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Category Archives: Reading

Last Words From Montmarte – Qui Miaojin

Last Words From Montmarte is far afield from my usual reading tastes. It is an experimental epistolary novel published posthumously that is part memoir, serving as a suicide note for Qui Miaojin, and deals substantially with lesbian sexuality. Last Words is necessarily a deeply intimate novel that investigates the emotional anxiety of the narrator, while […]

The Conquerors – André Malraux

I can still hear the prattle of democracy at dinner, the trite formulas, ridiculous in Europe, harbored here like rusty old steamers, again I see the solemn enthusiasm they ignite among all these men. My deepest hostilities aren’t so much against possessors as against the stupid principles that they spout to defend their possessions. I […]

The Yiddish Policeman’s Union – Michael Chabon

And just last week, amid the panic and feathers of a kosher slaughterhouse on Zhitlovsky Avenue, a chicken turned on the shochet as he raised his ritual knife and announced, in Aramaic, the imminent advent of Messiah. According to the Tog, the miraculous chicken offered a number of startling predictions, though it neglected to mention […]

The Wall of Storms – Ken Liu

You know the world isn’t perfect, but you’ve never ceased to believe that it could be perfected. Book two of The Dandelion Dynasty (see my writeup of book one) opens in the so-called Reign of the Four Placid Seas, with Kuni Garu, now Empereror Ragin, trying to stabilize his kingdom by advancing the careers of […]

Cheese and Culture – Paul Kindstedt

A cheese scientist at the University of Vermont by trade, Kindstedt’s Cheese and Culture traces the history of cheese and its role in Western Civilization. I grimaced at “Western Civilization” in the subtitle, but was reconciled to it because, as Kindstedt argues, cheese as it is currently known is a largely western phenomenon because lactase […]

The Blind Assassin – Margaret Atwood

If it wasn’t clear from my relative silence, the last six weeks or so has been exceptionally busy, which has slowed both my reading and writing. I only managed to finish one non-academic book in October, barely slipping Margaret Atwood’s Booker Award Winning The Blind Assassin in under the wire. An astute reader, however, will […]

The Human Division – John Scalzi

I finished this book a few weeks ago and this is the last of the backlogged reviews, if only because life has gotten in the way of my reading. Every book in John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War universe is quite a lot of fun, being smart, clever, and modern military sci-fi. The core premise of […]

Foundation and Empire – Isaac Asimov

The second of what my edition still somewhat quaintly refers to as “the foundation trilogy,” Foundation and Empire picks up the centuries-long epic from where the first book left off. Since I didn’t do an actual review of Foundation, I should recap. In the waning days of the Galactic Empire, the great psycho-historian Hari Seldon […]

War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy

But Petersburg’s daily round – tranquil, luxurious, concerned only with phantoms and reflections of life – continued as before, so that it was not easy, and needed a determined effort, to form any true idea of the peril and the difficulty in which the Russian nation was placed. Now that he was telling it all […]

Could be me

Balashev found Davoust seated on a barrel in the shed of a peasant’s hut, writing – he was auditing accounts. An adjutant stood near him. Better quarters could have been found for him, but Marshal Davoust was one of those men who purposely make the conditions of life as uncomfortable for themselves as possible in […]