In my mailbox


Not much happened this week, but I got a great audiobook in the mail. In fact, I WON this in the Literary Giveaway Blog Hop from Leslie at Under my apple tree. I saw the book at the Goodreads Choice Awards and thought it might be interesting and the next thing you know is that I got an email telling me I won the audiobook! That totally made my day! Thank you, Leslie!
I am rather new to audio books and am eager to find out whether I like this format. A bonus with this one is that it is read by the author himself, how nice is that?

I won

Cover This is how you lose her by Junot Díaz

What was in YOUR mailbox recently? 


The Birthmark by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Cover The Birthmark by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Elena from Books and Reviews recommended this short story to me after we briefly talked about The Monkey’s Paw, a great little horror short story that I re-read for last year’s RIP.

I had never heard of The Birthmark before and when I saw that it really is very short, I read it right away.

On a few pages Hawthorne creates a very uncomfortable, creepy atmosphere and he needs nothing but two protagonists and a supporting character. We have a scientist who thinks he will triumph over nature, a pliant wife, a somewhat pessimistic assistant and an obsession to create perfection where there is no need to.

I have to admit I am not sure whom I disliked more. The man who gets obsessed with the removal of his wife’s birthmark or the wife who is so under his influence or is so willing to please her husband that she starts to dislike it even more than he does.

In fact she should have been a little more suspicious of his achievements and not trusted him so easily (even though she was ok with even dying in the process, so it didn’t matter). On the one hand he tells her he has found the elixir of immortality and could make anyone live or die at will, on the other hand his journal is a list of failures (by his own standards). I found this discrepancy rather odd.

Apart from the topics whether man should try to meddle with nature, perfection vs. imperfection and all that symbolism of the birthmark being the manifestation of sin (give me a break!) etc., what interested me most was the aspect of what sort of relationship Aylmer and Georgiana were leading. Definitely not a healthy one! If transferred to nowadays Georgiana’s online name would most probably be “aylmerswife” and I thoroughly dislike that sort of attitude.

Anyway, this story is super creepy, a perfect short Halloween read. But not only that. It leaves you with a distinct uncomfortable feeling that will linger for some time. Haunting!

Read The Birthmark for free by downloading, for example, Little Masterpieces at Project Gutenberg

Want to know what others thought of this book? Have a look at:

The Birthmark by Nathaniel Hawthorne at Books and Reviews


“Thank you for the light”– F. Scott Fitzgerald’s new short story

F. Scott Fitzgerald

A so far unpublished story by F. Scott Fitzgerald has been discovered by his grandchildren who found the story among his papers. The New Yorker had refused publication in 1936, but in 2012 they came to a different decision. And now we may enjoy it after all.

You can read “Thank you for the light” by F. Scott Fitzgerald online at The New Yorker.


Readalong: Girl Reading by Katie Ward #3

Cover Girl Reading by Katie WardGirl reading by Katie Ward is a collection of short stories that interweave women, books and art in various ways. Here you can find my thoughts on the first two stories. And here on the second set of two stories.

The fifth story “Unknown. For pleasure. 1916” is about a group of people spending some time together in the house of a rather unconventional academic and editor. The main character is a young silly girl who is infatuated with a painter who, of course, ignores her.

I quite liked this but it reminded me again of tons of other stories out there. If it had been set a little later and located at the Mediterranean, we would have read this story a hundred times before.


There was one little paragraph though that I really enjoyed. Gwen just found out that Laurence has “betrayed” her by sleeping with someone else.

Surprisingly, this is not how she imagined it would feel. Where is the misery? Where is the despair? Where is the crying out his name, and the beating of her breast?Gwen does not feel them. She is miffed. She is thoroughly put out. Apparently, a love spurned feels about as painful as finding out Emily Dibner has been named hockey captain. Pretty bad, but not too bad.

That puts things back into perspective. And reading this made the whole story worthwhile.

The sixth story “Immaterialism. Reader in a Shoreditch bar. 2008”   took a while for me to finally get to the point. I would have enjoyed the whole thing if I hadn’t disliked the heroine that much. I just couldn’t connect with her at all for various reasons. When it eventually got to the Shoreditch bar and the “girl reading” I finally got into it.

The seventh story “Sincerity Yabuki. Sibil. 2060” was just so so for me. I am not a particular fan of Sci-Fi,  especially when I am getting thrown into an unexplained futuristic environment which seems at the same time different and very much the same as ours. On the one hand I found the mesh concept too odd and at the same time too similar to our time to draw me in. Plus, I found words like i-specs and sim-kitty rather trite. Maybe realistic, but trite nevertheless.

The idea about Sibil was a nice twist as the ending for this book, but, again, at the same time too half-baked, both as an invention by Sincerity as well as by Katie Ward. Why anyone would want to use it I can’t imagine.

To come back to the “novel” aspect, this is another thing which didn’t work for me. This book is no novel. The last story, which obviously was supposed to tie the stories together, didn’t succeed. Sorry, but you can’t just come up with a “Sibil” and create a loose connection and then think this makes it a novel.

Looking back at my thoughts about all seven stories, I would say it was an ok book, but I don’t understand what the hype is all about.




The Love Object by Edna O’Brien

Cover The Love Object by Edna O'Brien

Not for people newly in love

In a nutshell:

Short synopsis:

A collection of short stories about love in various forms.

Language I read the book in: English

Did I like it? Yes

For people who:

like short stories, love stories without happy end, like glimpses into other people’s lives

My thoughts: 

At the beginning of this book we read a quote by Aristotle that sets the tone of almost all eight stories in this book.

As matter desires form

so woman desires man

I suppose we could discuss those two lines alone for the rest of our lives, but let’s not go into that.

If you are happy-go-lucky and love to read fluffy romance where everybody lives happily ever after, don’t even think about reading The Love Object. I am not easily depressed but after reading those eight stories even I feel melancholic.

Not one of those stories conveys the feeling of  a merry life, happy love or, if nothing else, exhilarating sex. The few times where people are content and satisfied with their situation it is always with an undertone of sadness at the knowledge that it will end eventually.

That being said – and it might be a contradiction in itself – I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. Edna O’Brien has people down to a t, and I could relate to the women’s or girls’ behaviour in a lot of the scenes.

I posted about the book beginning earlier, but not only are her first sentences strong, Edna O’Brien also excels at the ending. If you couldn’t be sure about the future of a character while reading the story, she wraps it up nicely with a few well chosen words in the last line. What an impact!

Highly recommended!

A quick overview of the stories:

  • The Love Object
  • An Outing
  • The Rug
  • The Mouth of the Cave
  • How to Grow a Wisteria
  • Irish Revel
  • Cords
  • Paradise

Product info and buy link :

Title The Love Object
Author Edna O’Brien
Publisher Open Road
ISBN 9781453247310
I got this book from Netgalley
Buy link Buy The Love Object as an e-book at Open Road Media
More info Video with Edna O’Brien at The Guardian


Have you read this book? What did you think of it? I would love to hear other opinions.


Readalong: Girl Reading by Katie Ward #2

Cover Girl Reading by Katie WardGirl reading by Katie Ward is a collection of short stories that interweave women, books and art in various ways. Here you can find my thoughts on the first two stories.

The third story “Angelica Kauffman, Portrait of a Lady, 1775” is about a woman and how she deals with the loss of her (female) lover.

Not sure whether I liked this one or not. I did feel like I have to read on to find out how the story ends, so I suppose this is a good sign, but in general I have not much time for people who shut down the way Maria did. And the ever present dead lover isn’t something I particularly liked.

During the course of the story my thoughts about the nature of the relationship changed quite a bit; it seemed happy, but at the same time full of trouble and little jealousies. Somehow this reflects my ambivalent feelings about the story itself.

The fourth story “Featherstone of Piccadilly, Carte de Visite, 1864” was strange. I didn’t get it.

Twins with psychic talents whose lives went into two different directions is an interesting topic, but nothing was ever spelled out  properly, everything was only hinted at, and I had no idea what the deal was. I found it rather confusing than boring. However, I liked the atmosphere and especially the descriptions of how a photograph was taken. Quite a difference from today indeed, and rather inconceivable to us for whom snapshots of everything and everybody are a standard.

I still don’t see where the novel comes in. Three more stories to go, we are moving into the 20th century now.




Book beginnings on Friday

Boog beginnings on FridayCover Girl Reading by Katie Ward

It’s been a while since I did a book beginning. I have only recently started a new book that I could use for this kind of post, so here it is. Girl Reading by Katie Ward is called a novel, but it doesn’t seem to be one. It is a collection of short stories; you can read about the first two in my post here.

This is the beginning of the first story “Simone Martini, Annunciation, 1333”:

She arrives glowing from the effort of running, strands of red hair coming loose from her kerchief (she tucks them in), marks on her neck like bruises on fruit.

What is YOUR book beginning today? To see more book beginnings go to Rose City Reader!


Readalong: Girl Reading by Katie Ward #1

Cover Girl Reading by Katie Ward

Girl reading by Katie Ward is a collection of short stories that interweave women, books and art in various ways. It is called a novel, but why they do that eludes me – at least right now. So far I have read two stories and found them quite good, but not too overwhelmingly so, to be honest.

In general, I found the way of not putting direct speech in quotation marks rather confusing. At first I had no clue that someone was talking and then when I realized that that was so I didn’t know who it was. Sometimes the spoken sentence even started in the middle of a line, and without quotation marks I found this hard to follow. Later on my brain must have partially adjusted itself to this, because I didn’t seem to have so many problems with it anymore.

The first story is about an orphan in 14th century Siena who gets to sit for a famous painter for an altar piece. What I found most interesting was the painter’s progressive attitude towards the different religions. I can’t imagine that his opinions were very popular and that his clients would have been very happy to know about them. The girl’s approach to art (what you see is what you get) reminded me a lot of myself. I like or dislike a painting without looking for some deep symbolism or trying to analyse every little detail.

The second story about a deaf maid in a Dutch painter’s household reminded me A LOT of Girl with a Pearl Earring. With a jealous wife, the relationship between maid and painter, a snooping child, careless parents (did anyone else find the choking incident rather odd?),  I found the whole atmosphere in the household quite disturbing. I very much liked the maid though, a strong and tough woman indeed.

More to come in a few days, I am a slow reader.


Want to know what others thought of this book? Have a look at:


In my mailbox


My mailbox was rather empty this week but John’s birthday is coming up soon. Our default gift is books and, of course, while ordering some for him, a few more for me won’t hurt anyone…:).


I received for review

Cover The Love Object by Edna O'Brien

What was in YOUR mailbox recently? 


Where the God of Love hangs out by Amy Bloom

Where the god of love hangs outBlurb:

Explores the unexpected patterns that love, and its absence, weave into our lives. With her understanding of human complexity and contrariness, the award-winning author takes us to the margins and centres of people’s lives, introducing us to some of her most unforgettable characters yet.





In a nutshell:

I read it in: English

I liked it:     Yes, very much

For people who like: stories that get you emotionally involved

My thoughts: 

One thing I know for certain. I am giving the spot where Amy Bloom’s God of Love hangs out a wide berth.

“Where the God of Love hangs out” consists of two sets of four connected stories with four separate short stories in between. The first set is titled “William and Clare” and is about a two friends, both married to other people, discovering their love for each other rather late in life. This was very different from any other romance (if you can call it that) I have read. The couple are two elderly people and they are neither beautiful, sexy nor healthy. Their story moved me very much and made me like Amy Blooms’ writing style from page one. (I posted a book beginning on Friday here where you can read the first paragraph). The ending was extremely upsetting and it got me thinking for a long time afterwards.

The second set is called “Lionel and Julia” and is about a young man falling in love with his stepmother. They spend one night together and this one night overshadows the rest of their lives. Again quite upsetting how we see that one mistake – if it can be called a mistake – has consequences for years and years to come.

The four stand alone stories – one of them giving the book its title – were very good, too, each of them in their own way. The one is liked the least was “By-and-by” simply because I don’t like reading about violence and this was a violent story.

I found the stories very touching and shocking at the same time, and immediately went in search for more of Amy Bloom. Unfortunately I found out that some of the stories in “Where the God of Love hangs out” had been published in previous books as stand alones, whereas here they were connected to others in the set. I can see why Lionel and Julia had more stories in them but I really don’t want to buy a book when I already own some of its content. I suppose I will have to wait until I find Amy Bloom at the library.

Spoiler SelectShow

Product info and buy link :

Title Where the God of Love hangs out
Author Amy Bloom
Publisher Random House
ISBN 978-0-8129-7780-6
I got this book from I bought it
Buy link Buy Where the God of Love Hangs Out
More info Amy Bloom’s website
and more Interview with Amy Bloom at The Guardian
and even more

Amy Bloom reads Where the God of Love Hangs Out


Have you read this book? What did you think of it? I would love to hear other opinions.


The perils of morning coffee by Alexander McCall Smith


Summer in Edinburgh is a season of delicate sunshine and showers, picnics with loved ones in blossoming gardens, and genteel celebrations of art and music. But Isabel Dalhousie’s peaceful idyll is broken when a single meeting over coffee with fellow philosopher Dr. George McLeod brings an irate phone call from his wife, Roz, who implacably accuses Isabel of conducting an affair with her husband.
            Wounded by the injustice of Roz’s wild allegation and concerned both for her standing among the gossipy group of her scholarly peers and for Roz’s apparent state of hysteria, Isabel sets out to discover more about the McLeods, and to set the record straight before the bitterness in their marriage poisons her own reputation. For insight into the McLeods’ relationship she turns to Millie, who is both an old acquaintance of Isabel’s and a university colleague of George’s.

In a nutshell:

I read it in: English

I liked it:     Yes     

For people who like: cosy mysteries, Isabel Dalhousie, short stories, Edinburgh

My thoughts: 

I have only ever read one book by Alexander McCall Smith before I came across this short story. It was the first book in the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series and I didn’t like it. I gave that one and the following two books that I had bought in a fit of optimism (it was a 3 for 2 at Waterstones, so I was right to buy three) away and decided that Mr. McCall Smith was not for me.

As it turns out now, I think it was Africa that was not for me, because this short story with Isabel Dalhousie, of whom I had never heard before, was just right for me. I loved the setting in Edinburgh, the characters, the topic and the writing style. This is a very short story of only 43 pages, still it introduced me to Isabel Dalhousie’s world quite effectively. It was a very enjoyable read which made me want to read more of this series, as well as some of Alexander McCall Smith’s other series. I am particularly fond of the name of the “Portuguese Irregular Verbs” series – what a charming title! The first book in “The Sunday Philosophy Club” series is already waiting for me.

However, I will definitely steer clear of Botswana, I know that much.

Location: Edinburgh, Scotland, UK

Map UK  Edinburgh Castle


Product info and buy link :

Title The perils of morning coffee
Author Alexander McCall Smith
Publisher Pantheon
I got this book from the library
Buy link Buy The Perils of Morning Coffee (only available as e-book)
More info The Sunday Philosophy Club series


Have you read this book? What did you think of it? I would love to hear other opinions.


Maybe this time by Alois Hotschnig

Die Kinder beruhigte das nichtBlurb:

A spellbinding short story collection by one of Austria’s most critically acclaimed authors.

A man becomes obsessed with observing his neighbours. A large family gathers for Christmas only to wait for the one member who never turns up. An old woman lures a man into her house where he finds dolls resembling himself as a boy. Mesmerizing and haunting stories about loss of identity in the modern world.




In a nutshell:

I read it in: the original German (Die Kinder beruhigte das nicht)

I liked it:     Yes      

For people who like: creepy short stories with an eerie atmosphere

My thoughts: 

You have probably heard of this book by now. So had I before I started reading. I read this is German and I don’t think I have ever come across a writer who writes in such a precise way and who conjured such a clear picture of what is going on. I read the stories, strange and disturbing, watched people do things and could picture every little detail.

The story that stuck with me most was the one that gave the book its English title “Maybe this time, maybe now”. Those family gatherings were so bizarre and at the same time so common. Maybe here it is a bit more unusual than most, but haven’t we all been to events where a lot of time was spent wondering who would still be coming, when they would arrive or what keeps them from showing up (all this possibly to hide the fact that there is nothing else to talk about). The ubiquitous Uncle Walter who at the same time was never there was familiar in a strange way.

The German title “Die Kinder beruhigte das nicht” (This didn’t calm down the children) is not the title of one of the short stories, but it is part of a sentence in the third story in the book “Then a door opens and swings shut”. An upsetting  story that gave the idea for another German cover with a doll face on it. I find dolls rather frightening and women keeping dolls and treat them like children have a certain weirdness about them, sorry, no offense intended.

In that particular scene the narrator visits a school friend and inquires about their neighbour, an old woman with an odd collection of dolls. She is an outcast, the children are afraid of her and avoid her whenever they can, they throw pebbles against her window etc. So the friend’s wife tries to appease their two daughters by saying that the woman will be moving away soon and that the reason she is only looking for company is that she is lonely. The narrator then observes that “this didn’t calm down the children”.

Some stories I didn’t like as much, for example “Encounter” or “The beginning of something” but I loved Alois Hotschnig’s writing style and will definitely get more of his books.

Here are the stories with their original and English titles. My favourites were “Two ways of leaving” and “Maybe this time, maybe now”, probably because even though they were strange and creepy, they were still conceivable (at least for me).

Dieselbe  Stille – dasselbe Geschrei (The same silence – the same noise)

Zwei Arten zu gehen (Two ways of leaving) 

Eine Tür geht dann auf und fällt zu (Then a door opens and swings shut)

Vielleicht diesmal, vielleicht jetzt (Maybe this time, maybe now)

Der Anfang von etwas (The beginning of something)

Begegnung (Encounter)

In meinem Zimmer brennt Licht (The light in my room) 

Morgens, mittags, abends (Morning, noon and night) 

Du kennst sie nicht, es sind Fremde (You don’t know them, they’re strangers)

Product info and buy link :

Title Maybe this time
Author Alois Hotschnig
Publisher Peirene Press
ISBN 978-0-9562840-5-1
I got this book from I swapped it
Buy link Buy Maybe This Time
More info Maybe this time at Peirene Press


Have you read this book? What did you think of it? I would love to hear other opinions.

Want to know what others thought of this book? Have a look at:


Chasing bawa

Beauty is a sleeping cat

Andrew Blackman

Tony’s reading list

The Parrish Lantern 

This post is part of



Book beginnings on Friday

Where the god of love hangs out

Today’s book beginning is from Amy Bloom’s “Where the God of Love Hangs Out”.

At two o’clock in the morning, no one is to blame.

We’d been watching CNN, one scene of disaster leading to the next, the reporter in front of what might have been a new anthrax outbreak giving way to the military analyst in the studio with new developments in Kabul, when William put his hand on my breast.

The beginning pulled me right in and I absolutely love the book. Almost done with it.

What is YOUR book beginning today? To see more book beginnings go to A few more pages!


I wish someone were waiting for me somewhere by Anna Gavalda

Ich wünsche mir, dass irgendwo jemand auf mich wartet Blurb (from Goodreads):

Hailed by Voici as "a distant descendant of Dorothy Parker," prize-winning Anna Gavalda has caused an international sensation with this dazzling collection of short stories selling over 700,000 copies in her native France. With arresting naturalism, a lively variety of perspectives, Gavalda writes simply–and beautifully–of human beings longing to connect. Gavalda has a knack for capturing our inner as well as our outer dialogues with perfect pitch, provoking reflection, pain, and laughter in equal measure. The stories in I Wish Someone Were Waiting for Me Somewhere are as wicked as they are insightful, as stylish as they are sparse, as fiercely unsentimental as they are emotionally wrought.


In a nutshell:

I liked it:  x   Yes       No

For people who like: French literature, short stories about human relationships of any kind

My thoughts: 

I was going to read this book for “Paris in July” but then I never got around to doing it during summer. But better late than never. I have never read anything by Anna Gavalda, but this little book with short stories turned me into a fan.

Courting Rituals of the Saint-Germain-des-Prés (Petites pratiques germanopratines)

A very short story about a chance encounter, the following dinner and a wrong glance at the wrong time that breaks the deal. I loved it. We don’t know whether the deal breaker came as a welcome excuse or not, but it certainly shows that even a moment as short as a nanosecond can ruin your evening.

Pregnant (I.I.G.)

The German title of this story “Ungewollter Schwangerschaftsabbruch” (Unwanted termination of pregnancy) gives a much clearer hint as to what happens in this story. It made me uncomfortable from page 1 and I checked the original title to see whether the German or the English translator took some liberty here. In fact, it was the English one, as the original title is I.I.G. which, I suppose, stands for “Interruption Involontaire de Grossesse” which means “involuntary interruption of pregnancy”. From the start I knew where this was going, however, the end is even worse than I imagined.

This  Man and This Woman (Cet homme et cette femme)

On only three and a half pages we learn about the rather dreadful life of a rich couple. They are lost in their own trains of thought. Pretty frightening!

The Opel Touch (The Opel Touch)

A young student who works in a shop to make some money on the side is having a crisis due to the lack of love in her life. Her sister comes to the rescue.  “The Opel Touch” is such a good title for this story. I think we all know those situations and can relate.

Amber (Ambre)

While I was reading this story I was wondering continuously whether it would have a good or bad ending. I wanted it to end well so badly. Only the last line gives us some sort of clue.

Leave (Permission)

Another good story about the rivalry between brothers, the one a recruit on home leave, the other a golden boy, about a girl. The ending is slightly different from what you might expect. Oh, btw, the book title is taken from this story.

Lead Story (Le fait du jour)

This is about a man who finds out that he is responsible for a big traffic accident with many people dead or injured. Most of the stories in the book are open ended and as far as I am concerned this is a good thing. The events and reflections are already bad enough, I wouldn’t want to know any consequences.

Catgut (Catgut)

Definitely a spin on the “woman gets raped” topic. I liked the calmness and courage very much in which the woman gets her revenge on the rapists.

Junior (Junior)

OMG, what a fun story! I can just imagine the scene. Again, the open end becomes the story, you wouldn’t want to see the fit the boy’s father will go into in the morning. What do we learn from this story? Even though it might decrease your chances to cop off better take the old Vauxhall than your dad’s Jaguar to a party.

For Years (Pendant des années)

A very melancholic story about two ex-lovers who meet again after twelve years.

Clic-Clac (Clic-Clac)

Again this is about a blossoming love and how the two people get together.  I really liked the main character and his two sisters. The whole story is quite realistic, too. Why “Clic-Clac”? It’s the name of the newly bought IKEA sofa-bed.

Epilogue (Epilogue)

An author (presumably AG herself) tries to sell her book with short stories to a publishing house.  The invitation to meet the publisher turns out to be a little different than what she expected.

I was so pleased with those stories that I swapped the original French version and will give it a go. I think the stories are short enough that I will be able to stick to one at a time and the French won’t be so convoluted and complicated that it will be too hard to understand. Wow, this will be the first time in about 20 years for me to read a French book, I am really looking forward to that.


Location: France

Les Deux Magots, Saint-Germain-des-Prés  Melun Sully-sur_Loire

All images from wikipedia

Product info and buy link :

Title I wish someone were waiting for me somewhere
Author Anna Gavalda
Publisher Riverhead Trade
ISBN 1573223557
I got this book from my German swap site for “Paris in July” but never got around to reading it then
Buy link Buy I Wish Someone Were Waiting for Me Somewhere
More info Interview with Anna Gavalda in French (but dubbed German)


Have you read this book? What did you think of it? I would love to hear other opinions.


Laughable Loves by Milan Kundera, 7


“Eduard and God”

In order to get into the pants of his religious girlfriend Eduard pretends to believe in God. This has serious consequences for his career and it takes quite a bit of weaseling on his part to hopefully get out of trouble.

This is the last and, in my eyes, the best story of them all. It reminds me a bit of the first one “Nobody will laugh”, as it is also about a young man who gets entangled in his own web of lies.  The reasons for lying, however, differ greatly. Where in the first story the man starts lying because he does not want to hurt Mr. Zaturecky (as misguided as this may be), Eduard lies for base motives. He wants to shag his girlfriend. That is all there is to it. Little does he know that this small lie has serious consequences for his career.

Nobody describes the reasons behind people’s actions like Kundera. Everything Eduard does makes perfect sense and is so logical, you can’t find fault with him, well, at least I couldn’t. From the moment he starts lying to his girlfriend, to the scene in the office where he can’t admit to not believe in God, to the scene in the flat, to the scene in the weekend home of his brother, it is crystal clear that he couldn’t behave differently from how he did. Poor Eduard! And then there are people who say no man is forced to sleep with a woman! This story proves the opposite. I totally loved it.


Laughable Loves by Milan Kundera, 6


"Dr. Havel After Twenty Years"

Dr. Havel from “Symposium” is back, considerably older and married to a gorgeous, young actress. His Casanova charms have faded a bit, the women don’t look at him that longingly any longer and he tries to come to terms with that while he drinks the waters in some sleepy resort.

Dr. Havel and his mid-life crisis is quite interesting. He suffers quite a bit, but is happy to be validated once more by the presence of his young and beautiful wife. The actress’ short presence in town has made him interesting again and the women are only too eager to please him once more. That is him taken care of.

The more fascinating character is the newspaper editor. He only comes to talk to Dr. Havel in order to get an interview with his wife (another disappointment for the doctor), but when he is being told what an expert in the erotic field Dr. Havel is, he is only too ready to make him his master. His willingness to ditch his girlfriend whom he loves because of some derisive comment from Dr. Havel part who was asked to “inspect and rate” her is hard to digest. All the more so because we know that the zero rating has nothing to do with the girl herself but Dr. Havel’s own bad mood. That the editor later seduces an older woman, again on the recommendation of his tutor who only played a joke on him by doing so, doesn’t come to a surprise anymore. This love, indeed, was laughable – in an uneasy way.


Laughable Loves by Milan Kundera, 5


"Let the Old Dead Make Room for the Young Dead"

A man and an older woman had an affair a long time ago. Now she has buried her husband and meets the man again by chance. They reconnect, however, time has not stood still and the man has considerable problems getting reconciled with the fact that the woman is not as beautiful, or rather young and sexy, as she used to be.

If you are over 40 you might want to consider skipping this story. Unless you don’t mind being constantly referred to as an old hag and told that you are rather disgusting to look at. Of course, it is not Milan Kundera’s opinion (at least I hope it isn’t) but that of his main male character, some guy, not young anymore, but not quite middle aged yet. He seems to project his own (early) midlife crisis on the woman and, even though he doesn’t mind sleeping with her, still finds her rather repulsive to look at. I felt quite insulted by that superficial, self-satisfied wanker, pardon my French! Recommended, but prepare for some bad feelings…


Laughable Loves by Milan Kundera, 4



This story is set at a hospital over the course of one night and the following day. The characters all belong to the hospital staff and work the night shift together (or rather spend the night shift drinking and discussing love and life). Subliminal messages are all over the place and more often than not are misunderstood.

This symposium in the old sense of the word very much reminded me of the Hospital at the end of the city, a Czech TV series from the 70s or so. I always sat mesmerized in front of the TV, watching all the entanglements of the hospital staff with the patients, the womanizing doctor, the senior physician (even though Dr. Sova would never have had a girlfriend!), the nurse with loose morals, it was all there, just a bit condensed.

I very much liked all the little goings on, the trainee who is a bit of an outsider among the old hands, who thinks the female doctor, who in turn has an affair with the married head physician, has a crush on him and gave him a sign to meet him outside. Only to find himself in the company of the head physician himself following the call of nature. Dr. Havel who is like Death – he takes everything (i.e. every woman), just not the nurse. The nurse who later tries to commit suicide – or not. It’s all very complicated with lots of undercurrents.  I loved it.


Laughable Loves by Milan Kundera, 3


“The Hitchhiking Game”

The Hitchhiking Game is the third story in Laughable Loves. It is about a couple who are on their way to their holiday location and start a role playing game that they can’t seem to stop.

I always liked The Hitchhiking Game but when I read it this time it made me pretty sad. The man and woman who are very much in love start playing this game where she pretends to be a hitchhiker and he picks her up on the way. They both get so carried away that she actually starts to think that he cheats on her with her alter ego.  He in turn starts to show his dislike for easy girls (that he happily goes out with nevertheless) as if she was one herself. I found the whole setting quite disturbing especially since the end of the story is not a positive one, it leaves things open and the reader has no idea whether the previously perfect relationship is disrupted for good or not.

Excellent story, but depressing.


Laughable Loves by Milan Kundera, 2

kunderaThis is about the second story in the book “Laughable Loves” by Milan Kundera.

“The Golden Apple of Eternal Desire”

This is the story of a bachelor narrator and his friend and their hunt for women.

Martin, the narrator’s friend, is a rather terrible character. He is constantly on the lookout for new women, in fact has even developed a system of three steps to get to know them and remember them for future usage. Not that he actually ever gets to “do” anything, he actually is quite a loser. On a trip to a small town where the two men are supposed to meet two women he registers so many other women that it is almost mind boggling. When they finally get to the small town in question he reveals to the narrator that  they only have about an hour for meeting the women, warming them up and seducing them, as he has to be back home at a certain time because his wife (whom he is very much in love with) likes to play cards with him before going to bed! What a Casanova!

On the other hand he is so keen on hearing the success stories of others that the narrator feels under pressure to invent a story about a hot girl he met.

The story of Martin really is quite pathetic when you come to think of it. It reveals the ridiculous behaviour of some men who obviously only get validation from the number of women they “conquer”. When they HAVE done that though, they feel driven to immediately look for their next possible victim. They play with her, and as soon as they succeed in any way they move on. It’s all about the game for them. A good story that gives us a lot of insight into the mind of (some) men.


Laughable Loves by Milan Kundera, 1

kunderaAt the moment  I am re-reading Laughable Loves by Milan Kundera , a book consisting of a number of short stories that he wrote in the 60s.

I am going to talk about the stories separately and just share a few thoughts on each.

The first story is one of my favourites in the book.


“Nobody will laugh”

This is the story of a narrator who drags his girlfriend into a web of lies in order to stay on the good side of a meaningless man. By doing so he does just the opposite, ruins his career and loses his girlfriend to one of his professional arch enemies.

Even though none of the characters in this story are likeable (well, maybe Klara, the girlfriend, but I am undecided even on her) they are very interesting and very human. The narrator who wants to avoid to make an enemy and weaves this web of lies. Klara who at first doesn’t seem too bothered that her boyfriend basically made her look like a liar. Mr. Zaturecky, who so desperately wants his treatise critiqued by the narrator. His wife, who in drill sergeant style wants to identify the woman who sullied her husband’s reputation. They are all so realistic and at the same time you shake your head and wonder whether you could get into the same situation.

Another interesting aspect of the story is that we learn a lot about life in Czechoslovakia during that time period. There are street committees that berate the narrator for his promiscuous life style, university committees that punish a lecturer for a. not doing what he is supposed to do and b. for doing what he was not supposed to do and secretaries who get bullied into giving the private address of employees to strangers.

Definitely enjoyable and recommended.


The Monkey’s Paw by W. W. Jacob

The Monkey's Paw coverShort blurb:

The story is based on the famous "setup" in which three wishes are granted. In the story, the paw of a dead monkey is a talisman that grants its possessor three wishes, but the wishes come with an enormous price for interfering with fate.


My thoughts:

I decided to re-read this very short story for the “Short Story peril” option of the RIP challenge.

There is not much to be said about this story without giving anything away, since it is only ten pages long. It shows the reader very clearly what the saying “Be careful what you wish for” means and that everybody who wishes for things does it at his own peril.

The time frame is about a week and in that one week pretty dreadful things happen to Mr. and Mrs. White and their son. Just shows you that you can never be too careful when expressing a wish. I found it quite interesting to hear that the old fakir who put the spell on the monkey’s paw did so to show “that those who interfered with it [i.e. fate] did so to their sorrow”. Unfortunately it seems that for most people that knowledge comes too late. They don’t listen to sound advice but need to know at first hand – and suffer the consequences as a result.

If you would like to read this story and haven’t got it, it is available as a free e-book at Project Gutenberg as well as a free audio book.

The Monkey’s Paw free e-book

The Monkey’s Paw free audio book


Very short stories

In a post on Spreeblick I found a link to Wired and a number of very short stories. Based on a very short story in just six words by Hemingway a number of writers were asked to write some as well. Some of them are absolutely wonderful, some of them I don’t get at all, LOL.

For an avid romance reader the best one has to be the one by Margaret Atwood:

Longed for him. Got him. Shit.

Brilliant, isn’t it?