I wanted to support an Indie Bookstore so I treated myself to several very different books from one of my favorite imprints - NYRB classics - They look great on the bookshelves too.
- Little Reunions - Eileen Chang - Now available in English for the first time, Eileen Chang’s dark romance opens with Julie, living at a convent school in Hong Kong, on the eve of the Japanese invasion. Her mother, Rachel, long divorced from Julie’s opium-addict father, saunters around the world with various lovers. Recollections of Julie’s horrifying but privileged childhood in Shanghai clash with a flamboyant, sometimes incestuous cast of relations that crowd her life. Eventually, back in Shanghai, she meets the magnetic Chih-yung, a traitor who collaborates with the Japanese puppet regime. Soon they’re in the throes of an impassioned love affair that swings back and forth between ardor and anxiety, secrecy and ruin. Like Julie’s relationship with her mother, her marriage to Chih-yung is marked by long stretches of separation interspersed with unexpected little reunions. Chang’s emotionally fraught, bitterly humorous novel lifts a fractured mirror directly in front of her own heart.
- A School for Fools - Sasha Sokolov - By turns lyrical and philosophical, witty and baffling, A School for Fools confounds all expectations of the novel. Here we find not one reliable narrator but two “unreliable” narrators: the young man who is a student at the “school for fools” and his double. What begins as a reverie (with frequent interruptions) comes to seem a sort of fairy-tale quest not for gold or marriage but for self-knowledge. The currents of consciousness running through the novel are passionate and profound. Memories of childhood summers at the dacha are contemporaneous with the present, the dead are alive, and the beloved is present in the wind. Here is a tale either of madness or of the life of the imagination in conversation with reason, straining at the limits of language; in the words of Vladimir Nabokov, “an enchanting, tragic, and touching book.”
- Malicroix, Henri Bosco - A nice young man, of stolidly unimaginative, good bourgeois stock, is surprised to inherit a house on an island in the Rhône, in the famously desolate and untamed region of the Camargue. The terms of his great-uncle’s will are even more surprising: the young man must take up solitary residence in the house for a full three months before he will be permitted to take possession of it. With only a taciturn shepherd and his dog for occasional company, he finds himself surrounded by the huge and turbulent river (always threatening to flood the island and surrounding countryside) and the wind, battering at his all-too-fragile house, shrieking from on high. And there is another condition of the will, a challenging task he must perform, even as others scheme to make his house their own. Only under threat can the young man come to terms with both his strange inheritance and himself.
- Temptation, Janos Szekely- A Dickensian coming-of-age tale about poverty, sex, WWI and the darker side of human nature as seen through the eyes of a lobby boy at a Budapest hotel.
- My Dog Tulip, J.R. Ackerley - J.R. Ackerley's German shepherd Tulip was skittish, possessive, and wild, but he loved her deeply. This clear-eyed and wondering, humorous and moving book, described by Christopher Isherwood as one of the "greatest masterpieces of animal literature," is her biography, a work of faultless and respectful observation that transcends the seeming modesty of its subject. In telling the story of his beloved Tulip, Ackerley has written a book that is a profound and subtle meditation on the strangeness abiding at the heart of all relationships.
- To Each His Own, Leonard Sciascia - This letter is your death sentence. To avenge what you have done you will die. But what has Manno the pharmacist done? Nothing that he can think of. The next day he and his hunting companion are both dead. The police investigation is inconclusive. However, a modest high school teacher with a literary bent has noticed a clue that, he believes, will allow him to trace the killer. Patiently, methodically, he begins to untangle a web of erotic intrigue and political calculation. But the results of his amateur sleuthing are unexpected—and tragic. To Each His Own is one of the masterworks of the great Sicilian novelist Leonardo Sciascia—a gripping and unconventional detective story that is also an anatomy of a society founded on secrets, lies, collusion, and violence.
- The Ten Thousand Things, Maria Dermout -The Ten Thousand Things is a novel of shimmering strangeness—the story of Felicia, who returns with her baby son from Holland to the Spice Islands of Indonesia, to the house and garden that were her birthplace, over which her powerful grandmother still presides. There Felicia finds herself wedded to an uncanny and dangerous world, full of mystery and violence, where objects tell tales, the dead come and go, and the past is as potent as the present. First published in Holland in 1955, Maria Dermoût's novel was immediately recognized as a magical work, like nothing else Dutch—or European—literature had seen before. The Ten Thousand Things is an entranced vision of a far-off place that is as convincingly real and intimate as it is exotic, a book that is at once a lament and an ecstatic ode to nature and life.