Monday, January 18, 2010

Mailbox Monday

Hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page.

I haven't done an MM post since July because I haven't been accepting arcs. This post is different. You read it here first. I purchased books, brand new books. My last book purchase was in June, 2008. When I go about two years without finding a book that I really want, through a library, book swap, beg, borrow, or...well not that far, I am forced to buy them. I spend just enough to get free delivery. So...

In my mailbox this week:

Purchased (and completed):

Ticknor*** by Sheila Heti 2005 Canada, 109 pages Hardcover, House of Anansi Press.Inc.

Recommended by Mark Sarvas at The Elegant Variation.

I think I needed to know more about these prominent, wealthy American historians and their writings to appreciate what Sarvas called "a mordantly funny anti-history", a novel "as dense and textured as a truffle". The story consists of an inner dialogue by George Ticknor, while walking to dinner (carrying a pie) to William Prescott's home on a rainy night in Boston in the mid nineteenth century. I think dense is on the part of this reader for biting off more than she could chew. Why Heti, according to the back cover, "has taken their story and twisted it into an original tale of jealousy and heartache in the lifelong friendship between two men" I couldn't say. She does tell us in an author's note that "Ticknor was inspired by the "Life of William Hickling Prescott" by George Ticknor (Philadelphia, PA: J. P. Lipincott Company 1863). Certain phrases have been borrowed from that book, and from the work of other writers, including Florence Nightingale, Marie Stopes, and Sofia Tolstoy." Well, that explains everything. A story, even about real people, needn't be true, but it needs to be interesting in some way- even to someone who doesn't already have the history, biography, and Cliff Notes under her belt. It was okay, but not the delightful read it was for Sarvas and company. With109 pages, and told in simple language, Ticknor was certainly no struggle to read, but it wasn't much fun either. Having just finished Mrs.Dalloway and reading 25 reviews and all the comments on said reviews, I now appreciate that literature needs more than one reading. Or a special interest. But I'm going to leave that to some else and pass thisbook on to any reader who thinks this might be up their alley. Claim it in the comments and it's yours.

The Luzhin Defense**** by Vladimir Nabokov 1964 US, 256 pages Paperback, Vintage International, first English edition. Originally published 1930 France, in Russian

I saw the filmed version once with John Tarturro in the lead and he was brilliant. I didn't know then that it was a Nabokov novel, which they now publish under the title "The Defense" but I had to read it.

Not in the library, not available in swaps, etc. Worse, I couldn't even find one to purchase
with the original title. Harrumph, as they say in books. It's about a young chessmaster in whose "obsessive mind the game of chess gradually supplants the world of reality". I loved reading it, but now I have to take back my assertion that no film is ever equal to the book for me. Mind you, I never see a film before reading a book, unless I don't know it's already a book. I love stories about genius social misfits. This was Nabokov's third book, he published 25 that I know of. The title comes from a chess strategy that the main character, Luzhin (rhymes with illusion) creates in the story to beat his greatest rival. Reading about Russians and Russian emigres or the world of chess is already interesting for me, so I enjoyed the story very much.

urrently reading:

Moby Dick by Herman Melville 1851 US, 707 pages Paperback, Barnes & Nobles Classics

For Moby Dick Monday hosted by Ti at Book Chatter.

I read the first 150 pages in a library copy that had a terrific 50 page in
troduction and extras like maps, diagrams, explanatory notes, and a "Glossary of Nautical Terms", etc. It was a Penguin Classic. This one has a much shorter introduction by a different author, but that gives me something new to read and learn from anyway. There are no maps or diagrams in this edition but there is a "Dictionary of Sea Terms" (are we dumbing down the classics now?). I've had a ball reading this high seas adventure of whaling and terror. Here are my thoughts on Moby Dick from last Monday. Reading it with a group is the perfect way to experience what is for some a more difficult book. We are proceeding at four pages per day so there's still time to join us if you're thinking about it. I will be posting my thoughts again on the book next Monday.

To Be Read:

The Waves
by Virginia Woolf 1925 UK, 241 pages Paperback, My Penguin

For the Woolf in Winter reading group. I found the other three novels for this challenge in my stacks but needed this one. I ordered a Penguin paperback and I was so looking forward to it. What I got was a UK Penguin- with a blank cover. I'm supposed to do my own cover art! I kid you not. I featured it in Wednesday's Cover Attraction. You have got to go take a look. I'm thinking of writing up a whole post about it since I've found out more a
bout this goofy idea in recent days. If there's any interest in this topic let me know in the comments and I'll whip a post about it.

Rain and Other South Sea Stories by W. Somerset Maugham 1921 UK, 164 pages Paperback, Dover Thrift Edition

I read Maugham stories a lot when I was young. I've wanted to join some of the challenges like Short Story Monday at The Book Mine Set but I've never reviewed short stories and thought I probably wouldn't be very good at it. The truth is I had to make my book order total $39 by purchasing one more book.

I do like to read really good short stories so I naturally fell back on those I know but haven't read in 30 years. Rain came immediately to mind and I don't own any of Maugham's collections. You probably know the title story through one of the three American filmed versions, starring Gloria Swanson, Joan Crawford or Rita Hayworth. In those days it had what they call a
surprise ending. I was shocked. I got this new edition for no more than The Waves cost me- and they even threw in a cover. When I'm done with Woolf and Melville I am going to savour this collection, pretending I'm hiding in the loft of the barn where my sisters can't find me, on a long lazy summer afternoon, reliving the memories.

Won, also for the first time in months:

The Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk
2008 Turkey, 536 pages; first English translation 2009 UK Faber and Faber

From Kim at Reading Matters.

I am so thrilled to have such a beautiful tome to sit and relax with. That very book, an unread library copy due the next day and not renewable, was sitting on my desk when she emailed me that I'd won it. Serendipity do da. Pamuk is a Nobel author
(2006). I have read his Snow and enjoyed it very much. Thank you Kim, I don't want to even think about what it cost you mail to book that heavy but I will cherish it.

What came in the mail that's got you excited about reading?


  1. I'm a fan of Maugham's and liked Rain. I reviewed all the stories together instead of each story on its own. Short stories are certainly harder to review.

  2. You got in a lot of great sounding books! I struggle with short stories, but think I will have to give Rain a shot. Thanks for the encouragement! From your review I won't give Ticknor a second look - as I love to read anything humorous I would have been sucked in by the pharse "a mordantly funny anti-history." Happy reading!

  3. Some involved reading there, happy reading and enjoy your finds

  4. Wow! You went a year and a half without buying books?!! That's amazing. That said, I've been using my library a lot more in the past few years. I still buy but less than I used to.
    Enjoy the books, classics and others.

  5. You made some good purchases! Happy reading.

    Diary of an Eccentric

  6. Looks like you got some Golden Oldies in your mailbox this week, Sandra!

  7. An eighteen month hiatus from book buying shows considerable restraint!

    Moby Dick & the Nabakov book should be excellent.

    Enjoy your books!

  8. Well, judging from the ones you picked, you'll not regret these purchases!

    I have vowed not to buy more books until the TBR stacks go down significantly, but I broke down...and my MM this week spotlights books I bought.

  9. I'm impressed that you went so long without buying books - I could never do that! It looks like you're in for some good reading!

  10. Which will you read first? They all look great! My mailbox is at The Crowded Leaf.

  11. I came over from Book Blogs! I am now following you.

  12. You've already read 2 of them!!'ve shown great restraint in NOT buying books for almost 2 years!!! Enjoy them!

  13. I don't play chess very well but I'm interested in The Luzhin Defense. Actually I'm interested in every Nabokov novel :)

  14. looks like a great list of books. I hope you enjoy them.



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