The Arabian Nights: A Companion by Robert Irwin


“According to a superstition current in the Middle East in the late nineteenth century when Sir Richard Burton was writing, no one can read the whole text of the Arabian Nights without dying.”

“But, while it is true that there are items in the Nights which might pass as fairy tales, the collection’s compass is much wider than this. It also includes long heroic epics, wisdom literature, fables, cosmological fantasy, pornography, scatological jokes, mystical devotional tales, chronicles of low life, rhetorical debates and masses of poetry.”

“Letter magic, ilm al-huruf, was one of the most important sub-sciences in Islamic occultism.”

some interesting info from Irwin’s companion to the Arabian Nights

The Story of Hong Gildong


“A figure as quintessentially Korean as Robin Hood in English, one could mention other heroic outlaws like Song Jiang of China, Nezumi Kozo of Japan, Juraj Jánošík of Slovakia, Salvatore Giuliano of Sicily, Ned Kelly of Australia, and Jesse James of Missouri.”

“He had a daughter of such beauty that the moon hid itself and flowers became embarrassed before her fairness.”

“After Gildong perused the texts, he ordered a white horse to be sacrificed and drank its blood.”

“The coordinated movement of wild geese in flight was used as a metaphor for the harmonious relationship of siblings.”

some information and quotes I found interesting from The Story of Hong Gildong

One Hundred More Poems from the Chinese by Kenneth Rexroth

one hundred more poems from the chinese

“[Tu Fu] shares with [Sappho], Catullus, and Baudelaire, his only possible competitors, a sensibility acute past belief. Like them, he is–possibly paying the price of such a sensibility–considerably neurasthenic and the creator of an elaborate poetic personality, a fictional character half mask, half revelation.”

“More varied in his subjects than the others, [Po Chu-I] was a master of poignant, unforgettable phrases, many of which could be excerpted and stand alone as separate poems. It is this latter characteristic as much as anything else which accounts for his tremendous popularity with the classical poets of Japan, where, as Arthur Waley points out, he is revered as a god of poetry.”

“An exceptionally large number of the emperors of the Six Dynasties and Three Kingdoms were poets, probably due, as in Japan’s Time of Troubles, to the fact that the emperors of the contending states were mostly rois fainéants.”

some excerpts I found interesting from the endnotes of Rexroth’s anthology


The Yark by Bertrand Santini


The Yark by Bertrand Santini

I had slight trouble with this one–I couldn’t initially place the audience. I thought it was for children, but the explicit description of eating a child piece by piece at the start even had /my/ skin crawling. The Yark is a Monster (as is Humanity, though his kind is only rarer) that feeds on good children–bad children give him colossal indigestion.

The premise is bleak, in that the Yark is just having awful luck finding good children to eat anymore, and is likely to starve to death soon. There’s a lot of insistence that children in the good old days were much better behaved (and that they were even more hygienic??), and any old Yark could feast at their will.

It has lots of dark humor, like the assessment of the scent of the world’s most wonderful girl, Madeline: “Violet and anise are the heart notes that reveal and underlying melancholy. . . a blend of blood orange and milk sugar, top notes that emanate only from the purest souls.” There’s a dream sequence smorgasbord I liked, as the Yark lies hungry: “boys in bacon, orphan gratin, chicken-fried children, breaded babies, leg of twins, brats in a bun, pate of little girl, stuffed schoolchildren, tandooried toddlers, choirboys in bundt cake…”

Overall I could see this working for a certain kind of middle grade (probably no younger)–the lover of grotesques, of random and dark humor. I was a big fan of Jhonen Vasquez in my preteen years, and I can imagine The Yark would appeal in a similar way–especially the greatly detailed illustrations (the Yark occasionally has tiny skulls matted in his fur!).

(I won this from the LibraryThing’s Early Reviewer giveaway.)

The 13 Clocks by James Thurber


“He wore an indescribable hat, his eyes were wide and astonished, as if everything were happening for the first time, and he had a dark, describable beard.”

“The brambles and the thorns grew thick and thicker in a ticking thicket of bickering crickets. Farther along and stronger, bonged the gongs of a throng of frogs, green and vivid on their lily pads. From the sky came the crying of flies, and the pilgrims leaped over a bleating sheep creeping knee-deep in a sleepy stream, in which swift and slippery snakes slid and slithered silkily, whispering sinful secrets.”

“Something very much like nothing anyone had ever seen before came trotting down the stairs and crossed the room. ‘What is that?’ the Duke asked, palely. ‘I don’t know what it is,’ said Hark, ‘but it’s the only one there ever was.'”

some quotes I loved from Thurber’s The 13 Clocks

Henri Duchemin and His Shadows by Emmanuel Bove


“She had the white, unattractive skin of women who never blush.”

“I prefer English gardens to French gardens. It’s not that order and harmony are distasteful to me, nor that the imitation of nature delights me. I simply like not knowing exactly where I am. English gardens are mysterious with their waterfalls and secret alleyways. Though you quickly end up where you began, for a few moments you have the wonderful illusion of being lost. Most of all, you don’t have to walk across vast open spaces where so many people look at you.”

“I was so on edge that, although I was not laughing, my face was contracted as if I were.”

“They were black, the way all birds are in the late afternoon.”

“As for my gaze, even though it was full of compassion, I felt it was not honest. As hard as I tried to open my eyes wide to see more clearly, it was hopeless.”

some quotes I loved from Bove’s stories

One Hundred Poems from the Japanese by Kenneth Rexroth


[on pivot words] “The word matsu, for example, is often used in the sense of ‘pine’ and ‘long for’ exactly as in the English ‘pine’ and ‘pine.’ Naku is  used in the double sense of ‘cry’ and ‘without.'”

“Classical Japanese poetry is read in a slow drone, usually a low falsetto; that is, the voice is kept lower and more resonant than its normal pitch, with equal time and stress on each syllable.”

[on “Murasaki”] “Roughly it means ‘purple’ or purple-dyed.’ Actually it is the name of the Lithospermum erythromrhizon, a purple rooted plant of the borage or forget-me-not family. A related species is called ‘puccoon’ in the USA, and was once used as a rather fugitive dye.”

some interesting information from the intro to Rexroth’s One Hundred Poems from the Japanese