It’s Still January. Isn’t It?

I am back after a too long delay but I am a happy reader.  Very happy.  I will start with the most excellent, simply wonderful new character in the the the many very good, literary mystery series on the shelves.  Sujata Massey of the Rei Shimura series (and you must read all these – I have),  had crept into India a few years back and dazzled me with her two books set in South Asia.  The Sleeping Dictionary is a tour de force that I recommend.  She promised a new mystery series set in 1920’s Bombay, India (my most-loved locale and in my favorite time-frame).  Perveen Mistry (a Parsi –   of a small, but unique and amazing group in that city) appeared on January 9th as the star of The Widows of Malabar Hill.  I was truly transported.  She is at the top of her game on a mesa with lots of room for more.  Brilliant and literary,  Perveen joins Vaseem Khan’s Baby Ganesh series to my delight the Sam Wyndham series set in Raj Calcutta by Abir Mukherjee, The Calcutta Chromosome by Amitav Ghosh,  the Maharaja series by Arjun Raj Gaind. I am not familiar with Vish Puri – but I know he is another of this exalted group and I am waiting for a title by Tarun Tejal.

I love Bombay.  Love it.  And Widows is so diligently researched and is an example of superb authentic fiction.  I have read it in pieces so it would last longer and I am hoping Massey has taken a deep breath, some time off and has started another one.  She joins several other cherished Bombay novelists, Thrity Umrigar – {read all her books please!!} Salman Rushdie, Rohinton Mistry,  Ardashir Vakil, Vaseem Khan, Shilpa Agarwal and Siddartha Dhangvant Shangvi, just a few on my long list ).  We are experiencing the welcome Indian (Anglo, Canadian, American) entrance into the mystery genre and about time. (I am a serious reader of India – for 20 years – so my enthusiasm is a long time and includes many South Asian authors – just about as prolific a group as the artists of Haiti).  This reading is not limited to fiction either. As an added bonus the Widows has two maps and a glossary.  This book tops my 2018 list so far and while the year stretches ahead – I think the Widows will endure.

Now that I have waxed deliriously about Widows, I must mention Tom Zoellner – whose book on diamonds was so marvelous; but his book Uranium was like a short course on Uranium itself, the atom bomb, yellowcake and the geographical locations of this heavy and very volatile, radioactive element.  It is a very frightening element and subject and has changed our world forever.  I found out, among much reading, that plutonium does not occur in nature but is a by-product of U-235 and that the infamous yellowcake must be weaponized. I also came away with a deep loathing of King Leopold of Belgium and his pimping and pandering of the Congo. As an unexpected benefit, Zoellner’s intensely researched, heavily referenced book relieved me of my continued, and laborious read of American Prometheus.  I am not surprised that J. Robert Oppenheimer died a man with many things on his mind.  I may finish this book eventually, but Uranium answered many questions.  Zoellner’s style is terrific.  It was a subject presented in a most engaging style that was very hard to put down – I think I liked it even better than The Heartless Stone.

Both the above books have whetted my appetite for further reading in these subjects  To this end I have expanded my hold list at the library

Fire and Fury – too much about a little, obnoxious man with small thumbs and a propensity for lies.   It is printed on cheap paper and not worth even that. This charlatan is a fat-assed, self-centered miscreant who has surrounded himself with disposable colleagues and has no business being in any part of politics and for that matter, business.  It is well written but also like reading the National Enquirer endlessly. Fascinating, but thoroughly nauseating.  Kudos to its author, Michael Wolff, however.

Is this it?  Seems as if I have read more, but could be magazines.  In the New Yorker, this week was Jill Lepore’s excellent piece on Barbie v. Bratz. (doll wars) .   Have also having appointments outside to make and this too takes time.  I promise I do search the library before I pile additional titles on my own bedside table (floor, dresser…).  Yet Amazon calls.  You too?

As a lagniappe – Must suggest a photo book by my longtime friend Dirck Halstead; Moments in Time.  A Time-Warner shooter, he has had 47 Time Magazine covers and is a photojournalist of renown.  He has covered the WH and been every damn where shooting the last century superbly.  The book is not a new one but the photos resonate indelibly.  I am bit biased but highly recommended.

Many on hold. And FYI – you can read short descriptions of all the books I mention on Amazon, your local library, and Goodreads.

Your comments are always welcome!

Holidays . All Over.

 

Added some thoughts to this post, corrections and additions. Also discovered a renewal of interest in the Sunday Times crossword. The loss of the Jerusalem Post Puzzle still grieves me, but I am indeed happy to enjoy the Times again

Lazy over holidays and many posts ran through my mind but never made the cut.  Excuses.  Doesn’t matter.

What have I read?  What am I waiting to read.  And why doesn’t Goodreads have a status of  “trying to read” or “tried but failed”?  Teach your algorithm to sense slow progress and then use it.

I am  slowly reading American Prometheus. The bio allows this and it’s best tasted in small bites.  J. Robert Oppenheimer is a fascinating man who had OCD, spectrum disorder and he understood Quantum Physics – therefore the first don’t matter much.  I can’t say it is slow going – it is interesting going but  lots of it and I expect I will read it in chunks. And I expect it will blow up real good at the end.

Neel Mukherjee is one of my favorite authors.  I finished his new book; A State of Freedom” and he did not fail me as usual.  Five stories tied together that cover the many India’s that carry on and co-exist simultaneously daily.  Five tales that look very astutely into how freedom is defined and how it is perceived.  And how they become a tartan of life in a country that lacks unity.   It is a wonderful piece of fiction but I do believe a love of India and its stories is a good idea for many readers. who haven’t explored this body of fiction.   His writing skill is amazing to me. It moves cautiously throughout and yet delivers on each page.  No spoilers , but I wished a better life for Raju.

I started The Penguin Papers.  I am still trying to decide whether to read it to the end or not.  I read “Wesley”– a hand raised owl and wept so much at the end I still think of him and wish he had simply lived forever.  I have a feeling about Juan Salvado (the penguin question).  I am starting to think beautifully written, true accounts humans and animals should have a caveat about sad endings.  This has always been a problem for me – As a kid – seeing Bambi I wailed in a crowded Boston theatre when Bambi’s mother died and grieved after Fantasia , during the part when the dinosaurs were wiped out.  Across the board, my soft heartedness still exists.  So The Penguin Papers sits – partly read.  I would be very happy if anyone knows about its ending.  Sad or not sad is all I ask.

Fire and Fury is on its way.  Due to snow, deliveries are now delayed but I expect it within another day or so.  I love Michael Wolff and I would like a peep at the bedlam at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  I suspect dementia that is gaining speed, a stroke of some size or tertiary syphilis.   It requires immediate attention and hopefully this book will give that attention momentum.  After reading Blitzed and discovering how Der Fuehrer and his pack of goons and bigots were dosed daily on speed and other narcotics – nothing would surprise me.   (Add to this, the good Dr. Jacobsen of NYC keeping the JFK circles awake.  I bless the fear I have of needles.)  And frankly I love a good tell-all – I pity those who believe they are above it all and smug about it to boot.

And a very quick read – The Prisoner in His Palace ,the last days of Saddam was predictable, fast yet a very astute peek at this maniac.  Are the mental deficiencies of power mad men and occasionally women (Indira m’dear) a result of nature or nurture?    This is why we read everything.  Knowledge madness seems far more enriching.

Back to Oppenheimer and I suspect a cautionary tale within a very long story – not a hard read but slow going. This is illustrates how our alleged bad acts (being a Red back then) disguise brilliance and accomplishments.   American Prometheus is worth the time. Read some more Oppie  last night late. The fatal flaw was of course Marx and Lenin – the late 30’s and 40’s were characterized by many things, but Liberal and Red  urges created lasting woe for many intelligentsia in those days.  Long after the Red Peril And Joe McCarthyism came to a halt; great scientists, writers, actors and many, many others were ostracized, maligned and blacklisted taking remarkable achievements with them denuding in terms of honor.  I suspect as I plod through some more of this huge and complicated bio, I will finally get to the Manhattan Project and Los Alamos. I shall keep reading.

I am losing my pleasure in the NYTimes Sunday Book Review.  It started before the editorial changes, but the pretense has been honed and is so apparent and the cockiness of the writing is very sad.  I do love the best seller list however, a barometer of the crap written, published and then bought.  Meanwhile those eruditiees interviewed, all still have Euripides or the Odyssey on their bedside tables as their favorites.  Get out.

Such loss and sadness – rest in peace Sue Grafton.  Left us in late December 2017.  I loved her.  I loved Kinsey Milhone. Aharon Apfelfeld, a beloved Jewsih voice silenced this week as well.  Life is a trial – death is the loss of those who bring light to it.

Looking forward as the Twelfth Night comes and goes; new pages of Phantom Trades by Lister Martin (part of a new draft) and a much-needed book on the subject of slips and falls and why they must be avoided at all costs. Not just by the aging but everyone.  Until then – stay balanced.  Stay warm. Stay tuned. 

And comment!  Please.