hmm, yes, aware that it’s april, and i haven’t done a recap of the books i read in march, and i did read in march — portrait of an addict as a young man (bill clegg), ninety days (bill clegg), and my education (susan choi) — and i have things to say about them, especially my education, which was fab (highly recommended) (went and bought two more of her books today because i loved my education), but i figure i’ll do a combined march/april post at the end of this month.  been reading a lot these last few days, too — reread the interestings (meg wolitzer.), finished drifting house (krys lee) (highly, highly recommended), and halfway through sleepwalking (meg wolitzer) and the corrections (jonathan franzen) (second read) now.

cannot recommend drifting house enough.  it took a few stories for the collection to grip me thoroughly, but it wasn’t like i disliked or was disinterested by those first few stories, either, not in the least.  krys lee is a fabulous, confident writer (there’s an unease of displacement that’s threaded and pulled tight through the stories), and i love how she has a foot firmly planted in korea and the other in america.  can’t wait for her novel.

february reads:

seven.  man walks into a room, nicole krauss.

he struggled against the urge to call anna.  he wanted to hear her voice, to test out how it sounded in the hollow space of the desert, to perform his own experiments ont he nature of absence.  but something in him didn’t want to give in to it, didn’t want to admit to whatever else it was that made him want to call her.  in the end he picked up the phone and dialed anyway.  she wasn’t home.  it was nine o’clock at night in new york, too late for her to be at work and too early for her to be asleep, which meant she was somewhere out in the glowing city.  (136)

another of those books i reread every once in a while, and it never disappoints.  man walks into a room is more “traditional,” which isn’t surprising because it’s a first novel, and, maybe, in that way, it’s a little less exciting than krauss’ more ambitious the history of love.  there’s a quietness to man walks into a room, though; in heavier hands, it could have been a, well, heavier story; but krauss is so deft in exploring this idea of loss — and there’s an ease to this slim novel that i think i find rather soothing. 

also, this is still one of my favourite passages ever:

He wanted to shut it off and sit in the dark once and for all, to cup his hand over the phone and say, Tell me, was I the sort of person who took your elbow when cars passed on the street, touched your cheek while you talked, combed your wet hair, stopped by the side of the road in the country to point out certain constellations, standing behind you so that you had the advantage of leaning and looking up? — and so on with a list that would keep her talking through the night. But he didn’t ask because he didn’t know if he wanted the answers. It was better, he felt, had felt from the beginning, not to know. He only wanted to pose the questions, as if just caring enough to ask might give absolution.  (140)

eight.  frankenstein, mary shelley.

'yet even that enemy of God and man had friends and associates in his desolation; i am alone.'  (223)

frankenstein is one of my favourites overall and also one of my favourite classics.  it’s very … neat, like tidy neat, in the way that i feel some classics tend to be (dracula feels that way to me, too, and even wuthering heights and jane eyre), but it explores the human condition in interesting and, even, frightening ways.  one of the more interesting points in the novel for me is when frankenstein is creating a companion creature and he’s suddenly thinking about the potential consequences of his work, suddenly placing upon himself the greater good of the greater world.  also when he says in his narration, “i was guiltless, but i had indeed drawn down a horrible curse upon my head, as mortal as that of crime.”  (167)  because i couldn’t quite consider frankenstein as being entirely guiltless, but then that makes you wonder what guilt is because, technically — technically — he didn’t do anything wrong.

nine.  i’ll be right there, shin kyung-sook.

"miru writes down everything she eat."  myungsuh answered for her.

everything?  miru ignored my stares and continued writing it all down.

"why do you do that?" i asked.

"because then it feels real," she said.

"what does?"

"being alive."  (110-1)

luckily, this one didn’t have me weeping in public places.  it did bum me out a little, though, because it’s a pretty sombre book, but not in a cumbersome, heavy way.  there’s a lightness to it that keeps pulling you forward, that says that, yeah, the characters in this book were in a hard place and lost a lot, but that, even so, they were still okay.  that, no matter how much things changed, at that moment, they’d still had each other.

it wasn’t a perfect novel, though, and, for much it, i felt like i was being held at arm’s length.  nonetheless, this is a book that’s sat with me, one i want to revisit in a few months because it’s left an impression and i want to come back to it, see how it feels after some time has passed.

also:

"human beings are imperfect.  we are complicated, indefinable by any wise saying or moral.  the guilt, wondering what i’d done wrong, will follow me my whole life like my own shadow.  the more you love someone, the stronger that feeling is.  but if we cannot despair over the things we’ve lost, then what does it all mean?  but … i don’t want that despair to damage your souls."  (professor yoon) (294)

ten.  the night guest, fiona macfarlane.
to put it very bluntly, this was a disappointment.  maybe i’d gone into it with too high expectations because i’d seen favourable reviews floating around at the end of last year, and, when i bought the book at housing works, the guy ringing me up was super ecstatic about it, saying that his co-volunteer had read it and said it was so creepy.  thus my expectations.

it started off promising enough, but, as i kept reading, my interest kept flagging, until i hit the middle of the book and realized i felt nothing for the book, except some anger towards frida.  and then i had a moment of, oh, this book is going to end this way, isn’t it? — and, lo and behold, i was right.  it wasn’t an interesting sort of predictability, either, so, by the end, i was literally just flipping pages just to get to the end.

currently reading jo kyung-ran’s tongue, which is making me all sorts of hungry because the narrator is a chef and the book has thus far been stuffed with these wonderful passages about food.  thinking that maybe in march i’ll try to read modern korean authors because i have a few novellas to read, as well as hwang sok-young’s the old garden, which is a pretty hefty volume, and kim young-ha’s black flower.

also thinking that i really should get on with challenging myself and start reading korean literature … in korean.  i mean, if i really want to get better at this language …..!!!

nell’s sixth album, newton’s apple, slated for release february 27.

i have no comment about the album title because … seriously???  i was expecting it to be just plain old gravity for some reason, but … newton’s apple?  okay then.  some of the song titles include “deeper,” “insane,” and “trees.”  i lied; these are only tentative titles.

source of news is naver (or yonhap news, posted on naver), article translation (including quotes from nell) to come … tomorrow on my translation blog, so basically later today at a saner hour because it’s 4 a.m. here because no time like 4 a.m. to translate an article and what the hell kind of album title is newton’s apple.

(i really need to sleep at saner hours.  5:30 a.m. — is it even worth bothering?  luckily, i’ve nothing scheduled tomorrow — er, today.  on a different note, i’ve accumulated roughly 12,500 words in novel segments on evernote over the last two weeks, and i will be starting to stitch together my novel this week!  how horribly exciting is that?!

well.  i’m excited.  and hungry.  and, oh, going to bed now …)

(also, i tried to read gone girl yesterday.  i gave up at 50 pages, which is 25 more than i’ll usually give a book, but it failed to hook me, and i couldn’t get into either of the voices, so i read the summary on wikipedia and was really glad i hadn’t made myself read it …)

in an attempt to be more on top of my reading this year … (also, lol, books and food, there’s a reason for this — i have a tendency of watching tv while i eat, but i’m trying to get into the habit of reading while i eat instead because, for one, i want to read more this year and, for another, i tend to eat fast as it is, but watching tv makes me eat even faster, while reading makes me slow down.)

january’s usually a good month for reading; the problem is keeping up this momentum through the rest of the year …

one.  the surrendered, chang-rae lee.
so so good.  how does chang-rae lee write about war and its aftermath so well?

two.  on such a full sea, chang-rae lee.
i walked out into the polar vortex to buy this book the day it came out, and never before has my face hurt so much from cold.  i can’t say i was as engrossed by it as i was the surrendered or a gesture life, but i really loved the ending.  and the type — the “g” and “Q” in particular.  unfortunately, riverhead didn’t include a “note on the text” at the end of it, though.

three.  blue is the warmest color, julie maroh.
it’s an interesting experience reading a book after you’ve seen the film adaptation of it, and it’s even more so when you loved the film.  there’s a detail (or plot point?) in the graphic novel i honestly could have done without, and i wonder if i would have felt differently about the graphic novel had i read it first?  because, to be honest, i felt pretty lukewarm about the graphic novel, maybe because i loved how the film ended, whereas i felt like the way the graphic novel was set up was a little abrupt and unnecessarily dramatic.

four.  suicide, edouard leve.
leve’s final book, delivered a few days before he took his own life — it’s impossible not to read this as a suicide note.  this was a slim volume but packed with quiet observations and thoughts and reflections, and i loved how unsensational it was, just this gentle portrait of a man who died by suicide.

five.  never let me go, kazuo ishiguro.
plowed through this after i submitted my new synopsis.  never let me go never loses its impact no matter how many times i read it.

six.  the reason i jump, naoki higashida.
part of me felt uncomfortable reading this, mainly because i felt like i was spectating, because we have a tendency to make Others of people with special needs.  i appreciated how it gave a glimpse into what it’s actually like to be autistic, though, and higashida’s voice is honest and frank and all the more compelling for it.  also, that is a fantastic cover.

in february, i hope to read more by women (currently reading frankenstein again, so we’re off to a good start) and more by authors of colour (planning on picking up i’ll be right there by shin kyung-sook after frankenstein, so we’re going in a good direction).  pretty happy with my reading in january, though, considering everything was written either by a person of colour or in a language other than english.  :3

2013 in literary review!  This is long.  I also proceeded in the order in which I read these books, instead of trying to make some sort of arbitrary order …  Also, there are more quotes in here than in previous years (here are 2011 and 2012).

First Book Read in 2013:  Alice Munro, Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage

Wrote in my book journal:  “Munro is less about writing/prose than she is about a certain tone/mood she captures. […]  Munro is so fabulous at creating a whole, lived-in world, even in the frame of a short story.”

Favourite stories were “Family Furnishings,” “Nettles,” and “What Is Remembered.”

It seemed to her that this was the first time ever that she had participated in a kiss that was an event in itself.  The whole story, all by itself.  A tender prologue, an efficient pressure, a wholehearted probing and receiving, a lingering thanks, and a drawing away satisfied.

“Floating Bridge” (84)

One of My Favourite Passages Was From Murakami’s South of the Border, West of the Sun:

Yukiko, I love you very much.  I loved you from the first day I met you, and I still feel the same.  If I hadn’t met you, my life would have been unbearable.  For that I am grateful beyond words.  Yet here I am, hurting you.  Because I’m a selfish, worthless human being.  For no apparent reason, I hurt the people around me and end up hurting myself.  Ruining someone else’s life and my own.  Not because I like to.  But that’s how it ends up.  (207)

I blogged about this earlier this year, and to quote myself (har):  “This is such a great summation of what it means to be human, I think.  We don’t mean to hurt people or do wrong, but it can’t be helped because we’re human.  We’re imperfect and sinful and selfish, hopeless, worthless, &c, and the most we can do is the best we can — all we can do is try and recognize that we will fail, but, then, we get up and try again — so, in the end, I did appreciate Hajime’s struggle throughout the novel and how he came out from it.”

(I generally enjoyed this book; it felt more solid and less other-worldly than his other books.) 

Author of the Year:  Banana Yoshimoto

2013 was the year I read Banana Yoshimoto.  I wanted to finish all her books (that have been translated into English) this year, but I’m still working on Amrita, so, unfortunately, I can’t say I quite accomplished that goal, but I got pretty damn close!  Amrita is surprisingly long (for Yoshimoto), and, because it’s my last of her books, I’m taking it a little slower.  Or, you know, I’ve picked up three other books while reading Amrita, so …

Yoshimoto reminds me a lot of Murakami, in that I don’t necessarily find myself that engrossed in their stories/worlds/characters but I’m intrigued enough to keep reading.  And, clearly, I’ve been intrigued enough by Yoshimoto to plow through her backlist, so I’d say that probably says enough in an of itself?

(Favourite Banana Yoshimoto:  Goodbye Tsugumi

I really enjoyed the dynamic between the narrator and Tsugumi in this, and Tsugumi, particularly, cracked me up, her and her digging a hole especially, and I liked the little bits of thoughtful wisdom placed throughout the book.  In general, Goodbye Tsugumi felt very warm and tangible and genuine to me, and, in turn, I felt warm and comforted by it.  That’s generally one thing I love about books personally — they give back as much as I invest into them.

A passage:

Each one of us continues to carry the heart of each self we’ve ever been, of every stage along the way, and a chaos of everything good and rotten.  And we have to carry this weight all alone, through each day that we live.  We try to be as nice as we can to the people we love, but we alone support the weight of ourselves.  (39)

My second favourite Banana Yoshimoto would be The Lake.)

(Favourite Quote from a Banana Yoshimoto is from “Helix” in Lizard:

“Even when I have crushes on other men, I always see you in the curve of their eyebrows.”  (64)

I think that is so bloody fantastic.)

Biggest Disappointment:  Elizabeth Winder, Pain, Parties, Work:  Sylvia Plath in New York, Summer 1953

This could have been great.  Seriously.  The author had a lot of interviews to cull from, and, had it been written better (or maybe even researched better?  I can’t tell), this could have been pretty damn awesome.  Instead, we got a very superficial, surface-skimming book with a lot of quotations and stated facts, and that was that.

I did like this, though:

What strange anxiety did this all trigger in Sylvia?  The precarious nature of her own happiness, the instability of character, persona, identity, even affection.  The instability of identity — how we are seen only one dimension at a time.  Cryilly saw a kindred bluestocking.  Laurie Glazer saw a cultivated beauty.  Ann Burnside saw a caviar-stuffing barbarian.  How we are labeled for our glamour — or lack of it.  That French perfumes were far more important than she even imagined (and Sylvia never doubted their importance).  That if you stand still for a moment the world keeps moving, that sometimes no head will turn despite shiny hair and freshly applied lipstick.  That many of your peers will want less than you, and that you will envy them for that.  (203)

Least Enjoyable:  Haruki Murakami, Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World

I read this for a Murakami book club, and, while I hated the book, it made for a fun book club discussion because we were polarized — half of us loved the book while the other half hated it; there wasn’t any sort of middle ground.  For me, I think part of it was that the book wasn’t really one thing or another — it was surreal but not?  Or maybe the dream-like world segments were too convoluted?  Although the real world stuff was just as convoluted?  Maybe I just didn’t Get It?

But, I did love this passage:

“No.  Think it over carefully.  This is very important because to believe something, whatever it might be, is the doing of the mind.  Do you follow?  When you say you believe, you allow the possibility of disappointment.  And from disappointment or betrayal, there may come despair.  Such is the way of the mind.”  (351)

In the end, I’ve learned this year that neither surrealism nor magic realism does anything for me — they tend to annoy me, rather.

Quote in Defense of Stories (Because This Is Currently a Sore Subject For Me)

Now, the significance of stories is this.  While many stories are often no more than entertainment, narratives are actually so fundamental to how we think that they determine how we understand to live life itself.  The term “worldview,” from the German word Welternschauung, means the comprehensive perspective from which we interpret all of reality.  But a worldview is not merely a set of philosophical bullet points.  It is essentially a master narrative, a fundamental story about (a) what human life in the world should be like, (b) what has knocked it off balance, and (c) what can be done to make it right.

Timothy Keller, Every Good Endeavor (157)

And, In Relation, an Obligatory Quote from One of Franzen’s

“But Kafka’s about your life!” Avery said.  “Not to take anything away from your admiration of Rilke, but I’ll tell you right now, Kafka’s a lot more about your life than Rilke is.  Kafka was like us.  All of these writers, they were human beings trying to make sense of their lives.  But Kafka about all!  Kafka was afraid of death, he had problems with sex, he had problems with women, he had problems with his job, he had problems with his parents.  And he was writing fiction to try to figure these things out.  that’s what his books are about.  Actual living human beings trying to make sense of death and the modern world and the mess of their lives.”

Jonathan Franzen, The Discomfort Zone (140-1)

(I thoroughly enjoy Franzen’s non-fiction voice.  Part of it is that I feel like his non-fiction voice reads very much like him himself, which, okay, duh, sounds like an obvious thing, but a lot of times there’s a disconnect between a writer and his/her voice, even in non-fiction.  Franzen’s funny, too, or I just have a bizarre sense of humor [you know, it really could be that], but I like his general sort of crankiness and wryness and self-awareness.)

Most Sometimes-There-Is-A-Proper-Time-And-Place-For-Books:  Jeffrey Eugenides, The Marriage Plot

Eugenides is 2 for 3 in my book!  I first picked up The Marriage Plot when it was first published in 2011, but I couldn’t get past the first 20-some pages because I was in university then, studying comparative literature and surrounded by the same character types depicted in the beginning of the novel.  I picked it up in paperback earlier this year, though, when I was in law school and miserable and unhappy, and, damn, was it a comfort to my soul.

The thing that stood out to me most about The Marriage Plot, though, was how much love Eugenides had for his characters, especially Leonard, and I felt a lot of warmth/love while reading it.  The ending was good, too — not so tightly closed or neatly knotted together but rather realistic and hopeful? 

Favourite Overall:  Meg Wolitzer, The Interestings

I picked The Interestings up on a whim and started reading it on a particularly humid Wednesday in August, ignoring any and all other responsibilities I had because it was too goddamn humid to do anything but read.  I didn’t expect to love it, but I did — I head-over-heels loved it.

It’s rare (in my opinion) to find good books about friendship and, particularly, about friendship in an ensemble way, but The Interestings did so deftly, weaving together these six lives and carrying this friendship through time, which, also, is impressive — but I’d say that what I liked most about The Interestings was that the characters felt thoroughly real to me.  They felt like people to me, people I could know, could come across, and they lived lives that were actual, full lives — these people, these friends, were fleshed out, traveling the trajectories of their individual and, also, entwined lives, and I, as the reader, was there along for the ride.

This passage, in particular, gets me in the heart every single fucking time:

Once, a few years earlier, Jules had gone to see a play at Ash’s theater, and afterward, during the “talkback,” when the audience asked questions of the playwright and of Ash, who’d directed the production, a woman stood up and said, “This one is for Ms. Wolf.  My daughter wants to be a director too.  She’s applying to graduate school in directing, but I know very well that there are no jobs, and that she’s probably only going to have her dreams dashed.  Shouldn’t I encourage her to do something else, to find some other field she can get into before too much time goes by?”  And Ask had said to that mother, “Well, if she’s thinking about going into directing, she has to really, really want it.  That’s the first thing.  Because if she doesn’t, then there’s no point in putting herself through all of this, because it’s incredibly hard and dispiriting.  But if she does really, really want it, and if she seems to have a talent for it, then I think you should tell her, ‘That’s wonderful.’  Because the truth is, the world will probably whittle your daughter down.  But a mother never should.”  (460)

Also, I’m still a little in love with Ethan Figman.

Non-fiction of 2013:  Boris Kachka, Hothouse:  The Art of Survival and the Survival of Art at America’s Most Celebrated Publishing House, Farrar, Straus & Giroux

I’m such a sucker for anything related to publishing.

However, while I really, really loved what this book was about, I kind of really, really didn’t care for the writing.  For one, it drove me crazy that Kachka wasn’t consistent with the names — like, he kept hopping between “Roger” and “Straus” and “Straus Jr,” so I was bloody confused from time-to-time exactly which Straus he was referring to.  For another, the writing just seemed really uneven — it wasn’t bad, per se, just … uneven … and it didn’t necessarily detract that much from the reading, but, honestly, I couldn’t not enjoy Hothouse because it was the story of a great publishing house.

My favourite passage from it:

It may have been Straus who, by sheer force of his charm and quickness managed to preserve the company that arguably set the intellectual tone of postwar America.But it was Giroux and Robbins and Vursell and many other underpaid strivers who advised him on what to publish, how to promote it, how to translate it and sell it properly abroad — who, in short, made the company worth preserving.They worked in gloves in the winter when the heat broke down; they jerry-rigged the paper towel roll in the ladies’ room with an oversized dinner fork; they repaired their own desks and bought their own pencils and made sacrifices in their lives that well-born Roger W. Straus, Jr., would never have to make, all for the freedom to publish what they loved, and little else.  (09)

Favourite Poem Because, Yes, Sometimes, I Read Poems, Too:  Ted Hughes, “The Offers,” Howls and Whispers

Ted Hughes is one of two poets from whom I’ve read fairly extensively (the other poet being T.S. Eliot).  I always say I’m going to read more poetry, but the truth is that I probably won’t ever — I used to love poetry when I was young, but my love for poetry died a swift and permanent death early on.

The last few lines are my absolute favourite:

Even in my dreams, our house was in ruins.
But suddenly — the third time — you were there.
Younger than I had ever known you.  You
As if new made, half a wild roe, half
A flawless thing, priceless, facetted
Like a cobalt jewel.  You came behind me
(At my helpless moment, as I lowered
A testing foot into the running bath)
And spoke — peremptory, as a familiar voice
Will startle out of a river’s uproar, urgent,
Close:  ‘This is the last.  This one.  This time
Don’t fail me.’

Fun Fact:  Ted Hughes is distantly related to John Farrar of FSG!

Last Book Read in 2013:  Aleksandar Hemon, The Book of My Lives

Read it.  I’d have more to say about this, but I finished it on 2013 December 31, and I’m still processing it in my head.  But read it.  I highly recommend it.

Going Into 2014 Reading:

-  Chang-rae Lee, The Surrendered
-  Naoki Higashida, The Reason I Jump
-  Diane Middlebrook, Her Husband:  Hughes and Plath — A Marriage

Looking Forward to in 2014:

-  Chang-rae Lee, On Such a Full Sea (Riverhead, 2014 January 7)
-  Lydia Davis, Can’t and Won’t (FSG, 2014 April 8)
-  Shin Kyung-sook, I’ll Be Right There (Other Press, 2014 May 6)
-  Gong Ji-young, Our Happy Time (Atria Books/Marble Arch Press, 2014 July 1)
-  Haruki Murakami, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage (Random House, 2014 August 12)

*

new—star replied to your post“reading chang-rae lee’s “a gesture life” now,”
i loooove his books! The Surrendered was intense! the first chapter had me trembling
i’ll pick the surrendered up next!  i finished a gesture life this morning, and it was my first chang-rae lee, so i want to read more from him.  excited about his new book coming out next month!  love the cover and title!

reading chang-rae lee’s “a gesture life” now,

and, wow, this book is chilling and difficult to stomach.

this was a very satisfying distraction:

1.  favourite childhood book?
i loved the anne of green gables books … but then i learned of the emily of new moon books when i was older, and i love those better.  (teddy!!!)

2.  what are you reading right now?
madeleine l’engle’s walking on water, jonathan franzen’s the kraus project, krys lee’s drifting house, banana yoshimoto’s hardboiled and hard luck, and c.s. lewis’ surprised by joy.  i have to have at least 5 books going at the same time, so i can hop around as my mood flips.

3.  what books do you have on request at the library?
sad to say i do not have a library card, but, you know, this is actually a good thing because i’m terrible at keeping due dates.  also, i like owning books; i’m possessive that way.

4.  bad book habit?
erm, i err on the side of taking too much care of my books?  i don’t fold corners or crease spines, although i do mark passages i like with a pencil.  although i guess i’ve gotten less anal retentive in recent years.  i always have a book with me, and i carry giant tote bags, so my books have been getting more wear, which is nice — i’ve grown to like that slightly worn look.

5.  what do you currently have checked out at the library?
see number 3.

6.  do you have an e-reader?
i have an ipad and her name is zöe but i basically use her only to browse flipboard and watch movie trailers.

7.  do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once?
see number 2.

8.  have your reading habits changed since starting a blog?
no.

9.  least favourite book you read this year (so far)?
haruki murakami’s hard-boiled wonderland and the end of the world.  i couldn’t stand it and only finished it because it was for book club.

10.  favourite book you’ve read this year?
meg wolitzer’s the interestings.  have you read it yet?  no?  please do.

11.  how often do you read out of your comfort zone?
i don’t know how i would define “comfort zone.”  i know the style of writing i like and the kinds of stories i like, and i guess that could be a comfort zone because i don’t deliberately try to read from different genres or such.  i don’t really see a reason to.  i do try to be deliberate with being more balanced in the books i read, specifically by reading more women and more korean authors in general.

12.  what is your reading comfort zone?
"they" call the genre "literary fiction."  so "literary fiction" and the classics.

13.  can you read on the bus?
i have horrible motion sickness.  i can read on trains and planes, though, granted that turbulence is not a thing, but i can’t read on buses or cars — it’s hard even to be a passenger in buses and cars, so it’s a good thing i love driving.

14.  favourite place to read?
at my desk, in bed, on the subway.

15.  what is your policy on book lending?
i’ll lend you books, ok, but i want them back in the exact condition i’ve leant them to you.

16.  do you ever dog-ear books?
no, that’s why post-its were invented.

17.  do you ever write in the margins of your books?
yes.  in pencil.  usually in a scrawl i can’t read.

18.  not even with text books?
you should’ve seen the hate i wrote in my casebooks.

19.  what is your favourite language to read in?
english.  because my korean isn’t fluent enough for reading literature.  although that doesn’t stop be from buying korean literature in korean on a semi-regular basis.  (one day soon, i’ll buy kim young-ha’s memories of a murderer.)

20.  what makes you love a book?
good writing.  i need a good narrative and fleshed-out characters, but it’s the writing itself that really gets me.

21.  what will inspire you to recommend a book?
if it gets me in the heart and in the gut.  the interestings got me in both my heart and gut.  so did michael ondaatje’s the english patient.  (ondaatje’s writing in the english patient also just shredded my heart; his language is so fucking spectacular and heart-breaking.)

22.  favourite genre?
see number 12.

23.  genre you rarely read (but wish you did)?
erm.  sometimes i wish i liked non-fiction more?  sometimes, i wish there were more creative non-fiction that was interesting.

24.  favourite biography?
ugh.  i am so not a biography person.  that said, i’ll read pretty much everything written about sylvia plath.  (i have a shelf for sylvia plath literature alone.)

25.  have you ever read a self-help book?
i have better ways to waste my time.

26.  favourite cookbook?
deb perelman’s smitten kitchen cookbook.  also, love her blog.  hilariously, i’ve cooked from her blog several times but have yet to cook something from her cookbook.  it’s too pretty to get dirty in my kitchen!

27.  most inspirational book you’ve read this year (fiction or non-fiction)?
meh do not like this question; skip.

28.  favourite reading snack?
coffee (obviously) and a cheddar scone.  cheddar scones are great.  especially if they also have scallions and bacon.  i’ve really got to start baking them myself.

29.  name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience.
hm.  strangely enough, i can actually count several examples of the reverse happening, where i thought i’d hate a book because of hype but ended up loving it instead … like ian mcewan’s atonement and jonathan franzen’s freedom.  (ok i can’t say i loved freedom, but i found it a lot more compelling and thought-provoking than i expected.  the corrections, though — now, that’s my franzen book.)

30.  how often do you agree with critics about a book?
i very rarely read anything critical about books.  when i’ve finished a book, i go searching for author interviews, though.

31.  how do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews?
just be honest.  bad writing is bad writing.

32.  if you could read in a foreign language, which language would you choose?
russian.  i want to read tolstoy and dostoevsky not-in-translation, damnit!

33.  most intimidating book you’ve ever read?
most intimidating book i’ve started/tried to read?  proust’s in search of lost time.

34.  most intimidating book you’re too nervous to begin?
james joyce’s ulysses.  i feel like part of the intimidation is pure hype, though.  also i’m too lazy to pick this up.

35.  favourite poet?
hands down, t.s. eliot.  pfft, i make it sound like i actually read a whole lot of poetry.  i don’t.  but i still love t.s. eliot.

36.  how many books do you usually have checked out of the library at any given time?
when i was in university, i had at least 15 books checked out at any given time, most of them scholarly works or academic texts that were too expensive for me to buy.  sobs.  i miss university resources.

37.  how often have you returned a book to the library unread?
pretty much most of the time.  but i also usually returned them after i’d made copies of relevant chapters/essays.

38.  favourite fictional character?
i always hate these questions; skip.

39.  favourite fictional villain?
see above.

40.  books you’re most likely to bring on vacation?
books i’m most likely not to read on vacation.  like proust and dostoevsky.  pfft.  luckily, i’ve got some of my favourites already on zöe (like kazuo ishiguro’s never let me go, david eagleman’s sum, michael ondaatje’s the english patient, sylvia plath’s unabridged journals, and john berger’s and our faces, my heart, brief as photos, tobias wolff’s old school, and charlotte brontë’s jane eyre) or there’s a bookstore to be found, so i end up with something satisfying to read.

41.  the longest you’ve gone without reading.
never?  i have periods of reading intensely (usually january-february and autumn), but i’m always reading at least a little all the time.

42.  name a book that you could/would not finish.
i couldn’t do this before — if i started a book, i had to finish it — but now i don’t bother forcing myself to read something that doesn’t compel me.  like david mitchell’s cloud atlas.  i’m sorry, but, wow, i can’t get into it.  and gabriel garcia marquez’s one hundred years of solitude.  i might get reamed for this, but, oh man, i read about fifty pages of it and was bored to death.  and i was reading it while working at a law office, so i honestly couldn’t get more bored than i already was.

43.  what distracts you easily when you’re reading?
when i’m in a book, i’m in a book, aka don’t talk to me.  one of my biggest peeves ever = people talking to me when i’m reading.  just don’t.  i guarantee you aren’t as interesting as my book.

44.  favourite film adaptation of a novel?
i love joe wright’s adaptation of pride and prejudice.

45.  most disappointing film adaptation?
this can go on forever, so let’s not start.

46.  the most money you’ve ever spent in the bookstore at one time?
we aren’t going there, nope.

47.  how often do you skim a book before reading it?
never?  what’s to be gained by this?  (also, i hate spoilers.)

48.  what would cause you to stop reading a book half-way through?
if the book holds me at arm’s length.

49.  do you like to keep your books organised?
yup, by publisher then by author.  it doesn’t mean my books stay organised like this, though, but that’s my system!

50.  do you prefer to keep books or give them away once you’ve read them?
keep them, duh.

51.  are there any books you’ve been avoiding?
david foster wallace’s infinite jest.  i don’t know why.  (haha life’s funny, though — i’ve recently become good friends with this girl who’s a huge wallace fan, and i happen to be a huge franzen fan, and i’ve never read wallace, and she’s never read franzen, but we sit and talk about them quite often.)

52.  name a book that made you angry.
ayn rand’s the fountainhead pissed me off the whole way through.

53.  a book you didn’t expect to like but did?
i honestly walked into atonement thinking it would be whatever.  instead, it ended up being the book that ended my dry spell and reignited my love for literature — that and daphne du maurier’s rebecca.

54.  a book that you expected to like but didn’t?
i thought i’d like tea obreht’s the tiger’s wife a whole lot more than i actually did.  love her prose, though, but the book itself was a little too unsure of itself for me.

55.  favourite guilt-free, pleasure reading?
everything?  i only read books i enjoy reading, so it’s all guilt-free pleasure reading for me.

apparently, 2013 is the year i read banana yoshimoto.  so far, i’ve read kitchen, goodbye tsugumi, the lake, n.p., and lizard, and i’m reading hardboiled & hard luck now.  after this, i’ll only have asleep and amrita left, and then i’ll have read all her books — at least, all her books that have been translated into english.

… might as well obtain asleep and amrita and officially make 2013 the year i read banana yoshimoto!

today was one of those days i should’ve just stayed home.

i like clinton hill — i do — but, oh, man, is it a pain to get to manhattan or what.

thanks to the G and A/C being slow as usual and the F doing … i don’t even know what, i missed a book club meeting i was looking forward to (i finished the book, too!  even though i didn’t like it much!  and in two days no less!), so, to make up for that, i decided to cobble together Qs from the EW book quiz because, well, why not.

what was your favorite book as a child?

i always loved charlotte brontë’s jane eyre.  still do.

what is your favorite book that you read for school?

camus’ the fall — i owe my twelfth grade AP lit teacher a lot, actually.  she’s the one who introduced me to camus and beckett and sartre and ibsen and albee, and i will always think of her fondly for it.  a lot of my classmates didn’t like her because she was really old and kind of slow, but she was a smart lady, and she taught me how to think differently about literature.  she’s one of a handful of teachers who left a lasting impact.

what’s a book that really cemented you as a writer?

uh … i don’t know?  i can say that ian mcewan’s atonement and daphne du maurier’s rebecca were the two books that made me fall back in love with literature after i’d gone through a dry spell my first two years at university, so maybe they, in a sense, cemented me as a writer?  i don’t know?  what does this question even mean?

is there a book you’ve read over and over again?

i read kazuo ishiguro’s never let me go at least twice every year.  i usually also read ian mcewan’s on chesil beach and nicole krauss’ man walks into a room at least once a year.  when i hit a rough spot writing, those are the three books i always turn to for encouragement.

what’s a classic that you’re embarrassed to say you’ve never read?

i’ve never read chekhov.  there.  i’ve said it.  now to go pick up something by chekhov tomorrow …

what’s a book you’ve pretended to have read?

hmm.  i used to do this; now i don’t care — there are so many good books out there; it’s impossible for anyone to have read them all; so who cares if you haven’t read a specific book?  i mean, as long as you’re reading good books …!

what’s a book you consider grossly overrated?

jane austen’s pride and prejudice.  haaaa, ok, i have an irrational dislike of that book.  i do love joe wright’s adaptation of it, though!

what’s a recent book you wish you had written?

generally speaking, any good serious novel because i am not a novelist — i am a writer of short stories.

what’s a movie adaptation of a book that you loved?

i surprisingly loved the adaptations to both ian mcewan’s atonement and kazuo ishiguro’s never let me go.  i loved the cinematography and staging and costuming of joe wright’s adaptation of tolstoy’s anna karenina, but i wasn’t too keen on the script.

(also, i love keira knightley.)

what was an illicit book that you had to read in secret as a kid?

all i read as a kid were the classics, so i didn’t read anything in secret.  i felt a sort of guilty pleasure while reading madame bovary, though, but i think i was in late middle school when i picked that up, so does that count?

what’s a book that people might be surprised to learn that you loved?

huh.  i don’t know.  i loved gregory maguire’s wicked?  that’s not that surprising, though … or is it?  i mean, i haven’t read the wizard of oz and only saw the movie very recently (like, in the last 2 months) for the first time (and was confirmed in my suspicion that i wouldn’t like dorothy), but i loved elphaba.  and fiyero!

if there were only one genre you could read for the rest of your life, what would it be?

uhm literary fiction?  considering that the bulk of my reading falls under “literary fiction” (to be honest, i don’t even know that means), i’d say i’m pretty safe saying that …

what was the last book that made you laugh out loud, and what was the last one that made you cry?

i’m laughing a lot while reading jonathan franzen’s the kraus project, and i cried while reading meg wolitzer’s the interestings.  this passage particularly got to me.  (also, if you haven’t read the interestings yet, what’s stopping you?)

what is a book you would kill a bug with?

ayn rand’s the fountainhead.  i’d kill all the bugs with that book.

aausten