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Robert’s Roundup #16 (Feb 2021 Edition)

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Abbreviations: KU means Kindle Unlimited, LE means that lending of this Kindle title is allowed, and APUB means it was published under an Amazon imprint.


I am creating this post at the start of the month and add to it over time. So for the first half of the month at least, this post seems fairly empty. By month’s end, there’s a lot more there. When I list a price, that means that I was able to buy it at that price, but if you are reading it days or weeks later, there’s a good chance that the price is no longer valid on Amazon or other places. But sale prices do return periodically; that’s why I set up Amazon price alerts on ereaderiq. They will email you when the price on a book reaches a certain price.

Indie Author Spotlight

(Read about indie authors profiled in previous months).

This month’s spotlight is on translator Chris Wen Chao Li (author website) who wrote an entertaining, scholarly and irreverent translation of the Analects of Confucius (1.99). I do a brief book review at the bottom of this blogpost. I provide a link to Smashwords, but actually What Confucius Really Said is available everywhere for the same price.

Sales on Smashwords

Wow, just noticed that Don Q Public by John Opsand Sutherland (author website) is now free. I blogged about this before — recommended!

Ebooks published by Amazon imprints

Some of the Amazon imprints produce very inexpensive ebooks of varying quality. Some titles though are superb — and you should check previous roundups for my recommendations — I frankly ignore most of the genre stuff and focus on the international authors and biographies. Follow this link to see which titles are 99 cents for the month.  (check previous columns herehere and here), so maybe my recs will be sparser than usual. All are KU APUB, (but not lendable!).

Halsey Street (0.99, APUB, KU) by Naima Coster (author website) is a

Under the Radar

Kapka Kassabova (author website) is a Bulgarian-born poet and travel writer who has written a lot about the Balkans (even though she writes in English and has traveled to many countries around the world. Bulgaria was always one of my favorite countries to visit (it was close to Albania where I lived, and I traveled there several times). I’m sure it’s gotten commercialized by now, but the vacation resort of Nesebar was very scenic and beautiful. I bought Street Without a Name: Childhood and Other Misadventures in Bulgaria at 1.99, but the other creative books also look interesting (alas, no discount)

Back at Poetry Parnassus, I discovered that the poet from Turkmenistan Ak Welsapar
lives in Sweden, and Nikola Madzirov, the poet from Macedonia lives, in his own
words, out of a suitcase. The poet from Australia, John Kinsella, is so opposed to
nationhood that he once asked for a Red Cross passport (he was denied it). When I
asked Christodoulos Makris, the poet from Cyprus who lives in Ireland, how he felt
about the Olympic thing, he said: Well, I could equally be representing Ireland, or
Britain. Many poets of course lived in their original homelands and wrote in their first
language. The point is, this Parnassian gathering was a mini-nation in itself: a nation
of Poetry. I was among my people – those for whom poetry is more important than
other things. I felt at home, because home, as the poet Christian Morgenstern said, is
where they understand you.

On the question of home, here is a haiku by the 17th century poet Basho:

‘Even when I am in Kyoto
When I hear the call of the cuckoo
I miss Kyoto.’

I’ve never been to Kyoto, but I miss Kyoto too, because this haiku is not a patriot’s
song, it’s a spiritual incantation. A yearning for the union of the material – which is
not enough – with the imagined. Kyoto chiming with the idea of Kyoto.

Paradise High by William Henning (99 cents)

War of the Roses by Warren Adler (Author Website) (99 cents) This novel was later adapted into a comedy film.

Rainbow like You by Andréa Fehsenfeld (author website and blog)

Blood and Wine by Katie O’Rourke. (author website and blog) 99 cents, LE, Arizona-based author whose books are about family melodramas, sagas, etc. 5 books so far, this one is about a runaway (good first chapter).

Blink and it’s Gone Sales

(books which go temporarily on sale for a day and then jump back to regular price; to hear about them, you generally need to set up price alerts on ereaderiq).

If you follow the literary world, you certainly know who Bradford Morrow (website) is. He’s a Bard professor who edits the long running litmag Conjunctions. He’s also a pretty good fiction writer — I’ve read things here and there and have a few BM novels on my tablet. I subscribed to Conjunctions about 20 years ago — used to love reading it. (Update: I think I might have subscribed to it in 1990 or 1991 when the mag was first coming out) The issues were not chronological, but just fat issues released 2x a year around a theme. The art was beautiful, and it was chock full of poetry too. Occasionally it published lots of theme issues (fiction around a certain theme — Exile, Other Aliens, Radical Shadows, New Wave Fabulists). Then the Internet happened and everything changed.

A few years ago Conjunctions started digitizing their issues and selling them as ebooks on Amazon. Price was typically 7.99, but 1)most of their issues are also on Kindle Unlimited and 2)they regularly are discounted to 1.99. (Conjunctions has been using Open Road Media to promote their issues). I basically set an author alert on Amazon and everytime something reaches $2 I buy it. This issues are gigantic (500 pages) and contain a nice mixture of contributions of grad students and well known names who were presumably solicited or offered by agents or publishers. In terms of value, I also recommend buying these — and really who cares when they were originally published? Most of the time, litmags are fascinating time capsules into the imagination of a certain generation.

Allison Lurie (who died last year at the age of 94) has written many fine books, and I’ve read two of them so far. Many of her ebooks are discounted often, and I just chose Imaginary Friends (2.99), which is about sociologists who infiltrate a cult for the purpose of research. Here’s the author website.

Creative Commons — Academic — Public Domain

None this time?

Once in a Lifetime Deals

None this time?

Indie Titles/Other Ebook Distributors

HUMBLE BUNDLE: I’m not entirely comfortable with comic books, but this $25 bundle of comics from indie artists sounds amazing. Some are sci fi, some are fantasy, some are adaptations of classic literature. Here’s how to view these things on your devices. Apparently the CBZ files are about 1/3 of file size of epub/PDF, and all the CBZ files are between 25-30 MB. For that reason Humble Bundle recommends adding them to your SD card on your tablet instead of uploading them. (Either you use Moon+ or Adobe Digital Editions to read).

Review Copies Received

Two Books by Clay Reynolds

Library Books & Printed books bought (Better World Books, Amazon, etc)

Tune In

EBook Review: What Confucius Really Said

What Confucius Really Said, Translated by Chris Wen Chao Li, 1.99 ebook, 2019, (Available on Smashwords, GPB, Amazon, etc).

Summary: A brilliant, inventive and original translation using contemporary idioms

I’d read bits and pieces of Analects in college, but found it dry and not as provocative as other classic texts like Chuang Tzu (for example). Then I encountered this wonderful and clever translation. It’s one of the most original and delightful translations of a literary work I have ever encountered. Here’s the conceit. Chris Wen-chao Li, recognizing that English-speaking readers might not understand the historical context of Analects, decides to translate all the aphorisms using U.S. slang and American pop culture references — as though Confucius were some hip comedian making snarky remarks about Obama or California on his Twitter feed. At first it sounds strange and almost irreverent, but after a while you get used to it and even enjoy it. After all, if Confucius were alive today, why WOULDN’T he be all over Twitter? I read a large chunk of this book on an airline trip and chuckled aloud multiple times. It’s hilarious! I’m sure Chris Wen-chao Li took tremendous liberties here, but the book provides ample footnotes about what the original text was like and what the original cultural references were. I cannot comment on the textual accuracy of the translations (though I did compare certain passages with David Hinton and others and saw nothing seriously amiss). But the English phrases are elegant, compact and always fun.

This was easily one of my favorite reads of 2019. It brings Confucius to life in unexpected and readable ways; it combines the best of both worlds: solid scholarship with a highly readable (and entertaining) text. The Confucius in this translation jumps off the page and seems more relevant than ever to adventurous readers.

Literary Articles and Essays

Must read books set in Los Angeles. If you haven’t seen it, Andrew Dansby wrote a great Best of Texas fiction column a few months ago (More titled toward recent titles, but still a good list).

Interview with Valerie Trueblood by Roxanne Gay. (Maybe I blogged about her before, one of my fave authors). Trueblood’s books are all at Counterpoint.

John Barth is 90; a former student reflects on his fiction and laments that his later novels have been ignored. (FYI, I studied under Barth at the JHU Writing workshop. I had a picture taken of me at a picnic with Stephen Dixon and John Barth. I remember I was wearing an extremely tacky shirt, but alas, I lost the photograph. I confess I haven’t read enough about Barth. Here’s a Lannon interview video with Barth.

Kafka Translator Stanley Corngold on Kafka:

Seven years later he died a terrible death from tuberculosis of the larynx. But he is a man of many contrarieties. For many years he visited brothels, swam robustly, climbed steep hills, and rode around the countryside on a motorcycle. He spent his mature days as a competent, highly valued in-house lawyer at a partly state-run institute for workmen’s compensation. There, he innovated safety devices for Bohemian factories and advocated the founding of a hospital for shell-shocked war veterans, which was a novelty. He had many interests, including gardening and reading Platonic dialogues with friends, but also social work, especially on behalf of war refugees from Eastern Europe.

Personville Press Giveaways and Deals

I run Personville Press, a small literary book press where all the ebooks cost less than $4. All the titles are discounted on Smashwords for less that price — and usually under $1.50. Pay attention to any 100% coupon codes which I occasionally list below — they can be redeemed only a small number of times, so first come, first serve. Smashwords only sells epub versions of these titles, but you can easily convert them to Amazon’s mobi format by using Kindle Previewer or Calibre.

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