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

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Diary of a Provincial Lady by E. M Delafield- 1930

 Diary of a Provincial Lady by E. M Delafield- 1930

Edmée Elizabeth Monica Dashwood, née de la Pasture (9 June 1890 – 2 December 1943), commonly known as E. M. Delafield

E M DELAFIELD (1890–1943) was born to Count Henry de la Pasture and his novelist wife in Hove, Sussex. When she was 21 she entered a convent in Belgium and wrote about this in Consequences (1919), Persephone book No. 13. She was in a  VAD (Voluntary Aid Detachment) during WWI and afterwards married Major Paul Dashwood; from 1923 they lived in rural Devon, where she wrote over thirty novels including The Diary of a Provincial Lady (1930). - from The Persephone Book of Short Stories 

Last week I read a delightful short story by E. M. Delafield, “Holiday Group”.  I wanted to read more of her work the complete consensus is that Diary of a Provincial Lady is her best work.  I just completed it and totally loved the arch prose style, the humor, I laughed out loud several times, the gentle satire of upper middle class English country life between the wars, the narrator’s relationship to her children and her husband and the wide cast of characters.

The novel is said to be autobiographical in inspiration. It is structured as a series of diary entries. The narrator is an aspiring writer, her husband a land agent.  She does struggle at times to keep up appearances.  We meet the local society leader, Lady B, the provincial ladies friends, go along to meetings of writers, charity groups, follow her on a trip to Paris joining her friend Rose.  Her interaction with her cook other servants are a masterful treatment of the “servant problem” in 1930.

In the Kindle Edition from MacMillan, pictured above, the wonderful drawings of the characters by Arthur Watts are included.  

If you are down in the dumps over the Covid Pandemic The Diary of a Provincial Lady might be your cup of tea, and of course tea is frequently served in the diary.

Thursday, January 28, 2021

THE LADY KILLER by Masako Togawa - 1963- Translated from The Japanese by Simon Grove - 1986


THE LADY KILLER by Masako Togawa - 1963- Translated from The Japanese by Simon Grove - 1986

The Japanese Literature Challenge 14 - Hosted by Dolce Bellezza 

January 1 to March 31. Japanese Literature Challenge 14

My prior posts for JL14 2021

  1. “Peony Lanterns” a Short Story by Aoko Matsuda - translated from the Japanese by Polly Barton -2020 - a delightful story you can read online. Linked to traditional stories of Ghosts
  2. Before The Coffee Gets Cold by TOSHIKAZU KAWAGUCHI -2020- an international bestseller
  3. The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa - 1998

In 2019 during JL112 I read a very interesting mystery novel by Masako Togawa, The Master Key. I greatly enjoyed it and was very grateful to Pushkin Press for giving me a DCR of another of her works, The Lady Killer, also centered on a murder mystery.

Like The Master Key, the mystery in The Lady Killer  is so well done that I did not see the  ending coming but when it arrived everything fell into place.  

The novel opens with what we think is an extract of a diary by man who seduces and then kills by strangulation women he picks up using false personas of various sorts.  The diary is called The Hunts Man’s Journal.  As the plot proceeds we see the man has no memory of Killing The women but he does recall having sex  with them.  When he learns of the deaths he begins to fear he might be a murderer.  The man is married but lives outside of Tokyo and see his wife, with whom he no longer has sex, just when he files home on weekends.  He begins to try to hide his activities and also fears someone may be trying to frame him for the four murders of women recorded in The Huntsman’s Journal.

There is very strong medical evidence linking him to the murders.  He has a very rare blood type found in only about one in a thousand Japanese and this is found on the Ginger nails of the victims or can be traced through semen.  On the basis of this, his insbility to give an

alibi  and some circumstantial evidence he is arrested for murder,  convcted and is sentenced to death.  

His wife’s father is quite rich so he hires a private detective to try to prove he is not the killer.  There is a sininster woman with a prominent mole on her nose who seems linked the victims.  We are taken on a journey through the lives the lonely vulnerable women who wind up murder victims.  The detective is convinced the man has been set up in an elaborate plot.

The unraveling of frame up is just so inventive.  

I enjoyed this book a lot.  The Kindle edition is value priced now at $1.95

Bio Data from Puskin Publishing

In 2016, beloved Japanese crime writer and LGBT activist Masako Togawa sadly passed away. We’re delighted to be able to bring you her prizewinning debut novel The Master Key, originally published in 1962, as the latest in the Pushkin Vertigo crime series.

Masako went on to publish over 30 books and was described by the Times Literary Supplement as “The P.D. James of Japan.” She was as gregarious as she was talented, finding success in many different careers over the course of her rich and varied life. Here are some of her highlights:

Singer/songwriter: She made her singing debut in the well-known nightclub ‘Gin-Pari’ in 1954. Music and performing remained a big part of her life and she released several records including “Lost Love” in 1975 and “Bon Voyage” with her son Nero in 2015.

Club owner: In 1967, she decided to turn her sister’s coffee shop into a live music hall, calling it Aoi Heya, or “Blue Room.” The intimate 150-person venue in Tokyo’s vibrant Shibuya district hosted artists and composers, simultaneously serving as a Chanson club and a lesbian night club.

LGBT icon: After years of encouraging LGBT artists at Aoi Heya, she came out as bisexual on television in 1999. In 2002, she was one of the first Japanese television personalities to take an active role in the Tokyo Lesbian and Gay Parade.

Actress: From 1969 to 1974, she played the lead character in a television show called Playgirl about a mystery writer who creates an all-female detective agency specialising in white collar crimes. She also starred in a film The Hunter’s Diary (1964), an adaptation of several stories she had co-written.

Music teacher: In 2012, she started teaching Chanson classes, calling the programme the “Blue Room Grand Cabaret.” They proved highly popular, taking place on the first and third Wednesdays of each month and broadcast via web channel “Scatch TV”.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Bolai- A Short Story about man and nature by Rabindranath Tagore - 1928 - translated from Bengali by Chaitali Sengupta and Aruna Chakravarti- January 14, 2021


This story can be read on The website of The Borderless Journal

Tagore (1861 to 1941) was born in Calcutta, Indian into a family whose wealth and life style can now only be seen in movies.    His father owned an estate so huge that at one point in his life Tagore traveled through it on a luxurious barge and was met on the river bank by tenants paying token rents to him.   Tagore was raised mostly by servants as his mother died young and his father was very busy administrating the vast estates he owned.   Tagore was educated in classical Indian literature and at age eight began to write poetry and ended up reshaping the Bengali Language.   Later in his life he founded a school and devoted himself entirely to his writing and teachings.   His moral authority became so great that he was able to write the national anthems of both India and Bangladesh, give Gandhi the title of Mahatma (teacher),  and in fact in his life had a status as a moral leader on a par with  Gandi.   He traveled to England and met William Butler Yeats, Ezra Pound and other notable literary figures.   This was in a period when western writers were fascinated by Indian thinkers and Yeats wrote the preface for one of his first translations in English.   He is considered prior to WWII and perhaps even now the most widely read Indian author both in the west and in India.     Einstein said he profited greatly from his conversation on metaphysics with Tagore, Gandhi came  to him for moral counseling.   In 1915 he was knighted by George the V but he repudiated his knighthood following the 1919 Jallianwata Massacare.  He was a strong advocate of the end of British rule in India.  

William Butler Yeats and his wife attended a series of lecturers Tagore gave in London.  Yeats was fascinated by Tagore.  Georgie Yeats was touched on such a deep level by Tagore that he appeared as a kind of spokesman in her automatic writing and this helped shaped the mature poetic vision of Yeats 

There is no literary tradition older than that of India.   There are speculative reasons to think there was an oral literary culture in Ireland 5000 years ago (about the same time that Indian literary culture arose).  The difference is that in India there is an unbroken chain from the works of Salmon Rushdie back 5000 years but in Ireland the chain is broken and we have no sources.   I also think, getting off topic a bit, that the roots of magic realism go back to very old Indian literature.

There are now just over 3800 posts on The Reading Life, the nine posts i have previously done on a Short Story by Tagore are often among the top ten most viewed posts in a week. 

I found this a very moving story about a Young man, living with his aunt as his parents have passed, who is deeply bonded with nature.  His description evokes ancient traditions:

“Even at an early age, he’d quietly observe Nature around him. The dark, billowing clouds in layers, on the eastern sky would collect and pour. They would moisten his heart and bring forth the untamed breeze of the forests. It was, as if, his entire being could hear the pitter-patter of the rain.

He seemed to want to fill his being with rays of the departing sun, perhaps, in an attempt to collect something precious from it. In the end of Magh (the month of January), when the trees would be laden with the tiny fruits, an intrinsic, deep happiness, a joy defying description awakened in him. His inner nature would blossom forth, expand and take on a deeper shade of colour, much like those flowering Sal trees, with the advent of Falgun (the month of February). In those moments, he had a deep urge to sit in solitude, in conversation with himself, piecing together the various tales he’d heard. Like the story of that very old pair of birds, who had made their nest in the deep crevice of the ancient banyan tree.  He never talked much, this wide-eyed, staring boy. In the silence of his being, his thoughts ran deep.”

“Bohai” would me a very good first Tagore.  I offer my thanks to Borderless Journal  for making it 

possible to read this beautiful story.

I offer my thanks to  Mitali Chakravarty  for Publishing  this story

She is the founding editor of the Borderless Journal.

Mitali Chakravarty has been writing from the age of eight. She started her professional career as a journalist in The Times of India.  Her bylines have appeared in The Statesman, The Times of India, The Hindustan Times, The Pioneer, The Daily Star and more journals. Her poetry and prose have been published online and as part of numerous hardcopy anthologies. Some of her poetry has been translated to Nepali and German. Mitali also translates from Bengali and Hindi to English. She has published a humorous book of essays on living in China where she spent eight years, In the Land of Dragons . From borderlessjournal.COM 

I took a long look at The Borderless Journal.   It already has lots of Short stories i hope to read and much more in just a few months of publication .

Here is their  Mission Statement

“Borders were drawn through history dividing mankind into smaller more manageable divisions that could be ruled and led. Borderless is a celebration of the human spirit that soars exploring and developing links beyond all the borders that exist in today’s world. 

It is a literary journal to connect all writers and readers beyond the bonds of money, nationality, rituals and cultures… to a world of ideals. We look for any positive input — humour, poetry, prose. There are no boundaries to human imagination and thought and that is what we are set to explore”

Mel u

Monday, January 25, 2021

The Gulf: The Making of an America Sea by Jack E. Davis - 2017 - Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for History - 562 Pages

An Autodidactic Corner Selection 

This post is in honour of the birth anniversary of my and Max u’s

 mother, January 3, 1921-No finer Floridian ever lived.

Florida Timeline

8000 BC - First Native American settlement, near Sarasota

1000 AD - there are nine distinct tribes 

1500 - estimated population of the state was 375,000- 150,000 speak Timuca

April 2, 1513 - Ponce de Leon lands somewhere between Melbourne and Jacksonville.  In time the  indigenous population will be reduced to near zero, from disease and warfare. 

1521 - first colony, from Spain, near St. Augustine

1579 - The cultivation of oranges, introduced from Spain begins.  By 1835 millions of oranges were being shipped north and to Europe, for the next hundred years oranges, cattle and timber were the major sources of cash

1624 - First African American born, in St. Augustine

1763 to 1765- England Owns west Florida panhandle area

Based on research by others in the family and history, I conjecture my maternal ancestors first entered Florida, coming from. Georgia where they arrived around 1650, about 1815.

1808 - importation of slaves into USA is banned, a very large trade in slaves smuggled in from Cuba begins 

1821 - USA acquired Florida from Spain.  

1822 - Tallahassee is chosen as the territory capital, being half way between the then major population centers of St. Augustine and Pensacola

1835 Second Seminole War begins, by 1842 most Seminoles were shipped west but some escaped into the Everglades.  The 

make up of the Seminoles was largely not Native originally to Florida but a mixture of escaped slaves and Creeks from Georgia and South Carolina.

March 3, 1845 - Florida becomes a state, slavery legal.

1859 - by the end of the third Seminole War the around four hundred 

surviving Seminoles retreat to the Everglades

Population of Florida 1861. - 154,494 - 92,741 Free, 61,75 enslaved

January 10, 1861 Florida suceeds from The Union.  Per capita, Florida sent The most men into war, 15000.  It was then the  least populated southern state.

In January 2019, in consultation with Max u, it was decided every January there would be a post about a book in tribute of our Mother.  Our mother was born in a very small town in northern Florida on Jan 3, 1923.  We have traced our maternal ancestral lines back to 1820 when an ancestor started the first public library in the central Florida era.  A knowledge of history indicates our prior maternal ancestors came to the USA from the UK in the 1600s, probably in part as bound servants.  Somehow they wound up in South Georgia.  After the American Revolution people from that area began to enter then Spanish Florida, which the USA acquired in 1819.  There is much we don’t know about the family history.  We do know that for most of her life our mother lived close to the Gulf of Mexico.  This made The Gulf:The Making of an American Sea look like a perfect tribute book and for sure it was.  Anyone into Florida, Texas, Alabama or Mississippi history will love this book.  There is a preponderance of coverage on Florida, Jack Davis being a University of Florida History Professor.  There is even extensive discussion on the process whereby a mangrove sea coast was developed into a condominium project in which our Mother spent the last 25 years of her life.

The Gulf: Making of an American SEA begins with an account of how The Gulf of Mexico was created by the shifting of continental plates hundreds of million years ago.   The main drift of his book is a presentation of the terrible destruction wrought on enviorment,the senseless Killing of millions of birds, fhe destruction of coastal mangroves, and near complete killing of indengeous peoples brought set in motion by the arrival of Europeans.  

Davis lets us see how very important the mangroves were to The food of Indians.  Fish and Wild Life was so abundent they had little need to cultivate crops.  Davis shows us Florida through eyes of painters and the words of Wallace Stepens who he quotes a good bit and lesser known nature writers.

We learn about the Development of the Gulf Coast fishing industry.  There is a fascinating chapter on the role sports fishing for Tarpon first brought sports fishers to the Gulf Coast of Florida.  I never knew Thomas Edison and his wife were big Tarpon fishers.  Davis showed me how Tarpon fishing, it had no food value, lead to the fish being nearly destroyed.

The good guys in this story are conservationists.

Jack E. Davis is the author of the award-winning "An Everglades Providence: Marjory Stoneman Douglas and the American Environmental Century." A professor of environmental history at the University of Florida, he grew up on the Gulf coast, and now lives in Florida and New Hampshire.   From The Pulitzer Website

From The Publisher 

“Hailed as a "nonfiction epic . . . in the tradition of Jared Diamond’s best-seller 'Collapse,' and Simon Winchester’s 'Atlantic'" (Dallas Morning News), Jack E. Davis’s The Gulf is "by turns informative, lyrical, inspiring and chilling for anyone who cares about the future of 'America’s Sea'" (Wall Street Journal). Illuminating America’s political and economic relationship with the environment from the age of the conquistadors to the present, Davis demonstrates how the Gulf’s fruitful ecosystems and exceptional beauty empowered a growing nation. Filled with vivid, untold stories from the sportfish that launched Gulfside vacationing to Hollywood’s role in the country’s first offshore oil wells, this "vast and welltold story shows how we made the Gulf . . . [into] a 'national sacrifice zone'" (Bill McKibben). The first and only study of its kind, "The Gulf" offers “a unique and illuminating history of the American Southern coast and sea as it should be written” (Edward O. Wilson).”

Mel u


Friday, January 22, 2021

“ Holiday Group” - A Short Story by E M Delafield -first published in The Entertainment and other stories - 1927


“Holiday Group” - A Short Story by E M Delafield -first published in The Entertainment and other stories 

I read this story in The Persephone Book of Short Stories

Edmée Elizabeth Monica Dashwood, née de la Pasture (9 June 1890 – 2 December 1943), commonly known as E. M. Delafield

E M DELAFIELD (1890–1943) was born to Count Henry de la Pasture and his novelist wife in Hove, Sussex. When she was 21 she entered a convent in Belgium and wrote about this in Consequences (1919), Persephone book No. 13. She was in a  VAD (Voluntary Aid Detachment) during WWI and afterwards married Major Paul Dashwood; from 1923 they lived in rural Devon, where she wrote over thirty novels including The Diary of a Provincial Lady (1930). - from The Persephone Book of Short Stories 

“Holiday Group” is my first encounter with E. M. Delafield, for sure it will not be my last.  As things are now it is unlikely many of us have plans for a family outing to the seashore in our near term agenda.  Through “Holiday Group” we can vicariously experience the excitement of planning, the inevitability of drama on any trip with children, maybe hope to fit in a romantic encounter with our spouse and deal with merchants and landlords who make a living from visitors.

With a legacy the family has paid their debts, set aside some money for their second son’s education (no need for their daughter of course) so the time has come for a long delayed trip:

“The legacy paid their debts, enabled him to put a tiny nest egg into the bank, and caused Herbert to make an announcement to his wife. ‘We are going to have a holiday,’ he said. ‘A real holiday, Julia.’ Julia looked startled. ‘A second honeymoon!’ he cried. ‘Except for the children . . .’ hinted Julia, rather tactlessly, and almost indelicately.   ‘Naturally,’ said the Reverend Herbert, frowning. He told her his plan . . . ‘What about Ethel?’ Ethel was their general servant. It was very difficult for Mrs Cliff-Hay to find a servant, and still more difficult for her to keep one. Ethel had been with them six months, and Julia’s great preoccupation in life, after the welfare of Herbert and the children, was how to make certain that Ethel would never leave. ‘Ethel will look after the house, of course.’ ‘Dear, she won’t sleep here alone, I’m perfectly certain. You know what girls are.’ ‘Well, well, we can settle about Ethel later, surely,’ said the Reverend Herbert rather peevishly.    ‘Well, well, we can settle about Ethel later, surely,’ said the Reverend Herbert rather peevishly. ‘Here am I, full of a surprise plan which I hope will be a joy and a pleasure to you, and all you can talk about is the wretched Ethel!’ It did indeed seem ungrateful looked at in that way. ‘I didn’t really mean it like that,’ said Julia – although she had really meant it exactly like that. ‘Of course it’s a glorious idea, Herbert, and so kind of you to think of it all .”

As I read this I had to chuckle over what is being hinted at by Julia.  I really like the elegant prose of Delafield.  In England between  the wars 

the “servant problem” was a preoccupation of affluent ladies.  We also are presented with insight into the dynamics of their marriage.

We are along on the trip to the coast (“how much longer,Mother”).

The family has fun, the son wants a shovel to dig in the sand.

I have Diary of a Provincial Lady on my 2021 schedule 

I think the collection of short stories The Persephone Book of Short Stories might be of interest to many in the group. Of the thirty stories in the collection dating  is a 1909 story by Susan Glaspell, an American, up to a story by Penelope Fitzgerald from 1986.  Only Mollie Parker-Downes has two stories.  There is one story in translation from the French by Irene Némrovsky. Fourteen of the writers seem to be in the Undervalued British Novelists 1930 to 1960.  There is a concise biography of each writer as well as first publication information on the stories.


Wednesday, January 20, 2021

“Downing Out in New York”- from In Fields of Butterfly Flames and other stories by  Steve Wade -202O


“Downing Out in New York”- from In Fields of Butterfly Flames and other stories by  Steve Wade -202O 

Gateway to Steve Wade on The Reading Life

My Q and A with Steve Wade 

Website of Steve Wade 

This is the eighth short story by Steve Wade that has been featured on The Reading Life. I have great admiration for his work and insight, otherwise I would not feature him so avidly.  I first read his work during Irish Short Story Month Year Three in March of 2013.  I found his short story “The Land of the Ever Young” fully qualified to stand with the great occult fairy tales of Sheridan Le Fanu or Andrew Lang.

“The Land of the Ever Young" recreates and helps us understand the stories of fairies stealing human children and substituting changelings for them.  Part of the root of these stories comes from the famine years where people had to find ways to deal with the starvation of their children.  On another darker side, this story also  treats of the fact that one more hungry child could be the tipping point in a family on the edge of starvation that can  send everyone else into the grave.  

First and foremost 'The Land of the Ever Young" is a tremendous lot of fun to read.  Joseph Sheridan le Fanu or Andrew Lang

have no better stories than this.

Downing Out in New York is the third story from Steve Wade’s debut collection In Fields of Butterfly Flames and other Stories upon which I have posted.  The story centers on an Irishman who was drawn to New York City by his girlfriend.  It is a cautionary tale of how quickly a grip on reality can be lost.

As the man sees it his ex-girl friend lured him to leave Ireland to meet her parents in New York City,  She then has one of her girlfriends lure him into a sexual encounter in a hotel room. The girl friend goes nuts, attacking him and The other woman.  She knows his visa has expired and threstens to have him deported as an illegal alien.  He loses his temper and strikes her,  Now she says she will get him arrested for assult.  He flees the hotel with no money, no wallet and Without his vioilin.  He was a busker back in Ireland.  From here we follow his days on the streets of New York.

In just a few Wade presents a very vivid  credible account of the start of madness.  

There are 21 stories in the collection.  In March I will be focusing once again on Irish Short Stories and will teturn to this marvelous collection then.

About the Author - Steve Wade’s award-winning short fiction has been widely published in literary magazines and anthologies. His work has been broadcast on national and regional radio. He has had stories short-listed for the Francis McManus Short Story Competitionand for the Hennessy Award. His stories have appeared in over fifty print publications, including Crannog, New Fables, and Aesthetica Creative Works Annual. His unpublished novel, On Hikers’ Hill was awarded First Prize in the competition, with Sir Tim Rice as the top judge. He has won First Prize in the Delvin Garradrimna Short Story Competition on a number of occasions. Winner of the Short Story category in the Write by the Sea writing competition 2019. His

short stories have been nominated for the PEN/O’Henry Award, and for the Pushcart Prize.

From the Author’s  introduction 

“The stories in this collection first appeared in anthologies and periodicals. Some of them have won prizes or have been placed in writing competitions. Ostracised by betrayal, isolated through indifference, gutted with guilt, or suffering from loss, the characters in these twenty-two stories are fractured and broken, some irreparably. In their struggle for acceptance, and their desperate search for meaning, they deny the past”

A very worthy edition to the reading list of all lovers of the short story.

Mel u

Sunday, January 17, 2021

The memory police by Yoko Ogawa- 1994- translated fom the Japanese by Stephen Snyder - 2019


The memory police by Yoko Ogawa- 1994- translated fom the Japanese by Stephen Snyder - 2019

The Japanese Literature Challenge 14 - Hosted by Dolce Bellezza 

January 1 to March 31. Japanese Literature Challenge 14

My prior posts for JL14 2021

  1. “Peony Lanterns” a Short Story by Aoko Matsuda - translated from the Japanese by Polly Barton -2020 - a delightful story you can read online. Linked to traditional stories of Ghosts
  2. Before The Coffee Gets Cold by TOSHIKAZU KAWAGUCHI -2020- an international bestseller

My first encounter with Yoko Ogawa was during Jl3 in March of 2010.

As of now I have posted on two additional novels by Ogawa, Hotel Iris and her most famous work The Housekeeper and The Professor as well as eight shorter works.  Like Memory Police, The Housekeeper and The Professor are centered on the consequences of memory failure.  The Housekeeper and The Professor is a realistic mode work about a man whose short time memory only extends back one day.  The Memory Police is a dystopic s/f work about a culture wide mandated memory lose.  Things people do not remember disappear.

The Memory Police takes place on an unnamed island where things are disappearing, starting with hats, ribbons  birds and roses.  Most people have no memory left of the disappered things, those who do are dealt with by the memory police.  The Menory Police are a Gestapo like organization.  The narrator is a novelist.  Her editor is being sought by The memory Police so she decides to hide him.  Gradually more and more things begin to disappear including human body parts.  Things get stranger as the plot  proceeds.

I found Tbe Memory Police very interesting.  We never have a clear idea of why this is happening, just a few speculative notions.

About the Author Yoko Ogawa’s fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, A Public Space, Granta, and Zoetrope: All-Story. Since 1988 she has published more than twenty works of fiction and nonfiction and has won every major Japanese literary award. She lives in Hyogo.

I Will next read for JL14 a noir novel THE LADY KILLER by Masako Togawa Translated by Simon Grove, first published in 1963.