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

Friday, October 15, 2021

“Among Strangers” A short story By Isabella Arkadyevna (Arkadievna) Grinevskaya (född Beila Friedberg, Jiddisch ‏ביילע פֿרידבערג‏‎ - Translated from Yiddish by Anita Norich - 2021

 “Among Strangers”

A short story By   Isabella Arkadyevna (Arkadievna) Grinevskaya (född Beila FriedbergJiddisch ‏ביילע פֿרידבערג‏‎ Translated from Yiddish by Anita Norich - 2021

You may read the story on the website of The Yiddish Book Center 

1864 to 1944 

This was first published between 1888 and 1891

She was born in Russia.  Her life history seems not definitely understood. She did live in Constantinople for a while.( There is bio data on The Yiddish Center Website.) 

“Among Strangers” is a deeply moving story about what happens to a family living in a small eastern Russia

shtetl when the employer of the father goes bankrupt putting him out of work. The father had been making enough as a bookkeeper to comfortably support his large family.  Sadly there is no other business in the shtetl that can pay him near the eighty rubles he was accustomed to receiving. 

His wife starts a herring shop.  Her husband tries to help out at home but as his wife comes home covered in herring brine and his are children forced to quit school he begins to feel a feel despair.  When he tries to help out at the shop his wife tells him he is worth less to her than a one ruble a month helper.

He determines to go to a bigger city to find work, armed with letters of reference.  He finds all the bookkeeping jobs filled by younger men.  He even begs for work as a servant but can find nothing.  He feels so sad and lonely, miserable without his family.  He accepts the offer of a train ticket home given him by a rich man he applied for work with, given to him out of pity.

His train trips to and from home are very moving.  For sure I would welcome the opportunity to read more of her work.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

The Lost Salt Gift of Blood - A Short Story by Alistair MacLeod - 1974

J The Lost Salt Gift of Blood - A Short Story by Alistair MacLeod - 1974

Buried in Print’s Alistair MacLeod Project

Alistair  MacLeod

July 26, 1936 - North Battleford, Canada

April 20, 2014 - Windsor, Canada

Like much of his work “The Lost Salt  Gift of Blood” is set in the rugged Cape Breton area of Novia Scotia

Living is not easy for those in Cape Breton.  Many of the men fish for a living.  Large families are the norm.  There are some tourists who come from brief visits to experience the natural Beauty.  The story opens with an elegant tribute  to this.

The narrator, we never learn his name or his tie the area but he clearly once lived there. Like many  people, he has moved to a big city, wanting a better life.  He now lives somewhere in America’s midwest.  He drove a rented Volkswagon 2500 miles to visit Cape Breton. He seems to have no close Family left there. 

When we meet him he is  watching some boys fishing on the coast.  I imagined he might be thinking of his own days as a boy, fishing  to Help his family.  

One of the boys, John, lives with an older couple.  The narrator is invited to their home.  He knows them from before.

  He learns their four daughters have all married and moved away.  Only the boy lives with them now.  One of their daughters and her husband were killed in a car crash.  The Boy who he saw fishing lives with them.  

There is a deep sadness in this story.  The man knows he has lost all real connections with the area.  


Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff - 2016 - A Novel - 400 Pages

 Lovecraft Country - A Novel by Matt Ruff - 2016 - 400 pages 

Lovecraft Country is an intriguing dark fantasy work which combines the potential horrors experienced by African-Americans travelers in the southern American states in 1951, in the Jim Crow Era, with creatures drawn from the work of the American master of horror H. P. Lovecraft (1890 to 1937). Lovecraft was deeply racist. He was horrified by any notion of “mixing of races”. His stories are full of weird creatures.  

  • Atticus Turner, a veteran of the Korean War, an avid reader of science fiction, is on  drive from Jacksonville, Florida to Chicago when we first encounter him.  His father, Montrose Turner, has sent him a letter asking him to come. The father Is in Ardham, Massachusetts where he says he may have found information on the family of Atticus’s mother, previously unknown 

Atticus, his uncle George, and his childhood friend Letitia come along on the drive to Ardham to find Montrose. They are chased, accosted, and later nearly murdered by racists on the way.  George edits The Safe Negro Travel Guide which lists safe places.  When the get to Ardham they find Montrose a prisoner of Samuel Braithwhite, a white man, lodgemaster at Ardham sorcerers' cove.  It is part of a national consortium of racist lodges.  

The lodge is dedicated to white supremacy and deeply into the occult.  It will turn out Atticus is a descendant of the lodge founder from slavery days who raped the great grandmother of Atticus.  Caleb Braithwaite, son of Samuel, will play a big part once his father dies.

There eight intertwined plot lines.  Just as Atticus and his family is about to be shot by a racist sheriff weird monsters descend on him and his deputies.

I found this an interesting work.  It turns out there was really something like The Negro Safe Travel Guide.  The characters are well realized and it real fun to see all the references to science fiction read by Atticus.

“I m the author of the novels Fool on The Hill (1988),  Sewer, Gas & Electric: The Public Works Trilogy (1997), Set This House in Order: A Romance of Souls (2003),  Bad Monkeys (2007), The Mirage (2012), and Lovecraft Country (2016).

My lastest novel, 88 Names, was published in March 2020. You can learn more about it here. And check out the 88 Names podcast!

Lovecraft Country is now New York Times bestsellerThe HBO series based on the novel premiered on August 16, 2020.” From

Saturday, October 9, 2021

Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson- 1998- 256 pages

 Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson- 1998- 256 pages

Last month I read The Salt Roads by Nalo Hopkinson.  I was very much shocked by the depth of this work dealing deeply with the consequences of slavery through several centuries.  

From my post on The Salt Roads

“So far this year I have been stunned by the depth and Beauty of two novels by writers hithertonow unread by me.  The first was The Master and Margarita by Michail Bulgakov. The Salt Roads is my second such work. By Nalo Hopkinson is just amazing beyond my powers to describe how I feel about it.

The Salt Roads focus on the lives of three women of color, living out the consequences of enslavement by Europeans.”

Brown Girl in the Ring, Nalo Hopkinson’s first novel, lived up to my very high expectations.  Set in a dystopian future Toronto where the central city has been largely abandoned by white residents escaping to the outer fringes of the huge city.  Inner City Toronto is a place of hopelessness, extreme 

poverty and a constant threat of violence. The central characters In Brown Girl in The Ring are the descendants of African slaves of Caribbean background.  All social services have broken down.  There is a big demand for human organs.  Rudy Sheldon with a gang of brutal thugs rules the streets. 

As the plot begins, we are twelve years past the riots that transformed the inner City,  Rudy has been given a Commission to find a human heart for the premier of Ontario.

At this point we are introduced to Ti-Jeanne, grandmother is traditional Caribbean healer. Ti-Jeanne, a single mother in her struggle to stay of streets has moved in with her grandmother.  The baby’s father, her one time boyfriend, is a drug addict who survived by working for Rudy.  He has been assigned to find a healthy Young person with a matching blood type and take out their heart.  He has been told if he fails in this Mission he Will be eaten by a weird creature controlled by Rudy.  He finds a Young man but cannot bring himself to commit cold blooded murder. He goes Ti-Jeanne’s grandmother for a protective spell.  At first the grandmother wants nothing to do with him. Then she gives in and decides to help him.

The plot gets complicated now, deeply involved with Caribbean folklore and black magic.  There are scenes of disturbing graphic cruelty.  One scene where a woman Rudy turned into a zombie is skinned alive was very vivid.  

The dialogue is in a version of Afro-Carib English.  There are heavy elements of magic realism.  Horrible things happen to innocent and not so innocent people.

I greatly enjoyed this book.  To those new to Nalo Hopkinson as I was until last month, start with The Salt Reads.

There is bio data on her on my prior posts.  I hope to read all of her novels.

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

The Magician: A Novel by Colm Toibin - 2021

The Magician:A Novel  by Colm Toibin - 2021 - 510 pages

I first read and posted on Colm Toibin in March of 2012.  Since then I have featured his work 15 times including novels, short stories and literary histories.  I loved his novel  on the London years, The Master, of Henry James and was very eager to read his latest novel, The Magician, based on the life of Thomas Mann.  The Magician brought Mann totally to life for me, as it has done for almost all readers.  It will help  if you have read Mann’s major works, or at least Death in Venice.  Not so much to follow The Magician but to appreciate the great challenge in basing a novel on his work. Toibin helped me understand how Mann created his great literature, the tremendous work and cultural depth behind them.

Thomas Mann

Born - June 6, 1875 - in the free city of Lubeck

1905 - marries Katia Pringsheim. From a very wealthy non- practicing Jewish family.  They have six children. Their lives are meticulously covered  in The Magician 

Buddenbrooks - 1901

Death in Venice - 1912

The Magic Mountain- 1924

1929 - wins Nobel Prize

1933- in response to the rise in power of Adolph Hitler the family moves to Switzerland 

1939 - moves to USA - teaching at Princeton University 

In 1942 the family relocates to Los Angeles, where there is a substantial German Émigrés community. He has a leadership role , helping many in need.

1947 - Doctor Faustus 

August 12, 1955 - dies in the Netherlands while on vacation 

The Magician begins in 1898 at the Mann household in Lubeck.  We meet his parents.  His mother is Brazilian, his father a wealthy German businessman.  We are pushed to wonder how a Brazilian mother impacted Mann.  One of the major themes of this book is the treatment of Mann’s homosexuality which very much not acceptable.  We wonder if a non-Germanic mother of dark beauty somehow impacted his sexual development.  Toibin depicts several same sex encounters of Mann’s.  Mann liked “beautiful boys”.  His gay sexual relationships were not enduring and were strictly physical.

His first novel, an amazing work for a 25 year old, Buddenbrooks, was considered by many readers as based on his family.  His father was miffed by it. As portrayed by Toibin, Mann wanted to marry Katia to become a part of her family.  He does develop a very close relationship with her.  A close friend had feared he would not be able to father children but he obviously did.

As Hitler became increasingly popular in Germany the international community and Germans who feared his doctrines wanted Mann to speak out against him.  Mann at first could not believe someone as atrocious as Hitler could win over Germany.  Mann could not accept initially that the country of Goethe and so many great philosophers and musicians could want to be ruled by Nazis.  He also at first did not want sales of his books blocked in Germany.

His brother Heinrich was very vocal in opposing the Nazis.  His wife’s family had to flea Germany for Switzerland once the Nazis began rounding up Jews.  They lost a lot of their money.  

The Mann family had numerous tragedies including multiple suicides.  The Mann children did not have easy lives even though their parents supported them throughout their life.

The book follows Mann over fifty plus years.  He was deeply into music and German literature.  

His time in America was fascinating.  At Princeton he socialized with Einstein.  He was always wealthy.  He built a wonderful home in Los Angeles.

There is just so much in this book.  This is a masterful account of how great art originates.

I will give Colm Toibin a final word 

“Colm Tóibín: He, in ways, was a ghost in his own life. He was silent in his study and he would come into the house and someone else would always be making the noise. And he had six noisy children. Thomas Mann was never someone out late at night. That never interested him. He lived a very sedate life. He was deeply domestic. He did not have close friends. He did not have a peer group. Once he married, he stayed home. So that the excitement in the book is all happening around him. He’s watching it. He’s resisting it. He’s nourished by it. But it’s not as though he himself is making the noise.”

I offer my great thanks to Max u for the Amazon gift card that allowed me to acquire The Magician.


Monday, October 4, 2021

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo + The 2019 Booker Prize Winner

 Girl,Woman,Other by Bernardine Evaristo - 2019 Booker Prize Winner

Girl, Woman, Other follows the lives of 12 British women of color over several decades. The women struggle to establish themselves in families, relationships and careers.  


Each woman has a dedicated chapter in which we learn details of their histories.  Several of the lives are intertwined as mother and daughter, sisters, lovers, business associates.

We have Anna, a lesbian playwright.  Her play’s production draws the plot together.  There is a teacher not quite at home in lesbian communities and unhappy bride from The Barbados.

I enjoyed this book a lot, the characters are interesting.  Of course their relationships to men are central to their lives.

From The author’s website 

British writer Bernardine Evaristo is the author of eight books and numerous other works that span the genres of verse fiction, short fiction, poetry, essays, literary criticism, journalism, and radio and theatre drama. Her writing and projects are based around her interest in the African diaspora. She is Professor of Creative Writing at Brunel University London. In October 2021, her first non-fiction book, Manifesto: On Never Giving Up, will be published by Penguin UK & by Grove Atlantic USA 2022).

Bernardine’s novel Girl, Woman, Other won the Booker Prize 2019, the first black woman and black Briitsh person to win it in its fifty year history.  The novel also won many other prizes including the British Book Award’s Fiction Book of the Year & Author of the Year, and the Indie Book Award for Fiction. It was a #1 Sunday Times bestseller for five weeks, the first woman of colour to achieve this position in the paperback fiction chart, spending 44 weeks in the Top 10. There are now over 50 translations of Bernardine’s books either published or in progress. She has received many awards, nominations

Friday, October 1, 2021

The Reading Life Review - September 2021 - My Plans for remainder of 2021- A Year in Lockdown

The Reading Life is a multicultural

book blog, committed to Literary Globalism.

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 our Interests.

Column One

  1. Susanne Clarke - UK - author Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell . And Piranesi - first appearance -enthralled by her work 
  2. Sally Rooney - Ireland - author Friends, Normal People and Beautiful World, Where Are You. First appearance
  3. Louise Erdrich - USA - Pulitzer Prize 

Column Two

  1. Paulina Bren - born in Czechoslovakia- now lives in USA- author The Barbizon- The New York Hotel that Set Women Free.  A marvelous narrative non- Fiction book - first appearance 
  2. Rosa Palitik - born in Poland- emigrated to Brazil. Prolific Yiddish language writer 
  3. Barbara Pym. UK.  I am doing a read through of her work. Perfect pandemic reading for me

Column Three

  1. Michael W. Twitty - USA - author The Cooking Gene A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South - 2018 James Beard Foundation Winner. First appearance - great book
  2. Nalo Hopkinson - USA - Multi-awarded Fantasy and S/F writer. Her novel Salt Road stunned me. First appearance - hope to do a read through
  3. Madeline Miller- USA - author Love Song of Achiles. I hope to read her second novel Circe, also drawn from Homer, soon. First appearance 

Column Four

  1. Frederick Opie - USA  - food historian - first appearance
  2. Ann Patchett - USA - Multi-Awarded.  First but not Last appearance - The Dutch House
  3. Jonathan Safran Foer - USA - author Everything is Illuminated - first appearance 

Home lands of September Authors

  1. USA - 8
  2. UK - 1
  3. Ireland- 1
  4. Poland - 1
  5. Czechoslovakia - 1

All but Rosa Palitik are living. Nine are women, three men.

Nine were featured for the first time in September 

I read two books upon which I did not post

  1. The Social Life of Books- Reading together in the 18th Century by Abigail  Williams - covers England only
  2. The Auschwitz Photographer - The Forgotten Story of The Photagraher who Documented 1000s of Lost Souls by Luca Crippa and Maurizio Onnis - a valuable edition to Auschwitz literature 

There were posts in September on nine novels, three works of narrative non-fiction and one on a Short Story.

Blog Stats as of Septrmber 30, 2021

Pages Views to Date. -  6,450,120

Posts Online - 3998

Home Countries of Visitors

  1. United States
  2. The Phillippines 
  3. India
  4. Canada
  5. Germany
  6. UK
  7. Bangladesh
  8. Indonesia
  9. Russia

The top ten most viewed posts were on Short Stories

I have some ambitious hopes for The remainder of 2021

My thanks to Lyn u for her spiritual support 

My gratitude to Max u for his kind provision of Amazon Gift Cards  continues.

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South by Michael W. Twity - 2017

The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South by Michael W. Twitty. 2017 -464 Pages - narrative non-fiction.

2018 James Beard Foundation Book of The Year

An Autodidactic Corner Selection

This is an essential book for anyone interested in African American culinary history but there is so much more awaiting readers of Michael W. Twitty’s book.  It is an exciting account of how he employed DNA based ancestral testing to uncover the ethnic background of his ancestors.  He goes into a lot of details on the challenges found in attempting to do ancestral research for persons whose ancestors were slaves in the old south.  He found himself about 25 percent European and 70 percent from various parts of Africa with The rest Native American.   He faces directly the rape of slave women that produced this.  We see How he accepts himself as Gay and converts to Judaism.

Among the many food crops that came from Africa as detailed by Twitty are okra, corn, various types of rice, yams, sweet potatoes, collard greens, kale, turnips, field peas and black eyed peas.  Slave traders brought seeds for these crops to feed the slaves on items they were familiar with.  Enslaved women cooked not just for themselves but their owners.  Thus these crops became the staples of southern whites.  Slaves were commonly allowed vegetable gardens.  Some rich plantation owners sent male cooks to France to be trained.  Slaves skilled in Rice farming were highly priced.

Chickens followed by pigs were a big part of The cuisine.  Through hunting, aligators, possum and deer were part of The diet. Fishing was very important.

Twitty talks about The impact of heavy consumption of so called “Soul Food” on health, leading to high blood pressure diabites.  He explains How greens, peas, sweet potatoes can be very healthy.

I learned a lot about The different African kingdoms from which slaves were taken in The largest forced migration in history.  Using examples from his own Family history he shows us The horror of life as slave.  Most of The book deals with The old south but sugar plantations are covered also.

Twitty includes a number of recipes.  He goes into Gullah culture also, one of my interests.  

There is so much of interest in this book.  It is a history of The culinary history of the old South.

Twitty loves his subject and it shows.  I give this book my complete endorsement.

“Michael W. Twitty is a noted culinary and cultural historian and the creator of Afroculinaria, the first blog devoted to African American historic foodways and their legacies. He has been honored by as one of the twenty greatest food bloggers of all time, and named one of the “Fifty People Who Are Changing the South” by Southern Living and one of the “Five Cheftavists to Watch” by Twitty has appeared throughout the media, including on NPR’s The Splendid Table, and has given more than 250 talks in the United States and abroad. His work has appeared in Ebony, the Guardian, and on He is also a Smith fellow with the Southern Foodways Alliance, a TED fellow and speaker, and the first Revolutionary in Residence at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. Twitty lives in Silver Spring, Maryland.” From The publisher

Mel u

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Jane and Prudence by Barbara Pym - 1953

 Jane and Prudence by Barbara Pym - 1953

“Once outside the magic circle the writers became their lonely selves, pondering on poems, observing their fellow men ruthlessly, putting people they knew into novels; no wonder they were without friends.” 

 Barbara Pym, Jane and Prudence

Works by Barbara Pym I have so far read 

Some Tame Gazelle - 1950

Excellent Women - 1952

Earlier in the month I acquired four more of her novels, in Kindle Editions, for $1.95 each.  Besides Jane and Prudence, t A Glass of Blessings, Less Than Angels and No Fond Return of Love.

Barbara Pym 

Born - June 13, 1913 - Oswestry, England

Died - January 11, 1980 - Oxford, England 

Barbara Pym is among the best chroniclers of a now lost, maybe lost when she was writing, world of curates, vicars and women whose lives are bound up the social world of post World War Two England, with rationing, the return of service men and endless meeting for tea. No one has children out of wedlock, of course. Many have small “private incomes”.

 Jane and Prudence centers on The  relationship of Jane, a forty year old vicar’s wife and Prudence, twenty nine and single. Jane was Prudence’s tutor at Oxford and they have stayed good friends.

Jane’s husband Nicholas has just take over as a Vicar in small community.  We see their efforts to get to know the parrisioners.  Of course having teas are a big factor.

Prudence works for an academic foundation of some sort. She is infatuated with the married Director who has never shown any reciprocal interest.  There are two other women employed and one man.  We never learn the precise purpose of the foundation.

Prudence has had a few  romances but Jane thinks she should be married before she becomes a spinster. She attempts to set up a relationship with Prudence and Fabian Driver, a widower with a reputation as a womanizer, having cheated on his late wife.  There is also a rival for Fabian.

This is a very funny novel with marvelous character development.   I was very struck by How Pym used adverbs to characterize something said and define a conversation.

 I greatly enjoyed Jane and Prudence.I will next read her A Glass of Blessings.