Nostalgia-Nostalgie Look at the list of current bestsellers and you will find an array of books about dysfunctional families, dystopian societies, global catastrophe, or protagonists living really screwed-up lives. The phenomenon is easy to understand. Many of us are coping with deep-seated anxieties about our world, our health, or even our survival. No wonder, then, that a little book, a collection of short stories, Le petit Nicolas (Nicholas) by René Goscinny and Jean-Jacques Sempé, appeals. It offers the reader a refuge from such cares. A wistful but unsentimental fantasy about a little boy living with his bourgeois parents in a … Continue reading Nostalgia-Nostalgie

INVISIBLE PLANETS – Ken Liu, editor and translator

Having read Ken Liu’s PAPER MENAGERIE, a collection of his short stories, plus his bio and credits, I felt I’d had the good fortune to ‘stumble’ upon an excellent writer and translator whose work gave me a new perspective on speculative and ‘science’ fiction. So, I eagerly read his collection of Chinese scifi short stories he translated and compiled in the anthology INVISIBLE PLANETS. The included works vary in context, level of optimism/despair, characters, plots [of course], and themes, but they all expose the frailty of our species–self-absorption, self-destructive tendencies, depression, and greed. The tales’ settings may be “out there,” … Continue reading INVISIBLE PLANETS – Ken Liu, editor and translator

Lavinia, by Ursula LeGuin

A fan of Le Guin’s writing since adolescence, I appreciated the author’s effort to amplify and enrich the Aeneid. Her novel in a way completes Virgil’s epic poem by continuing the narrative after the hero Aeneas, a Trojan survivor of the war between his state and the Greeks in perhaps the 12th century BCE, defeats and kills his opponent, the Latin, Turnus. Le Guin is not the first to do so. From Wikipedia… “%5BMaffeo Vegio’s (1407-1458)] greatest reputation came as the writer of brief epics, the most famous of which was his continuation of Virgil’s Aeneid…Completed in 1428, this 600-line … Continue reading Lavinia, by Ursula LeGuin

Reading Time and Again, by Clifford D. Simak

Clifford D. Simak was an award-winning American science fiction writer, born in 1904 in Millville, Wisconsin.  Setting a story like Time and Again (1951) in rural Wisconsin characterizes much of Simak’s fiction. For example, he attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison and in Time and Again Simak imagines a University of North America, located a short distance from the confluence of the Wisconsin and Mississippi Rivers. Another pervasive theme in this novel and other Simak fiction is time travel, in his view rarely a good strategy for escaping contemporary woes. Asher Sutton, a human transformed by his deep-space planetary encounter with ‘symbiotic … Continue reading Reading Time and Again, by Clifford D. Simak

Circe, by Madeline Miller

Reading Circe is like attending a master class in crafting the perfect narrative. If ever a novel engaged me so thoroughly in recent years, it was this one by Madeleine Miller, a compelling tour de force. Profoundly trained in the classics, Miller has written a delicious, thrilling novel that reveals her intimacy with Greek mythology and a passion for its inhabitants. I read it in one sitting, so immersed in its flow that when my husband interrupted my reading I truly was startled and for an instant had to pull myself out of Miller’s fictional Aegean. Were I not so involved in … Continue reading Circe, by Madeline Miller

His Best Friend, the Cat

One dog appears in a chapter of Hiro Arikawa’s novel, The Travelling Cat Chronicles. He is not Man’s Best Friend, just one man’s loyal if not too bright companion. Rather, the star of this novel and truly a man’s best friend is a stray cat who acquires the name Nana (for ‘seven’ in Japanese denoting the shape of his black tail) from a young man who befriends him. In the book’s Prologue, the thirty-year-old Satoru finds a cat on the hood of his silver van. He encourages the cat’s trust by leaving him food, caring for his injuries when a … Continue reading His Best Friend, the Cat

Channel Islands Intrigue

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer (deceased) and finished by Annie Barrows is a strangely light-hearted interpretation of the the travails besetting Guernsey island residents during the Nazi German occupation of WWII. Although the narrative does describe the occupiers’ cruel and draconian measures against Guernsey’s residents, its epistolary form focusing on the career and romantic entanglements of its protagonist, Juliet Ashton almost trivializes the hard times and terrors her Guernsey correspondents suffered. Nevertheless, many of the characters in this entertaining novel (a feat, making Nazi occupation entertaining a la Hagan’s Heroes) are well drawn and … Continue reading Channel Islands Intrigue