Some Great Books I've Recently Read and How I Came Across Them

Barbara Demick's Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea

Many defectors she interviewed said the single most surprising thing about life outside North Korea is that people kiss in public.  David Sedaris mentioned the book in a recent New York Times Book Review.

Alison Bechdel's Fun Home

"My husband reluctantly picked it up, not being something he's normally interested in.  But he couldn't put it down."  At a newly formed book group, a friend's testimonial for this graphic memoir.  Alison's dad is obsessed with the restoration of their Adam's Family mansion and with Alison's lack of femininity.  Alison is obsessed with her dad's secret affairs with young men and his death, hit by a truck, an accident the family believes was suicide.

Kazou Ishiguru's Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall

A friend who knows how much I loved An Artist of the Floating World and Remains of the Day, sent a signed hardcover copy of Kazuo Ishiguro's first book of short stories in which a man, caught in a mystifying trap set by his best friend, cooks a broth of old boot to make his friend's apartment smell like dog to make his friend's wife believe it was a neighbor's dog that mangled several pages in her diary.

R. Crumb's Kafka with text by David Zane Mairowitz

Found at the Appleton Public Library while browsing the 800's.

Kafka wrote to his publisher Kurt Wolff before The Metamorphosis was printed to insist, "Not that, anything but that.  The insect itself cannot be depicted.  It mustn't even be shown from a distance." But I think he might have changed his mind if he had seen Crumb's vision of Gregor Samsa as a giant beetle, clasping the framed picture of a lady in fur, trying to prevent his screaming sister from taking it off the wall, Gregor's mother passed out from horror in a nearby chair.  Or Crumb's vision of the apple Gregor's father threw, embedding itself in Gregor's cracking exoskeleton, eventually causing his death.

John Hersey's A Single Pebble

Impossible to know for sure, but I think this pleasing hardbound I picked up at a book sale, recognizing the author of two personally influential books, Hiroshima, and My Petition for More Space.

In the book's opening scene, the British engineer narrator is giddy about all the good he will do for China on this, his first trip up the Yangtze in an old fashioned junk boat to scout out the best location for a dam.  But the morning they are to launch, the cook declares he has forgotten the cabbage and jumps ship.  The rest of the crew relaxes while the engineer stews, becoming more and more upset with every passing minute.  In the evening, the cook returns without cabbage to jocular greetings, the engineer incensed that their trip has been postponed until the next morning for such frivolous reasons, the first of many cross cultural misunderstandings.

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