Thursday, April 11, 2024

Books I read in March 2024 - Literature was a game of pillaging, and this book showed it.

A nice little run at Persian literature this month.  And I am reading in Portuguese again, slowly, slowly.


Shahnameh: The Persian Book of Kings (1110),  Abolqasem Ferdowsi – See here for notes on this big epic in Dick Davis’s translation.

The Essential Rumi (13th c.),  Rumi – I am not much of a mystic but Rumi, in Coleman Barks’s translations into American free verse, impressed me with his variety of imagery, earthiness, and irony.  I remember Rumi as a major source of little gift books by bookstore cash registers, next to those little volumes of Rilke, but his wisdom is more ironic than that might suggest.

Faces of Love: Hafez and the Poets of Shiraz (14th c.), Hafez, Jahan Malek Khatun, & Obayd-e Zakani – There was a “scene” in Shiraz for a while.  Hafez is the drunk pretending to be a Sufi mystic, or vice versa; Jahan Malek Khatun is a love struck princess, an actual princess; Obayd-e Zakani is a dirty young man, then a dirty old man, full of gusto.  Fun stuff, via Dick Davis.

The Colonel (2009),  Mahmoud Dowlatabadi – A grim and depressing novel about betrayal and grief in Iran circa 1988, and before, and after.  Tom Patterdale translated and wrote the detailed, useful notes.  Plenty of references to Shahnameh.



The Demon Lover and Other Stories (1945),  Elizabeth Bowen – Jamesian indirection during the London Blitz, part of almost every story.  Bowen is a lot more material than James, with lots more food and furniture, although in Jamesian fashion food, furniture, and for that matter entire buildings are present in their absence.  Very much to my tastes, except that I have a heck of a time remembering Bowen stories, a cost of indirection.  An invitation to reread.

Eleven (1970),  Patricia Highsmith – If you are asking if I read this collection of horror stories because it plays a part in the recent Wim Wenders movie Perfect Days (2023), yes, that is right.  The story “The Terrapin,” specifically.

Angels in America: Millennium Approaches (1991),  Tony Kushner – I will see it performed in May.  Eager.

The Lowering Days (2021),  Gregory Porter – A Maine novel, earnest and violent.  The striving for wisdom, often aphoristic, was not to my taste – if just one character had a sense of humor – but the George Eliot-like exercise in sympathy was well-done.  And I learned a lot about my neighbors Down East, who are more violent than I thought.

Dr. No (2022),  Percival Everett – The narrator is a mathematician specializing in nothing who is hired by a billionaire who wants to be a Bond villain, so there we have two Dr. Nos, and a good sense of Everett’s sense of humor.  Charles Portis, Ishmael Reed, Thomas Pynchon, César Aira; Everett, or anyway this book, fits in there somewhere.



Ovid's Poetry of Exile (9-17),  Ovid – David Slavitt’s “very loose” translations of Tristia and Epistulae ex Ponto, Ovid complaining from exile with humor and personality.

The Wild Iris (1992),  Louise Glück



O Alcaide de Santarém (1845),  Alexandre Herculano – a bit of Portugal’s Walter Scott.  If you’ve been to the Jerónimos Monastery in Lisbon you’ve seen his gigantic, ornate tomb, near Pessoa’s little Modernist one.

As Mulheres de Tijucopapo (1981),  Marilene Felinto – An angry feminist Brazilian novel, recommended by my Portuguese teacher.

Contos de morte (2008),  Pepetela – Occasional stories by the Angolan writer, just my reading level.

La plus secrète mémoire des hommes (2021),  Mohamed Mbougar Sarr – I hope to write a bit about this one.  The bit in the title, in my translation, is on p. 232.


  1. How were the other stories in Eleven? My brother likes Highsmith's novels and I'm always on the lookout for giftable books...

  2. The Highsmith stories were good. But horrifying. They are really non-supernatural horror stories. Mostly non-supernatural. My edition had a snail on the cover, so I was not surprised when there was a story with killer snails. I was surprised that there were two stories with killer snails!

    Definitely a good gift.

  3. My wife and I are reading Everett's I Am Not Sidney Poitier: A Novel and enjoying it greatly, so I just bought Dr. No: A Novel on your recommendation.

  4. I just finished James and have Erasure on hold at the library, so I am continuing on with Everett. I Am Not Sidney Poitier sounds like it shares Dr. No's goofiness. (For those who do not know, the main character is named Not Sidney Poitier). James is much less goofy, mostly, playing a different game.