July 2007 archive

SOUTH AMERICA – Reading The World

(Bolded Blue Indicates Books Read)

Potential books to be read for each country are identified in red script.
Asterisk (*) indicates books I already own, but have yet to read.

1.   Argentina (Buenos Aires)
2.   Bolivia (Sucre)
3.   Brazil (Brasilia)

The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo (finished  15 June 2007; rated 5/5; read my review)
War of the End of the World, by Mario Vargas Llosa

4.   Chile (Santiago)

Memoirs, by Pablo Neruda

5.   Colombia (Bogota)

One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez*

6.   Ecuador (Quito)

The Amnesia Clinic, by James Scudamore

7.   Guyana (Georgetown)
8.   Parguay (Asuncion)
9.   Peru (Lima)

Conversation in the Cathedral, by Mario Vargas Llosa
The Bridge of San Luis Rey, by Thornton Wilder (finished 23 December 2007; rated 3/5; read my review)

10. Suriname (Paramaribo)
11. Uruguay (Montevideo)
12. Venezuela (Caracas)

The Lady, The Chef and The Courtesan, by Marisol

NORTH AMERICA – Reading The World

(Bolded Blue Indicates Books Read)

1.   Antigua and Barbuda (St. Johns)
2.   Bahamas (Nassau)
3.   Barbados (Bridgetown)
4.   Belize (Belmopan)
5.   Canada (Ottawa)

Fall On Your Knees, by Ann-Marie MacDonald (finished 26 April 2007; rated 4/5; read my review)
Alias Grace, by Margaret Atwood (finished 13 May 2007; rated 4.5/5; read my review)
The Outlander, by Gil Adamson (finished 27 December 2007; rated 5/5; read my review)
The Way The Crow Flies, by Ann-Marie MacDonald*
The Colony of Unrequited Dreams, by Wayne Johnston (Newfoundland)
Mercy Among the Children, by David Adams Richards (New Brunswick)

6.   Costa Rica (San Jose)
7.   Cuba (Havana)

Dreaming in Cuba, by Christina Garcia

8.   Dominica (Roseau)
9.   Dominican Republic (Santo Domingo)

Feast of the Goat, by Mario Vargas Llosa*

10. El Salvador (San Salvador)
11. Grenada (St. George’s)
12. Guatemala (Guatemala City)
13. Haiti (Port-au-Prince)

The Dew Breaker, by Edwidge Danticat
Krik? Krak! by Edwidge Danticat

14. Honduras (Tegucigaipa)
15. Jamaica (Kingston)
16. Mexico (Mexico City)

Mexico, by James Michener*
Frida: A Biography  of Frida Kahlo, by Hayden Herrera
Consider This, Senora, by Harriet Doerr

17. Nicaragua (Managua)
18. Panama (Panama City)
19. Saint Kitts and Nevis (Basseterre)
20. Saint Lucia (Castries)
21. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (Kingstown)
22. Trinidad and Tobago (Port-of-Spain)

Chutney Power, by Willi Chen
The Lonely Londoners, by Sam Selvon

23. United States (Washington D.C.)

The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck (finished 18 January 2007; rated 5/5; read my review)
To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee (finished 21 March 2007; rated 5/5; read my review)
Travels With Charley in Search of America, by John Steinbeck (finished 29 March 2007; rated 5/5; read my review)
Summer Crossing, by Truman Capote (finished 21 July 2007; rated 4.5/5; read my review)


Australia – Oceania Countries
(Bolded Blue Indicates Books Read)

1.   Australia (Canberra)

The True History of the Kelly Gang, by Peter Carey*
The Idea of Perfection, by Kate Grenville*
The Secret River, by Kate Grenville

2.   Fiji (Suva)
3.   Kiribati (Bairiki)
4.   Marshall Islands (Majuro)
5.   Micronesia (Palikir)
6.   Nauru (no official capital)
7.   New Zealand (Wellington)

The Bone People, by Keri Hulme (finished 12 July 2007; rated 4.5/5; read my review)
The Colour, by Rose Tremain

8.   Palau (Koror)
9.   Paua new Guinea (Port Moresby)
10. Samoa (Apia)
11. Solomon Islands (Honiara)
12. Tonga (Nuku’alofa)
13. Tuvalu (Funafuti)
14. Vanuatu (Port-Vila)

ASIA – Reading The World

Asian Countries
(Bolded Blue Indicates Books Read)

Potential books to be read for each country are indicated by red script.
Asterisk (*) indicates books I already own but have yet to read.

1.   Afganaistan (Kabul)

A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Hosseini (finished 8 December 2007; rated 5/5; read my review)
The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini*

2.   Azerbaijan (Baku)

Ali and Nino, by Kurban Said

3.   Bahrain (Manama)
4.   Bangladesh (Dhaka)
5.   Bhutan (Thimphu)
6.   Brune (Bander Seri Begawan)
7.   Burma/Myanmar (Yangon)

The Lizard Cage, by Karen Connelly
The Glass Palace, by Amitav Ghosh

8.   Cambodia (Phnom Penh)

Highways To A War, by Christopher J. Koch
First They Killed My Father, by Loung Ung

9.   China (Beijin)

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, by Dai Sijie (finished 8 January 2007; rated 3.5/5; read my review)
Peony in Love, by Lisa See (finished 18 June 2007; rated 3.75/5; read my review)
The Good Earth, by Pearl Buck (finished 28 November 2007; rated 4.5/5; read my review)
Wild Swans, by Jung Chang
Oracle Bones, by Peter Hessler

10. Cyprus (Nicosia)
11. East Timor (Dili)
12. India (New Delhi)

The Inheritance of Loss, by Kiran Desai (finished 16 March 2007; rated 4.25/5; read my review)
The Space Between Us, by Thrity Umrigar (finished 21 April 2007; rated 3.5/5; read my review)
The God of Small Things, by Arundhai Roy (finished 29 September 207; rated 5/5; read my review)
Hullabaloo In The Guava Orchard (finished 21 December 2007; rated 3/5; read my review)
Shantaram, by Gregory David Roberts*

13. Indonesia (Jakarta)

This Earth of Mankind, by Pramoedya Ananta Toer

14. Iran (Tehran)

Reading Lolita in Tehran, by Azar Nafisi*
My Father’s Notebook, by Kader Abdolah
Let Me Tell You Where I’ve Been: New Writing by Women of the Iranian Diaspora, by Persis M. Karim
The Blood of Flowers, by Anita Amirrezvani

15. Iraq (Baghdad)
16. Israel (Jerusalem)

A Woman in Jerusalem, A.B. Yehoshua*

17. Japan (Tokyo)

The Great Fire, by Shirley Hazzard (finished 8 August 2007; rated 4/5; read my review)
Memoirs of a Geisha, by Arthur Golden*
Shipwrecks, by Akira Yoshimura

18. Jordan (Amman)

A Beggar at Damascus Gate, by Yasmine Zahran
Pillars of Salt, by Fadia Faqir

19. Kazakstan (Astana)
20. Korea, North (Pyongyang)

The Guest, by Hwang Sok-Yong

21. Korea, South (Seoul)
22. Kuwait (Kuwait City)
23. Kyrgyzstan (Bishkek)
24. Laos (Vientiane)

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, by Anne Fadiman

25. Lebanon (Beirut)

Gate of the Sun, by Elias Khoury*

26. Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur)
27. Maldivs (Male)
28. Mongolia (Ulan Bator)
29. Nepal (Kathmandu)
30. Oman (Muscat)
31. Pakistan (Islamabad)

The Reluctant Fundamentalist, by Mohsin Hamid (finished 11 January 2008; rated 4/5; read my review)
Maps For Lost Lovers, by Nadeem Aslam

32. Philippines (Manila)

When The Rainbow Goddess Wept, by Cecilia Manquerra Brainard

33. Qatar (Doha)
34. Saudi Arabia (Riyadh)
35. Singapore (Singapore City)
36. Sri Lanka (Colombo)
37. Syria (Damascus)

A Lake Beyond the Wind, by Yahya Yakhlif

38. Tajikistan (Dushanbe)
39. Tibet (Lhasa)

The Snow Leopard, by Peter Matthiesson

40. Thailand (Bangkok)
41. Turkey (Ankara)

The Flea Palace, by Eilf Shafak (finished 15 June 2007; rated 2.5/5; read my review)
Birds Without Wings, by Louis De Bernieres (finished 28 July 2007; rated 4/5; read my review)
Bliss, by O.Z. Livaneli*

42. Turkmenistan (Ashgabat)
43. United Arab Emirates (Abu Dhabi)
44. Uzbekistan (Tashkent)
45. Vietnam (Hanoi)

The Sorrow of War, by Bao Ninh

46. Yeman (Sana)

EUROPE – Reading The World

EUROPEAN Countries
(Bolded Blue Indicates Books Read)

Potential books to be read for each country are indicated in red type.
Asterisk (*) indicates books I already own, but have not read yet.

1.   Albania (Tirane)
2.   Andorra (Andorra la Vella)
3.   Armenia (Yerevan)
4.   Austria (Vienna)

The Fig Eater, by Jody Shield*
The Terror of Ice and Darkness, by Christoph Ransmayr

5.   Belarus (Minsk)
6.   Belgium (Brussels)

Summer in Termuren, by Louis Paul Boon

7.   Bosnia andHerzegovina (Sarajevo)
8.   Bulgaria (Sofia)
9.   Cape Verde (Praia)
10. Coatia (Zagreb)
11.  Czech Republic (Prague)

Giraffe, by J.M. Ledgard

12. Denmark (Copenhagen)

Leeway Cottage, by Beth Gutcheon*
The Royal Physician’s Visit, by Per Olov Enquist

13. Estonia (Tallinn)

The Czar’s Madman, by Jaan Kross

14. Finland (Helsinki)

Let The Northern Lights Erase Your Name, by Vendela Vida (Lapland)

15. France (Paris)

Suite Francaise, by Irene Nemirovsky (finished 17 February 2007; rated 5/5; read my review)

16. Georgia (Tbilisi)

Ali and Nino, by Kurban Said

17. Germany (Berlin)

The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak (finished 28 January 2007; rated 5/5; read my review)
The Reader, by Berhard Schlink*
Stones From The River, by Ursula Hegi*
Paper Kisses: A True Love Story, by Reinhard Kaiser

18. Greece (Athens)

Corelli’s Mandolin, by Louis De Bernieres

19. Hungary (Budapest)

Embers, by Sandor Marai*

20. Iceland (Reykjavik)

Independent People, by Halldor Laxness
The Fish Can Sing, by Halldor Laxness

21. Ireland (Dublin)

Silver Wedding, by Maeve Binchy*
The Blackwater Lightship, by Colm Toibin (finished 09 November 2007; read my review)
The Law of Dreams, by Peter Behrens

22. Italy (Rome)

A Thousand Days in Tuscany, by Marlena De Blasi*
The Almond Picker, by Simonetta Agnello Hornby

23. Latvia (Riga)
24. Liechtenstein (Vaduz)
25. Lithuania (Vilnius)
26. Luxembourg (Luxembourg)
27. Macedonia (Skopje)
28. Malta (Valletta)
29. Moldova (Chisinau)
30. Monaco (Monaco)
31. Montenegro (Podgorica)
32. Netherlands (Amsterdam, The Hague)
33. Norway (Oslo)

Giants in the Earth, O.E. Rolvaag*
In the Wake, by Per Peterson
Kristin Lavransdatter, by Sigrid Undset

34. Poland (Warsaw)

Anything by the author Ryszard Kapuscinski
, by Andrezej Stasiuk

35. Portugal (Lisbon)

Alentejo Blue, by Monica Ali (finished 22 February 2008; rated 4.5/5; read my review)

36. Romania (Bucharest)

Land of Green Plums, by Herta Muller

37. Russia (Moscow)

The Madonnas Of Leningrad, by Debra Dean (finished 7 May 2007; rated 4.5/5; read my review)
The Brothers Karmazov, by Fyodor Doestoevsky*
Dr. Zhivago, by Boris Pasternak (finished 24 November 2007; rated 4.5/5; read my review)
A Russian Journal, by John Steinbeck

38. San Marino (San Marino)
39. Serbia (Belgrade)
40. Slovakia (Bratislava)

Zoli, by Colum McCann

41. Slovenia (Ljubljana)

Veronika Decides to Die, by Paulo Coelho (finished 2 November 2007; rated 3.5/5; read my review)

42. Spain (Madrid)

The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (finished 7 July 2007; rated 4.75/5; read my review)
For Whom The Bell Tolls, by Ernest Hemingway (finished 7 April 2007; rated 2.5/5; read my review)

43. Sweden (Stockholm)

Hanna’s Daughters, by Marianne Fredriksson*
April Witch, by Majqull Axelsson
Doctor Glas, by Hjalmar Soderberg
The Princess of Burundi, by Kjell Eriksson*

44. Switzerland (Bern)

Hotel Du Lac, by Anita Brookner

45. Ukraine (Kiev)
46. United Kingdom (London)

Black Swan Green, by David Mitchell (finished 26 March 2007; rated 5/5; read my review)
Arthur and George, by Julian Barnes (finished 30 April 2007; rated 4/5; read my review)
Old Filth, by Jane Gardam (finished 29 May 2007; rated 3.75/5; read my review)
How Green Was My Valley, by Richard Llewelln – South Wales (finished August 15, 2007; rated 5/5; read my review)
47. Vatican City (na)

AFRICA – Reading the World

(Bolded Blue indicates books already read)

Potential books to be read for each country are indicated in red type.
Asterisk (*) indicates books I already own by have not read yet.

1.   Algeria (Algers)

Children of the New World: A Novel of the Algerian War, by Assia Djebar

2.   Angora (Luanda)

3.   Benin (Port-Novo)

Instruments of Darkness, by Robert Wilson

4.   Botswana (Gaborone)

5.   Burkina Faso (Ouagadougou)
6.   Burundi (Bujumbura)
7.   Cameroon (Yaounde)
8.   Central African Republic (Bangui)
9.   Chad (N’Djamena)

The Translator: A Tribesman’s Memoir of Darfur, by Daoud Hari (finished 15 February 2008; rated 5/5; read my review)

10. Comoros (Moroni)
11. Congo (Brazzaville)

The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver*
A Bend in the River, by V.S. Naipal*

12. Congo, Democratic Republic of (Kinshasa)

13. Cote d’Ivoire/Ivory Coast (Yamoussoukro)

As The Crow Flies, by Veronique Tadjo
Whiteman, by Tony D’Souza
The Suns of Independence, by Ahmadou Kourouma

14. Djibouti (Djibouti)

15. Egypt (Cairo)

The Cairo Trilogy, by Naguib Mahfouz*
Three Novels of Ancient Egypt, by Naguib Mahfouz*
The Yacoubian Building, by Alaa Al Aswany

16. Equatoria Guinea (Malabo)

17. Eritrea (Asmara)
18. Ethiopia (Addis Ababa)

The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears, by Dinaw Megestu
Sweetness in the Belly, by Camilla Gibb

19. Gabon (Liberville)

20. Gambia (Banjul)
21. Ghana (Accra)

The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born, by Ayi Kwei Armah

22. Guinea (Conakry)

23. Guinea-Bissau (Bissau)

The Dark Child: The Autobiography of an African Boy, by Camara Laye

24. Kenya (Nairobi)

The Camel Bookmobile, by Masha Hamilton
Out of Africa and Shadows on Grass, by Isak Dinesen

25. Lesotho (Maseru)

26. Liberia (Monrovia)
27. Libya (Tripoli)

In The Country of Men, by Hisham Matar

28. Madagascar (Antananarivo)

29. Malawi (Lilongwe)
30. Mali (Bamako)

Men of Salt: Crossing the Sahara on the Caravan of White Gold, by Michael Benanav

31. Mauritania (Nouakchott)

32. Mauritius (Port Louis)
33. Morocco (Rabat)

Stolen Lives: Twenty Years in a Desert Jail, by Malika Oufkir and Michele Fitoussi (finished 16 May 2007; rated 4/5; read my review)

34. Mozambique (Maputo)
35. Namibia (Windhoek)
36. Niger (Niamey)
37. Nigeria (Abuja)

Half of A Yellow Sun, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (finished 7 January 2007; rated 5/5; read my review)
Purple Hibiscus, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (finished 24 January 2007; rated 5/5; read my review)

38. Rwanda (Kigali)

A Sunday At The Pool in Kigali, by Gil Courtemanche

39. Sao Tome and Principe (Sao Tome)
40. Senegal (Dakar)

So Long A Letter, by Mariama Ba
Scarlet Song, by Mariama Ba
The Ambiguous Adventure, by Cheikh Hamidou Kane

41. Seychelles (Victoria)
42. Sierra Leone (Freetown)

A Long Way Gone, by Ishmael Beah

43. Somalia (Mogadishu)

Knots, by Nuruddin Farah

44. South Africa (Pretoria, Cape Town, Bleoemfontein)

Disgrace, by J.M. Coetzee (finished 14 December 2007; rated 4.5/5; read my review)
Life and Times of Michael K, by J.M. Coetzee (finished 17 February 2008; rated 4/5; read my review)
Playing in the Light, by Zoe Wicomb
Cry The Beloved Country, by Alan Paton

Reading The World

In the last year, I have become interested in reading world literature. I was surprised the other day when I sat down and reviewed my 2007 reads and found I’d read many books either set in other countries, or authored by foreign writers.

Several lit-bloggers have proposed world literature challenges: Reading Across Borders, Around the World in 80 Books, and Book Around the World.  One of my favorite blogs is Around the World in 100 Books – a blog devoted to reading world literature.

So, I have decided to set up my own plan to read around the world. I’m not setting a deadline. I’m not formally joining any of the challenges (except for Reading Across Borders which is an ongoing challenge I’m doing).

There is some disagreement among scholars how many countries actually exist. The numbers range from 189 to 194. I have decided to use the list compiled by WorldAtlas.com and found here. My goal is to read at least one book for each country listed. The book(s) I choose will either be in translation from that country, primarily set in that country or written by an author from that country. I want to get a sense of each country from the books I read.

I plan to gather my ideas about books from several sources, including (but not limited to) the following:

1. Michelle’s blog at 3m3a and her list of potential books from around the world
2. Bonnie’s blog at Book Around The World
3. The wonderful blog Around The World in 100 Books
4. Books in Translation Yahoo group
5. The magazine World Literature Today

So Far This is What My World Literature Map looks like:
create your own visited countries map or vertaling Duits NederlandsIf you would like to customize a map like this for YOUR world reading, you may do so by visiting this site.

Blogging Tips Meme

Bonnie over at Bonnie’s Books has tagged me for this meme…and it looks like fun so here goes:

-Start Copy-

It’s very simple. When this is passed on to you, copy the whole thing, skim the list and put a * star beside those that you like. (Check out especially the * starred ones.)

Add the next number (1. 2. 3. 4. 5., etc.) and write your own blogging tip for other bloggers. Try to make your tip general.

After that, tag 10 other people. Link love some friends!

Just think – if 10 people start this and the 10 people pass it on to another 10 people, you have 100 links already!

1. Look, read, and learn. *** http://www.neonscent.com/

2. Be EXCELLENT to each other. ** http://www.bushmackel.com/

3. Don’t let money change ya! * http://www.therandomforest.info/

4. Always reply to your comments. ***** http://chattiekat.com/

5. Link liberally — it keeps you and your friends afloat in the Sea of Technorati. * http://chipsquips.com/

6. Don’t give up – persistence is fertile. * http://www.velcro-city.co.uk/

7. Give link credit where credit is due. *** http://www.sfsignal.com/

8. Pictures say a thousand words and can usually add to any post. ** http://scifichick.com/

9. Visit all the bloggers that leave comments for you – it’s nice to know who is reading! * http://stephaniesbooks.blogspot.com/

10. Thrown in something humorous occasionally, to keep things fun. http://bonniesbooks.blogspot.com/

11. Make it easy for your readers – use tags and labels and keep it simple! http://www.caribousmom.com

-End Copy-

Time to pass it on, so here are my 10 links …

HeidiJane at Adventures in Bookland
CoversGirl at Between The Covers

Birds Without Wings – Book Review

“Man is a bird without wings,” Iskander told them, “and a bird is a man without sorrows.” -From Birds Without Wings, page 44-

“Well, the mystery is a shallow one, and not very difficult to fathom, Polyxeni Hanim. I clip their wings because most people don’t want to buy a bird that might escape so that they have to sprout their own feathers in a flash and take off in hot pursuit. Most people couldn’t be bothered, you see. People make odd birds; they don’t fly much.” -From Birds Without Wings, page 50-

For birds with wings nothing changes; they fly where they will and they know nothing about borders and their quarrels are very small. But we are always confined to earth, no matter how much we climb to the high places and flap our arms. Because we cannot fly, we are condemned to do things that do not agree with us. Because we have no wings we are pushed into struggles and abominations that we did not seek, and then, after all that, the years go by, the mountains are levelled, the valleys rise, the rivers are blocked by sand and the cliffs fall into the sea. -From Birds Without Wings, page 550-551-

This is not a novel which can be read quickly. It must be read slowly and contemplatively to fully enjoy its message. There were several times I almost stopped reading – but, because this was a challenge read, I kept plugging along. And I am glad I did. Louis De Bernieres’ thoughtful novel – Birds Without Wings – is one that deserves to be read and considered in light of the history it is based on.

In the waning days of the Ottoman Empire, a small village in southwestern Anatolia is home to a fascinating cast of characters: Philothei, a beautiful Christian girl in love with Ibrahim – a Muslim; Drosoula, Philothei’s homely best friend; Karatavak and Mehmetcik who play their bird whistles and pretend to fly; Rustem Bey and his beautiful mistress Leyla Hanim; The Dog – who lives among the dead and flashes his ghastly smile; Iskander the Potter; Velad the Fat; Ali the Snowbringer; and a real person from Turkish history, Mustafa Kemal, who is known for his famous statement: “I am not ordering you to attack, I am ordering you to die. By the time that we are dead, other units and other commanders will arrive to take our place.” -From Birds Without Wings, page 314-

Told in alternating points of view over a span of more than twenty years, the novel is a series of glimpses into village life, the horrors of trench warfare, and the political and historical events which define the story. De Bernieres gives the reader insight into the villagers, using humor to soften the sometimes brutal reality. When war comes to Turkey, no one in the village is not spared the consequences.

I was most touched by the boyhood friendship between Karatavak (the blackbird) and Mehmetcik (the robin). One Muslim, the other Christian, they maintain their friendship despite being separated by war and geography. Karatavak’s recollections of the battles in Gallipoli are shocking, brutal and filled with sorrow – and yet, he also shows the survival of humanity amid the tragedy.

The novel also explores the conflicts between Muslims and Christians, Turks and Greeks and Armenians, the working classes and those with education and money. De Bernieres seems to be making a statement about the pointless and arbitrary nature of war and conflict between countries and races.

The Greek Prime Minister, Eleftherios Venizelos, submits a memorandum in which Greece lays claim to Thrace and to western Anatolia. he proposes a voluntary exchange of Turkish and Greek populations. The idea seems terribly sensible, as if it is a perfectly acceptable idea that the lives of hundreds of thousands of innocent individuals should be arbitrarily disrupted in the interests of nation-building. -From Birds Without Wings, page 401-

De Bernieres brings a strong sense of place to his novel – from the idyllic setting of the village of Eskibahce…

The town itself rose up to the left-hand side, occupying a concave hillside that was like a vast amphitheatre. In it our ancestors could have built the biggest theatre in the world, had the idea occurred to them, because down at the bottom was the meydan, which might have been a natural stage. In the meydan, and I swear this is not some mischievous traveller’s tale, there was actually a family living with an asthmatic donkey in the hollowed trunk of an enormous tree. More than anything else this illustrates how quickly civilised standards tailed away the further you got from Smyrna. This was the kind of place wehre you might find beehives actually inside people’s houses, and people making cattle food in their kitchens, consisting of cakes made of apricot and walnut leaves. -From Birds Without Wings, page 236-237-

…to the impoverished streets of Galata…

Emaciated dogs squabbled with naked infants and pigs over heaps of rubbish, offal and excrement. Prostitutes, filthy, flaunting and inebriated, howled and catcalled from the doorways and balconies. Tattered chickens with bleeding rumps scratched in the gutters. A dead cat lay swelling on the cobbles, circled by crows. Rats preened their whiskers in the cornerways. Shutters and doors sagged from their rotting frames on broken hinges, roofs patched with packing case and cardboard caved gently in up on their beams, and dead-eyed drunks swerved along the straitened alleyways or slept stupefied in the gutters, their mouths working soundlessly, their chins flecked with spittle. “At least,” thought Rustem Bey, “there is no one here who will endure the pains and troubles of growing old,” but it was so grim that he found himself thinking that there was nothing to do with such a place, except burn it to the ground and start again. He gave thanks to God that it had not been his destiny to live in such a hell of desperation, filth  and iniquity, but it did not yet strike him as paradoxical that he had come here in order to seek his happiness. -From Birds Without Wings, page 160-161-

This is not a novel which was easy to read – although I enjoyed the occasional humor and insights. At over 550 pages in length with very small print, it took me more than a week to get through. In the end, I was left with a good sense of the history of Turkey in the last days of the Ottoman Empire. I’m glad I took the time to read this fascinating novel.


Summer Crossing – Book Review

There’s nothing to change the spirit like a summer crossing. -From Summer Crossing, page 18-

In late 2004, Sotheby’s in New York contacted Alan Schwartz who is a trustee of The Truman Capote Literary Trust. A manuscript had been delivered to Sotheby’s for auction which appeared to be an early, unpublished novel by Truman Capote. The manuscript turned out to be Capote’s first novel (really a novella) drafted when he was only nineteen years old. Schwartz’ decision to publish this early work in 2005 has given readers the opportunity to enjoy a novel whose style and insight probably led to Capote’s penning of Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Summer Crossing is a slim novel with surprising depth. Grady McNeil, a New York socialite, is spending a summer alone in the city. On the cusp of her eighteenth birthday, she is ripe for independence. Her budding relationship with a Jewish war veteran leads her down a path where the future is far from clear.

It was as if the world where they joined were a ship, one becalmed between two islands that were themselves: with any effort he could see th shore of her, but his was lost in the unlifting mist. -From Summer Crossing, page 40-

As a summer heat wave descends on New York City, the novel also heats up – leaving Grady with the consequences of her decisions.

Toward midafternoon, as the heat closed in like a hand over a murder victim’s mouth, the cit thrashed and twisted but, with its outcry muffled, its hurry hampered, its ambitions hindered, it was like a dry fountain, some useless monument, and so sank into a coma. -From Summer Crossing, page 96-

Capote’s deft literary style explores such themes as sexuality in the mid 1940s,  as well as cultural, socioeconomic, class and religious issues during that time period.  Filled with stunning insights into a young girl’s emotional development, the novel is a compelling read.  Capote uses symbolism artfully.

Somehow the leopard does not suffer; nor the panther: their swagger makes distinct claims upon the pulse, for not even the indignities of confinement can belittle the danger of their Asian eyes, those gold and ginger flowers blooming with a bristling courage in the dusk of captivity. -From Summer Crossing, page 44-

I breezed through this novel in less than a day, carried away by Capote’s fine sense of place, as well as his deep understanding of the characters. A fastidiously written first novel, Summer Crossing is well worth the read.

Highly recommended.

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