Short Story of May: Always A Strong Smell

book review, short story


Short Story of the Month: “The Nose” by Nikolai Gogol

Maybe you’re dealing with work, or school (finals). Maybe you’re eyes are just tired of staring at the screen for too long. Maybe it’s time you take things a little slower as we are nearing the middle of the year.  Oh, the possibilities and reasons are endless for reading a short story today!

Here’s another one: it’s National Short Story Month, the month of the year when bibliophiles, like us, spend our days either privately celebrating by reading a story or writing one. And sometimes, the energy of other bibliophiles will embolden us to step out and read/write short stories together.

We would like to showcase the classic gothic and surreal story of “The Nose” by Gogol. Originally published in September 1836 in a journal called The Contemporary, “The Nose” has garnered much attention and interpretation since then, including scholarly analysis on themes of impotence, identity, autonomy, inconsistencies, and magic realism. Hesitantly published by the Russian author, the farce greatly appealed to its publisher, specifying the fantastical and original plot.

A barber finds a nose at breakfast. A bureaucrat wakes up to learn he’s lost one.  As the bureaucrat, who goes by the name of Kovalyov, hurries about town searching it, we find the nose has a consciousness of its own, walking, riding, and even talking! The anthropomorphism feels at once disarming and whimsical the next. Readers will question the validity of this event, perhaps as an episode of a mad man, a figment of imagination, or a dream sequence on behalf of Kovalyov or even the narrator himself. What does Kovalyov do when he is face to face with his own nose? How was it dislocated? Who did it? It’s up to you to find out some truth or meaning behind the absurdity of losing a nose one normal morning.

You can read here.


Book of April: Don’t Panic!

book review, Uncategorized

Book of the Month: Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy 

In celebration of Earth Day, we think it’s only right you read Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. 

If you’d like to read and buy the whole series, you can find it here at Barnes and Noble. Quite a good and cheap edition!

Synopsis: Arthur Dent, a normal human being. Nothing special; in other words, just like you. But what happens when special and normal are not what you thought they meant? Well, first you learn that the Earth, is not special, at all. Turns out, there are millions of planets out there full of vibrant life! Second, you learn that the Earth’s fate is doomed. And, third, you learn to appreciate this little space of blue and green, called Earth. There’s no place like home, even among the brilliant numerous stars.

Book of March: Garcia Girls

book review

Book of the Month:​ ​How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents

On Cultural Identity, Feminism, and Language

Algoquin Books Edition

It’s no secret that the Latino diaspora not only affects the immigrant’s immediate reality, but also affects their spiritual and emotional well­-being. It’s a wave so monumental that it still comes crashing into the lives of immigrants’ children as first generation success stories begin to unravel. It’s an existential crisis many of us, the children, have experienced and managed to somewhat control. It’s about being half and half, with the occasional rejection from either side.

​Julia Alvarez’s ​How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents​ is a foray into this world. It follows the stories of “the four daughters” (Carla, Sandra, Yolanda, and Sofia), and not an occasional glimpse into their parent’s life. The author plays with chronological order, shrinking back to the start of it all, the nucleus of this life story. First published in 1991, this novel was the start of Alvarez’s popularity, particularly dealing with themes such as biculturalism and bilingualism. Although the chapters had appeared as short stories in magazines before, Alvarez had a hard time getting the manuscript published. After its publication, the book won the PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Book Award (1991) and the American Library Association named it a notable book (1992). Now, many middle schools and high schools in the U.S. include this novel in their book list for its humour and resonating narrative.

Synopsis: The family leaves the Dominican Republic, as the country escalates towards political upheaval and revolution. Unlike many immigrant families that run away from poverty and violence, the Garcia family take great pride in their name and leave for political reasons. However, as they arrive in the U.S. they find their just another family making a living, minus the privilege their had before. They struggle with growing up as girls under an authoritative or “traditional” father; confront the limitations of learning English; find ways to communicate their desires and goals to both their Dominican family and their American partners.

Shop for the book here.

We will be posting a couple of discussion questions, but always we welcome and encourage your ideas as well!

Read On!

Book of February: After Many A Summer

book review


Book of the Month: After Many A Summer Dies The Swan by Aldous Huxley

The Fault of Humanity in a Human World

Elephant Paperbacks Edition

New month, new book! Though The Celestina was enjoyable, we are moving towards a more contemporary period full of shiny and silly glitz, glamorous in all its superficial glory. I am referring to 1930’s and 1940’s Hollywood.

As winter descends in Los Angeles, shading our lives with grey undertones and a fresh chilliness not felt in some years, what better book to read under a rainy sky than Huxley’s satire After Many a Summer Dies the Swan. Many summaries out there would tell you that this is Huxley’s comedic novel on American cultural set in Hollywood, popularly characterized as superficial, shallow, and phony. Not sure what are the implications of our calling it a satire, but rest assured there is plenty outrageous frivolity and long philosophizing reflections on the state of humanity as a whole.

Hollywood in its golden age of the 19th century provides a deep and strange setting for a reflection on human nature, culture, war and spirituality. If you enjoy the old world aura of Los Angeles’s Hollywood neighborhood (or Lana Del Rey’s “starlet” songs) this book will add a caustic and irreverent mystic to your previous perspective. Though the plot might seem sparse at times, when you’re finished reading you’ll still feel the reverberations of the uncanny end. Keep in mind, the language sometimes gets complicated, meaning you will need patience with this one. Sometimes, it will feel like you are reading an essay on philosophy, which is not bad at all. It opens up thoughtful critique on your own part.

You can purchase your copy here.


Drugs, sex, death. It’s all in this novel, and not in a predictable, general way you might assume.Revolving around a rich old white man named Mr. Stoyte who’s endowed with millions in property and cash, the novel intermittently focuses on reflections and conversations between characters on the purpose of humanity and all the faults and possible virtues of humans. Mr. Stoyte, a choleric old man, lives well with a young mistress nicknamed Baby. Jeremy Pordage, arrives on invitation to catalogue old English documents. All the while, you will notice Mr. Stoyte suffers a stark and stupefying fear of death. Meanwhile, Dr. Obispo, Pete, Mr. Propter, and others become embedded into the story, when it all comes together at the end, naturally, to an uncanny, ridiculous, and almost unbelievable end.