What I’ve Been Reading, October 01 – 10

Hello, all. I’m back. Largely an emotional cripple — have grown a tendency to yell at objects zooming past, a soft spot for all things lint-y, sobs at the drop of a hat, too much talking to self. Well. I’m taking a stab at this blogging thing again. I need the structure, oddly enough. So. Here are the books I read while I was away:

  • The Anthologist, by Nicholson Baker.
  • The Believers, by Zoë Heller.
  • Room, by Emma Donoghue.
  • The Blue Stone, by Jimmy Liao.
  • Love in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

[I feel rather rusty at this thing. In a Ooh, what does this button do? kind of way. If you’re still here, I’d appreciate it if you’d, ah, bear with me. We’re shaking things up a little here in these parts. Not only because I feel rather broken right now — beyond heartache, I am essentially lazy.]


Kicked off the month with some Nicholson Baker. I wanted to read The Anthologist because I felt that it was  imperative that I read it, given it was sending off aggressive Sasha Book signals. And Yay for the trade paperback ed finally reaching this shores. And I loved the book. Everything about it, lovely. Especially the sensational and oh-so-helpful advice on writing, and life:

If you feel that you have a use, if you think your writing furthers life of truth in some way, then you keep writing. But if that feeling stops, you have to find something else to do. Or die, I guess.

Words to live by, haha. I love the narrator, Paul Chowder, his digressions, how charming and scatterbrained he is — how earnest, how loyal to his craft, and yet so terribly undisciplined. A poet tasked to write an introduction to an anthology of rhyming poetry! And it just cannot be done. At the risk of the detriment of his interpersonal skills, his safety, his financial situation, his personal hygiene — he has to write this introduction. But Chowder, oh Chowder.

It’s got this lighthearted tone, pretty deceptive. Mostly because when Chowder comes up with something awesome, you’re blown away. Like saying that poems are our “designated grievers,” or that poetry is “a controlled refinement of sobbing.” Sigh.

Loved it. The manifestos on life, the senseless rambling, the dread in this reader [wondering if he’ll actually get to finish this 40-page introduction]. I didn’t expect it to be such a fun, easy read. One full of heart. And the strangest poetry lessons ever.

I followed that bucket of Yum with a thick hardcover of ridiculously Eww characters. What is wrong with me? Especially considering that I have actually read The Believers before: A few months ago, I wrote, “It seems priggish to say that I liked this book intellectuallycerebrally.” Well. Which is to say that I absolutely loathed the characters, their inner lives, how they treated each other, how they treated themselves. Which is to say that I really do admire Heller for being so incredibly gutsy. The thing is, this time around, the hate got the better of me, and I was thinking, [as I’m supposed to, I guess], why the hell I was reading this book. Again. And still. Goodness, these are some of the most annoying people ever. I seriously want to reach in and hit them. I’m actually surprised that there’s very little physical violence in this story, given all these terrible people.

With the rereading, the questions: Isn’t this starting to look all too caricature-ish, how extreme these people are? And, considering that, isn’t this, essentially, such a pedestrian book?

When I finished reading it, I felt really guilty and dirty. Asking myself why I spent so much time with really terrible people. Huh. And I actually scribbled this: Now that I’m sure I really don’t like The Believers, I guess this makes me even less cool. Heh.

And then I got my salary. Which means I attacked a bookstore. Now, Room. Room. I pretty much ignored this year’s Booker Prize — I’ve never been the kind of reader to follow prizes religiously, and the blame’s partly due to, hell, can’t afford those books. And besides, I’m not interested in reading something for the sake of reading it. But, Room, I really wanted to read Room, and so an hour or two after I bought it, I read it, and then I spent the rest of the night reading it. It’s a surprisingly easy read, fast-paced. It was verra good and impressive while I was holding it in my hands. The logic within that 11×11 space, particular to Ma and our Jack’s circumstances, to five-year-old Jack’s mind. The manipulation of the language. The very premise of the book, actually.

But, well, although I did love it while I was reading it, it doesn’t quite reverberate post-read. Especially since its flaws were more visible to me, that they weren’t hazed over with the pacing, and Jack’s character. I’m too blargh at the moment to go into detail as to what I liked and what didn’t sit so well with me in the writing and in the story, but perhaps some other time? Maybe in another post I’ll share many many many spoilers just so I can senselessly prove a point about a book everyone has read every which way anyway? Maybe when I’m not giving y’all sass?

And then, well, I picked up Love in the Time of Cholera, which has been languishing in my bookshelves ever since I rushed out to buy it after falling in love with the movie version. It began, a joy: It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love. Ah, GeeGee Marquez. I take you for granted. I always think that I will love you when I read you, and when I actually sit down to do so, you prove so goshdarned difficult to read. Well. Maybe I shouldn’t blame it all on you. There were, after all, wakes to hold vigil in, and a funeral sun to march under. This book, so dense, so lush. But, really, so lovely. It became a chore at some point, but I trudged on, and I’m glad I did it. It is a lovely book. And now I have bragging rights. [Oh, and another factor of the trudging — this is a mass market paperback edition. I hate mass market paperbacks. I feel the weight of the world on my shoulders when I try to read a poorly bound book, trying not to crease the spine, grimacing at the cheap paper and the mussed fonts.]

Before I actually finished reading GeeGee up there, I read — and gasped and sniffled and smiled tremulously over — Jimmy Liao‘s The Blue Stone. I knew of Liao through a National Geographic documentary, methinks. I couldn’t find his The Sound of Colors, a book I’d long wanted to give my boyfriend, but I found this one slow day at a bookstore. I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t think twice, just bought it. And before I handed it over to my boyfriend, of course I had to read it. The story of a blue stone’s journey, his life, his longing for home — it was the most perfect book to read, at the most perfect time. It was just right. I needed to read something so simple, so heartfelt, something relevant, to boot. And I found it in Jimmy Liao. And I’m very very glad.


So. How are you all? Me, peeking out every so shyly from under the bed, and have shaken a piece of Cheetos or two off my hair.

 

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14 comments

  1. We missed you here, lovely. Terribly! I haven’t been having the greatest of months either, so I went ahead and bought myself some books. :)

  2. Sasha! Glad to hear you are feeling better! Interesting that you re-read The Believers while absent from the blogging world – I was just thinking about that book the other day wondering if it would stand up to a re-read (if not, then I’d probably get rid of my copy, as there’s not room to keep books I won’t read again). I really liked it a lot the first time round, but was beginning to suspect it wouldn’t hold the same appeal on a second reading.

    And of course I love the GeeGee, though I admit that 100 Years is still my clear favorite. But his writing! Sigh.

    1. I don’t know why I read Heller again. I think it was to put closure on a long-standing grudge, haha, given what a moral headache she gave me while I was reading her the first time. I know how much you loved this book, so I’m curious as to how things will go for you if you decide to reread it.

      And One Hundred Years of Solitude is hands-down a favorite. Strangely enough, I read that one quite smoothly — stayed up all night to finish, and all that.

  3. What a great blog you have here.

    I felt the same way when I read Love in the Time of Cholera. Reading through it became a struggle at one point but it was a lovely piece, nonetheless. :)

  4. Ah, I am glad to hear you are back. And feeling better [hopefully]. That is a very impressive list of books, I wish I had as many that I feel confident to brag about.

  5. Glad you’re back and on your way to feeling better.

    That is interesting to read about the Believers, which I own but haven’t read yet. I loved Notes on a Scandal- but none of the characters were likable either, maybe that’s just Heller’s thing? I am still interested in reading the Believers though. And Baker sounds great, really neat author I’m definitely going to check out. I managed to wrangle myself a review copy of Room so that’ll be read when I get a chance, good warning that it’s not so easy to put down. I actually think I may also own Love in a Time, but maybe not, I have heard fantastic things about the film- is there a version you perfer?

    I totally sympathize with the Mass Market Paperbacks. I’m cheap/poor/broke so I do end up with them on occasion but usually I borrow from the library instead to avoid it, eww scratchy paper.

    1. Enumerated answers, haha. 1] I think at a certain point, Heller prides herself on writing unconventionally deplorable characters. It got really annoying and unforgivably so, the second time around. 2] I’m so glad I read Baker. He was a surprise. It’s so lighthearted but earnest and charming and frustrating. Really fun novel, a great character at its center. 3] I read Room at a ridiculously fast rate — enjoyed it while I was reading it, but I’m afraid, personally, it’s not resonating after-read. 4] I actually ran out to get Love in the Time of Cholera after sobbing through the movie version! The mass market format’s unfortunate, because I have a feeling I’d have enjoyed this more I weren’t so stressed about it, haha. I like the book for its lushness, but the movie deserves all its praise for translating that lushness into something so beautiful and, well, watch-able.

  6. –>I always think that I will love you when I read you, and when I actually sit down to do so, you prove so goshdarned difficult to read.

    That sums up my relationship with GGM. I’m still not done with 100 Years of Solitude. I’ve accepted the fact that I might not even reach half of it (it’s safe to say I read a third of a third – sorry, my brain can’t do math right now). And the only GGM I actually finished is that thin book with the green cover – Chronicles of a Death Foretold – because it’s eh, short :)

    I passed up on getting Heller earlier in Book Sale but that’s due to the fact that I saw a Sedaris I’ve read but haven’t owned yet. Maybe that’s a good thing. I did enjoy her writing in Notes on a Scandal.

    1. I loved Solitude, and found it more fun to read than this one. But I’m keeping my mind open, now that I’ve discovered how much the book’s physicality affects my reading, haha. I read Chronicle for school, years ago, and I really really liked it.

  7. Jennifer · · Reply

    It’s good to see you up and about again!

  8. I’m glad you are back, and I’m here waving back, albeit late! I’m having a hard time getting around the blogosphere these days. At any rate, I just finished rereading 100 Years of Solitude and I think “Lush” is a perfect work for Garcia Marquez. I haven’t read the one you mention above, but I did read a different Garcia Marquez and I was disappointed – – hence my reread. I’m glad you liked Cholera. I may have to give him another try.

  9. […] The Anthologist, by Nicholson Baker. […]

  10. […] this doesn’t, for example, ring like the hollow captivity of Room — this is something far more disquieting and, thus, more sinister in its […]

  11. […] “[A]lthough I did love it while I was reading it, it doesn’t quite reverberate post-read. Especially since its flaws were more visible to me, that they weren’t hazed over with the pacing, and Jack’s character.” Sasha & The Silverfish […]

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