Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Siege by Ismail Kadare

First published in Albania in 1970, then in France in 1994, The Siege by Albanian author Ismail Kadare has finally made it to bookstores in the U.S. It is just out from Cannongate Press. It is extraordinary.

The book won the first Man Booker International Prize in 2005, and Kadare has repeatedly been seen as a candidate for a Nobel Prize in literature. And he is from Albania.

Set in medieval Albania during Ottoman rule, The Siege tells the story of an Ottoman army trying to take an Albanian citadel. If historical fiction, fine writing, epic battles, and universal themes interest you, this book is worth a look.

This book is brutal, sensual in places, and rich.

The photos at top are of Rozafa Citadel in Shkoder, Albania. They show the castle at a distance, then looking over the ramparts toward the city of Shkoder, then the interior of the fortress. The photos were shot back in 1994.


The General of the Dead Army and Broken April, both by Ismail Kadare.

Andersonville by McKinley Kantor

Broken April was the last book that I ever purchased from Oxford Bookstore in Atlanta. On my way to Albania to teach.


Friday, May 22, 2009

A Harem of 50-Year-Old Hotties

My dad (Pop, we call him) is getting remarried tomorrow. The harem of 50-year-old hotties living at his house had to move out to make room for his new bride.

Pop is marrying a wonderful lady. It's quite a story, too. Both he and my late mother, as well as his new wife-to-be and her late husband, all new each other as teenagers. They grew up together. My mom passed away over three years ago, now. Miss Nancy, Pop's fiance, lost her husband five years ago.

Friendship led to companionship and, well, what can one say? Senior Citizens these days!

So, tomorrow, with two whole lives already under their collective belt, Pop and Nancy are getting married. A month ago, my father (age 69) more or less asked me for my permission to get married. In a round about way, so did Miss Nancy. Pop's very old school, and Nancy is the picture of grace.

We never quite know what to expect next, do we? I'm already trying to absorb my own child's finishing kindergarten this week (she is a READER!).

Unbeknown to my spouse (and soon to be first grader daughter), Gone With the Wind Barbie and her sisters are about to move in with us. Pop has been making room at home for his new bride. One of the items moving out has been my late mother's rather substantial collection of heirloom Barbie dolls. Barbie just turned 50 years old, you may recall from the media coverage. This collection was one of my mom's quirky passions. The collecting really took off after the birth of my daughter. Call it her legacy.

Quirky as it was, it was still heartfelt. And that's what matters. And I've never curated a Barbie museum. It ought to be interesting.

Best of Luck to Pop and Nancy.

Recommended reading:

Anything about family.


Friday, May 15, 2009

On the Road

It is certainly nice to be home after being on the road for work for nearly a month. Two weeks in Chicago, then two weeks commuting daily between metro Atlanta and Milledgeville, Georgia.

While in Chicago, I had the opportunity to meet author Neil Shubin at a discussion and signing for his book Your Inner Fish. I'm hoping the book will give me some insights on the matter of my own inner fish, as well as to some of those less evolved.

Chicago is a tremendous city, especially for eating. I also had the chance to see the famous Loyola University basketball court, and Soldier Field. The Field Museum is simply not to be missed. Indiana Jones would melt in that place.

Recommended reading:

From Lucy to Language by Donald Johanson (with photography by Georgia photographer, for National Geographic staff photography, Hominid expert, and former dairyman David Brill)

Summer for the Gods by Georgia author and Pulitzer Prize winner Edward Larson

Comets by David Levy (the Mr. Rogers of astronomy)

After Chicago, it was back to Atlanta, then on the road each day to Milledgeville (home to Georgia's antebellum capitol, the State mental health facility, and Flannery O'Conner). Oddly enough, I got the email from work that I'd be going to Milledgeville on O'Conner's birthday. Several days later, friends from my former bookstore in Athens, GA let me know that they had just hosted Brad Gooch for a reading and signing of his new book, Flannery-A Life of Flannery O'Conner. The book was, I believe, well reviewed in the New York Times. I recommend it, too.


Gooch's book and any works by O'Conner.

Glad to be home. Hope to have time to read a little.

Oh, also, I finished Ray Bergman's Freshwater Bass while in Chicago (while not working or eating). If you like old fishing books, I highly recommend it.

I'm finally up on Facebook (another distraction from reading). Our daughter, age six, just lost her first tooth, and was invited to read at new kindergartner orientation at her elementary school. And our four year-old Star Wars nerd is kicking my butt at Star Wars Legos Wii.

Good luck everybody.