Time to Play Catch-Up

My last post was at the end of August. Yipes. I can make a lot of excuses (my daughter turned one, and I threw a huge shindig; holidays and houseguests; lots of baby time, not as much me time), but the truth of the matter is this: I just haven’t felt like wasting my time writing reviews of mediocre books.

So, I’ve made an executive decision. I will not write reviews of mediocre books. I have a massive stack of to-be-reviewed books, and I have pared it down to four: two books that you should read and two books that you might think you should read but you absolutely should not read. The rest? They are going straight to Little Free Libraries around town without being reviewed. Done and done.

To celebrate the new year, I’m giving myself a clean desk. And I’m giving you these four reviews! Continue reading

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This Week in Books: Late Night Porch Talks with the Dead, Depression-Era West Virginia, and an End-of-Life Alaskan Cruise

This week’s books, despite their very different styles, settings, and plots, share a common trait:

First, you’ve got Thomas, a well-respected neurosurgeon, who has taken to spending his nights having long conversations with his dead mother. Then there’s Jottie, who lives for the brief and precious moments she spends with her long-dead love, Vaughan. Finally, there’s Harriet Chance, who frequently hangs out with her recently deceased husband Bernard.

The books aren’t all about talking to dead people. But it is an odd coincidence that all three of the books I read this week share that common characteristic (especially considering how different they are from one another). Continue reading

The Strange Library

9780385354301_custom-10400c4f3c9801f549d6f681632587942956f079-s1200-c15The Strange Library
Haruki Murakami
Published December 2, 2014
96 pages (paperback)

My introduction to Japanese literature in translation occurred during my last year in college. For fun, I took a class entitled “Sex, Love, and Deception” (or something like that), which involved reading a lot of (mostly creepy) Japanese books. The works we read spanned centuries–ranging from The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon, which was completed in the early 11th century, to contemporary fiction like Junichiro Tanizaki’s phenomenal The Key, which remains a favorite of mine to this day.

It was also in this class that I first ventured into the bizarre world of Haruki Murakami’s fiction, reading Norwegian Wood. (If you haven’t read any of Murakami’s stuff, his short fiction is frequently published in The New Yorker, and you can get a taste of it online here. His most recent short story, “Kino,” about a man who opens a hole-in-the-wall bar in the Aoyama neighborhood of Tokyo and his strange regular customer, was just published on February 23.). There are lots of common themes in Murakami’s writing, loneliness chief among them. But, while his writing is sometimes tragic, it doesn’t come across as completely depressing. His books often have a dreamlike cast and surrealistic bent. They’re weird in the best possible way.

Continue reading