June 2023

My book of the month for June was Luis Sepulveda's, The Old Man Who Read Love Stories

Haruki Murakami, Dance Dance Dance
Another example, like J. M. Coetzee, of global literature. Less objectionable, but artistically on a par with an airport bestseller. Similar to, but not as good as, Jonathan Lethem's Gun with Occasional Music. Reaction video 2023/06/12
Haruki Murakami, Sputnik Sweetheart
A terrible novel. This made Dance Dance Dance look like The Brothers Karamazov. Wretched. Truly, this was a novel without any positive qualities besides its being brief.
Alice Walker, Now is the Time to Open your Heart
Heartfelt, but lacking in depth. Reaction video 2023/06/14
Jamaica Kincaid, Annie John
Well-written, but rather incredible that in the 21st Century a writer would be placing a daughter's relationship with her mother at the center of her fiction. It feels incredibly insular, almost reactionary.
Scott O'Dell, Island of the Blue Dolphins
Excellent Bildungsroman/nature writing based on the life of Juana Maria, the "Lone Woman of the Island of San Nicolas". Short review 2023/06/16
Shusaku Endo, Deep River
One of the best novels I have read in a long time. The story of several Japanese who, for various deeply personal reasons, go on a group trip to India to visit the Ganges.
Ryu Murakami, 69
Extremely funny account of growing up in Tokyo in the late Sixties, where the narrator and his male buddies are driven primarily by the need to get into the pants of women 'by any means necessary'. Review 2023/06/24
Luis Sepulveda, The Old Man who Read Love Stories
A short, superb novel. Seemingly effortless. Review 2023/07/10
Luis Sepulveda, Full Circle: A South American Journey
Excellent read. The early sections deal with Sepulveda's childhood, his time as a political prisoner, and his escape from Chile.

Illness Narratives
Martha Weinman Lear, Echoes of Heartsounds: A Memoir
Follow-up (after a decade or more) to a quite famous illness narrative Martha wrote about her then husband, a doctor, and his experiences while being treated for a series of heart attacks. In this book Martha has a heart attack and ends up in the same hospital, under the care of the same doctor, and in this book she documents her own experience, recalls the earlier one, and compares them.
Jean-Dominque Bauby, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Superb illness narrative written by blinking an eye to communicate the experience of 'locked-in syndrome', almost total paralysis suffered after a cerebrovascular event by the 42-year-old editor of French magazine, Elle

Short Stories
Charles Beaumont, Perchance to Dream
Extremely well-written from a man who worked on The Twilight Zone. Highly imaginative.
The Jungle
Another well-written story about a man who designs a city built over indigenous land in Africa, and how the natives curse him and drive out the population.
The Sorcerer's Moon
A story concerning the 'last two warlocks' on Earth, who live in contemporary America, and how one seeks to destroy the other with a rune. This is clearly inspired by M. R. James's Casting of Runes, but is much less developed.
Jean Giono, L'homme qui plantait des arbres
Very short story that I read to help improve my French; it concerns a man who single-handedly plants an entire forest.

Critical Works
Pascale Casanova, The World Republic of Letters
This book proposes a new way of intepreting literary works through understanding their position in 'international literary space', a space which is constituted through the gradual acquisition of greater and greater autonomy for literary works (their detachment from politics, from the nation). A very interesting book, but perhaps let down slightly by a lack of examples.