On My Radar

On My Radar!

The Noodle Maker – Ma Jian

Just read the synopsis, you guys. It sounds so brilliant.

Two men meet for dinner each week. Over the course of one of these drunken evenings, the writer recounts the stories he would write, had he the courage: a young man buys an old kiln and opens a private crematorium, delighting in his ability to harass the corpses of police officers and Party secretaries, while swooning to banned Western music; a heartbroken actress performs a public suicide by stepping into the jaws of a wild tiger, watched nonchalantly by her ex-lover. Extraordinary characters inspire him, their lives pulled and pummeled by fate and politics, as if they are balls of dough in the hands of an all-powerful noodle maker.

Life and Death Wearing Me Out – Mo Yan

This author has won the Nobel Prize and this book he wrote feels like it was written just for me.

Ximen Nao, a landowner known for his generosity and kindness to his peasants, is not only stripped of his land and worldly possessions in Mao’s Land Reform Movement of 1948, but is cruelly executed, despite his protestations of innocence. He goes to Hell, where Lord Yama, king of the underworld, has Ximen Nao tortured endlessly, trying to make him admit his guilt, to no avail. Finally, in disgust, Lord Yama allows Ximen Nao to return to earth, to his own farm, where he is reborn not as a human but first as a donkey, then an ox, pig, dog, monkey, and finally the big-headed boy Lan Qiansui. Through the earthy and hugely entertaining perspectives of these animals, Ximen Nao narrates fifty years of modern Chinese history, ending on the eve of the new millennium.

The Last Werewolf – Glen Duncan

I’ve been craving a werewolf book for a long time and from what I can discern, this one is totally going to make me think.

Meet Jake. A bit on the elderly side (he turns 201 in March), but you’d never suspect it. Nonstop sex and exercise will do that for you–and a diet with lots of animal protein. Jake is a werewolf, and after the unfortunate and violent death of his one contemporary, he is now the last of his species. Although he is physically healthy, Jake is deeply distraught and lonely.
Jake’s depression has carried him to the point where he is actually contemplating suicide–even if it means terminating a legend thousands of years old. It would seem to be easy enough for him to end everything. But for very different reasons there are two dangerous groups pursuing him who will stop at nothing to keep him alive.

Alphabetter Juice: or, the joy of Text – Roy Blount Jr.

I love reading books about the English language.

This book is for anyone—novice wordsmith, sensuous reader, or career grammarian—who loves to get physical with words. What is the universal sign of disgust, ew, doing in beautiful and cutie? Why is toadless, but not frogless, in the Oxford English Dictionary? How can the U. S. Supreme Court find relevance in gollywoddles? Might there be scientific evidence for the sonicky value of hunch? And why would someone not bother to spell correctly the very word he is trying to define on Urbandictionary.com?

Digging into how locutions evolve, and work, or fail, Blount draws upon everything from The Tempest to The Wire. He takes us to Iceland, for salmon-watching with a “girl gillie,” and to Georgian England, where a distinguished etymologist bites off more of a “giantess” than he can chew. Jimmy Stewart appears, in connection with kludge and the bombing of Switzerland. Litigation over supercalifragilisticexpialidocious leads to a vintage werewolf movie; news of possum-tossing, to metanarrative.

Tokyo on Foot – Florent Chavouet

I WANT THIS ONE SO BAD!!!

Florent Chavouet, a young graphic artist, spent six months exploring Tokyo while his girlfriend interned at a company there. Each day he would set forth, with a pouch full of colored pencils and a sketchpad, to visit different neighborhoods. This stunning book records the city that he got to know during his adventures, a gritty, vibrant place, full of ordinary people going about their daily lives. Realistically rendered city views or posters of pop stars contrast with cartoon sketches of iconic objects or droll vignettes, like a housewife walking her pet pig and a Godzilla statue in a local park.With wit, a playful sense of humor, and the colored pencils of his kit, Florent Chavouet sets aside the question of urban ugliness or beauty and captures the Japanese essence of a great city.

Trust Me, I’m Lying – Mary Elizabeth Summer

This is a 2014 debut which could be either very good or very bad. I hope it’s the former rather than the latter.

Julep Dupree is a con artist, a master of disguise, and a sophomore at a swanky Chicago private school. When she comes home one day to a ransacked apartment and her father gone, Julep’s carefully laid plans for an expenses-paid golden ticket to Yale start to unravel.

 

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