The Numbers

DATE: 9/7/16

Titles Finished Totals:

  • Books: 1,013
  • Poetry: 75
  • Short stories: 50

Total for 2016 so far: 95 titles (including Early Review and fun books).

All titles left to go: 4,598

Next count: 10/3/2016

The Trial

Kafka, Franz. The Trial. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1984.

Reason read: Czech Republic is lovely in September. Some say that is the best time to visit.

Where does Franz Kafka get his ideas? Everyone knows Metamorphosis and The Trial is no different. It has been made into theater productions, television shows and movies. Everything Kafka has ever written has been analyzed within an inch of its life so I will not be able to add anything new with my review of The Trial. In one sentence, The Trial is about a man on trial for an unknown crime. The end. Why Josef K was indicted is a mystery; why he was convicted is even more so. What is so haunting about The Trial is the tone of voice. The frightening subject matter is told in such a robotic, matter of fact manner. The outrage just isn’t there.

As an aside, I can remember reading this in World Lit class in college.

Author fact: Kafka studied law and received a degree in 1906.

Book trivia: The Trial was published posthumously.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Czech It Out” (p 70).

Consul’s Wife

Tyler, W.T. The Consul’s Wife. New York: Henry Holt & Company, 1998.

Reason read: at the time I chose this book I was reading it in honor of Odette Krempin being an honorary consul of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but now I’m hearing she supposedly died (or is hiding to avoid corruption charges in Belgium). The plot thickens!

This is a love story. Hugh Mathews, a foreign service officer stationed in the Congo, juggles his embassy’s embarrassing ineptitude concerning tribal relations while slowly falling in love with the consul’s wife. Hugh and Margaret (Blakey to her friends) share a deep appreciation for authentic African art, the older and the uglier, the better.
Hugh is a complicated man of few words. As the African landscape grows more violent he questions the world around him. That inquiry leads to deeper self reflection and soon he questions his own being and motives.

Quotes to quote (and there were a lot of them). I lost my notes, so here is the one I remember: “All I knew was that there was far more to my life that I understood or could reveal to others” (p 50), “The little truths that shrivel the soul are always uglier than the ones you brought back” (p 133), and “Terribly rich in memory. he was terribly poor in practical things” (p 170).

Book trivia: The Consul’s Wife is short, barely 200 pages long.

Author fact: Tyler is a former diplomat.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Congo: From Colonialism to Catastrophe” (p 69).

Curse of the Pogo Stick

Cotterill, Colin. Curse of the Pogo Stick. New York: Soho, 2008.

Reason read: to continue the series started in May in honor of Laos Rocket Day.

Here’s what we know about Dr. Siri Paiboun. He is a 73 year old coroner in the village of Vientiane, Laos. He has two loyal sidekicks, Nurse Dtui (now three months pregnant) and helper Mr. Geung. When we last left Dr. Siri he had proposed to Madame Daeng and she accepted so now he has a girlfriend to add to the mix. He is still plagued by the spirit of a thousand-year-old shaman, Yeh Ming and it’s this spirit that gets Siri into his trouble this time. He is kidnapped by a group of women Hmong villagers thinking Yeh Ming can exorcise the head tribesman’s daughter. She appears to be pregnant with twins by a demon. The title of the book comes from the Hmong belief that a pogo stick, sent in a relief package, was the root of evil.
Meanwhile Nurse Dtui and Phosy search for the Lizard, a woman hellbent on killing Dr. Siri.
One of the best things about Cotterill’s writing (besides the humor) is that way he subtly reminds the readers where they are at in the saga. Like a television series voice over recap “previously on Badge of Justice…” before the new episode. In this case, Siri’s best friend was found to be a traitor in the last installment. When Madame Daeng & Nurse Dtui pay him a visit in Curse his new role in the story makes sense.

Line I liked, “It was rather sad that his last memory on earth might have been how to encourage bulls to increase their semen count” (p 37).

Book trivia: This is anotherĀ  really short book. Expect to finish it in a weekend.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Laos” (p 128).

Which Side Are You On?

Lyon, George Ella. Which Side Are You On: the story of a song. Texas: Cinco Puntos Press, 2011.

Reason read: curiosity piqued after it was mentioned in an Early Review book by the same name.

I first heard the protest song Which Side Are You On? from singer-songwriter Natalie Merchant back in 2000 when she toured the U.S. singing folk songs. Her tour was unique given the fact she wasn’t supporting an album (that came later), the songs were all but forgotten British and American folk tunes, and audiences were treated to a history lesson with almost every song. Florence Reese’s “Which Side Are You On?” became one of my favorite.

Of course, no one knows Ms. Reese’s true story and her lyrics have changed over time, but George Ella Lyon’s book (with illustrations by Christopher Cardinale) is entertaining and informative for children and adults alike. I especially liked the author note and bibliography.

Life and Death in Shanghai

Cheng, Nien. Life and Death in Shanghai. New York: Grove Press, 1986

Reason read: Best time to visit China is in September or so I have heard.

At one time Cheng’s husband used to be a diplomatic officer for the Kuomintang government. Due to the entrance of the Communist army, his appointment soon led him to a career with the British Shell International Petroleum Company. Upon his death, his widow, Nien Cheng, became the assistant to the new general manager. Cheng’s bilingual skills were invaluable to the organization and she soon filled in for the general manager. In addition, she had many international friendships and relationships. All these facts were seen as disloyal during the Cultural Revolution. Ultimately, she was accused of being a spy and imprisoned for six and a half years where she was treated to inhumane conditions and sometimes tortured. Despite everything, Cheng was able to use her fast thinking wit to turn Mao teachings against her captures as they tried time and time again to get her to confess to being a spy.

Quotes to quote, “The cacophony told me that the time of waiting was over and that I must face the threat of the Red Guards and the destruction of my home” (p 70). Can you imagine? You are powerless to stop what violence is yet to come.
Another quote, “When one tries to show emotion one does not genuinely feel, one tends to exaggerate” (p 275). True.
Last one, “Back doors in America only lead into people’s kitchens” (p 538).

Author fact: Cheng died of renal failure.

Book trivia: Life and Death in Shanghai does not contain any photographs which is sad, because I think a picture of her daughter would have been a nice tribute.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “China Voices” (p 55).


Absalom, Absalom!

Faulkner, William. Absalom, Absalom! New York: Library of America, 1984.

Reason read: September is Southern Gospel Month. You can’t get much more southern than Faulkner!
To be honest, there was some confusion as to when I really read this book. On LibraryThing I had marked it “accomplished” and the detail of tags indicated I had read it at some time…but I couldn’t find a review. Not here, nor on LibraryThing. Plus, it was still on my challenge list. Weird.

Every town has their legends; the stories passed down from generation to generation. The Mississippi town of Jefferson has the story of Thomas Sutpen and his “Sutpen One Hundred.” All told, Thomas Sutpen was seen as a strange, mysterious and even evil man. When he first arrived in Jefferson no one knew his story. He bought one hundred acres of land and then disappeared, leaving the townspeople to talk, talk, talk. When he returned again he had a crew of slaves, materials, and a plan to build a mansion, a legacy. All the while he continues to be secretive and uncommunicative causing the townspeople speculate as to what he’s really up to (as people are bound to do when left to their own devices). The gossip subsides only a little when Sutpen finishes his beautiful home and marries a respectable woman. Quietly he starts a family when his wife gives birth to a son and a daughter. But the chatter can’t escape him. New rumors crop up when word gets around of Sutpen encouraging savage fights between his slaves. There’s talk he even joins in for sport. And that’s just the beginning.
Ultimately, Absalom, Absalom! is a story of tragedy after tragedy. Faulkner described it as a story about a man who wanted a son, had too many of them & they ended up destroying him.

Author fact: Faulkner realized his hometown had a wealth of stories to tell.

Book trivia: in my opinion, this was the most complicated of Faulkner’s books if only because the plot was so involved.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Southern Fried Fiction” (p 206).


I’m not exactly sure what September will bring. The renovations for the library are finally finished (with a crazy punch list, I might add). The backyard is complete minus the hot tub, fire pit and patio furniture (that’s stage II). I have a half mara in ten days so I’m anticipating a good run month. Here are the planned books:

  • Curse of the Pogo Stick by Colin Cotterill – to continue the series started in May in honor of Laos Rocket Day
  • Edwin Mullhouse: the life and death of an American Writer – to honor kids in September
  • Life and Death in Shanghai by Nien Cheng – Mao died of cancer in September.
  • Tears of Autumn by Charles McCarry – Cold War ended in September
  • The Trial by Franz Kafka – September is the best month to visit the Czech Republic.
  • Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner – September is Southern Gospel month
  • Which Side are You On? by Elaine Harger – an Early Review from LibraryThing.