Kundera, identity

Identity IdentityMilan Kundera; HarperFlamingo 1998WorldCatRead OnlineLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinder 

This is a smallish book at 168 pages and 8.5” x 5.75” in hardback with reasonably large type. Yet I had to almost force myself to read it. I stumbled across it the first time I browsed COCC’s Barber Library’s shelves with my new patron card a couple weeks back.

I truly enjoyed The Unbearable Lightness of Being although I read it for a grad sociology class on lived morality so my engagement with it was a little different. [See my blog post: The Unbearable Lightness of Being and morality]

A couple of years later I read The Joke and gave it 5 stars. I have also read two of Kundera’s books of criticism/lit theory, The Art of the Novel, which I gave 5 stars, and The Curtain, which I only gave 3. So I guess you could say that I generally enjoy Kundera. I do have plans to read other novels of his.

This book seemed very different. While you can sort of tell that it is Kundera it is also hard to see it as being his. I think it has to do with how telegraphed every topic he touches on is. Normally, or at least in the books I have read, he can go on at great length about something. There may even be whole sections of the book that are “about” a topic; e.g., kitsch in The Unbearable Lightness of Being. There is none of that here. Everything of interest is more like a drive by shooting with limited ammo. He throws out something interesting with a bullet or three in your general direction and then is gone, down the street and around the corner.

Some of these interesting teasers involve surveillance, friendship, daddies vs. fathers, three kinds of boredom, the mistaking of one’s loved one for someone else, ‘little boy’ as loaded future, is the loved one with others the same loved one as with only oneself, nostalgia for the present other, and of course, (loosely) woven throughout these, identity.

Most of these occurred in the first half of the book. There are 50 chapters in the 168 pages of the book and all of those things I mentioned came from the first 26 of them. I only made short notes on chapter 29 and 30 and they were actually directly related to the plot and not actually ‘interesting’ things.

Not all ideas need extended discursions—I know that—but several of these would have benefitted from a more Kunderian treatment.

All in all, I was disappointed in this book. I now fully understand my friend’s review, “As with Ignorance, I have no recollection of reading this.” I expect the same will be said by me in a year or two.


The Abyss 2012 Release Party, 15 November 2012

We did manage to get to The Abyss 2012 Release Party yesterday in time to get a flight of 2008-2012 The Abyss as I was mentioning in my Deschutes Brewery University: Barrel-Aged Beer event post. Our friend who was most interested said she could go after 12 noon so we packed up and headed down to the brew pub for lunch.

The Abyss 2008-12 tasters and quote from “Ten beers that will make you a man — if they don’t kill you first” at Denver Westword http://blogs.westword.com/cafesociety/2011/04/ten-beers-that-will-make-you-a-man.php?page=2

Before I get into my short tasting notes I want to give you the info they provided us for The Abyss 2012, which is the seventh release (2006-2012):

  • ABV: 11.0%  IBUs: 70
  • Malt: Pale, Black, Chocolate, Roasted Barley, Wheat
  • Hops: Millennium, Nugget, Styrian, Northern Brewer
  • Brewed with: Blackstrap Molasses & Brewer’s Licorice
  • Dry-Hopped with: Vanilla Beans & Cherry Bark
  • Barrel-Aging: (28%) 6 months in Bourbon, Oregon Oak, and Pinot Noir
  • Tasting Notes: Best served at 50-55 degrees. Vanilla, Chocolate, Dark Fruit, Caramel, Toffe, and Espresso
  • Cellaring Notes: Store at 45 degrees in a dark place. Constant temperature is key to proper cellaring. Drink within 5 to 7 years.
  • Beer Advocate Rating: A+ World Class
  • Rate Beer Rating: 100 Overall
  • 2012 World Beer Awards: World’s Best Stout & Porter

[See http://www.deschutesbrewery.com/brew/the-abyss for more awards]

A flight of The Abyss 2008-2012 and a truffle

In the pictures: Back row – left 2008, mid 2009, right 2010; front row – left 2011, mid 2012, right truffle

  • 2008 Thick. Caramel. Roasted malt. Little change after truffle. Excellent!
  • 2009 thick. Tobacco and leather. Slight bourbon. After truffle a bit darker. Amazing!
  • 2010 Little aroma. Slight bourbon, strong wine flavor. After truffle a tad smoother.
  • 2011 Smells slightly smoky. Definite bourbon taste.
  • 2012 Thick.

As you can see, my words sometimes escape me. That is the order we tasted them in, oldest to youngest. By the time I got to the newer ones and having had some truffle already it made no sense to do “after truffle” tastings on them as I had truffle permeating my mouth. The only palate cleanser I had was water.

2008 and 2009 were my favorites by far. 2011 was also very good. 2010 was also very drinkable and given another year or three may become something very special. 2012 needs to age a few years. Don’t get me wrong, it is a tasty beer. Is it the best stout or porter in the world? Nope. Not at all.

I have revised my opinion of The Abyss upward a bit from the other night but I’m still going on record with the claim that Black Butte XXIV—also ‘fresh’ this year—is better and that Midnight Sun’s Berserker Imperial Stout is what The Abyss 2010 dreams of becoming in a few more years.

I did get myself a hoodie sweathshirt and two bombers for the Cellar. Our friend also took two bottles home.

One last thing. I want to give props to Deschutes Brewery and their social media coordinator, Gina. There was some confusion over the officially published times for the availability of the limited number of flights. We had made plans with assorted friends to try and make it together and then the time changed. Sara and I both tweeted Deschutes to ask what was up with the time and to register a bit of disappointment. We got a quick response apologizing for the confusion and contact info in case we were unable to get the flights we were hoping for. Yesterday, after our plans changed and we made it, I emailed Gina to thank her and let her know we had been successful. She again apologized for the confusion and offered me a token. I turned it down as it was never about getting something from a situation that can too easily arise in our busy and complex lives. I think Deschutes does a great job with their social media presence and website and we generally know when things are happening. So, just wanted to give a shout out to Gina and Deschutes. Thank you!


Deschutes Brewery University: Barrel-Aged Beer event

On 6 Nov. we attended the Deschutes Brewery University: Barrel-Aged Beer event with 6 of ours friends. We got there a little early and Sara was able to grab a table so all 8 of us could sit together. The room was pretty full so I assume they had sold all 25 seats.

We tasted 8 different barrel-aged beers; four were from Deschutes, one was a collaboration between Deschutes and Hair of the Dog, and three were from other breweries. Hors d’oeuvres were served about midway through the beer sampling.

We also got a presentation from Jacob Harper, the barrel master at Deschutes. The beers were arranged in the order he figured was lightest to heaviest, but was slightly complicated by the fact that four were sours so they were placed at the back half.

We began with the Calabaza Blanca from Jolly Pumpkin (Traverse City, Ann Arbor and Dexter, Michigan). It is a light wheat/white ale hybrid that was slightly sweet and slightly sour. I thought it was fairly tasty but would not want to drink it in quantity or frequently. ~5% ABV. I gave it 4 stars.

Next was Ale D’or Fort from Deschutes, which I had never heard of. Turns out it was brewed for a special Oregon beer festival (missed the name) last year where all the brewers took a particular Brettanomyces yeast strain from Unibroue and competed with what they produced from it. It was light, almost wine-like, a strong gold which had been aged in French Pinot barrels. No carbonation. It tasted a lot like Ashton’s Fresh Hop London Strong Gold without the fresh hops, which is to say, amazing. 9%+ ABV. 5 stars.

Third was Deschutes’ Black Butte XXIV, which we have had a fair bit of and of which neither of us would tire of ever having. I have three bottles in the Cellar. It is an Imperial porter with dates, figs, chicory and other bits for flavor. 20% was aged in bourbon barrels. We were told that next year they plan on aging 50% of the batch in bourbon barrels, which will up the ABV a few %. I think everyone present let out a loud and appreciative “Oooohhh” at that. 10.8% ABV. 5 stars+

Fourth, and the last non-sour, was Deschutes’ The Abyss (2011). I have been really wanting to try this as this year’s version is being released today. It is an Imperial stout that used licorice and molasses in the kettle. It was 28% barrel-aged (11% Pinot noir, 15% bourbon, 2% raw Oregon oak barrels). It is relatively the same each year. My first reaction was a thoughtful “Hmmm.” I didn’t want to be hasty but I was definitely underwhelmed. It has a chocolate taste late in the mouth. It is tasty but I have to say it is no Black Butte Porter XXIV. 11% ABV. I gave it 4 stars and am hopeful for this year’s batch. It won World’s Best Stout & Porter at the 2012 World Beer Awards, which in my humble opinion it does not deserve. A damn fine beer it is but Black Butte XXIV Porter is better and Midnight Suns’ Berserker Imperial Stout blows them both away.

With any luck we will be one of the lucky few at the release party today to get in on the vertical tasting of 2008-2012 batches of The Abyss. Perhaps I’ll revise my opinion then. [Turns out they have moved up the time when the limited flights will be available and it isn’t looking good. We both questioned this on Twitter—mostly as to what time they really were being served—and got an interesting reply back so we’ll see.]

Fifth, and the first sour, was Tart of Darkness from The Bruery (Orange County, California). It was a sour stout made with cherries and aged in oak barrels. It tasted much lighter than it looked. 5.6% ABV. 4 stars.

Next was The Dissident from Deschutes, which we have also had recently and of which I have 2 bottles in the Cellar. It is made every other year and uses a secondary fermentation with Brettanomyces. Currently made in batches of 200 barrels they are aiming to begin producing it every year. 11.4% ABV. 5 stars. This won World’s Best Oud Bruin and Americas Best Oud Bruin at the 2012 World Beer Awards. World’s Best? I don’t know but it is certainly one of the finest sours produced outside of Belgium.

Next to last was Sang Noir from Cascade Brewing (Portland). Pretty darn sour. Light and thin but very sour. Cherries. Aged in French oak and bourbon barrels. 9.5% ABV. I gave it 4/3 stars. For me it was a 3 but I wondered if I were judging it too harshly since it had pushed past my acceptability for sourness.

Last was The Collage, also from Deschutes. We have also tasted this since being here and have a bottle in the Cellar. It comes from a collaboration with Hair of the Dog (Portland) and is a blend of Deschutes’ The Dissident (but unsoured) and The Stoic (a quad we are still waiting to try) and Hair of the Dog’s Fred  (10% ABV Golden Strong ale) and Adam (10% ABV; their 1st beer). It is 100% barrel-aged in 6 different types of barrels. Hair of the Dog uses a peat malt. It is tasty, no doubt, but it seems all the work is over much for the end result. 11.6% ABV. 4 stars.

I must say, though, that I am definitely looking forward to tasting Fred and Adam and other Hair of the Dog beers some day.

After the tasting we were still hungry so we moved downstairs for some dinner. Sara and I shared an Ashton’s Fresh Hop Strong London Gold which was excellent but perhaps not the best idea after all those other strong beers. And I had even been finishing a couple of Sara’s that she did not. I really felt it the next day!

It was, of course, election night and some of those at our table had been (::grumble:: understandably ::grumble::) refreshing their phones all evening as returns came in. During dinner we learned of a couple states’ equal marriage bills passing, Colorado’s passing of their marijuana bill, and of the reelection of Obama. Many people in the pub seemed genuinely happy at much of this but there were definitely groups of assorted sizes who were not. “Sorry if our reasonably joyous celebrations were disturbing you.” No, honestly, I’m not. Deschutes County is a lot more red than I ever might have imagined before moving here. I can see it now but I still find it hard to believe.

All in all, it was a tasty and enjoyable evening.

One of my favorite lines from Barrel Master Jacob Harper was one of the reasons why one might want to barrel-age a beer: “To add mystique to an already good beer.” I’ll raise my glass to a little mystique!


My Two-Thirds Book Challenge Personal Assessment

In October 2011, after finishing another book reading challenge, which a friend of mine had handled excellently, I decided it was my turn to reciprocate, and I wanted another reading challenge, so I came up with the Two-Thirds Book Challenge.

This post is my reflection on how it went for me.

Initial choices

I made a list of 30 books of which I hoped to read 20. Then, because I’m a cataloger/classifier, I divided them into 6 gross categories just to see what areas I had picked and then to maybe lean towards reading at least one from each to ensure my reading stayed broad. (Of course, I read many other books during this timeframe that were not on my Challenge list. Many of those were graphics novels and poetry.) After a couple of months, because of certain timely shifts in interest I non-specifically substituted 2 books.

My full set of initial choices and their categories can be seen at My Two-Thirds Book Challenge.

How it worked out

The following is how it worked out for me. The books listed are the ones I finished (and 2 which I started but did not finish yet):


The Hero With a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell

The Myth of the Eternal Return: Cosmos and History by Mircea Eliade


In Defence of the Enlightenment by Tzvetan Todorov (substitute)


Pale Fire (Everyman’s Library, #67) by Vladimir Nabokov

The Way It Is by William Stafford

Transformations by Anne Sexton


(Began only) Scholarship in the Digital Age: Information, Infrastructure, and the Internet by Christine L. Borgman

(Began only) Libraries and the Enlightenment by Wayne Bivens-Tatum (substitute)


As is fairly evident, I did not do well with the challenge I set myself. I finished 6 books (30%) and began 2 others out of the 20 I was aiming for.

Now, there are extenuating circumstances seeing as we moved halfway across the country this summer, which sucked up an awful lot of time. We also jumped into life in Bend with both feet when we arrived which only made the moving in process longer. (I hope to be writing here about some of the things we have done since arriving in Bend soon).

Extenuating circumstances or not, I am perfectly happy with the way the challenge turned out for me as I explicitly learned something about myself. I was loosely aware of it before, but this just cemented it.

That is, there are too many interesting books out there for me to specify what I will be reading over the next year.

I still want, and intend, to read all of the books on my challenge list. Just as I intend to read many others on previous lists or those on no particular list. There will also be many new books or books new to me that I will read. (E.g., we have acquired 136 books in the 1st 9 months of 2012 (during the Challenge) but that number doesn’t include books acquired in Oct-Dec 2011, nor the many books read from assorted libraries.)

So, the bottom line is, I need a somewhat looser form of reading challenge to be ‘successful’ by any sort of standard measure. Maybe as vague as “I’ll read x number of books in the next year” is the best I can do. I would hope to be able to provide a little more structured early guidance to myself perhaps, but I’m not sure I know what that is. While my reading choices are not fully based on whim by any means, they are heavily influenced by a wide variety of input mechanisms—friends (in assorted ways), sites like Goodreads or Library Thing, tweets by others, the book catalogs that two librarians (us) receive in the mail, browsing shelves in multiple places, book reviews stumbled across, and so on and on.

There simply are too many books out there waiting to be read for me to be so scheduled about what I will read. And I am perfectly happy with that.

I hereby declare the Two-Thirds Book Challenge a success for me. I look forward to seeing how the other participants assess their own personal Challenges.




Two-Thirds Book Challenge Update 12

[This post has been too long in coming. It should have happened in early Oct. as the Challenge technically ended at the end of Sep. but see below.]

This is update 12* in the Two-Thirds Book Challenge.

This is the last monthly update for the Two-Thirds Book Challenge that I issued last year. I will not be issuing “report cards” (as Jen!! inquired) but I will gladly do a follow-up round of everyone’s individual assessments as long as they are posted before Thanksgiving. This has never been a contest or a strict, rules-based, endeavor. It has always been a personal challenge that involved some “criteria,” as I labeled them, that I put down as guidelines. Your challenge was only with yourself. So please assess with that in mind.

I hope to write a short post on how the Challenge turned out for me and what I learned about my own reading proclivities from it. It is nothing earth shattering but it helped me to know myself better.

On to September’s posts:


2/3 Book Challenge: Evidence of Things Unseen by Marianne Wiggins

Evidence of Things Unseen by Marianne Wiggins

For the last month I’ve been carrying the book back and forth between work and home, intending to chip away at this review, intending to copy down the many excerpts from dog-eared pages that made me gasp, gave me painful goosebumps, pricked my eyes with the beginnings of hot tears.

Evidence of Things Unseen is a love story. It is small and domestic, but it is also about science and technology and the ways those things disrupt and transform. It is about two very ordinary people who meet at the cusp of an era.


no simmering life but a boiling one

The Diaries of Anais Nin

A complicated post but an honest one. “… no simmering life but a boiling one, no small compromise with reality.”

2/3 Book Challenge: Bluets

Bluets by Maggie Nelson

I don’t know how to write about this book. I don’t even know where to begin. As I think about it, I keep coming back to the idea of a tone poem, a single extended meditation on a single theme – in this case, the idea of blue. Blue of lapis lazuli, of sadness, of pornography. A love affair with a color, an exploration of the sensation of perceiving color, of the experience of feeling, of the feeling of loss, of the loss of a love.

A couple of quotes and a bit more commentary follows. I’d say she did a good job writing about it. I would like to read it now.

2/3 Book Challenge: How a Person Should Be

How A Person Should Be? by Sheila Heti

Pretty terrible.

No, a person shouldn’t be terrible; the book was.

2/3 Book Challenge: Let’s Bring Back

Let’s Bring Back by Lesley M.M. Blume

“The book is a celebration of nostalgia, of the manners and customs of a better time.” With a broad definition of ‘a better time,’ the book argues for the return of things such as naps and certain kinds of style. Rhetorically a kind of nostalgia, it sounds as if its arguments serves a better purpose than most nostalgia does. Sounds interesting.


And lastly (book challenge)

Cross Bones by Kathy Reichs

Another Tempe Brennan mystery that doesn’t disappoint, this time bringing controversy surrounding a set of bones that some believe to be those of Christ.

The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie

A classic that I hadn’t read before. My great love of mysteries was come by naturally, and when my dad gave me ton of paperbacks that had been my grandma’s, there were only a few Christie books in there. Although I still have a lot on the reading list to catch up on, I look forward to working in more of her books. … This is also the first book that I’ve read on the Kindle. I’ve read excerpts and a short story, and I have to say that reading a book on the device was a little disconcerting.

Ah, yes. Electronic reading. Doable (generally), but different. Different affordances; different ways of doing things.


My Two-Thirds Book Challenge 2011/12 – Book 21

Yarn: Remembering the Way Home by Kyoko Mori

Absolutely one of the best memoirs I’ve ever read.

Honestly, go read the rest of Helen’s review on your own. It is wonderfully written and I do not want to ‘steal’ more of it than I did just now.

My Two-Thirds Book Challenge 2011/12 – Book 22

Misconception by Ryan Boudinot

This one is a snapshot of struggling families, first loves, hard moral dilemmas, violence and all the other things that go with being an adolescent in the imploding family.

True to life, perhaps, but focuses too much on the “horror and otherness.”

* Helen is taking another month for some adjusted expectations and I fully encourage that: My Two-Thirds Book Challenge 2011/12 – Adjusted Expectations [Of course, at this point, it is kind of irrelevant since the month has already past but I wanted to include this post of hers too. And I apologize to the other Challenge participants for being so far behind that I didn’t let them know they could take another month if they wanted.]


My Two-Thirds Book Challenge 2011/12 – Book 23

More Baths, Less Talking: Notes from the Reading Life of a Celebrated Author Locked in Battle with Football, Family, and Time Itself by Nick Hornby

Helen gave this 5 stars. Exquisite thoughts on book reviewing; read her review and then maybe read the book. I am going to. Just added to my Goodreads.

My Two-Thirds Book Challenge 2011/12 – Book 24

New York Drawings by Adrian Tomine

Another 5 star review. “This book is stunning. … It’s beautifully done, and don’t skip the notes at the end. Some of the asides are priceless.”

My Two-Thirds Book Challenge 2011/12 – Book 25

Shizuko’s Daughter by Kyoko Mori

Having not read this book, I’d say this sounds like a great description:

I’m really not sure how to review this book. Everything I write sounds trite. I loved it, and it’s a wonderful story about families in the evolving cultural landscape of Japan. It’s also about being an outsider, being a little different, in a world that doesn’t seem to have a lot of room for that kind of thing, but it has more room than you would expect. It’s about complicated families. It’s a YA novel but it doesn’t feel like one.

My Two-Thirds Book Challenge 2011/12 – Book 26

Paying For It by Chester Brown

I enjoyed this graphic novel way more than I expected to. It’s not even that I agree with the author’s point of view — in most cases I just don’t — but he is totally committed to exposing himself with as much honesty and candor as is available.

One-dimensionality of the women in the story and an “extended diatribe” in the “extensive notes” do mar it. Though, Helen contends it will force you to think about important issues. Keep in mind, the full title of the book is Paying For It: A Comic Memoir About Being A John.


So, this wraps up this post and the year for the Two-Thirds Book Challenge.

There will be a final roundup of individual readers’ roundups, some time before the end of November. (I would like to count it in my DigiWriMo total. Shameless, I am.)

Participants, please alert me to anything I missed. I apologize in advance if I did.

Two-Thirds Book Challenge Update 11

This is update 11 in the Two-Thirds Book Challenge.


My Two-Thirds Book Challenge – Book 18

Tracing Stars by Erin E. Moulton

“I loved it. The characters, quirky and real, are like anyone you might know having grown up in New England, especially if you grew up in tourist traps and/or with fisherman. … I couldn’t put it down. I have already recommended it to local awards committees.”

My Two-Thirds Book Challenge – Book 19
Sneaky Pie for President by Rita Mae Brown

“I think it’s fun that, in an election year, RMB really tried to get into the brains of critters and what issues they might get behind. …

While the concept is a really fun way to frame a slice of politics and I appreciate the plot that leads up to Sneaky Pie announcing her candidacy, but most of the time it felt forced. … Probably not the best choice for your first RMB, but definitely worth adding to your list.”


Appetite for Life, The Biography of Julia Child by Noël Riley Fitch

“This book has been a long time in the reading. I started reading it not long after seeing the movie Julie and Julia. …

For as much time as it took me to read the whole thing I can say that it was completely worth it. … The details that are including are sometimes cumbersome to wade through, especially for a slow reader such as myself, but the complete picture that emerges could not be more worth it.”

little princes by Conor Grennan

“The book is adventure, hope, and all things good rolled up into one. I can’t tell you how many times it had me teary eyed or in full blown tears. Happy tears.”

About the lost children of Nepal see also Next Generation Nepal



“… I’m pretty sure it is THE PERFECT BOOK to read in those circumstances. It’s trashy enough – a young married girl seduces a king! who is then seduced by her sister! who convinces him to leave his faithful wife and take on Rome in order to get her in bed! and then maybe seduces her brother because she can’t manage to give the king a male heir! – to pick up and put down between dips in the lake or shots in the arm or x-rays. It’s enthralling enough – lush descriptions of food and dancing and sex and the countryside, at least reasonably accurate English history – to keep the reader distracted from the fact that her arm is in traction and her summer plans have been derailed. And it’s thick enough, at 672 pages, to last through those interminable appointments, waiting for bad news but hoping for good.

In short: an excellent beach read. Maybe not an excellent READ, but an excellent beach read, and just what the doctor ordered for my broken arm summer.”


Miss E wasn’t all that satisfied with this book and its approach to the topic. But since slowness is its topic I’ll refrain from attempting to abstract her review and leave it to you to mosey on over to that link and read it for yourself.


Well, folks and 2/3 Challenge readers, only one more month left. Will we individually attain our stated goals? We will be OK with ourselves even if we don’t? Big questions that cannot be answered until next month. Which, at this point, is in two more weeks.

Sorry for the late post again this month. Two trips over the Cascades to Corvallis so Sara could attend training were the main delaying factors this month.



Two-Thirds Book Challenge Update 10

This is update 10 in the Two-Thirds Book Challenge.

Sorry this is so late but we were moving. As it is, we are still surrounded by boxes and my computer is at a very makeshift, extremely unergonomical desk. But I am digressing from the task at hand and best finish before the task is upon me again for this month.


My Two-Thirds Book Challenge – Book 13
Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

“This story spins current culture out to an extreme, but frighteningly plausible, future.” … “It isn’t hard to see why this story is considered one of the best modern sci-fi books. There is no explicit statement about why this world is as it is, you’re left to come to your own conclusions about how our current world leads to this one, with only small hints as to the major defining factors.”

My Two-Thirds Book Challenge – Book 14
Deadlocked by Charlaine Harris

She’ll be sad to see the series end, “even if it is reading candy.”

My Two-Thirds Book Challenge – Book 15
Home by Toni Morrison

This was a 5 star book for Helen.

“This story is short for Morrison and offers what reads like a small slice of life. But, on further examination, it covers a full and varied cross-section of topics including southern life, siblings, eugenics, post-war trauma, family life, folk lore, loss, love, poverty, mental health, women’s health, childhood, war, education, country life, city life, and so much more.”

My Two-Thirds Book Challenge – Book 16
Maus I: A Survivor’s Tale: My Father Bleeds History by Art Spiegelman

Another 5 star book for Helen. “As indicated by anyone ever, this book is awesome.”

My Two-Thirds Book Challenge – Book 17
Maus II: A Survivor’s Tale: And Here My Troubles Began by Art Spiegelman

“Something about part two feels a little out of balance. … That said, the story itself is a fitting conclusion and still excellent, I just wish whatever extra bit was shoehorned in there had been left out, even if I can’t adequately identify it!”


Let The Great World Spin by Colum McCann

I cannot even begin to do justice to Miss E’s comments on this book. Please read them for yourself.

That’s it for this month, folks.

Two-Thirds Book Challenge Update 9

This is update 9 in the Two-Thirds Book Challenge.

It looks like E was the only one able to get some reading done and to write about it during this scorcher of a month. So without further ado, here’s E on

Runaway by Alice Munro

And Runaway is subtle. This review by Jonathan Franzen captures the beauty and challenge of Munro’s writing – it focuses on small but compellingly human stories. Nothing happens on a historically momentous scale, but the stories she tells are full of those small events that feel historically momentous: meeting a stranger, deciding to leave, making a promise, learning the truth, falling in love, remembering.

Since I am in the process of moving—oh, I haven’t mentioned that here, have I?—and will be in the last days of the process at the start of August, next month’s post will probably be a little bit late.

Guess I better post something this weekend about the move.

Two-Thirds Book Challenge Update 8

This is update 8 in the Two-Thirds Book Challenge.


Heat Wave by Richard Castle

“… a gimmick. But a fun one nonetheless. … The first book, Heat Wave, is exactly what I expected: A light, fun crime mystery.” Based on the TV show, Castle, with Nathan Fillion.


A Touch of Dead (Sookie Stackhouse: The Complete Stories by Charlaine Harris

Consisting of 5 short stories that, by the author’s own admission, don’t really fit the flow of the main story line, this volume is a quick weekend read but maybe not worth the effort except to the most extreme Sookie junkies and completist.


The Lifespan of a Fact by John D’Agata and Jim Fingal

… And that? That is why I loved this book. Because it reminded me that the lines between truth and fact and between art and artifice are inherently blurry, and that crossing that line should be painful and exhilarating.

You really need to read E’s review to do it justice.

That’s it for this month. Sorry for the late posting but I was doing some traveling.

Two-Thirds Book Challenge Update 7

This is update 7 in the Two-Thirds Book Challenge.

It seems that Helen is the only one who got any books read and/or posted about this month … so, we’ll start with her.


The Big Cat Nap by Rita Mae Brown

I love this series. Through 20 years I feel like I’ve grown up with these characters. They’re effortless and real in a way that feels genuine, even in such a contrived environment as the murder mystery can be. … I hope she never stops this series!

Read her review to find out the topics covered in this book.

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal by Jeanette Winterson

This was a 5 star book for Helen.

This is a slice of her life across the singular topic of being adopted. That sounds so simple, but no one is better equipped to express the exquisite agony and beauty of this topic from childhood, with her severe, evangelical adopted mother, to the present, meeting her biological mother and family. Nothing about it is simple, nothing is expected.

She refuses to make a simple syrup of her experiences and so takes us all to a place where there is no separation between emotions and thought, where feeling and thinking happen simultaneously and equivalently and the mess that is. It sounds complicated, maybe overly so, and it is. That’s life.

Ragnarok: The End of the Gods by A.S. Byatt

Helen gave some good reasons for not liking this one very much:

There were a numbers of barriers to enjoyment for me reading this book. I was just glad it was so short, otherwise I would have quit.

First, this is the 15th in the Canongate Myths series (http://www.themyths.co.uk/) and it was only three stories ago that they covered a Norse myth. I love the Myths series, but not spacing these two stories out more was a big oversight, especially since the other story was so much better. I mean light years, so having them close like this made the superiority of the other story just that much more obvious.

Too much description, a bad transition, and a disjointed essay at the end are the other reasons. Read her review to get the details.

On the Canongate Myth series as a whole she writes:

Prior to this I have only disliked one other book in the Myths series, so I still think they’re batting average is pretty high! But, if I were just getting into the series, I wouldn’t start here. I might even skip it altogether.

Sara and I have both read the opening book in this series, and Sara has read a few more of them. I believe she has generally liked them.

Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie, a Tale of Love and Fallout by Lauren Redniss

A.Maz.Ing. This book is not only stunningly gorgeous to look at but beautifully written. Every page, even the filler pages, were a treat to explore. …

Just go read her review. And then, perhaps, read the book. I know I will be doing so.

Canning for a New Generation: Bold, Fresh Flavors for the Modern Pantry by Liana Krissoff

So even though a “wee bit too hipster homesteader for me in style,” the author’s “genuine and it makes me feel like I might actually be able to make these things. … I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to try to make so many recipes in a cookbook, and that’s all there is to say.”

Interesting review and if you want an introduction to canning, or are looking for good canning recipes, then this might be a book for you.

Everyone else

I apologize if I missed something by the rest of you but I poked the feed reader, your blogs and my diigo tag and didn’t find anything. Perhaps next month.