What We’re Reading / What You’re Reading 05.31.2013


It’s time for another Friday edition of the segment where we fill you in on what we’re reading, and we hope that you’ll reciprocate by telling us what you’re enjoying (or loathing) as well.

Don’t be shy, we want to hear from you! Feedback from our followers will play a role in helping us to determine what books to read, review, and feature on this site over the coming months. It will also give us a better idea of the topics and genres that interest you.

Aaron is currently reading Tirza by Arnon Grunberg, translated from the Dutch by Sam Garrett.

Sam Garrett also translated The Dinner by Herman Koch, and even though I’m only through the first 120 pages of Grunberg’s Tirza, it’s easy to see some similarities between the two novels.  Both feature men that aren’t necessarily unreliable, but that reader is constantly changing their opinion about as new pieces of information fall into place.  Also, both heavily feature family and food.

Grunberg’s novel is different however in that he possesses an amazing ability for perfectly scripting long, complex, riveting conversations between his characters.  Also, his written moments of violence are much more visceral in nature.  They feel far more intense and more immediate.  So far, in translation Grunberg clearly feels like not only the better writer, but also the better storyteller.  I’m trying to reserve passing a final judgment until I complete the book though, which should be soon, because it’s extremely hard to put down.

Here’s a snippet from an exchange between that man, Jörgen Hofmeester, and his unnamed wife who has recently returned home unexpectedly after a three-year absense:

“What are you then?”
“What am I when?”
“If you’re not a homo. What are you then?  What are you, for God’s sake?”
“Is that what you really want to know?”
“Yes.  Maybe it is.  Now that you mention it.  I think I can come to terms with what has happened, with everything that’s happened, if I finally know what you are.  Who are you, Jörgen?  Who are you?”
Hofmeester took a deep breath, his hand was no longer resting on the top of his head.  There was a bruise on her thigh, he saw.  She had bumped into something.  Or been kicked.
“I’m no one,” he said.  “My ego was large, but I cut it in half and you ground the rest of it to a pulp.  I am the father of Tirza and Ibi.  Especially that.  That’s what I am, that’s right, not a great deal more than that, but also no less.  The father of Ibi and Tirza.  I’m a father.”
“You know,” she said slowly, as though searching for the right words, as though speaking a foreign language, “what it is I wonder about?  Haven’t you ever thought: Wow, isn’t it weird?”
“What are you talking about?  Wow?  What was I supposed to find weird?”
“What am I talking about? C’mon, Jörgen, now don’t you be coy.”

Karli is currently reading Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

When Clay begins working at Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, he immediately notices that the store and its few patrons have many peculiarities.  For one thing, no one ever seems to buy anything, but certain books are lent to specific patrons.  And most of the books have strange titles and even stranger content.  But Clay, who has also worked as a computer programmer and web designer, is eager to crack the code of the mysterious bookstore.  But where to begin?

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is, I have learned, really two stores in one.

There’s the more-or-less normal bookstore, which is up front, packed in tight around the desk…This more-or-less normal bookstore is spotty and frustrating, but at least it’s stocked with titles that you could find in a library or on the internet.

The other bookstore is stacked behind and above all that, on the tall laddered shelves, and it is comprised of volumes that, as far as Google knows, don’t exist.  Trust me.  I’ve searched.  Many of these have the look of antiquity – cracked leather, gold-leaf titles – but others are freshly bound with bright crisp colors.  So they’re not all ancient.  They’re just all…unique.

What are you reading this weekend? Comment below and let us know!

About Aaron Westerman

Aaron Westerman is the Manager of Web Architecture for a national human services organization. When he's not busy tearing sites apart and rebuilding them, he spends his ever shrinking free time trying to keep up with his twins, reading works of translated literature, and watching far too many Oscar nominated movies.