Book Review: Senselessness by Horacio Castellanos Moya

Around the World for a Good Book Selection for Honduras
Author: Horacio Castellanos Moya
Translator: Katherine Silver
Title:Senselessness
Publication Info: New York : New Directions, 2008.
ISBN: 9780811217071
Summary/Review:

This short novel depicts the narrator as a man in exile hired to edit testimonies of indigenous people who’ve survived torture and slaughter at the hands of the military regime.  His employer is the local archdiocese of the Catholic church whom he works for despite being an atheist with a particular hatred for the Catholic church.  The narrator finds himself haunted by phrases that jump out at him from the testimonies.  This is all beautifully-written and haunting.

Unfortunately, this novel has a serious unsympathetic narrator problem.  The majority of the text is spent with him attempting to satisfy his sexual longings with a pair of women, and then griping when he’s not sated as desired.  The lechery and misogyny page after page is hard to bear.  Most disturbing of all, and I may be reading this wrong, the narrator begins to see his “suffering” as equivalent to that he reads about in the testimonies, as he descends into a state of paranoia.  Adding to my difficulty in reading this book are long sentences in lengthy paragraphs.

So there you have it, a grim novel about a loathsome protagonist in a world of horror.
Recommended booksI, Rigoberta Menchu: An Indian Woman In Guatemala by Rigoberta Menchu
Rating: *1/2

Book Review: Baba Yaga Laid an Egg by Dubravka Ugrešić

Around the World for a Good Book Selection for Croatia
Author: Dubravka Ugrešić
Translator: Ellen Elias-Bursác, Celia Hawkesworth, and Mark Thompson
Title:Baba Yaga Laid an Egg
Publication Info: New York : Canongate, c2009.
ISBN: 9781847670663
Summary/Review:

This is a novel in three parts.  The first part features a narrator’s concerns about dementia in her aging mother, and traveling to her mother’s childhood home in Bulgaria with a young folklore scholar.  The second part details the comedy of errors in a  journey of three elderly women to a spa resort.  The final part is a satirical analysis of the Baba Yaga myth expressed in the first two parts written in the persona of the Dr. Aba Bagay (note the anagram), the young folklorist from part 1.  Themes of the novel deal with aging, motherhood, and the Balkan past.  It is often funny, but then punctured by moments of stunning tragedy.  And one learns an awful lot about Baba Yaga, the legend of Slavic folklore who manifests as an old, evil woman living in a hut on chicken legs.

Favorite Passages:

“It was all too much, too much even for a very bad novel, though Kukla.  But, then again, things happened, and, besides, life had never claimed to have refined taste.” p. 210

Recommended booksMules and Men by Zora Neale Hurston and Krik? Krak! by Edwidge Danticat
Rating: ***1/2

Song of the Week: “minipops 67 [120.2][source Field Mix]” by Aphex Twin

“minipops 67 [120.2]” is the lead track off of Syro, the first Aphex Twin studio album in 13 years.  It also is my song of the week.

Book Review: The Invisible Mountain by Carolina de Robertis

 Around the World for a Good Book Selection for Uruguay
AuthorCarolina de Robertis
Narrator:Christine Avila
TitleThe Invisible Mountain
Publication Info: Random House Audio, 2009.
Summary/Review:

This excellent debut novel tells the story of three generations of women – Pajarita, Eva, and Salome – against the backdrop of Uruguayan history of the 20th century.  The structure of a multi-generational family story that tells personal stories with an epic sweep is familiar in Latin American literature, but this novel goes more for gritty rather than magical realism.  This is a fascinating novel and I enjoyed learning more about each of the women as their story develops, and sad when they are reduced to background characters when the narrative moves on to the next generation.  The final section with Salome imprisoned by the brutal Uruguayan dictatorship is particularly gripping.
Recommended booksThe House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende, One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields.
Rating: ****

Three Boston By Foot Walking Tours in October

If you love Boston, and wish to learn more about it’s history and architecture, check out the following three Boston By Foot walking tours lead by yours truly in October.

  • 2 October 2014, 6 pm at Atlantic Wharf (290 Congress St at Fort Point Channel) – The Tipsy Tour – This tour is not a pub crawl – it’s an exploration of Boston’s boozy past!
  • 4 October 2014, 2 pm at Dartmouth Street opposite Back Bay Station – South End – Explore one of the most vibrant neighborhoods in Boston!
  • 16 October 2014, 6 pm at Massachusetts Avenue in front of The First Church of Christ, Scientist – Avenue of the Arts  – Along Huntington Avenue stands a dense concentration of Boston’s most venerable cultural institutions. From McKim, Mead & White’s Symphony Hall to Guy Lowell’s Museum of Fine Arts this tour will showcase the establishments dedicated to the fine arts, music, theater, education, religion, and sports.

Major League Baseball Playoffs

I don’t have much rooting interest in this year’s MLB postseason, but I’ve gone ahead and ranked teams from “most like to see win the World Series” to “least like to win the World Series.”

  • Pittsburgh
  • Kansas City
  • Washington
  • Detroit
  • Oakland
  • Baltimore
  • San Francisco
  • Los Angeles Angels
  • Los Angeles Dodgers
  • St. Louis

Probably the most compelling World Series matchup for me is Pittsburgh vs. Kansas City, since both teams struggled for so long trying to play in small markets against big money opponents. It’s also a flashback to the 70s & 80s when the Pirates and Royals were postseason regulars, although they never matched up in the World Series.  A Washington-Baltimore World Series would also be an exciting matchup for the Chesapeake region who haven’t had much to cheer for in recent decades.  I’m disappointed that the Cardinals and Dodgers are facing one another in the NLDS because I’d like to see them both eliminated as soon as possible.


Okay, so now that I’ve determined what I liked to see happen (that is, underdogs reign), here’s my predictions for what will really happen.

COIN FLIP GAME

  • Pittsburgh defeats San Francisco
  • Oakland defeats Kansas City

DIVISION SERIES

  • St. Louis defeats Los Angeles Dodgers
  • Washington defeats Pittsburgh
  • Detroit defeats Baltimore
  • Los Angeles Angels defeats Oakland

CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES

  • St. Louis defeats Washington
  • Detroit defeats Los Angeles Angels

WORLD SERIES

  • Detroit defeats St. Louis

Song of the Week Follow-up: New Albums by Clap! Clap! and Moon Hooch

I haven’t kept up with Song of the Week posts mainly because I haven’t been hearing songs that excite me much the past month or so.  Maybe I’m being too picky or maybe I’m not listening to enough new music.  Regardless, now more than ever, if you have a song to share, you should post it in the comments.

I am excited that there are new albums from a couple of Song of the Week laureates, which you you should definitely check out.

Moon Hooch featured in SOTW on 2 November 2013.  Their new album is  This is Cave Music.

 

Clap! Clap!‘s new album is Tayi Bebba.  “Elon Mentana” was song of the week on 8 March 2014.

 

 

 

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