Back with a quick run through Iran, Italy, Spain, Japan, and Narnia

ATWIB 2013

I’ve been away a long time. I have been caught up in job searching and moving to Texas and in prepping for the courses I now teach at Lamar University. My time for reading has taken a huge hit, but now I have a 100 mile (one way!) commute, so is my best friend. I probably won’t have the leisure to blog extensively in my current life, but I do want to check in with at least brief reviews. Since I last wrote anything, I’ve managed to read my first graphic novel, check off a few of my 1001 list books, take care of a few countries, and listen to all but a few pages of last year’s Orange Prize winner. I’ll report on that one later.

My comments on Goodreads about what I’ve read have been brief, but I’ll link you to them so you will also have a link to the books. My review of the Japan option which I just finished is a bit longer, and I’ll include that one last.

My Iran book, from back in April:
Persepolis: The Story of a ChildhoodPersepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My first graphic novel. I really enjoyed exploring the view of Iran from before the overthrow of the Shah through more recent times from the perspective of a young girl growing up there.

Another Italo Calvino for Italy:

Here’s the Goodreads summary first: “A group of travellers chance to meet, first in a castle, then a tavern. Their powers of speech are magically taken from them and instead they have only tarot cards with which to tell their stories. What follows is an exquisite interlinking of narratives, and a fantastic, surreal and chaotic history of all human consciousness.” I wasn’t as enthusiastic:

The Castle of Crossed DestiniesThe Castle of Crossed Destinies by Italo Calvino

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I loved the concept of the book and probably would have liked it better if I had read the classics it references more recently, but I found after reading the first half, I wasn’t that eager to read the rest. Sad, but there you have it.

For Spain, a classic:

From Goodreads: “Don Quixote has become so entranced by reading chivalric romances, that he determines to become a knight-errant himself. In the company of his faithful squire, Sancho Panza, his exploits blossom in all sorts of wonderful ways. While Quixote’s fancy often leads him astray — he tilts at windmills, imagining them to be giants — Sancho acquires cunning and a certain sagacity. Sane madman and wise fool, they roam the world together, and together they have haunted readers’ imaginations for nearly four hundred years.

With its experimental form and literary playfulness, Don Quixote generally has been recognized as the first modern novel. The book has had enormous influence on a host of writers, from Fielding and Sterne to Flaubert, Dickens, Melville, and Faulkner, who reread it once a year, ‘just as some people read the Bible.'”

And my response: Don QuixoteDon Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Was impressed with how well this still works despite how long ago it was written. Reminded me a bit of 1001 Nights because the numerous nested stories.

I also listened during the move from PA to TX with my 5 year old daughter to a classic from my childhood.  It was wonderful to revisit Narnia, but I think we won’t get the next one read until she’s a little older. This one also accomplished my L author read for the alpha bonkers challenge, which then allowed me to indulge in a couple great M options on audio commuting to work. Here is the first. I’ll review the second as soon as I’m done.

From Goodreads: “Kafka on the Shore, a tour de force of metaphysical reality, is powered by two remarkable characters: a teenage boy, Kafka Tamura, who runs away from home either to escape a gruesome oedipal prophecy or to search for his long-missing mother and sister; and an aging simpleton called Nakata, who never recovered from a wartime affliction and now is drawn toward Kafka for reasons that, like the most basic activities of daily life, he cannot fathom. Their odyssey, as mysterious to them as it is to us, is enriched throughout by vivid accomplices and mesmerizing events. Cats and people carry on conversations, a ghostlike pimp employs a Hegel-quoting prostitute, a forest harbors soldiers apparently unaged since World War II, and rainstorms of fish (and worse) fall from the sky. There is a brutal murder, with the identity of both victim and perpetrator a riddle – yet this, along with everything else, is eventually answered, just as the entwined destinies of Kafka and Nakata are gradually revealed, with one escaping his fate entirely and the other given a fresh start on his own.”

Kafka on the ShoreKafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Haruki Murakami is becoming a favorite for me. I listened to this book during my commute to work (100 miles each way) and it kept me happy the whole way. Kafka on the Shore actually worked better for me than 1Q84 did. Whereas that book sometimes dragged a bit for me and I didn’t find the love story at the heart of it entirely convincing, the surreal relationships in this novel worked well for me. I also was listening to the novel while preparing lectures on Freud and Jung for a personality course I’m teaching, and the connections to the book were delicious. I kept wanting to revise the syllabus and just have people read this book and connect the dots to the theorists they were learning about.

One of the things I’m learning to count on in Murakami’s writing is the slightly eerie atmosphere he creates. I still find the effect from 1Q84 creeping up on me–I was reading a Dr. Seuss to my daughter and she noticed multiple moons in a drawing which then gave me a bit of a flashback to the feeling of reading that novel. The effect isn’t quite as strong in this book, but it still gets subtly under the skin. In this case, I half expect my cats to suddenly start talking to me.

I’m looking forward to the rest of the Murakami oeuvre!

View all my reviews

Progress report:

Around the World (goal: 52 total including at least 6 in each of 6 different regions) 17
Asia/Mideast: 5 (Israel, China, Afghanistan, Japan, Iran)
Africa: 1 (Madagascar)
Europe: 6 (England/UK, Ireland, Monaco, Poland, Spain, Italy)
Caribbean/Central America/North America: 3 (US, Cuba, Haiti)
Oceania: 1 (Fiji)
South America:
Extra: 1 (Scotland)

Around the US (goal: 50 states, DC, and PR): 11 (CA, CO, GA, LA, MA, MN, MS, NM NY, PA, RI)

1001 Books (goal 52): 15

A to Z challenge (must be completed in order–26 author last names A to Z then 26 titles A to Z–strategy is all!): 11
Authors: Auster, Beinart, Chandler, Donovan, Eugenides, Faulkner, Grau, Hosseini, Ishiguro, Joyce, King, Lewis, Murakami


About Beth Parks Aronson

I am Associate Professor of Psychology at Lamar University. Previously, I was a psychologist in private practice in Jenkintown, PA where I specialized in anxiety disorders and working with people living with chronic and life-threatening illnesses. I am a little addicted to good literature. Ok, a lot addicted.
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4 Responses to Back with a quick run through Iran, Italy, Spain, Japan, and Narnia

  1. biblioglobal says:

    Wow, 100 mile commute! I hope you won’t have to keep doing that for very long.

    I haven’t read that particular Calvino, but I have enjoyed several other of his books. If you feel like trying him again, Invisible Cities and The Baron in the Trees are two of my favorites and are likely more accessible than The Castle of Crossed Destinies.

    • I loved If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler, and I might have liked this more had I read it at a less crazy moment, but I won’t give up on Calvino. Not sure how much of his stuff is on audio, so that may slow me down a bit.

  2. vanbraman says:

    I am trying to think what I would read for ‘N’. I would probably read something by V.S. Naipaul. I really enjoyed ‘A Bend in the River’. You would then have a book for India.

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