02 December 2010

Reading diary: November 2010

I'm inserting a widget from Goodreads so that I don't need to manually add the book covers every time I post my short reviews. Nifty. I just don't think black background complements the virtual shelf well.

Ryan's nov-2010 book recommendations, reviews, favorite quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists

Your Face Tomorrow 2: Dance and Dream by Javier Marías, tr. Margaret Jull Costa

This is hard-going for me. Alas, after five books of Marías, it's still hard to get accustomed to his style. But then the late style is more stultifying than the previous digressive acts. I really liked the first volume (Fever and Spear) and yet this second one capitalizes on the same drudgery. The "Dance" chapter is a long boring set-up, but the suspense in the "Dream" part makes up for it. Needless to say, the concluding chapters of the third volume, "Poison", "Shadow", and Farewell" will make or break it for me.

The Stalin Front by Gert Ledig, tr. Michael Hofmann

A novel of WWII, with lots of combat action. Visceral, powerful writing that makes me think of the war films of Spielberg and Malick. It's one of those books that were neglected in its own time but really deserve a wider readership. NYRB publisher is to be thanked for bringing out these lost gems.

Read as part of the NYRB Reading Week. My full review is found here.

Pedro Páramo by Juan Rulfo, tr. Margaret Sayers Peden

A fine example of magical realist novel. The story moves between the past and the present and between the worlds of the living and the dead. Imagine ghosts being haunted by ghosts!

It's too bad I don't have anything more to read by Rulfo. He wrote just two books and I already read the other one (The Burning Plain and Other Stories).

The Mystery Guest by Grégoire Bouillier, tr. Lorin Stein -- reread

A reread of this memoir reveals several cracks in the exquisite vase but this remains a favorite piece of monologue. The hung-up and pathetic voice of its narrator, a French lover, is near pitch perfect. It's about how Grégoire Bouillier overcame his traumatic relationship breakup and his penchant for wearing turtlenecks.

The Insufferable Gaucho by Roberto Bolaño, tr. Chris Andrews

Seven pieces - 5 stories and 2 essays - by a "mythical" writer. The title story alludes to Borges. It's a posthumous collection but the stories are living stories, not dead, though they are often inhabited by zombies, or I should say zombie-like characters. I loved it. But then I'm partial to everything Bolañese.


  1. Not read this one, yet. But as a fellow Bolano nut will do so.

  2. Alright! This book is another unvarnished greatness, I tell you.