Monday, February 6, 2017

Rainy Day Reading

With the epic rains of January came plenty of time to be cozy with my cat, mug of hot cocoa, and many a fabulous book.  Here are some highlights:

A Cordiall Water - M.F.K. Fisher
It's been years since I read Fisher's How to Cook a Wolf, but a friend reminded me of her prolific writings and specifically recommended A Cordiall Water, and it was a truly delightful read, in which Fisher writes about various remedies (and related cultural lore) intended to "assuage the ills of man and beast."  While I doubt I'll be laying a quartered pigeon on my chest any time soon (or making said pigeon into a broth) or putting bacon grease up my nose, I might need to up my honey intake, at a minimum.  All in all, highly entertaining!

A Journey Round My Skull - Frigyes Karinthy
Karinthy, a Hungarian writer, wrote this memoir in 1939 about his experience of having a brain tumor.  It's a riveting account of his thoughts, starting with his intuition that something was very wrong, as well as the doctors he meets with and who ultimately operate on him (not under full anesthesia - now that's an utterly harrowing passage), his relationships with friends and family, and the trial and error along the way, with misdiagnoses, miscommunications, and misanthropic moments, to boot.  Fascinating - I couldn't put it down. 

Jackaby - William Ritter
It's very rare for me to head to the teen section of the library, but that I did, in search of Jackaby, a book that was on display at a bookstore.  The old timey writing and plot caught my attention, and I have to admit, I read it voraciously and contentedly.  It tells the story of a young woman named Abigail Rook who arrives in the port town of New Fiddleham, England in 1892, and ultimately lands a job with R.F. Jackaby, a crime investigator with a unique ability to tap into supernatural elements.  I can't wait to read the sequel, with the appealing title, Beastly Bones

House of Liars - Elsa Morante
How does one possibly begin to recover from the post-Ferrante tetralogy blues?  How can such a hole be filled?  As Ferrante mentions in her memoir and collection of interviews, Frantumaglia, one of the writers she admires is Elsa Morante, an Italian novelist.  Therefore, I picked up Morante's House of Liars (published in 1948) and found myself immediately immersed in a novel that reminded me of Garcia Marquez, Allende, and of course, Ferrante.  It's peopled with passionate and stormy characters mired in the messy ties of family, loyalty, love, lust, and jealousy.  Plus, it has one of the most unexpected and creative endings that I've read in some time! 

The Eaten Heart: Unlikely Tales of Love - Giovanni Boccaccio
The Eaten Heart is a collection of stories from Boccaccio's The Decameron, which was written in the mid 1300s over a period of ten years.  The premise of the book is that a group of young Italians are in a secluded villa outside of Florence, where they are attempting to escape the Black Death, and pass the time by telling stories (100 in total) to each other. These stories all focus on love in its various forms - bawd, lustful, nostalgic, unrequited, etc.  This is perhaps the first time I have read literature from the 14th century, so I was struck by how modern and engaging the language is!  I definitely plan to read more tales from The Decameron

To Build a Fire and Other Stories - Jack London
Jack London was a prolific writer, and was a master of short stories.  This collection shows his breadth, and includes several of his Klondike stories which are rugged wilderness tales that take place in the Far North.  It also includes stories featuring working men, downtrodden folks, fighters, desperados, and others, in an array of local and exotic locations, largely inspired by London's own experiences and travels.  While I liked some stories more than others, he has a very engaging and crisp writing style overall, and it is a great collection. 

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