elegant Drawing Room in Europe,” The New Yorker, September 17, 1966.   Plus A Start on my Short Story Plans for 2021.

Plus A Start on my Short Story Plans for 2021.

 Today’s story is Included in Selected  Short Stories of Nancy Hale - with an introduction by Lauren Groff - 2019

  If you can isten to something by Vivaldi from The Venice Baroaue Orchester while you read this set in Venice story

Nancy Hale 

 Born: May 6, 1908 - Boston, Massachusetts 

Died:  Sept 24,1988 Charlottesville, Virginia 

I am starting to contemplate my Reading Life plans and hopes for 2021.  

I have set aside seven collections of Short Stories, all my women, to read in full.  Perhaps I tend to read a lot of Short Stories by women as my life revolves around my three adult daughters  and my wife.  

The writers I  picked, open to change or addition, are four American writers, Nancy Hale, Alice Adams, Lorrie Moore, and Carmen Maria Macado.  They are joined by Shirley Hazzard born in Australia, very much a citizen of the World.  I love the sheer Beauty of the work of England’s Elizabeth Taylor and have a full read through of her oevere 

planned for next year.  I have read about half of the stories in All The Beloved Ghosts by Alison MacLeod and plan to read the rest.  Some of The stories I Will post upon, some not.

Like Shirley Hazzard and Elizabeth Taylor, Hale writers about Family relationships.  Her characters are affluent and  suffer no food anxiety.

There are 25 stories in The Selected Short Stories of Nancy Hale. I was at once so intrigued  by today’s story’s title “The Most Elegant Drawing Room in Europe” that I decided to start there. I loved this story.  I liked How Hale played with our perceptions of the American mother and daughter making their first visit to Venice and their relationship with The Italian Countesa  in whose Mansion on The Grand Canal they find what they see as the most elegant drawing room in Europe.

From opening lines we see How in awe of the Countess and Venice is

““THE CONTESSA doesn’t seem entirely real, she’s so exquisite,” wrote Emily Knapp to her friend and fellow-librarian Ruth Patterson, at home in Worcester, Massachusetts. “I wish you too might have seen her in her tiny jewel box of a palazzo yesterday, as “THE CONTESSA doesn’t seem entirely real, she’s so exquisite, we did! She’d lent us her gondola for the afternoon. (I can’t tell you how super-elegant we felt, or how much attention we attracted on the Grand Canal.) Persis Woodson, the artist I wrote you about meeting on the Cristoforo Colombo coming over, remarked that all over America next winter people will be showing home movies with us prominent in them, pointing us out as aristocratic Venetians lolling in our private gondola!”

I wondered is Emily just an American rube in Venice, who is the mysterious Contessa?  We go with Emily and her mother to a Vivaldi concert which was so much fun to read.  We wonder what the Countessa thinks of them.  In  the close Emily and I are thrown into confusion when we do see how the Contessa regards the Americans.

I look Forward to Reading on in The Selected Short Stories of Nancy Hale

Mel u


Friday, November 27, 2020

Three Short Stories by Steele Rudd-Queensland, Australia - Bush Writer


Three Short Stories by Steele Rudd-Queensland, Australia - Bush Writer

Aussie Author Challenge 2020

Steele Rudd (1868 to 1935) was the pen name for a very famous writer of Australian Bush Tales, Arthur Davis. Davis was born in the outback region of Queensland Australia to a Welsh father and an Irish mother.   He left school at age 11 and worked at various jobs on outback stations and farms.   At age 18 he got a job in the local  sheriff's office and about this time he sent in a short story to The Bulletin about some of his father's experiences working and making a life for a family of eight in the harsh bush country, the outback.   The editor

The Bulletin encouraged him to write more stories and Steele Rudd became a very popular author of simple, good natured stories about life in the outback in late 19th century Australia.   The stories poke gentle fun at the country ways people in the region but they do not show them as buffoons or fools.   The people in the three stories I enjoyed reading were super resourceful, very strong in their bodies and minds and subject to the loneliness  that other Bush Authors like Henry Lawson and Barbara Baynton have shown us in their stories.   There is some slang and use of dialect in the stories but I could follow the conversations and I enjoyed learning some new slang.

"Starting the Selection" 7 pages, 1898

"Starting the Selection" is about the first few months that  the father, referred to as "Dad" spent on the farm by himself preparing the land to be farmed for the first time.  I could not but admire the tremendous hard work that this would have taken.     Everybody suffered tremendously from the isolation.

"Our First Harvest" (eight page, 1898) gave us a poignant look at the financial difficulties faced by early farmers.   Dad and his five sons worked very hard to bring in the first harvest and get it into the local store for sell.   They were elated when the store owner told them the harvest would yield 12  pounds.  I could feel the shared heart ache of Mom and Dad when the store owner told them he was going to deduct nine pounds to pay their account with him.   Rudd does not say but we get the feeling there might be some shady bookkeeping involved.   Mom and Dad just give each other strength and go on. 

"The Night We Watched for Wallabies"

In  my limited research on Rudd I did not find any stories consistently listed as his best work so I was on my own as to where to start in his work.    After completing these two stories I found one entitled, "The Night We Watched for Wallabies" and I thought OK sounds like fun and it was.   Dad tells his sons they all have to spend the night outside the house to stand guard for roving bands of Wallabies (small kangaroos) which can have devastating effects on crops like wheat and corn.   Rudd's style is straight forward while showing a keen eye for details.

There is a surprise ending that does sort of poke fun at the people in the story a bit (though not in a mean way) so I will not reveal more of  the plot.  

These stories are easy to read, straight  forward  works that the people they are written about could enjoy.   They let me see what family life was like in the Queensland Out Back in the 1890s.    You had to be tough, self reliant, and a good sense of humor was a big help also I think.   

Older Australians may recall the very long running radio program (1932 to 1952) Dave and Dad which was inspired by the stories of Rudd.   In the program the dignified intelligent people in his stories were reduced to slack jawed outback yokels.   Rudd was always very offended by this and himself had the greatest respect for the people of the outback, especially   the women.   

I liked these stories.    Maybe the are not  great art and I admit they were in part historical curiosity reads for me but I am glad I was motivated to take the time to learn about Steele Rudd.   All of these stories can be read online at Free Reading in Australia (a great resource).   My basic source of information on Rudd is the Australian National Biographical Dictionary.    

Thursday, November 26, 2020

“Cliffs of Fall” - A Short Story by Shirley Hazzard


“Cliff of Falls” - A Short Story by Shirley Hazzard - 1962

Included in her collection Cliffs of Falls and In The Collected Short Stories of Shirley Hazzard 

Previously this Month as part of my partcipation in The Aussie Author Reading Challenge I posted on “The Party” by Shirley Hazzard.

I have also read this Month Without an accompaning post from The Cliff of Falls and Other Stories

  1. A Place in The Country
  2. Vittoria
  3. In One’s Own House
  4. Villa Adriana

My Prior Posts on Shirley Hazzard

 The  2020 Australia Reads Challenge 

Shirley Hazzard

Born January 30, 1930 Sidney, Australia

1963 to 1994 - Married to Francis Steegmuller - A highly regarded Flaubert scholar (They met at a party hosted by Muriel Spark in New York City.)

The Transit of Venus - 1980 - her most famous book

The Great Fire - 2003 - Natiinal Book Award - Best Novel

Dies - December 12, 2016 - New York City

““We should remember that sorrow does produce flowers of its own. It is a misunderstanding always to look for joy.”  -Shirley Hazzard

“Much of the drama in Hazzard’s work arises from the bruising interactions between those who are responsive to beauty, and those who are not.”  Zoe Heller in her Preface to The Collected Short Stories of Shirley Hazzard .  

From The Paris Review - “She has written five novels (The Great Fire, 2003; The Transit of Venus, 1980; The Bay of Noon, 1970; People in Glass Houses, 1967; and The Evening of the Holiday, 1966), a collection of stories (Cliffs of Fall, 1963), a memoir (Greene on Capri, 2000), and two books of nonfiction (Countenance of Truth, 1990 and Defeat of an Ideal, 1973), all of them ablaze with technical perfection and moral poise.”.

Farrar, Straus and Giroux in Publishing (September 2020) in Publishing The Collected Short Stories of Shirley Hazzard has done a great service to lovers of very high quality Short Stories.

“Collected Stories includes both volumes of the National Book Award–winning author Shirley Hazzard’s short-story collections—Cliffs of Fall and People in Glass Houses—alongside uncollected works and two previously unpublished stories

“Including twenty-eight works of short fiction in all, Shirley Hazzard’s Collected Stories is a work of staggering breadth and talent. Taken together, Hazzard’s short stories are masterworks in telescoping focus, “at once surgical and symphonic” (The New Yorker), ranging from quotidian struggles between beauty and pragmatism to satirical sendups of international bureaucracy, from the Italian countryside to suburban Connecticut. “. From The Publisher.

I have so far read one novel by Shirley Hazzard, The Great Fire plus  nine  short stories.

Here is my reaction to The Great Fire

The great fire refers, among other things, to the destruction of the traditional culture of Japan in their defeat in World War Two.  Set in 1947, mostly in Japan and Australia, the people in the novel are trying to get on with their lives now that the war is over.  Some of the men were badly wounded, all suffer mental trauma, parents struggle to understand why their son had to die.  The great fire is also, mentioned several times, a symbolic representation of the bombing of Hiroshima.

“Cliffs of Fall” is set in a Villa outside of Geneva with a magnicient view of the Jura Mountain range.   Elizabeth Tchirikoff, six weeks a widow, is staying with her friends Greta and Cyril, trying to deal with feelings she never had before. Hazzard’s prose is exquisite.

In the World depicted in Hazzard’s Short stories i have so far read we see a Love for beauty, a post war venue in which people of course have servants.  Her people read serious European literature.  There is no material misery, no food anxiety.

As  the story progresses we follow Elizabeth Tchirikoff through various stages of grief..

This line of Observation at the Geneva AirPort struck me as  pure Hazzard:

“An elegant woman walked past with a poodle on a leash.”

I still have 22 stories to go in The Collected Short Stories of Shirley Hazzard I am looking forward to reading.

Mel u