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Billypar

Billypar

Joined February 2017

blurb
Billypar
The Giving Tree | Shel Silverstein
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Liz_M Fabulous! 1w
RaeLovesToRead 😆🤣🤣 1w
28 likes2 comments
review
Billypar
Harbor | John Ajvide Lindqvist
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Mehso-so

A Halloween read about a missing girl and a nameless, watery horror terrorizing a tiny island town. Lindqvist is compared to Stephen King in eight blurbs, and although I haven't read enough King to judge the accuracy, it has a King-ish length of 500 pages. I would have enjoyed a shorter version more: the problem for me was all the flashbacks ruined the forward momentum. But the writing is excellent - it cultivates a great, haunted atmosphere.

Billypar I also want to introduce the two distractions to my reading and Litsy posts of late: their names are Jem and Scout, brothers who are 3.5 months old. You will likely be seeing more of them 😺😺 #catsoflitsy 2w
JenReadsAlot Cute! 2w
Amiable So much cuteness!! 😻😻 2w
See All 12 Comments
DrexEdit So cute! Terrific names! 😻 2w
Liz_M Hello, boys! 😻 😻 2w
squirrelbrain Aw, little cuties! And love their names…. 😻😻 2w
Cathythoughts I love Jem & Scout … how exciting & looks like double trouble 😁🥰 (edited) 2w
vivastory Furry distractions! 😻 😸 2w
Leftcoastzen WooHoo ! Reading buddies ! 😻😻 2w
LeahBergen Hello, Jem and Scout!! ❤️❤️ 2w
AlaMich Adorable mayhem in store for you! 😻😻 2w
Suet624 What fun! Thanks for introducing them. 💕 2w
35 likes12 comments
blurb
Billypar
They Have Fired Her Again | Claudia Hernndez
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@shawnmooney has a great new Booktube program I would recommend: "Bite-sized Book Chats". Shawn has a short conversation with four readers and talks with them about a book they recently read in fun half-hour episodes. They are great for expanding your TBR further via recommendations from readers around the world. I was excited to speak with Shawn in the most recent episode about the tagged book. Check it out here: https://youtu.be/TFC7mIg53Z4

shawnmooney You were a fantastic guest and I‘m really looking forward to you coming back on again! 1mo
vivastory I've been enjoying these episodes! Looking forward to watching this one later today 1mo
TrishB I‘ll be watching over the weekend 👍🏻 1mo
See All 17 Comments
Cathythoughts Really enjoyed Vinny & Shawn .. book sounds good. I am a fan of magical realism… loved your description of this book Vinny , and loved listening to you talk about it . Well done 👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻.. I‘m stacking 1mo
batsy Fun! I'll also be making time for this over the weekend 👌🏾 1mo
Billypar @shawnmooney Thanks and likewise! 🙂 1mo
Billypar Excellent - hope you enjoy it @vivastory @TrishB @batsy ! 1mo
Billypar Glad you liked it @Cathythoughts ! The book is a real headtrip - not even like other magical realist stuff I've read. I'd love to hear your thoughts if you pick it up. 1mo
Reggie Told almost in dialogue but not from the MC lol, that sounds fascinating and challenging. Great talk, Vinny. (edited) 1mo
LeahBergen Wonderful! 👏🏻👏🏻 I can‘t wait to watch! 1mo
Billypar @Reggie Yeah, it was a bold choice - I wish I read widely enough to have another novel to compare it to, but I haven't read anything else like it. 1mo
Billypar @LeahBergen Hope you enjoy! 🙂 1mo
Lindy Well done! You sold me on 1mo
Billypar @Lindy I hope you like it if you pick it up! It is a challenge, but it helps that it's novella length and not 700 pages. 1mo
Lindy @Billypar I will @ you when I read it… if I remember … it might be a while before I get to it. 😊 (edited) 1mo
Centique It was lovely to see you recommending books in person Vinny! You sold me on this one too (although who knows when I‘ll get to it, my TBR is toppling) Hope you are well xx 2w
Billypar @Centique Thanks Paula - and likewise for Episode 14! You also sold me on a book, but it was actually The Imaginary Lives of James Poneke - I immediately added to my own toppling TBR 🙂 2w
34 likes1 stack add17 comments
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Billypar
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This is definitely resonating now that the summer weather is on the verge of disappearing.

BkClubCare Such a wonderful story! 1mo
Cathythoughts Great quote! Brilliant book that I must reread 1mo
30 likes2 comments
review
Billypar
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Pickpick

My favorite mysteries are the weird ones. Why have a detective investigate when it could be an elderly woman who takes care of her neighbor's homes during the brutal winters of a remote Polish town? And one who loves astrology, prefers animals to people, gives others names like Oddball or The Gray Lady, and obsesses over William Blake. That's Janina and she's on the case when her neighbor 'Bigfoot' turns up dead. Lively, dark comic perfection.

sarahbarnes Loved this one! 1mo
batsy Nice review and photo 💀 1mo
Cathythoughts Great review! I loved this book too 1mo
See All 11 Comments
BarbaraBB A favorite of mine too 🤍 1mo
Billypar @batsy Thanks! I read this months ago but it worked out that the photo fits with the season ☠☠☠ 1mo
Billypar @sarahbarnes @Cathythoughts @BarbaraBB Glad you all enjoyed this as much as I did! Some who reviewed the book seemed disappointed that it was too easy to guess the murderer, but I think Tokarczuk wants it that way: there are more pleasures in a good mystery than just being surprised by the reveal. 1mo
vivastory I agree about the best mysteries being the weird ones. Did you read Moshfegh's Death in Her Hands? I thought it was similar, although I preferred Tokarczuk 1mo
BarbaraBB I agree with @vivastory that it reminded me of the Moshfegh, which I loved too. In both books the murder is not the point I think. (edited) 1mo
Billypar @vivastory @BarbaraBB I haven't read Death in Her Hands yet, but it's on my shelf - I'm very much looking forward to it. I had a similar experience reading Eileen as Drive Your Plow in that both had first person narrators with a distinct and memorable voice. 1mo
BarbaraBB If you liked Eileen you‘ll probably love Death in her Hands. I certainly hope so! 1mo
Brimful I loved this book! 2w
42 likes2 stack adds11 comments
review
Billypar
The Slynx | Tatyana Tolstaya
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Pickpick

There's a lot that could be said about a post-apocalyptic novel set in a Russia populated by a society of mutants who subsist on mice and are raised to fear books and a mysterious creature who steals your sanity. But my favorite thing was how Tolstaya created a novel of ideas that still lets itself get carried away by poetic descriptions, no matter how weird things get. I was happy not understanding everything and just hanging on as a passenger.

vivastory I have to admit that I'm really happy you read this one. This seemed like one you would like. I liked this just as much the second time around. I think that you will also dig the October selection. 2mo
Billypar @vivastory Yeah, definitely my kind of novel! Seems like a great one to reread too and maybe appreciate more things you miss the first time. 2mo
See All 9 Comments
batsy I like your description of it being a novel of ideas that still lets itself get carried away by poetic descriptions. I might have liked it less than I expected to, but it's challenging in a thoroughly memorable way. 2mo
youneverarrived You describe it perfectly! Have to admit I think part of the reason I didn‘t gel with it at first was because I didn‘t understand what was going on. Only after reading reviews etc did I really appreciate it. 2mo
Billypar @batsy Yeah, I don't always love satire, but I think the poetic parts and the complexity gave it the right proportions. It didn't feel like Tolstaya was winking at the same joke for the whole novel: it was constantly in motion. 2mo
Billypar @youneverarrived I'm still tempted to flip back through to certain scenes and try to get a better handle on some things. There was that one chapter with Nikita Ivanich, Lev Lvovich, and Benedikt where it seems like they were discussing important stuff thematically, but it gets so crazy and ends with them singing songs, so my tired brain didn't want to make sense of it at the time 😅 2mo
Cathythoughts 😱😱😱 2mo
youneverarrived 😂 yeah I totally get that! 2mo
35 likes9 comments
review
Billypar
They Have Fired Her Again | Claudia Hernndez
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Pickpick

There's a lot packed into the less than 100 pages of this novella. The story of an undocumented Salvadoran immigrant in New York is told through the voices of everyone she encounters: her aunt, cousin, co-workers at the series of jobs she works, and...a stone wolf, crystalline dog, motmot bird...you know, the usual NYC crowd. A transfixing story told almost entirely through dialogue that switches from unvarnished realism to odd fantasy on a dime.

Cathythoughts Great post , sounds crazy & good 2mo
Billypar @Cathythoughts Yes, it was both of those things! A very unique read overall. 2mo
36 likes1 stack add2 comments
review
Billypar
Gorilla, My Love | Toni Cade Bambara
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Pickpick

Dialogue is something that can make or break a story for me, and Bambara shines in this area. These stories are filled with memorable characters from New York or the American South, many of them strong-willed girls and teens. At the same time, they and the stories they inhabit are all very different. Bambara isn't content to revisit old terroritory: the styles, themes, and ideas shift in brilliant ways in each of these 15 perfect stories.

merelybookish Great review! More incentive to finally read it! 3mo
Billypar @merelybookish Thanks! I think you'll enjoy it - I'll look it out for your review! 2mo
43 likes1 stack add2 comments
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Billypar
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I love this: it's a character explaining her ambivalence about befriending writers 🙂

Ruthiella I tried Flights by her and could not get into it , but still want to read her work. Maybe this title would be a good way in. 3mo
BarbaraBB Such a good book 🤍. I should absolutely try this one @Ruthiella I‘m almost sure you‘d love it too. 3mo
IuliaC A very good book 3mo
See All 7 Comments
Billypar @Ruthiella I'm not yet halfway but I'm enjoying it so far! 3mo
Billypar @BarbaraBB @luliaC I'm excited to find out what happens! Her writing is mesmerizing. 3mo
BarbaraBB It is! It does remind me of 3mo
Billypar @BarbaraBB Good to hear because that's waiting on my TBR shelf 🙂 3mo
32 likes7 comments
review
Billypar
Boy Wonder | James Robert Baker
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Pickpick

When a 464-page mockumentary novel goes off the rails before the end of Chapter 1, where can it go from there? When its subject is Hollywood excess in the 1970s and 80s, having no limits when it comes to violence, sex, and general lack of decency, works surprisingly well. This novel mirrors the horrendous B-movies that its controversial filmmaker subject produces, and even when the films get better, it's still Mommie Dearest behind the scenes 👇

Billypar As a result, this is not for the squeamish: no matter how tongue-in-cheek the craziness is, it can be difficult to read at times. But underneath it all is an insightful perspective on how toxic masculinity can combine with Hollywood's portrayal of male obsession disguised as romance to do real damage as life imitates what's on the screen. It's a viewpoint that serves as the moral backbone behind the outsized satire and farce without moralizing. (edited) 3mo
Billypar Thanks again @Reggie for sharing this one with me! 3mo
TrishB Great review 👍🏻 3mo
See All 9 Comments
vivastory I started this as a buddy read with @Reggie & @Michael_Gee but never finished. I enjoyed what I read, but wanted to switch from e-book to a physical copy. Wonderful review! 3mo
Michael_Gee Great review! 3mo
Reggie Can I just say ‘Wow!‘ on this review? I‘m so glad you liked and appreciated it, Vinny. And I know what you mean about the first chapter. I remember reading about the mother in the freezer and thinking, holy hell, this is the beginning?!!!! 3mo
Billypar @vivastory Thanks! I'm interested in your opinion if you pick it back up. In one way, it's a very consistent book - the tone and action are similar across all sections. But Baker makes some critical decisions in the plot arc that made me enjoy it when it could have easily gotten lost in the mess. 3mo
Billypar @Reggie Thanks! There were so many moments where I'd catch myself saying "Whaaaaat?" out loud. After I read it I wondered if 'maximalism' is a thing and it does have a Wikipedia page, but it's a little sparse. This one seems like a great example of it though, used to great effect. 3mo
34 likes1 stack add9 comments
review
Billypar
Free Day | Ins Cagnati
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Mehso-so

#nyrbbookclub
Sorry to have missed the discussion, but it was great to read what everyone thought. I was ambivalent: on the one hand, I loved the voice of Galla, sarcasm, bitterness, and all. She was allergic to hypocrisy in adults and even with all of the misfortunes she faced, she still maintained a resilient spirit. I only wished the narrative moved a little more: it had the feel of an overlong short story rather than a short novel.

vivastory Wonderful review. I really hope that NYRB publishes more Cagnati, so I can see what her other work is like. I think you are going to really like the September selection. 3mo
batsy I hear you! I was torn between a so-so and pick for this, but went with the latter because of how the ending made me reconsider certain aspects. 3mo
See All 6 Comments
Billypar @vivastory I would read another Cagnati - I enjoyed her style, so I could imagine really liking one with a little more story to it. Looking forward to September's selection: seems like it couldn't be more different than the one we just finished! 3mo
Billypar @batsy Yes that's true - I did like the ending! I also agree with those comments appreciating how Fanny was really a good friend. It was a relief in a novel so bleak. I didn't think she was imaginary, but I thought it was leading up to some sort of betrayal, which would have been too depressing. 3mo
batsy @Billypar Me too! I was in dread of a potential betrayal 😥 3mo
34 likes6 comments
quote
Billypar
Boy Wonder | James Robert Baker
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@Reggie
Such a great gag 😅

Reggie I‘m so happy you‘re reading it! 4mo
Billypar @Reggie I just started, but really enjoying it already. 4mo
29 likes2 comments
quote
Billypar
Gorilla, My Love | Toni Cade Bambara
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I love the dark humor in this passage and 'dull sofas ' cracked me up 😆

merelybookish You started! I remember we discussed having this on our TBRs. 4mo
Billypar @merelybookish That's right! You're in for a treat - I'm ten stories in, and I've enjoyed them all. I think the title story and Happy Birthday are favorites so far and maybe even the one this quote is taken from, The Survivor, but it's a head trip - way different than the rest. 4mo
29 likes1 stack add2 comments
review
Billypar
The Go-Between | L.P. Hartley
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Pickpick

#nyrbbookclub
The Go-Between's portrayal of a 12-year-old's thought process in its protagonist Leo is so good, it's almost eerie. It made me remember what it was like to be that age: how much you want the respect of adults and feel compelled to trade your child's imagination for obeying rigid social signals (which, honestly, is a pretty bad deal!) And for such a sensitive book, it's got a fair amount of action and mounting suspense.

Billypar Looking forward to talking about this one @sprainedbrain @vivastory ! 4mo
sarahbarnes Great review! I agree! 4mo
vivastory Wonderful review! Agreed, it's definitely a rotten deal 4mo
See All 6 Comments
daena Great review, well said. 4mo
Brimful I read this book when I was very young. It was the book that taught me literature was not just about the story! 2w
Billypar @Brimful That's so true - the story is usually what gets me to pick up a book, but only one factor in terms of how much I enjoy it. The characters in this one are what stand out. 2w
46 likes1 stack add6 comments
blurb
Billypar
My Struggle: Book One | Karl Knausgaard
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#currentread
It's not that I'm not enjoying it, but I assume everyone who reads this or the later volumes has moments of disbelief that there is still so much more left...

vivastory I *really* liked this one. Especially the ending, which to this day remains one of the most powerful portraits of grief that I've read. Yet, I have yet to read further volumes... 4mo
BarbaraBB I‘ve read them all and wished for more afterwards… 4mo
LeahBergen I‘m like @vivastory - I really liked the first one but never read any more. 🤷🏻‍♀️ 4mo
See All 8 Comments
Liz_M Nice to see you and I guess we won't be seeing you for the long while it takes to read this. 😁 (I am the slacker that owns all six volumes but am too wary of the time commitment to start...) 4mo
Billypar Good to know @vivastory - I can definitely see him handling emotional moments in a powerful way. I've read enough to know that this will likely be a pick, but also that I'll likely be in the one volume camp with you and @LeahBergen for a long while! 4mo
Billypar @BarbaraBB @Leftcoastzen He's definitely an amazing writer. There's got to be some kind of reader continuum: 'tolerance for books lacking in plot/larger narratives.' I suspect I'm squarely in the middle, and even though this is non-fiction, I think where you are determines if you read 6 volumes or 6 pages 🙂 4mo
Billypar @Liz_M It's good to be back on Litsy more regularly: I was definitely missing it and really glad that NYRB helped keep me connected at least monthly. Luckily I'm tackling this on audio so it's my dishwashing soundtrack and won't compete with Litsy time or other reading! 4mo
34 likes8 comments
review
Billypar
Written on the Body | Jeanette Winterson
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Pickpick

Take love poetry that is passionate and desperate, mold it into a novel, and you have Written on the Body. The result isn't exactly romantic. Love is under a microscope in some ways: we witness the main character's obsession in a new light, not even knowing their gender. This choice distinguished it from any other love story I've seen, removing the distraction of male-female or female-female dynamics. It's daring, uncomfortable, brilliant stuff.

Nute Excellent review! Love that bit...”take love poetry...mold it into a novel.” 4mo
Liz_M Gorgeous picture, worthy of the book! 4mo
Billypar @Nute Thanks! It's a tough book to describe the reading experience, but I really enjoyed its originality. 4mo
Billypar @Liz_M Thanks! I felt like it needed to be a little dramatic 🙂 4mo
37 likes2 stack adds4 comments
review
Billypar
Orkney | Amy Sackville
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Mehso-so

I'm a week late to getting to this #HolidayEscape pick, and after reading the discussions, I'm in agreement with the consensus viewpoint. Even though Sackville's prose casts a mysterious spell that could have worked well for the subject matter, it wasn't enough to compensate for the lack of any real plot development. We're just left with a creepy narrator's obsessive behavior and no way to contextualize it, besides an offstage fantasy theme.

Billypar It was still unique enough to be memorable though - thanks for organizing @Cinfhen and @BarbaraBB My Litsy time has taken a hit in recent months - I hope to be back talking books with everyone before long! 5mo
Cinfhen Thanks for joining us!!! Miss seeing your posts but glad to know you‘re busy and well ☺️ 5mo
BarbaraBB Your review might best describe my feelings about the book - and what it lacked! I too hope you‘ll be back talking books soon. Take care 🍀💚 5mo
Suet624 Nice seeing you again. 5mo
44 likes4 comments
review
Billypar
Lolly Willowes | Sylvia Townsend Warner
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Pickpick

Feminism, witches, repressive 1926 society - the pieces suggest a novel we don't even have to read -- we get the gist from the blurb on the back flap. Except that's just not the case with this novel. It's neither the fantasy novel nor the satire you might expect. The title character spends most of the novel in a realistic world and doesn't spend it fighting against the oppressive forces of a patriarchal society 👇

Billypar Instead, she tries to make sense of how to maintain dignity in such a world, along with a sense of spiritual awe, when the patriarchal structures of family and religion offer neither. She sees the benefits of being a spinster, but also learns the problems of being outside society aren't easily dismissed. This book is not only progressive, it's also wise. I'm indebted to #nyrbbookclub for putting it on my radar even though I missed the discussion! (edited) 5mo
quietjenn Such a great review! Hooray for Lolly (Laura)! 5mo
See All 12 Comments
batsy Fantastic review! I'm so glad you liked it. I love this book for all the reasons you mentioned ❤️ 5mo
JazzFeathers Needs!!!!! 5mo
Billypar @quietjenn Thanks! And thanks for leading this month's pick- the discussion questions were great. 5mo
Billypar @batsy Thanks! This and The True Deceiver from earlier this year are new nyrb favorites for me. 5mo
LeahBergen What a lovely review! 5mo
vivastory Stellar review! Sorry you missed the discussion but I really enjoyed reading your thoughts on it & I'm so happy that this is a new favorite for you. I love it & am looking forward to reading more Warner! 5mo
Billypar @LeahBergen Thanks! 🙂 5mo
Billypar @vivastory Thanks! I'm interested in reading more of her too - I didn't even realize she had another from nyrb (also featuring a memorable title). 5mo
41 likes1 stack add12 comments
review
Billypar
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Pickpick

This had the feel of five linked short stories about a family rather than a novel. At first, so much plotless observation left me a bit bored, but the fascinating characters won me over in the end. The complex verbosity of Libby, Elinore, Gram, and Neil is captured perfectly through the collective eyes of the young narrators, and so are the more muted presences of the other members. I've never seen family arguments viewed in quite the same way.

vivastory Great review! This one ended up being a real surprise for me
(edited) 6mo
merelybookish Yes, lots of good characters! 6mo
38 likes2 comments
review
Billypar
Skylark | Dezso Kosztolanyi
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Pickpick

#nyrbbookclub
I didn't finish in time for yesterday's discussion unfortunately, but I enjoyed reading everyone's thoughts. It reminded me of other classics where women cope with the reality of dwindling chances for marriage, except it took the parents' perspective. I thought it nicely dramatized how the family hid from social scrutiny without even realizing it. It struck me as a quiet story that is content with being sad rather than tragic.

Suet624 Great review! 7mo
vivastory You're right, it's interesting how the perspectives are shifted in this one. Great review! 7mo
See All 8 Comments
Leftcoastzen Lovely review! 7mo
Tanisha_A Nice review! Nailed it @vivastory it was definitely different perspectives in here 7mo
youneverarrived I liked how it showed a different perspective. Great review. 7mo
Billypar @Tanisha_A @youneverarrived Thanks! 🙂 It's always interesting to me how that perspective shift makes you think differently about something you've seen portrayed elsewhere. 7mo
55 likes8 comments
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Billypar
Geek Love | Katherine Dunn
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#currentread
Background image is courtesy of: https://eidetictraces.wordpress.com/

review
Billypar
The Hearing Trumpet | Leonora Carrington
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Pickpick

There's a kind of older novel about mental institutions that muses over who is more 'insane', the residents or the doctors. This novel began in a similar vein, but morphed into something that might have been written by Umberto Eco on hallucinogenics. I liked seeing the fantastic imagery from her canvasses come to life and how the bizarre events are observed with a deadpan humor, even if I was mystified by the ultra-weird, apocalyptic ending.

Billypar I think this should make for an interesting discussion tomorrow - looking forward to it! #nyrbbookclub @daena @vivastory 8mo
vivastory Eco on hallucinogenics. Perfect! I'm still not sure what to make of the ending, but I can't stop thinking about it. Really looking forward to the discussion 8mo
batsy Great review. A lot of the hidden meanings or playful intertextual experimentations went over my head, I'm sure, but I loved it. So refreshing and the deadpan humour was top notch. 8mo
See All 10 Comments
Cathythoughts Great picture 💫 8mo
BarbaraBB Agree with @batsy regarding the humour. In the end it went over my head but I had a good time with it too! 8mo
Billypar @vivastory From reading the reviews, it seemed like there was a point where things got a little too weird, but where that was maybe differed for everyone? But even the weirdest sections were nothing if not entertaining. I'm eager to hear everyone's takes on it! 8mo
Billypar @batsy Thanks! I couldn't decide whether it was a book with lots of hidden meanings/ symbolism, or whether Carrington just liked following her imagination wherever it took her. I think the humor did hold things together - it was the perfect light touch that it needed. 8mo
Billypar @Cathythoughts If you Google Leonora Carrington and look at the image results, there are so many wonderful, dreamlike paintings. I've lost track of time sifting through them. 8mo
Billypar @BarbaraBB It's nice when you can enjoy a book even when you're not understanding what's going on - definitely the case for this one! 8mo
Suet624 Eco on hallucinogenics! That had me cackling for a while. 8mo
44 likes1 stack add10 comments
review
Billypar
The Invention of Morel | Adolfo Bioy Casares, Ruth L.C. Simms
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Pickpick

This absorbing novella is a kind of literary Twilight Zone episode. A fugitive hides out on a deserted island that contains a museum, swimming pool, chapel, and not much else besides a tree-ravaging disease. He's surprised to find he suddenly has visitors, and things get stranger from there. Casares has a gifted storytelling capacity for intriguing the reader with mysteries and resolving them in a way that is surprising but not too complicated.

45 likes1 stack add
blurb
Billypar
Me & Mama | Cozbi A. Cabrera
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I got this book for my sister to read to my niece and nephew. She left it on the couch and then caught my nephew spontaneously having a moment with it 💛

Texreader Awwww! 9mo
tpixie Adorable! 9mo
AlaMich Wow, that‘s precious! 9mo
See All 13 Comments
Julsmarshall That is the cutest thing!! 9mo
KVanRead Too cute ☺️ 9mo
Reggie That is pretty cute. 9mo
batsy Aww! That's adorable 💕 9mo
Tanisha_A Cutest 9mo
readordierachel Love this 9mo
LeahBergen So cute!!! 9mo
Cathythoughts Beautiful ❤️ 9mo
BeaG So cute !❤️ 9mo
Suet624 💕💕💕 8mo
59 likes13 comments
review
Billypar
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Mehso-so

#nyrbbookclub
Carr created a world that I truly enjoyed being inside. An old church in the English countryside with a medieval painting being restored? It was like an incredible vacation. I savored the descriptions and the characters were so richly developed that they seemed like friends. But my sense of curiosity began fading after Birkin's routine was established. I wanted more mystery or ambiguity, but I don't think it was that kind of book.

Billypar I might be the odd one out not giving it a pick, but there was lots to appreciate about the writing: I'm looking forward to the discussion! @catebutler @vivastory 9mo
vivastory I can appreciate wanting a bit more ambiguity. Nice review. 9mo
catebutler I too was swept up in the story of the painting, I do wish there would have been more to it as well. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts in the discussion. 9mo
arubabookwoman I would probably put it in the so-so category, or just a bit above. It‘s one I had been anticipating immensely, and I‘d heard great things about it. But I never felt fully engaged with it; It was competent, had some good parts, but I didn‘t find it special. I agree with @catebutler & wanted more to the story—with the art or perhaps even with the relationship with Alice. (edited) 9mo
Billypar @vivastory @catebutler @arubabookwoman I may have to up my rating - I kept thinking about the painting and posted a new idea that occurred to me in question 6. I feel like Carr buried a clever mystery in this that I didn't consider until now. That's why I love these discussions - I would have otherwise just set this aside and not even thought about it again! 9mo
36 likes5 comments
review
Billypar
Skin Folk | Nalo Hopkinson
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Pickpick

"Throughout the Caribbean, under different names, you'll find stories about people who aren't what they seem. Skin gives these skin folk their human shape. When the skin comes off, their true selves emerge." I love this premise for a story collection - the skins and what's underneath varies a great deal. Some are inspired by folk tales involving mythical creatures and others have speculative or sci-fi themes. Dreamy and weird in the best way.

BarbaraBB Off topic: I finally listened to your podcast with @ReadingEnvy. You did so good! You are so insightful! I must read the El Salvador book. 9mo
Cathythoughts I didn‘t realize you did a podcast with @ReadingEnvy ... I must look it up later .. looking forward to it 👍🏻 9mo
ReadingEnvy @Cathythoughts tinyurl.com/ReadingEnvy212 9mo
See All 7 Comments
Billypar @BarbaraBB Glad you liked it! I think you'll really enjoy the memoir. And actually, not completely off topic that you bring up @ReadingEnvy since I first heard about Hopkinson on an RE episode (Jenny, that was for The Salt Roads). 9mo
Billypar @Cathythoughts It was really fun - hope you like it! 🙂 9mo
ReadingEnvy @Billypar I just saw a new cover for that novel today and it made me want to buy it all over again. 9mo
Suet624 This sounds wonderful! 8mo
43 likes1 stack add7 comments
review
Billypar
Shit, Actually | Lindy West
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Pickpick

You can love bad movies - Lindy West won't judge you, she'll even join you in some cases. But you should appreciate just how full of sh🎬t they are. Sometimes for benign suspension of disbelief reasons but often due to massive amounts of misogyny and fat-shaming. She had me cracking up at some of her plot descriptions of popular Hollywood blockbusters. I didn't enjoy the millennial-speak shtick which was a little grating but otherwise I was a fan.

KVanRead This particular scene is so cringey to me I can barely watch this move anymore 🤪 9mo
Billypar @KVanRead Agreed - very cringey! Her Love Actually piece was the only one I read previously and it's still my favorite of the bunch. I think it's worth watching the movie just to read it and know the scenes being referenced. 9mo
zezeki @KVanRead I hate this scene too! 9mo
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batsy @zezeki @KVanRead Me three! So cringe. 9mo
Billypar @KVanRead @zezeki @batsy And there's lots more to hate! 😅 Here's the article if you haven't read it already: https://www.google.com/amp/s/jezebel.com/i-rewatched-love-actually-and-am-here-t... 9mo
KVanRead Thanks for the link! 9mo
mcipher I hated that movie. And I loved Lindy‘s review 😆 9mo
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Billypar
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Kendi's focus on the details of how trends in racist thought evolved over U.S. history is important given the absence of its coverage in our education system. He connects some patterns of racism to the present, even if the form changes. Examples of well-intentioned anti-slavery advocates like William Lloyd Garrison nevertheless spreading racist ideas are particularly critical to grasp. A meticulously researched history that everyone should read.

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Billypar
The Group: A Novel | Mary McCarthy
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One of my favorite things about this novel is the idea at its core - what happens when you follow a group of eight friends after college graduation, but focus on each separately as individuals? I struggle with long novels that lack a central plot but McCarthy's vivid characterizations kept me engaged. It was revealing to witness the seeds of modern feminism in the 1930s, even as all the negative "-isms" were thriving in New York high society.

Billypar I really enjoyed reading all the comments on the discussion posts @Cinfhen and @BarbaraBB Sorry to have missed it, but looking forward to July's read! 9mo
Cinfhen Wonderful review. Sorry you “missed” the discussion but looking forward to discussing our next book with you 😊 9mo
BarbaraBB Glad you enjoyed it and happy to know you‘ll join again in June! 9mo
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Cathythoughts Great review! I really enjoyed this too 9mo
Billypar @Cinfhen Thanks! 🙂 9mo
Billypar @BarbaraBB Whoops- thank you, *June* not July. 9mo
Billypar @Cathythoughts Thanks! 🙂 Glad you liked it also. 9mo
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Billypar
The True Deceiver | Tove Jansson
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#nyrbbookclub
The calculating and impassive Katri moves in on innocent artist Anna, eyeing her poorly managed wealth. The setup made me think a grim duel was ahead. I wasn't ruling out violence. But it slowly morphed into this weird, fascinating interplay between the clashing personalities. It made me think how people try to ward off loneliness in radically different ways, but neither making art nor rigid pragmatism really does the trick.

BarbaraBB What a wonderful review. I immediately feel the atmosphere again 🤍 10mo
batsy Excellent review! I'm almost towards the end. I feel like it's such a cool, uncompromising novel and perfectly structured ... I'm in awe, Tove 🙌🏽 10mo
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Billypar @BarbaraBB Thanks! I think we'll have lots to talk about on Sunday. 10mo
Billypar @batsy Thanks! I too was in awe of her talents in making her characters' story so intriguing without much in the way of big plot developments. 10mo
youneverarrived Your last sentence 👌 I never even thought about that! But it‘s spot on. 10mo
merelybookish Yes! There was an innocence and limitations that came with both those approaches. 10mo
Billypar @youneverarrived It's not too common that I finish a book and find I'm still curious about the characters, but I definitely am for this one. I'm interested in hearing everyone's perspectives on them! 10mo
Billypar @merelybookish Yeah and neither of those limitations were clear to me for most of the book: it seemed like there were critical moments near the end that clarified a lot about how they related to other people. 10mo
vivastory Great review. I wasn't really sure what to expect either. Jansson managed to surprise me until the end. 10mo
Billypar @vivastory Thanks! The ability for a book to surprise me ranks pretty high on my list of favorite qualities, so this one easily passed that test, without even having anything that qualifies as a 'twist'. 10mo
Suet624 That last line in your review. 👍❤️ 10mo
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Billypar
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I was excited to have the opportunity to talk books with Jenny from the Reading Envy podcast - you can check out the episode here:
http://readingenvy.blogspot.com/2021/01/reading-envy-212-subtly-fascinating.html...
If you're new to ReadingEnvy, it's fantastic: Jenny and her guests trade off in discussing recent reads - a perfect podcast for readers basically. There's also readalongs and other themed activities and challenges to try.
@ReadingEnvy

Billypar I should also mention that Litsy introduced me to 2 of the 3 books I discuss, so thanks to @Suet624 and @BarbaraBB for giving me two of my favorite 2020 reads! #blameitonlitsy 10mo
Nute I love the Reading Envy Podcast! I am so exited for you to be a guest reader there, Vinny. Listening to your episode is a priority today! 10mo
Billypar @Nute I hope you enjoy it Kimberley! 🙂 10mo
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ReadingEnvy Thanks for being a great guest! I really noticed that the majority of our books were by and about women, with faces on the covers. 10mo
vivastory Can't wait to give this one a listen! 10mo
readordierachel Listening now! 10mo
BarbaraBB The Birds 🦅 💜. I am happy to have a fellow lover of the book and will definitely listen to the podcast! Which one was recommended by @Suet624 ? I know I need to read that one too 😉🤍 10mo
Suet624 The tagged book. @BarbaraBB and now I need to find the book you recommended (edited) 10mo
Suet624 I‘m so glad you loved that book as much as I did. Can‘t wait to listen to the podcast. (edited) 10mo
BarbaraBB @Suet624 Thanks! I‘ll go after it! And I‘m sure you‘d love 10mo
Billypar @ReadingEnvy Ha- that's true, like we gathered an interesting audience to sit in on the discussion 🙂 10mo
Billypar @vivastory Hope you enjoy it! 10mo
Billypar @readordierachel Nice - hope it provided a good bookish break in your day! 10mo
Billypar @BarbaraBB The brother depending on sister situation in True Deceiver at first reminded me of The Birds, but the similarities sort of end there. Two different gems of books - I'm looking forward to the TD discussion! 10mo
Billypar @Suet624 I started listening to it again just to prep for the podcast, but after a certain point I just accepted I was rereading the whole thing. It holds up the second time around! 10mo
Suet624 Wow! Impressive. I‘m a bit envious. Such a good book. 10mo
ReadingEnvy @Suet624 I definitely want to read it too, so thanks second removed! 10mo
RobinGustafson Really enjoyed this episode. Already put What You Have Heard Is True on my TBR! 10mo
Reggie Great show, Vinny! You made me want to read the first book you talked about and reminded me to check out Kelly Link‘s other works. 10mo
Billypar @RobinGustafson Glad you enjoyed it - hope you like Forché's memoir when you pick it up! 10mo
Billypar @Reggie Thanks Reggie! I think you'll like the memoir. I also plan to seek out Kelly Link's other work - she's too good to leave anything unread. 10mo
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Billypar
The Changeling | Victor LaValle
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LaValle's take on the 'modern fairytale ' restores some of the original purposes of the traditional variety: reenvisioning a societal problem using a story that seamlessly blends reality, fantasy, and horror. Our hero is Apollo, a young parent who joins the ranks of modern, involved fathers, even as his personal history of fatherly abandonment and the U.S. history of racism and patriarchal dominance threaten his family's survival in varied ways 👇

Billypar Apollo criss-crosses remote corners of New York to confront the truth of what threatens his family, while beset by magic, witches, and trolls, all with elusive motives. Modern technology is equally ambiguous, serving as both an invasive villain and a hero's weapon. At times I found the balance between fantasy and social metaphor veering too much toward either pole, but overall it was a satisfying blend, full of rich imagery and propulsive action. 10mo
Billypar Thanks @batsy for joining me on this strange journey - it was a fun and spooky trip! 😨 10mo
Suet624 I love your review. 10mo
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batsy Excellent review! Thank you for prompting me to go on this journey; I appreciated having someone to talk with through this wild ride 🙂 10mo
Billypar @Suet624 Thank you! 🙂 10mo
Billypar @batsy Thanks! And that is definitely true- no shortage of things to discuss for this one 😁 10mo
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Billypar
The Changeling | Victor LaValle
This post contains spoilers
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@batsy
As I look back at the events, there's a lot packed into these final sections!
👹The graveyard scene was so creepy- probably one of my favorites in the novel. For all of the gross parts, there was something very moving about Apollo's coming to grips with not having truly known his own child. I was trying to think of how this fact and the blood feeding fits into the larger themes, but was struggling a little 👇

Billypar 👹 The Forest Park sequences are another great way of taking an actual local setting and making it magical - I love the adventure around New York that LaValle crafted. 👹 Jorgen kind of picks up the backstory where Cal left off. This part was...odd. The sheep's head and wall of child pictures made it more surreal and I was surprised by the sudden killing when it happened. 👹 There was some dark humor in the Kindergarten confrontation that I liked. 10mo
Billypar 👹 I mentioned some of my response to the troll parts already and some of the symbolism. One part I did like during the final battle was the chapter that ended with the troll suddenly tossing Brian into his mouth and swallowing him. I'm pretty sure I was responding out loud to that part! 😮😮😮 10mo
batsy Nice summary! Especially about the bits you liked, which I enjoyed too. I inadvertently left those out in my word vomit of questions in my review 😆 I found the sheep's head bit so weirdly menacing, & though it didn't really go anywhere it made me want to read LaValle's horror writing. The violence of the killing of Jorgen but also what Emma did to Apollo! Very unsettling & effective. I did indeed yelp when Brian ended up in the troll's mouth 😫 10mo
Billypar @batsy Agreed - I'm curious to read more of LaValle: there was lots to appreciate but the horror portions usually ended up being my favorites. 10mo
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Billypar
Source of Knowledge | Newark, NJ (Bookstore)
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#bookhaul
Haven't been out very much since moving to New Jersey due to covid, but with the #MLK holiday, I thought it was a good opportunity to try a bookshop/community center in Newark that specializes in Black authors and African art. The owners were so friendly - they loved talking books, and hand-sold us the bottom two of the stack. I've been starved for a bookstore experience like this: looking forward to that changing this year.

vivastory Excellent haul! 10mo
batsy Nice stack! The Zora and Langston one looks good 🤩 10mo
readordierachel Great choices! 10mo
Billypar @vivastory @readordierachel I'm very much looking forward to all of them! 10mo
Billypar @batsy Not sure if this is common literary knowledge but I never even knew the two had a falling out - I'm interested in learning more about that, and just the Harlem Renaissance period overall. 10mo
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Billypar
The Changeling | Victor LaValle
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@batsy
My pace slowed a little after a busy week, but here are some reactions to Parts 4 & 5:
-I was surprised at the events behind Apollo getting sent to Rikers. Given the strange circumstances of the loss, I was expecting more of a shocked/depressed reaction than vengeance. But as things unfold, seems like there may be a reason for this choice.
- I enjoyed watching the paranoid mystery build: lots of unexpected turns!
Part 5 spoilers below 👇

BarbaraBB I am surprised how much you two get out of this book and admit I had looked forward to it but was disappointed while reading it. Now I feel I missed out on a lot of things and should reread it! @batsy 10mo
Billypar William Wheeler's transformation from a kind of goofy average guy to a crazed villain was fun to watch 💀The East River island excursion was a nice touch. I was afraid meeting The Wise Ones would lead to a ton of explanatory backstory but not really - still lots to uncover about the central mystery💀If Cal and her 'witches' are the heroes, I'm curious what they're combating and how phony infant deaths and a murderous giant are linked? 😨 10mo
readordierachel I really enjoyed this book. Felt so fresh. I could never guess quite where it was going. 10mo
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Billypar @BarbaraBB I'd like to reread books more often: it's rare enough that I do it with ones that I like, and I haven't given any second chances to the ones I don't! 10mo
Billypar @readordierachel Yeah, I feel the same: I'm getting close to the end and I still have no idea what to expect. 10mo
batsy So sorry for the late response. I just finished these parts tonight because things in my country lately have been not great, Covid & politics wise, & reading has gone off the rails. I found the mood & momentum of these sections to be up & down. But many things are intriguing & remain so: the nature of the monster(s), Patrice's role, & William's transformation. I'm a bit wary if all this plays out as a metaphor for a gender war. But I'm intrigued! 10mo
Billypar @batsy I can only imagine: it sounds like such a scary situation to be in, especially on top of covid fears. I hope things get resolved without too much time going by. Hopefully the conclusion of this novel can provide some good escapism. It seems like there are a few social metaphors woven in, but I hope they remain as thematic layers and don't overwhelm the story. 10mo
batsy @Billypar Thank you! I can only hope things improve for all of us 🤞🏽The book has the strange effect of both providing escapism/fantasy yet being incredibly real in terms of reminding you how scary the world can be. So I kind of have a push-pull relationship with it every time I pick it up. In that sense, I think, it speaks to LaValle's storytelling skills and craft. 10mo
Billypar @batsy Agreed! He blends realism and fantasy very seamlessly - each mode seems to set up and enhance the other. 10mo
Billypar @batsy Tonight I discovered in scrolling through my song list on Spotify that Part 4's title is taken from a D'Angelo song 😅 10mo
batsy @Billypar Oh, that's interesting! 😆 I don't think I've listened to that one & I'm going to have to. I also wonder if LaValle has a playlist for the book. (I finished it yesterday ... Have been mulling it over since.) 10mo
Billypar @batsy It's a good song too - I'm surprised I didn't remember it with a title like that. I would love to see that playlist! As for the book, I really enjoyed it overall - I'll be posting about the remaining parts and my review this weekend. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts! 10mo
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Billypar
The Changeling | Victor LaValle
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@batsy Here are a few reactions I had to parts 1-3:
- LaValle has that storyteller expertise of knowing how to hook his audience. Between the short chapters and mounting suspense, it was tough to put down.
-I liked the large time jumps in the opening chapters: most books would have started at Ch 6 and worked in the backstory, but this had more of an air of mystery.
-I never read Outside Over There but I may have to pick up a copy - so creepy! 👇

mklong Gah, you and @batsy are making me want to reread! 11mo
Billypar I didn't read anything about this going in, I just knew it was supposed to be horror-ish. The family has plenty of financial challenges and racism to deal with on top of the parenting stress, so for now it seems intentionally ambiguous whether the mysterious events are stress-induced, or actually something supernatural. And with the wild end of Part 3, I like how we're in uncharted territory - there's no obvious signposts about where it's headed. 11mo
Billypar @mklong (scarily whispers): Dooo it! 😱 11mo
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batsy Great points! I agree with them all; I didn't know much of what it was about either, just knew it was vaguely speculative/horror & I find his storytelling has me along for the ride. I've never read Outside Over There either & now I want to! 11mo
batsy Also I love how he manages to sketch a character so well that a third person POV makes us feel like we know them well, but when he pulls back to show characters interacting, even (or especially) in a relationship, he manages to evoke that sense of dread or alienation people can feel when they realise they might not exactly *know* the person they love. 11mo
batsy @mklong *echoes the scary whisper* Definitely dooooo it! 11mo
Billypar @batsy You're right about his skill with using POV. I was surprised with the switch to following Emma after the exclusive focus on Apollo. But this was an effective way of showing something else might be going on with her, along with giving the opportunity to learn more about her parents' death. And after those chapters I did feel like I knew her better, which made what followed more jarring. 11mo
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Billypar
The Changeling | Victor LaValle
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LaValle has a brilliant way of transforming an event as mundane as a phone registering a text into something deeply sinister.
@batsy

vivastory If you don't think I'm not following you & @batsy reactions to this.... you're wrong😂😂 I love Lavalle 11mo
Billypar @vivastory Nice! This is my first LaValle novel and I'm hooked pretty early. 11mo
batsy I loved this, as well! I got chills when I read it. It's interesting to me how he slips in both humour and menace very subtly. (Also, I've read the first third up until Part 4 and... *gulp* no idea what's in store next...) 11mo
Billypar @batsy Yeah, I finished Part 3 with my mouth hanging open - not sure what I was expecting to happen at this stage, but it wasn't that! Very intrigued about where the story will go from here.. 11mo
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Billypar
The Changeling | Victor LaValle
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Starting my stroll into the woods...😨 @batsy

batsy Nice! I'm hoping to dive in tonight :) 11mo
Liz_M 😱Don't go into the woods! (edited) 11mo
Billypar @Liz_M But why, what could go wrong? 😅 11mo
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Billypar
You're All My Favorites | Sam McBratney
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In true procrastination form, I'm finally declaring my top 25 reads of 2020. The year wasn't good for much else, but my reading certainly didn't suffer. Most surprising was what took the top spot: this is the first time I've had a non-fiction #1 pick. Carolyn Forché's 'What You Have Heard Is True' is unlike any memoir I've ever read. It was a strong year for non-fiction reads overall, in spite of my craving for fictional escapes more than ever.

batsy Ooh! Great list. Yay Bunny, Bloody Chamber, Fever Dream, Jane Eyre, My Name is Red! 11mo
BarbaraBB Happy new year Vinny! Glad you‘re official joining the #NYRBBookclub 🤍 11mo
Liz_M Happy 2021! 11mo
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Billypar @batsy Those that you listed had so many memorable portions to enjoy! 11mo
Billypar @BarbaraBB Happy New Year! The NYRB book club was so much fun - looking forward to another year's worth of selections! 11mo
Billypar @Liz_M Happy New Year! 🍾🎉📚 11mo
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Billypar
Black Swan Green: A Novel | David Mitchell
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I just started this and it is dense with references I either don't know because they're British or from the early eighties (or both). But I have a question about this one. I recently picked up a box of Alpen to try, never having heard of it before (I actually just finished a bowl right before reading this sentence). For those of you in the UK or Europe, is this a cereal that is universally known? Or was it popular awhile ago but not so much now?

squirrelbrain It is a brand name for muesli and I guess was the ‘only‘ muesli on the supermarket shelves in the UK before muesli became a big thing. Would anyone else agree? 11mo
Cuilin @squirrelbrain yes. I only remember two, Alpen and Kellogg‘s Country Store. Both were popular. It was good. Alpen seemed to be the fancy one? If that makes sense. 11mo
Billypar @squirrelbrain It's interesting, I've seen the word 'muesli' but I don't remember ever hearing it spoken out loud. Wikipedia tells me that Alpen has been sold in the U.S. since the 1990s, so I'm not sure if it's just me, or if it never became all that popular here. I'm always fascinated n 11mo
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Billypar by these questions of sorting out the regional, national, and international popularity/recognition of things. 11mo
BarbaraBB I don‘t know it either. Alpen I mean, muesli is a very general word here, we use it all the time. It is a Swiss word. However, I think Alpen is/was maybe British? @squirrelbrain @Cuilin (edited) 11mo
Kappadeemom I used to eat it as a kid and I am from Georgia. I think you could only get at health food stores when I was a kid though, and I‘m 53 so this was back in the 70s (edited) 11mo
squirrelbrain I don‘t remember the Kellogg‘s one @Cuilin 🤷‍♀️ Billy - muesli is a softer less crunchy version of granola. It still has oats, nuts and dried fruit but not baked, it‘s more in its natural state. 11mo
Cuilin @BarbaraBB @squirrelbrain @Billypar I did a little research 🧐 Alpen is a muesli made in the north of England by Weetabix!! I order Weetabix online, hard to get in stores in the US. My dad in Ireland eats muesli soaked in orange juice. Apparently the Swiss eat it this way. Most I think eat it with milk. 11mo
squirrelbrain Well done @Cuilin - now we know! 😁👏 11mo
Billypar @Cuilin Thanks for that information! In looking up the Kellog's version you mentioned, I came across a different Kellog cereal called Mueslix, which I definitely recognize from the cereal aisle, only never knew the origin of the name. Orange juice...wow - never would have occurred to me to try that! I like it very much with milk, though further down on the same page, the child narrator mentions "My Weetabix tastes like balsa wood." ? 11mo
Billypar @BarbaraBB I'm going to be asking everyone I know about muesli now 😁 11mo
Cuilin @Billypar subliminal advertising!! Both cereals are mentioned!! Mitchell may have links to the company 😂 I love Weetabix made with heated almond milk. Comfort food. Eaten dry or cold I can understand the balsa wood reference. I may have to stack this book. 11mo
Billypar @Kappadeemom Wikipedia tells me that Alpen took off in the 1970s, and even though it didn't get to the US until later, that makes sense that health food stores would know more about international trends (though I'm sure that was more difficult to do in the 70s). 11mo
Billypar @squirrelbrain The granola comparison makes sense. Eating it as cereal reminds me of a better tasting raisin bran. 11mo
Billypar @Cuilin Lol- scandal! The beginning reminds me in some ways of Spielberg's 1980s films like E.T. or Close Encounters which were filled with product placement, but in creative ways that made everything feel more realistic. I had my Alpen with cashew milk, but heated up sounds really good - may have to try that! 11mo
BarbaraBB I think this might be the original recipe - along with one for granola 😉 https://amp.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2014/oct/23/how-to-make-per... 11mo
BookwormM We still eat Alpen in my house 🤣🤣hubby has his with milk I eat mine dry which most people consider weird 11mo
Cuilin @BarbaraBB great read. I haven‘t heard about Darina Allen and Ballymaloe in a long time. We‘re all getting a fine education in Muesli making and history. The joys of Litsy!! 11mo
BarbaraBB @Cuilin Lol, who would have thought we‘d wanted to know more about muesli‘s history? 🤣 11mo
Billypar @Cuilin Yeah I love these Litsy-inspired cultural rabbit-holes ☺ @BarbaraBB Those recipes sound delicious, and a lot of fun to try different variations. Interesting that apples are considered 'non-negotiable' but absent from Alpen's standard version, even though they have special apple varieties. 11mo
Billypar @BookwormM Even though I tend to go with milk for cereal, every now and then I find dry cereal addictive, so I could see it happening with muesli. 11mo
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Billypar
Fever Dream | Samanta Schweblin
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Is there a better time to review one of my favorite books of the year than Christmas day? Well, possibly, but I think this qualifies as a Christmas post in a year like 2020...
This one is best to go in knowing as little as possible, so I won't spoil anything. Although it's definitely a strange book, I thought from the title it might be completely nonsensical, without any clear narrative, but that's not the case 👇

Nute I enjoying reading what you have to say on all days including Christmas Day.🙂 I had heard that this is a strange little story. 11mo
Billypar The reading experience for me was like entering a dark room and having your eyes slowly adjust. For the first half I was as scared as I ever get from books, which is strange because little overtly scary stuff happens. Schweblein crafts this mounting urgency that unnerved me due to being in the dark as to the reason. When you discover what's going on, it also doesn't break the spell with explanations. A haunting, instant classic. 11mo
Billypar @Nute Aww, thanks! Yeah, it's strange in the best way. Even though it's not for everyone, it's also pretty short, so not a huge investment. 11mo
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vivastory First off, happy holidays. Second, what a picture! You perfectly nailed it with this review. I now feel like rereading this. I've also heard great things about her story collection. I think I'll read that one soon. I was a bit disappointed by Little Eyes, but you're right. This is a classic. 11mo
Billypar @vivastory Happy holidays! The picture is a homage to the cover: I don't want to mislead prospective readers expecting flying horse heads...it just has horses in the story, that's all 😅 I can't wait to read her story collection: I think its memorable title is what drew my attention to Schweblein in the first place. 11mo
BarbaraBB Great post!!! 11mo
Suet624 Merry Christmas!! 11mo
batsy Great review! I love the analogy of eyes adjusting to a dark room and I also instantly loved this strange, menacing book. Happy holidays! 11mo
readordierachel This is my favorite holiday picture of the day :) 11mo
sarahbarnes I loved this one, too! And great pic. 😁 11mo
Reggie I loved the mounting dread in this one and this pic!!! 11mo
Billypar @BarbaraBB Thanks! 🙂 11mo
Billypar @Suet624 Merry Christmas- hope yours was nice! 🎄 11mo
Billypar @batsy Thanks! 'Menacing' is a perfect descriptor, especially in the first half. I like how Schweblein subtly shifts the mood as it goes, without ever fully 'turning on the lights.' Happy holidays! 11mo
Billypar @readordierachel Ha- thanks! In truth, only the book and the Christmas decor was staged. The horse mask is a Halloween decoration we left out, worn by a zombie baby, sitting next to my reading chair 😅 11mo
Billypar @sarahbarnes Thanks! 🙂 11mo
Billypar @Reggie Such good mounting dread! Not something I see too often, though I remember that feeling in the tagged book too. 11mo
Liz_M How did I miss this post? That is truly a disturbing photo you have there. I'm not sure if I'm amused or concerned that you just happen to have a horse mask and a zombie baby. Great review, like your use of dark room/adjust. 11mo
Billypar @Liz_M Lol - honestly I still find it kind of disturbing when I walk in the room 🙂 11mo
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Billypar
Granada: A Novel | Ra?w ??sh?r, William Granara
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I found this on a Book Riot list of Egyptian authors to try, and seeing only one Litsy post, I thought maybe it wasn't so well-known. Then I looked at Goodreads...over 40,000 ratings 😮 I can see why it's so popular: Ashour's tale of a Granadan family at the end of the 15th century captures the fraught interactions between family members during a time of upheaval. With Muslim rule recently ended by the Castilians, 👇

Billypar an atmosphere of danger and uncertainty lurks as the residents of Albaicin see the most sacred aspects of their way of life forbidden. Ashour's decision not to have a central character and to instead switch between family members was a bold one that emphasized the individual responses to the oppression they faced. It was tough reading this knowing that Parts 2 and 3 haven't been translated into English, but I didn't feel shortchanged in the least. (edited) 11mo
vivastory This sounds very intriguing. Very bold to read it without the rest being available in translation! I find this period of history fascinating, will def be checking it out 11mo
Billypar @vivastory I'm actually the worst at reading series anyhow - so many book one's read and no others! Luckily this author has at least one other novel translated in English, so I will probably check this one out as well. 11mo
Pinta Albaicín is such an evocative setting... definitely curious about this book. 11mo
Billypar @Pinta She doesn't get carried away with her descriptions of the surroundings, but the ones she does use were very effective in making me feel like I was there, without knowing anything about Albaicín going into it. 11mo
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Billypar
Magic for Beginners | Kelly Link
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Pickpick

It's not just the stuff in Kelly Link's stories -- the mysterious pajamas, the cat skin suits, the storytelling phone sex line, or the characters named Soap, Gordon Strangle Mars, and 'The Witch's Revenge'. Any story can have zombies, ghosts, or "an enchanted ___" but Link has a genius for nesting stories within stories, without losing the forward motion of the main narrative. She does all this playfully, without any boring parts sneaking in ?

Billypar ...but not too playfully either. Most of these stories are very funny but there are aways darker undercurrents (one story in particular has an unusually dark but memorable ending). The best way I can describe them is like fairy tales set in modern times with someone like Kafka or Borges calling the shots. This was the second collection of hers I've tried and I'm already pretty comfortable calling her my favorite short story author. 12mo
vivastory Fantastic review!! I've read Link's stories in anthologies but never a collection. Will definitely be remedying this. Favorite short story author is high praise from someone who also loves Oyeyemi 11mo
Billypar @vivastory Thanks! 'Get in Trouble' was the other one I read - I liked both about equally. I actually thought of Oyeyemi reading Link in terms of how innovative both authors' work is. 11mo
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Billypar
The Birds | Tarjei Vesaas
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Pickpick

Mattis lives happily with his sister Hege, enjoying nature in the Norwegian woods. The only trouble is other people: they taunt him with the name 'Simple Simon' and he can't keep a job. This is a partly a character study about not fitting in, but not entirely. There's something about how he looks for signs in nature and with people that was fascinating, like the odd way Mattis does it made me more aware of how I do a version of the same thing.

Billypar Thanks @BarbaraBB for recommending Vesaas. This was one of my favorites of the year - I will definitely be seeking out more of his! 12mo
Cinfhen Gorgeous photo and review. 12mo
BarbaraBB It‘s one of my all time favorites. I am so happy you loved it too! 💜 12mo
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Liz_M Fantastic book and love those Archipelago editions! 12mo
Billypar @Cinfhen Thanks Cindy! 🙂 12mo
Billypar @BarbaraBB I can see why - I really liked Vesaas' style and how he developed his characters. 12mo
Billypar @Liz_M They're really cool- I found myself stopping often to gaze at the book itself while I was reading it 😁 12mo
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Billypar
Another Brooklyn: A Novel | Jacqueline Woodson
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Pickpick

It's hard to describe Woodson's style. 'Dreamy' comes to mind, but it's not quite right because it's more like the way memory is than dreams. Haunting? Lyrical? But it's also very warm writing. You feel very close to the characters and the scenes have the right sort of sensory detail, maybe not like you're there, but like you're the one remembering this past. 👇

Billypar And then there's the time shifts...no orderly switches from present to past and back again here-- it's all tied together in a knot, like how your brain really operates. There's not much story beyond four friends growing up in 1970s Brooklyn, but adolescence is complicated enough on its own, even without racism, class & cultural divides to consider. Not to mention death, which appears on pretty much every page. Needless to say, I loved it. 12mo
BarbaraBB What a great review. I‘ve been wanting to read another Woodson. This might be a very good option. 12mo
Leftcoastzen I love this book and you described it perfectly! 12mo
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Cathythoughts Brilliant review ✨👏🏻 12mo
Billypar @BarbaraBB Thanks! Brown Girl Dreaming was the other one of hers I read and that was also excellent. 12mo
Billypar @Leftcoastzen Thanks! She has such a distinctive style, but not an easy one to describe. 12mo
Billypar @Cathythoughts Thanks! 🙂 12mo
merelybookish Great review! What's even more amazing about her style is that she manages to do all that while also being so economical! Her writing is tight! 12mo
Billypar @merelybookish Thanks! I totally agree: it's so difficult to build emotional intensity in short novels, but I felt the same satisfaction I get from much longer ones. Poets and YA/ children's authors are experts at economy, even when they write prose and adult novels. I can't wait to read more of Woodson's work. 12mo
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Billypar
Tun-huang | Yasushi Inoue
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vivastory Yes, I do. I think I also benefited from reading the preface which I found interesting. The fact that the Caves contained some of the world's oldest writings is significant & I can see why Inoue would feel the need to insert this historical episode at the end. It also shows the exploitation that occurred when ethnography ethics were shady 12mo
Liz_M I agree with @vivastory. The epilogue added a welcome layer of complexity, a purpose to the specific selection of episodes of Hsing-te's life that are depicted. 12mo
Billypar @vivastory Yeah, the exploitation stories were interesting. I was wondering whether he was including that detail just because it's interesting and it happened versus because it fits into the themes behind what makes the scrolls so important and how significant it is that they're being removed at the hands of Western culture. 12mo
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Billypar @vivastory @Liz_M I was reading that there is a big international effort to digitize many of the scrolls and publish them online to increase their access. You have to wonder what the people who buried them would have felt about their being taken away for this purpose. There's a wider audience for the content, but is that consistent or inconsistent with their desires for preserving them? 12mo
vivastory @Billypar I have the sense that it was for purposes of veracity rather than a larger point. Although, one of the interesting themes in the book is the forming of nations & the shifting of power. You could easily make the argument that the epilogue was commentary on this 12mo
merelybookish I didn't read it. 🙈 Although I will say the burying of the scroll was probably my favorite part of the book. 12mo
merelybookish *scrolls. Actually it was kind of mind boggling to imagine how many there were! 12mo
GatheringBooks Honestly, my eyes glazed at this point. Couldn‘t care less anymore as all the characters were repugnant to me. But I still read it, while not caring to understand what it meant/signified. I am sure it is important to the author. Or to history. Or to civilization in general - but not to me. Found the storytelling painstakingly tedious with a notable air of quiet male-focused self-importance. Women are but props to elevate male ego and “heroism.” 12mo
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Billypar
Tun-huang | Yasushi Inoue
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saresmoore This is such a good question! The detached tone felt necessary to depict the reality of women in this time: property, objects, the spoils of war. It seemed to me that the main characters were struggling with a sort of suppressed compassion in order to survive, just as Inoue had to zoom way out to tell this story as one of destiny and humanity in conversation with history, rather than straight up horror. 12mo
Liz_M Woah, this is an excellent question and I hadn't thought at all about the role (or lack thereof) of women in the story. I don't have an answer.... 12mo
Billypar @saresmoore Yeah, the scene with the Hsia Hsia woman is pretty jarring at the beginning, and I wondered if Tsing-he felt a gut-punch at a human level, even if society thought it was no big deal. And he rationalized his interest as just having to do with the fact of the language existing, so maybe that's him suppressing his compassion as you pointed out is almost a necessity to survive. 12mo
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vivastory @saresmoore I agree with your point about his tone of suppressed compassion. It was fascinating how Inoue managed that perspective. 12mo
vivastory @Billypar I was really caught off guard by that scene. I wasn't sure where the narrative was going. 12mo
saresmoore @Billypar @vivastory Yes! That scene made me nervous, but it really did set the tone for the narrative. Not because of the brutality in and of itself, but because of the conflict & tension between this intellectualism/higher calling and the pervasive survival mindset. It is the same reason we were affronted by Kuang, but also able to see his logic and shrewdness. 12mo
emilyhaldi It seems that in a time of constant battle and impending war, the suppression of compassion would be required for survival. Yet Hsing-te showed compassion with both women he encountered.. we see a different side of him. 12mo
emilyhaldi Ultimately he doesn't fight for the Uighur girl like he says he will, but continues to let fate determine how they meet again. I found it funny that his sense of urgency to return to her “faded” and only returned when he had other forces driving him. Yet she continued to be such an integral part of the story after her death. The women seem to take on more of a mythical or allegorical significance? 12mo
Billypar @emilyhaldi Yeah I definitely agree. Maybe it's a similar story with Wang-li. We don't see him together with the princess, but I could definitely see his romantic notions stemming more from the idea he 'must have his vengeance' rather than his missing the princess for who she was as a person. 12mo
emilyhaldi Agreed @Billypar their attachments to the girl weren‘t necessarily about her but what she represented to them 12mo
merelybookish Yeah, this book would not pass the Bechdahl test! 😉 The two women did not seem like people, but sort of madonna/whore figures who as @emilyhaldi said are important for what they represented. Also did he rape the princess or did I misread that? I think it's Alice Munro who says she can never care about a story without a woman in it. And I think I'm the same and that might also be my struggle with this book. 12mo
Billypar @merelybookish Yeah, he raped her, and then apologizes for acting 'beastly'. It's a strange scene because right afterwards she says she believes him to be the incarnation of her fiance. I'm not sure what Inoue was up to here: maybe her failure to reject him and come up with the fiancé idea is another survival tactic to help her cope? I agree it would have strengthened the novel to expand her role, and see more female characters overall. 12mo
batsy Yeah, the women in this seem to exist as symbols & property. But the first scene with the Hsia Hsia woman was unlike anything I've read. I felt the awful horror of her situation, but Inoue managed to imbue her with a sense of autonomy as seen through Hsing-te's eyes. That was quite a scene. The rape scene also had that complexity for how quickly he regretted what he did, & it made me wonder if her reaction was more of a coping mechanism. 12mo
Billypar @batsy Yeah, that early scene was so surreal. The autonomy she displayed was interesting - she even says "we will not sell all" as if she's allied with the seller. Maybe it's an indication that most buyers would keep her as a slave and she would choose death over that, just as the princess does later. 12mo
GatheringBooks @merelybookish exactly how i felt! Everything you said here! All my responses to Q1-3 point to my dislike of the entire novel for this very reason. This is all male/masculine gaze - reading the entire story was distasteful for me thruout. I think this was compounded by my reading only exclusively women authors in 2019 that I found reading this novel to be the exact reason why I should read more female authors. 12mo
Billypar @GatheringBooks On the one hand, I thought Inoue was conscious of needing to dramatize how terrible things were for women in this society, while at the same time not being gratuitous about what we see. But yeah, I think you're right, there is still a male gaze issue, not just the characters. Why not expand the roles of the two women? What about encounters with women from the villages? It would have been interesting to glimpse their lives 👇 12mo
Billypar @GatheringBooks To some extent, it wasn't a character- driven novel, so I think I could still enjoy the writing and being in the world as an observer. But without more occasions to see how different women live in this society, it's an incomplete world, and it limited the novel's potential. 12mo
GatheringBooks @Billypar you are def right about it not being a character driven novel at all, it isn‘t plot-driven either. As per the observation of another member in another thread, it is unlike anything, really. Normally that would work for me -but this one felt ultimately dismissive of women (largely swept aside or perceived as accessories to men) and too convinced of its own self-importance in the “larger scheme” of things. Very grandiose.But hollow for me. 12mo
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Billypar
Tun-huang | Yasushi Inoue
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vivastory It did work for me. Although as @batsy pointed out it does drag a bit during certain battle scenes. I'm not really sure how others are thinking of this? A novel? A novella? I thought it was perfectly formed for the story being told. 12mo
saresmoore I thought the pacing was excellent. I skimmed over the names I was butchering in my mental pronunciation, especially during those tedious war maneuvers, but there were so many profound moments. Reading this was like an archaeological dig of historical fiction, chipping away at the context to reveal enduring truths and revelation. 12mo
Billypar I thought the pacing worked for the most part. I did think that the narrative could have slowed down for more smaller moments of significance like when Tsing-he discovers the Uighur princess. Nothing else seemed as intense for me as those scenes, battles included. But that's a quibble and not a knock against the overall pacing. 12mo
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Liz_M I can't remember the specifics of what I found dissatisfying. Perhaps it was a little too compact, glossed over too much time and made illogical leaps in order to pare the story down to the bare essentials. 12mo
vivastory @Liz_M I agree that there were a few illogical leaps. I wasn't at all surprised when I read the preface to discover that several of his books have been adapted into movies. It felt cinematic in a very unique way at times while reading it, including the time gaps. 12mo
Leftcoastzen I found the pace okay. I found myself thinking how life was so hard , few leaders and many people ground up in the territorial skirmishes.Soldiers as soldiers their life is the fight , how people were forced to grab what they could carry and flee. 12mo
merelybookish I don't know. Like others, I really clung to the small human moments of connection and then glazed over during other parts. I don't know if pacing is my issue with this book or just how outside I felt from it all. Considering how many years are covered in the novel, it is a slim volume. It's like the anti- War and Peace. 12mo
Billypar @merelybookish It's interesting to think about what parts would be expanded on if it were a longer novel. Hsing-te might have had a clandestine relationship with the princess, we could have seen him studying the Hsia Hsia language more and absorbing their culture, and maybe even let him have some more time studying the sutras before they had to evacuate. It could have worked, but Inoue would have to make sure it didn't drag. 12mo
batsy Great point @vivastory it did feel cinematic, with time jumps. Although my attention did wander during the "tedious war maneuvers" as @saresmoore puts it ?, in general the pace/structure felt constructed to be both a macro and micro view of the passage of time. The specific details brought vividly to life because obviously things matter to people when they're living life. But it also pulls back to ask just how significant is human existence. 12mo
saresmoore @batsy That‘s a great point. I think Inoue also makes use of the macro/micro lens in his treatment of women. When Hsing-te rapes the princess, he is laser-focused, but Inoue mercifully zooms out very quickly, somehow treating the atrocity of it with both gravity and grace. Later, when she jumps to her death, she is a literal dot in Hsing-te‘s view. It is only in his memory that she takes on more specific characteristics. 12mo
saresmoore It‘s really a unique writing approach. I‘ve never read anything quite like it. @vivastory @merelybookish 12mo
GatheringBooks I admire all of you for appreciating the complexities/subtleties of this novel - all of which are lost on me, as I simply found it a chore to read. Did not like all the characters, found it too male-centric, too macho, and limited in its scope/vision while attempting to be all grand/historic all the while ignoring/silencing women‘s voices that are taken as a matter of course. Rated this 1 out of 5, so I appreciate seeing things here I have missed. 12mo
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Billypar
Tun-huang | Yasushi Inoue
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Billypar (Fyi- I am awful at mass tagging, so apologies for this - trying to get everyone's through at least once!) 12mo
vivastory I honestly wasn't sure what to make of this. On the one hand I read it as Hsing-te's emotional attachment & on the other hand it read as a battle between Hsing-te's principals & Kuang's materialism. 12mo
saresmoore I felt personally affronted and possessive when Kuang discovered the necklace. 😆 I think Hsing-te was always searching for something to “cling” to and at that moment, the necklace represented his idealized version of chastity and honor—something worth dying for. I found it all to be very Buddhist. 12mo
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Billypar @vivastory Yeah, in some ways this links to question #1 - if Kuang takes it, there's a better chance of it being preserved for future generations (even if Kuang just wants it because he's greedy!). But it's personally meaningful to Hsing-te, and that shouldn't be dismissed as sentimental. Maybe we wind up siding with Kuang's view too often because it does seem more logical of a stance. 12mo
Billypar @saresmoore Totally agree: with all the destruction he was witnessing, the meaning of the necklace did seem to take on an outsized role for Hsing-Te. 12mo
Liz_M On a more basic level, Hsing-te kept the necklace because he didn't trust Kuang. Hsing-te trusted in Kuang's profit motivation and took advantage of it in order to secure the scrolls, but there were hints that there was something else in play, Kuang also seemed to have a personal attachment to the necklace and therefore couldn't be trusted with it. 12mo
vivastory @Liz_M Agreed, there did seem to be a personal attachment for Kuang to the necklace 12mo
Billypar @Liz_M That's very true - he was acting very suspicious, almost Gollum-esque! 😅 12mo
vivastory @Billypar Ha! Perfect! 😂 12mo
emilyhaldi Considering the lack of attachment to any place or material belonging for Hsing-Te, I would agree that the necklace must have represented something much bigger for him. He tended to float through life, letting fate determine his direction.. yet he promised the girl he would return for her in a year and then completely disregarded that promise. I think he struggled with some regret in his lack of action and was almost trying to make up for.... 12mo
emilyhaldi ... that betrayal in some way, by not allowing the necklace to be stolen for material purposes? 12mo
Billypar Good point @emilyhaldi - I can see how it would feel like he was breaking his promise all over again. 12mo
vivastory @emilyhaldi That's a great point. Would def be a driving motivation. 12mo
Leftcoastzen I agree with @emilyhaldi he felt he failed her , he was sentimentally attached also , didn‘t trust Kuang wanted some leverage with him & see if Kuang was attached for another reason besides greed. 12mo
merelybookish I wondered for a while if K would turn out to be the prince who hadn't returned from battle for the princess who she assumed had died. It was the only way I could make sense of his intense desire for the necklace. But instead it was pure covetousness! I felt there was a power struggle between these men and necklace became the focal point. 12mo
Billypar @merelybookish That would have been interesting! I got the sense that he considered himself such an expert that he couldn't stand the fact that the necklace was in the hands of someone who didn't know its value. 12mo
batsy @Billypar I love the characterisation of Kuang being Gollum-esque! 😂 I agree with @saresmoore I think it represented certain ideals for him and it was symbolic of his devotion to the girl, in the manner in which he assumed she was devoted to him. I like @emilyhaldi's point & maybe that was what Inoue was depicting: the eternal contradiction between ideals of non-attachment and human desire (we will never not fixate on things, places, people). 12mo
GatheringBooks Love reading all these deep thoughts here, esp @batsy and @Billypar. For me, though, I felt that it was this male ownership/possession/territoriality that frankly put me off the entire novel. I found it too oozing with testosterone and the privileged sense of ownership - be it material things or the women whom they perceive as conquests - women whom they assume to kill themselves over a question of “honor/chastity/loyalty.” Umm.. really? 12mo
Billypar @GatheringBooks I did wonder a lot about those classic dilemmas of historical fiction while I was reading this. How much racism or sexism should be shown? Does the author need to signal their perspective in opposition, or is that just what comes out of good writing naturally? And even if it's 'accurate', it doesn't make it something I want to pick up if there's not a larger purpose. I'll put more thoughts of where I landed with this one in #4.. 12mo
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Billypar
Tun-huang | Yasushi Inoue
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Billypar Correction: @LeahBergen 12mo
Liz_M It depends on the framework. In the grand sweep of history, most lives can seem insignificant. However, to me, my life is the only reality, of course. (edited) 12mo
vivastory I agree with @liz_m I'm also aware that this perspective varies from culture to culture & am aware of both the benefit & the harm of this viewpoint. But ultimately as an individual in modern Western society this is how I feel. I will say that the pandemic has increased & sharpened my sense of both my insignificance & a greater sense of community. Both which I feel I had a fairly decent grasp of beforehand. 12mo
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Billypar @Liz_M @vivastory Good thoughts: works like this always remind me of how much personal histories are less valued relative to a discovery like the scrolls. Yet when we're reading a version like this of what might have happened, so many intriguing questions come to mind that in a weird way, speculation about possibilities seems more significant in some respects than what scientific methods will uncover. 12mo
saresmoore I agree that it‘s Inoue‘s overarching theme, for sure. I underlined several passages that speak directly to this idea and wrote “fate” or “destiny” in the margins more than once. I didn‘t get to reading the preface yet, but I felt like the whole point of Inoue‘s reimagining was to put history into a human context. 12mo
Liz_M @saresmoore “...put history in human context“ - oh! well said. 12mo
vivastory @saresmoore “history into a human context“ I like that & I think it's very apt 12mo
emilyhaldi I love that too! @saresmoore I suppose we naturally think of our individual experience as more “real” than the larger events surrounding us. But of course our personal experiences are ultimately shaped by historical & cultural contexts. @vivastory it‘s interesting to consider how this has become more clear as we live through a global pandemic and are so shaped by the events around us. 12mo
vivastory @emilyhaldi The same historical uncertainty is on display, albeit different era & different circumstances, in this book. Makes me wonder how much it would change their perspective, 12mo
Leftcoastzen I always think we have a bit of It‘s a wonderful life in all of us , that we are a huge influence in a few lives close to us.Some people end up being incredibly significant . I think the main character was open to doing what was right & maybe the right person, right time?He had his heart set on the test that he missed yet didn‘t despair, did he have a hunch he was destined for greater things?How many unsung heroes have saved elements of culture? 12mo
Billypar @Leftcoastzen It did seem like he had that conviction early on. And then he lost it for awhile, like he was almost blunted by the battles. But then it came back in when the scroll issue surfaced. In some ways the scrolls, as significant as historical objects as they are, are almost like that film term, 'Macguffin'. Everyone is concerned about them, but it's Hsing-te's actions and motivations that are most meaningful. 12mo
merelybookish This is an interesting thing to consider since the novel operates on the individual level. Maybe that's why I felt so detached from the main character because ultimately it isn't his story that matters most but the larger forces at work. 12mo
saresmoore @Billypar I love this idea of the scrolls as the Macguffin. And what do they represent? Transcendence & meaning that will live on after the characters‘ looming deaths, I think. (So much ever-present death!) But it really is what everyone is after, whether they realize it or not. Ooh, lots to think about with that Macguffin idea! 12mo
Billypar @saresmoore I think this quote sums up these questions well: "Material goods, life, and political power belonged to those who possessed them, but the sutras were different. They belonged to no one. It was enough that they should not disappear in flames -- that they should just continue to exist. The mere fact that they survived was of value in itself." (161) 12mo
saresmoore In the words of Charlie from A Charlie Brown Christmas, “That‘s it!” 12mo
Billypar @saresmoore 🎹🎶😅 12mo
batsy That's a great quote about the scrolls vs material possessions. I think Inoue was exploring this theme about purposeful existence vs destiny. Hsing-te found himself having his most profound experience as a result of having slept away his one chance at a career. He made a choice to do what he did every step of the way after that, but is it ever really a choice or does one simply respond once external forces have pushed us in a certain direction? 12mo
Billypar @batsy I like that idea about purposeful existence vs destiny being explored. Unlike tragedies where characters are punished in trying to avoid their destiny, Tsing-te needs to struggle and use all his cunning to fulfill it. It is tough to identify where free will begins, but I think there's a stark contrast between the fog-like state of following orders in a deadly war with the moments where he feels a spark to follow his passion for language. 12mo
emilyhaldi @Billypar @saresmoore Your insight regarding the scrolls as a Macguffin have me thinking again back to the necklace... how does it differ from the scrolls as a material possession vs macguffin?? 🧐 12mo
Billypar @emilyhaldi I think it makes sense to compare the two, especially since Kuang believes he is transporting treasures like the necklace to the caves and would be furious if the knew the truth. I guess the difference is that the items like the necklace can be owned by individuals. They have both a material value and a personal value to the owner. But the wisdom in the scrolls can't be owned by anyone. 12mo
Billypar @emilyhaldi Though, as we know from the epilogue, the irony is that dollar values were placed on the scrolls, and so there is less of a distinction between them in the modern context when considered with other items found in the caves. 12mo
saresmoore @emilyhaldi That‘s a really good question. And @Billypar those are equally good insights! In which case, the necklace is almost a red herring? Too far? 😆 12mo
emilyhaldi @Billypar Very good point about the scrolls having a dollar value in modern day.... 🤨🤨🤨 what to make of it! @saresmoore never too far!! Thank goodness for this group... so much insightful analysis that I would never reach on my own! 12mo
Billypar @saresmoore I agree with @emilyhaldi - not too far because most stories have all these characters pursuing the same Macguffin. Even though this wasn't Hsing-te's intention, you have to wonder whether Kuang wouldn't have asked more questions about the cargo being transported if he wasn't so consumed with the necklace. 12mo
Billypar Also agree @emilyhaldi that I never seem to spend enough time reflecting on/ analyzing books after I read them, so I'm loving the dialogue these group discussions allow for! 12mo
saresmoore Yes, @emilyhaldi! We're only as smart as our book club friends, right? 🤓 12mo
GatheringBooks Sorry for being late to the #NYRBBookClub party - what a profound 1st Q you got going on here. The academic/researcher in me sees the macro perspective, whereby the personal is naturally embedded into the political/sociohistorical. In this book, though, I found the historical parts unbelievably boring that I lost all interest in the personal. Was not invested thruout the narrative that straddled both that I lost sight of what is impt in the story. 12mo
Billypar @GatheringBooks Even though I liked it, I definitely know the reaction you're describing well. There's some kind of critical reading engagement threshold where once you fall below it, no intellectual appreciation of themes will win you over. 12mo
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