Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Rashi--Elie Weisel

In Rashi, Elie Weisel gives us a very brief overview of the life, times and works of one of his spiritual guides and mentors and one of the great Jewish thinkers of all time.  It really is nothing more than a tantalizing glimpse, enough to whet one's appetite for more.  Or, if you're of a mind to become acquainted with a great thinker and scholar, perhaps enough.  Myself, I'd like to read and understand more about this thinker's influence on Judaism and ultimately the world at large, because much of his work was translated into Latin and influenced Medieval thought about the Old Testament.

Recommended--****  minus one star for extreme brevity.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

And for Those Who Prefer to Hear Their Books. . .



An audio excerpt of The Marriage Plot

A representative of Macmillan audio was kind enough to send me a link so you can enjoy the opening (perhaps much of the first chapter--I don't recall division) of the book.

A great Christmas gift for those interested in serious literature but without as much time as they might like to read--but be warned--very adult content.  You can find it here.

I only suggest it because I think this may be one of the books to read this year (please see my earlier review below).

Monday, November 28, 2011

Amusing Moments

I'm not certain if I will launch seriously into this book, but these two moments only a little apart are amusing.

from The Banquet Bug
Geling Yan

He tries to describe the texture of the delicate flesh, the subtle contact between the meat and this palate and tongue, the slippery sensation it gives when it passes the entrance of the throat, leaving the oral organs in such wonder. But he has no vocabulary for it. Putting together his education with hers, they can barely write a decent letter to their parents without checking a dictionary.

****

A neighbor woman yells outside the plastic curtain, asking what's taking them so long and whether they shower hair by hair.  Laughing Dan Dong yells back that he has twelve toe to scour.

The New Mass Translation

So, those of us in the States were exposed (and I use the word with all of its implications) to the New Mass Translation.  For the most part the changes were largely inconsequential--intellectually accurate, but without art--resulting in a Mass that sounds a bit like two lawyer magpies discussing some pretty bauble.  This is directly the result of the usual tin ear demonstrated by the American Bishops in any translation they put foward.

I judge the language of the mass by the ability of those serving to read everything as it should be and there are some tortuous and awkward constructions that everyone I saw tripped over.

However, there are some very nice restorations.  What I do wish had been restored along with "And with your spirit" is the return of the Priest standing at the head of the congregation and facing the altar with the rest of us.  As it stands now, the way we celebrate mass, the altar stands between the people and the priest and it seems less like the Priest is presiding than that he is talking at us.  Additionally without the change in position, the "and with your spirit,"  sounds rather like an "isn't that nice, he gets something special for all that he's given up" rather than an acknowledgment of the unity of the people under one Head standing in persona Christi.  While possibly true, in the instance, it is irrelevant.

I was mercifully spared the new language around consecration (for a week--which, even so, I view as a spiritual balm and vindication) because the elderly Priest we had serving could not read the new sacramentary well and so used the words of institution, at least, as they were before.  (He stumbled through much of the rest of the altered and very cerebral and thorny Eucharistic prayer, but I guess just finally gave up.)

I am a little worried about the change to the Credo (which largely I find one of the less clunky things done in the new translation) because of the use of "consubstantial."  While highly technical and accurate it has two problems that I can see. The first is that its meaning is more elusive and diffuse than the former "one in being."  Even so, it is more technically accurate  (and that is why I have the impression of magpie lawyers--one can't quibble over the technical accuracy of the language, and yet is sounds much less like a form of worship and much more like the initiation of a contractual agreement) and therefore not really problematic in that sense.  Where I see serious problems is with its striking similarity to the Lutheran "consubstantiation."  But perhaps I worry too much over so small a point because many Catholics haven't a clue about transubstantiation and I get the feeling have a system that is perhaps closer to Lutheran than to Catholic anyway.

One other major problem occurs with the "worthy that you should come under my roof,"  while awkward enough and entirely unnecessary (explain the substantive difference between "come under my roof" and "receive"  the latter having a rich resonance in light of what is about to happen), I'm puzzled by and disturbed at the limitation of the healing power attributed to  the Eucharist, "my soul will be healed."  Am I to understand by this that the Eucharist would have no efficacy with regard to emotional, psychological, or physical healing?  It certainly does severely limit God's purview, and, I might add, unnecessarily.  If "I shall be healed,"  then that includes, in pride of place. "my soul"  as well as every other aspect of my being.

Anyway--the new mass translation is predictably ugly, clunky, technical, and in a few weeks our ears will get used to hearing it and it will all seem like that's the way it has always been.  Unfortunate--with each new turning into English the Mass become less exalted and less the language of worship and more the language of technical philosophers--not much to encourage the spirit here.

However, I was spared the worst of these degradations for a week and for that I can truly praise God.

Train Dreams--Denis Johnson

In Train Dreams Denis Johnson takes us through the life of a man from near its beginnings until its end--all in less that about 100 pages.

The novel is told in a series on non-chronological vignettes and includes things like seeing Elvis Presley's train stopped in its tracks--build the (at the time) largest railroad bridge in the world, having everything one possesses destroyed in a wildfire, and being cursed by a Chinese man who was on his way to a lynching.

The novel bears repeated reading to get a sense of the time and the person.  But narrated as it is, it is very much dreamlike in quality--floating, anchored only here and there by incident and event.  The lack of chronological narration is an interesting and effective device for this story.  The language is beautifully wrought and brings the reader very much into the mind of the main character and into the spirit of the time.

Highly Recommended *****

Lime Creek--Joe Henry

In a series of connect short stories and vignettes, Joe Henry invites us into the lives and times of a family living in Montana (I think--throughout most of the collection it sounded as though they were perched out on the vestibule to the 9th circle of Hell).

There is some gorgeous langauge--some interesting juxtapositions, and a really deft handling of all of the novelistic elements.  However, I found that at times I just didn't get it.  In a couple of cases it was all about horses and the man-horse link which I lack entirely.  In another case it was some confusion over a high-school football game.

So while there is much to savor here and those closer to nature will probably get more out of it, I have to admit that at times I was stymied by the subject matter.

Nevertheless, highly recommended for those who want to read something that is at times exquisitely beautiful.

***1/2

Friday, November 25, 2011

On Deck

Aramind Aviga's Last Man in Tower

The Sharper the Knife the Less You Cry

Eoin Coffler--Plugged

Joe Henry--Lime Creek

Dennis Johnson--Train Dreams

Elie Weisel--Rashi

Alexi Zentner--Touch  (Seems reminiscent of Gilead, Home,  and Peace Like a River, we'll see how it actually plays out.

Oh and Wallace Stegner's Crossing to Safety

The Marriage Plot--Jeffrey Eugenides

Let me start out the review by saying that I enjoyed this book very much.  I found some of the incidents and thoughts enlightening, some aggravating; some of the characters endearing, some annoying; in short, it was a good blend of event and person.  While nothing much really happens in the book, everything possible important happens.  And that is, perhaps, the source of my greatest disappointment--the ending.  I don't get Portrait of a Lady, which, it seems, is what I was heading for.  But nowadays, Portrait of a Lady is impossible because divorce is not so unthinkable--indeed, divorce appears to be the first recourse when anything gets to be a little difficult.  I did not get Anna Karenina (although I'm sure that Eugenides referred to it more than obliquely in more than one scene).  No, I got what seemed to me like a lame sort of Casablanca ending.  You know, "We'll always have Paris. . ."

And that's a shame because otherwise this was a compelling, interesting, fascinating look at very intelligent people making mostly very poor choices.  Three post college students form a romantic triangle.  One of them a manic-depressive, two of them children of privilege--one of whom is a seeker, the other of whom aims to become a Victorianist even though that would exclude from her realm of study her favorite author--Jane Austen.

Our heroine falls in love with the manic-depressive and so the story unwinds as she determines the path she must take.  This, my friends, is the downside of Beauty and Beast.  The belief that we can take the intractably ugly and transform it into something lovely through love.  (The upside of Beauty and the Beast is that ugliness is merely surface and if you can see below that surface, then it is possible to bring out the loveliness intrinsic to all things.)  But the harsh reality is that one can't help whom one falls in love with and if that whom happens to be a manic depressive who has a cruel streak a mile wide, you're in for one unpleasant ride.

What then is the end of it?  Well, you'll have to read to discover that.  Eugenides makes reference to and mines classic works of literature throughout. Some references oblique, others quite clearly pointing to forebears.  Expect to see the panoply of novels that deal with the married state and living in that state.

The prose of the book is, at times, quite lovely.  The story itself compelling up until its entirely unsatisfactory end. To be honest, it was very clear throughout that this end was coming; however, it still did not seem inevitable.  That is, I was not convinced by the plight of the heroine nor by the choice made, at least in the near term.  I didn't make logical or emotional sense in any clear way--at least not to this reader.

So, the disappointing ending aside, the book was an interesting study of what it means to be in love, what it means to have a passion, and what it means to have all of the options open to us today. 

Highly recommended--****1/2


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Considering a Little Classic Reading?

Dwight shares his experience reading Arrian and encourages up to take Reading Odyssey up on some future courses.

A Gift from a Catholic Friend

The Divine Office Online

Happy Thanksgiving!!

As no one will read this long post on facebook, it seemed wise to repeat myself:

While I agree with much that people have posted on the usurpation of Thanksgiving, I note that we are in a time in which the lyrics of this song are most germane:
Mame:
Haul out the holly; 
Put up the tree before my spirit falls again. 
Fill up the stocking, 
I may be rushing things, 
but deck the halls again now. 
For we need a little Christmas 
Right this very minute, 
Candles in the window, 
Carols at the spinet. 
Yes, we need a little Christmas 
Right this very minute. 
It hasn't snowed a single flurry, 
But Santa, dear, we're in a hurry; 
So climb down the chimney; 
Put up the brightest string of lights I've ever seen. 
Slice up the fruitcake 
It's time we hung some tinsel on that evergreen bough. 
For I've grown a little leaner, 
Grown a little colder, 
Grown a little sadder, 
Grown a little older, 

All: 
And I need a little angel 
Sitting on my shoulder, 
Need a little Christmas now.



And so, I've noted, my neighbors have rushed the decor into their yards and onto their houses--think of this seasonal rush as the equivalent of the Busby Berkeley musicals in their time. Everything its due celebration but in times of stress we reach out for the nearest reason to be happy, to be entranced, to be reminded of what it is to see the world as the wonder it is.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Being and What It Entails

from The Marriage Plot
Jeffrey Eugenides

For thirty-five years she'd been inspecting her corn with Mendelian patience, receiving no encouragement or feedback on her work, just showing up every day, involved in her own process of discovery, forgotten by the world and not caring. And now, finally, this, the Nobel, the vindication of her life's work, and though she seemed pleased enough, you could see that it hadn't been the Prize she was after at all. MacGregor's reward had been the work itself, the daily doing of it, the achievement made of a million unremarkable days.

This is how a life means--not in the light of the expectation of others or of our own unreasonable expectations of ourselves, but through following a passion that allows us to BE in a way that no other thing can.  A million unremarkable days that may lead to an overwhelming question--or it may lead to silence.

We fail to understand that meaning isn't something you make by willing to make it, but meaning is something that is found in the quotidian, in the every day, in the counting and recording of grains of corn, thousands and thousands of ears of field corn over years and years and years of observations leads eventually to an essential understanding--transposons. MacGregor in the book is McClintock in real life and Eugenides makes of the life a kind of memorial of work.

Too many spend too much time "protesting too much."  We make meaning that is meaningless--we study only ourselves in the mirror and mourn at the discovery that there is nothing left to discover.  But if we learn simply to be, to live each moment as that moment allows and make of it what it can be, then all the rest of this worry and fret falls away from us and we become something different than what we would be.  The urge to meaning is not meaning in itself, and when we leave it behind, like all the other desires that point the way home, we learn to be and become as we can be and the acceptance or rejection of the world becomes an after-fact--another datum that may accumulate given enough time into a meaning, but will more likely crumble away along with all the other daily idiocies we allow to derail us.


Variant--Robison Wells


The latest contribution in what is becoming a well-worn track in teen fiction.  Epitomized by Suzanne Collins's Hunger Games series  and continued in a myriad of others such as James Dashner's The Maze Runner series, the teens-in-danger zeitgeist recurs here.  But it is also very much part of a newer genre--the teens without guidance, the teens without adults,  and the teens threatened by adults (see Dashner).

A troubled teen who is shuttled from foster home to foster home applies to attend a very elite school in the wilds of Northern New Mexico.  He is dropped off by a woman who zooms away, pursued by two of the school inhabitants, but only after they have given our hero a mysterious message.

It doesn't take long to discover that there is something very wrong about this school.  There are no adults. None.  No one to do the teaching except other students, no one to do the cooking, maintenance, etc.  And from there, the story becomes one long attempt to escape from this place.

The book is well-written with compelling characters and an interesting rhythm.  The final "revelation" will not come as much of a surprise to those who are paying attention, but then the fact that the book ends up where it was clearly pointed to go all along speaks well for the author.

Robison Wells is brother to Dan Wells who is an author in his own right.  Dan Wells writes about another kind of trouble teen, young adult in his I Am not a Serial Killer series.  A series which is surprising in the turns it takes.

As to the present book--it is both interesting and compelling.  I would advise any parent thinking to give it to a child to read it themselves to determine whether or not it is entirely suitable.  There's nothing here that isn't in dozens of other quite similar books, but it is, at times, quite strong stuff.

And finally, I'm intrigued and perhaps a little worried about this trend in teen fiction.  It strikes me as a little bit symptomatic of the times (and I do mean symptomatic as in indicative of an illness).  But perhaps this is just another more concrete expression of the alienation that we see in Catcher in the Rye and A Separate Peace--in other words, very much a teen-theme in new drag.

****1/2--recommended with cautions for younger teen readers

Saturday, November 19, 2011

A Killer's Essence--Dave Zeltserman

I last had the pleasure of reviewing Mr. Zeltserman's work with the really creepy and wonderful The Caretaker of Lorne Field.  That book was superb, readable, in all ways truly a fine example of the type of work it was.

I'm pleased to say that this book was also rewarding and entertaining, although I must say that it didn't quite hold together as well as Lorne Field.  Mr. Zeltserman has a strong prose style that draws the reader in and holds his or her attention until the book has ended.  His characters are interesting and the plot--a serial killer loose--was sufficiently interesting to hold our attention.

In addition we are introduced to a character with a very special and very rare ability--a fascinating ability that I am certain shall play an important role in the books to come.  And it seems fairly clear from this one that there is at least one more book to come.  This is certainly a welcome note for me.

I think my biggest quibble with the book is that it straddled genres to such an extent (noir, mystery, serial killer detective fiction) that as a result, hewing closer to the conventions of mystery than perhaps intended, the ending was a disappointment in that it failed the central rules of a "golden age" mystery.  I'll let others decide whether that is a detriment for them.  For me it did not sufficiently harm my enjoyment for me to do more than make this passing note.

Mr. Zeltserman is an author to watch--I encourage those who have not yet done so to pick up one of his novels and admire the sheer craftsmanship of the prose.  Truly, very nicely written--tight, to the point, clear.  I might object to the plotting and the resolution, but never to the writing itself.  I'll be picking up other novels as I can.

I suppose the last thing I should mention is that I took a short break from Jeffrey Eugenides's The Marriage Plot to fit this book in.  That's as high a compliment as I think possible to pay an author.

Highly recommended for those interested in the suspence/noir/thriller genre ****1/2

Friday, November 18, 2011

A Salutary Reminder


        The Layers
            --Stanley Kunitz
        .

    I have walked through many lives,
    some of them my own,
    and I am not who I was,
    though some principle of being
    abides, from which I struggle
    not to stray.
    When I look behind,
    as I am compelled to look
    before I can gather strength
    to proceed on my journey,
    I see the milestones dwindling
    toward the horizon
    and the slow fires trailing
    from the abandoned camp_sites,
    over which scavenger angels
    wheel on heavy wings.
    Oh, I have made myself a tribe
    out of my true affections,
    and my tribe is scattered!
    How shall the heart be reconciled
    to its feast of losses?
    In a rising wind
    the manic dust of my friends,
    those who fell along the way,
    bitterly stings my face.
    Yet I turn, I turn,
    exulting somewhat,
    with my will intact to go
    wherever I need to go,
    and every stone on the road
    precious to me.
    In my darkest night,
    when the moon was covered
    and I roamed through wreckage,
    a nimbus-clouded voice
    directed me:
    "Live in the layers,
    not on the litter."
    Though I lack the art
    to decipher it,
    no doubt the next chapter
    in my book of transformations
    is already written.
    I am not done with my changes.

Apollinaire

An intensely tricky poem to translate--see one translator's struggle here.


Le Pont Mirabeau
Guillaume Apollinaire

Sous le pont Mirabeau coule la Seine
Et nos amours
Faut-il qu'il m'en souvienne
La joie venait toujours après la peine
Vienne la nuit sonne l'heure
Les jours s'en vont je demeure
Les mains dans les mains restons face à face
Tandis que sous
Le pont de nos bras passe
Des éternels regards l'onde si lasse
Vienne la nuit sonne l'heure
Les jours s'en vont je demeure
L'amour s'en va comme cette eau courante
L'amour s'en va
Comme la vie est lente
Et comme l'Espérance est violente
Vienne la nuit sonne l'heure
Les jours s'en vont je demeure
Passent les jours et passent les semaines
Ni temps passé
Ni les amours reviennent
Sous le pont Mirabeau coule la Seine

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Why I'm So Glad I Missed Deconstruction and Post Modernism

The tyrrany of the deconstructionists/semioticians as evinced by Jeffrey Eugenides:


from The Marriage Plot
Jeffrey Eugenides

     He flipped the pages until he found the one he wanted.  The he returned to the bed and handed the book to her.
I Love You
je-t'aime/I-love-you

As she read these words, Madeleine was flooded with happiness.  She glanced up at Leonard, smiling.  With his finger he motioned for her to keep going.  The figure refers not to the declaration of love, to the avowal, but to the repeated utterance of the love cry.  Sudeenly Madeliens happiness diminished, usurped by the feeling of peril. She wished she weren't naked. She narrowed her shoulders and overde herself with the bed-sheet as she obediently read on.
     Once the first avowal has been made, "I love you" has no meaning whatever. . . 
     Leonard, squatting, had a smirk on his face.

Utter foulness.  Those who would say that words have no meaning or have meanings that are infinitely mutable do not understand the harm they do to themselves, to others, and to the language.  Words do have definitive meaning even when repeated.

Fortunately, the mere assertion does not make a thing so the burden of such a claim falls on the claimant as is always the case in those who would compromise meaning and accept anything less than the fullness of the truth.  Language is not a humpty-dumpty construct in which any given word has the meaning I want it to have at any given time.  It is not infinitely malleable--as malleable as it is.  Nor is it infinitely empty, regardless of those who would elevate the reader to the status to the writer and who would proclaim loudly, in academic purple, the death of the author.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Shock of the New in the 16th Century

from When I Am Playing with My Cat, How Do I Know That She Is Not Playing with Me?
Saul Frampton
     Around this time a fog descended over northern Europe. It covered the Rhine, merging with the reed beds and sea mists. It cloistered the churchyards of France. It slipped inside books, it tarnished sword blades.  It scaled the high walls of Oxford and surrounded Aristotle. It seems to enter flesh itself, and confuse the identities of thins and the very boundaries of mater. And then it settled in men's minds. . . .
     Scepticism arrived as a new and intoxicating intellectual force in the sixteenth century.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Night Strangers--Chris Bohjalian

Warning:  Anything I write about this book will tell those extensively read in the literature much of what to expect.  While I don't want to interfere with your enjoyment, still I must tell what I have seen.

Ah, revisit Harvest Home and add a large dollop of Bethany's Sin and then stir in more than a little Rosemary's Baby, and then perhaps more than a little of Conjure Wife, and you will have a very clear sense of Mr. Bohjalian's book.

ONe interesting, though not entirely successful aspect of the book is the author's choice to narrate a portion of it in second person.  I can recall offhand only two other such works--Carlos Fuentes's Aura which also had the distinction of being the only book I've read that was written entirely in the future tense and Jay McInerny's Bright Lights, Big City in which the second person narration was like a driving hammer through the entire work.  In this book the device came off as a kind of authorial experiment--I could not determine what real purpose it served other than as a sort of compass--when you were in second person you knew immediately who was narrating.  On the plus side, it was sprinkled here and there and didn't annoy me a some cute and cloying ploy on the part of the author.  The worst that could be said of it is that its purpose was not entirely clear.

While derivative, the book has its own interest and originality.  But it is definitely a return to the land of the lost--where there really isn't any way for good to fight evil and the better part is simply to give in and take from it what one can.

Supernatural thriller and fast read.  ***


Friday, November 11, 2011

Marginalia

I was reminded this morning of a blog that I much enjoy--(Really Mr. Jurek) that features thoughtful posts about fantasy, science fiction, writing, and other concerns of those who write and are interested in the literature of the fantastic.

Marginalia

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

My Focus Needs More Focus

Flitting like a bumblebee from blossom to blossom--my reading flung wide over the entire field, I'll never make it back to the hive:

from When I Am Playing with My Cat How Do I Know That She Is Not Playing with Me?
Saul Frampton

But with the hardening of religious attitudes that inevitably resulted, Stoicism began to snowball, almost in a kind of ideological feedback loop. For what made is so difficult to displace as an attitude was the fact that it was seen to be quintessentially noble, honourable--male--and no self-respecting sixteenth-century man who called himself a man would beg to differ, as is affirmed in an emblem from Henry Peacham's Minverva Britannica (1612): 
Amid the waves, a mightie Rock doth stand,
Whose  ruggie brow, had bidden many a shower,
And bitter storme; which neither sea, nor land,
Nor JOVES sharpe-lightening ever could devoure:
This same is MANLIE CONSTANCIE of mind,
Not easly moov'd with every blase of wind.

And if so, it speaks volumes as to the state of men today because this is the formation of the modern era.  But the question is begged--is this necessarily true of men and thus an observation about intrinsic character and build, or does it become true because we have uttered it.  Are there places and times in history where this ideal was not honored nor did it have meaning?  Does it matter?  Does the attitude persist today under other guise?  (I think so)  And is it, in general, helpful or harmful to society and to the advancement of humanity?  So many questions from so short a passage.  Well worth one's time for no telling what might be uncovered to pique one's interest and curiosity.



Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Revisionists--Thomas Mullen




It is a positive thrill to be able to review a book as interesting and profound as Mr. Mullen's The Revisionists.  Time travel, or its near facsimile must be this season's zeitgeist, because both The Revisionists and The Map of Time have it as a central core.

For long-time fans of science fiction, Mr. Mullen doesn't really pull out any new stops in his story as far as the SF elements go.  If you take an pound or so of Leiber's Change Wars and mix liberally with the paranoia/schizophrenic world you find in Philip K. Dick,  you'll have a good sense of the novel.  Oh, and add in a little C. L. Moore as in "Vintage Season."

Our hero--known to us as Troy--travels in time to preserve the Perfect Present in which he lives.  His job is to preserve the disasters of the past that have ultimately led to the wonders of the future. Right now he watches over the series of events leading up to The Great Conflagration--the event immediately prior to the establishment of the perfect world in which he lives.  His previous stint was preserving the integrity of the holocaust.

Battling and besieging him all around are the hags who have plotted to destroy that future society in which everything is so perfect.  Truth to tell--the future perfect is quite Orwellian and Troy is trying to understand his place in events and what it means to be an actor in them.  The questions he asks are germane to each of us as we try to understand how our single action compile into history.

In addition, Troy is really the name of the person in the near future whose identity he assumes to watch over the Great Conflagration.  His real story and Troy's story are very, very similar and so we get the mind-bending rush of Philip K. Dick as we follow the author through the story and try to puzzle out what reality is.

The story is great, the characters well-drawn, but more importantly, as fun as the roller coaster ride is, Mr. Mullen uses it to ask serious and important questions and as in any great work of literature, he doesn't always provide answers nor even good clues as to what the answers might be.

This book is a treat for both SF aficionados and connoisseurs of fine, literary writing.  Put this book on your reading lists--you'll be glad you did.

*****

Thursday, November 3, 2011

"To Autumn"

The most anthologized poem in the English language, but worth another look anyway.

                               TO AUTUMN. 
                                John Keats                                            

                                      1.   
SEASON of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
        Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
    Conspiring with him how to load and bless
        With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
    To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
        And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
            To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
    With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
        And still more, later flowers for the bees,
        Until they think warm days will never cease,
            For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells. 
                                            2.    
Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
        Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
    Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
        Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
    Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
        Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
            Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
    And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
        Steady thy laden head across a brook;
        Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
            Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours. 
                                            3.    
Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
        Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
    While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
        And touch the stubble plains with rosy hue;
    Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
        Among the river sallows, borne aloft
            Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
    And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
        Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
        The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
           And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

A Map of Time--Félix J. Palma



Jack the Ripper, H. G. Wells, Bram Stoker, Henry James, Her Majesty the Queen with a Squirrel Monkey, and the end of the world in the year 2000.  Those are only some of the delights that await the intrepid reader willing to enter the metafictional world Mr. Palma has created for the reader in this novel.

The novel consists of three interlaced stories all of which center around time travel and its possibilities and all of which involve that foremost inventor of time machines.  Because the jacket copy is so vague I hesitate to provide any additional information that might detract from the readers' enjoyment of this marvelous book.

I'm not sure how I felt about the metafictional element and the occasional authorial intrusions.  They didn't particularly bother me, but I'm not certain I have enough distance to understand how they enhance or alter the work.  They were, at times, quite amusing and generally were not enough to get in the way of the determined reader.  (Let's face it, any person who picks up a six-hundred page novel in translation is likely to be a determined reader.)

Well-written, well-paced, fascinating in its intricacy, delightful in its surprises--while it took me some time to get into it the finish was worth the effort.  For fans of science fiction, adventure, metafiction, and just plain good reading.

Highly recommended--*****