Feb. 26th, 2015

starlady: A typewriter.  (tool of the trade)
What I'm Reading
Hostage by Sherwood Smith and Rachel Manija Brown, the sequel to Stranger. I'm enjoying it quite a lot so far--it picks up something like six weeks after the end of the first book, and the time jump allows the authors to continue exploring the ramifications of what went down at the end of Stranger in a way that feels believable. I'm only about 1/6 of the way through, though, so I can't comment on much else yet!

Silver Spoon vol. 7 - I know, I know, I'm so slow. In my defense, my usual commute on the train is only 11 minutes long.

What I've Just Read
The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal - Really, really excellent. The book winds up being divided into three segments--Paris; Vienna; Tokyo--and somewhere in the beginning of the Vienna section, the central episode of the netsuke's history and the Ephrussis', the story flipped over and became violently engrossing. I'm not sure I've read such a particularly Viennese portrait of the lead-up to the Anschluss, and the book also brings home all over again the ways in which the inability to deal with Jewish people really seems to be the central problem of modern Europe, even as de Waal stays focused on his family in particular. (I saw a tumblr post the day after I finished the book talking about anti-Semitism in France after the Charlie Hebdo attacks. The OP concluded that Europe's response to anti-Semitism will always be "be less Jewish." But in interwar Vienna, as de Waal points out, not embodying anti-Semitic stereotypes was equally an affront to non-Jewish society. It was a catch-22.) More than half of Vienna's population was Jewish at the turn of the C20, but that was immaterial to the hatred that was marshalled against Austrian Jews, and German Jews, and the Jews of France and Eastern Europe. The core of the Ephrussi family survived the war, but at the very high cost of their property and even in some sense, it seems (though de Waal never says this explicitly) their identity. Although brief, de Waal is equally good on the hypocrisy of the newly reconstructed Austrian government ("Austria was the first victim"…no) and its refusal to even consider reparations. It becomes very clear that without his grandmother, the indomitable lawyer and scholar Elizabeth Ephrussi, the story would have gone very differently.

I've lost the netsuke again in these remarks. They reappear after the war, a small collection of objects saved from the wreckage of a family, a city, a society; they make their way back to Japan with Iggie, de Waal's great uncle, and by the end of the book have emigrated again, this time back to London. De Waal refuses to sentimentalize their return in a way that fits with the netsuke themselves; there is no juxtaposition to be drawn between their survival and the destruction of six million people, including many of the Ephrusssis' extended family. I liked the Tokyo section of the book; Showa Japan is gone, but de Waal is very good at evoking it, and in particular Tokyo immediately after the surrender. There are more commonalities between what was going on in Japan and Europe throughout the entire scope of the book than de Waal admits, though to me that was an unavoidable element of the whole story. I also really appreciated the ways in which the Paris section acts as something of a key to Proust's novels, which are wonderful but have more issues than a weekly periodical. In any case, highly recommended. You might also be interested in [personal profile] liv's remarks on the book.

What I'll Read Next
Earth Logic by Laurie J. Marks. SO EXCITE.

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