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Keep It Coming, Book Meme

Seachanges from 51Stories tagged me for this book meme. I remembered doing this one several months ago but since reading is an ongoing project, the answer will always be different. Here are the answers that capture the current time frame:

1. Last book(s) read:

I just finished The Bookshop: A Novel by Penelope Fitzgerald. Thanks to Robin’s recommendation. It’s a short read, 123 pages, about a kind-hearted widow who spent her small inheritance to open a bookstore in a small seaside town. Her success was unfortunately met with hostility from the townsfolks. This will be the 100th Moleskine Book Review.

Sixpence House by Paul Collins is about the author’s story to pack everything and moved to the Town of Books in British Wales with his wife and his toddler son. The book is the #4 entry for the Armchair Traveler Reading Challenge.

The Death of the Heart by Elizabeth Bowen is the story of a 16-years-old, recently orphaned girl Portia Quayne who moved into the stately residence of his half-brother. Bowen delineates the tension between Portia and her sister-in-law through their ears. Her falling in love with a heartless young man exposed her to the cruelty and the lack of compassion of a society that is emotionally sterile and deceitful. Bowen is the #2 book for the Outmoded Author Challenge.

A Charmed Circle by Anna Kavan is the story of an isolated, estranged family in which a superficial geniality runs a sinister current of tension and repression. It delves on the motives, the unspoken words that which justify the actions. Each member is victim of mind capitulation. Kavan is an unexpectedly good read and kicked off the Outmoded Author Challenge.

2. Last Book(s) Bought

The Small Room by May Sarton sets in a conservative New England college for girls where the faculty are forced to reappraise their profession and motives through the drama of their students. Tenured members rooted in old traditional values come to clash with new professor who is deeply aware of her students as individuals. I decided to buy a brand new copy after checking out the splayed, brittled library copy, which I couldn’t put down.

The Funeral Party by Ludmila Ulitskaya is actually modern literature. In 1991, in a New York City apartment, a group of Russian émigrés gathers round the deathbed of an artist named Alik, a charismatic character beloved by them all, especially the women who take turns nursing him as he fades from this world. Thanks to Dark Orpheus who brought this book to my attention, in response to the upcoming Russian Literature Reading Challenge 2008, hosted by Ex Libris.

Seeing by Jose Saramago. This one is way overdue consider I have read almost all but one book by the Portugese Nobel Prize winner. On a rainy election day, practically no one goes to the polls until 4 in the afternoon, and then everybody seems to arrive at once; when the ballots are counted, almost three-quarters turn up blank. The book takes place in the same nameless city in the same unspecified country (which Saramago coyly suggests might even be his native Portugal), four years after the Blindness plague, and begins, again, with the sudden onset of an inexplicable mass phenomenon.

3. Five Favorites

Some of you might be able to guess what they are. I have mentioned and advertised these books in many occasions of blogging and you may find the reviews in Moleskine Book Reviews. Here are the top five, in no particular order:

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky. Second review.

Shadow without a Name by Ignacio Padilla. Full of twists and turns, altered identities. Most under-rated and overlooked novel.

Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin. A most poignant love story.

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. Division between good and evil is outmoded, if not subverted.

A Separate Peace by John Knowles. A new old favorite.

That’s it. Consider yourself tagged if you read this post.

5 Responses

  1. One of these days I will read Master and Margarita! I had never wanted to read that book until you mentioned it. By the way, I hope you don’t mind but I just tagged you on another meme 🙂

  2. What a great list – some old favourites of mine there: Dostoyevski, Anna Kavan and, as usual :), also some quite new suggestions.

  3. Matt, could you go to my blog and tell me what post-modernist means?

    You can practice giving a lesson with this answer.

    Funeral Party is a fun read.

  4. iliana:
    I’m working on the meme…and will preset it so it will be posted automatically when I’m gone to Hawaii.

    If you decide to read The Master and Margarita, check out the Burgin translation through Vintage Classics. It’s actually a fun read. I do want to hear what you think of it.

  5. seachanges:
    I love the outmoded authors! They have written some of the most beautiful, observant prose. I can’t wait to read more.

    My dissertation partly emphasizes on Dostoevsky’s major novels–Brothers Karamazov and Crime & Punishment. So I’m always re-reading him.

    Hope my explanation helps.

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