Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card; A Moral Dilemma

  • Title: Speaker for the Dead
  • Author: Orson Scott Card
  • # of Pages: 254

In the aftermath of his terrible war, Ender Wiggin disappeared, and a powerful voice arose: the Speaker for the Dead, who told of the true story of the Bugger War.7967

Now long years later, a second alien race has been discovered, but again the aliens’ ways are strange and frightening…again, humans die. And it is only the Speaker for the Dead, who is also Ender Wiggin the Xenocide, who has the courage to confront the mystery… and the truth.


I first read Ender’s Game in 2011. I was (almost) fifteen years old. It was brilliant. And when I closed the book I remember thinking to myself how completely and utterly pointless life is. That feeling was overwhelming, and the memory of it has stuck with me to this day.

Afterwards, it turned out that Orson Scott Card was homophobic. Not just homophobic, but very outspoken about it, and also on the board of directors of the anti-LGBT organization “National Organization for Marriage”. It was very strange to find out that someone who was able to write in a way that affected me so deeply, to truly reach out and touch my heart, was also someone whose personal views were so different from my own. I still find it hard to comprehend how a person whose stories reflect such a deep understanding of humanity and human beings is also a person who, in my opinion, has some serious blind spots.

I found myself grappling with the contradiction, wondering how it should affect my feelings and opinions about the book I loved so much. It’s the age-old question: are an artist’s personal views ever relevant? Should they affect our choices in which art we choose to consume and how? In 2013 I tried to give a fair answer (Reading Is Not Just A Habit But A Way of Life or That Time I Told You Why I Don’t Buy Orson Scott Card Books) so I’ll leave you with that, and with the fact that Card left NOM in 2013, and that when, in 2013, people called for a boycott of the Ender’s Game film, he said “With the recent Supreme Court ruling, the gay marriage issue becomes moot. Now it will be interesting to see whether the victorious proponents of gay marriage will show tolerance toward those who disagreed with them when the issue was still in dispute.” (source) A quote, by the way, that only further exposed his deep misunderstanding, but that’s for another time.

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Why We Write About Ourselves (edited) by Meredith Maran

  • Title: Why We Write About Ourselves: Twenty Memoirists on Why They Expose Themselves (and Others) in the Name of Literature
  • Editor: Meredith Maran
  • # of Pages: 254

For the many amateurs and professionals who write about themselves—bloggers, journal-keepers, aspiring essayists, and memoirists—this book offers inspiration, encWhy We Write About Ourselves: Twenty Memoirists on Why They Expose Themselves (and Others) in the Name of Literatureouragement, and pithy, practical advice. Twenty of America’s bestselling memoirists share their innermost thoughts and hard-earned tips with veteran author Meredith Maran, revealing what drives them to tell their personal stories, and the nuts and bolts of how they do it. Speaking frankly about issues ranging from turning oneself into an authentic, compelling character to exposing hard truths, these successful authors disclose what keeps them going, what gets in their way, and what they love most—and least—about writing about themselves.


I love memoirs. Short, long; old, young; essay style or full-fledged story; it doesn’t matter. I read memoirs by people I know and memoirs by people I’ve never heard of (and probably never will again). Sometimes I’m drawn by the story they tell, sometimes I just like their way of telling it. I’m fascinated by the ability to turn a personal experience into a universal one, an experience strangers, who have never met you, want to listen to, even feel a part of. We don’t always have to escape into fiction; sometimes plain old reality already has the brilliant characters and gripping plot. (And let’s all admit it, it’s always exciting to look up these people on Facebook afterwards and see all the characters commenting on photos in real life!)

The format here is simple: a chapter per person. There’s an introduction written by Maran, a quick summary of said person’s personal life and publishing history, and then a sort of freestyle, not exactly interview yet not exactly essay section written by the memoirists themselves. There are no leading questions which gives each one the opportunity to discuss whatever they want to, although most cover the basics: how I started, why I started, what the future holds for me. Every chapter ends with a “Wisdom for Memoir Writers”.

I picked up Why We Write About Ourselves in order to understand a bit more about the genre, about how those who write it do it, and why. I recognized a few of the twenty contributors, I’d actually read only a few. I wasn’t bothered much by that since, as I said, the “who” doesn’t matter to me. If someone has a good story, it’ll be good even without a proper background check and Wikipedia review. That theory definitely proved true.

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Nine Inches: Stories by Tom Perrotta

  • Title: Nine Inches: Stories
  • Author: Tom Perrotta
  • # of Pages: 246

Nine Inches, Tom Perrotta’s first true collection, features ten stories—some sharp and funny, some mordant and surprising, and a few intense and disturbing. Whether he’s dropping into the lives of two teachers—and their love lost and found—in “Nine Inches”, documenting the unraveling of a dad at a Little League game in “The Smile on Happy Chang’s Face”, or gently marking the points of connection between an old woman and a benched high school football player in “Senior Season”, Perrotta writes with a sure sense of his characters and their secret longings.

Nine Inches contains an elegant collection of short fiction: stories that are as assured in their depictions of characters young and old, established and unsure, as any written today.


It takes a different set of skills to write short stories, to be able to write convincing, believable characters in so few words. It’s like a very concentrated drink, it needs to be strong and exact because you’re only going to get one sip to really understand the flavor.

There is no doubt that Tom Perrotta possesses that set of skills. Story after story, his characters come alive for their fifteen minutes of fame. Perrotta manages to create that feeling that we’re just getting a glimpse, that there’s a whole life before and after that will continue on without us. It’s the way short stories should be. Sound, solid, able to carry that weight of their existence, past, present and future.

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Year In Review: 2017

Hello, folks. Another year gone, time for new goals to fail and new resolutions to forget about. A clean slate. But first – a quick flashback.

This year I technically failed my reading goal. I actually stopped going onto Goodreads in order to avoid their constant “You are nine books behind!” shaming. I had to overcome a broken ankle, a crazy exam, but more importantly – really long books. Like, reeeeally long. In 2016 I read 24 books that totaled to about 9200 pages. In 2017 I read 16 (!!) books that totaled to about 8500 pages. That’s an average book length of 572 pages (because, as we all know, Goodreads doesn’t only like shaming, they also like providing you with very detailed statistics about everything you do). That’s a difference of eight books between the two years but only 700 pages. Allow me to be impressed. Sixteen is a new low for me, and one I hope to never sink down to again, but if you go for sixteen, at least do it with style, ya know?

So what did we have?

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Parnassus On Wheels by Christopher Morley

  • Title: Parnassus On Wheels
  • Author: Christopher Morley
  • # of Pages: 142

Image result for Parnassus On Wheels“I warn you,” said the funny-looking little man with the red beard, “I’m here to sell this caravan of culture, and by the bones of Swinburne I think your brother’s the man to buy it.” Christopher Morley’s unforgettably weird classic tale of adventure on a traveling bookstore called Parnassus, drawn by a steed called Pegasus. Not to be missed.


Miss Helen McGill lives on a farm with her brother Andrew. Everything is going great-  until Andrew becomes an author. It starts with one book of his being published, and soon Miss McGill finds herself running the farm on her own, as her brother focuses on his new career. “He hardly ever looked at the ears Roebuck catalogs any more, and after Mr. Decameron came to visit us and suggested that Andrew write a book of country poems, the man became simply unbearable.

One day a strange little man shows up with a wagon full of books, wanting to sell them to Andrew McGill. He’s been travelling around the country to introduce the simple folks to literature but now he wants to write a book about his travels, so he needs someone else to take over for him. Miss McGill realizes that if Andrew ever hears about this, she’ll never see him again, so on a whim she decides to buy the wagon herself and go on an unplanned vacation.
Thus begins a very entertaining adventure, with Miss McGill as the star, along with a dog, a horse and the strange little man. If you’re looking for a gripping plot – this is probably not the book for you. However, if all you need is a pleasant little tale with a few surprises and a crew of amusing characters – go right ahead. An interesting concept, a few laughs and a sweet ending – the best companion for a winter’s cup of chocolate milk.

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Reading War & Peace #12.5: One Woman’s Journey to Healing a Broken Leg

* translation: Louise and Alymer Maude, WORDSWORTH EDITION (for page # references)

“Many people start to read War and Peace for the same reason as others climb Mount Everest: because it’s there.” – Johanna Trew

Two and a half years ago I started my way up the mountain. After four months I set up camp and sat down, refusing to get down but not trying to continue. Three months ago I quickly packed up my stuff, jogged my way back to base camp and then started my way back up. Two and a half months after that I finally settled down on the tip, slightly confused because of a certain second epilogue, but with a smile on my face and an immense feeling of pride. The kind that lasts for like a week straight, unwavering, painting the world a very attractive shade of pink. It was fabulous.

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Three Bags Full: A Sheep Detective Story by Leonie Swann

  • Title: Three Bags Full: A Sheep Detective Story 
  • Author: Fannie Flagg
  • # of Pages: 357
  • Translation: (German into Hebrew) טלי קונס

A witty philosophical murder mystery with a charming twist: the crack detectives are sheep determined to discover who killed their beloved shepherd. glenkill

On a hillside near the cozy Irish village of Glennkill, a flock of sheep gathers around their shepherd, George, whose body lies pinned to the ground with a spade. George has cared devotedly for the flock, even reading them books every night. Led by Miss Maple, the smartest sheep in Glennkill (and possibly the world), they set out to find George’s killer.


Sometimes I like to ignore bad recommendations. It’s an annoying habit best phrased as “I want to see for myself”. These ventures usually end in one of two ways – everyone was wrong or everyone was right. Three Bags Full falls somewhere in between. Continue reading →

Best Dostoyevsky Translation?

I have not forgotten about my last W&P post, don’t worry. I’ve just started a new job recently and it’s a bit difficult to get around to. However, my success has awakened something inside of me, which brings me on to the big question up top: Which English Crime and Punishment translation is most recommended? I have the Garnett one but my weekend of Internet research seems to disagree. In case it matters, I read Louise and Alymer Maude for W&P and it seemed fine.

SOS to Russian lit fans. Lemme know.

Reading War & Peace #12: One Woman’s Journey to Healing a Broken Leg

* translation: Louise and Alymer Maude, WORDSWORTH EDITION (for page # references)

It’s a wrap, folks. I finished the book on Friday, and then it took me a couple of days to get over the shock. I’d technically been reading this book since 2015 because I’d never really admitted to myself that I had quit, so for the past two years I’ve had it shaming me through my “currently reading” Goodreads list. And now it’s over.

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Reading War & Peace #11: One Woman’s Journey to Healing a Broken Leg

* translation: Louise and Alymer Maude, WORDSWORTH EDITION (for page # references)

Two weeks ago I teased an Andrew tribute post and he died, so I refocused my energy on Kutuzov. And… now he’s dead. Leo? Are you there? Got yourself a little WordPress? Also, what’s with the Game of Thrones business going on? Prince Bolkonski x2, Helene, Kutuzov, Petya. I mean, there really were a bit too many characters, but is this the best way to go about solving that problem? Can people still die in an epilogue?

And yes, if you had a double-take at that last sentence – you read correctly! WE’RE DONE-ish. I read fifty pages today, which might not sound like much, but with this book and my level of laziness, it’s a record-shattering achievement. Now we only have the two epilogues left, which I recently read a very angry Goodreads review about, basically recommending to just slice off that bit and burn it, so that should be interesting.

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