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Monday, 23 January 2017

Nguyen, Viet Thanh (Việt Thanh Nguyễn) "The Sympathizer"

Nguyen, Viet Thanh (Việt Thanh Nguyễn) "The Sympathizer" - 2015

Not my first book about the Vietnam War. Not my first Pulitzer Prize winning novel. But certainly also not my last in both cases. A great description by a promising writer, I am sure we will read more by this talented guy.

Going through the "confessions" of "The Sympathizer", one comes to realize how difficult it is to stay loyal to any side in a war. And that there are no different kind of wars. Wars are horrible. For everyone involved. Wars don't just kill people, wars kill cultures, wars kill the goodness in human beings. Việt Thanh Nguyễn manages to portray that in a way not many others have so far.

It should instill in us all a wish for a better world, a wish for the end of all wars - if we don't have that already. And it certainly should push us to looking at refugees in a different way. They are not people who only come because we live in richer countries, they come because their only choice is between going to another country and being treated as dirt and death, humiliation, terror to them and their families.

I'm not surprised the book received the Pulitzer Prize. Totally deserved

Some of my favourite quotes:
"No matter how badly you might feel, take comfort in knowing there's someone who feels much worse."

"All wars are fought twice, the first time on the battlefield, the second time in memory."
(From Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War, Vieth Thanh Nguyen)

From the back cover:
"It is April 1975 and Saigon is in chaos. At his villa a general of the South Vietnamese army is drinking whiskey and with the help of his trusted captain drawing up a list of those who will be given passage aboard the last flights out of the country. The general and his compatriots start anew life in Los Angeles unaware that one among their number the captain is secretly observing and reporting on the group to a higher-up in the Viet Cong. The Sympathizer is the story of this captain a man brought up by an absent French father and a poor Vietnamese mother a man who went to university in America but returned to Vietnam to fight for the Communist cause. A gripping spy novel an astute exploration of extreme politics and a moving love story The Sympathizer explores a life between two worlds and examines the legacy of the Vietnam War in literature film and the wars we fight today. About the Author Viet Thanh Nguyen was born in Vietnam and raised in America. His stories have appeared in Best New American Voices TriQuarterly Narrative and the Chicago Tribune and he is the author of the academic book Race and Resistance. He teaches English and American Studies at the University of Southern California and lives in Los Angeles."

Việt Thanh Nguyễn received the Pulitzer Prize for "The Sympathizer" in 2016.

Friday, 20 January 2017

Book Quotes of the Week

"While thought exists, words are alive and literature becomes an escape, not from, but into living." Cyril Connolly

"As novels became more prominent during the 1700s, society and the media grew increasingly concerned that young people spent too much time reading books. They even went so far as to call it 'reading rage,' 'reading fever,' 'reading mania,' and 'reading lust.'" History Today 

"Librarians are subversive. You think they're just sitting there at the desk, all quiet and everything. They're like plotting the revolution, man. I wouldn't mess with them." Michael Moore

"I did realize, as do you, how blessed I was to know bookjoy, the private pleasure of savoring text." Pat Mora

"Bookish Problem: You actually have to step back, take a moment, and admire your bookshelves every time you add a new book." N.N.

[If anyone can tell me the originator of this quote, I'd be very thankful and would happily include the name.]

Find more book quotes here.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Oates, Joyce Carol "Carthage"

Oates, Joyce Carol "Carthage" - 2014

I've had this book on my TBR list for quite a while and then we decided to read it for our book club. I am glad we finally did.

As most of my fellow readers know in the meantime, Joyce Carol Oates is one of my favourite contemporary authors. Same as always, I loved every bit of this book. Every chapter concentrated on a different character and you were able to get to know them all pretty well. So, we could fear with the Mayfield family what had happened to their youngest daughter but we could also see how the disappearance influenced the lives of all the other family members. Almost a moment from "It's a Wonderful Life" where we can see how one life has an effect on so many others.

As usual, I loved the rich expression of JCO, her way of unfolding a story, of leaving hints here and there without revealing anything. She is a psychological writer as well as a crime writer, a drama reporter as well as a narrator of characters. It's always incredible how well she manages to describe a person, to so much detail that you must be convinced that person really exists. You almost are tempted to google the person in order to find out what happened to them afterwards. You feel their minds, their love, their hopes, their dreams, their guilt, their grief, everything they feel, you feel. You feel with the "slightly" autistic girl, you even understand her worries, you feel with the young soldier who came back from Iran, you feel with his fiancé who tries to live with these changes, you feel with the parents ... You get an insight into how the life of a young man can change once he joins the military and is sent into war. And you learn how one single moment can change the lives of many people forever.

As always, when I read a novel by this brilliant author, I have to send out a message to Sweden: Joyce Carol Oates should get the next Nobel Prize for Literature. It's about time!!!

We discussed this in our book club in November 2016.

From the back cover:
"Cressida Mayfield has gone missing. The ‘smart’ Mayfield girl is lost somewhere in the forests of the Adirondack Mountains. The desperate search yields only one clue: she was last seen in the company of Corporal Brett Kincaid. Kincaid is a severely disabled veteran of the Iraq War -  and was once the fiancé of Cressida’s beautiful sister.
As the grisly evidence mounts against the tormented war hero, Cressida’s family must face the possibility of having lost their daughter forever. For the deeply traumatized Kincaid, the facts of that terrible night are tangled with memories of the most appalling wartime savagery. He craves redemption - and he is not the only one.
Dark and riveting, Carthage explores the human capacity for violence, love and forgiveness, while questioning whether it’s ever truly possible to come home again."

In one of the houses, Cressida comes across many authors and books:

Aristotle's "Politics"
Cather, Willa
Chomsky, Noam "Problems of Knowledge and Freedom"
Descartes, René "Meditations"
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor "The Insulted and Injured"
Fanon, Frantz "The Wretched of the Earth
Faulkner, William
Humes, David' "An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding"
Hobbes, Thomas"Leviathan"
Passos, John dos
Rawls, John "A Theory of Justice"
Singer, Peter "Animal Liberation"
Sinclair, Upton "The Jungle"
Quite a library!

Monday, 2 January 2017

Happy January

Happy January to all my friends and readers

New Calendar picture with this beautiful watercolour painting
by Hanka Koebsch 

"Ice Age"
"Ice Time"

(depending on how you translate)


As I've done for the last couple of years, I'd like to share the wonderful watercolour paintings from Hanka and Frank Koebsch with you every month. I have bought their calendar every year for six years now and have loved every single one of their pictures. I hope you enjoy them just as much as I do. 

You can find a lot more wonderful pictures on their blog here.

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Merry Christmas! Happy Jólabókaflóð!

"In Iceland, books are exchanged on Christmas Eve, and you spend the rest of the night reading. People generally take their books to bed along with some chocolate. How cozy and wonderful does that sound?

Iceland publishes more books per capita than any other country, and new books are typically published only during the Christmas season - the frenzy is called "Jólabókaflóð" which means Christmas Book Flood."

Found on Facebook.

☆☆ Merry Christmas! Happy Jólabókaflóð! ☆☆ 

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Top Ten Tuesday ~ Top Ten New-To-Me Authors I Read For The First Time In 2016

Top Ten Tuesday" is an original feature/weekly meme created on the blog "The Broke and the Bookish". This feature was created because they are particularly fond of lists at "The Broke and the Bookish". Since I am just as fond of them as they are, I jump at the chance to share my lists with them! Have a look at their page, there are lots of other bloggers who share their lists here.

December 6: Top Ten New-To-Me Authors I Read For The First Time In 2016

Aboulela, Leila "The Kindness of Enemies" - 2015

Abulhawa, Susan "Mornings in Jenin" - 2010

Ali, Sabahattin "Madonna in a Fur Coat" (Turkish: Kürk Mantolu Madonna) - 1943

Atkinson, Kate "Behind the Scenes at the Museum" - 1995

Filipović, Zlata "Zlata's Diary: A Child's Life in Wartime Sarajevo" (Bosnian: Zlatin dnevnik: otroštvo v obleganem Sarajevu)- 1993

Kulin, Ayşe "Rose of Sarajevo" (Turkish: Sevdalinka) - 1999

Maalouf, Amin "Samarcande" - 1988

Obama, Barack "Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance" - 1995
- "The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream" - 2006

Steinem, Gloria "My Life on the Road" - 2015

Ulitzkaya, Lyudmila "Imago" or "The Big Green Tent" (Russian: Zelenyi shater/Зеленый шатер) - 2010

Looking at that list, this was a great reading year. I found so many new and interesting authors. Well, some of heir names were already familiar to me but I had never read anything by them. Others were completely new to me. But all in all, I found some wonderful books and some great new authors.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Happy December

Happy December to all my friends and readers 

New Calendar picture with this beautiful watercolour painting
 by Hanka Koebsch

"Christmas Greetings from the Baltic Sea"
"Weihnachtsgrüße von der Ostsee"


Same as last year, I'd like to share the wonderful watercolour paintings from Hanka and Frank Koebsch with you every month. I have bought their calendar every year for five years now and have loved every single one of their pictures. I hope you enjoy them just as much as I do. 

You can find a lot more wonderful pictures on their blog here.