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Welcome to bookchat where you can talk about anything...books, plays, essays, and books on tape.  You don’t have to be reading a book to come in, sit down, and chat with us.

fall 2009 shop, grandbabies 048

One of the fun things about reading books are the settings in large cities that we can visit virtually.  Sometimes the setting is nearly a character in the book.  People speak of books they enjoy that take place in New Orleans and Miami or New York and Los Angeles.

It is thrilling to visit London, Paris, Istanbul, Cairo, or Athens.  Both fiction and non-fiction books can showcase a city and help us see it or fall in love with it.  

After reading Joyce’s Ulysses with pico’s help, the thing I missed most was walking on Dublin’s streets.  

Dubliners by James Joyce

Dubliners is a collection of 15 short stories by James Joyce, first published in 1914. They were meant to be a naturalistic depiction of Irish middle class life in and around Dublin in the early years of the 20th century.

The stories were written when Irish nationalism was at its peak, and a search for a national identity and purpose was raging; at a crossroads of history and culture, Ireland was jolted by various converging ideas and influences. They centre on Joyce's idea of an epiphany: a moment where a character experiences self-understanding or illumination. Many of the characters in Dubliners later appear in minor roles in Joyce's novel Ulysses. The initial stories in the collection are narrated by child protagonists, and as the stories continue, they deal with the lives and concerns of progressively older people. This is in line with Joyce's tripartite division of the collection into childhood, adolescence, and maturity.

I am reading The Princes of Ireland: The Dublin Saga by Edward Rutherfurd and I am learning about early Dublin.

Pgs. 17, 18

Below her, a stream came from the south to join the river, and just before it did so, encountering the end of the little ridge, it made a small bend, in whose angle there had developed a deep, dark pool.  Blackpool, they called it:  Dubh Linn.  To the ear it sounded “Doove Lin.”

…Deserted as it might be, Fergus’s territory was not without significance, for it lay at one of the island’s important crossroads.  Ancient tracks, often hewn through the island’s thick forests and known as slige, came from north and south to cross at the ford.  The old Slige Mhor, the Great Road, ran west…

Once, the place had been busier.  For centuries, the open sea beyond the bay had been more like a great lake between the two islands where the many tribes of her people dwelt, and across which they had traded, and settled, and married back and forth for many generations.  …Roman merchants had come to the western island set up little trading posts along the coast, including the bay, and would sometimes come into the estuary…

Another story set in the Dublin area is Brian Boru: Emperor of the Irish by Morgan Llywelyn

On thousand years ago, during the Viking Age, an extraordinary young man was born in Ireland. His people, plagued by warfare, were weary not only from the Vikings' brutal raids along the coast, but also from the continuous warring among local chieftains. The Irish had become a drowntrodden race.

But a real-life hero changed the destiny of Ireland. This is the story of Brian Boru, who as a young man took it upon himself to revolutionize tenth-century Ireland, striving to create a peaceful land where his fellow Irish men and women cold be safe from harm. And succeed he did. Brian, crowned High King, restored peace and fostered prosperity in the country that was his home--and his heart. Brian Boru: Emperor of the Irish is a beautiful and compelling true story of Irish history.

Books I have enjoyed by by Morgan Llywelyn:

   1916:  A Novel of the Irish Rebellion
   Red Branch
   Lion of Ireland

Maeve Binchy has also written about Dublin.  I have enjoyed many of her stories set in Ireland.

This looked interesting:

New Dubliners: Original Stories Celebrating 100 Years of Joyce's Dubliners by Oona Frawley (Editor) , Maeve Binchy , Dermot Bolger

Celebrating the 100th anniversary of the year in which Joyce penned his famous -collection, New Dubliners presents eleven deeply human, evocative stories set in the Irish capital, by such award-winning and leading Irish authors as Roddy Doyle, Colum McCann, Joseph O'Connor, Bernard MacLaverty, and Frank McGuinness.

Wiki has pictures of Dublin:

The arts

Dublin has a world famous literary history, having produced many prominent literary figures, including Nobel laureates William Butler Yeats, George Bernard Shaw and Samuel Beckett. Other influential writers and playwrights include Oscar Wilde, Jonathan Swift and the creator of Dracula, Bram Stoker. It is arguably most famous as the location of the greatest works of James Joyce, including Ulysses, which is set in Dublin and full of topical detail. Dubliners is a collection of short stories by Joyce about incidents and typical characters of the city during the early 20th century. Other renowned writers include J. M. Synge, Seán O'Casey, Brendan Behan, Maeve Binchy, and Roddy Doyle. Ireland's biggest libraries and literary museums are found in Dublin, including the National Print Museum of Ireland and National Library of Ireland. In July 2010, Dublin was named as a UNESCO City of Literature, joining Edinburgh, Melbourne and Iowa City with the permanent title.

There are several theatres within the city centre, and various world famous actors have emerged from the Dublin theatrical scene, including Noel Purcell, Sir Michael Gambon, Brendan Gleeson, Stephen Rea, Colin Farrell, Colm Meaney and Gabriel Byrne. The best known theatres include the Gaiety, Abbey, Olympia, Gate, and Grand Canal. The Gaiety specialises in musical and operatic productions, and is popular for opening its doors after the evening theatre production to host a variety of live music, dancing, and films. The Abbey was founded in 1904 by a group that included Yeats with the aim of promoting indigenous literary talent. It went on to provide a breakthrough for some of the city's most famous writers, such as Synge, Yeats himself and George Bernard Shaw. The Gate was founded in 1928 to promote European and American Avant Garde works. The Grand Canal Theatre is a new 2,111 capacity theatre which opened in March 2010 in the Grand Canal Dock…

Apart from being the focus of the country's literature and theatre, Dublin is also the focal point for much of Irish Art and the Irish artistic scene. The Book of Kells, a world-famous manuscript produced by Celtic Monks in AD 800 and an example of Insular art, is on display in Trinity College.

What stories have shaped your view of London? Charles Dickens, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Connie Willis, Harry Potter?

A non-fiction book that is very good is London 1945 by Maureen Waller

Wiki has a list:

A few from the list:

19th century fiction

Many of Charles Dickens's most famous novels are at least partially set in London, including Oliver Twist (1838), The Old Curiosity Shop (1840), A Christmas Carol (1843), David Copperfield (1850), Bleak House (1853), Little Dorrit (1857), A Tale Of Two Cities (1859), Great Expectations (1861), Our Mutual Friend (1865), and The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1870).

William Makepeace Thackeray - Vanity Fair (1847)

Jules Verne - Around the World in Eighty Days (French: Le tour du monde en quatre-vingts jours) (1872)

Henry James - The Princess Casamassima (1886), A London Life (1888), What Maisie Knew (1897), In the Cage (1898)

Robert Louis Stevenson - The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886)

Oscar Wilde - The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891)

H. G. Wells - The Time Machine (1895), The Invisible Man (1897), The War of the Worlds (1898)

Somerset Maugham - Liza of Lambeth (1897)

Bram Stoker's - Dracula (1897) comes to London in order to seduce Mina Harker.

Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories. Holmes live at 221B Baker Street - a fictional address since Baker Street was much shorter in Victorian times. The Docklands area plays a large part in The Sign of Four.

20th century fiction

Joseph Conrad - The Secret Agent (1907)
D. H. Lawrence - Sons and Lovers (1913)
P. G. Wodehouse's Jeeves and Wooster novels (1919 onwards). Wooster lives mainly in London, and is a member of the Drones Club.
Virginia Woolf - Mrs Dalloway (1925)
T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land makes frequent reference to the Unreal City.
Chesterton's allegorical works The Man Who Was Thursday and The Napoleon of Notting Hill both feature surreal depictions of London.
Evelyn Waugh - Vile Bodies
Aldous Huxley - Brave New World (1932)
P. L. Travers - Mary Poppins (1934). Takes place on Cherry Tree Lane and at the Bank of England.
Elizabeth Bowen - The Heat of the Day (1949)
George Orwell - Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949)
Agatha Christie - Crooked House (1949)
John Wyndham - The Day of the Triffids (1951)
Graham Greene - The End of the Affair (1951) & The Destructors (1954)
Iris Murdoch - A Severed Head (1961)
Muriel Spark - The Girls of Slender Means (1963)
Doris Lessing - The Four-Gated City (1969)
Thomas Pynchon - Gravity's Rainbow (1973)
Iain Banks - Walking on Glass (1985), Dead Air (2002)
Martin Amis - Money (1984), London Fields (1989)
Tom Clancy - Patriot Games (1987)
Salman Rushdie - The Satanic Verses (1989)
Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere (1997) is set partly in real London, and partly in an alternative "London Below".
J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series (1997 onwards) features fictional London locations: the hidden Diagon Alley
and a Platform 9 3⁄4 at King's Cross.

21st-Century fiction

Owen Parry - Honor's Kingdom (2002)
William Gibson - Pattern Recognition (2003)
Neal Stephenson - The Baroque Cycle (Quicksilver (2003), The Confusion (2004), The System of the World (2004))
Ruth Rendell - Portobello (2008)
Audrey Niffenegger - Her Fearful Symmetry (2009)

Books about Barcelona

One of the books set in Barcelona is Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón which many people enjoyed.  I read it and sent it to a friend who really liked it a lot.

Barcelona, 1945-just after the war, a great world city lies in shadow, nursing its wounds, and a boy named Daniel awakes on his eleventh birthday to find that he can no longer remember his mother's face. To console his only child, Daniel's widowed father, an antiquarian book dealer, initiates him into the secret of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a library tended by Barcelona's guild of rare-book dealers as a repository for books forgotten by the world, waiting for someone who will care about them again. Daniel's father coaxes him to choose a volume from the spiraling labyrinth of shelves, one that, it is said, will have a special meaning for him.

And Daniel so loves the novel he selects, The Shadow of the Wind by one Julian Carax, that he sets out to find the rest of Carax's work. To his shock, he discovers that someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book this author has written. In fact, he may have the last one in existence. Before Daniel knows it his seemingly innocent quest has opened a door into one of Barcelona's darkest secrets, an epic story of murder, magic, madness and doomed love. And before long he realizes that if he doesn't find out the truth about Julian Carax, he and those closest to him will suffer horribly.

One I enjoyed from Madrid by Arturo Perez-Reverte is Nautical Chart.

25 Top Novels Set In India/Pakistan During/Post British Raj

Novels Set in India

A few from the list (the whole list deserves a look. The ones I have read have two stars):

April 2001

Compiled by Melissa Rice of Morton Grove Public Library, from contributions by the members of Fiction_L.

(To use this list in your library, book club, etc., please include the following credit line: "Compiled by the subscribers of the Fiction_L mailing list." This list may not be used for commercial purposes.)

Adult fiction novels and short stories set in, or mostly in, India. Young adult (YA), children's (C), or nonfiction (NF) titles are indicated.

Alexander, Lloyd   The Iron Ring (J)
Anthony, Piers and Tella, Alfred   The Willing Spirit
Buck, Pearl S.   Mandala: A Novel of India
Burgess, Justina   Winds of Eden
Chandra, Vikram   Red Earth and Pouring Rain
Chaudhuri, Amit   Freedom Song: Three Novels
Cleary, Jon   The Faraway Drums
**Conrad, Joseph   Lord Jim

Cornwell, Bernard   Sharpe's Tiger
Corwell, Bernard   Sharpe's Trafalgar
Cornwell, Bernard   Sharpe's Triumph: Richard Sharpe and the Battle of Assaye, September 1803
Davis, Kathryn Lynn   Somewhere Lies the Moon
Davis, Kathryn Lynn   Too Deep for Tears
de Camp, L. Sprague   An Elephant for Aristotle
**Delderfield, R.F.   God Is an Englishman

Desai, Anita   Fasting, Feasting
Desai, Anita   Fire on the Mountain
Desai, Anita   Journey to Ithaca: A Novel
Desai, Kiran   Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard
Divakaruni, Chitra Banerjee   Arranged Marriage: Stories
**Divakaruni, Chitra Banerjee   Sister of My Heart

Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan   The Sign of Four
Fast, Howard   The Pledge
Fitzgerald, Valerie   Zemindar
Flint, Eric and Drake, David   In the Heart of Darkness
**Forster, E.M.   A Passage to India
Fraser, George Macdonald   Flashman
Fraser, George Macdonald   Flashman and the Angel of the Lord
Fraser, George Macdonald   Flashman and the Mountain of Light
Fraser, George Macdonald   Flashman in the Great Game
Godden, Rumer   Coromandel Sea Change

Hesse, Hermann   Siddhartha
Hill, Porter   The War Chest
Holt, Victoria   Secret for a Nightingale
Holt, Victoria   The India Fan
Irving, John   A Son of the Circus

Kaye, M.M.   Death in Kashmir
**Kaye, M.M.   Shadow of the Moon
**Kaye, M.M.   The Far Pavilions

Kipling, Rudyard   The Jungle Book
Kipling, Rudyard   Just So Stories
Kipling, Rudyard   Kim
**Lahiri, Jhumpa   Interpreter of Maladies

Markandaya, Kamala   Nectar in a Sieve
Markandaya, Kamala   The Golden Honeycomb
**Maugham, W. Somerset   Razor's Edge
**Mistry, Rohinton   A Fine Balance
Mistry, Rohinton   Such a Long Journey

O'Brian, Patrick   H.M.S. Surprise
Roy, Arundhati   The God of Small Things
**Rushdie, Salman   Midnight's Children
Rushdie, Salman   The Ground Beneath Her Feet
Rushdie, Salman   The Satanic Verses

Scott, Paul   A Division of the Spoils
Scott, Paul   Raj Quartet
Scott, Paul   The Day of the Scorpion
Scott, Paul   The Jewel in the Crown: A Novel
Scott, Paul   The Towers of Silence
Scott, Sir Walter   Guy Mannering
**Seth, Vikram   A Suitable Boy: A Novel
Smiley, Jane   Ordinary Love
Staples, Suzanne Fisher   Shiva's Fire (YA)
Trollope, Joanna   Mistaken Virtues
Trollope, Joanna   Parson Harding's Daughter
Vidal, Gore   Creation

I enjoy Lindsey Davis’ stories set in Rome in the 70’s AD with Falco as the PI.

Dorothy Dunnett’s stories have taken me all around the world.

Lymond Chronicles

The Lymond Chronicles is a series of six novels, set in mid-sixteenth century Europe and the Mediterranean, which follows the life and career of a Scottish nobleman, Francis Crawford of Lymond, from 1547 through 1558. The series is a suspenseful tale of adventure and romance, filled with action, intense drama, poetry, culture and high comedy. Meticulously researched, the series takes place in a wide variety of locations, including France, the Ottoman Empire, Malta, England, Scotland and Russia. In addition to a compelling cast of original characters, the novels feature many historical figures, often in important roles.

The volumes are as follows:
1.    The Game of Kings (1961)
2.    Queen's Play (1964)
3.    The Disorderly Knights (1966)
4.    Pawn in Frankincense (1969)
5.    The Ringed Castle (1971)
6.    Checkmate (1975)

The six volumes of the Lymond Chronicles, set in the 16th century, are part of what Dunnett viewed as a larger fourteen-volume work, which includes the eight novels of The House of Niccolò series, set in the 15th century. The House of Niccolò, which was written after the Lymond Chronicles, tells the tale of Lymond's ancestors in the previous century and includes allusions to events in the Lymond Chronicles. Dunnett recommended that readers begin with the Lymond Chronicles and then read The House of Niccolò.

The House of Niccolò

The House of Niccolò is a series of eight historical novels set in the late-fifteenth century European Renaissance. The protagonist of the series is Nicholas de Fleury (Niccolò, Nicholas van der Poele, or Claes), a talented boy of uncertain birth who rises to the heights of European merchant banking and international political intrigue. The series shares most of the locations in Dunnett's earlier series, the Lymond Chronicles, but it extends much further geographically to take in the important urban centres of Bruges, Venice, Florence, Geneva, and the Hanseatic League; Burgundy, Flanders, and Poland; Iceland; the Iberian Peninsula and Madeira; the Black Sea cities of Trebizond and Caffa; Persia; the Mediterranean islands of Cyprus and Rhodes; Egypt and the Sinai Peninsula; and West Africa and the city of Timbuktu.

The volumes are as follows:
1.    Niccolò Rising (1986)
2.    Spring of the Ram (1987)
3.    Race of Scorpions (1989)
4.    Scales of Gold (1991)
5.    The Unicorn Hunt (1993)
6.    To Lie with Lions (1995)
7.    Caprice and Rondo (1997)
8.    Gemini (2000)

What cities have bloomed for you as you read about them?

Diaries of the week:

Write On! He do the police in different voices.
by SensibleShoes

Thursday Classical Music OPUS 46: Mozart Symphony #41, "The Jupiter Symphony"
by Dumbo

My Favorite Authors/Books: Peter Hessler
by dweb8231

billssha says:

Who wants to write a diary?

Any author or book is fair game -- we would love to hear about and add it to our "Must Read" list. And I KNOW you don't want me to resort to me talking about the book that I wrote!

Here's what the schedule looks like so far:

Jul 18
Jul 25 -- Ellid, Walter Hunt
Aug 1
Aug 8
Aug 15 -- Diana in NoVa -- TBD
Aug 22
Aug 29

Just send me a message...with a date (and topic if you know it) and I'll add it to the schedule.

plf515 has a book talk on Wednesday mornings early.

sarahnity’s list of DKos authors

Originally posted to Readers and Book Lovers on Wed Jul 13, 2011 at 05:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by Progressive Friends of the Library Newsletter.


Which city holds your heart thanks to books?

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| 27 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  welcome (30+ / 0-)

    How to find the group Readers & Book Lovers:

    or click on the heart by our tag and we will come to your page.  Please stop by and visit as you can comment in diaries now for a longer time and there are some really interesting diaries there.

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    Readers & Book Lovers Series Schedule

    DAY TIME (EST/EDT) Series Name Editor(s)
    SUN 3:00 PM Science, Math, and Statistics Books plf515
    SUN 6:00 PM Young Reader's Pavilion The Book Bear
    SUN 9:30 PM SciFi/Fantasy Book Club quarkstomper
    MON 8:00 PM My Favorite Books & Authors billssha
    TUE 8:00 AM Calvacade of Words aravir
    TUE 8:00 PM Readers & Book Lovers Newsletter Limelite
    WED 7:30 AM WAYR? plf515
    WED 8:00 PM Bookflurries: Bookchat cfk
    THU 2:00 PM (bi-weekly) eReaders & Book Lovers Club Limelite
    THU 8:00PM Write On! SensibleShoes
    THU 10:00 PM The Illustrated Imagination:Graphic Novels Cabbage Rabbit
    FRI 9:00 AM Books That Changed My Life etbnc, aravir
    FRI 9:00 PM (every 3rd week) A Book, Its Movie, and a Glass of Wine mdmslle
    SAT 9:00 PM Books So Bad They're Good Ellid

    NOTE:  Though not part of R&BLers Weekly Magazine Series, please look for "Indigo Kalliope: Poems From the Left" by various authors republished here every WED NOON by aravir.  Also look for "The Mad Logophile" by Purple Priestess that appears intermittently, when the spirit moves her.

    I finished reading:

    Wings of Fire by Charles Todd
    Legacy of the Dead by Charles Todd

    Broken Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin  (a fantasy)

    Echo Burning by Lee Child
    Without Fail by Lee Child
    Persuader by Lee Child

    Italian Folktales by Italo Calvino  ( I have read 16 of my 20 challenge books for the year).

    I am reading:

    The Princes of Ireland by Edward Rutherfurd  (pg. 70 of 776)

    1861: The Civil War Awakening by Adam Goodheart (pg. 25 of 382)

    The Log from the Sea of Cortez by John Steinbeck (pg. 13 of 274)

    What are you reading or hoping to read?

    Join us at Bookflurries: Bookchat on Wednesday nights 8:00 PM EST

    by cfk on Wed Jul 13, 2011 at 03:10:54 PM PDT

  •  Ankh-Morpork nt (10+ / 0-)

    "Tu vida es ahora" ~graffiti in Madrid's Puerta del Sol, May, 2011.

    by ActivistGuy on Wed Jul 13, 2011 at 05:04:01 PM PDT

  •  Bookpost 1: Philip K. Dick/Mira Grant (10+ / 0-)

    The Can-D Man Can’t: The Three Stigmata of  Palmer Eldritch, by Philip K. Dick  
    Barney, dutifully, said, “You insert one of the Great Books, for instance, Moby Dick, into the reservoid. Then you set the controls for Long or short. Then for Funny version or Same-As-Book or Sad version. Then you set the style indicator as to which classic Great artist you want the book animated like. Dali, Bacon, Picasso...the medium priced Great Books animator is set up to render in cartoon form the styles of a dozen system-famous artists; you specify which ones you want when you originally buy the thing. And there are options you can add later that can provide even more.”
    “Terrific”, Norm Schein said, radiating enthusiasm. “So what you get is a whole evening’s entertainment, say, Sad version in the style of Jack Wright of like for instance Vanity Fair. Wow!”
    Sighing, Fran said dreamily, “How it must have resounded in your soul, Barney, to have lived so recently on Terra. You seem to carry the vibrations with you still.”
    “Heck, we get it all,” Norm said, “when we’re translated.” Impatiently he reaced for the undersize supply of Can-D. “Let’s start.” Taking his own slice, he chewed with vigor. “The Great Book I’m going to turn into a full length Funny cartoon version in the style of De Chirico will be—“ He pondered. “Um, The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius.”
    “Very witty,” Helen Morris said, cuttingly. “I was going to suggest Augustine’s Confessions in the style of Lichtenstein—Funny, of course.

    This is one of those books where, if you squint one way, it looks profound, and if you squint the other way, it looks like navel gazing. My first year philosophy class spent a lot of time on the question, what if drugs or machines gave you perfect pleasure all your life, where you could experience a virtual reality anything, and your body aged and died over the decades in a room, doing nothing at all in the real world.  I chose to call the book profound and actually enjoy it on the author’s terms.

    Because it’s Philip K. Dick, you know that we’re dangerously close to the end of the world, and that those people still alive are either miserable, or evil, or both. Global warming has made Earth uninhabitable without expensive body modifications or special cooling packs, and many people have gone to colonize Mars and other areas under barely tolerable conditions, taking escapist drugs to hide form the agony of existence.  Meanwhile, Palmer Eldritch, a businessman who left the known solar system a long time ago, has come back changed somehow, and peddling a “new and better” drug that supposedly lets you make the world of your choosing and live forever in it.

    Once people start taking the drug, the book gets surreal. People take it, have experiences, and it wears off and they come to, only they’re still under the influence of it, and weird things continue to happen, and Eldritch, not the user, seems to be controlling things. And so then it really wears off and they come to reality—but wait, it’s still going on...and then they come out of that, and it’s years in the future, and people are saying to the user, “OMG, you’re the one who [did that spoiler thing] all those years ago! Are you a ghost?”.  Eventually, I found myself waiting for one of the characters to say, “I get it now—we’re in a book!”

    There’s more to it, under the surrealism. There are themes about playing God, and chances to undo past mistakes, and precognition, and the whole concept of escaping into virtual reality to get away from an intolerable life. It packs almost too much, but not quite, into a small space, and the book ended at just about the point where my head was going to start swimming and make me lose the thread of it all. Definitely recommended, but you have to be in the right mood for it.

    Use The Force, Shaun: Deadline, by Mira Grant
    Deer can grow to more than forty pounds and meet the standards necessary for Kellis-Amberlee amplification. We can’t wipe them out wholesale—ecological concerns aside, they’re herbivores, which means their food supply hasn’t been compromised, and they breed like the world’s biggest rabbits. Periodically, somebody introduces legislation to firebomb the forests and take care of the deer problem once and for all, and promptly gets shouted down by everyone from the naturalists to the lumber industry. I don’t have an opinion one way or the other. I just find it interesting that kids apparently used to cry when Bambi’s mother died. George and I held out breaths, and then cheered when she didn’t reanimate and try to eat her son.

    I knew ahead of time that the second volume in Grant’s  Newsflesh trilogy (see Feed, Bookpost, July 2010, and Countdown from last month) would have me impatiently longing for the final volume, which won’t be available until Spring of 2012, and I thought about waiting to read it for a year. The problem is, so many of my friends online and off are fans of the series that I was pretty sure I’d get spoiled if I didn’t read it quickly for myself.

    And so, here we are, in a world in which bloggers and George Romero movie geeks have saved civilization from the zombie uprising and become the world’s trusted sources of news and information.  The gang from Feed is in the middle of it, working on a story with the potential to change everything as thoroughly as “The Rising” did, all those years ago.

    Except that it’s much more than that.  I had goose pimples reading it, and not just because it was scary. I felt like I was experiencing literary history being made; it’s that good.  Where books like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (Bookpost, December 2009) are camp disguised as literature, Deadline is awesome literature disguised as camp.

    It spoke to me on at least four levels: as a zombie action-adventure tale, with breakneck chases and narrow escapes from the monsters trying to surround and eat Shaun and his team; as a political thriller in which the zombies and the virus that creates them are a clever stand-in for the terror weapons at the center of a shadowy power-grabbing plot; as a friendship novel exploring one of the deepest, most moving bonds between two people I’ve encountered in writing in a long time; and best of all; as an inspirational story emphasizing how fortunate we who live today on Earth are, and the joys we take for granted.  When Shaun and George, who have never known any existence other than the security state of post-Rising America and the endless, endless blood tests at gunpoint, speculate about how wonderful it must have been back when people were able to just take a walk outside if they wanted to, I cried almost as much as I did when...when the spoilers happened.  Which I won’t spoil here. Except to mention that I read a lot of this book while on the epilleptical at the gym (because, pre-rising, people are so fortunate that we can go exercise in public if  we want to, without worrying that some overzealous person acting against doctors’ orders might keel over, get up again and eat us), and right about page 209 I let out an agonized moan loud enough to scare people in the gym who thought I might have hurt myself. And they were right.

    In fact, there are only about four action-packed zombie sequences.  The real meat of the book is what happens in between. Very highest recommendations.

    "By Grabthar's Hammer, you have been avenged!" --attributed to President Barack Obama

    by AdmiralNaismith on Wed Jul 13, 2011 at 05:04:38 PM PDT

    •  About Dick's The Three Stigmata... (6+ / 0-)

      I remember reading that book, all the discussions on earth of the drug Can-D and simulacra (little doll-house toys etc. for people on Mars, what a big business it all is, and wondering, what the hell does all that have to do with Mars?

      After you get about half-way through the book, you finally find out through the eyes of the Mars colonists.  Life is SO BORING on Mars that they get together, take drugs, play Ken and Barbie dolls, and pretend they have cool lives back on Earth.  Ohhh...  And it dawns on you just how horrible it must be on Mars that this is such a huge industry.

      On a side note, when the game The Sims came out, there was an interview with one of The Sims' creators at EA/Maxis, where he suggested that if you wanted to see the future direction that they were taking with The Sims, you should read Dick's novel, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch.

  •  Bookpost 2: Aristotle/Robin Lane Fox (10+ / 0-)

    Please Tell Me What I Am: The Bio-Logical Tracts, by Aristotle  
    Serpents, by the by, have an insatiable appetite for wine; consequently, at times men hunt for snakes by pouring wine into saucers and putting them into the interstices of walls, and the creatures are caught when inebriated. Serpents are carnivorous, and whenever they catch an animal they extract the juices and eject the creature whole. And, by the way, this is done with all other creatures of similar habits, as for instance the spider; only that he, the spider, sucks out the juices of its prey outside, and the serpent does so in its belly.  The serpent takes any food presented to him, eats birds and animals, and swallows eggs entire. But after taking his prey he stretches himself until he stands straight out to the very tip, and then he contracts and squeezes himself into little compass, so that the swallowed mass may pass down his outstretched body; and this action on his part is due to the tenuity and length of his gullet. Spiders and snakes can both go without food for a long time; and this remark may be verified by observation and specimens kept alive in the shops of the apothecaries.

    This set of centuries-dated biological tracts (On the History, Parts, Motion, Gait and Generation of Animals) is even longer than the Logical tracts/Organon (see last month’s Bookpost), and less relevant today. Aristotle went about as far as he could go observing animal parts with the naked eye, filtered through the prejudices of the day. His guesses, which range from educated to wild, on such things as blood and semen, viewed by people like us, who learned about red and white blood cells and sperm in our fourth grade classes, are merely amusing.

    “History” and “Parts” are attempts to classify the Animal Kingdom and various tissues and organs into an ordered whole. “Motion” is a strange digression on Aristotle’s concept of the “unmoved mover” and the ultimate source of animal motion, and “Gait” is about actual movement.  Most recommended is “Generation”, which is about reproduction and provides the most insight into Aristotle’s reasoning without the use of the scientific method as we know it, and also contains his most hilarious mistakes and his most offensive whoppers (e.g., his assumptions that the male is naturally the superior gender and the sole cause of life).

    Only Pumpkin Pies Were Burning: Pagans and Christians, by Robin Lane Fox
    In the second and third centuries the pagan cities enjoyed all the forms of supernatural advice which historians of early modern Europe collect and analyze in later Christian contexts. There was only one exception: witchcraft. Pagan society knew no "Devil" with whom individuals could make a pact, and thus no torture and persecutions of "false" prophets and prophetesses. These features were a consequence of Christianity.

    This one isn’t for everybody.  It has nearly 700 pages of dry document sifting about the reasons why Christianity spread like a plague across the Roman Empire in the century or so before Constantine.  The short version is that the dominant Pagan religion had become aristocratic, and was enriching itself at the expense of peasants while displaying a level of indolence and corruption that did not inspire public confidence.  A millennium later, the dominant Catholic religion would bring on the Protestant Reformation the same way, while in modern times, the dominant evangelical Protestants doing the same thing inspire...more fervent worship by their congregations. What is wrong with the world today?

    Additionally, in those days there were supposedly miracles like the spontaneous healing of the sick and creation of food. Nowadays we get crazy PTS ladies claiming to see Jesus’ face on pieces of toast.  But mostly, it comes down to the sudden conversion of Constantine.  According to Fox, the Pagans were still doing great and existed in far greater numbers right up unto Constantine’s conversion; after that, we sank into the Dark Ages, as Christianity went from “We have no control and therefore ask for tolerance—demand, really, as it’s simple fairness, after all” to “Now we are in charge and will kill all of you as heretics who refuse to submit to our Kingdom”.  The moral is: separation of church and state is a very, very good idea.

    Recommended to people very interested in the subject matter.  I much preferred Gibbon’s explanations, both for readability and for making sense.

    "By Grabthar's Hammer, you have been avenged!" --attributed to President Barack Obama

    by AdmiralNaismith on Wed Jul 13, 2011 at 05:05:34 PM PDT

  •  Bookpost 3: Ulysses/The Odyssey (11+ / 0-)

    A Daydream Believer...: Ulysses, by James Joyce  
    The figure seated on a large boulder at the foot of a round tower was that of a broadshouldered deepchested stronglimbed frankeyed redhaired freely freckled shaggybearded widemouthed largenosed longheaded deepvoiced barekneed brawnyhanded hairylegged ruddyfaced sinewyarmed hero. From shoulder to shoulder he measured several ells and his rocklike mountainous knees  were covered, as was likewise the  rest of his body wherever visible, with a strong growth of tawny prickly hair in hue and toughness similar to the mountain gorse (Ulex Europeus). The widewinged nostrils, from which bristles of the same tawny hue projected, were of such capaciousness that within their cavernous obscurity the fieldlark might easily have lodged her nest. The eyes in which a tear and a smile strove ever for the mastery were of the dimensions of a good sized cauliflower. A powerful current of warm breath issued at regular intervals from the profound cavity of his mouth while in rhythmic resonance the loud strong hale reverberations of his formidable heart thundered rumblingly causing the ground, the summit of the lofty tower and the still loftier walls of the cave to vibrate and tremble.

    I started Ulysses at least three times and stopped, failing to understand what was going on. I eventually resorted to a reader’s guide (more like a hint manual: Hide your fake ID in your hat. Take the potato but leave the latchkey behind. Buy the lemon soap and the racy novel, and make sure you keep transferring the soap until it’s been through all your pockets...), I think it was called “The Bloomsday Book”. That got me through all the way on the fourth try, and now I pick it up every few years and find it fascinating in a high-functioning autistic sort of way.

    There are 18 separate episodes, each with its own themes and structure, and all of them about a day in the life of two ordinary guys who wander Dublin, crossing paths now and then, and eventually find one another. That part is just details; the real adventure is the wordplay and other games. In addition to the long stream-of-consciousness monologues, there’s the chapter interspersed with newspaper headlines and rhetorical devices, the chapter composed entirely of questions and answers, the chapter written as a play, the chapter of vignettes about various characters where Joyce cuts and pastes sentences from some characters’ sections into others; the episode about sounds, the one that begins in medieval writing style and evolves into modern English, and (my favorite, from which the quote above comes) the pub where everyday drinking and arguing is portrayed as a larger-than-life epic.  Different chapters have themes based on various parts of the body and various scholarly disciplines. And of course, there are the parallels with Homer’s Odyssey (really, those are only about as close to the original as the ones in O Brother Where Art Thou; as far as I’m concerned, if you know just a little about Ulysses without having read it, the part you know about isn’t the important part).

    Ulysses is a very weird book, and very hard to get into, but the rewards are worth the trouble.  It’s been on many banned lists, and was the subject of a famous Supreme Court case over attempts to censor it, as somewhere in it is a reference to just about every bodily function that polite people aren’t supposed to talk about.  And yet, it’s too literary to be vulgar. I recommend it highly.

    ...and a Homecoming King: The Odyssey, by Homer
    And came he back from pasture, late in the day,
    herding his flocks home, and lugging a huge load
    of good dry logs to fuel his fire at supper.
    He flung them down in the cave--a jolting crash--
    We scuttled in panic into the deepest dark recess.
    And next, he drove his sleek flocks into the open vault
    All he'd milk at least, but he left the males outside,
    Rams and billy goats out in the high-walled yard.
    Then, to close his door he hoisted overhead
    A tremendous, massive slab--
    No twenty two wagons, rugged and four-wheeled,
    Could budge that boulder off the ground, I tell you,
    Such an immense stone the monster wedged to block his cave!

    The above, the first appearance of the Cyclops, is what Joyce directly paralleled in his description of The Citizen from Ulysses. Which do you find the most compelling? Yeah, me too.

    Since I've been re-reading a lot of the ancient Greek classics, as well as Ulysses in honor of Bloomsday, it made sense to pull out the Odyssey, one of the first existing pieces of western literature and far superior to the Iliad.  I first encountered it in Freshman humanities class, where I wrote a paper on it having blown off reading anything but the table of contents (it was fortunately one of those expanded contents that said, e.g., "BOOK XI--In which Odysseus goes to Hades and meets the shades of his mother, and blind prophet Tiresias, who warns him of the perils that lie ahead...").  Not only did I get an A on the paper, but the prof read bits of it out loud to the class as an example to others.  I never got that kind of praise when I actually did the work. There's a lesson in there someplace...

    This time around, I read the Robert Fagles translation, which is very lively  and compelling read, and which makes the characters seem human. I'd always had a problem with Odysseus, in that he is continually described as the trickster archetype, the little guy who succeeds by his wits instead of brute force, but then is portrayed sometimes as a great hulking man-god who impresses everyone with his rippling physique, even when disguised as a beggar, and whose bow no mortal is strong enough to pull.  No matter how much suffering he endures, it's been hard for me to feel much sympathy for him because he's so fucking perfect.  His estate is so vast that an army of suitors wastes it for three years without apparently making a dent in it, and his swineherd lives in a more spacious house than most middle class people own in America today.  Somehow in the Fagles translation, none of that really matters.  Neither does the fact that the whole part everyone thinks of when they think of "The Odyssey"--the journey from Troy to Calypso's island, with the lotus eaters, Lestrygonians, cyclops, Circe, the journey to Hades, Scylla and Charybdis, the Sirens and Apollo's cattle--are compressed into just four chapters of a 24-chapter epic, with about half the book devoted to wailing and gnashing of teeth over repeated descriptions of the suitors gorging themselves on Ithaca Manor.  This may have been the first time I really paid attention to that dead space, Fagles having actually made it seem not to be repetitive.

    Everyone should at least read it once, and the Fagles translation is the best version I've found to date.

    "By Grabthar's Hammer, you have been avenged!" --attributed to President Barack Obama

    by AdmiralNaismith on Wed Jul 13, 2011 at 05:06:16 PM PDT

  •  Bookpost 4: Jim Butcher/Rick Castle (10+ / 0-)

    Leader of the Pack: Fool Moon, by Jim Butcher  
    I have what might be considered a very out-of-date and chauvinist attitude about women. I like to treat women like ladies. I like to open doors for them, pay for the meal when I’m on a date, bring flowers, draw out their seat for them—all that sort of thing. I guess I could call it an attitude of chivalry, if I thought more of myself. Whatever you called it, Murphy was a lady in distress. And since I had put her there, it only seemed right that I should get her out of trouble, too.
    That wasn’t the only reason I wanted to stop the killings. Seeing Spike torn up like that had scared the hell out of me. I was still shaking a little, a pure and primitive reaction to a very primal fear. I did not want to get eaten by an animal, chewed up by something with a lot of sharp teeth. The very thought of that made me curl up on my car’s seat and hug my knees to my chest, an awkward position considering my height and the comparatively cramped confines of the Beetle.

    In the second installment in the “Dresden Files” series, Chicago’s almost-tough consulting wizard races with the moon cycle to stop one or more werewolves before more victims get slaughtered.  He endures a string of spectacular fails, and manages to defeat the villain and avoid getting chomped, as before, with a lot of luck and assistance.

    Dresden is brain candy, not great literature. I’m intrigued enough to stay with the series because I’m hoping the character grows over time. As I noticed with volume one, Storm Front, all of Dresden’s stats are in reckless courage and magic, and there are enough regulations and energy limits on the magic that he can’t just cast spells out of every situation; in fact, he’s tapped out for most of the book, and without the muscle, the intelligence, the wisdom or the charisma to find other ways out of his problems, the way other detectives do.

    On one of my forums last month, I had a pie fight over Storm Front with people alleging that Butcher was (gasp) sexist!  I suppose that, if you hate Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, John D. MacDonald and all the other lone male sleuths in detective fiction who spend a lot of their adventures philosophizing from a place of detached superiority while the female characters mostly need rescuing or are evil, you won't like this series.  If you hate the kind of 40 year old Virgin type movies where some doofus is finally, finally helped to get a clue and all the women he's mistreated throughout the movie immediately jump for joy and want to marry him, you won't like this series. Because, at least here in the first couple of books, Dresden is that kind of doofus. He has lousy dating skills. He withholds information from women on the theory that they Can't Handle The Truth, with the result that they don't know what to do when danger arrives, and good people get hurt and killed.  

    And his code of honor is stupid.  When the local chaotic-good mobster trope (i.e., the violent criminal with some semblance of a code of honor) wants to establish a diplomatic understanding with Dresden, the wizard not only turns him down but goes out of his way to be insulting.  Compare this with Spenser, who opposes organized crime when his cases require it, but who knows enough not to rock the boat and cultivates a working relationship with just about every crime leader in Boston, running the full spectrum of Bad.  Dresden will learn diplomacy over time, or the series will be a short one.

    All of this is a far cry from the author sharing in the character's bad qualities.  I see no implication that Dresden's doofus behavior is supposed to be praiseworthy; in fact, the consequences he suffers seem to indicate that Butcher knows Dresden is wrong, and (hopefully) plans to make the character grow over time. I'm still intrigued. Your mileage may vary.

    As Seen on TV: Naked Heat, by “Richard Castle”  
    He may have been in the same place, because in some unspoken ballet of synchronization, the two leaned forward at the same instant, drawn to each other by a tender kiss. When they parted, they smiled again and just held each other, jaws resting on opposing shoulders, their chests slowly rising and falling as one.
    “And so you know, Rook, I’m sorry too. About this afternoon in the car, being so rough on you.”
    A full minute passed and he said, “And so you know? I’m good with rough.”
    Nikki drew back from him and gave him a sly look. “Oh, are you?” She reached down and took him in her hand. “How rough?”
    He cupped a palm behind her head, lacing his long fingers through her hair. “Wanna find out?”
    She gave him a squeeze that made him gasp and said, “You’re on.”
    And then she gasped as he gathered her up in his arms and carried her to the bedroom. Halfway down the hall, she bit his ear and whispered, “My safe word is “pineapples.”

    Unless you’ve been watching the Castle TV series, this is an average-to-good police mystery. If you have been seeing it, it’s gorram hilarious.  The show has some amazing writers and an excellent cast, and the chemistry between the main actors is wonderful to behold.

    The novel isn’t quite a written episode of Castle with the names changed to Jameson Rook and Nikki Heat, the characters in the book about Beckett that Castle writes in the series.  It’s better than’s a Castle episode as Rick Castle himself would have written it, where Rook and Heat are friggling like bunnies and there’s no mother and daughter in the apartment to walk in on intimate moments.

    Also, Rook is a famous journalist, not a novelist, which gives the writers a chance to explore how it might affect the series if, instead of Nikki Heat novels, the Beckett character was written up in the press by her intermittently welcome ride-along. It gets interesting.  The mystery part, not so much; it matches one of the frequently used formulaic plots from the series.  I singled out as “most likely suspect” the actual killer the first time that character appeared, and though the plot shifts back and forth several times, I was pretty much able to predict most of the twists before they happened. Recommended anyway, for the fun of the chase.

    "By Grabthar's Hammer, you have been avenged!" --attributed to President Barack Obama

    by AdmiralNaismith on Wed Jul 13, 2011 at 05:07:06 PM PDT

  •  Bookpost 5: Nathaniel Hawthorne/Sarah Vowell (10+ / 0-)

    Towards a Socialist America: The Blithedale Romance, by Nathaniel Hawthorne
    On the whole, it was a society such as has seldom met together; nor, perhaps, could it reasonably be expected to hold together long. Persons of marked individuality—crooked sticks, as some of us might be called—are not exactly the easiest to bind up into a faggot. But, so long as our union should subsist, a man of intellect and feeling, with a free nature in him, might have sought far and near, without finding so many points of attraction as would allure him hitherward. We were of all creeds and opinions, and generally tolerant of all, on every imaginable subject. Our bond, it seems to me, was not affirmative, but negative. We had individually found one thing or another to quarrel with, in our past life, and were pretty well agreed as to the inexpediency of lumbering along with the old system any farther. As to what should be substituted, there was much less unanimity. We did not greatly care—at least, I never did—for the written constitution under which our millennium had commenced. My hope was, that between theory and practice, a true and available mode of life might be struck out, and that, even should we ultimately fail, the months or years spent in the trial would not have been wasted, either as regarded passing enjoyment, or the experience which makes men wise.

    I was assigned this one via an online book club that chooses books from a long list of "great fiction".  If the list has a flaw, it is that it tends toward author worship, so that any author who wrote a masterpiece is represented on the list by every novel that author ever wrote.  This book is a case in point. Hawthorne's House of the Seven Gables and I Know What You Did Last Summer The Scarlet Letter are deservedly widely read. The Blithedale Romance is one few people these days have even heard of and, after reading it, I have a pretty good idea why not.

    The socialist farming community of Blithedale is apparently a stand-in for Brook Farm, an actual experimental utopia formed in Massachusetts in the 19th Century. Among its inhabitants are Miles (the poetic narrator), Hollingsworth (the neurotic, overbearing one who everyone has to be nice to because he's funding it all), Zenobia (the charismatic reformer) and Priscilla (the waif), who take turns forming assorted alliances and hostilities.  Long, long segments are devoted to Miles's psychological misgivings and descriptions of allegorical natural formations in the wilderness surrounding the community.  Only three or four real plot developments happen, and when a Big Reveal came, I found myself wondering what all the fuss was about.  

    According to the introduction, Henry James really enjoyed this book, maybe so much so that he adopted the style of putting so much effort into telling the reader who people are that he runs out of space tohave them actually do anything.  The Blithedale Romance is just 240 pages long, and by the time I started to find the characters interesting, the story was over.  If you like most Henry James, this book might be for you. If you prefer The Scarlet Letter, not so much.

    A Nice Hawaiian Punch: Unfamiliar Fishes, by Sarah Vowell  
    I’m hard pressed to find a more momentous season in the history of Hawaii than the autumn of 1819. Kealakekua Bay—the already significant Big Island cove where Captain Cook died and Henry Obookiah lit out for America—welcomed the first two New England whaling ships on September 29. Three weeks later, the first missionaries departed Boston on the Thaddeus. Two weeks after that the eating kapus came to an abrupt end.
    Thus within five weeks during the presidency of James Monroe, Hawaii’s stormy course toward becoming the fiftieth state was charted.  The Hawaiian people, with their ancient balance between spiritual beliefs and earthly pleasure, were suddenly freed of or in need of an official religion, depending on one’s point of view, and about to entertain swarms of haole gate-crashers representing opposing sides of America’s schizophrenic divide—Bible-thumping prudes and sailors on leave. Imagine if the Hawaii Convention Center in Waikiki hosted the Values Voter Summit and the Adult Entertainment Expo simultaneously...for forty years. As Hiram Bingham put it dryly, “It has been said that the interests of this mission, and the interests of commerce, were so diverse, or opposite, that they could not flourish together.”

    I’m a major fan of Sarah Vowell.  I read many historians who can educate, even entertain, but Vowell is the only one who makes the trip seem hip and cool. Oh all right, Vowell and I.F. Stone.  I happily got on the library’s wait-list for Unfamiliar Fishes as soon as I learned it had been published, and picked it up eagerly, wanting Vowell’s comic muse to balance out the tragedy of Mira Grant.

    That was a mistake.  The delightful bon mots and pop culture references I’m used to were few and far between this time around (though there were still some to be found), and the story she has to tell is a bitter pill to swallow without a lot of sugar coating. Unfamiliar Fishes is pretty much the story of how white people from the United States came to the Island Paradise of Hawaii, which had been getting along just fine on the other side of the world from Western Syphillization, and—first with missionaries, then with capitalists and other fortune hunters, and finally with soldier with guns—took it all for their property. As usual.

    Vowell may be too pissed off to make many jokes here: The groundswell of outrage over the invasion of Iraq often cited the preemptive war as a betrayal of American ideals. The subtext of the dissent was: This is not who we are. But not if you were standing where I was. It was hard to see the look in that palace tour guide’s eyes when she talked about the American flag flying over the palace and not realize that ever since 1898, from time to time, this is exactly who we are.

    Even so, what happened to Hawaii in the 19th century is something all Americans should know about and ponder, and no source is going to make it more palatable than Vowell does.  Highly recommended.

    "By Grabthar's Hammer, you have been avenged!" --attributed to President Barack Obama

    by AdmiralNaismith on Wed Jul 13, 2011 at 05:07:46 PM PDT

  •  I recently read The Jewel in the Crown, (12+ / 0-)

    which pretty much broke my fucking heart.

  •  Current reading ... (8+ / 0-)

    John Haught, God After Darwin: A Theology of Evolution.  Good so far.

    Jon Roberts, Darwinism and the Divine in America: Protestant Intellectuals and Organic Evolution, 1859-1900.  Just a couple of chapters left.

    Friedrich Schleiermacher, On Religion: Speeches to its Cultured Despisers - read this right after I got out of seminary and loved it.  It's interesting coming back to it after life has jaded me a bit.

    David Tracy, Blessed Rage for Order: The New Pluralism in Theology.  Jury's out.

    Paul Ricoeur, Memory, History, Forgetting.  Will stretch my brain as I move through it.

    Vijay Prashad, The Darker Nations: A People's History of the Third World.  This is a very important political analysis of the last 90 or so years, but it doesn't exactly feel like a "People's history."  Still, very recommended.

    If religion means a way of life, and life's necessities are food, clothing, and shelter, then we should not separate religion from economics. - Malcolm X

    by dirkster42 on Wed Jul 13, 2011 at 05:10:02 PM PDT

  •  This week's reading (11+ / 0-)

    Still making my way through Poor Miss Finch by Wilkie Collins – what a pack of drama queens the characters have turned out to be! Jicks, the three year old who always refers to herself in the third person (“Jicks will sit there!”) is one of the mature ones. Still, it’s an adventure.

    Almost finished with Stuff, a therapist/researcher’s case histories of hoarders, ranging from sad, to downright frightening (a bully hoarder causes the rest of the family to live in complete squalor). Started the next non-fiction as well – Brilliant, a History of Artificial Light.

    In the spirit of this week’s thread - anyone who likes detective stories set outside the U. S. should look intro Alicia Gimenez-Bartlett’s Death Rites, featuring Barcelona policewoman Petra Delicado. The translation is so good I have to consciously recall the book was written in Spanish! I actually read the second one, Dog Day, first, but that didn’t matter much.

  •  London Books (9+ / 0-)

    Peter Ackroyd's London: The Biography is my favorite work about the city.

    Other great descriptions of London are in Tom Jones, Hugh Walpole's Above the Dark Tumult, and John Mortimer's Rumpole books.

    "By Grabthar's Hammer, you have been avenged!" --attributed to President Barack Obama

    by AdmiralNaismith on Wed Jul 13, 2011 at 05:15:02 PM PDT

  •  San Francisco (9+ / 0-)

    is always gonna be my pick, even if my experience of it isn't quite as mythic as the Tales of the City series.

    Finished Shakespeare's Richard II, one of his less famous historicals, and the prequel to Henry IV and V.  Greedy king gets overthrown with a whole lot of rhyming verse.  Not much by way of the lighter subplots that Shakespeare usually throws in.

    Also working my way through sections of Leonard Zeskin's Blood and Politics, a massive tome about the white nationalist movement.  Informative and depressing; I'll have more to say if I ever finish it.

    Next up:  finally getting to Janet Evanovich's Smokin' Seventeen, the latest Stephanie Plum novel.  My wife, who read it first, promises multiple scenes of sex with Ranger, plus at least two destroyed cars (apparently Ranger's employees have a betting pool on how long each one will last.  The cars, not the sex.)

    I shall die, but that is all that I shall do for Death; I am not on his payroll. - Edna St. Vincent Millay

    by Tara the Antisocial Social Worker on Wed Jul 13, 2011 at 05:22:20 PM PDT

  •  A few off the top of my head (8+ / 0-)

    Rohinton Mistry's book set in Bombay are terrific.

    I started Mario Vargas-Llosa's Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter in Spanish years ago, and gave up partway, but it certainly gives a feel for Lima!

    There's also Tom Rachmann's The Imperfectionists -- stories of employees at the same English-language newspaper in Rome.

  •  City: Kings Landing. Or Winterfell. Or (10+ / 0-)

    Riverrun, get the idea. IOW, I have in my hands a copy of A Dance with Dragons, and won't let it go :)

    Full disclosure: I have children and thus care about climate. @RL_Miller

    by RLMiller on Wed Jul 13, 2011 at 05:24:43 PM PDT

  •  What a great topic for tonight, cfk! (10+ / 0-)

    London, of course, is my favorite city, from the light-hearted, rather silly scenes of P.G. Wodehouse's books to the swirling fog of the Sherlock Holmes stories, and novels too numerous to mention--London Pride, An Episode of Sparrows, Friends and Lovers, are just a few of them.

    After being enraptured by The Far Pavilions (which lasted me from Los Angeles Airport all the way to Melbourne, Australia), I read my way through all the M.M. Kaye books and adored them.

    An English professor at college had us read The Dubliners, which I quite enjoyed.  It made a bit more sense to me than Mrs. Dalloway.

    And in the, uh, Books So Bad They're Good category, there's Forever Amber. That wench needed a full-time, permanent job.

    "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

    by Diana in NoVa on Wed Jul 13, 2011 at 05:32:25 PM PDT

  •  Murakami (6+ / 0-)

    I don't real all that much fiction on the whole, but his books give a definite feel for Japan, though I've never been there myself.

  •  Great diary and great (9+ / 0-)

    comments. Long day so am too tired to join in the discussion but love reading it! Thanks to all.

  •  Fantasy cities (11+ / 0-)

    Others have already covered Ankh-Morpork, so I won't bother except to say that I cherish the following line from Mort:  "a city with a million inhabitants and no sewers."

    Minas Tirith, of course, is probably the best known.  I still remember gasping at the glimpses of it in the background as Gandalf reins in his horse in the opening scenes of The Fellowship of the Ring.   It's one of the greatest of fantasy cities, with its seven levels and the court of the White Tree.

    Also in LOTR - Esgaroth upon the Long Lake, the city on stilts...Hobbiton and Bree, more towns than cities, but no less real...Caras Galadhon, built in and of the very mallorn trees themselves...Meduseld, more mead hall than city but the closest the Rohirrim have...doomed Gondolin...Rivendell..

    There are other fantasy cities, too.   The Emerald City, chief metropolis of Oz and seat of Princess Ozma, is so powerful an icon that its destruction in a Ray Bradbury story is the signal of the death of the human imagination.   Rhiminee, capitol of Skala in Lynn Flewelling's Nightrunners series, is a wonderfully convoluted mess of intrigue, crime, beauty, and magic, and its predecessor, the corrupt and plague-ridden Ero, is even more vividly drawn.  Liavek from the shared world anthologies, Fritz Leiber's Lankhmar, Roger Zelazny's Amber...the list goes on and on.

    And when it comes to urban fantasy, don't forget the vision of Minneapolis as a battleground between the Seelie and Unseelie Courts of Faerie in Emma Bull's War for the Oaks, or, my God, Charles De Lint's amazing vision of Toronto in Moonheart and Mulengro and so many others.  And Wen Spencer's Pittsburgh in Tinker and....

    So many cities.  So many adventures.  How can I possibly choose?

    •  Great list of great places...thanks! (6+ / 0-)

      I do like Toronto as you say.

      We have been blessed by authors' imaginations!

      So many of those beautiful places are in my heart, too.

      In the Dragon Lance books, the inn is in a huge tree.  That grabbed me right away.  :)

      Join us at Bookflurries: Bookchat on Wednesday nights 8:00 PM EST

      by cfk on Wed Jul 13, 2011 at 06:02:37 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I'll read ANYTHING by de Lint. (9+ / 0-)

      Not a city, but a series of...places...and now I am forgetting the author's name AND the title of the trilogy.

      It was published in the early 1980s, I think by Ace.

      A guy from Earth accidentally drives through a portal that sends him to other worlds.  There are series of these portals, created by aliens, and he ventures through many worlds (and adventures) before finding his way home.

      I loved it at the time, and would re-read it in a heartbeat, if I could remember the author or the titles.

      Over the past 30-odd years, the Democrats have moved to the right, and the Republicans have moved into a mental hospital. --Bill Maher

      by Youffraita on Wed Jul 13, 2011 at 06:27:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  They sound interesting (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MT Spaces, newdem1960, Youffraita, Dumbo, jolux

        I know several books about gates or portals, but not one with a car.

        I will hope someone here can remember.

        Join us at Bookflurries: Bookchat on Wednesday nights 8:00 PM EST

        by cfk on Wed Jul 13, 2011 at 06:30:12 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Oh, I think you'd love it, cfk (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          MT Spaces, cfk, newdem1960, jolux

          He drives back in time to the Big Bang, iirc.  Or at least...something like that.  It's been almost thirty years since I read those books.  But they were great fun & quite well written.

          Over the past 30-odd years, the Democrats have moved to the right, and the Republicans have moved into a mental hospital. --Bill Maher

          by Youffraita on Wed Jul 13, 2011 at 06:42:46 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  I've been trying to find a book (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          cfk, jolux, newdem1960

          like that too--I distinctly remember reading one in the late 70's to early 80's, like 78 to 82, with portals that was so cool, I've always wanted to read it again but have forgotten the title and author. I remember it had something to do with sand. Sands, dunes? or a desert?

          I thought it was a Zelazny book but although he's written about portals it's not the one. I once stayed up all night searching on amazon for sci-fi with "Gate" in the title, "Doorway," etc. and just couldn't find it.

          ~On, Wisconsin! On, Wisconsin! Raise her glowing flame!~

          by sillia on Wed Jul 13, 2011 at 07:10:34 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  hmmmm...Zelazny does have one called (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            sillia, jolux, quarkstomper, newdem1960

            Roadmarks and I read it, too.  :)


            The Road runs from the unimaginable past to the far future, and those who travel it have access to the turnoffs leading to all times and places—even to the alternate time-streams of histories that never happened. Why the Dragons of Bel'kwinith made the Road—or who they are—no one knows. But the Road has always been there and for those who know how to find it, it always will be!

            An extraordinary time-travel adventure by one of sf's most acclaimed masters of imagination--the award-winning author of the new hardcover A Night in the Lonesome October. Travelers of "The Road" can get off at exits leading to all times and places--even alternate histories that never happened. Reissue.

            Join us at Bookflurries: Bookchat on Wednesday nights 8:00 PM EST

            by cfk on Wed Jul 13, 2011 at 07:18:40 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I don't remember any dragons (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              cfk, newdem1960

              in the book I'm thinking of, though at this point I'm not sure if I can trust my memory--maybe I've invented this book in the intervening years!

              However, that Zelazny one sounds great, I'll look for it. Thanks!

              ~On, Wisconsin! On, Wisconsin! Raise her glowing flame!~

              by sillia on Wed Jul 13, 2011 at 07:33:38 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

    •  And oh, how could I have forgotten? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cfk, newdem1960

      Tai-Tastagon, setting of P.C. Hodgell's marvelous novel Godstalk and its sequels, and Sanctuary from Thieves' World, and....

  •  Not exactly a novel but (9+ / 0-)

    Savannah has been pretty much defined by Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil these days, no?

  •  The Netherlands, or "lowlands" ... (9+ / 0-)

    Extend beyond the borders of Holland into Belgium and Germany.
    There is a land named Friesland which straddles both De Nederlands and Deutschland -- they speak a cousin-language called Friesian, plus rely on dikes and complex hydrology to maintain their lands.
    (Dutch and Deutsch both derive from the root word for "ourselves," which is Dietz in Old Friesian.)

    Actor/Model Famke (X-Men) Janssen was born there, so was Margaretha (Mata Hari) Zeller, in fact, there's a public statue of the ill-fated Zeller in Groningen.

    Phoenix Sez: NO French cops are going to get THIS Frieslander, sister!

    German novelist Theodor Storm wrote a simple, yet vivid novel about the rigors of the place called Rider On The White Horse.

    Here is a link to the free e-book in English -- very vivid!

    I also had the privilege of having a high school German teacher who was able to guide us through the original.
    When I spent some time in that region, I repeatedly had deja vu because of that novel.

    ... Deficit reduction, as it is usually discussed, is a "give to the rich" agenda.

    by MT Spaces on Wed Jul 13, 2011 at 06:15:49 PM PDT

  •  London ... (8+ / 0-)

    Dickens, of course, and then there's George Orwell's Down and Out in Paris and London and Jack London's The People of the Abyss. My reading has not given me a good impression of that city. I just re-read a real good one about my town, Whiskey, Six-Guns & Red-light Ladies: George Hand's Saloon Diary, Tucson, 1875-1878. It's a gas, all the town's Founding Fathers, the guys with streets named after them, are in there, buncha' drunks the lot of 'em.

  •  I'm reading a lot of stuff (8+ / 0-)

    I read Tess Gerritsen's The Surgeon, the first in the Rizzoli & Isles series, just picked up the next 2 from the library. Also got Neil Barnard's new book, 21-Day Weight Loss Kickstart: Boost Metabolism, Lower Cholesterol, and Dramatically Improve Your Health.

    I've been listening to the Harry Dresden books by Jim Butcher on audio. I tend to not be in the car for long, so I hadn't thought audio would work for me, but I'm on book 3, so I guess I'm getting used to it.

    Will finish Harry Potter #7 tomorrow. Seeing the movie twice Friday.

  •  She can be very irritating, (9+ / 0-)

    but when she's on her game, Sara Paretsky can make me believe I'm in Chicago.  I love her descriptions of the food there -- especially the one where she overate at a deli and was so full she had to postpone her surreptitious entry into the bad guys' lair (I think it was in Burn Marks)

  •  Bath, England, in 1812, (10+ / 0-)

    or thereabouts, courtesy of Jane Austen in Persuasion.

  •  New Orleans, thanks to Anne Rice. (7+ / 0-)

    In fact, she made it Vampire Central, so that it's almost the required location for vampire fiction.  Notice how True Blood is located in Baton Rouge.  What a colorful location for a good story.  

    And then there's Tennessee Williams.  A Streetcar Named Desire -- there really is a street named Desire in New Orleans, and a streetcar used to or still does run on it.  

    There used to be an 18th or 19th century mnemonic for the street names in New Orleans.  "Every Frenchman Desires Good Children..." or something like that?  I don't know the street layouts, and have never been to New Orleans, but there was a history book with that title.

    Ah!  I found it:

    Have you ever wondered where the fascinating and often difficult-to-pronounce street names of New Orleans come from? This classic, humorous reference on the nomenclature of the city's roadways explains the history of such street names as Tchoupitoulas, Marigny, Poets, Decatur, and more. Frenchmen, Desire, Good Children reveals the intriguing tales of the developers, families, notorious and famous people, places, and events from which these names were created, sharing the street-level history of this one-of-a-kind American city. --This text refers to an alternate Paperbac

    Brief Dumbo Spam: My INTENTION is to publish Thursday Classical Music Blogging tomorrow at 5pm PDT, it's usual supposed time.  We'll have to see, though, because my back is very messed up today and sitting in front of the computer for extended periods is a pain.  My intended subject, though, is 19th century Classicism, including the two Haydns, Stamitz, Benjamin Franklin's Quartet, The Mozart Symphony #37 which isn't really by Mozart, homophony, the patronage system and absolutism, The Age of Reason and The Enlightenment, and the development of the new European middle class.  Let's see how much of that gets done.

    •  uh, oh (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Youffraita, Dumbo, newdem1960, jolux, MT Spaces

      I am really sorry about your back!  Much sympathy!!!

      We did get to New Orleans one Easter in 1978.

      I loved it.  Pirate's Alley was neat.

      Street Cars are neat.  One of our DKos members wrote a whole book about them.  I bought a copy.

      Join us at Bookflurries: Bookchat on Wednesday nights 8:00 PM EST

      by cfk on Wed Jul 13, 2011 at 07:01:33 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I think New Orleans is the coolest city (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Youffraita, cfk, jolux, MT Spaces, newdem1960

        in the world that I've never been to and probably never will be to.  In fact, I think I might never go just so I'm not disappointed.  Actually, that's my strategy about a lot of things in life.  I can think of many things I wish I had NOT done so I could still romanticize them in my head.

        Hey.  I got tomatoes.  Red and orange and black and little and big...  The ones I started for my sister are producing as well and she brought me a bunch.  The Orange Russian 117 was one of the sweetest tomatoes I've ever tasted, and it was a very pretty marbled orange/red inside.  I should have grown some of those.

        •  Great! (5+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Youffraita, Dumbo, jolux, MT Spaces, newdem1960

          We have had some tomatoes, too, that he started early in his little green house.  Others will come along a few at a time and then the deluge.

          They are wonderful.  We had blt's tonight.

          I am not much on sweet tomatoes, but hubby likes them.  He likes the really big ones where one slice covers a whole piece of bread.

          I haven't seen black ones.

          Maybe it is good that I have never made it to San Francisco, then.  I can imagine it or look at the pictures and drool. :)

          Join us at Bookflurries: Bookchat on Wednesday nights 8:00 PM EST

          by cfk on Wed Jul 13, 2011 at 07:12:54 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  I don't know what picture of New Orleans (6+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Dumbo, cfk, jolux, MT Spaces, newdem1960, sillia

          you have in your head, but I was there twice.  One of my favorite novels set there is The Intersection of Law and Desire (and yes, those are two real streets that actually intersect).

          There should be pb copies available, new and used: the book has been out for over ten years.

          If you go there is a bar on Bourbon Street -- well, there are MANY bars on Bourbon St. but only one of them used to be Jean Lafitte's blacksmith shop.  I spent a couple of hours there late one afternoon, and it was mostly locals having a few beers after work.

          For an earlier feeling for New Orleans life, I can't recommend anything more highly than Barbara Hambly's Benjamin January mystery series.

          The first novel in the series is A Free Man of Color.

          Over the past 30-odd years, the Democrats have moved to the right, and the Republicans have moved into a mental hospital. --Bill Maher

          by Youffraita on Wed Jul 13, 2011 at 07:16:09 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  I also love the Falco novels (7+ / 0-)

    Despite all the changes in his life, Marcus Didius Falco is still a wise cracker.  A movie called "The Age of Treason" was made in 1993, starring Bryan Brown as Falco. I remember seeing it on some cable movie channel and it was really difficult to watch a first century Roman with an Australian accent. Crikey!

    Recent books I've read:

    Nemesisby Lindsay Davis. Falco has trying times. So what else is new?

    Sunshine by Robin McKinley
    one of my FB friends, who is a bookseller, called it "a vampire book for people who hate vampire books" I've also read Chalice, & Pegasus.

    River In The Sky by Elizabeth Peters
    I love the character of Amelia Peabody, a woman who doesn't really care about society's strictures

    Crossfire by Dick & Felix Francis
    low on horse racing action, it was more about how a returning veteran of Afghanistan uses his military smarts to save his mother's horse training business

    Hiss of Death by Rita Mae & Sneaky Pie Brown.
    My guilty pleasure, the latest in a book series about animal sleuths.

    Hotel On The Corner of Bitter And Sweet by Jamie Ford
    Hollywood will make this into a movie in 3, 2, 1...

    In The Garden of Iden by Kage Baker
    the human heart works mysteriously, even in the manufactured past

    Blackout, Bellweather, To Say Nothing Of The Dog, Lincoln's Dream, & Doomsday Book by Connie Willis.  She makes time travel actually sound feasible

    Twelve Red Herrings by Jeffrey Archer
    can anyone write short stories as well as he can?

    Other than that, I've been reading a lot of Fullmetal Alchemist (my favorite manga/anime) fanfiction. Over on Live Journal is something called the "Big Bang" FMA challenge and it's kicked up some simply AWESOME fiction. This year's fave is "Arcanum Paterfamilias".  It's set several years after The Promised Day, in Ishbal/Ishva/Ishvar (whatever) and the writers (there are two) have even whipped up an Ishvurun dictionary!

    Today's G.O.P.: Grand Old (Evil, Woman-Hating) Pricks

    by GenuineRisk on Wed Jul 13, 2011 at 07:12:05 PM PDT

    •  Thanks! Great list (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Youffraita, jolux, MT Spaces, newdem1960

      I can't imagine Falco with an Australian accent, either. :)

      I like Willis a lot.

      Join us at Bookflurries: Bookchat on Wednesday nights 8:00 PM EST

      by cfk on Wed Jul 13, 2011 at 07:23:15 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  don't bother to look for it, unless you collect (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        cfk, newdem1960

        clunkers!  we've seen it and it's TERRIBLE!  they smooshed elements of the first three (or so) books together, the Helena character was totally off base (Amanda Pays as a VAMP!)

        so bad Davis has officially disowned any connection to it.

        "real" work : a job where you wash your hands BEFORE you use the bathroom...

        by chimene on Thu Jul 14, 2011 at 01:45:50 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Thanks...I won't look for it (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          I couldn't bear to see the story spoiled.  

          Join us at Bookflurries: Bookchat on Wednesday nights 8:00 PM EST

          by cfk on Thu Jul 14, 2011 at 09:32:57 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  well... it's SOOOOO BAD (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            newdem1960, cfk

            it probably wouldn't spoil it for you unless you're extremely sensitive...  

            it's more like watching a camped-up, C- or D-movie quality version of something you know...  SO bad there's almost no connection to the books you know and love.

            production values stank, Pays looked like a cut-rate Cleopatra or something... dressed & acting aggressively sexy, fer cryin' out loud, and since it was a British production, Brown hadn't even tried to throttle back the Australian accent!

            there was a certain horrified fascination to following the destruction, actually. seemed like the director was trying to see how FAR he could get away from the source material -- like so many hotshots do these days (I'm making a historical, and we're going to market it aggressively as accurate, but we're not gonna' let any dumb old facts get in the way of our artistic vision... yes, I'm quoting the director of the first Cate Blanchett Elizabeth)

            "real" work : a job where you wash your hands BEFORE you use the bathroom...

            by chimene on Thu Jul 14, 2011 at 11:06:03 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  omg! (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              I can't do that.  I would tear my hair out. :)

              I never saw Elizabeth...good thing, I guess.

              not gonna' let any dumb old facts get in the way of our artistic vision.

              Join us at Bookflurries: Bookchat on Wednesday nights 8:00 PM EST

              by cfk on Thu Jul 14, 2011 at 01:30:48 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  another clunker to collect (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              THis (or That) Rare Breed a dramatized movie about the abduction of the race mare Carnauba.  Not that it needed any more drama, the carabinieri rescued her at a slaughterhouse, just before she would have been turned into horse burger.  The problems with it would take too long to recount.

              Today's G.O.P.: Grand Old (Evil, Woman-Hating) Pricks

              by GenuineRisk on Sat Jul 16, 2011 at 08:47:15 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

    •  Eme's Blog (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cfk, MT Spaces, newdem1960

      The blog of my bookseller friend, who writes about books she's read: This Space Intentionally Left Blank

      Today's G.O.P.: Grand Old (Evil, Woman-Hating) Pricks

      by GenuineRisk on Wed Jul 13, 2011 at 07:34:01 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I've been reading about the foundation... (6+ / 0-)

    ...of Ankh-Morpork.

  •  Really enjoying Sarah Vowell's (8+ / 0-)

    Assassination Vacation--am just starting the Garfield section. What a wonderful book! What is really funny, to me, is that there are some similarities to "Skeptic's Guide to Writer's Houses" by Anne Trubek which I read a couple of weeks ago. Trubek goes to Key West and has a hilarious interaction with the Hemingway House and mentions there are 60 cats living there. In Vowell's book, she's on her way to see Fort Jefferson on the Dry Tortugas, where some of Booth's co-conspirators were imprisoned, and as long as she's in Key West stops in to see the Hemingway house. She has to leave immediately because she's allergic to cats, goes back to her hotel to take antihistamines.

    It's so neat to see things criss-cross like this. Lots of interesting details and things I didn't know in the Vowell book, connections.

    I would like to find another travel/history/literature/mystery book the calibre of these two. Anybody have a suggestion? I want to give my mother 3 travel-related books for her birthday. She LOVES this kind of stuff but doesn't travel too much any more because of my dad's health.

    ~On, Wisconsin! On, Wisconsin! Raise her glowing flame!~

    by sillia on Wed Jul 13, 2011 at 07:26:17 PM PDT

  •  I'm reading "A Discovery of Witches" (6+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cfk, jolux, MT Spaces, Debby, newdem1960, blueoregon

    Really fascinating, so far!  Hope something happens soon, though.  There's been a lot of "getting out the exposition," blue fire emanating from the protagonist's fingertips, and advice against falling in love with a vampire (never a good idea at the best of times), but I really want something dramatic to happen.

    "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

    by Diana in NoVa on Wed Jul 13, 2011 at 07:26:37 PM PDT

    •  One thing about Lee Child's books (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Youffraita, jolux, MT Spaces, newdem1960

      Something is always happening. :)

      I agree about avoiding vampires though there is a funny one in Robert Asprin's myth books.

      Join us at Bookflurries: Bookchat on Wednesday nights 8:00 PM EST

      by cfk on Wed Jul 13, 2011 at 07:29:29 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I enjoyed (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cfk, newdem1960

      the beginning of that book, was frustrated by the middle though entertained to be schlepping around French castles, then was swept up by and totally sold on the ending. I'm on pins and needles for the sequel. Enjoy! You've got stuff to look forward to!

      There's a reason Democrats won massively the last two cycles, and it wasn't because people were desperate for "bipartisanship". --kos

      by Debby on Wed Jul 13, 2011 at 10:22:57 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Now you've done it! (9+ / 0-)

    Sent me scurrying off through the bottomless bookcases:

    Here is New York, as true today as when E.B. White wrote it in the late 1940s, although travelers no longer arrive by sea.

    Fabled Shore: From the Pyrennees to Portugal. Rose Macaulay drives the Spanish coast from Catalonia to the Algarve, in 1949. And, why yes, she was an Englishwoman, need you ask?

    Things Fall Apart. Chinua Achebe's classic account of Nigerian village life.

    Paris: The Secret History. Not the stuff of shiny guidebooks. Andrew Hussey writes about the offbeat and the little people.

    Paris Notebooks: Essays & Reviews. Mavis Gallant went to Paris from Canada in the 1950s, and her accounts of life and people there are lovely.

    The Life and Death of a Spanish Town. This account of a fictionalized Ibiza during the Spanish Civil War was published in the late 1930s by an American, Elliot Paul, who had lived there for several years. I've read something fairly recently that questions the authenticity of what he said, so parts of it may have been "enhanced" for dramatic effect.

    All About Shanghai: A Standard Guidebook. This is an Oxford Press republishing of a 1934 guide and shows a city that was long gone when I first read it, and used it there, in the '80s -- although you could still walk along the Bund and see the great houses of Western imperialism. Can't imagine the contrast it would make now that Shanghai has gone industrial and is full of glass and steel highrises.

    The Country of the Pointed Firs and Other Stories. Life in Midcoast Maine's small towns amid sometimes small people, as observed by Sarah Orne Jewett in the mid-19th century.

    If you're interested in the history of the south of France and the Languedoc region, Jonathan Sumption's The Albigensian Crusade is worth seeking out (Faber and Faber, late 1970s and again in 1999). One of the best accounts I've seen of the history, culture and politics of the region, which have affected so much of modern history: "North of Arles, where the river Rhone divides, a Papal legate was assassinated on a January morning in 1208."

    And, although it's not strictly about a place per se, one of the great examples of the amateur traveler as adventuring observer: Eric Newby's A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush. Two Brits set off to climb very high mountains with precious little training or backup. Hilarious.

    Yesterday's weirdness is tomorrow's reason why. -- Hunter S. Thompson

    by Mnemosyne on Wed Jul 13, 2011 at 07:38:40 PM PDT

  •  Finished reading: (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cfk, MT Spaces, newdem1960, blueoregon

    The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner (somewhere!)
    Pitchforks and Torches by Keith Olbermann
    Dead Connection by Alafair Burke (New York)
    Definitely Dead by Charlaine Harris (Louisiana)
    Blackwater Sound by James W. Hall (South Florida)

    Currently reading:
    Faithful Place by Tana French (Dublin)

    I love visiting cities that I've read about in books, such as Dublin, London, Paris, Rome, Venice, Florence, Pisa, Sienna,
    Caen, Rouen, Givenchy, Canterbury, Stratford on Avon, New York, DC, Chicago, Denver and more.  I love being able to picture the place or relive the trip while reading.

    "We all do better when we all do better." Paul Wellstone

    by jolux on Wed Jul 13, 2011 at 07:40:38 PM PDT

  •  Nonfiction for me (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cfk, figbash, blueoregon, sillia

    Somehow it's histories that really make me wish I had a time machine.

    Byzantium anytime from the 6th to 10th centuries.

    Cordoba in al-Andalus, before its sack in the civil war between caliphate and vizierate.

    Chang'an (Xi'an today) under the Tang, Hangzhou under the Song.

    Samarkand and Merv before the Mongol sack, Isfahan today.

    Pataliputra under the Maurya, Delhi under the Mughals.

    Too many to list, really!

    •  Very neat list (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      alefnot, figbash, newdem1960

      I wish I could see some things, too.  We are lucky that people did travel and write about them.

      Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay is a fiction story, I admit, but it is set in Xi'an under the Tang.  I really enjoyed the story.  

      Join us at Bookflurries: Bookchat on Wednesday nights 8:00 PM EST

      by cfk on Wed Jul 13, 2011 at 08:47:03 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Detectives (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cfk, newdem1960

    Raymond Chandler's LA
    Jan Willem Van der Wetering's Amsterdam

    Solar is civil defense. Video of my small scale solar experiments at solarray.

    by gmoke on Wed Jul 13, 2011 at 11:08:53 PM PDT

  •  Reading (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cfk, newdem1960, blueoregon

    John O'Hara's Hollywood Stories
    John Donne
    Clouds Should Know Me by Now - Chinese monk poets
    Hands on the Freedom Plow - memoirs of the women of SNCC
    Entropy Law and Economics - Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen

    Solar is civil defense. Video of my small scale solar experiments at solarray.

    by gmoke on Wed Jul 13, 2011 at 11:14:49 PM PDT

  •  I wish I'd had (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cfk, newdem1960, blueoregon

    this list a month ago--I was in Dublin and couldn't decide what to read. My neighbor had given me a book called Round Ireland with a Fridge which I took along but didn't get far into it. I read 'Neverwhere' while in London some years back. It was very cool to imagine London Under while walking about.

    There's a reason Democrats won massively the last two cycles, and it wasn't because people were desperate for "bipartisanship". --kos

    by Debby on Wed Jul 13, 2011 at 11:19:28 PM PDT

  •  There's a New Series (to me) "A Brief History" (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cfk, blueoregon

    of cities all over the world ebooks for Kindle from Charles Rivers Editors.

    Absolutely FREE!


    Product description:

    "Paris: A Brief History" presents a comprehensive look at the city’s transformation from a narrow medieval city to one of Earth’s most desirable destinations. This compact digital compendium helps you track the diverse forces that shaped the city as we know it. You’ll explore the exciting history behind the city’s major cultural, economic, and architectural mainstays.

    You’ll also gain valuable insight into groundbreaking Parisian events and major figures down through history, including:

        Construction of L’Opéra Paris
        The Allied Liberation
        The Rise of Cuisine and Couture
        Notable protests

    and more.

    Readers & Book Lovers Pull up a chair! You're never too old to be a Meta Groupie

    by Limelite on Thu Jul 14, 2011 at 11:33:22 AM PDT

  •  Edmund White's "The Flaneur" -- Paris (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cfk, blueoregon

    ". . . leads us into bookshops and boutiques, monuments and palaces, giving us a glimpse into their inner human dramas.  Along the way we learn everything from the latest debates among French lawmakers to the juicy details of Colette's life."  

    A book so perfect in flavor and scent of a city that I will take it with me the next time I travel there.

    Shantaram for an incisive portrait of Bombay, mostly from the bottom and a little bit up.

    A Confederacy of Dunces to make you feel absolutely at home with oddball New Orleans, a city that makes its name by being a home to oddballs.

    Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil for a very privileged look inside the (mostly) very privileged inhabitants of Savannah, their social code, manners, and devotion to the Bulldogs of UGa.  You can practically smell the decay and decadence.

    Death in Venice for a fin de siècle atmospheric portrait of that city, and all the police procedurals by Donna Leon for an insight into the city and especially its bureaucratic workings today.  Include The City of Fallen Angels also by John Berendt (Midnight).  Must be one of my favorite cities on the planet judging by all the books I have about it!

    And the little jewel about the Big Apple is, of course, Truman Capote's Breakfast at Tiffany's.

    Readers & Book Lovers Pull up a chair! You're never too old to be a Meta Groupie

    by Limelite on Thu Jul 14, 2011 at 11:51:55 AM PDT

  •  Amazon is the enemy ... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cfk, blueoregon

    I don't understand why people continue to support Amazon when there are numerous other sources for books both physical and digital.

    Amazon has long used lobbying and bullying to either have states behave as if tax laws don't apply to them, or create legislation to exempt them from tax laws.

    Now Amazon has announced its intention to spend millions of dollars in an effort to get a tax-evasion referendum on the ballot in California.

    Amazon has demonstrated that they don't support you or your community, so why do you support them?


  •  Florence ... (0+ / 0-)

    (Two days late to this, but in case anyone is still checking in.)

    Last year I read George Eliot's Romola, set in Renaissance Florence, then afterwards coincidentally at a yard sale picked up Sarah Dunant's Birth of Venus with the exact same setting -- both good books. After that, I went on to read Bocaccio's The Decameron, which features refugees from plague-ridden medieval Florence. When I got to Machiavelli's The Prince, my Florence binge came to a halt -- it's still lying unfinished next to my bed.

    Currently reading Gore Vidal's Julian about the last pagan Roman emperor. (So far in the book, Julian is in his 20s and has never been to Rome.) Interesting book, but I'm looking forward to reading a less stylized account of Julian's life after I finish this. It'll take a while. I've been a slow reader since I started working again. : (

    •  hi (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I am glad to see you.  I had a wedding to attend on Sat. and didn't think to check the diary.  

      I did get to see Florence in 1972.

      Another good book is Galileo's Daughter.

      Join us at Bookflurries: Bookchat on Wednesday nights 8:00 PM EST

      by cfk on Sun Jul 17, 2011 at 04:41:00 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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