Secret Rendezvous by Kobo Abe, 1977-Japan, 1979-English translation (179 pgs)
It begins with an un-summoned ambulance in the middle of the night. They insist on taking away their patient, although she insists there’s nothing wrong and it must be a mistake. When her husband tries to track her down in the morning, she has disappeared into a bizarre labyrinthine underground hospital. The man is soon subsumed by the convoluted bureaucracy of the hospital, where every employee is also a patient and no one ever seems to get cured. Soon the man’s search ceases to matter. He ends up not even noticing that he’s not seeking his wife anymore, or really heading much of anywhere. It’s as if he’s fallen down the rabbit hole into something resembling a David Lynch film.
Compelling, but I’m not sure I liked it- during or after. I kept feeling like I was missing something, like if I understood the Japanese cultural landscape of the 1970s there would be a deeper metaphor contained in the book that I just didn’t catch.
Madeleine Is Sleeping by Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum 2004 (259 pgs)
A tale made up of hallucinatory dream-like fragments that blend together until you can’t tell which is dream, which is flashback, and which is reality. In a narrative a bit like Anais Nin via Lewis Carroll, a young girl lies in constant sleep, dreaming. She’s suffered a trauma (or has she? or does that lie in the future?) and her mind lifts off on a journey- or possibly she’s remembering a past journey. Around her, circles her family as semi-miraculous curses-in-disguise seem to appear. In the end, the threads combine to form a journey of self-discovery or at least self-exploration that culminates in the girl converging with at least one of her alter-selves, to blistering results.
Library books that have been living at my house for far too long:
The Last Town on Earth by Thomas Mullen 2007 (394 pgs/read 27)
During the influenza pandemic of 1918, some small towns quarantined themselves to avoid infection. The novel is set in one such town. Fearing that influence will spell the end of their progressive timber company cooperative, the townsfolk vote to close their borders. Then the guards are forced to shoot a soldier seeking access. Definitely one for the “come back to it” list.
Open Me by Sunshine O’Donnell 2007 (230 pgs/read 24)
Didja know: throughout history, in many different cultures, people have hired professional mourners to “perform” at funerals. Mem is one such, trained from childhood in the heriditary art. Interesting concept, but a bit too much “cultish child abuse as vocational training” for me.
The Forbidden Stories of Marta Veneranda by Sonia Rivera-Valdes 2000/2001 US (158 pgs/read 102)
Strangers confide their darkest secrets in a student’s sociology interviews. A bit like Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies by way of Anais Nin, with a Cuban twist.
Heavy Words Lightly Thrown: The Reason Behind the Rhyme by Chris Roberts 2005 (202 pgs/read 90ish)
A bit of a travel guide around London via nursery rhymes, and their historical basis. Somewhat interesting, but not terribly scholarly and overly slang-ladden.
A Lick of Frost by Laurell K. Hamilton (#6 in Merry Gentry novels) 2007 (350 pgs)
I swear eventually Hamilton is going to use 7000 pages to cover a single minute. The time spanned in each book is getting vanishingly smaller- nearly a third of Frost took place in a single (admittedly peril-filled) visit to a lawyer’s office. Ah well, it’s brain candy.
The Harlequin by Laurell K. Hamilton (422 pgs) 2007 (Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter #15)
Mmm, brain candy.
This round, Anita and her merry men are under threat from the mysterious Harlequin- the vampire court’s boogeymen/policing entity.
The Delta of Venus by Anais Nin (271 pgs) 2006 ed, originally published 1977
More erotica from Nin, consisting of a dozen or so loosely connected vignettes. The intro, setting her writing in its historical context, was interesting. In pre-WWII Paris, Nin and her struggling artist friends sold erotica to support themselves. This collection has a little bit of everything: orgies, lesbians, pedophilia, and incest as well as more straight-forward fare. Her frank handling of sexuality is stunning and Nin never fails at titilation.
A Kiss of Shadows by Laurell K. Hamilton (435 pgs) 2000
A reread of the first book in the Merry Gentry series. Her books are part of the growing genre of supernatural romance with a “Magic made me do it” approach to sex. The Merry Gentry books are about a half-human fairy princess who’s commanded by the queen (her aunt) to have lots o’ sex, with lots o’ different guys, in order to produce an heir for the dying land of Fairie. And of course, all kinds of magical “healing the land” phenomenon occur whenever she has sex. I like her earlier books better before the scale tips from “plot with sex scenes that advance the plot” to “sex scenes with a little plot thrown in.”