Sunday, July 24, 2005

Bookworming, as usual

Anyone who’s read this blog for any extended length of time knows that I’m an incurable bookworm. Typically, perhaps, for a kid living in the creatively stifling, routine-oriented world of suburbian high school, books are the best way to escape into another world where heroes always vanquish the villains and true love vanquishes the heroes. I read pretty much whatever I can get my hands on, though the vast majority is made up of novels, with little nonfiction (besides magazine articles and the newspaper) and the rare short story or poem.

With that said, here’s what I’ve been burying my nose in the past few weeks:

Kafka on the Shore, by Haruki Murakami—The characters were all quite lovingly, intriguingly painted, but because I could sense such richness even in secondary characters, I felt a little gypped when the book ended, in my opinion, several hundred pages too soon. I was slightly irritated that Murakami kept dropping deep philosophical quotations (via Oshima), but I can forgive him that because I so loved the magical bits that seemed to sneak in to help me suspend disbelief for the rest of the fantastical, Oedipal, breakneck-paced story. Certainly unlike anything I’ve ever read before, and I want to read more by Murakami—probably The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle next, if only for the terrific title :)

Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides—I read a chapter from this in the New Yorker a few years ago, and at the time I was frankly too surprised by the fact that the protagonist is a hermaphrodite to read the rest of the book. I’m glad that I’m too curious to have abandoned it forever. Eugenides thankfully doesn’t expoit Callie hermaphroditism for shock-value or literary “eccentricity”—that would have repulsed and saddened me. Though the book starts out slow, it progresses from Smyrna to San Francisco, from Greek Orthodox to the Nation of Islam, from silkworms to crocuses, from Callie to Cal; this was without a doubt one of the vastest books ever to be packed into 500 pages. It was delightfully obvious how much Eugenides loves his characters, and I in turn was quite in love with them as well. Definitely worthwhile—and at the boring parts, at least you can always focus on the story’s lovely craftsmanship!

A Million Little Pieces, by James Frey—One of the strongest things I’ve ever read, in turn making me curl my toes in agony and also tear up a little at the few kindnesses extended to him. It’s a memoir, which begins with Frey entering rehab with the quite painful lack of four teeth, part of his cheek, drugs, alcohol, or a memory. His friends there are a mobster, a state supreme court justice, a prostitute, a steel worker, a rapist…I initially kept on for the painfully engrossing shock-value, but Frey’s story develops into quite a soul-baring tale of how he overcame his myriad addictions and terrible odds, and also about the relationships he builds and the equalizing nature of addiction. I might have been too upset to continue at times were it not for the fact that I knew Frey survived at least to write AMLP. Made me want to read Frey’s My Friend Leonard, which just came out. Highly, highly recommended.

Watchmen, by Alan Moore—Despite all the praise I’ve seen surrounding this book (a comic, or graphic novel, actually), I found it mediocre at best. The story line is interesting enough: a group of superhero-like vigilantes handle the city’s crime in their own lawless way, until the fictional Keene Act outlaws vigilanteism and they’re forced to abandon their crime-fighting identities (The Incredibles, anyone?). The main plot revolves around a mysterious “mask-killer” who is picking off the crime-busters one by one. Then there’s the threat of nuclear war, an alien invasion…y’know, just another day in New York City. But like Moore’s V for Vendetta, Watchmen introduced a lot of intriguing characters and ideas without ever fully fleshing them out, and the copious amounts of blood ‘n’ gore were almost never necessary, but always repulsive. The ending was marginally redeeming to the book, but overall I thought Watchmen was a waste of my time.

Atonement, by Ian McEwan—The story begins in a happy, wealthy English household in the early 1900’s—little Briony is a budding writer with an overactive imagination, while older sister Cecilia pursues a strange flirtation with their housekeepers’ son, Robbie. But Briony misconstrues Cecilia and Robbie’s relationship, setting into motion a destructive chain of events that continue to have repercussions during and after the war. Many people might be turned off by the large chunk of pages devoted to Robbie At War and Briony As A Nurse, but I liked them both immensely. Though the story functioned always under a shadow of regret and, ultimately, tragedy, it was a beautiful and impeccably drawn picture of a few intertwining lives.

Harry Potters 4, 5, and 6, by JK Rowling—If I need to tell you, you don’t deserve to know. (I ramble about Half-Blood Prince in the post below this one.)

Anyway, I’m currently in the middle of a Sandman marathon (my obsession with all things Neil Gaiman is another pervasive theme of this blog)—a huge, engrossing comic series from the late ‘80s and early ‘90s that should not even be in the same category as Watchmen. I’m currently in the middle of the fifth volume of ten. More on this later, but I’ll leave you with a picture of the totally badass Dream King:


Anonymous erin said...

Oooh, I'll definitely have to check out some of these...

Looks like today instead of re-re-reading HBP (like I had planned to do), I'm going to take a trip to the library. At little reading and writing on the library's slightly uncomfortable wooden tables and chairs will do me some good, and if I can't happen to find one of these books, the studious atmosphere of the place will at lease help me write a bit.

Last night, actually, I was thinking about my relationships with characters in books and movies, but I think I'll get into all of that on my livejournal. :p

11:29 AM  
Blogger T.C. said...

Yep, I too am in love with the library. I can curl up in those musty old armchairs for HOURS--especially during lightning storms.

Hm, I'm curious about that second thing. I'll check in over at your LJ!


12:44 PM  
Anonymous oki said...

oh man
some of those i think i want to read
more than HP

9:39 PM  
Blogger T.C. said...

Oki! I haven't heard from you in a are things in Korea, how is the art coming? Are you still doing the Korean teenagers photo book project?

And regarding the books, yeah, I can't help how much I love them. Though I must say, you read much more voraciously than I do during the school year, so now we're even, eh?

Well, I'll talk to you soon. Take care!


P.S. Post your address and I'll mail you things (or at least letters), okay dear?...Of course, for all you know, this could be part of a master plan, RIVAL.

9:47 PM  
Anonymous erin said...

Ooh... Atonement was so bitter sweet. It made me tear up at the very end.

6:00 PM  
Anonymous oki said...

well i can't comment on the recent post for some reason but congrats on the score(s), miss rival, and by the way i posted my address, sorry about the delay.

2:27 AM  
Anonymous guile said...

i love atonement.. mr mcewan really writes well..

12:59 AM  
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