it feels like an eventful week:

01.  went to see nell zink with jonathan franzen on wednesday night, and, in his introduction to nell zink, franzen said something lovely, “writers know who they are and then it’s just a matter of the rest of us catching up.”  (this is not a word-for-word quote.)

02.  heard marilynne robinson on thursday, then again on friday and will be seeing her again on monday and wednesday.  yup.  more on her and gilead, home, and lila soon.  tidbits from her appearance at mcnally jackson on thursday (these are not necessarily word-for-word quotes):

-  robinson:  first person isn’t ideal for getting into a character.
galassi:  because it’s a performance?
robinson:  because people are so often wrong about themselves.

-  i tend to use sacramental expressions in my fiction as gestures of human care.  they’re essentially pointing to things that are essential to the human experience.

-  ”… the middle west, of which i knew nothing, except that you fly over it.”

-  people aren’t good at being honest with themselves, and societies aren’t either.

-  it’s rare to find anyone who’s actually read the old testament, but everyone knows what to think about the old testament.

03.  went to the hachette book club brunch today and felt very young and very asian.  loved the literary fiction panel — tidbits:

re:  beginnings
edan lepucki said she finds beginnings exciting because they come before you know all the problems.  the book seems perfect then.  joshua ferris said that the problem is that the beginning isn’t the beginning you’re writing — you throw out so much, and that’s also time you’re throwing out, which can feel anguishing, except you realize that it still all leads somewhere so it isn’t time wasted.

re:  likability
lepucki said that likability isn’t necessarily a question, and, apparently, she has an article coming up in the millions about likability because what is with people and “likability,” especially when it comes to female characters?  (okay the question bit might be coming more from me because i hate the whole “likability” crap.  no one makes a big deal about unlikable male characters, and i oftentimes feel that the female characters who are human and are displaying human traits and human vulnerability and basically just human humanity are written off as “unlikable.”)

re:  writing
she also said that, sometimes, writing can feel so awful that it’s better to think of writing as a gift you’re giving someone.  like an act of generosity.  i loved that because, ohhhh, writing can feel so awful sometimes, and that’s a lovely perspective.

re:  writers not reading when writing
susan choi and meg wolitzer talked about this at the paperback launch of the interestings, too, and i can’t seem to find the notes i took that night (i thought i typed them up on evernote, but i guess not?) — but wolitzer said that she isn’t afraid of her writing being derivative or being influenced, which is the reason some writers give for not reading while writing.  i don’t personally subscribe to that because i tend to think (pretty strongly) that all writers should be reading.  i loved how lepucki put it, “reading voraciously makes me feel human,” which comes around to feed the writing.

re:  edits/criticism
ferris said he approaches them in good faith, that everyone (his editor, his wife, &c) are working in good faith and wanting the best for a book.  

(but i suppose the big thing that made this a big week is that i sent my manuscript to my reader last night, and she’s being so incredibly generous and awesome and reading it over the weekend and skyping me notes tomorrow.  T_T  there’s still quite a bit of work to do on these stories, but they’re shaping up nicely, in good enough shape that i finally think they’d benefit from a fresh set of eyes!  my book baby is getting there!)

mmm september was a dry reading month.  pretty good writing month, though, so there’s balance there.
forty-three.  acceptance, jeff vandermeer.

the world we are part of now is difficult to accept, unimaginably difficult.  i don’t know if i can accept everything even now.  i don’t know how i can.  but acceptance moves past denial, and maybe there’s defiance in that, too.  (338)

i blogged about the whole trilogy here.
acceptance is my favourite of the trilogy.  i love the different voices, and i particularly enjoyed the parts with the lighthouse keeper and with the director, both of whom turned out to be two of my favourite characters from the trilogy.  acceptance is the creepiest book, too, as we find out more about the characters and area x before it became area x, and i appreciate that vandermeer closes the southern reach trilogy without giving us a list of answers and explanations.  the southern reach trilogy basically avoided all the trappings of trilogies i dislike (convenient a-ha! moments, coincidences, heavy exposition, dragged-out stories to fill pages, heavy-handed explication), and acceptance ended on a very fulfilling high note that also left you thinking that these characters would keep on going even though the pages were over.
i had an awesome time reading these books.  and i can’t wait to go back and read them again, this time all the way through in one go.  that’ll be a whole new reading experience, and i wonder what more i’ll pick up then!
forty-four.  the children act, ian mcewan.

in moments of disillusion with due process, she only needed to summon the case of martha longman and runcie’s lapse to confirm a passing sense that the law, however much fiona loved it, was at its worst not an ass but a snake, a poisonous snake.  (55)

when i think of ian mcewan now, i think of gary shteyngart.  in his book trailer for super sad true love story, he’s teaching a seminar at columbia called “how to behave at a paris review party,” and he teaches his students the “proper” way to say “i do so much prefer early ian mcewan to late ian mcewan.”  which made me laugh out loud because that’s exactly what i’ve been saying …
because it’s true!  i do prefer early ian mcewan!  i miss that eeriness and grittiness of his older books, the feeling of something sinister and dark lurking underneath everything, and both solar and sweet tooth lacked that subversion that mcewan does so well.  i was hoping that the children act would bring some of that back, and, you know, i think i was more disappointed by the children act because it almost did — there’s a great twist roughly halfway in, but mcewan doesn’t delve that deeply into it and kind of just drops it instead.  pity, because it made me sit up and start reading with keen interest after slogging through the first half.
forty-five.  sweetness #9, stephan eirik clark.

i suppose i could have answered her by speaking of sweetness #9 and my experiences with it.  if the nine had been deemed safe for public consumption, after all, what did it matter if the medicine they wanted to give our son had also been approved for use?  but none of that came to me in the moment.  my answer was far simpler, even reflexive.  “we always want better for our kids,” i said.  “don’t we?”  (260)

this book is beautifully designed — i love the rich blue of the cover and the bright pink of the book boards (is that what they’re called), and the lettering is wonderfully done, perfectly fitting the theme of the book, which is this artificial sweetener — sweetness #9.
that said.
i so wanted to love this book.  i was excited for it when it was published because (01) it’s a beaut of a book and (02) the premise is fascinating and (03) the story is set up to make interesting comments to contemporary food culture.  basically, all the potential was there, but, unfortunately, the book never got there.  the writing is good, and i did enjoy the narrative voice, but the story never takes off — essentially, nothing happens.  there are no stakes.  or that’s not true — there are stakes; they just don’t feel like stakes because there’s no urgency or nervousness or tension.  the narrator himself doesn’t really seem to care, like he’s only reacting in surface ways, so i couldn’t get invested in his struggles or worries or concerns, either. 
on page 244 (the book is 336 pages), i wrote, “i wish clark would dig deeper into the tension and anxiety, like really get into the narrator’s head and his uneasiness/guilt.  i feel like clark’s just showing things instead of going deeper so we can be down in his growing panic with him instead of merely observing.”  i was honestly considering dropping the book then, but, for some reason, i pushed through those last hundred pages, hoping it would pick up, but it didn’t.  and the ending was so lackluster and a little ridiculous and tied things together so neatly, i was simply relieved to have finished the book so i can put it away and take it out to admire its prettiness every once in a while. 
—
currently reading gilead (which i’m loving) and planning to finish that and home before lila is published on tuesday!

mmm september was a dry reading month.  pretty good writing month, though, so there’s balance there.

forty-three.  acceptance, jeff vandermeer.

the world we are part of now is difficult to accept, unimaginably difficult.  i don’t know if i can accept everything even now.  i don’t know how i can.  but acceptance moves past denial, and maybe there’s defiance in that, too.  (338)

i blogged about the whole trilogy here.

acceptance is my favourite of the trilogy.  i love the different voices, and i particularly enjoyed the parts with the lighthouse keeper and with the director, both of whom turned out to be two of my favourite characters from the trilogy.  acceptance is the creepiest book, too, as we find out more about the characters and area x before it became area x, and i appreciate that vandermeer closes the southern reach trilogy without giving us a list of answers and explanations.  the southern reach trilogy basically avoided all the trappings of trilogies i dislike (convenient a-ha! moments, coincidences, heavy exposition, dragged-out stories to fill pages, heavy-handed explication), and acceptance ended on a very fulfilling high note that also left you thinking that these characters would keep on going even though the pages were over.

i had an awesome time reading these books.  and i can’t wait to go back and read them again, this time all the way through in one go.  that’ll be a whole new reading experience, and i wonder what more i’ll pick up then!

forty-four.  the children act, ian mcewan.

in moments of disillusion with due process, she only needed to summon the case of martha longman and runcie’s lapse to confirm a passing sense that the law, however much fiona loved it, was at its worst not an ass but a snake, a poisonous snake.  (55)

when i think of ian mcewan now, i think of gary shteyngart.  in his book trailer for super sad true love story, he’s teaching a seminar at columbia called “how to behave at a paris review party,” and he teaches his students the “proper” way to say “i do so much prefer early ian mcewan to late ian mcewan.”  which made me laugh out loud because that’s exactly what i’ve been saying …

because it’s true!  i do prefer early ian mcewan!  i miss that eeriness and grittiness of his older books, the feeling of something sinister and dark lurking underneath everything, and both solar and sweet tooth lacked that subversion that mcewan does so well.  i was hoping that the children act would bring some of that back, and, you know, i think i was more disappointed by the children act because it almost did — there’s a great twist roughly halfway in, but mcewan doesn’t delve that deeply into it and kind of just drops it instead.  pity, because it made me sit up and start reading with keen interest after slogging through the first half.

forty-five.  sweetness #9, stephan eirik clark.

i suppose i could have answered her by speaking of sweetness #9 and my experiences with it.  if the nine had been deemed safe for public consumption, after all, what did it matter if the medicine they wanted to give our son had also been approved for use?  but none of that came to me in the moment.  my answer was far simpler, even reflexive.  “we always want better for our kids,” i said.  “don’t we?”  (260)

this book is beautifully designed — i love the rich blue of the cover and the bright pink of the book boards (is that what they’re called), and the lettering is wonderfully done, perfectly fitting the theme of the book, which is this artificial sweetener — sweetness #9.

that said.

i so wanted to love this book.  i was excited for it when it was published because (01) it’s a beaut of a book and (02) the premise is fascinating and (03) the story is set up to make interesting comments to contemporary food culture.  basically, all the potential was there, but, unfortunately, the book never got there.  the writing is good, and i did enjoy the narrative voice, but the story never takes off — essentially, nothing happens.  there are no stakes.  or that’s not true — there are stakes; they just don’t feel like stakes because there’s no urgency or nervousness or tension.  the narrator himself doesn’t really seem to care, like he’s only reacting in surface ways, so i couldn’t get invested in his struggles or worries or concerns, either. 

on page 244 (the book is 336 pages), i wrote, “i wish clark would dig deeper into the tension and anxiety, like really get into the narrator’s head and his uneasiness/guilt.  i feel like clark’s just showing things instead of going deeper so we can be down in his growing panic with him instead of merely observing.”  i was honestly considering dropping the book then, but, for some reason, i pushed through those last hundred pages, hoping it would pick up, but it didn’t.  and the ending was so lackluster and a little ridiculous and tied things together so neatly, i was simply relieved to have finished the book so i can put it away and take it out to admire its prettiness every once in a while. 

currently reading gilead (which i’m loving) and planning to finish that and home before lila is published on tuesday!

Well, see and see but do not perceive, hear and hear but do not understand, as the Lord says. I can’t claim to understand that saying, as many times as I’ve heard it, and even preached on it. It simply states a deeply mysterious fact. You can know a thing to death and be for all purposes completely ignorant of it. A man can know his father, or his son, and there might still be nothing between them by loyalty and love and mutual incomprehension.

My point in mentioning this is only to say that people who feel any sort of regret where you are concerned will suppose you are angry, and they will see anger in what you do, even if you’re just quietly going about a life of your own choosing. They make you doubt yourself, which, depending on cases, can be a severe distraction and a waste of time. This is a thing I wish I had understood much earlier than I did. Just to reflect on it makes me a little irritated. Irritation is a form of anger, I recognize that.

Marilynne Robinson, Gilead

brooklyn book festival was today!  it’s definitely one of the events i look forward to all year because it’s stuffed full with awesome publishers and authors and panels, and i always have a great time, and this year was no exception.
one.  chip kidd (knopf) and helen yentus (riverhead)!  both art directors, both incredible designers — originally, when the program first came out for bkbf, peter mendelsund was also on the list of panelists, but he was edited out later *sadface* — i could listen to book designers sit and talk about book design for hours.  days even.  i did not know that helen yentus designed those fab covers for camus’ list; the one for the fall is particularly ingenious.
two.  i found waldo!
three.  jeff vandermeer!!!  and lev grossman and deji olukotun!  (though i confess i was mainly there for vandermeer …)  when asked about the trilogy format, vandermeer said that he tried to keep in mind all the things he doesn’t like about trilogies.  like, for instance, when characters have those aha! moments in the third books to wrap things up.  and, when a woman asked a question (very frustratedly, i might add) about what she’s supposed to do with the usual advice of “write what you know,” as part of his response, he said, “you can know a lot about something but not know how to write it.”  (these are very loose “quotes.”  i can only whip out my iphone, put in my passcode, and pull up evernote so fast.)  (i used to be analogue with my note-taking at events, but that never really worked because my handwriting is such shit …)
and, when asked what was next for them, grossman said he needed to get out of the magicians because he’s been immersed in that world for ten years, olukotun said he was working on a next book, and vandermeer said, “cryogenic sleep.”
four.  ROXANE GAY.  can i just sit here and type up quotes (or “quotes”) of awesome things she said?  ok.
one of the things about modern discourse is that it’s like people are shouting at each other more often (or instead of) hearing or listening.
in response to anna holmes admitting she doesn’t really feel much towards beyonce, “have you seen her body???”
if your child’s only role model is beyonce, then you’re a bad parent.  you shouldn’t have a single role model but many.
we have to stop being so desperate to attach the label “role model” on any popular person.  we should be looking more at the people on the ground.
it takes some audacity as a woman and as a person of color to believe that your voice matters and that you aren’t just taking up unnecessary space.
(she also talked about ina garten and how she plans her teaching schedule so she’s free to watch ina garten’s show from 4-5 p.m. everyday.)
(she loves teaching.  it inspires her to keep taking risks because, if her students are putting their vulnerabilities on the page, then she should be, too.  teaching also keeps her on top of current fiction and non-fiction.)
(her recommendations to a ten-year-old who wants to be a writer:  believe in yourself, that your voice matters.  write everyday [if you can].  read.  read above your age [if your parents are okay with it].  read outside your comfort zone.  read everything.  keep writing.)
(the thing that depresses [distresses?] her most about the current world is the continued prevalence of sexual violence against women.  it’s unthinkable that we live in a world where boys are going to college still not knowing what rape is.)
even though i have low self-esteem, i still believe in myself.  and even if i don’t, i have a support system of people who do.
roxane gay is awesome.  bad feminist is awesome, too.  idk what you’re doing if you haven’t picked it up and started reading it yet.
five.  why, yes, it is always croissant weather.  even when it’s disgustingly humid.  like today was.
six. i always come back from the brooklyn book festival lighter in monetary funds but richer in tote bags, publications, and books.  though this is a lighter haul pubs/books-wise than previous years’ … i didn’t pay for any of the tote bags, though!  harperperennial and penguin were both giving away tote bags (with a minimum purchase), and the london review gave away tote bags if you signed up for their email newsletter, and the writer’s foundry just gave ‘em away for free!  :D
(i also bought mangoes.  because i love mangoes.)
and, with that, good night!

brooklyn book festival was today!  it’s definitely one of the events i look forward to all year because it’s stuffed full with awesome publishers and authors and panels, and i always have a great time, and this year was no exception.

one.  chip kidd (knopf) and helen yentus (riverhead)!  both art directors, both incredible designers — originally, when the program first came out for bkbf, peter mendelsund was also on the list of panelists, but he was edited out later *sadface* — i could listen to book designers sit and talk about book design for hours.  days even.  i did not know that helen yentus designed those fab covers for camus’ list; the one for the fall is particularly ingenious.

two.  i found waldo!

three.  jeff vandermeer!!!  and lev grossman and deji olukotun!  (though i confess i was mainly there for vandermeer …)  when asked about the trilogy format, vandermeer said that he tried to keep in mind all the things he doesn’t like about trilogies.  like, for instance, when characters have those aha! moments in the third books to wrap things up.  and, when a woman asked a question (very frustratedly, i might add) about what she’s supposed to do with the usual advice of “write what you know,” as part of his response, he said, “you can know a lot about something but not know how to write it.”  (these are very loose “quotes.”  i can only whip out my iphone, put in my passcode, and pull up evernote so fast.)  (i used to be analogue with my note-taking at events, but that never really worked because my handwriting is such shit …)

and, when asked what was next for them, grossman said he needed to get out of the magicians because he’s been immersed in that world for ten years, olukotun said he was working on a next book, and vandermeer said, “cryogenic sleep.”

four.  ROXANE GAY.  can i just sit here and type up quotes (or “quotes”) of awesome things she said?  ok.

  • one of the things about modern discourse is that it’s like people are shouting at each other more often (or instead of) hearing or listening.
  • in response to anna holmes admitting she doesn’t really feel much towards beyonce, “have you seen her body???”
  • if your child’s only role model is beyonce, then you’re a bad parent.  you shouldn’t have a single role model but many.
  • we have to stop being so desperate to attach the label “role model” on any popular person.  we should be looking more at the people on the ground.
  • it takes some audacity as a woman and as a person of color to believe that your voice matters and that you aren’t just taking up unnecessary space.
  • (she also talked about ina garten and how she plans her teaching schedule so she’s free to watch ina garten’s show from 4-5 p.m. everyday.)
  • (she loves teaching.  it inspires her to keep taking risks because, if her students are putting their vulnerabilities on the page, then she should be, too.  teaching also keeps her on top of current fiction and non-fiction.)
  • (her recommendations to a ten-year-old who wants to be a writer:  believe in yourself, that your voice matters.  write everyday [if you can].  read.  read above your age [if your parents are okay with it].  read outside your comfort zone.  read everything.  keep writing.)
  • (the thing that depresses [distresses?] her most about the current world is the continued prevalence of sexual violence against women.  it’s unthinkable that we live in a world where boys are going to college still not knowing what rape is.)
  • even though i have low self-esteem, i still believe in myself.  and even if i don’t, i have a support system of people who do.

roxane gay is awesome.  bad feminist is awesome, too.  idk what you’re doing if you haven’t picked it up and started reading it yet.

five.  why, yes, it is always croissant weather.  even when it’s disgustingly humid.  like today was.

six. i always come back from the brooklyn book festival lighter in monetary funds but richer in tote bags, publications, and books.  though this is a lighter haul pubs/books-wise than previous years’ … i didn’t pay for any of the tote bags, though!  harperperennial and penguin were both giving away tote bags (with a minimum purchase), and the london review gave away tote bags if you signed up for their email newsletter, and the writer’s foundry just gave ‘em away for free!  :D

(i also bought mangoes.  because i love mangoes.)

and, with that, good night!

disappointments:

01.  when you buy a jar of pickles only to open it and discover that they aren’t crisp with that satisfying salty-vinegary taste you wanted.

02.  when you get a meatball hero and the meatballs are soft and bland instead of hearty and meaty.  and when the meatballs are so big as to be unmanageable, thus also throwing off the proper ratio of meatballs to cheese and sauce.  (the best meatball sub i’ve had is still from north beach, san francisco.)  (as well as the best focaccia.)  (i miss san francisco; it’s been a while since i’ve been.)

03.  when you pick up a book you were excited for but it’s like the author’s only telling you a series of events and happenings instead of digging into the wonderful tension and conflict and anxiety that’s sitting right there for the taking.  the novel (as a narrative form) lets you burrow into people’s heads and delve into the overwrought neuroses all people have in their own unique ways, so it’s quite disappointing when there are these delicious treasure troves of [what is essentially] panic just waiting to be exploited, only to go unexplored and altogether avoided.  sigh.  i’d rather hate a book than be disappointed by it.

i dreamt that i’d found yellow watermelon three times in august.  THREE TIMES.  that’s how badly i wanted yellow watermelon.

then, today, i was on my way to get lunch with a friend in the east village when i happened upon a tiny greenmarket, and, lo and behold, there was yellow watermelon.

which then meant that i hauled 11.59 pounds of yellow watermelon to lunch then to coffee then all the way back home to park slope.

but it was worth it.

especially because i picked a good one.  >:3

jeff vandermeer’s the southern reach trilogy:  i’m sad this is over because now i won’t be able to experience area x and its mysteries for the first time again.  however, i’m sure there are lots of details and connections i missed and that there’s still a lot to discover, so i’m excited to reread these books, now that all three have been published!
this trilogy was loads of fun to read — fun and c r e e p y in all the right ways.  the easy comparison is to say that it reminds me of lost, just … done well all the way through to the end, with a concept that didn’t run away with vandermeer or stifle the narrative or the characters.  vandermeer had an excellent handle on the story from the beginning all the way through, but not in a way that felt overworked or too controlling — the effort isn’t on the page in the trilogy, and that, i think, says a lot.
one of the things i loved about the trilogy is how there isn’t really a hero, at least not in any traditional i-will-save-the-world-and-solve-these-mysteries way.  there’s also no sense of a required salvation or redemption — vandermeer isn’t interested in “saving” anyone, which i appreciated, much like i appreciated that vandermeer isn’t obsessed with the “why” behind things, more just observing and presenting things as they are.  all the characters are flawed and isolated in their own ways, some (like the biologist) seeking actual physical isolation, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t somehow connected, that their actions don’t impact the greater world around them.  i also loved the obscuring of names and identities (“control,” “ghost bird”) and even the reducing characters to their functions (“the biologist,” “the psychologist,” “the director”), how these reductions become obfuscations and secrets and masks that reinforce isolation and loneliness but don’t lessen the reverberations of individual actions on other’s lives.
throughout the trilogy, vandermeer also does a fantastic job of giving just enough information and being just oblique enough, of striking that balance and supporting it with this wonderful tension that isn’t gimmicky or try-hard or artificial.  the entire trilogy is infused in this mood of unease and creepiness that makes the southern reach such a fun, engrossing read that’s also frustrating because there’s so much we don’t know.
vandermeer isn’t stingy with answers or narrative/emotional payoffs, though, peeling layers away gradually (sometimes, while raising more questions).  we might not know everything by the end of acceptance, but we know enough with room to continue wondering and pondering, and the characters are delivered to the ends of their arcs in very satisfying ways.  i can honestly say that i loved the ending — the last ten pages or so of acceptance are fantastically done — and i closed the book with a sigh, sad to leave this world and these characters behind, to have no more of the southern reach to look forward to, but very satisfied with the adventure and its close.
(also:  i read a review that said that it was gimmicky of FSG to release this as a trilogy over a year, but, honestly, i thought that was fantastic.  the trilogy is a cohesive narrative, yes, but i think the southern reach is very much a trilogy that should have been told in three books, not only because of the different narrative voices [another thing i loved], but also because of the way vandermeer reveals the story.  he was ingenious in the way he used the structure of the trilogy, and FSG did a great job with it, what with the beautiful cover art and design and with the staggered releases in the same calendar year.)
(also:  i wrote this up at 2 am while listening to the soundtrack to the village [haven’t seen the movie but the soundtrack is fantastic], and now i am totally creeped out.)

jeff vandermeer’s the southern reach trilogy:  i’m sad this is over because now i won’t be able to experience area x and its mysteries for the first time again.  however, i’m sure there are lots of details and connections i missed and that there’s still a lot to discover, so i’m excited to reread these books, now that all three have been published!

this trilogy was loads of fun to read — fun and c r e e p y in all the right ways.  the easy comparison is to say that it reminds me of lost, just … done well all the way through to the end, with a concept that didn’t run away with vandermeer or stifle the narrative or the characters.  vandermeer had an excellent handle on the story from the beginning all the way through, but not in a way that felt overworked or too controlling — the effort isn’t on the page in the trilogy, and that, i think, says a lot.

one of the things i loved about the trilogy is how there isn’t really a hero, at least not in any traditional i-will-save-the-world-and-solve-these-mysteries way.  there’s also no sense of a required salvation or redemption — vandermeer isn’t interested in “saving” anyone, which i appreciated, much like i appreciated that vandermeer isn’t obsessed with the “why” behind things, more just observing and presenting things as they are.  all the characters are flawed and isolated in their own ways, some (like the biologist) seeking actual physical isolation, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t somehow connected, that their actions don’t impact the greater world around them.  i also loved the obscuring of names and identities (“control,” “ghost bird”) and even the reducing characters to their functions (“the biologist,” “the psychologist,” “the director”), how these reductions become obfuscations and secrets and masks that reinforce isolation and loneliness but don’t lessen the reverberations of individual actions on other’s lives.

throughout the trilogy, vandermeer also does a fantastic job of giving just enough information and being just oblique enough, of striking that balance and supporting it with this wonderful tension that isn’t gimmicky or try-hard or artificial.  the entire trilogy is infused in this mood of unease and creepiness that makes the southern reach such a fun, engrossing read that’s also frustrating because there’s so much we don’t know.

vandermeer isn’t stingy with answers or narrative/emotional payoffs, though, peeling layers away gradually (sometimes, while raising more questions).  we might not know everything by the end of acceptance, but we know enough with room to continue wondering and pondering, and the characters are delivered to the ends of their arcs in very satisfying ways.  i can honestly say that i loved the ending — the last ten pages or so of acceptance are fantastically done — and i closed the book with a sigh, sad to leave this world and these characters behind, to have no more of the southern reach to look forward to, but very satisfied with the adventure and its close.

(also:  i read a review that said that it was gimmicky of FSG to release this as a trilogy over a year, but, honestly, i thought that was fantastic.  the trilogy is a cohesive narrative, yes, but i think the southern reach is very much a trilogy that should have been told in three books, not only because of the different narrative voices [another thing i loved], but also because of the way vandermeer reveals the story.  he was ingenious in the way he used the structure of the trilogy, and FSG did a great job with it, what with the beautiful cover art and design and with the staggered releases in the same calendar year.)

(also:  i wrote this up at 2 am while listening to the soundtrack to the village [haven’t seen the movie but the soundtrack is fantastic], and now i am totally creeped out.)

okay, i read a lot in august, so i will keep these as brief as possible …!
thirty-two.  cover, peter mendelsund.

(we are all, in fact, not that which we hope to be, but rather that which we actually do.)

SIGH.  this book is soooo beautiful.  i mean, it’s a collection of covers mendelsund’s designed over the last nine years, and i was pretty much salivating as i made my way through this, poring over the pages carefully and reading everything thoughtfully.  it was a wonderful experience, and i’m glad to have this on my shelves.
thirty-three.  without you, there is no us, suki kim.

was this really conscionable?  awakening my students to what was not in the regime’s program could mean death for them and those they loved.  if they were to wake up and realize that the outside world was in fact not crumbling, that it was their country that was in danger of collapse, and that everything they had been taught about the great leader was bogus, would that make them happier?  how would they live from that point on?  awakening was a luxury available only to those in the free world.  (70)

this book fucking broke my heart.
there’s actually a lot i want to say about this book, so i’m just going to leave this here and come back to it later.  i’m planning to reread it again soon, so i will come back to it.
(this is being published by random house on october 14, 2014, and i highly, highly recommend it.)
thirty-four.  the birth of korean cool, euny hong.

“i still don’t think korean food is fine dining,” he [hooni kim] said, which made me raise my eyebrows.  “the best food in france is cooked by the three-star michelin chefs.”  by contrast, “i think the best food in korea is cooked by the mothers and grandmothers.  there is a history of restaurants in certain countries.  korea doesn’t have that.  korean dining food history is jumak — home-cooking, casual street food, market food.”
[…]
“looking, hearing is one thing.  tasting, touching is another.  smelling and tasting is the heart and soul of what korea is.  as much as pop culture wants to globalize, food is the best way for koreans to share their soul and culture.”  (88-9)

i liked this book, and i didn’t.  it was informative in certain ways (i give hong massive props for explaining han), but it was also pretty shallow — i wanted hong to go deeper and provide more analysis (i suppose).  i did deeply appreciate her insight into how heavily the korean government is invested in its culture as an export product, though, and hong also did a great job at providing context and historical background throughout the book.  she also has this wonderful dry, sarcastic humor that made me laugh out loud from time-to-time, too.
in the end, though, i have to admit that i wasn’t convinced of hong’s argument for korean “cool.”  maybe i’ll come back to this, maybe i won’t — we’ll see.
(the above quote made me smile.  it reminds me of a brief post i wrote earlier this year about the korean way of eating, which i think is unique and wonderful and encompasses so much of korean culture.  i absolutely love the korean way of eating.)
thirty-five.  colorless tsukuru tazaki and his years of pilgrimage, haruki murakami.

and in that moment, he was finally able to accept it all.  in the deepest recesses of his soul, tsukuru tazaki understood.  one heart is not connected to another through harmony alone.  they are, instead, linked deeply through their wounds.  pain linked to pain, fragility to fragility.  there is no silence without a cry of grief, no forgiveness without bloodshed, no acceptance without a passage through acute loss.  that is what lies at the root of true harmony.  (322)

this is the most grounded, solid, earthly novel written by murakami, i thought as i read colorless tsukuru tazaki.  i kept waiting for the surreal elements to come heavily into play, but they didn’t, not in a very prominent way at least, and i have to admit — i loved how solid this novel felt.
at the same time, though, tsukuru tazaki is still a very murakami novel.  tsukuru himself is very much a murakami main character, and he’s stuck in that place of isolation and confusion that causes him to depart on a journey to seek answers and discovery, like most murakami main characters.  there’s something very bittersweet about tsukuru’s discovery, though, and the ending felt very open but appropriately so — i think that, if murakami had gone about trying to give us hard closure, it would have felt forced and rather self-gratifying.
i enjoyed this a lot, more than i thought i would to be honest, although i had no idea what to expect as i went into this.  i didn’t even read the excerpt that was published pre-publication or any blurbs about it, and i enjoyed going in totally blind.  i’ve read a few comments elsewhere about colorless tsukuru tazaki being a good introduction to murakami, and i would agree with that.
thirty-six.  mr. penumbra’s 24-hour bookstore, robin sloan.

kat gushes about google’s projects, all revealed to her now.  they are making a 3-D web browser.  they are making a car that drives itself.  they are making a sushi search engine — here she pokes a chopstick down at our dinner — to help people find fish that is sustainable and mercury-free.  they are building a time machine.  they are developing a form of renewable energy that runs on hubris.  (209)

this was SO much fun to read.  the narrator’s voice is truly unique, and i love how sloan drew in “real life” things like google and integrated them fully into his world.  it’s a fun, amusing adventure tale that integrates technology in a very natural way, and you meet interesting characters along the way — and i don’t know what else to say!  it was tons of fun, and i just had a really good time reading it, which doesn’t actually happen very often.  like, i enjoy reading (obviously), but reading mr. penumbra’s 24-hour bookstore was pure fun.  there’s no other way for me to put it.
also, the cover glows in the dark, and the book is beautifully designed (great font), so everything about this book is pure win.
thirty-seven.  ajax penumbra 1969, robin sloan.

“the measure of a bookstore is not its receipts, but its friends,” he says, “and here, we are rich indeed.”  penumbra sees corvina clench his jaw just slightly; he gets the sense that mo’s clerk wishes they had some receipts, too.  (22)

read this immediately upon finishing mr. penumbra’s 24-hour bookstore and thought it to be a lovely companion piece.  (:
thirty-eight.  us v. apple, judge denise cote.
ok, yes, i know this isn’t actually a book, but it’s 160 fucking pages, and i read the whole damn thing, so this counts — IT COUNTS.
objectively, this is a well-written brief (and i never think attorneys are good writers).  it’s cohesively laid out, and judge cote does a great job at presenting the facts in the appropriate slant (as we are taught in legal writing).  she even lays out the legal standard step-by-step, and it’s all very clearly written, so i give her credit for that.  and it was more fun than i thought it would be because judge cote definitely has a flair for the melodramatic, which i found hilarious.  she should write legal thrillers.  and publish them with amazon.
that said, i’m not really going to write much else about this, other than it read very much like a forgone conclusion.
thirty-nine.  men explain things to me, rebecca solnit.

we have an abundance of rape and violence against women in this country and on this earth, though it’s almost never treated as a civil rights or human rights issue, or a crisis, or even a pattern.  violence doesn’t have a race, a class, a religion, or a nationality, but it does have a gender.  (“the longest war,” 21)

read this on the plane back to new york, felt myself sick to my stomach because this is the current state of the world, where there is so much violence against woman that is written off and diminished and, via indifference or silence or willful ignorance, condoned.  this book of essays isn’t all about violence against women, but it is about women.  and it’s a great, necessary collection — slim but bursting with truth, both horrifying and hopeful.  recommended.
forty.  never let me go, kazuo ishiguro.

“how could i have tried?” ruth’s voice was hardly audible.  “it’s just something i once dreamt about.  that’s all.”  (226)

this is one of those reads where i just want to note that i’ve read never let me go again but refrain from commentary.
(also the covers for the buried giant are out, and … sigh.  i’m not keen on either the US or the UK covers.  though that in no way diminishes my excitement for it.) 
forty-one.  jane eyre, charlotte brontë.

“i don’t think, sir, you have a right to command me, merely because you are older than i, or because you have seen more of the world than i have — your claim to superiority depends on the use you have made of your time and experience.”  (230)

read this mostly on my iPhone because, over the last few months, jane eyre has been my go-to omg-when-is-the-bloody-G-train-coming book.  i enjoyed the slow-burn read, though, and i’ve read jane eyre enough times that i could step away from it for days (or even weeks) and pick it up without having to re-situate myself.
jane eyre is that book from my childhood that made me fall in love with literature, so i will always hold it close to my heart.
forty-two.  rebecca, daphne du maurier.


it seemed incredible to me now that i had never understood.  i wondered how many people there were in the world who suffered, and continued to suffer, because they could not break out from their own web of shyness and reserve, and in their blindness and folly built up a great distorted wall in front of them that hid the truth.  this was what i had done.  i had built up false pictures in my mind and sat before them.  i had never had the courage to demand the truth.  (263)

i finished jane eyre on my flight to nyc and decided that i had to read rebecca again because, you know, one gothic novel about a young girl and an older man naturally makes you want to read another gothic novel about a young girl and an older man.
du maurier does such an exquisite job of getting inside the narrator’s head.  i laughed out loud at quite a few parts over how her imagination runs away with her, as she gets lost in these fantasies and imagined scenarios, and they’re funny because they’re so dramatic and so symptomatic of the young, lonely, isolated mind.  i love the world du maurier creates, too, the enchantment that is manderley with its specter of rebecca hanging over everything — it’s so rich and lush and almost otherworldly, set apart on its corner on the coast.

it was interesting rereading this because i knew what would happen.  i knew the truth about rebecca, and i knew to anticipate certain scenes, so it colored the reading experience in a different way, which i found enjoyable.  that’s one of the fun things about rereading books, isn’t it — going back to it and seeing how you’ve changed and, consequently, how the book has changed, too, because the best books are those that reflect us back to us after all, aren’t they?
—
currently reading acceptance — taking my time with it because it’s the last book in the southern reach trilogy.  it is SO GOOD, though, and i’m loving it and looking forward to reading the whole trilogy again to see what i’ve missed.  also reading sweetness #9 and your face in mine and just picked up a tale for the time being, green girl, and a short history of women.
and mcewan’s new novel comes out on tuesday.
gah, there’s so much to read!!!  and i am so sorry that this is so long … T_T

okay, i read a lot in august, so i will keep these as brief as possible …!

thirty-two.  cover, peter mendelsund.

(we are all, in fact, not that which we hope to be, but rather that which we actually do.)

SIGH.  this book is soooo beautiful.  i mean, it’s a collection of covers mendelsund’s designed over the last nine years, and i was pretty much salivating as i made my way through this, poring over the pages carefully and reading everything thoughtfully.  it was a wonderful experience, and i’m glad to have this on my shelves.

thirty-three.  without you, there is no us, suki kim.

was this really conscionable?  awakening my students to what was not in the regime’s program could mean death for them and those they loved.  if they were to wake up and realize that the outside world was in fact not crumbling, that it was their country that was in danger of collapse, and that everything they had been taught about the great leader was bogus, would that make them happier?  how would they live from that point on?  awakening was a luxury available only to those in the free world.  (70)

this book fucking broke my heart.

there’s actually a lot i want to say about this book, so i’m just going to leave this here and come back to it later.  i’m planning to reread it again soon, so i will come back to it.

(this is being published by random house on october 14, 2014, and i highly, highly recommend it.)

thirty-four.  the birth of korean cool, euny hong.

“i still don’t think korean food is fine dining,” he [hooni kim] said, which made me raise my eyebrows.  “the best food in france is cooked by the three-star michelin chefs.”  by contrast, “i think the best food in korea is cooked by the mothers and grandmothers.  there is a history of restaurants in certain countries.  korea doesn’t have that.  korean dining food history is jumak — home-cooking, casual street food, market food.”

[…]

“looking, hearing is one thing.  tasting, touching is another.  smelling and tasting is the heart and soul of what korea is.  as much as pop culture wants to globalize, food is the best way for koreans to share their soul and culture.”  (88-9)

i liked this book, and i didn’t.  it was informative in certain ways (i give hong massive props for explaining han), but it was also pretty shallow — i wanted hong to go deeper and provide more analysis (i suppose).  i did deeply appreciate her insight into how heavily the korean government is invested in its culture as an export product, though, and hong also did a great job at providing context and historical background throughout the book.  she also has this wonderful dry, sarcastic humor that made me laugh out loud from time-to-time, too.

in the end, though, i have to admit that i wasn’t convinced of hong’s argument for korean “cool.”  maybe i’ll come back to this, maybe i won’t — we’ll see.

(the above quote made me smile.  it reminds me of a brief post i wrote earlier this year about the korean way of eating, which i think is unique and wonderful and encompasses so much of korean culture.  i absolutely love the korean way of eating.)

thirty-five.  colorless tsukuru tazaki and his years of pilgrimage, haruki murakami.

and in that moment, he was finally able to accept it all.  in the deepest recesses of his soul, tsukuru tazaki understood.  one heart is not connected to another through harmony alone.  they are, instead, linked deeply through their wounds.  pain linked to pain, fragility to fragility.  there is no silence without a cry of grief, no forgiveness without bloodshed, no acceptance without a passage through acute loss.  that is what lies at the root of true harmony.  (322)

this is the most grounded, solid, earthly novel written by murakami, i thought as i read colorless tsukuru tazaki.  i kept waiting for the surreal elements to come heavily into play, but they didn’t, not in a very prominent way at least, and i have to admit — i loved how solid this novel felt.

at the same time, though, tsukuru tazaki is still a very murakami novel.  tsukuru himself is very much a murakami main character, and he’s stuck in that place of isolation and confusion that causes him to depart on a journey to seek answers and discovery, like most murakami main characters.  there’s something very bittersweet about tsukuru’s discovery, though, and the ending felt very open but appropriately so — i think that, if murakami had gone about trying to give us hard closure, it would have felt forced and rather self-gratifying.

i enjoyed this a lot, more than i thought i would to be honest, although i had no idea what to expect as i went into this.  i didn’t even read the excerpt that was published pre-publication or any blurbs about it, and i enjoyed going in totally blind.  i’ve read a few comments elsewhere about colorless tsukuru tazaki being a good introduction to murakami, and i would agree with that.

thirty-six.  mr. penumbra’s 24-hour bookstore, robin sloan.

kat gushes about google’s projects, all revealed to her now.  they are making a 3-D web browser.  they are making a car that drives itself.  they are making a sushi search engine — here she pokes a chopstick down at our dinner — to help people find fish that is sustainable and mercury-free.  they are building a time machine.  they are developing a form of renewable energy that runs on hubris.  (209)

this was SO much fun to read.  the narrator’s voice is truly unique, and i love how sloan drew in “real life” things like google and integrated them fully into his world.  it’s a fun, amusing adventure tale that integrates technology in a very natural way, and you meet interesting characters along the way — and i don’t know what else to say!  it was tons of fun, and i just had a really good time reading it, which doesn’t actually happen very often.  like, i enjoy reading (obviously), but reading mr. penumbra’s 24-hour bookstore was pure fun.  there’s no other way for me to put it.

also, the cover glows in the dark, and the book is beautifully designed (great font), so everything about this book is pure win.

thirty-seven.  ajax penumbra 1969, robin sloan.

“the measure of a bookstore is not its receipts, but its friends,” he says, “and here, we are rich indeed.”  penumbra sees corvina clench his jaw just slightly; he gets the sense that mo’s clerk wishes they had some receipts, too.  (22)

read this immediately upon finishing mr. penumbra’s 24-hour bookstore and thought it to be a lovely companion piece.  (:

thirty-eight.  us v. apple, judge denise cote.

ok, yes, i know this isn’t actually a book, but it’s 160 fucking pages, and i read the whole damn thing, so this counts — IT COUNTS.

objectively, this is a well-written brief (and i never think attorneys are good writers).  it’s cohesively laid out, and judge cote does a great job at presenting the facts in the appropriate slant (as we are taught in legal writing).  she even lays out the legal standard step-by-step, and it’s all very clearly written, so i give her credit for that.  and it was more fun than i thought it would be because judge cote definitely has a flair for the melodramatic, which i found hilarious.  she should write legal thrillers.  and publish them with amazon.

that said, i’m not really going to write much else about this, other than it read very much like a forgone conclusion.

thirty-nine.  men explain things to me, rebecca solnit.

we have an abundance of rape and violence against women in this country and on this earth, though it’s almost never treated as a civil rights or human rights issue, or a crisis, or even a pattern.  violence doesn’t have a race, a class, a religion, or a nationality, but it does have a gender.  (“the longest war,” 21)

read this on the plane back to new york, felt myself sick to my stomach because this is the current state of the world, where there is so much violence against woman that is written off and diminished and, via indifference or silence or willful ignorance, condoned.  this book of essays isn’t all about violence against women, but it is about women.  and it’s a great, necessary collection — slim but bursting with truth, both horrifying and hopeful.  recommended.

forty.  never let me go, kazuo ishiguro.

“how could i have tried?” ruth’s voice was hardly audible.  “it’s just something i once dreamt about.  that’s all.”  (226)

this is one of those reads where i just want to note that i’ve read never let me go again but refrain from commentary.

(also the covers for the buried giant are out, and … sigh.  i’m not keen on either the US or the UK covers.  though that in no way diminishes my excitement for it.) 

forty-one.  jane eyre, charlotte brontë.

“i don’t think, sir, you have a right to command me, merely because you are older than i, or because you have seen more of the world than i have — your claim to superiority depends on the use you have made of your time and experience.”  (230)

read this mostly on my iPhone because, over the last few months, jane eyre has been my go-to omg-when-is-the-bloody-G-train-coming book.  i enjoyed the slow-burn read, though, and i’ve read jane eyre enough times that i could step away from it for days (or even weeks) and pick it up without having to re-situate myself.

jane eyre is that book from my childhood that made me fall in love with literature, so i will always hold it close to my heart.

forty-two.  rebecca, daphne du maurier.

it seemed incredible to me now that i had never understood.  i wondered how many people there were in the world who suffered, and continued to suffer, because they could not break out from their own web of shyness and reserve, and in their blindness and folly built up a great distorted wall in front of them that hid the truth.  this was what i had done.  i had built up false pictures in my mind and sat before them.  i had never had the courage to demand the truth.  (263)

i finished jane eyre on my flight to nyc and decided that i had to read rebecca again because, you know, one gothic novel about a young girl and an older man naturally makes you want to read another gothic novel about a young girl and an older man.

du maurier does such an exquisite job of getting inside the narrator’s head.  i laughed out loud at quite a few parts over how her imagination runs away with her, as she gets lost in these fantasies and imagined scenarios, and they’re funny because they’re so dramatic and so symptomatic of the young, lonely, isolated mind.  i love the world du maurier creates, too, the enchantment that is manderley with its specter of rebecca hanging over everything — it’s so rich and lush and almost otherworldly, set apart on its corner on the coast.

it was interesting rereading this because i knew what would happen.  i knew the truth about rebecca, and i knew to anticipate certain scenes, so it colored the reading experience in a different way, which i found enjoyable.  that’s one of the fun things about rereading books, isn’t it — going back to it and seeing how you’ve changed and, consequently, how the book has changed, too, because the best books are those that reflect us back to us after all, aren’t they?

currently reading acceptance — taking my time with it because it’s the last book in the southern reach trilogy.  it is SO GOOD, though, and i’m loving it and looking forward to reading the whole trilogy again to see what i’ve missed.  also reading sweetness #9 and your face in mine and just picked up a tale for the time being, green girl, and a short history of women.

and mcewan’s new novel comes out on tuesday.

gah, there’s so much to read!!!  and i am so sorry that this is so long … T_T