2022 Reading Goals

I’ve been looking at a lot of blogs and YouTube videos about peoples’ reading goals for 2022. They’ve been very thought-provoking. Some people have really elaborate goals while others have more general one. Or people don’t want any goals at all, as they feel constricted by them. At first, I came up with some very detailed and specific goals, but then I decided that I didn’t want my every reading moment driven by some kind of goal. I like goals, because I like the feeling of accomplishment when I’ve met them, but I dislike goals when I feel that they don’t leave enough space for spontaneity in my reading. Striving for a reasonable balance, I came up with this list:

  1. Read the Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio.
    This is this year’s buddy read with my friend. This will be easy – the book is divided into a frame narrative about ten people that fled to a country house from the plague in Florence (in 1348). There’s ten days in which each character tells a story, so 100 stories altogether. The stories are quite short, and we’ll be reading one of the days per months. We’ll be finished in October at that rate. I’ve already started (almost done with the “First Day” and it’s great fun. 
  2. Read Edward Gibbon’s The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.
    I’ve been wanting to read this amazing tome in six volumes since I first heard of it during my studies at university. It was published between 1776 and 1789 and covers the period between 98 and 1590. It was an great scholarly achievement at it’s time of publication and is supposed to be very well written – so far I’ve read the first two chapters of the first volume and I’m enjoying it. The prose is clear and lucid, not at all convoluted or obscure. I’m taking it slowly and have planned to devote two months to each volume (but if I feel like reading faster, I will).
  3. Continue with last year’s focus on Louise Erdrich and read at least the four books of her Love Medicine series that I didn’t get around to in 2021.
    Kind of self-explanatory. Maybe I’ll even get around to some of her other novels.
  4. Do a focus year on Virginia Woolf and read at least four of her works.
    Some years ago, I had a Virginia Woolf phase and got a few of her works. I still have some unread books from when that phase petered out that I want to read. I haven’t decided which of her works I am going to read, but I’ve started with a selection from her diaries.
  5. Finish J.K. Rowling’s Cormoran Strike and Deborah Crombie’s Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James series.
    I had so much fun last year catching up with Laurie R. King’s Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series that I want to get up-to-date with a couple of other series (also, reading crime novels and series is easy and relaxing for me). I’ve read the first two books of Rowling’s series last year and will just continue with the next three. I own 14 out of 18 of Crombie’s series, which used to be one of my favourite series (and still is) but I’m not sure if I’ve read all of them. Maybe I didn’t read the last two or so, I can’t remember. In any case, I will start at the beginning and work my way up.
  6. Read at least one book per month that I own but haven’t read yet.
    Some of the books listed in the other goals count for this one – two goals for one.
  7. Don’t buy any new books in 2022 either as hardcopy or ebook, unless I read the new book immediately.
    I don’t want to end up with more unread books in my personal library, but I also don’t want to do a no-book-buy year because I probably wouldn’t be able to stick with it. But this seems doable. I just have to make sure not to get seduced by cheap Kindle books.

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Those goals make up 48 books (or less, if the sixth goal is partly covered by the other goals). Last year I read 119 books and if that’s about the amount I’ll manage this year, that means more than half of my potential reads can be spontaneously decided upon. I want to make sure that these reads will be diverse in subject matter, genre and authors. I want to continue reading poetry and short stories, so I will keep an eye on what I’m reading apart from my explicit goals.

I want to keep track of my goals more regularly than I did last year and plan to check on my progress when I write my monthly reading reports.

That’s it for my reading goals. Now I have to check how I did on my general goals last year and what I want to do for those this year (if anything).

Keep safe, world.

The Bingo Palace

In October I read The Bingo Palace by Louise Erdrich, the 4th of her Love Medicine series. In it we meet a lot of the characters familiar from the earlier three novels, but the main character this time round is Lipsha Morrissey, the son of Gerry Nanapush, who is in jail for lots of (often trumped-up) charges, and June Morrissey, who committed suicide when Lipsha was still a baby. He’s also the grandson of Lulu Larmartine and the great-grandson of Fleur Pillager (who is by now very old, but still lives alone and is feared for her powers). Fleur appears to see Lipsha as a possible successor, but Lipsha is unsure of his own powers and terrified of Fleur (but maybe, just maybe, she will be his saviour when he is embroiled in a deeper scrape that his usual ones).

Bingo

Lipsha is a good-hearted person who is searching for his identity or aim in life. His chapters in the novel are told from his point-of-view in the first person. He’s a bit of a drifter. He has shamanic healing powers which he loses, at least for a time, because he uses them for gain. He’s also strangely lucky at gambling but not good at holding on to his winnings, as he (kind of naively) allows his uncle Lyman Lamartine to cheat him. Lyman and Lipsha have a complicated relationship. On the one hand, Lyman gives Lipsha a job, but on the other the two are rivals for the love of Shawnee Ray, who had an affair with Lyman that resulted in a baby.

Lipsha has a lot of funny (or tragically funny) mishaps which quite often take serendipitous turns. One time he’s on a vision quests involving a sweat lodge that goes horrifically (and hilariously) wrong due to an odiferous encounter with a skunk. But later, Lipsha does have interesting and revealing visions important for his self-knowledge.

Just as Lipsha’s life seems to be taking a turn for the better and Shawnee Ray is starting to return his love, he involves himself in the prison escape of his father Gerry. The two of them steal a car to escape from the police, but don’t notice that there’s a baby strapped into a car seat in the back. So Lispha ends up not only aiding an escaped convict, but also becomes an accessory in a kidnapping (even if inadvertently). He also ends up stranded with the baby in a white car in a blizzard in the middle of nowhere while his father takes off with the spirit of his dead mother. Odd, right?

There are a lot of supernatural or magical realist elements in the novel. Or maybe it’s all just a different way of looking at the world and interpreting events. It’s fascinating. As usual, there’s a community’s worth of characters and we get many vignettes about their lives. We learn some really terrible details about June’s childhood in one of the many flashbacks – I’m sure her terrible childhood was a contributing factor to her later suicide. All characters are well-realized in Erdrich’s novels, even those that have very small supporting roles. I enjoy that with each novel I learn more about so many characters and that minor characters in one novel may reappear as major characters in another. It’s like a jigsaw or a mosaic that’s getting more and more detailed and colourful. The novel is very open-ended. The reader doesn’t know what’s up with the supernatural elements, especially Gerry going off with Spirit-June and leaving Lipsha stranded in the snow. I hope the following books in the series provide more details about Lipsha’s future.

I especially enjoyed this novel, because Lipsha is such a likeable character. The Bingo Palace is the novel I like best of the series so far.

Keep safe, world.

September and October Reading

I read more in August than in September and October combined. I was busy with other stuff on most of the September weekends and as weekends are my main reading time, I naturally couldn’t read as much as I usually do. I’m lumping September in with October, which was a better reading month, but also not optimal. I was on vacation and did things with my family and only read a bit every now and then. Still, October was passable, as my vacation only took up the first half of the month. Here’s the list of books read:

 

Ongoing project:
Murasaki Shikibu and Royall Tyler (trsl.), The Tale of Genji.
I read a few pages, but not very many. I need to prioritize it in November and December to get through it this year.

Poetry:

  • Roger Lonsdale (ed.), Eighteenth-Century Women Poets.
    I’m about three-quarters done. Some of the poems in this anthology are very good. It’s a mixed bag, but no worse that poems by the more well-known male 18th century poets. I’m enjoying it.
  • Heinrich Detering (ed.), Reclams Buch der deutschen Gedichte.
    I continued reading this poetry collection in September (too unwieldy to take on vacation). I’m not yet done but should be done soon. I quite like my foray into German poetry.

Non-Fiction:

  • Robert Alter, The Pleasures of Reading in an Ideological Age.
    A short book that explains the elements of style that distinguish literature from other texts. I enjoyed it a lot.
  • Adrienne Rich, Essential Essays: Culture, Politics, and the Art of Poetry.
    This was a kind of companion to Rich’s Selected Poems that I read in April. Some of the essays were very good, others I  didn’t find particularly memorable.
  • Mitchell Zuckoff, Fall and Rise: The Story of 9/11.
    Inspired by the 20th anniversary of 9/11. A detailed look at what happened during the terrorist attacks, with a focus on people’s experiences. Terrible and moving.
  • Michael Schmidt, The Novel: A Biography.
    An amazing tome that I spent about three weeks reading.

Novels:

  • Laurie R. King, The Murder of Mary Russell.
    The 14th in the Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series. Not bad, but not one of my favourites.
  • Louise Erdrich, The Bingo Palace.
    The next novel in the Love Medicine series. It was great. My review is here.
  • Halldor Laxness, Fish Can Sing.
    The first book I’ve read by this author from Iceland, who won the Nobel Prize. I once had a Nordic phase, where I read all the Icelandic Sagas (very good) and I’ve always wanted to try a novel by Laxness. I enjoyed it a lot and am up for reading others by him.
  • Anthony Trollope, Phineas Finn.
    The second of Trollope’s Parliamentary series. I read the first one, Can You Forgive Her, last year but never got around to writing a review. I still remember it because it was great. This one had a slow start but improved in the second half. My only Victober read for this year.

Children’s Literature:

Jutta

  • Helga Marten, Juttas großer Tag (German for Jutta’s Big Day).
    I found this one, which used to be a great favourite during my childhood, while I was sorting boxes of old books to get rid of. I reread it, still mostly liked it, and kept it for nostalgic reasons.
  • Robert O’Brien, The Silver Crown.
    Also one of the books I discovered, reread and kept. A classic fantasy story
  • Michelle Magorian, Goodnight Mister Tom and Back Home.
    Two books set in or just after WWII in the UK. The first is about a young boy sent to the country for safety, the second about a young girl just returned from America, where she had been sent during the war and the difficulties she faced on her return. An awful depiction of boarding school life – quite the anti-Blyton version. Both books were good reads.

I plan to write more detailed reviews for most of these books, so I didn’t go into much detail in this list. I’m rather behind with my reviews. As I only did one post in October, I haven’t managed to review the books I read in August. This will give me lots of topics to write about this month when I’m planning a post per day, to get back into the groove and catch up on things. I managed it last year and hope to manage it this year too – as I said before, it’s my NaNoWriMo project.

Keep safe, world.

Tracks

This novel by Louise Erdrich is the third in the Love Medicine series, after Love Medicine and The Beet Queen. I very much enjoyed this third novel of the series. I’m loving how with each novel one gets more and more pieces of the puzzle that shows the lives of all these diverse people, whether Native American, white, or of both cultures. My review contains spoilers (although the novel is very full of all sorts of themes and I can’t possibly touch on all of them).

Tracks

The novel is set on Native American land around the town Argus (which is familiar from the other novels in the series). We also meet characters that we met before. It’s about the years 1912 to 1924 and, as usual for this series, the novel contains episodes in the lives of many characters (like a colourful patchwork). In this case is the main story is about the early years of Fleur Pillager (from 17 to 27). At 17, Fleur is the last survivor of her family, whose members all died of an infectious disease along with many other Native Americans on the reservation. I’m not sure what disease it was, maybe pneumonia? It seems to have been a disease of the lungs. Fleur is unofficially adopted by Nanapush, an older man of around 50+ years, also the only survivor of his family. Nanapush is the grandfather (by adoption) of Fleur’s daughter Lulu (who played a role in Love Medicine) and he is one of the two narrators of the story. He tells Lulu Fleur’s story to stop her from marrying into a disreputable family (so he’s telling the story of the years 1912 to 1924 at some unspecified later time when Lulu, who was born in 1914, is grown up) and to get her to reconcile with her mother. Nanapush tells Fleur’s story as someone who loves her, but we also get the story from the second narrator, Paulina Puyat, who has a love-hate relationship with Fleur. The two narrators tell the story in alternating chapters. In a way, Paulina is Fleur’s counterpart, and also a main character. We learn how she turns into the severe, almost hellish nun Leopolda (who also turns up in various novels). She is a hateful character but also pitiable.

Paulina loses her family, too, but it’s not clear if they died or abandoned her. She left them to move in with an aunt in Argus, because she wanted to learn the ways of white people, and especially to learn lace-making from the town’s nuns. It didn’t work out and when she returned to the reservation, her family was gone. She was only 15 or thereabouts.

From the beginning of the novel, we learn that Fleur isspecial. She is feared for her malignant powers (which at least partly seems like malicious gossip and superstition). There is something mythic about her. Her entire family was apparently dangerous to cross even when dead.

When Paulina and Fleur were in Argus, they worked at the Kozkas’ butcher shop (which played a large role in The Beet Queen). Fleur won quite a bit of money at poker from three men who also worked at the butcher’s. These men felt aggrieved at Fleur and one night, when the Kotzkas were away, they decided to punish her by raping her. Paulina witnessed the rape and was seen by Fleur but felt unable to help. This soured their relationship. Later on, though, during a tornado, Pauline caused the death of two of the men by locking them into a cold storage room in which they had sought to escape the storm. They froze to death, which preyed on Paulina’s mind.

Both Fleur and Paulina return to the reservation, where Fleur, who is pregnant, gets into a relationship with Eli Kashpaw, who may or may not be Lulu’s father. Fleur and Eli live in a fairly traditional way and form a loving family but struggle to pay the taxes on their land allotment. Paulina moves in with the Morrissey family, has an rather brutal affair with Napoleon Morrissey, and bears an unloved child, Marie Lazarre (whom we know from Love Medicine). She turns to the Christian religion and tries to gain some kind of recognition by turning herself into a saint by mortification of the flesh, that is, by trying follow in Christ’s footsteps through suffering. She is exceedingly self-righteous but also lonely and adrift. She can’t seem to stay away from Fleur and her family, and often tries to harm them with plots and machinations, some of which are at least somewhat successful. At length, she renounces her Native America past, murders Napoleon, and turns herself into the nun Leopolda (a fearsome and unloving person). Her religiosity seems born of hate and jealousy, not love.

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Fleur in the meantime can’t keep up her relationship with Eli and can’t keep her land. Both she and Nanapush are swindled by the machinations of Eli’s mother and the land agent. Also, the laws are against them. These are people needing government support to survive famines and are still required to pay taxes in order to keep their land. Other families from their reservation and white farmers buy up the lost land and chop down the woods in which Fleur lived. She has to give up Lulu to keep her safe (she sent her to government boarding school or at least didn’t prevent her being taken away). In the end, Fleur takes to the road as a travelling trader in homemade remedies and other things (in The Beet Queen she’s the one who saved Karl Adaire when he fell off the train).

This book, after the more light-hearted Beet Queen, is bleaker. All the tracks seem to lead nowhere or into an uncertain future. Fleur’s way, the Native American way of life, seems incompatible with the times, so that she can’t keep her land or her family. Other Native American families fall prey to alcoholism or buy up the land (if it isn’t taken over by white people). There is envy for successful families. Many families are in more or less serious feuds with other families on the reservation. There doesn’t seem to be a concerted community effort to fight against the loss of tradition and land. Even within families people follow different tracks or ways of life. Regina’s way is to follows all the negative parts of Christianity with none of the good. Fleur turns into a travelling trader and we don’t learn what exactly becomes of her. Nanapush manages to come to an arrangement with his circumstances. At one point he goes into politics so that he can save Lulu from having to live at the government boarding school. Lulu remains estranged from Fleur. Nanapush’s storytelling is aimed at getting her to reconcile with Fleur but it remains open if he is successful.

I hope some of the character’s stories will be taken up in the following novels of the series which I am looking forward to reading.

Keep safe world.

Strange Dreams

I planned to start my day as early as on a normal workday on this my free Friday, but the alarm woke me out of deep sleep and disrupted an interesting dream. Like most people (I guess) I only remember my dreams if wake up during the dream or straight afterwards. This dream was a sci-fi apocalypse. A weird explosion on a planet far away was mirrored in the sky of my own planet (could have been Earth, maybe Iceland – why Iceland? Beats me). The image in the sky was the signal for the end of the world. Society fell apart. In the dream I was a teenager, hiding from a mob of looters with a gang of children. We made it away from the looters into a prosperous neighbourhood where nobody had yet an inkling a horde of looters was about to engulf them. In the back of my dreaming mind was the thought that the explosion on the far-away planet could be undone, as there was a time manipulation element to the situation. Then, alas, the alarm woke me, and I don’t know how the dream would have played out. Maybe one of these nights it will resume.

Anyhow, I was still so sleepy that I reset the alarm to give me another 30 minutes, which grew to 45 minutes because I didn’t hear the second alarm. But it didn’t really matter because: Friday. No office on Friday.

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The morning walk with Curious Dog was very pleasant. It was cold, but sunny and promising real warmth later. We’re having beautiful early fall weather. But it was cold enough that I had my first experience of “frozen ears”. For some weird reason my ears are quite sensitive to cold. I’m going to try wearing a light woolen hat tomorrow morning (that will probably be overkill). Today it was only ca. 7°C. It’s cold in the mornings because the nights are clear, there’s no cloud cover.

I meant to get up early to have time to bring some old books and crockery to the Caritas Secondhand shop in the nearest bigger town and go grocery shopping and take the garden rubbish to the local collection point. But I changed my mind about the Secondhand shop. The old books are not in good enough shape, I think, and they are mostly nothing special. It’s probably better to throw most of them into the paper recycling bin. They are from my grandma and are quite musty and mildewy. Only a few are worth keeping or selling. And getting rid of the crockery isn’t urgent. Mum wants to have my cousin look at it when she visits in October. Maybe she’ll be happy to have some of it.

I spent a relaxed afternoon rereading Louise Erdrich’s Tracks. I finished the first read on Thursday, but it’s so good and so dense, I felt it needed another read before I can write a review. It’s only slightly longer than 200 pages but there’s a lot of plot and character development in those pages. Many passages with important info easy to miss on a first reading. Although I often reread books, I don’t usually reread straight after finishing one. This novel is still engrossing on the second read.

I made the mistake of looking at my work emails and found that an issue that was supposed to have been running smoothly has suddenly exploded into a gruesome mess requiring a horrid escalation meeting next Monday. Involving inter-departmental politics. Sigh. That particular issue was already escalated a month ago and should have been solved but has somehow popped up again. Not exactly a great start for next week. But at least there’s still the weekend between now and Monday.

Keep safe, world.

August Reading

Despite my busy weekends in the latter half of August, I did read quite a lot.

Ongoing project:

Murasaki Shikibu and Royall Tyler (trsl.), The Tale of Genji.
I’m half-way through this amazing book. It is very strange in places (I will write a review when I’m done which will probably not be before the end of the year).

Poetry:

  • Heinrich Detering (ed.), Reclams Buch der deutschen Gedichte.
    A big two-volume anthology of German poetry from the Middle ages to modern times. I’ve the finished the first volume and might be able to finish the second volume in September. It’s good.
  • Robert Pinsky, Singing School: Learning to Write (and Read) Poetry by Studying with the Masters.
    I’ve had this poetry collection since October 2014 and have started reading it when I didn’t want to drag the bulky German anthology around on my trips. It’s also very enjoyable.

Short Stories:

Alas, no short stories read.

Non-Fiction:

  • Gavin Maxwell, Ring of Bright Water Trilogy.
    A very interesting memoir about an eccentric English aristocrat’s life with otters. Sometimes idyllic, sometimes very depressing. Quite amazing. I still plan to write a review.
  • Douglas Botting, Gavin Maxwell: A Life.
    As I found Maxwell’s memoir so interesting, I fancied an outside look at his life. I’m only half-way through but am enjoying it so far – I couldn’t finish it, because I forgot my tablet at home and don’t want to read it on my small smartphone screen.
  • Mason Currey, Daily Rituals: Women at Work.
    Lots of vignettes about how creative women organize their work, quite interesting. I reviewed it.
  • Jose Arce, Liebe Deinen Hund.
    A German book about how to maximize the enjoyment both dog and human get on their daily walks. Gave me some tips on how to get my dog to stop pulling on his leash (well, basically it said “be patient and calm under all circumstances”). Easier said than done but I quite liked it. Not sure if it will help, because Curious Dog is just a really excited when he’s outside and then he pulls (especially in strange places). But I try my best and sometimes it works better than other times. But we do enjoy our walks (on the normal ones he usually stops pulling after a while).

Herondale

Novels:

  • Laurie R. King, Pirate King and Garment of Shadows and Dreaming Spies.
    Installments 11-13 of the Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series. As usual, I liked them a lot and will write a review soon.
  • Christopher Morley, Parnassus on Wheels and The Haunted Bookshop.
    Two short novellas about secondhand book shops (the first one about a traveling horse-drawn one – very cosy, with a love-story). The second one I didn’t like as much, but it was also not bad. A bit old-fashioned (which I don’t mind). A crime/spy novel, also with a love-story and a nasty German villain. Somewhat clichéd.
  • Joan Aiken, Eliza’s Daughter, Castle Barebane, The Silence of Herondale and Foul Matter.
    I love most things written by Joan Aiken and will definitively write a post about these.
  • Andy Weir, Project Hail Mary.
    A great read, reviewed here.
  • Shari Lapena, The Couple Next Door.
    About which I ranted here.
  • Louise Erdrich, Tracks.
    The next book in my Erdrich series – very good, but I’ve only read half so far.

A good reading month was August.

Keep safe, world.

The Beet Queen (and Stuff)

This novel is the second in Louise Erdrich’s Love Medicine series. There are eight novels in the series and one of my reading goals for 2021 is to read all of them. It’s already June and I’ve only read two – I’d better get a move on. I enjoyed this novel as much as I did the first one, Love Medicine.

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The Beet Queen is set in the same universe, with at least two characters who also appear in the first novel (Eli Kashpaw, a minor character in this novel, and Dot Adare). The novel tells the stories of the major characters from the 1930s until the early 1970s. You could say that there’s a trio of women at the heart of the novel, Mary Adare, Sita Kozka, and Celestine James. Mary and Sita are cousins, Celestine is their friend. The reader sees them from their own and other’s perspectives (this is also the case for other characters – the cast is again quite large, involving at least three families).

The novel starts out with the death of “Mr. Ober” with whom Adelaide Adare lives as his mistress. They have three children, Karl, Mary and Jude (who is born after Mr. Ober’s death). When Mr. Ober dies in a freak accident, Adelaide and her children lose their home and their provider. They try to keep their heads above water by selling their valuables, but that doesn’t work for long. Adelaide is unable to cope and weirdly leaves her children at a fairground. She flies off with a pilot, Omar, who’s giving rides in his small aeroplane. The baby is kidnapped by a young man who wants him for his wife, as they recently lost their baby. Mary and Karl are left behind and decide to find their aunt Fritzie, Adelaide’s sister. They ride on a freight train as hitchhikers to the town where Fritzie lives, but before they get to her house, Karl and Mary are separated.

Karl returns to the train and lives with various people for a time until he finally ends up in a Catholic school for orphans. Later he turns into an itinerant salesman. He has affairs with lots of people, both women and men.
Mary is taken in by her aunt and uncle who own a butcher’s shop. She makes herself indispensable and eventually takes over the shop. Her cousin Sita is jealous of Mary (although she is not interested in the shop). She introduces Mary to Celestine James, her best friend, and is then jealous again, when the two also become friends.

The novel is episodic, jumping in chronological order from one character’s story to the next. Their lives are sometimes mundane, sometimes comic, sometimes tragic. Later in the novel, Celestine has a short affair and marriage with Karl (who, however, soon departs again) and has a daughter, Wallacette “Dot” Adare. Wallacette is named after Wallace Pfef, who saved Celestine’s life and helped with the birth during a snowstorm. Wallace also had an affair with Karl. Soon Mary’s and Celestine’s as well as Wallace’s lives revolve around Dot, whom they spoil rotten (at least, from their perspective). We only get one chapter, the last one, from Dot’s point-of-view, which, however, gives us a much more sympathetic view of her character.

The novel again creates a web of people and circumstances. I think it’s funnier than I remember Love Medicine being. Especially the last section that deals with the Sugar Beet Festival organized by Wallace Pfef, who manipulates the votes for the Sugar Beet Queen so that Dot, who otherwise wouldn’t stand a chance, is selected. He thinks this will build her self-confidence (talk about good intentions…). It turns into a terribly embarrassing (though quite funny) failure and Dot’s chapter explains all the horrific and funny circumstances from her point-of-view, which is quite different from the other characters’ view of her. All the main characters come together for the festival; one of them doesn’t survive – darkly funny.

As I said, I really enjoyed the novel, on the same level as Love Medicine, they are both very good.

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I wrote this post yesterday and finished the Word version (I always write my post ins Word first), but then never got around to posting. Work is currently totally stressful because everything is in panic mode as all sorts of things aren’t working. I spend half my days coming up with workarounds and analyzing issues with my colleagues and am then totally exhausted for the rest of my work hours (not to mention all the meetings the situation triggers).

My Partner is still at his place, trying to find out what to do about the optic fibre cable that his house is supposed to be hooked up to for improved internet access. The builders either turn up when he’s not home or say they will come around on a certain day and then never show up, and now apparently a new company is responsible, for which Partner hasn’t got any contact info (yet, hopefully). Now he’s trying to find someone responsible for the planning with local administration – good luck with that. He’s not here and I miss him. It also means that I have to do the cooking, grocery shopping and dog walks by myself in addition to work. Partner usually cooks on workdays and having to do it myself is a pain (though Mum helps). And yesterday I also had to clean up the basement room where the oil tank and furnace lives, as I got this year’s oil delivery today. I didn’t want the poor delivery guy to have to battle his way through lots of spider webs around the one window which is the entry point for the oil hose. I was finished with all that stuff by 9:00 p.m. yesterday but then couldn’t face any more time at my desk to post.

We’ve been having rather violent thunderstorms at night for the last couple of day. Mum and I left Bavaria for my place on Sunday morning, and luckily only had a bit of rain on the way. The storms and the rain have ended the heat wave and we are now back to a pleasant 20°C to 26°C for the next few days (as predicted, hope the prediction comes true). Much more to my taste, and better for Curious Dog too. Last week we went for our afternoon walk in the early evening when the sun had disappeared behind the hills on the horizon. It was much too hot earlier. I hope our place in Bavaria wasn’t too badly hit by the storms, but I guess if the roof had been blown off (or something else awful had happened) our neighbours would have called. It’s quite nerve-wracking watching the storm fronts on my weather app and wondering what’s happening in reality.

Keep safe, world.

May Reading

This morning I felt a bit of Weltschmerz. Memento mori and all that … what’s the point of reading or anything really when it all ends in death? I think I was feeling gloomy because Partner isn’t here, but sometimes I just have these sad feelings. However, they went away when I got up, showered and had breakfast and especially during my lovely walk with Curious Dog. CD is the best and the sun was shining, the birds twittering, the flowers in the fields, the crisp morning air… It made me feel thankful and glad to be alive. The point of life is loving-kindness (I think).

Anyway, here’s the list of books I read in May. Most of them I’ve already posted about (a rather astonishing feat of efficiency that I hope to be able to keep up – sometimes I wait so long to post my reviews that I start forgetting the details).

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Ongoing project:

Murasaki Shikibu and Royall Tyler (trsl.), The Tale of Genji.
I’ve managed to catch up. It’s very good, although also very strange. Eventually, I’ll write about the reading experience. I’m glad my friend and I chose this classic to read.

Poetry:

  • Mary Oliver, Dog Songs.
    A lovely little illustrated volume of poetry celebrating the author’s dogs. This one I haven’t managed to post about yet, but it’s on my to-do list. If you like poetry and dogs, it’s for you!
  • Tim Kendall (ed.), Poetry of the First World War.
    A very good selection, with some biographical information about each poet and a good introduction. Due to the subject matter, the poems can be very brutal. They really show up the horrors of war, but also the fleeting joy that is sometimes found in unlikely places. I’m glad I read it.
  • Heinrich Detering (ed.), Reclams Buch der deutschen Gedichte.
    A big two-volume anthology of German poetry from the Middle ages to modern times. I’ve only read a bit of the first volume and find it very interesting.

Short Stories:

Robert L. Mack, Arabian Nights’ Entertainments.
Not really short stories, more like folk or fairy tales, but they are good. I’m a little more than half-way through.

Non-Fiction:

  • Audre Lorde, Zami: A New Spelling of My Name: A Biomythography.
    See my review.
  • C. S. Lewis, An Experiment in Criticism.
    See my review.
  • John Bayley, Elegy for Iris.
    See my review.

These three books were all very good in their own way.

Novels:

  • Sally Wright:
    • Watches of the Night.
    • Code of Silence.
    • Breeding Ground.
      See my review. I liked these crime novels. They were a good read and I went on a small binge.
  • Laurie King, The Game.
    See my review. I’ve now reread the first seven novels of the Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series. Soon I’ll get to ones that I haven’t read yet (but the next couple or so will still be rereads). Also a very good series.
  • Ellery Queen, The Glass Village.
    See my review – an unexpected good read.
  • Louise Erdrich, The Beet Queen.
    Read last weekend, the review is still pending. I enjoyed it a lot.

May was a great reading month. I read a lot, probably due to the couple of long weekends we had, with the public holiday before Whitsun and then Whitsun (or Pentecost) itself. Lots of time for reading and the weather was pretty bad, too. It was nice to hunker down cozily with a hot cup of tea or cocoa laced with rum and read crime and other books. Probably won’t get round to so many books in June, but it’s early yet.

Keep safe, world.

Monday Miscellanea

Mum and I spent last Friday gardening. Partner also pitched in. First, Mum and I took a trip to one of the towns I used to pass through on my commute (which, by the way I am not missing in the slightest) to shop for some plants for my small patio and garden. We came away with a small raised bed and some herbs: chives, parsley, oregano, peppermint, and rosemary. Partner and I assembled the wooden raised bed. I lined it with a thin gardening fabric (to protect the wood and prevent clods of earth falling through the slats on the bottom). We added a layer of shards of broken clay pots to help with drainage and then filled the beds up with earth, about 50 l worth. Then Mum planted the herbs. We’re hoping that the container of the raised bed is large enough that it won’t dry out during the 10 days per month when we are in Bavaria. It’s looking so well that I’m going to pick up another one of those bed so that we can plant some more herbs and other plants. We also got Mandevilla (because it also survives not being watered for a few days) for the patio. This one with pink instead of red flowers (the one we got for our grave plot last time in Bavaria). Last year we had a lovely white one for the patio, I hope this one will also grow as nicely.

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The Clematis that I planted more than a year ago (can’t remember when I planted it, it’s so long ago) has actually got one lovely blossom and another one will be blooming soon. If I remember correctly, the plant is supposed to keep blooming until late in the year, so I’m hoping for a many more flowers.

As indicated by all the gardening activities, the weather has been much better since the weekend. Temperatures climbed above the 20°C mark and it is now very pleasant. I hope this doesn’t mean that we won’t have any more rain for the rest of the summer. I’ll soon need to postpone Curious Dog’s afternoon walks to the evenings, as it will be getting too hot.

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Otherwise the weekend was much as usual. We went for long leisurely walks with Curious Dog though the wood and fields. Still quite damp in the woods, but that’s all for the best. Partner and I watched a few more episodes of The Underground Railroad. We are now at the half-way mark. It’s very dark, but powerful. And we watched the next episode of The Bad Batch. There was no new Tatort episode on Sunday, but the Polizeiruf 110 (also a crime series) was very good. Kind of strange, but good. The murderer wasn’t caught in the episode, but it seems that they will appear in other episodes. This one was set in the town of Halle, (in the German state Saxony-Anhalt) with a new pair of police detectives. An older one, divorced, with an alcohol problem, a younger one (an ex-nurse), with a family, three kids, the wife and his retired father-in-law who also appears to have been a detective. They didn’t find the murderer they were looking for, but they discovered a trio of deadbeats who’d tried to get rid of the body of one of their friends who had accidentally electrocuted himself while trying to fiddle illegally with the electricity mains in their run-down house. The two detectives seem to be a congenial pair and I plan to watch future episodes.

We did a lot of cooking, too. That is, I did the grocery shopping, some cleaning, and some laundry (the usual) while Partner did most of the cooking. We had asparagus again, as we love it and it’s in season, with boiled potatoes and a soy-yoghurt sauce. Simple, but good. Partner also made a rhubarb cake and a plain sweet loaf which he left for Mum and me to finish up. He’s returned to his place because there’s currently optical fibre cable being installed in his road and the workers will need to access his house. Not sure when exactly this will happen, so I’m not sure when he’ll be back. A pain. I don’t mind being without Partner in Bavaria, because I’m used to it (and he does have to check up on his old family home as Mum and I have to check up on ours), but I miss him when we’re here and he’s not. It’s weird without him. If he’s still away on Thursday, I may take the opportunity to resort and clean the bookshelves in his office. We just dumped the books on the shelves when we moved in three years ago. I resorted a couple of shelves a while ago, but most of them are still an unsorted mess.

I also did some reading on the weekend. I read some more of the poems in my German poetry anthology (I am now done with Middle High German and up to more modern German that doesn’t need translation). I also read Louise Erdrich’s The Beet Queen, which I liked a lot and will write a post about (later this week, I hope). And I’ve almost caught up with The Tale of Genji, my year-long reading project with a friend. Today, by coincidence I found that I’d missed the publication of a new Murderbot novella (by Martha Well). One of my favourite sci-fi series and I missed the new one! It’s called Fugitive Telemetry and I’m not sure if I should download it tonight and inevitably stay up late reading it or if I should save it up for Thursday. I believe I’ll take the latter option. A treat for the long weekend (as Thursday is a public holiday hereabouts).

Work is still quiet, as it is still vacation period (Whitsun school holidays) and colleagues are out of the office. I’m trying up some loose ends and taking it easy, but things will pick up again next week. I’m already organizing and planning my next tasks and will break everything down into a weekly schedule, so that I can get started next Monday. I need to do a thorough update of four documents and finalize two projects by August, and all sorts of minor additional tasks. The summer month will (as usual) be busy, but hopefully good planning will lessen the pain.

Keep safe, world.

Tuesday Tidbits

Yesterday I tried to go on Curious Dog’s afternoon walk twice and each time we had to turn back because of rain. The second time it even started thundering. We are in Bavaria, and the weather has been very changeable. I hoped it would clear up later in the afternoon, as I was planning to take Curious Dog to his dog school for the first time since October. But it didn’t. We got quite wet, as dog school is outdoors. But it was still fun. Otherwise, we’ve had some very pleasant walks in the woods, where all the beech trees are covered in bright shining new green leaves.

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We drove down last week on Thursday, which was a public holiday, Christ’s Ascension. Nice, because there wasn’t a lot of traffic and I didn’t have to work on Friday to make up for Thursday. That made for a weekend long and lovely. The drive was a bit of a pain, though. I’d know from last time that our normal exit off the Autobahn was closed for roadworks, and that the diversion was also going to be closed (with yet another diversion). I thought I’d leave the Autobahn at an entirely different exit and approach my usual route by other roads from a different direction. That was the plan, but there were roadworks on that route as well. I was diverted to the diversion from last time, which diverted to very small and winding country roads. Very scenic, but slow. Luckily, almost no traffic, but it probably would have been dire on a normal workday, because you had to slow down to 30 km/h in all the small villages, and they all had temporary pedestrian crossings with traffic lights installed in their main through roads. We’ll be driving back next Sunday, so that should also be fine, but I’ll have to think of a better route for June’s drive.

Our neighbours with Corona came through it and are now recuperating. The husband got pneumonia to go with it and had to go to hospital for 10 days. They have to take it easy but are doing well. Mum and I are very relieved and thankful.

Our garden is very green and very overgrown. The lawn is terrible – lots of tall grasses on the sides, lots of dandelion stalks and other stuff that I’ll have to cut by hand, because the lawnmower will only bend all the stalks and not cut them. I should have started doing this on the weekend when we had quite a few sunny hours in among the showers. As usual, I was too lazy. I’m hoping to get started during my lunch breaks this week, if it isn’t raining (but so far, no go). If I do a bit every day, it won’t be such a pain. All the bushes we planted last year, the Juneberry and the small red hedge bushes, have survived and grown lots of new leaves. And the small apple tree actually has blossoms. It’ll be interesting to see if it will already grow apples. If it does, I’ll have to prop up the skinny branches, as they don’t look strong enough to bear the weight. The small Korean fir tree is still looking rather sickly and loosing needles, although some (but not many) new buds are also sprouting. Not sure if it will survive. It was too dry in the last few summers. Our huge rosemary bush definitively didn’t survive the freezing winter. We’re planning a trip to a garden centre this week, as they are open (Corona counts are improving again). Maybe we’ll get some new plants. Hardy ones, that survive not being regularly watered in Summer.

E_Queen

I took a few of the books I’m currently reading with me, Arabian Nights, The Tale of Genji, The Beet Queen… all literary ones that I want get ahead with, but when we arrived after lunch on Thursday, I was too tired from the drive and needed something easier on my brain. I found an old Ellery Queen Penguin Crime novel that belonged to my brother. I spent the rest of the day reading it: The Glass Village. One of the few standalone crime novels by the authors. “Ellery Queen” is both the pseudonym of the authors, Frederic Dannay and Manfred Bennington Lee, and the name of one of their main characters. This used to confuse me as a teenager, when I remember reading some of the Ellery Queen books. However, this one doesn’t feature Ellery Queen as a character. The main protagonist is one Johnny Shinn, a cynical and bored ex-soldier who worked for Military Intelligence in the Korean War and doesn’t know what to do with himself after the war. He’s visiting his uncle, a judge, in their ancestral New England village. The village in the 1950s is very run-down and only a handful of families remain. Most of them are quite nasty and definitively not welcoming to strangers, although Johnny is accepted, because of his uncle and his family’s roots in the village. During their stay, the nicest character in the village, Aunt Fanny Adams, a well-to-do famous painter, is brutally murdered and the only suspect (in the eyes of the villagers) is a tramp, a poor Polish immigrant. The villagers first hunt him down, mistreat him, and then refuse to give him up to the law. They think they won’t get justice if they don’t try the “foreigner” themselves. To prevent bloodshed and gain time, the judge sets up a fake court, complete with jury, prosecution, and defense. Johnny has to join the jury, as otherwise there aren’t enough jurors. During the fake court case, the alibis of all the villagers are scrutinized and eventually, the truth is found out.

The novel really gripped me. I thought it would be mildly amusing, but it’s very well made and thought-provoking. The great majority of the villagers were a closed-minded, bigoted, violent lot, very reminiscent of the extremists we see in our modern political landscape. Not inclined to adhere to any laws except those they bent to their purposes, not interested in listening to other points of view, definitively not inclined to be merciful. Only at the end, when it became indisputable that the tramp wasn’t the murderer, did they show any remorse (at least they did show remorse – that’s something that’s uncommon with modern bigots). I think the novel is called The Glass Village, because all the hidden lives of the villagers come to light during the fake court case. Or maybe it’s also about not throwing stones when one is living in a glass house – meaning it wasn’t the tramp, but rather one of their own who was the murderer.

I spent a lot of time reading on the weekend, including some of the Tale of Genji, but mostly other crime novels. That’s a post for another day.

Keep safe, world.