Recent reading, novels and short stories

Harp of Burma, Michio Takeyama. 1946. For our book club (whose rule is under 200 pages). Not politically correct by any means, this tale of a Japanese company towards the end of the Burma war in 1944 was apparently intended as a redeeming novel for young people in Japan to draw the right lessons from the war. Lots of understated Buddhism, but too many stereotypes about Burma.

Nebula Awards Showcase, 2018. Mostly the stories tended towards fantasy, which is not my preferred genre. Unless Ursula K. Le Guin is writing. I enjoyed reading “Seasons of Glass and Iron” by Amal El-Mohtar, “Blood Grains Speak Through Memories” by Jason Sanford, and “Sooner or Later Everything Falls Into the Sea” by Sarah Pinsker, and “The Orangery” by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam.

The Stone Country, by Alex la Guma. Fine writing, classic political prison novel.

Vladimir Nabokov, King, Queen, Knave. A lot of fun to read. When I retire, English PhD, on Nabokov. how come nobody is studying his work?

Short stories in The New Yorker.

  • John L’Heureux, “Escape.” One’s own imminent suicide has to be pondered, by writing a story about one’s father and his bad death. Yikes was my only reaction. this story was so close to home, with Alzheimers and Parkinsons and getting older.
  • Camille Bordas, “The Presentation on Egypt.” A father’s suicide has to be filtered and processed by mother and daughter. A finely-etched portrait. Not revelatory, more like a chapter in a novel.
  • Ben Lerner, “Ross Perot and China.” A family sketch. And definitely part of a novel. Very little to chew on here. Like leaving a time capsule for 1,000 years from now: how did some humans live and what did they think of?
  • Lauren Groff, “Brawler.” Sad tale of a teenager whose mother is dying. Yeah, beautifully written but definitely not my groove when I have a teenage daughter at home!
  • Greg Jackson, “Poetry.” Very literary story, about a couple and their relationship, and maybe dying after eating some fruit on the beach.
  • Te-Ping Chen, “Lulu.”  Political story about a young woman in China who gets obsessed with… justice and liberty. And her brother, who isn’t.

About mkevane

Economist at Santa Clara University and Director of Friends of African Village Libraries.
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