My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Mesfegh – Book

my year of rest -You Tube

Do we act the way we do because of nature or nurture? Is our behavior inevitable, either genetically, or by upbringing, or do we always bear final responsibility for the way we behave? Don’t judge a book by its cover. Literally. If you consider the cover of My Year of Rest and Relaxationby Ottessa Mosfegh you might expect period fiction, but what you get is something quite of-the-minute, new and fresh right down to its bones. The young women our attention is focused on does not even have a name, perhaps because the book is written in the first person, but perhaps with some symbolic significance also.

We listen to a pretty, blonde, thin, 26-year-old who is already exhausted by life. She finds no authenticity anywhere, nothing to dedicate herself to, nothing to love, even, apparently herself. She nails the superficialities of various “cultural tribes” she is surrounded by at Columbia and in her neighborhood. The 40-something moms on the upper East Side come under her judgmental perusal as do the young males in the art history department at her college and the avant-garde artists who exhibit at the gallery where she works. She finds little to really admire in her handsome on-again, off-again boyfriend, Trevor, or her best friend Reva. Only Harrison Ford and Whoopi Goldberg escape her societal ennui.

When she is a junior at Columbia art school she loses both of her parents. Her parents were not exactly warm and fuzzy. About her mother she says: “She was not the type to sit and watch me draw or read me books or play games or go for walks in the park or bake brownies. We got along best when we were asleep.” “My father slept on the sofa in the den that year.” “None of us had much warmth in our hearts. I was never allowed to have any pets. Sometimes I think a puppy might have changed everything. My parents died one after the other my junior year of college – first my dad from cancer, then my mother from pills and alcohol six weeks later.”

Is our girl experiencing some kind of separation anxiety or does the loss of even bad parents cause us grief? Did her family’s inability to connect destroy her ability to feel empathy and affection? She decides that she will sleep for a year and then wake up a new person. Her inheritance from her parents allows her this option and she gets to sleep through the year in a very nice apartment on East 84thSt. which she owns outright.

But it is not so easy to sleep for an entire year. A psychiatrist must be found who has few compunctions about using a prescription pad. Dr. Tuttle is perfect, a real psycho-babble nut who knows her way around insurance rules. Pretty soon our blondie’s life becomes a long list of meds that she pops or guzzles whenever sleep is hard to find. Trazodone, Ambien, Nembutal, Solfolton, Xanax, Lithium, Haldol, Neuroproxin, Maxiphenphen, Valdignor, Silencior, Benadryl, Robitussin, NyQuil, Seconals, Libriums, Pacidyls, Noctecs, Miltowns, Lunesta, primidone and Risperdal, chewable melatonin…until she meets the ultimate sleep drug, Infermiterol. Too bad Infermiterol has one very worrisome side effect.

Even after a couple of months of chemical abuse our sleepy-head, catching sight of herself in the lobby mirror on one of her rare trips to the Egyptian bodega down the street says, “But I was tall and thin and blond and pretty and young. Even at my worst, I knew I still looked good.” But we wonder if anyone could actually survive on this much medication.

We have only covered two somnolent months of a long year. There is plenty more to this story. Do we care about this young lady? Should we care about her? Is there a message to this madness? Only you can decide. But for people who are tired of conventional fiction this certainly isn’t that. Just the gutsiness that comes up with fiction like this makes it well worth a read. Does it matter that our girl’s long sleep ends at a significant historical moment?

I keep thinking about this one, trying to care about this character. My admiration is more for form than any significance to the human condition at this point. Some books have to percolate. I also have a few caveats. One, don’t try this at home. Two, many of these scripts did not work as sleep aids. Three, as an experiment in rebirth, the outcome seems inconclusive.

Look for me on goodreads.com

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search, You Tube

The Defector by Daniel Silva – Book

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In order to fully understand The Defector (Bk. 9, Gabriel Allon Series) by Daniel Silva it is helpful to recall the events at the end of Moscow Rules (Bk. 8, Gabriel Allon Series). Gabriel manages to escape from Russia (barely) with a Russian journalist, Olga Sukhova, whose colleagues have been assassinated, and with a man, Grigori Bulganov, who saved Gabriel’s life by making sure he did not die in Lubyanka, the Russian prison.

In The Defector we find out what Bulganov is up to in his new home, London. Silva, Daniel Silva, the author, calls London a Russian city because so many dispossessed Russians live there. Olga Sukhova, also in London with a new identity, is keeping a low profile. But Grigori is tempted out of hiding by another Russian who lives the high life in London.

When Grigori disappears on his way to a Chess game, Graham Seymour, head of British Intelligence, is not terribly upset. He decides that Grigori has become homesick and has “un” defected. However, when Gabriel Allon hears that Grigori is gone he has a different reaction. For one thing he knows that a very bad and powerful oligarch, Ivan Kharkov is still alive and well, although he has to stay in Russia for now. Gabriel also knows that he was able to help Ivan’s ex-wife Elena liberate some of Ivan’s money ($20 million) from a Swiss Bank. Since Elena is in protective custody in an unknown location with the couple’s two children, she needs that money. But you can imagine how much Ivan wants to get his hands on Elena, his children, and Gabriel. Since he can’t leave Russia right now, he must find a way to bring everyone to him.

Ivan Kharkov is a stone-cold bully boy who makes his money selling Russian weapons to people the rest of the world wants to keep weapons away from. Ivan’s hero is Stalin and he strives to model his behavior on the cruelty Stalin used as he purged (killed or tortured) any Russian citizen who he imagined might harbor sentients against his government (regime). Ivan managed to buy the dacha that once was Stalin’s summer home. Ivan uses his dacha to reenact Stalin’s bloody purges on a smaller scale.

When Gabriel doesn’t react right away to the disappearance of Grigori Ivan takes someone else and who he takes definitely gets Gabriel and his team moving.

Daniel Silva and his Israeli spy, Gabriel Allon, along with his team of Israeli operatives, expose bad actors all around Europe and the Middle East and offer up the satisfaction of giving them what they deserve in fiction, even though we often do not experience such justice in real life. When The Defector ends are we finally shut of Ivan Kharkov? My lips are sealed.

In notes at the conclusion of The Defector, Silva connects his fictional spy story to actual historical events that inspired it.

“There, from August 1937 to October 1938, an estimated twenty thousand people were shot in the back of the head and buried in long mass graves. I visited the recently opened memorial at Butovo with my family in the summer of 2007 while researching Moscow Rules, and in large measure it inspired The Defector. One question haunted me as I walked slowly past the burial trenches, accompanied by weeping Russian citizens. Why are there not more places like this? Places where ordinary Russians can see evidence of Stalin’s unimaginable crimes with their own eyes. The answer, of course, is that the rulers of the New Russia are not terribly interesting in exposing the sins of the Soviet past. On the contrary, they are engaged in a carefully orchestrated endeavor to airbrush away its most repulsive aspects while celebrating it achievements. The NKVD, which carried out the Great Terror at Stalin’s behest, was the forerunner of the KGB. And former officers of the KGB, including Vladimir Putin himself, are now running Russia.” -Author’s Note

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search, Daemon Books

August 2018 Book List

Books with Glasses bigAugust 2018 Book List

There is not as much current politics in the August publications as in other recent months but that doesn’t mean that all these new books are upbeat. Readers know, however, that plenty of really good reads are not necessarily cheerful, and some are downright dark. This month we have some writers who manage to be both funny and thought-provoking.

Once again I am sharing the list of new books I compile each month to help me (and you) select what to read next. This list has only titles, but, in each case, if you go to the source of my lists you will find more information about these titles. Amazon offers summaries of each book on its Amazon books page. The New York Times Book Review has assigned each of the titles on their list to an expert reviewer and these reviews are available on line and Publishers Weekly publishes a Tip Sheet each week where experts summarize and offer commentary on each book on their list. If a book sounds interesting go to the source and check it out, Google the title or try your library.

Amazon

Literature and Fiction

Meet Me at the Museum: A Novel by Anne Youngson

Severance: A Novel by Ling Ma *

Rust and Stardust: A Novel by T. Greenwood

Up From Freedom by Wayne Grady *

The Air you Breathe: A Novel by Frances de Pontes Peebles

Other People’s Love Affairs: Short Stories by D. Wystan Owen

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

The Marvelous Equations of the Dread: A Novel in Bass Riddim by Marcia Douglas

Cherry: A Novel by Nico Walker

Ohio by Stephen Markley

Fruit of the Drunken Tree: A Novel by Ingrid Rojas Contreras

Mysteries and Thrillers

The Middlemen: A Novel by Olen Steinhauer

Feared: A Rosato and DiNunzio Novel by Lisa Scottoline

A Double Life by Flynn Berry

Rust and Stardust: A Novel by T. Greenwood

Pieces of Her: A Novel by Karin Slaughter

The Washington Decree: A Novel by Jussie Adler-Olsen, Steve Schein

The Third Hotel: A Novel by Laura Van Den Berg

Tailspin by Sandra Brown

Putney: A Novel by Sofka Zinovieff *

Vox: A Novel by Christina Dalcher

Biographies and Memoirs

Proud: My Fight for an Unlikely American Dream by Ibtihaj Muhammed Lori

King Con: The Bizarre Adventures of the Jazz Age’s Greatest Imposter by Paul Willetts

Fly Girls: How Five Daring Women Defied All Odds and Made Aviation History by Keith O’Brien

Been So Long: My Life and Music by Jorma Kaukonen, Grace Slick

Marilyn Monroe: The Private Life of a Public Icon by Charles Casillo

The Hard Stuff: Dope, Crime, the MC 5, and my Life of Impossibilities by Wayne Kramer

All Happy Families: A Memoir by Jeanne McCulloch

Lands of Lost Borders: A Journey on the Silk Road by Kate Harris *

Founding Martyr: The Life and Death of Dr. Joseph Warren, the American Revolution’s Last Hero by Christian Di Spigna

Tooth and Nail: The Making of a Female Fight Doctor by Linda D. Dahl

Jell-o Girls: A Family History by Allie Rowbottom

Science Fiction and Fantasy

The Black God’s Drums by P Djèli Clark

Temper: A Novel by Nicky Drayden

Rogue Protocol: The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells *

Note to self: Murderbot Diaries

#1 All Systems Red

#2 Artificial Condition

#3 Rogue Protocol

#4 Exit Strategy

Dreadful Company (A Dr. Greta Helsing Novel) by Vivian Shaw

Blood of the Gods (The Ascension Cycle) by David Mealing

Shadow’s Bane (Dorina Bassarak) by Karen Chance

The Warrior Queen (The Hundreth Queen Series) by Emily R. King

Ball Lightning by Cixin Liu, Joel Martinsen

Raven Cry (Raven’s Mark) by Ed McDonald

Foundryside: a Novel (The Founder’s Trilogy) by Robert Jackson Bennett *

The Descent of Monsters (The Tensorate Series) by J. Y. Young

Nonfiction

Ticker: The Quest to Create an Artificial Heart by Mimi Swartz

Chesapeake Requiem: A Year with the Watermen of Vanishing Tangier Island by Earl Swift

Boom Town: The Fantastical Saga of Oklahoma City by Sam Anderson

Underbug: An Obsessive Tale of Termites and Technology by Lisa Margonelli

Seaweed Chronicles: A World at the Water’s Edge by Susan Hand Shetterly

Beyond Birds and Bees: Bringing Home a New Message to Our Kids About Sex, Love, and Equality by Bonnie J. Rough

The Tangled Tree: A Radical New History of Life by David Quammen

Devil’s Miles: The Rich, Gritty History of the Bowery by Alice Sparberg Alexion

Epic Hikes of the World (Lonely Planet) by Lonely Planet

Gross Anatomy: Dispatches from the Front (and Back) by Mara Altman

New York Times Book Review

July 6

My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh (F)

Half Gods by Akil Kumarasamy (Short Stories)

White River Running by John Verdon (Crime)

SNAP by Belinda Bauer (Crime)

Stay Hidden by Paul Doiron (Crime

Baby’s First Felony by John Straley (Crime

Spring by Karl Ove Knausgaard (F)

Basic Black with Pearls by Helen Weinzweig (F)

The Wind in My Hair by Masih Alinejad (NF)

My Brother Moochie by Issac Bailey (NF)

From Cold War to Hot Peace by Michael McFaul (NF)

The Unpunished Vice by Edmund White (NF)

Imperial Twilight by Stephen R. Platt (NF)

House of Nutter by Lance Richardson (NF) (Men’s Fashion Designer)

Tailspin by Steven Brill (NF)

Carnet de Voyage by Craig Thompson (NF)

Kicks by Nicholas Smith (NF)

The End of the French Intellectual by Shlomo Sand (NF)

July 15

Tell the Machine Goodnight by Katie Williams (F)

That Kind of Mother by Rumaan Alam (F)

The Shades by Evgenia Citkowitz (F)

T Singer by Dag Solstad (F)

Armand V by Dag Solstad

Give People Money by Annie Lowrey (NF)

The War on Normal People by Andrew Yang (NF)

Proust’s Duchess by Caroline Weber (NF) *

The Corner of the Oval by Beck Dorey-Stein (Memoir) *

See You Again in Pyongyang by Travis Jeppesen (NF)

How to Write an Autobiographical Novel by Alexander Chee (Essays)

Squeezed by Alissa Quart (Essays)

Yes We (Still) Can by Dan Pfeiffer (NF)

Little Panic by Amanda Stern (NF)

The Cost of Living: A Working Autobiography by Deborah Levy

July 22

Give Me Your Hand by Megan Abbott (F)

Only to Sleep by Lawrence Osborne (F)

After the Monsoon by Robert Karjel (F)

The Third Hotel by Laura Van den Berg (F)

The Verdun Affair by Nick Dybek

The Sinners by Ace Atkins (Crime)

A Noise Downstairs by Linwood Barclay (Crime)

The Last Thing I Told You by Emily Arsenault (Crime)

Some Die Nameless by Wallace Stroby (Crime)

A Double Life by Flynn Berry (Thriller)

The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager (Thriller)

The Price You Pay by Aidan Truhen (Thriller)

The Other Woman by Sandie Jones (Thriller)

The Banker’s Wife by Christina Alger (Thriller)

Never Alone by Elizabeth Haynes (Thriller)

Ghosted by Rosie Walsh (Thriller)

Conan Doyle for the Defense by Margalit Fox (NF)

July 29

Number One Chinese Restaurant by Lillian Li (F)

The Emperor of Shoes by Spencer Wise (F)

Early Work by Andrew Martin (F)

Confessions of the Fox by Jordy Rosenberg (F)

Inappropriation by Lexi Freiman (F)

We Begin Our Ascent by Joe Mungo (F)

The Incendiaries by R. O. Kwon (F)

The Storm by Arif Anwar (F)

Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras (F)

The Distance Home by Paula Sanders (F)

Sabrina (Graphic Novel) by Nick Drnaso (F)

The Death of Truth by Michiko Kakutani (NF)

Sugar: The World Corrupted by James Walvin (NF)

Your Black Friend and Other Strangers by Ben Passmore (NF)

Milk! By Mark Kurlansky (NF)

Charles James: Portrait of an Unreasonable Man by Michèle Gerber Klein (NF)

Loulou and Yves: The Untold Story of Loulou de La Falaise and the House of Saint Laurent by Christopher Petkanas (NF)

Fabulous: The Rise of the Beautiful Eccentric by Madison Moore (NF)

Publisher’s Weekly

July 9

The Brink: The President Reagan and the Nuclear War Scare of 1983 by Marc Ambinder (NF)

Just a Shot Away: Peace, Love, and Tragedy with the Rolling Stones at Altamont by Saul Austerlitz (NF)

New Poets of Native Nations, ed. by Heid E Erdrich (Poetry)

A Terrible Country by Keith Gessen (F)

A Carnival of Losses: Notes Nearing Ninety by Donald Hall (NF)

Beast: A Tale of Love and Revenge by Lisa Jenson (F) (YA+)

Baby Blue by Pol Koutsakis (F)

Comemadre by Roque Larraquy, trans. from the Spanish by Heather Cleary (“a wickedly entertaining tale”)

The Cost of Living: A Working Autobiography by Deborah Levy (Autobiography)

An Ocean of Minutes by Thea Lim (F) (sounds very cool) *

My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Mosfegh (F) (Next on my Kindle)

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik (F) *

The Tangled Tree: A Radical New History of Life by David Quammen (NF)

The Lost Chapters: Finding Recovery and Renewal One Book at a Time by Leslie Schwartz (NF)

Clock Dance by Anne Tyler (F) *

July 16

Give Me Your Hand by Megan Abbott (F)

The Wrong Heaven by Amy Bonnaffons (Short Stories)

The Annotated Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler, editied by Owen Hill, Pamela Jackson, and Anthony Rizzulo (F) (A Deluxe Reissue)

OK, Mr. Field by Katherine KIlalea (F)

Homeplace: A Southern Town, A Country Legend, and the Last Days of a Mountaintop Honky-Tonk by John Lingan (NF)

The Girl in the Green Silk Gown by Seanan McGuire (F) *

Bad Call: A Summer Job on a New York Ambulance by Mike Scardino (Memoir)

The Other Woman by Daniel Silva (F) *

Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage (F)

The King’s Assassin: The Secret Plot to Murder James I by Benjamin Woolley (NF)

Condomnauts by Yoss, trans. from the Spanish by David Frye

July 23

Devil’s Mile: The Rich, Gritty History of the Bowery by Alice Sparberg Alexiou (NF)

The Immeasurable World: Journeys in Desert Places by William Atkins (NF) *

Contagion by Erin Bowman (Science Fiction)

Mary B by Katherine J Chen (F)

The Boy at the Door by Alex Dahl (F)

Ghosted by Rosie Walsh (F)

July 30

I Didn’t Talk by Beatriz Bracher, trans. from the Portuguese by Adam Morris (F)

Brother: A Novel by David Chariandy (F)

The Ghost Script by Jules Feiffer (F)

Poppy Harmon Investigates by Lee Hollis (F)*

Immigrant, Montana by Amitava Kumar (F) *

The Strange Case of Dr. Couney: How a Mysterious European Showman Saved Thousands of American Babies by Dawn Raffel (NF)

Dreadful Company by Vivian Shaw (F)

A Wolf Apart by Maria Vale (Fantasy)

The Lost Education of Horace Tate: Uncovering the Hidden Heroes Who Fought for Justice in Schools by Vanessa Siddle Walker (NF)

August 6

If They Come For Us by Fatimah Asghar (Short Stories)

The Spy of Venice by Benet Brandreth (F)

So Much Life Left Over by Louis de Bernières (F)

Nameless Serenade: Nocturne for Commissario Ricciardi by Maurizio de Giovanni (F)

Perennial by Kelly Forsythe (NF) (Columbine) *

Desperate Girls by Laura Griffin (F)

Maeve In America: Essays from a Girl from Somewhere Else by Maeve Higgins (Essays) (“meaningful and funny”) *

The Black and the Blue: A Cop Reveals the Crimes, Racism, and Injustice in America’s Law Enforcement by Matthew Horace and Ron Harris (NF)

If You Leave Me by Crystal Hana Kim (F)

Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors and The Drug Company that Addicted America by Beth Macy (NF)

A Short Film about Disappointment by Joshua Mattson (F) (“rife with ingenious humor and inventiveness”) *

Before She Sleeps: A Novel by Bina Shah (F)

Reader Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World by Maryanne Wolf (NF)

Feel free to capture for personal use only.

*Top of my reading list