So What Are You Reading?

Reviews of Books.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Auschwitz: A Doctor's Eyewitness Account

Auschwitz: A Doctor's Eyewitness Account by Dr Miklos Nyiszli

Originally published in Hungarian in 1947, this is one of the early first person narratives to depict the mass murders at Auschwitz, one of many German concentration camps of World War II. Miklós Nyiszli was a Romanian Jew sent to the death camp with his wife and 15 year old daughter in May 1944. As they got out of their box cars they were sorted by gender, "for a bath and to be disinfected" the good-natured guards said. He did not know if he would ever see his family again.

From the remaining men Dr. Mengele, the chief medical officer of the camp, ordered all doctors to step forward and asked if there was a pathologist with a knowledge of forensic medicine. Nyiszli answered and, after questioning, was singled out from the others. Thus began his one year as Dr. Mengele's assistant, performing autopsies and other medical tasks for Mengele's research on twins and congenital deformities.

Nyiszli lived in and had his lab in one of the four crematoriums and witnessed first-hand much of the mass murders and incinerations of the last year of the camp. His life with the Jews who worked the gas chambers and crematoriums, the Sonderkommandos, makes up another major part of his story.

The author writes in his Declaration at the beginning of the book that he is not trying to be a reporter or to write literature; he is a doctor, writing as a doctor would write. His story was made into a play and later a movie called The Grey Zone by Tim Nelson.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


Wetlands by Charlotte Roche

This first person narrative starts out like a novelization of Paul Spinrad's The Re/Search Guide to Bodily Fluids. A young woman is alone in a hospital bed recovering from anal surgery, and keeps herself from feeling alone by recalling her fascination with bodily fluids. She is also trying to come to terms with her parents' divorce, the influence these two very different people have had on her, and unrevealed family secrets.

Helen, the main character, is both brash and vulnerable at the same time. The author develops the plot well through Helen's narrative which leads the reader deeper and deeper into her life. She hopes to resolve her conflicts by reuniting her parents.

However, when she starts to open up to a young male nurse who seems to care, a new opportunity for happiness becomes possible in this coming of age story. While the book starts out gross, Helen's inner insecurities and feelings slowly reveal themselves and those who stick it out may find a novel worth reading.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Twinkle and Chubbins

Twinkle and Chubbins: Their Astonishing Adventures in Nature-Fairyland, Written by Laura Bancroft (pseudonym of L. Frank Baum) Illustrated by Maginal Wright Enright (1911)

L. Frank Baum, using the name Laura Bancroft, wrote these six stories in 1905 as separate booklets which were later published together in 1911 as this book. The color illustrations are by Frank Lloyd Wright's younger sister Maginel Wright Enright.
In this collection of short stories Twinkle is a girl living on the North Dakota prairie whose magical adventures concerning the animals she meets there are brought on by her tendency towards narcolepsy and vivid dreaming. Baum uses the animals' behaviors to create amusing fables for his young readers.

I am reading the online edition available through The Literature Network that includes each chapter as a separate web site. The Readability app's Send to Kindle feature helped me load the HTML pages onto my Kindle.

Mr. Woodchuck - Twinkle's father decides to put a steel trap outside the entrance to a woodchuck's home because it is eating his clover. That afternoon Twinkle goes out to see if the woodchuck is caught. Laying in the warm sun near the trap, she dozes off and dreams that Mr. Woodchuck all dressed in evening clothes catches her. He and his family explain how cruel humans are, always trying to kill them, and decide to punish her.

Bandit Jim Crow - Twinkle's dad gives her a wild crow with a broken wing that she calls Jim and nurtures back to health. When he is healthy, Jim kills a bunch of baby chicks and flies off seeking a new home. He finds a forest with many birds and settles into a vacant nest. Rather than being a good neighbor, he starts eating the eggs and chicks from unguarded nests. Led by policeman Blue Jay, the other birds punish Jim, but their kind and gentle natures won't let him die.

Prairie-Dog Town - Twinkle and her friend Chubbins visit a prairie-dog town, get shrunk by a magic prairie-dog, and are entertained at a luncheon at the town mayor's home.

Prince Mud-Turtle - Twinkle finds a turtle that can speak only on Saturdays because he is a fairy prince who has been transformed by an evil Corrugated Giant.

Twinkle's Enchantment - Twinkle goes picking blueberries and crosses a line of enchantment into a land of talking idiomatic creatures like the Rolling Stone, Birds of a Feather, a Dancing Bear and more.

Sugar-Loaf Mountain - Twinkle and Chubbins go hiking on Sugar-Loaf Mountain and find a secret passage to a vast underground kingdom inhabited by people made entirely of sugar.

This online edition does not have the Introduction by Katherine M. Rogers that is included in the 2005 International Wizard of Oz Club print edition.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Fifty Shades of Grey

Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James

Ana is college English major about to graduate with no prior sexual experience when she interviews Christian Grey, a young rich businessman, for her college newspaper. It is a case of mutual love at first sight, but Mr. Grey wants Ana to become his submissive in a Dominant/submissive relationship. This is a good erotic romance novel that handles character development well, and provides a decent look into a kinky relationship for general audiences. The sexual encounters are somewhat idealized, but that is expected in the romance genre. This is the first of three volumes so don't expect a typical happily ever after romance ending to volume one.