Maigret in New York by Georges Simenon

The trouble with Maigret in New York is clearly stated in the title. Inspector Maigret should stay in France, preferable in Paris.  I suppose over the course of 75 novels Maigret was bound to leave the country at least once, but I much prefer him when he is at home. Certain books are associated with certain places–that becomes part of the fun, maybe part of the … Continue reading Maigret in New York by Georges Simenon

Top Ten Favorite Reads for 2016.

I’m going to stick to my guns here, enforce my long time rule for selecting the top ten list which is “Do I want to read this book again someday?”  The answer must be yes to qualify. Which means there are many books that I loved reading that will not make the list. Lots of books are great books, great reads, but not something I’ll … Continue reading Top Ten Favorite Reads for 2016.

The Appointment by Herta Muller

Honestly, I think Nobel Prize Winner stickers should include the word ‘warning. Warning: Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature.  Put it in bold face red type as well.  Buyer beware.  Difficult literature ahead.  “Sit bolt upright in that straight back chair and get set,” as Laurie Anderson said in her song “Difficult Listening Hour.” Herta Muller, born in Romania, lived under the repressive regime … Continue reading The Appointment by Herta Muller

Memory: A Novel by Philippe Grimbert

A young boy, an only child, believes he has an older brother.  He carries on imagined discussions with his brother, building him into a real person.  One day he finds an old plush toy, a dog, in his family’s attic. A man meets the love of his life on his wedding day. He manages to keep this secret from his wife, even though the woman … Continue reading Memory: A Novel by Philippe Grimbert

Doghead by Morten Ramsland

A drunken man so frightens and embarrasses his  grand children that they vow revenge.  After some planning and a short wait for the perfect moment young Asger seizes his chance and pees into his grandfather’s beer before serving it to him. His sisters both laugh as they all watch their grandfather pick up his glass and take a healthy, full drink.  Unable to contain himself, … Continue reading Doghead by Morten Ramsland

Topology of a Phantom City by Alain Robbe-Grillet

I love this book. I’m not sure what it’s about. But I do  have five theories. Theory #1:  A murder has taken place.  The narrator describes the crime scene like a detective who does not know which bit of evidence will prove relevant.  So the detective/narrator writes everything down without filtering his senses or his thoughts.  The result appears random the way notes often do. … Continue reading Topology of a Phantom City by Alain Robbe-Grillet

Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino

Long into the night Marco Polo sits in Kublai Kahn’s palace telling him about all the cities he has visited, cities the Kahn will never get the chance to see. This is the premise for Italo Calvino’s wonderful novella Invisible Cities translated from the Italian by William Weaver. Each of the short chapters describes one city.  After a few chapters, the dialogue between Marco Polo and Kublia Kahn … Continue reading Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino

Tournament of Short Stories: Randall Jerrell’s Book of Stories vs. The O. Henry Awards 1995.

Sometimes, it’s just not fair. I picked up a copy of Prize Stories 1995 from The O. Henry Awards somewhere, I don’t recall, probably a library book sale, thinking it would be fun to add a random assortment of good stories to my tournament.  O. Henry Award winners, I thought, they’re probably all good.” So far they are.  I read two for this round: “The Women … Continue reading Tournament of Short Stories: Randall Jerrell’s Book of Stories vs. The O. Henry Awards 1995.

The Vagabond by Collete

Colette’s The Vagabond tells a story of backstage life in the music halls of turn of the century Paris.  The narrator/heroine has left a failed marriage and career as a novelist to earn a living performing two shows a night as an actress in French pantomime. The Vagabond works as a backstage novel and as a source of insight into the its author, Colette.  Because … Continue reading The Vagabond by Collete

Solaris by Stanislav Lem

In the 1960’s science fiction was about ideas.  It was also about rocket ships and invading space aliens, but there was still plenty of room for books about ideas.  Even ideas based in actual science.  This is still true, but you’d never know judging from what’s playing at the local theatre and on cable television.  Not much in the way of ideas there. Once in … Continue reading Solaris by Stanislav Lem

Les Enfants Terribles by Jean Cocteau Translated by Rosamond Lehmann

I confess.  I didn’t get it. If you want some kind of reasonable analysis of Jean Cocteau’s classic 1929 novel Les Enfants Terribles you’ll have to look elsewhere.  I’m sure you’ll be able to find lots of intelligent commentary out there, but you’ll find none here. I read the whole thing, which I thought would be a quicker read at just over 130 pages. But it … Continue reading Les Enfants Terribles by Jean Cocteau Translated by Rosamond Lehmann

The Princess of Cleves by Madame de Lafayette

The Princess of Cleves by Madame de Lafayette is a 350-year-old piece of historical fiction. Does that qualify as a sub-genre of sorts?  Historical historical fiction? Written in the 1670’s by a member of the French court, The Princess of Cleves describes the romance between its title character and a man who is not her husband, set in the court of Henri II, some 100 … Continue reading The Princess of Cleves by Madame de Lafayette