The Numbers

DATE: 7/24/15

Titles Finished Total

  • Books: 899
  • Poetry: 75
  • Short stories: 36

Total for 2015: 58 titles

All titles left to go: 4,674 (This includes alternate titles and series titles. Case in point – The Berlin Stories is actually indexed as three different titles. However The Complete Sherlock Holmes is actually 4 novels and 56 short stories totaling 60 different titles.)

Next count: 8/24/2015

Sixty Stories

Barthelme, Donald. Sixty Stories. New York: G. P. Putnam & Sons, 1981.

Reason read: Barthelme died July 23, 1989 of throat cancer. This is read in his honor.

I wanted to review this book by writing one sentence about each short story (60 sentences in all), but I have to confess this: I wasn’t sure what some of the stories were even about. I am glad I found other “I’m so confused” reviews. It’s nice to know I wasn’t the only one lost from time to time. I’m like the sober party-goer who doesn’t get the drunk joke that everyone else is cracking up about. Even the writing structure was strange. Sometimes a story wouldn’t have paragraphs. Other times the story was without punctuation. Or. Or! Or, something like this – the word butter written 97 times. Most of the time it was people acting oddly like writing letters to their lover’s therapist or living in the church of their denomination or killing 6,000 dogs after buying Galveston, Texas. Some stories were profound especially when they centered on the human condition. Others were just plain strange and I couldn’t wrap my brain around his motive or meaning.

Lines I liked but didn’t understand, “But stealing books is metaphysically different from stealing like money” (p 13), “Strangling the moon is wrong” (p 99), and “The bad zombies banged the Bishop’s car with a dead cow, at night” (p 351).

Book trivia: Sixty Stories even has illustrations. That’s how chock full of weirdness it is.

Author fact: Barthelme wrote novels and books for children in addition to short stories.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “All in the Family” (p). Brothers Donald and Frederick were both writers.

Comedy & a Tragedy

Culley, Travis Hugh. A Comedy & a Tragedy: a Memoir of Learning How to Read and Write. New York: Ballantine Books, 2015.

Reason read: LibraryThing’s Early Review Program. These books are like the chocolate chips in my pancakes. Delicious and unexpected!

This is such a curious read. Culley wants this to be a book about the struggle of illiteracy and the power of literacy. I saw it as something much, much deeper. Yes, you can fly through this book in a day or two – it is short and seemingly very straightforward. But, it’s not. Not really. There is much more to it after you have reread it a second, or even a third time. There is lots to chew on and some of it was painful to swallow. Consider the family: father is abusive, mother is fragile and defensive (a terrible combination), and aggressive brother is older and outwardly brilliant. From his earliest memories Culley has trouble articulating his troubles. Without giving it away, I’m thinking of camp. This is a book about survival. Again, thinking about Culley’s experience at camp. Coming to terms with sexual abuse, negotiating mental illness, never trusting authority figures. What do you do when your own mother thinks you are psychotic? The misunderstandings multiply.
My only complaint? The inside flap describes Culley as “running away” from home. You probably cannot be classified as a runaway if your parents are even remotely aware of your departure and you most definitely cannot be classified as a runaway if they tell you to leave and help you pack.

Author fact: A Comedy & A Tragedy is not Culley’s first book. I kind of wished it was but have no idea why.

Book trivia: Culley used a picture from childhood for his bio. It’s really cute. On the flip side, there is a really disturbing page from his journal…

Snow Angels

Thompson, James. Snow Angels. Read by T. Ryder Smith. New York: Recorded Books, 2009.

Reason read: There is a folk festival that takes place in Finland every July.

Meet Kari Vaara. He is the inspector for a small town outside of Finland’s capital of Helsinki. Just before Christmas, during the darkest time of the year in Lapland, he is confronted with the brutal (and I do mean brutal) murder of a semi-famous immigrant Somali actress. She has been viciously sexually assaulted and a racial slur has been carved into her stomach. Sex crime? Hate crime? Both? As lead investigator Vaara must sort through the clues; clues that dredge up his own haunted past. My only complaint was as lead detective Vaara should never have been allowed to stay on the case once it looked like his ex-wife’s boyfriend was good for the crime. In my culture Vaara would have recused himself and left the investigation, especially since his ex-wife left him devastated. His fingering the boyfriend for the murder could be a revenge accusation. SPOILER ALERT: if not after the first murder, but certainly when his ex-wife is also murdered he should have handed over every part of the investigation and stepped as far back as possible. Just my two…
Okay, and I have another complaint albeit a small one. This is definitely an adult book. The themes, the language, the sex and violence…well, the violence was especially over the top and so many deaths (six in all) seemed unnecessary.

As an aside, I just watched a documentary about living in Antarctica and can’t imagine living in a region where, for a quarter of a year, there is semi-darkness 24/7. I can’t imagine being without the sun for that length of time. The nights must seem endless and I think I would experience seasonal insanity.

Quote I loved. So, here’s an odd situation. There was this laugh-out-loud moment I want to relate only since I listened to it on audio I can’t quote it. I can paraphrase – Kari is speaking to someone unpleasant and he say “he didn’t say thank you, goodbye or even fuck you.” Those weren’t the exact words, but they made me giggle.
EDITED TO UPDATE: I borrowed a copy of the print just so I could quote my favorite line, “He gives me the time and place and hangs up without saying thank you, fuck you or good-bye” (p 221). It’s still funny.

Author fact: Snow Angels is Thompson’s first novel.

Book trivia: Snow Angels starts the series starring Inspector Kari Vaara.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Frolicking in Finland” (p 86).

Light in August

Faulkner, William. Novels 1930 – 1935: Light in August. New York: The Library of America, 1996.

Reason read: I was thinking I should read this in August, just for the title. Instead, I’m reading it in July because of Faulkner’s death month. How morbid of me.

I found this to be one of the more enjoyable Faulkner stories. There was more plot and less stream-of-consciousness. The characters are fewer and more fully developed. Lena Grove is a pregnant white woman from Alabama looking for her man in Jefferson, Mississippi. Gail Hightower, a former reverend is forced into retirement and nearly run out of town for his wife’s erratic behavior and subsequent suicide. Joe Christmas, one of the strongest main characters, is an orphan who thinks he has “nigger blood” despite his pale skin.

There are several elements of repetition to Faulkner’s work. Most stories take place in Jefferson, Mississippi. There is usually one character that is mixed race and as a result, struggling with identity. A fire usually breaks out somewhere. Someone usually is pregnant. Probably the most typical reoccurring element is style. Faulkner uses flashbacks to either tell a story or fill in the gaps of one. Light in August was one of the more easier ones to follow.

Author fact: Like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Faulkner died of a heart attack in the month of July.

Book trivia: Faulkner began writing Light in August in August 1931 and it was published in October 1932.

BookLust Twist: first, in Book Lust in the chapter called “100 Good Read, Decade By Decade: 1930s (p 177). Second, in More Book Lust in a chapter that doesn’t really make sense to me. “You Can’t Judge a Book By It’s Cover” (p 238). But, Pearl isn’t bringing up Light in August because its cover contradicts what it’s about. Faulkner is just one of the books in Alan Powers’s Front Cover.

New Physics and Cosmology

Zajonc, Arthur. The New Physics and Cosmology: Dialogues with the Dalai Lama. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.

I have to set the stage for this interesting book: Nine individuals participating in a five-day discussion set in Dharamsala, India as part of the Mind and Life Conference. To elaborate: Arthur Zajonc was there to present as well as facilitate a dialogue between the other members of the group: Tenzin Gyatso, His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama; David Ritz Finkelstein; George Greenstein, Piet Hut; Thupten Jinpa; B. Alan Wallace; Tu Weiming; and Anton Zeilinger. The group included five physicians, a historian, two interpreters and the Dalai Lama. Their goal was an open dialogue without rules. Buddhism and science have something in common: fundamentally both are a system of thought and the idea is to question everything. The comments made by the Dalai Lama are the most interesting.

Reason read: July is the birth month of the 14th Dalai Lama.

Book trivia: the illustrations within New Physics and Cosmology are really helpful.

Author fact: Arthur Zajonc has his own website here: Arthur Zajonc

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “A Holiday Shopping List” (p 115). Pearl would buy this book for someone who is interested in Buddhism and physics.

Study in Scarlet

Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan. “A Study in Scarlet”. The Complete Sherlock Holmes. New York: Doubleday, 1930.

Reason read: Doyle died July 7th 1930. Read in honor of his passing.

Confessional: in Book Lust Pearl lists The Complete Sherlock Holmes but what she doesn’t say is that it’s a canon of sixty stories – four novels and 56 short stories totaling 1122 pages. I knew it would be impossible to read 1122 pages in 31 days – even if it would be the only thing I read in July I still wouldn’t finish it. In addition I couldn’t stand the thought of attempting something so boring. I need to visit other characters from time to time. So, my plan is this, read each work separately. I began with the first novel of the collection, “A Study in Scarlet.”

Study in Scarlet is in two parts. Part one: “Being a Reprint from the Reminiscences of John H. Watson, M.D., Late of the Army Medical Department.” It’s here that Dr. Watson and Mr. Sherlock Holmes meet for the first time. Watson, arriving in London and  needing a place to stay, learns of Holmes looking to share his apartment. From the very beginning they are thrown together in a murder mystery. Watson is astounded by Holmes’s ability to deduce facts from the smallest pieces of evidence.

Part two: “Country of the Saints” steps back in time and tells the story of the Brigham Young and the Mormons settling in the plains of Utah. John Ferrier meets up with the four elders, Stangerson, Kemball, Jonston & Drebber and they take him and his young companion in. This story sets the backdrop for the murder mystery Holmes is trying to solve.

Quotes. First where the title of the story comes from: “There is a scarlet thread of murder running through the colourless skein of life, and our duty is to unravel it, and isolate it, and expose every inch of it” (p 36). Second, one of Sherlock’s most quoted utterances: “…where there is no imagination there is no horror” (p 37).

Author fact: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle died of a heart attack.

Book trivia: A Study in Scarlet is less than 100 pages long.

BookLust Twist (not really): from Book Lust in the chapter called “I Love A Mystery” (p 123).

At Home with the Glynns

Kraft, Eric. At Home with the Glynns: the Personal History, Adventures, Experiences and Observations of Peter Leroy (continued). New York: Crown Publishers, Inc., 1995.

Peter Leroy is now a 13-almost-14 year old naive teenager. He has befriended the Glynn family; painting with Mr. Glynn, writing contest poetry with Mrs. Glynn and jumping into bed with their lovely twin daughters, Margot and Martha. Every member of the Glynn family has something to teach young Peter. Andy Glynn has Peter secretly improving the sketches of his art students. Rosetta Glynn instructs Peter on the art of writing with “the shock of the new, cushioned by the familiar” And the Glynn twins? Let’s just say they start him off with simultaneously manipulating two peas; rolling them under his fingertips. You get the picture.

At Home with the Glynns can only be described as fast, fun and funny. Eric Kraft has this way of mingling truth with imagination – so much so that you aren’t sure what’s really going on. Or, maybe it’s just that Peter’s memories are faulty. Memoirs are only as good as what you want to remember. For example, the twins, Martha and Margot, aren’t really twins at all.

Favorite part: the Troubled Titan Ad on page two. It’s indicative of the 1950s with its reference to “troubled times” (note the subtle bomb launched overhead). I have to wonder how many people wrote to PO Box 98 Legume, Ohio for their “Free Titan Booklet Offer.”

Reason read: to continue the series started in February in honor of Kraft’s birth month.

Author fact: No new fact this time around. Stay tuned.

Book trivia: This is the 6th book in the 8 book series, but as mentioned before, it is not necessary to read this as a series or in order. At Home with the Glynns is super short – close to 150 pages.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Eric Kraft: Too Good To Miss” (p 141).


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