Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction and Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel and post Colonial Asian Fiction are some of my Literary Interests





Friday, July 21, 2017

The Madeleine Project by Clara Beaudoux (2017, translated by Alison Anderson, published by New Vessal Press)





Paris in July - Year Ten. - Hosted by Thyme for Tea


So far as my participation in Paris In July Year Ten I have read 


1.  Colette- Two Early Short Stories
2. The Black Notebook by Patrick Modiano 
3. "A Duel" by Guy de Maupassant ( A Franco-Prussian War Story)
4. Life, Death, and Betrayal at The Hotel Ritz in Paris by Tilar Mazzeo (non fiction)
5. How the French Invented Love by Marilyn Yolem (literary history)
6. "The Lost Child" by Francois Coppée 
7. "The Juggler of Norte Dame" by Anatole France- no post
8. A Very French Christmas- A Collection of the Greatest Holiday Stories of France
9. "The Illustrious Gaudissart" by Honore de Balzac
10. After the Circus by Patrick Modiano
11. "Gaudissart II" by Honore de Balzac
12. 6:41 to Paris by Jean-Phillipe Blondel
13. "Noel" by Irene Nemirovsky 
14. Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin
15. The Madeleine Project by Clara Beaudoux

I am starting to get behind in my posting for Paris in July.  The Madeleine Project by Clara Beaudoux is a perfect pick for Paris in July, translated by Alison Anderson, to be published September, 2017 by New Vessal Press).  Given that I will make use of The publisher's description and just conclude with a thought or two of my own.


"A young woman moves into a Paris apartment and discovers a storage room filled with the belongings of the previous owner, a certain Madeleine who died in her late nineties, and whose treasured possessions nobody seems to want. In an audacious act of journalism driven by personal curiosity and humane tenderness, Clara Beaudoux embarks on The Madeleine Project, documenting what she finds on Twitter with text and photographs, introducing the world to an unsung twentieth-century figure. Along the way, she uncovers a Parisian life indelibly marked by European history. This is a graphic novel for the Twitter age, a true story that encapsulates one woman's attempt to live a life of love and meaning together with a contemporary quest to prevent that existence from slipping into oblivion. Through it all, The Madeleine Project movingly chronicles, and allows us to reconstruct, intimate memories of a bygone era."

As I read this book it took a little while but I soon became captivated by Madeline as we gradually began to find her life unravel in a series of Twitter posts.  I wondered if she had a lover, did he survive WW Two.  We learned what she liked to read.  I saw the narrator become closer to Madeline as her uncovering of the items she left behind unraveled.  This is a different kind of work than all the others I have read for Paris in July.  I enjoyed it and think most would.

Alison Anderson spent many years in California; she now lives in a Swiss village and works as a literary translator. Her translations include Europa Editions’ The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery, and works by Nobel laureate J. M. G. Le Clézio. She has also written two previous novels and is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Literary Translation Fellowship. She has lived in Greece and Croatia, and speaks several European languages, including Russian.

Quick personal note, Anderson's translation of The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery was the very first book I posted upon eight years ago.  I love that bookand thank Anderson for her lovely translation 

Mel u




Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin (1956)


Paris in July - Year Ten. -- Hosted by Thyme for Tea











So far as my participation in Paris In July Year Ten I have read


1.  Colette- Two Early Short Stories
2. The Black Notebook by Patrick Modiano
3. "A Duel" by Guy de Maupassant ( A Franco-Prussian War Story)
4. Life, Death, and Betrayal at The Hotel Ritz in Paris by Tilar Mazzeo (non fiction)
5. How the French Invented Love by Marilyn Yolem (literary history)
6. "The Lost Child" by Francois Coppée
7. "The Juggler of Norte Dame" by Anatole France- no post
8. A Very French Christmas- A Collection of the Greatest Holiday Stories of France
9. "The Illustrious Gaudissart" by Honore de Balzac
10. After the Circus by Patrick Modiano
11. "Gaudissart Ii" by Honore de Balzac
12. 6:41 to Paris by Jean-Phillipe Blondel
13. "Noel" by Irene Nemirovsky
14. Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin

James Baldwin was

Born August 2, 1924 in New York City

Died December 1, 1987 in Saint Paul - Vence, France.

He moved to Paris, age 24, in 1948 to escape the pervasive prejudice against African Americans and Gays in America.  It was a time of racial hatred and homophobia. He would return to American occasionally, active in the Civil Rights Movement, but he would always consider Paris his home.  (Wikipedia has a decent article on him.). Baldwin emerged himself in the cultural Life of Paris, finally feeling free to be and express himself.

The last time I read a novel by James Baldwin he was still alive to receive the small royalties from my purchase of his paperbacks.  I read several of his books but missed his now highest regarded novel, the set in Paris Giovanni's Room.  I am very glad Paris in July motivated me to at last read this wonderful work.

Back in 1956 books dealing openly about Gay life were controversial and I suspect those by an African American much more so.  His publisher advised him his African American readers might be turned off to him by this book.

David is a young American man living in Paris.  He had a Gay encounter back in Brooklyn and has moved to Paris to find himself and get away from the domination of his wealthy father, who feared he was homosexual, I think the term "gay" was not in currency then.  His girlfriend has gone to Spain for a while to decide if she wants to marry David or not.  Through an older gay man he knows David ends up at the bar where Giovanni works as a bartender. They end the evening having sex in Giovanni's room, David moves into the room three days later.  We learn about
Parisian Gay bars.  Life in this world was much different pre-aids.

The narration is structured as David recalling his experiences with David and his fiancé, on the night before Giovanni is to be guillotined for murdering the owner of the bar in which he had worked, having been fired.

There is a lot more in this work.  David has sex with his fiancé but it as almost as if his gay identity is spectating on himself.  It is also very much about class, about being an American in Paris.

Giovanni's Room is a GLBT classic.  I am so glad I at last have read this book.  I should note Baldwin was brought at an early age to love reading to escape from an oppressive step-father.

I really like the image above of Baldwin at the tomb of Honore de Balzac.  Balzac wrote brilliantly about gay characters and the homosexual subculture of Paris in the 1830s.

Mel u
The Reading Life

















Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Frederick the Great: King of Prussia by Tim Blanning (2015, 688 pages, biography)







Born 1712, died 1786
King of Prussia 1740 to 1786

Frederick the Great: King of Prussia by Tim Blanning is a comprehensive biography of the king  who transformed Prussia from one of many small German minor states into a dominant power of Europe.  Frederick created the notion of The all powerful German state that would bring misery on the world long after he was gone.  Frederick came to dominate Europe not just politically and militarily but culturally as well through his extensive patronage of the arts.

If this book has a central aim, it seems to be to establish that Frederick was a life time closeted homosexual who adopted an extreme aggressive military stance, spending much of his time in wars, to prove his father was wrong in thinking him to effeminate to effectively rule.  There is no conclusive proof concerning his sexuality but there is such a wealth of supporting circumstances as to make this credible.  Frederick did of course marry but he was never really interested in his wife beyond that required. We see how Frederick really came into his own when his father died.

Much of the book is devoted to detailing his military campaigns.  There is a very chapter interesting on his devotion to promoting music and the arts, activities his father scorned as unmanly.

Those interested in German history will really enjoy this book.

In a way there is a cruel irony in this narrative.  Frederick the Great's father abused him for being effeminate so he created a model of military domination by a strong leader as the proper role for German leaders that culminates in Nazi Germany, where Frederick was worshiped in a state culture stressing hyperbolic masculinity.

I was given a review copy of this book.


Tim Blanning is the author of a number of major works on eighteenth century Europe, including The Pursuit of Glory : Europe 1648-1815, The Culture of Power and the Power of Culture and Joseph II. He is Emeritus Professor of Modern European History at the University of Cambridge, a Fellow of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge and a Fellow of the British Academy. His latest book, Frederick the Great, won the British Academy Medal 2016-  from Random House 

Mel u
The Reading Life





Sunday, July 16, 2017

"Noel" by Irene Nemirovsky (1932, newly translated 2017 by Sandra Smith)










Paris in July - Year Ten -- Hosted by Thyme for Tea


So far as my participation in Paris In July Year Ten I have read


1.  Colette- Two Early Short Stories
2. The Black Notebook by Patrick Modiano
3. "A Duel" by Guy de Maupassant ( A Franco-Prussian War Story)
4. Life, Death, and Betrayal at The Hotel Ritz in Paris by Tilar Mazzeo (non fiction)
5. How the French Invented Love by Marilyn Yolem (literary history)
6. "The Lost Child" by Francois Coppée
7. "The Juggler of Norte Dame" by Anatole France- no post
8. A Very French Christmas- A Collection of the Greatest Holiday Stories of France
9. "The Illustrious Gaudissart" by Honore de Balzac
10. After the Circus by Patrick Modiano
11. "Gaudissart Ii" by Honore de Balzac
12. 6:41 to Paris by Jean-Phillipe Blondel
13. "Noel" by Irene Nemirovsky

Irene Nemirovsky was born in the Ukraine in 1903, with her family, after a stop,in Finland, she immigrated to France to avoid anti-Semitic pograms.  On July 26, 1942 she was deported to Auschwitz where she died August 17, 1942.  She was a fast writer, producing about a novel a year so as I see it the Germans deprived the world of maybe 30 masterworks. It is very hard for me to read her work without a feeling of sadness, even bitterness.  As I saw the recent boorish behavior of trump

in Paris I wished for world leaders who can appreciate the work of the great writers of Paris.

I first encountered Irene Nemirovsky during Paris in July in 2015 when I read her acknowledged by all master work, Suite Francais.

The back story of the publication of Suite Francaise is very interesting.  Her daughters  kept the manuscript secret for 56 years.  It was published for the first time in 2004 and in translation by Sandra Smith in 2006.  The work we have is the first two parts of a planned five part work.  After the death of the author one of her daughters  found the manuscript and thought it would be diary to painful to read.  When she was preparing her mother's papers for donation, 55 years later, she looked at what is now Suite Francaise and submitted it for publication.

As the novel opens we see Paris in a state of panic brought on by the approaching German army.  The narrative is very intense.   Némirovsky lets us she how a few different households are dealing with the crisis.  Anyone who can plans to flee the city.  The author in just a few paragraphs illuminates decades of family and social history in her portraits of Parisians.  There is just so much to admire in Suite Francaise, so many moments of beauty, truth and brilliance.

As the novel progresses we are in a small town in the country.  There are hilarious biting scenes of social satire as the local aristocrats desperately want to hold on to their status even though many have Germans billeted in their homes.   The residents of the town reluctantly begin to see humanity in the Germans even though they feel they should hate them.  There are exciting dramatic events and the characters are perfectly drawn.

Suite Francaise is a brilliant panorama of French society in 1940.  It is also a world class literary treasure.

After reading Suite Francais I went on to read all of her novels available as in digital format, a few of her short stories, three books about her and numerous webpage posting.



I was really happy to see a never before published in English short story by Nemirovsky in A Very French Christmas- A Collection of the Greatest Holiday Stories of France recently published by New Vessel Press.  The translation is by the Award Winning Sandra Smith.

As "Noel" opens it is a snowy Christmas season day on the affluent streets of Paris, two young girls are being taken for a stroll by their nanny.  We over hear the conversations of passerbys, we look in the lovely shop windows.  When we arrive at the girls home their two older sisters, 20 and 22, are preparing for a ball.  Their father is a successful businessman.  Both he and his wife, mother of the girls, have lovers.  We sit in on the preparations for the party.  Ramon, a wealth young man from Argentina spending the season in Paris will be there.  The older girl is in love with him.

The party is just brilliantly depicted.  The couples are all dancing close together in a Tango, all the rage, until a parent comes in the room and then it is all innocence.

I really don't want to spoil the exciting developments in the story as it would not be fair to other first time readers.  "Noel" is very much classic Nemirovsky, down to the unpleasant mother!  It is a great work of art.


I am very grateful to New Vessal Press for including this wonderful story in their collection of French holiday stories.  New Vessel Press is an independent publisher focusing on literature in translation and quality narrative non-fiction.  (Newvesselpress.com).  Their website is very well done and the books are very interesting and fairly priced.

Mel u
The Reading Life

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Beasts Head for Home by Kobo Abe (1957, translated to English, 2017)








Works Read So Far for Japanese Literature Challenge 11

1.  "The Children" by Junichiro Tanazaki
2. Beasts on the Way Home by Kobe Abe


Most people into the Japanese novel read Kobe Abe's (1924 to 1993) towering classic, Woman of the Dunes, and never read anymore of his work. Woman of the Dunes is for sure must reading for anyone into post WWII Japanese novels.  I would say most all  list makers would put it in the top ten

The Japanese Literature Challenge - Year -- Hosted by Dolce Bellezza

Japanese novels. Kenzaburo Oe said Abe should have been given a Nobel Prize instead of him.  In addition to this I have read and greatly enjoyed in past Japanese Literature Challenges reading his

The Ark Sakura and The Face of Another.  All these novels have elements of surrealism whereas the written earlier Beasts on the Way Home is a realistic work, drawing on his childhood in Manchuria.  (There is some biographical data on Abe in my prior posts and the Wikipedia article is decent.) Abe enrolled in medical school to avoid being drafted into the Japanese Army.  He received an M.D. but never practiced.  He did say all his friends with liberal arts degrees died in the war.

Beasts on the Way Home is set in Manchuria, right after the defeat of Japan.  All Japanese have to leave the place they viciously ruled for over a decade.  A young   Japanese man is trying desperately to cross Manchuria to make it to a port from which he can catch a ship for Japan.  He is crossing a war ravaged territory, where the Chinese hate the Japanese.  He teams up with another Japanese youth and they begin a nightmare journey.  They face robbers, wild bands of homeless dogs, Chinese soldiers and near starvation.  The narration is very suspenseful and totally believable.

Those new to Japanese literature for sure should first read Woman of the Dunes.  Then study his other works to see if you wish to proceed on.  Those into Japanese WWII literature should add Beasts on the Way Home to their list.

I was kindly given a review copy of this book.

Mel u
The Reading Life




Friday, July 14, 2017

The 6:41 to Paris by Jean-Phillipe Blondel (2013, New Vessal Press)








So far as my participation in Paris In July Year Ten I have read 


1.  Colette- Two Early Short Stories
2. The Black Notebook by Patrick Modiano 
3. "A Duel" by Guy de Maupassant ( A Franco-Prussian War Story)
4. Life, Death, and Betrayal at The Hotel Ritz in Paris by Tilar Mazzeo (non fiction)
5. How the French Invented Love by Marilyn Yolem (literary history)
6. "The Lost Child" by Francois Coppée 
7. "The Juggler of Norte Dame" by Anatole France- no post
8. A Very French Christmas- A Collection of the Greatest Holiday Stories of France
9. "The Illustrious Gaudissart" by Honore de Balzac
10. After the Circus by Patrick Modiano
11. "Gaudissart Ii" by Honore de Balzac
12. 6:41 to Paris by Jean-Phillipe Blondel


6:41 to Paris by Jean-Philippe Blondel (translated elegantly by Alison Anderson) is entirely set in a second class compartment on the 6:21 train to Paris.  At first Cecile Duffant, a forty seven year old owner of an organic beauty supply firm, is alone in the cabinet.  Then she is joined by Phillipe Leduc, a man with whom she had a four month long affair 27 years ago.  Both recognize exact other and decide not to speak or acknowledge the past.  The woman is married with a teenage daughter.  The man, he once had great promise, for many years has sold TVs.  He is divorced.  She looks elegant, the years have made him a bit shabby.  

In alternative chapters each one begins to recollect the stormy affair.  Long ago Cecile was happy for any attention, lacking much self esteem.  Now she is a strong self-confident businesswoman in a good marriage.  By contrast Phillipe is stuck in a dull job and his own kids prefer to stay at the house of his wife's new husband.

6:41to Paris skillfully presents the alternative memories, showing us we are never free from out past and how our present shapes our understanding of our past.

I very much enjoyed this book.  

6:41 to Paris is published by New Vessel Press (newvessalpress.com), a small independent publisher.  They have recently published several books that would be perfect for Paris in July.  Here is their mission statement 

"New Vessel Press, founded in New York City in 2012, is an independent publishing house specializing in the translation of foreign literature into English. Our books are available in quality paperback and ebook formats.
By bringing readers foreign literature and narrative nonfiction, we offer captivating, thought-provoking works with beautifully-designed covers and high production values. We scour the globe looking for the best stories, knowing that only about three percent of the books published in the United States each year are translations. That leaves a lot of great literature still to be discovered.
At New Vessel Press, we believe that knowledge of foreign cultures and literatures enriches our lives by offering passageways to understand and embrace the world. We also regard literary translation as both craft and art, enabling us to traverse borders and open minds. We are committed to books that offer erudition and enjoyment, that stimulate and scintillate, that transform and transport.
And of course, what matters most is not where the authors hail from, or what language they write in. The most important thing is the quality of the work itself. And hence our name. We publish great books, just in a new vessel."

Author data

Jean-Philippe Blondel was born in 1964 in Troyes, France where he lives as an author and English teacher. His novel The 6:41 to Paris has been a bestseller in both France and Germany.

Mel u
The Reading Life







Paris in July - Year Ten. - Hosted by Thyme for Tea


Thursday, July 13, 2017

"Gaudissart II" by Honore de Balzac - A Short Story Component of La Comedie Humaine - 1844



Paris in July - Year Ten - Hosted by Thyme for Tea






"To know how to sell, to be able to sell, and to sell. People generally do not suspect how much of the stateliness of Paris is due to these three aspects of the same problem. The brilliant display of shops as rich as the salons of the noblesse before 1789; the splendors of cafes which eclipse, and easily eclipse, the Versailles of our day; the shop-window illusions, new every morning, nightly destroyed; the grace and elegance of the young men that come in contact with fair customers; the piquant faces and costumes of young damsels, who cannot fail to attract the masculine customer; and (and this especially of late) the length, the vast spaces, the Babylonish luxury of galleries where shopkeepers acquire a monopoly of the trade in various articles by bringing them all together, —all this is as nothing." From "Gaudissart II" by Honore de Balzac

There are 91 components to Balzac's La Comedie Humaine.  I have seen numerous
 Statements by academics concerning the make up of the cycle saying it is 91 full volumes.  Here is the breakdown

45 Novels
25 short stories
21 Novellas.

Many book bloggers could finish this in under three months.  I have been reading on and off for a while now.

I have now read 81 of 91.



Honore de Balzac is the greatest chronicler of Paris, a towering figure in world literature.  His literary output, fired by a legendary fifty cups of coffee a day, is gargantuan.  He wrote five or six works considered among the world's greatest novels, some wonderful short works and some only one determined to read through his grand cycle of France, The Comedie Humaine, would wish to read.  I am currently nearing completion of this project and I urge it on all serious literary autodidacts as well as those into French history and culture.

A Gaudissart was, I think based on my google research, a term referring to a salesman.  I recently posted on a very good short story about a Parisian traveling salesman making a tour of the provinces.  Balzac focuses greatly on issues related to business, to the importance of money.  One thing you must respect is the tremendous range of practical knowledge of Balzac.  "Gaudissart II" written in 1844 but not published until 1846 is in the Poor Relations section of La Comedie Humaine.  It can be read in five minutes.  It is set in a millinery shop for rich women, they specialize in shawls, many imported from India.  As soon as a lady enters the shop she is at once sized up.  If she is an older matron a handsome young man is assigned to wait upon her.  If the young demimonde mistress of a wealthy old man, to give her a feeling of power, an elegant older man bows and scraps.  The primary customer today is an English lady.  The shop owner himself waits on her but he is having difficulty closing a sale as he cannot sense what she wants.  The close is a lot of fun, of course the French triumph over the English woman    Who ends being skillfully manipulated into buying a shawl for 100 times the normal prize.

This is a really entertaining story, pure Balzac.

Mel u
































Wednesday, July 12, 2017

After the Circus by Patrick Modiano (2015 in translation)




So far as my participation in Paris In July Year Ten I have read


1.  Colette- Two Early Short Stories
2. The Black Notebook by Patrick Modiano
3. "A Duel" by Guy de Maupassant ( A Franco-Prussian War Story)
4. Life, Death, and Betrayal at The Hotel Ritz in Paris by Tilar Mazzeo (non fiction)
5. How the French Invented Love by Marilyn Yolem (literary history)
6. "The Lost Child" by Francois Coppée
7. "The Juggler of Norte Dame" by Anatole France- no post
8. A Very French Christmas- A Collection of the Greatest Holiday Stories of France
9. "The Illustrious Gaudissart" by Honore de Balzac
10. After the Circus by Patrick Modiano

From Yale University Press Website

One of the hallmarks of French author Patrick Modiano’s writing is a singular ability to revisit particular motifs and episodes, infusing each telling with new detail and emotional nuance. In this evocative novel the internationally acclaimed author takes up one of his most compelling themes: a love affair with a woman who disappears, and a narrator grappling with the mystery of a relationship stopped short.

Set in mid-sixties Paris, After the Circus traces the relationship between the narrator, a young man not quite of legal age, and the slightly older, enigmatic woman he first glimpses at a police interrogation. The two lovers make their uncertain way into each other’s hearts, but the narrator soon finds himself in the unsettling, ominous presence of others. Who are these people? Are they real, or simply evoked? Part romance, part detective story, this mesmerizing book fully demonstrates Modiano’s signature use of atmosphere and suggestion as he investigates the perils and the exhilaration of young love.

Patrick Modiano, winner of the 2014 Nobel Prize for literature and an internationally beloved novelist, has been honored with an array of prizes, including the 2010 Prix mondial Cino Del Duca by the Institut de France for lifetime achievement and the 2012 Austrian State Prize for European Literature. He lives in Paris. Mark Polizzotti has translated more than forty books from the French and is director of the publications program at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

I am slightly under the weather so I will just make use of Yale University Press data.  Of this book and The Black Notebook, I prefer The Black Notebook.

I was given this book by the publisher.

It is for sale as a digital book on Amazon for $16.00, way in excess of a fair prize.









Tuesday, July 11, 2017

"The Illustrious Gaudissart" -by Honore de Balzac - A Short Story Compotent of The Comedie Humaine (1833,)


Honore de Balzac on The Reading Life

Paris in July - Year Ten - Hosted by Thyme for Tea




So far as my participation in Paris In July Year Ten I have read 


1.  Colette- Two Early Short Stories
2. The Black Notebook by Patrick Modiano 
3. "A Duel" by Guy de Maupassant ( A Franco-Prussian War Story)
4. Life, Death, and Betrayal at The Hotel Ritz in Paris by Tilar Mazzeo (non fiction)
5. How the French Invented Love by Marilyn Yolem (literary history)
6. "The Lost Child" by Francois Coppée 
7. "The Juggler of Norte Dame" by Anatole France- no post
8. A Very French Christmas- A Collection of the Greatest Holiday Stories of France
9. "The Illustrious Gaudissart" by Honore de Balzac 

There are 91 components to Balzac's La Comedie Humaine.  I have seen numerous 
 Statements by academics concerning the make up of the cycle saying it is 91 full volumes.  Here is the breakdown 

45 Novels
25 short stories
21 Novellas.

Many book bloggers could finish this in under three months.  I have been reading on and off for a while now.

I have now read 80 of 91 works 

I think the errors come from not looking at the full work, available and as practical matter, only really readable in an E book. I am employing the Delphi Edition, it is not perfect but it is ok.  It is only $2.51.  My biggest complaint is that it does not have a chronological index.  The translations are older public domain works.  



Honore de Balzac is the greatest chronicler of Paris, a towering figure in world literature.  His literary output, fired by a legendary fifty cups of coffee a day, is gargantuan.  He wrote five or six works considered among the world's greatest novels, some wonderful short works and some only one determined to read through his grand cycle of France, The Comedie Humaine, would wish to read.  I am currently nearing completion of this project and I urge it on all serious literary autodidacts as well as those into French history and culture.

"The Illustrious Gaudissart"  is a competent of La Comedie Humaine, part of the Parisians in Paris section.  It really is a delightful work, pure top of his form Balzac.  The story begins with a description of the importance of the traveling salesman in France in the 1830s.  It was through these men that the products of Paris spread throughout the provinces.  Balzac is the master of description and Gaudissart perfectly fits the role of the glib talking can size up anyone from a back country farmer to a wealthy businessman at one look salesman who knows how to sell them anything.  This is just done perfectly.  Balzac always has small touches to bring humanity to his characters.  It was so much fun to read about him and his mistress who totally has him under her lovely Parisian thumb.  

Because of his extreme success he comes to the attention of wealthy owners of insurance companies and newspapers who want him to sell subscriptions.  His girl friend knows how many subscriptions he has to sell to keep her happy.  Of course he is married. 

We follow him to a rural town.  Something really funny, I mean hilarious happens.  I loved it and I think you will also.  I really want to leave it unspoiled.  I think you can find this online.

Mel u
The Reading Life
Rereadinglives.blogspot.com




Monday, July 10, 2017

In Observation of The Eight Years of The Reading Life







The Reading Life is now eight years old.  

Since inception on July 7, 2009 there has been 4,661,832 pages views.

There are now 3086 active posts. 
The five most viewed viewed posts are all on short stories by authors from the Philippines.  

R. K. Narayan followed by Katherine Mansfield are authors whose individual posts are most viewed.  

The top visitor home countries are the USA, the Philippines, India, the U.K., and Germany.  

There are now 100 author Q and A sessions, mostly from Irish writers.  If anything is of lasting value on my blog it is these interviews.  I have learned a great deal from them.

I am very gratified to see numerous writers I blogged about when they were just getting started becoming successful. 
My Review Policy.

 I love free books. I look at every book I receive, sometimes 100 a month.  I have no rigid policies, I have posted upon everything from very serious academic work to X-rated rewrites of Jane Austin.  

I never would have dreamed eight years ago I would keep my blog going for eight years.  I know for sure if I am able to look back in eight more years, numerous of these writers will be world famous.  Many will also continue just as occasional authors.  I hope a year from now I will be avidly posting upon great writers I have not yet heard about as of today.  


I offer my great thanks to those who take the trouble to leave comments.  You help keep me going.

To my fellow members of the international book blog community, the greatest readers in the world today, keep blogging.  In these dark times your voice is needed.

Mel u
The Reading Life
Rereadinglives.blogspot.com



Sunday, July 9, 2017

A Very French Christmas: The Greatest French Holiday Stories of All Time (2017, published by New Vessel Press)



New Vessel Press is offering an A R C to all Paris in July Participants.  Just contact them on the website at the close of this post if you are interested











So far as my participation in Paris In July Year Ten I have read 


1.  Colette- Two Early Short Stories
2. The Black Notebook by Patrick Modiano 
3. "A Duel" by Guy de Maupassant ( A Franco-Prussian War Story)
4. Life, Death, and Betrayal at The Hotel Ritz in Paris by Tilar Mazzeo (non fiction)
5. How the French Invented Love by Marilyn Yolem (literary history)
6. "The Lost Child" by Francois Coppée 
7. "The Juggler of Norte Dame" by Anatole France- no post

Today I want to let my readers and event participants know of an outstanding collection of French Short Stories with Christmas themes.  It includes stories by classic writers such as Francois Coppée (two stories), I have already posted upon his very moving story included in the anthology "The Lost Child".  Guy de Maupassant, one of the masters of the form is included , as is the early 20th century Alphonse Drudet and the Nobel Prize Winning Anatole France.  I was delighted to see the collection close with a story by one of my favorite writers, the great Irene Nemirovsky.
There are also stories by contemporary writers new to me.  

I think anyone who likes moving short stories will enjoy this wonderful collection.

This book was published by New Vessel Press (newvessalpress.com).  They offer a very interesting and diverse collection of fiction and non-fiction.  There are several French authored set in a Paris works perfect for July in Paris.

Mel u
The Reading Life
Rereadinglives.blogspot.com



Katalin Street by Mazda Szabo










Katalin Street is the third novel by the great Hungarian writer, Magda Szabo (1917 to 2007) I have so far had the very real pleasure of reading.  I read her The Door in May of 2015, last year I read Iza's Ballad. All three works were translated by Len Rix and published by The New York Review of Books. 

Katalin Street begins a bit before the World War Two.  It is a gracious place where Jews and Christians have long peacefully lived in close proximity.  The novel shows us how the Nazi take over impact the lives of three intertwined Katalin Street families, one Jewish and extends up to Soviet style Budapest in 1968.  During the war the Jewish family, the father is a dentist, are deported to a concentration camp.  What happens to them is never spelled out and we see the other two families try to deal with the guilt of this.  The central plot action focused on the son of one of the families, he goes on to become a doctor, and his relationship to the daughter of another family.  They enter into a troubled marriage, damaged by the serial infidelity of the husband, preying on his female patients.

Katalin Street is very much worth reading.  For sure The Door, her most powerful work, should be your first Szabo but I suspect it will leave you wanting more, as it certainly did me.

I read in the very well done Guardian obituary that she died, age 90, in a comfortable chair with a favorite book in her lap.

In the interest of full disclosure I was given this book, and many others, by The New York Review of Books.  

Mel u







Saturday, July 8, 2017

"The Lost Child" by Francois Coppée - A Very Moving Parisian Christmas Story (1908)













Posts  So Far for Paris in July 10

1.  Colette- Two Early Short Stories
2. The Black Notebook by Patrick Modiano 
3. "A Duel" by Guy de Maupassant ( A Franco-Prussian War Story)
4. Life, Death, and Betrayal at The Hotel Ritz in Paris by Tilar Mazzeo (non fiction)
5. How the French Invented Love by Marilyn Yolem (literary history)
6. "The Lost Child" by Francois Coppée 



During Paris in July Year Eight in 2015 I read and posted upon one of the short stories of Francois Coppée, "A Piece of Bread".  In this story an affluent young Parisian Born to wealth joins the French Army during the Franco-Prussian War (1870. - 1871).  He learns a very valuable lesson from a poor soldier with whom he unexpectedly becomes friends which makes him a better man, more sensitive to the sufferings of others.  

Coppeé has fallen out of fashion due to his participation in anti-Semitic societies and his anti-Dreyfus views.  I admit this does somewhat turn me against him but still he is a good, if kind of sentimental writer.  I have read now two of his stories and enjoyed them both.  Both have a common theme, a wealthy self-absorbed man comes into very close contact with a very good hearted poor person, the common man, and is transformed into a better more emphatic man through this contact.  

As I read Coppée very enjoyable but maybe a bit cliched story, "The Lost Boy", set in Paris, my first reaction was, "aha, The French answer to Dickens' A Christmas Carol". The main character is a very 

rich French businessman, he deals in the stock market, he produces nothing and his only goal is to become richer.  His associates are all of the same mind, his latest project is a public sale of stock in a company he knows will soon be out of business, leaving no value for those who bought the stock.  Maybe ten years ago he married a very nice younger woman, he paid of her father's substantial debts.  She soon has a son and dies when the boy is six month old.  The man totally loves the boy but he can find only 15 minutes a day to spend with him.  Of course he has servants to care for the boy, including a dedicated to him German woman (hint Germans were not popular in France in 1909).  When he goes to work on Christmas Eve he tells his servants to buy the boy a lot of presents, giving them money.

I don't want to spoil the plot too much as this is a good fun to read story.  The man's valet, and the boy's yaya burst into his office, the maid is hysterical.  The valet tells his boss that the son, now ten or so, is missing.  They have reported it to the police.  The man in a wild panic runs to the police station nearest his mansion.  Leaving more untold but to say it ends well and the man is forever changed by his contact with a near saintly working man, a widower just like him.

Yes this is very sentimental but I think you will enjoy it, I know I did. You can find it online.  

I read this in a brand new anthology, A Very French Christmas:  The Greatest French Holiday Stories of All times, published last month by New Vessel Press.  I will post in detail on this book soon. I will read this month at least three more stories from this collection, which the publisher kindly gave me, including one by Irene Nemirovsky.  


There is another story by Coppée in this collection and I hope to read it for Paris in July 11 in 2018.

Mel u





Friday, July 7, 2017

Colette - Two Early Short Stories - A Recommendation of a Collection of her Short Fiction




Paris in July - Year Ten. -- Hosted by Thyme for Tea









"You will do foolish things, but do them with enthusiasm."  (Sidonie Gabrielle Colette)

"We are blinded to the beauty in our own lives
The hours taken are all that we'll get
For five or six hours in the month of July
The summer I read Collette
I found Paris a hundred years late
Calling it sleeping in (.......)
My ear to the stone I can hear her sing (.......)
I sold my silver to get myself there
To a room with a candle up three flights of stairs
That was the summer I let it all go
Filling my body with my heart and soul


We are blinded to the beauty in our own lives
I was taking all I can get
For five or six hours in the month of July
The summer I read Collette" - lyrics by Roseann Cash









I said this last year and am happy to say it again, if Paris is the City of Love than Colette is her High Priestess.  I also hope to say it again next year.  Colette (1873 to 1954, Sidonie Gabrielle Colette) wrote lots of short stories, novellas and a few novels, mostly set in The Belle Époque Era (1871 to 1914).  She was the first French woman writer to be given a state funeral.  Many draw their 
impression of Paris in the glory days from her most famous work, Gigi, or from the movies based upon it.  Much of her work focuses on slightly or more louche men, young and old, and the women of their world.   Colette worked on the stage in a period where preforming as an actress was often seen as part of the demimonde world.  Colette is also a revered GLBT figure for her sensitive and acute perceptive treatment of lesbian relationships as well as for her own very open sexuality.  Ok and she also loved cats!  I highly recommend The Secrets of the Flesh:  A Life of Colette by Judith Thurman, among the very best of literary biographies.



The Collected Stories of Colette edited by Robert Palmer is the best entrance to her short fiction, containing 100 stories, 31 never before translated.  I have both the paperback, a beautiful book, and the recently released digital edition.  If you wish to read the two stories I'm posting upon today, and Palmer's introduction, they are on the Amazon free sample.  The publisher blurb says there is no comparable collection in French.  

"Clouk Alone" and "Clouk's Fling"

Today I will post upon two early stories from the series on Clouk, starting with "Clouk Alone".  Clouk is a very archetypical Colette creation, a dandy of indeterminate age, a rich Parisian man boy.

You can see the power of Colette to create a character in just a paragraph in this 

"He was about to turn off the electricity before going up to his room, but stopped short: to get to the light switch he would have to walk past a long mirror, tinged green by the dampness, where he would have time to watch himself walking by, paler than normal, even more of the “poor child” than his fabulously wealthy mother had made him. He does not like to walk past it at certain hours of the night. He prefers to go straight up to the second floor, letting the chandelier and the sconces burn on. Upon waking, he would open his fishlike mouth, which could feign astonishment quite easily, when his inexorable valet would say to him: “Monsieur realizes that Monsieur again left the lights on downstairs. Monsieur won’t wonder why Monsieur’s electric bill is seven hundred francs again this month, worse than a department department store.” Clouk, born a millionaire, remained parsimonious by upbringing: a new car every year is a duty, turning off the electricity when one leaves a room is another."

Clouk misses Lulu, a musical actress and no doubt of the high end demimonde world, she taught him not to be afraid to be alone in his exquisite townhouse.  Suddenly he thinks he hears footsteps in the garden.  He wonders if he dare go look, he summons his valet, who clearly respects him only ironically. The valet asks him what he requires, at first he was going to tell him to look in the garden then he decides to tell him to turn of the lights.  This is a delightful story readable in under five minutes.


As "Clouk's Fling" opens he at a restaurant with a "companion", a not as young or or pretty as she once was actress.  She and Clouk are at a favorite after theater haunt.  Clouk watches the door, Half hoping Half fearing Lulu will enter.  The actress sleeps at Clouk's place, as she often has, Clouk does not like to be alone.  I really feel a need to let Colette's descriptive power shine through:

" The hours after dinner, divided between the restaurant and box seats in a music hall, went by quickly—barely time for a dozen cigarettes—bringing back midnight and the moment to sit down, for the third time since waking, in front of a stiff tablecloth, glazed by the roller, and cold as oilcloth. Each time he sits down at a table in some late-night bar, Clouk feels a warm, fleeting rush of exhilaration.....The best time of their day was the interminable daily toilette, two hours of bath, hairdresser, manicurist, masseuse: the meticulous and listless toilette of cloistered women, the empty chatter, the perplexed fussing with ties and vests . . . Then the brief drive in the car around the already dark Bois, truly an old ladies’ drive, cut short again by the desire, the need to return and sit down at the table of a bar. “Some port and herring sandwiches, right, Clouk? What dried us up like that last night was that nasty demi-sec champagne.”

As the story closes, we see beautifully depicted the routine of Clouk's life, the scenes in the restaurant is so wonderfully done.

My edition does not give the first publication data on these stories but by estimate is 1894 to 1898 period.

I hope to read more Colette 

Mel u









Thursday, July 6, 2017

The Black Notebook by Jean Patrick Modiano (2016, 144 pages)



Paris in July - Hosted by Thyme for Tea








The Black Notebook by Jean Patrick Mondiano (translated by the award winning Mark Polizzotti) centers on the quest of a writer, Jean, to attempt to discover information concerning a woman, who was his occasional lover, fifty years ago, right after the close of The Algerian War for Independence, 1964.  Paris then was ripe with suspicion, full of contrasts between the respectable and the dangerous.  We see the character of the city being impacted by new comers from what was once French colonial North Africa.  The Black Notebook is deeply saturated with an almost hallucinatory miasma of memories of walks around Paris.

Using a black note book in which, fifty years ago, he recorded his activities and his contacts Jean attempts to discover if this woman may still be alive and to unravel the secrets of her troubled past she kept deeply veiled.  

The Black Notebook is very much about the nature of memory.  We see the voluntary and involuntary memories Jean has as he wanders Paris, fifty years ago he was a struggling young writer, now he is quite successful.  The days of the poverty stricken streets of his youth begin to come back to him, intertwined with his thoughts on Paris, a city he loves and knows intimately.  As he walks the city, he begins to think of an even almost imagine he sees Jean Duval (1820 to 1862),  lover for twenty years in a very volatile relationship with Charles Baudelaire.  We almost enter the narrator's subconscious as we know he equates this relationship to his of fifty years ago.  I admit I loved this touch.

The Black Notebook is a fascinating book, very much worth reading. 



One sees the profound influence of Proust in this book.

I hope to read his Trilogy set during the occupation of Paris by the Nazis, highly praised by the Nobel Committee, this month.

Jean Patrick Modiano (French pronunciation: [ʒɑ̃ paˈtʁik ˌmɔdjaˈno]; born 30 July 1945) is a French novelist and recipient of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Literature. He previously won the 2012 Austrian State Prize for European Literature, the 2010 Prix mondial Cino Del Duca from the Institut de France for lifetime achievement, the 1978 Prix Goncourt for Rue des boutiques obscures, and the 1972 Grand Prix du roman de l'Académie française for Les Boulevards de ceinture. His works have been translated into more than 30 languages and have been celebrated in and around France, but most of his novels had not been translated into English before he was awarded the Nobel Prize. - from Amazon

Mel u

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor (2015, winner of Hugo and Nebula Award, 98 pages)









If you want to read top quality Science Fiction or Fantasy works but you don't really know what to read you pretty much cannot go wrong by picking a Hugo or Nebula Prize Winning work (both awards have webpages listing all the winners from past years).  Awards are given for best novel, best short story and best novella.  

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor won both awards for best novella in 2015.  The description on Amazon and the publisher's website (tor.com) sounded very intriguing, reading time under two hours.  

Binti is a 16 year old mathematics genius, called a harmonizer, a member of the Himbi people, living far in the future.  The Hambi live in Northern Namibia, in 2017 the population is estimated at 50,000.  In our story, they are very into technology, computer design, and mathematics.  They are also very devoted to their own ancient culture, almost insular.  They rarely leave their home area and they fear the idea.  No one in Binti's family has ever left their area, let alone Earth.  

Binti receives an invitation to study at the most advanced academy in the universe, the very prestigious planet Oomza, the population there is only five percent human.  Binti is so worried about how her family will react that she sneaks off to catch the space ship the planet.  Okorafor is super creative and imaginative.  I loved the idea that the space ships were Bio-engineered living creatures.  Everyone at the space port is surprised by the red clay caking the face of Binti and in her braided hair.  This is an ancient Hambi tradition, going back to very old times when the red clay as used as protection from dangerous insect bites and to demarcate tribal identity.

Something very exciting and scary happens on the trip but I don't want to tell anymore of the so much fun, so very intelligent plot.  There is a sequel to Binti and I hope to read it this year.



I read this as part of my participation in The African Reading Challenge 2017 (see the link above for details.

From Nnedi.com

Nnedi Okorafor has made a name for herself with novels that combine politically complex science fiction and lyrical fantasy. 
-- The New York Times

Nnedi Okorafor is an international award-winning novelist of African-based science fiction, fantasy and magical realism for both children and adults. Born in the United States to two Nigerian immigrant parents, Nnedi is known for weaving African culture into creative evocative settings and memorable characters. In a profile of Nnedi’s work titled, “Weapons of Mass Creation”, The New York Times called Nnedi’s imagination “stunning”.

Nnedi’s books include Lagoon (a British Science Fiction Association Award finalist for Best Novel), Who Fears Death (a World Fantasy Award winner for Best Novel), Kabu Kabu (A Publisher’s Weekly Best Book for Fall 2013), Akata Witch (an Amazon.com Best Book of the Year), Zahrah the Windseeker (winner of the Wole Soyinka Prize for African Literature), and The Shadow Speaker (a CBS Parallax Award winner).
Her latest works include her novel The Book of Phoenix (an Arthur C. Clarke Award finalist), her Binti Trilogy ( the first of which won both the Hugo and Nebula Awards for Best Novella) and her children’s book Chicken in the Kitchen (winner of an Africana Book Award). The final installment of the Binti Trilogy (titled The Night Masquerade) will be released in September and the sequel to Akata Witch (title Akata Warrior) is due out in October. Nnedi is an Full Professor at the University at Buffalo, New York (SUNY).


Mel u









Tuesday, July 4, 2017

How the French Invented Love: Nine Hundred Years of Passion and Romance by Marilyn Yalom (2012)


Paris in July, Year Ten-- Hosted by Thyme for Tea







How the French Invented Love:  Nine Hundred Years of Passion and Romance by Marilyn Yalom was an enjoyable read.  She attempts to substantiate her claim that the concept of romantic love is a creation of French writers, starting with poetic epics in the 12th century about knights and their lady loves.  I found her claim  not really substantiated but that does not stop the work from being of interest to those quite into French literature.

As I know very little, ok nothing, about medieval French literature I did find her chapters on this kind of a slog through.  My thoughts as I read was that surely the reading matter mocked in Don Quixote testifies to romantic literature in Spain and that the Decameron shows the same is true of Italy. Is there not romantic love all through Shakespeare?

I have read a few plays by Moliere and I am not sure his comedies of mistaken identity are quite romances.

Yalom does talk a good bit about the treatment of the idea of "The Sentimental Education", the initiation into sex of a young man by an older woman, often a near relative.  Is this something that actually was a normal occurrence in France in the 18th and 19th century?  Socially History wise, Yalom deals only with the upper crust in French society.  She occasionally makes generalizations about French society, comparisons to America.  I would speculate her life experiences are largely with wealthy, very educated people.

Her discussion of Rousseau's sentimental education was interesting.

Her observations on Stendhal's The Red and the Black seemed really acute.  She talks about the romantic events portrayed.  I must say she answered the question for me of "what is so great about Stendhal?"

Of course Balzac must have a central part in any history of love in French literature
(I am currently about 90% through a read through of The Comedie Humaine) and Zola as well.  I think Yalom missed something important in both these writers.  Their fixation on virginal pure young girls.  Once a woman has sex, she becomes corrupt and a potential danger.  Yalom also says that Zola writes about the lower levels of society, true of course but about half twenty novels of the Rougon Macquart cycle involve the rich or upper middle class.

I enjoyed her treatment of Flaubert, focused on Madame Bovary, and profited from it.  She helped me see what a supreme work of art he produced.  She states, correctly of course, that Emma Bovary was partially led to adultery by the books she read.  She details her two romances but she does not mention what seems to be Flaubert' very humorously done suggestion she also slept with a neighborhood farm book.  I see this as very important.  I did really enjoy Yalam's account of her own changing attitude toward Emma as she herself matured from young college student to wife and mother.  This was extremely well done.

She next proceeds to Proust, who she loves and knows very well.  From here she proceeds to the Existentialists, Marguerite Duras, focusing largely on the lover, concluding with some contemporary writers.

Yalam lets us see the big role of infidelity in French literature.  In her concluding remarks she generalized her comparisons of French and American society.

This is an interesting book, maybe one only those really into French literature will want to read and I am sure they will find fault with some of her remarks.  That being said I am glad I read it.  If you have not read the basic texts you may be bored at times.

I was given a review copy.  The style and manner are friendly.

From the author's website


Biographical Sketch
Marilyn Yalom grew up in Washington D.C. and was educated at Wellesley College, the Sorbonne, Harvard and Johns Hopkins. She has been married to the psychiatrist Irvin Yalom for fifty years and is the mother of four children and the grandmother of five. She has been a professor of French and comparative literature, director of an institute for research on women, a popular speaker on the lecture circuit, and the author of numerous books and articles on literature and women's history.

Her books have been translated into 20 languages. In 1991 she was decorated as an Officier des Palmes Académiques by the French Government.
Books by Marilyn Yalom include Maternity, Mortality, and the Literature of Madness (out of print), Blood Sisters: The French Revolution in Women's Memory (1993), A History of the Breast (1997), A History of the Wife (2001), Birth of the Chess Queen (2004), The American Resting Place (2008) and How the French Invented Love: 900 Years of Passion and Romance (2012).












Monday, July 3, 2017

"The Children" - one of Junichiro Tanazki's early short stories (1911, in translation by Anthony Chambers,)







I am very glad my initial post for Japanese Literature 11 is upon one  of the very first short stories of one of Japan's greatest and most popular writers, Junichiro Tanazaki (1886 to 1965).  I have posted extensively on Tanizaki.  Up until about two months ago I thought I had read all his novels.  However, vintage has just published translations of two more of his novels. The Maids, his last novel, tells the story of The Makioka Sisters (itself a good choice for your first Tanizaki) from the point of view of the maids of each sister, I really want to read this soon.  

Sexual sadism, with the male on the receiving end from a woman is one of the consistent themes of Tanizaki.   Receiving pain and orgasm are tied together in the more than a bit disturbing and strange "The Children".  As it opens a young boy, maybe 14, is on a playground.  A boy his age, from a much wealthier family, invites him, through his yaya (applicable Tagalog word for a household helper dedicated to a child) to a party tomorrow.  He is very thrilled to be invited.  At first the party is more or less the rich family inviting the kids, rich and poor, of the neighborhood to a nice party. Tanizaki describes all the wonderful delicacies served, giving us a look at gourmet dining circa 1911.  The young host then tells the narrator they should retire to a western style house on the estate, getting away from the disgustingly poor children.  Anything western suggests decadence and depravity.  The sister of the host, a year older, will join them.   On the first of several encounters over a period of days, the two boys cover the sister in assorted filth.  As days go on the host begins to subject both his sister and his guest to physical abuse, done in a ritualistic fashion which seems to culminate with them lifting their kimonos followed by him nibbling on their private parts.  Tanazaki is vague on what happens but it appears they are experimenting with the opening stages of oral sex.  As they days progress roles are reversed and the sister becomes dominant.  In one funny interlude the boy's maid walked in on them and let out a scream to stop or she will tell his parents but she never does.  

The activity is quite rough, progressing to knife cuts which the narrator must hide from his mother.

"The Children" is a very interesting story, valuable as a cultural artifact from the start of the career of a great writer, and a thought provoking look at sexual sadism in children.  Ok and it is fun too!  

Incidentally Tanazaki was very much a cat lover and his novella, A Man, A Cat, and Two women is one of the all time great cat books.

I read this story in a new collection of his short fiction, The Gourmet Club and Other Stories, translated by Anthony Chambers and Paul McCarthy, with a very informative introduction.

In the interest of full disclosure The University of Michigan gave me a review copy of this book and an additional new collection.  If they had not, I would have bought them.  These two books are very valuable additions to Japanese literature in translation.  I hope over the course of Japanese Literature 11 (ending January 31, 2018 to post on all nine of the stories in this collection.

Mel u


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