Reading 2007

5 June 2007

 I’m off to a much better start than last year. This time I’ve kept up my reading even while I took classes that required pretty intensive reading.

2007 so far:

  1. Persepolis the Story of a Childhood of by Marjane Satrapi
  2. Eugenie Grandet by Honoré de Balzac
  3. The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
  4. The Problem of the Media: U. S. Communication Politics in the Twenty-First Century by Robert W. McChesney
  5. Naked Economics: Undressing the Dismal Science by Charles Wheelan
  6. Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return by Marjane Satrapi

I’m currently reading A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush by Eric Newby.

Next up:

  1. What is the What by Dave Eggers
  2. The Complete Stories by Franz Kafka
  3. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  4. White Teeth by Zadie Smith
  5. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
  6. Something by Haruku Murikami

The rest of the list is undetermined, and I would appreciate any recommendations.

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Six Months of Reading

1 February 2007

1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

2. On Beauty by Zadie Smith

3. Black Hole by Charles Burns

4. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

5. Number9Dream by David Mitchell

6. Fargo Rock City by Chuck Klosterman

7. Chuck Klosterman IV : A Decade of Curious People and Dangerous Ideas by Chuck Palahniuk

8. Fun Home : A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

9. Black Swan Green by David Mitchell

10. Ghostwritten by David Mitchell

Not bad. There’s 26 weeks in six months. Divided by a book every two weeks, that would have been 13 books. So I’m three books away from my goal. I had a very busy Fall Quarter, so I’m not ashamed.

Summer Reading: Week 9

17 August 2006

Cloud Atlas

Well, it looks like I’m behind once again.

After finishing David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, I can’t help but hunger for more of his writing. Since I’ve read one of his two Man Booker Prize Finalists, I figured I’d better read the other. I’ll be starting Number9Dream tonight.

I don’t really know where to start with David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas. The book reminds me of an album. If each of the five narratives that make up Cloud Atlas were a track, or maybe a movement, then what we have is an expansive genre shifting album.

The first four narratives stop abruptly at a low point . Either you think a character has died, or they’re trapped somewhere. The main character in the following narrative either reads about, or watches video about the previous narrative. If you’ll allow me to shift into another analogy, by the time we get to the fifth, it’s as if we’re in the very center of a Russian nesting doll. After that fifth narrative finishes with out interruption, the end of each of the previous four narratives are lead into one after the next.

The center piece, “Sloosha’s Crossin’ an’ Ev’rythin’ After”, is about a primitive tribesman named Zach’ry living in Hawaii. Most of the world has died in “The Fall” and what’s left are mostly tribes of primitives such as Zach’ry and the last of a technologically advanced society. Meronym is a member of that society and she decides she wants to come and document Zach’ry’s tribe. Like the other narratives, Zach’ry’s deals in themes of slavery/social prejudice and injustice in a way that seems to suggest the inevitability of these problems, but also meditates on what we can do when we recognize them.

While exploring these themes, the book is always entertaining. Each narrative’s pastiche is as sharp as the next, though never failing to make the characters feel like living, breathing human beings. It is definitely the most interesting and unconventional read I’ve had all summer.

Summer Reading List:

1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

2. On Beauty by Zadie Smith

3. Black Hole by Charles Burns

4. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

5. Number9Dream by David Mitchell

I stayed up late and finished Charles Burns’ wonderfull graphic novel called Black Hole on Wednesday night. I may have been extremely drowsy yesterday, and yes, tired enough to act little weird Thursday evening, but it was totally worth it.

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(A cover from the Black Hole serials of which the graphic novel is composed of.)

Before I read most books, I check out some of the blurbs and customer reviews on amazon.com to get an idea of what the book is about. When I was looking at Black Hole, I caught this quote from Publishers Weekly:

The AIDS metaphor is obvious, but the bug also amplifies already existing teen emotions and the wrenching changes of puberty.

Amazon.com: Black Hole: Books: Charles Burns

Uh, what? Yes, Burns’ characters are carriers of an STD (that mutates their bodies), but outside of there being an STD and the lack of public understanding of its carriers, the “bug” in Black Hole bares little in common with AIDS or the HIV virus. The bug does not kill anyone, nor does it effect everyone the same. Some carriers suffer only mild mutations, while others begin to look much like monsters.

If you ask me, the “Bug” is more a metaphor for the pain, alienation and horror that comes with the being young and susceptible to feelings of love. I think for a lot of people, the experience of falling or feeling they might be in love so young can be an alienating experience. It is common with youth romance to feel like your parents and the adult community just don’t understand your feelings and behavior. The only way to really feel freedom is to escape with your love to a place alone or with your peers who are the only people who can really understand you. Along with this love often comes sex, which, for many people–as well as the characters in the book–results in a certain loss of innocence. Being a sexually active comes with a feeling of being in on what can be seen by youth as one of the biggest mysteries about adulthood. It is only when this, and another mystery I wont give away is solved that the characters are left to come into their own as adults faced with decisions about the future that only they can make.

I’m not really doing it a lot of justice here. This is really a great graphic novel, and I would recommend it to anyone who knows or wishes to remember (you old folks, you) what it is like to be young and in love.

Summer Reading List:

1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

2. On Beauty by Zadie Smith

3. Black Hole by Charles Burns

4. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

Now I’ve caught up with my goal of a book for every two weeks. Now I just have to find some books to add to my list.

Since there has been a lot of dead time in the writing center, and because a discussion of the Great American Novel on Christopher Lydon’s Open Source peaked my interest on a number of books, I’ve decided that I shall read one book for every two weeks of summer break. So far I’m a little behind.

I started with F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. Like Fitzgerald’s short Babylon Revisited, it deals a lot with characters dealing with relationships in the past; Jay Gatsby is obsessed with recapturing his past relationship with Daisy, while Charlie Wales is concerned with making up for the way his relationship with his wife ended. Both pieces capture the Modernist movement’s concern with finding a new construct to replace the individualist construct that had flourished during the roaring twenties only to be dashed by the Depression. Many looked to develop something new, while others like Fitzgerald looked back to older traditional values.

Next I started David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas. Just as I was starting to get into the diary of the narrator stopped, and a new narrator was introduced. At about the same time I had been reading Zadie Smith’s On Beauty and it began to get interesting. It was about 4 weeks into the summer break, and I’d only finished one book, so I decided to stick with it.

Smith’s book has wonderfully charming characters. Some how she found a way to bring me to identify with each character, from the fifty-something mother of three to the twenty-something African American spoken word writer. I felt like I inhabited their bodies in a way that was exhilarating and enlightening. While allowing her readers these experiences, Smith uses our understanding of these characters points of view to explore opposing positions. No opposing points of view are explored so much as the beliefs of liberals and conservatives. Smith’s characters offer persuasive and insightful observations of both, the best of which comes when a liberal character offers their recognition of the strengths of conservatism to her even more liberal husband. I’m not sure what to make of the books exploration of infidelity. I’ll have to think on that. It pains me to read of long loving marriages being destroyed by indiscretion. I will have to check out Smith’s White Teeth some time soon.

So now I have to finish Cloud Atlas, and I also picked up Charles Burn’s graphic novel Black Hole. It’s about a sexually transmitted plague for teens that wreaks havoc on suburban Seattle during the mid-70s. It’s gotten a lot of critical praise, and so I’m excited to read it. I’m going to try and read it this week. If I finish it in time, this will be the sixth week and I will have read three books. I’ll be back on schedule.

Summer Reading List:

  1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  2. On Beauty by Zadie Smith
  3. Black Hole by Charles Burns
  4. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell