may + june!  (ok this is ridic long, so i was going to put it behind one of those “read more” things, but, apparently, i can’t.  sorry.  ^^)

twenty.  the emperor’s children, claire messud.

“you mustn’t idealize, that’s all.  that’s all i wanted to say.  you’ll marry a man, not an idea of one.”  (annabel, 252)

three things about the emperor’s children:

one:  to be quite honest, i wasn’t as enraptured with the emperor’s children as i thought i would be.  i don’t know why my expectations were so high, but i almost stopped reading halfway through because i found i couldn’t connect very well with any of the characters and found them all a little annoying and patronizing but in ways that people are annoying and patronizing.  which is a pretty good testament as to messud’s writing — she’s a good writer, there’s no question about that.

two:  i think i got frustrated mostly with how the story is told.  the novel hops amongst the characters, resting briefly with one then another, and it was like watching a slideshow, being given a few minutes with one slide before being zipped on to the next.  i liked it at first but then rather quickly found myself wishing i could reach into the book and hold us with a character, let us dive deeper, get more time with danielle or marina or any of the other characters, and really get acquainted with them — but the novel never gave me that and kept hopping along like a little bunny eager to get to everyone.

three:  that said, messud does a great job at tying all these story threads together and bringing them to a climax with the towers falling.  the build-up is pretty satisfying, and i liked the aftermath, how 9/11 affected all these characters’ lives, in ways that i didn’t quite expect.  that said, though, i did find the ending a bit incomplete.

idk.  it wasn’t one of my favorites.

twenty-one & twenty-two.  annihilation and authority, jeff vandermeer.

that’s how the madness of the world tries to colonize you:from the outside in, forcing you to live in its reality.(annihilation, 108)

and

a girlfriend who had gleaned some sense of his job had once asked, “why do you do it?” — meaning why serve such a clandestine purpose, a purpose that could not be shared, could not be revealed.  he’d given his standard response, in a portentous manner, to poke fun at himself.  to disguise the seriousness.  “to know.  to go beyond the veil.”  across the border.  even as control said it, he had known that he was also telling her he didn’t mind leaving her there, alone, on the other side.  (authority, 195)

ohhhhh these were SO fabulously creepy.  i inhaled annihilation on a flight out to california because i couldn’t put it down, then made good headway into authority before the plane landed and finished authority while in portland over the next few days.  i couldn’t get enough, and now i’m impatiently waiting for it to be september because acceptance will be published then.

one giant thing i love about the southern reach trilogy is that the three books aren’t written in the same voice.  (or ok these two weren’t; i don’t know how acceptance will be told.)  i’m not a big fan of trilogies because i find that very few stories actually need to be told in trilogies (extra length = sloppier stories) (this is a generalization, yes), but vandermeer went about the southern reach trilogy in a cool way — the biologist narrates annihilation, and authority focuses on control — and it’s great, not only because it changes things up between books, but also (and maybe more importantly) because the different narrative voices add to the stories.  like, annihilation works so well because it’s told from the perspective of the biologist, and it’s a very narrow, limited perspective because the biologist is new to area x, too.

but, then, as we go into authority, we, as the readers, have a slight edge on control (the main character of authority) because we’ve already been privy to the biologist’s experiences while he hasn’t— but, at the same time, there’s all this bigger picture stuff we don’t know, and it’s nice to get a more expansive view of the southern reach and area x through a wider third-person narrative.  i know i’m sitting here being super excited about narrative form, but it’s just done so well, and i loved both of these books and cannot freaking wait for september to roll around and spit out acceptance.  i want to know what happens!!!  and why things have been happening!!!  i want answers!!!  vandermeer, don’t go lost on me; don’t you dare!!!

also, charlotte strick did SUCH a rad job on the covers and end pages.  these books are GORGEOUS.  i wish they’d been released in hardcover.  T_T

(in general, FSG’s amped up its book design game in the last few years, and i am fucking loving it.)

twenty-three.  the interestings, meg wolitzer.

but, she knew, you didn’t have to marry your soulmate, and you didn’t even have to marry an interesting.  you didn’t always need to be the dazzler, the firecracker, the one who cracked everyone up, or made everyone want to sleep with you, or be the one who wrote and starred in the play that got the standing ovation.  you could cease to be obsessed with the idea of being interesting.  anyway, she knew, the definition could change; it had changed, for her.  (524)

yup.  i read this for the third time in nine months.  couldn’t help it.  i was in california when i felt an overwhelming need to read this again, so i went out and got it and plowed my way through it again.

sigh.  i love that the interestings is many things at once.  it’s a story about friendship, and, more than that, it’s a story about female friendship.  it’s a story about envy.  it’s a story about talent and potential and how talent and potential can go many ways — it can blossom and grow, nurtured through hard work and discipline, or it can fizzle out, turn out to have been nothing much at all, or it can be put aside and replaced with something else.  it’s a story about families and growing up, but my favourite one this time around — it’s about marriage.

the interestings is awesome because it’s one of those rare portrayals of a healthy marriage.  it’s not a perfect marriage (but there is no such thing, is there), but jules and dennis have a good marriage — and, though i am someone who has never been married, i find it realistic and encouraging.  they have their conflicts, and, at one point, you think they’ll separate because they won’t be able to overcome this conflict, but they get through it — and i like that wolitzer doesn’t gloss over the mundane or the less glamorous aspects of marriage but paints an honest picture that is, yes, optimistic but has integrity in its portrayal.

i also love how the interestings really is about jules and ash’s friendship, and part of me loves that as a woman because women’s friendships are often shafted, reduced to petty competition or jealousies.  and i’d say that it really is jules and ash’s friendship that makes me continue to come back to the interestings because i love the evolution of their friendship, how it keeps going even after they’re married and have kids and are living vastly different lives.  and it’s not in a way that’s passive on their end — jules and ash both have to commit, in a sense, to the friendship, to let it grow and change as they do, too.  friendship isn’t passive; it’s a relationship; and, like all relationships, it requires sacrifice and work and commitment, too — and i like that wolitzer portrays that so deftly in this friendship.

one of my favourite quotes is one from ash as she’s toasting jules and dennis at their wedding:  “i’m not losing you.  marriage, i don’t think, is like that.  it’s something else.  it’s a thing in which you get to see your closest friend become more of who she already is.”  (269)  i think that’s so beautiful and what i’d hope from my closest friendships if i ever get married.

also, here’s my obligatory “i love ethan figman.”  i swear, i’m not going to stop saying that whenever there’s any mention of the interestings because i’ve never felt about a fictional character the way i feel about ethan figman.

twenty-four.  still writing, dani shapiro.

the writing life is full of risk.  there is the creative risk — the willingness to fall flat on our face again and again — but there is also practical risk.  as in, it may not work out.  we don’t get brownie points for trying really hard.  when we set our hopes on this life, we are staking our future on the contents of our minds.  on our ability to create and continue to create.  we have nothing but this.  no 401(k), no pension plan, often no IRA, no plans — god knows — for retirement.  we have to accept living with profound uncertainty.  (179)

i don’t typically (or ever?) read books on writing, but i picked up still writing when i was going through a really rough time writing.  (i blame it all on netflix.  no joke.  which is why i cancelled netflix two weeks after restarting my subscription … and i’ve been 150% better since.)  still writing basically was like shapiro had taken everything the illustrator friend and i have been discussing about the creative life and put it into a compact, dense little gem of a book, which was exactly what i needed earlier this month.

i liked it.  i’ll probably come back to it and revisit when i’m in need of encouragement.  still writing didn’t necessarily shed new light on the creative life for me, but it was great in that it made me feel less alone.  sometimes, this whole creative venture can feel horribly isolating, especially when you’re in the writing phase, so there was a sense of solidarity to be found in these pages, like, hey, you might feel alone right now, but you are actually indeed part of this community of people who just know deep down that they must write or draw or do music, etcetera etcetera etcetera.

i’d definitely recommend it for any creative being, too.  shapiro doesn’t try to glamorize anything, and neither is she dire and cynical — simply very pragmatic and honest and encouraging.

twenty-five.  how to read a novelist, john freeman.

now he [eugenides] and franzen are at the top of america’s heap of novelists.  it’s a position eugenides doesn’t guard, and he knows that eventually there will be a new wave.  he can even in some ways see it coming.  “now and then there’s a literary party and i see these guys looking at me, guys i used to be, and i’m sure that they are in that same ferment and state, and ambitious and talking, showing their work to their friends, and i’m sure it’s still going on.  the look in their eyes that i see is the same i expect my eyes looked like back in 1992.”  (334-5)

ok truth?  i didn’t actually read all the interviews in this book.  which wouldn’t have been difficult to do because there are only fifty-five interviews and they’re all pretty brief (but no less good for being brief), but i still didn’t read them all.  i read the ones of all the authors i’ve read/like, so there’s definite bias there, but i’m still sticking this on here because this is how i roll with non-fiction collections such as these, and how to read a novelist is going to be one of those books that i come back to over and over for inspiration/encouragement/blah blah blah.  i can feel it.

i find myself thinking of interviews along the same veins that i think of writers who write in first-person;  there are many who are good at it, but there are very few who are great at it.  with interviews, maybe part of that falls on the editor of the publication, too, because there are few publications that consistently turn out good interviews (e.g. the paris review is indisputable king when it comes to awesome interviews; interview generally has good ones; and i’ve loved the ones i’ve read on guernica) (btw apparently guernica is planning a print publication, wahoo!). 

freeman’s pretty great.  i wish these were longer, though, because they’re really only a few pages each, and they were a little too bite-sized, which made me sad because i wanted more.  they’re very full bites, though, and it’s a good collection from a great spectrum of authors.  i’ll be holding onto this for a while.

twenty-six.  the silent history, eli horowitz, matthew derby, kevin moffett.

without names they’d be gone.  (francine chang, 492)

the silent history was absolutely incredible.  i spent all weekend doing nothing but reading it because i didn’t want to stop, and i absolutely loved it and was sad when it was over, even though it was dark and i was reading outdoors (by the light spilling from a cafe), so it was probably good for my already-nearly-legally-blind eyes that i finished it.  

two things: 

one.  the voices — the silent history is told in the voices of at least 24 different people, and i say “at least” here because i stopped writing them down at 24.  and, yet, these 24 different people sound like … 24 different people.  that’s bloody incredible.

two.  the silent history feels very contemporary.  you have a premise that sounds sci-fi-y — a bunch of children born without the ability to speak — but it presents this phenomenon in a way that’s very timely and relevant and also in a way that represents the width of the human spectrum.  in that way, the use of multiple voices served the novel incredibly well because we’re presented with all these different perspectives and fears and motivations.  it felt like a documentary (which i suppose was the point) and, as a narrative, as a novel, like a social commentary done in a way that doesn’t really read like one.

i feel like the silent history would be loads of fun to read as a book club.  different readers would take issue with different things, and i’m aware that that’s pretty true about all books — as readers, we have our own complex histories that inform our reading — but there’s a lot in the silent history that could be picked at and discussed.  like, for me, i was taken with the mass inability to see beyond the knowable and the familiar and the ways that the dominant society tries to override and force the minority into the familiar — generally, this terror of the Other where the Other’s happiness or contentment is inconceivable simply for being different.  the Other doesn’t have to harm the “majority;” it simply has to exist for the majority to feel threatened and react defensively, most often by forcing conformity.

also, as i was reading the silent history, i kept thinking about how sometimes it’s surprising the characters you find yourself sympathizing with most.  i was all for theodore (flora’s father) and had little patience for nancy (spencer’s mother).  i couldn’t really stand patti but found her laughable and a more than a little pathetic, and i was largely indifferent towards francine.  i couldn’t stand burnham and was rooting for calvin all the way, but i didn’t feel much for flora (she was too good) or for spencer or even for their kid.  david vaguely annoyed me.  i remember reading a criticism of a criticism once and how the criticism (that was being criticized) focused too much on how the reader felt, and i laughed a little because i think that a lot of reading really is about how we feel while reading.  it’s how we feel about these characters and their stories that takes a piece of writing and gives it a charge — it’s what makes us care and gets us invested — but, yes, on the other hand, i suppose one should be more objective when one is an official reviewer.

which i am not, so i get to sit here and talk about how a book made me feel, and the silent history made me feel nice things inside, even while being a sort of dark novel that raises lots of serious issues.  very good.  highly recommended.  go for it.

twenty-seven.  the isle of youth, laura van der berg.

their parents didn’t seem to know they’d been gone, or catch the strange smells they brought home.  the farm was more than two hundred acres, and dana figured they thought their children were out on the land, like they’d always been.  but their children were learning quickly.  they were learning that the outside world and the pleasures it held weren’t so bad.  they were learning that they had never really believed in God; they have only ever believed in fear.  (“lessons,” 78)

i thought i’d like this a lot more than i did.  i don’t know why; i just expected a lot more from it when i started it.  the writing is good, and i loved that they were stories about women in bad/messy situations and how they not necessarily overcame them but dealt with them.  i did appreciate that.  maybe it was just that i got to the second to last story and was just like, “damn, this book is just bumming me out.”  i don’t know.  i don’t really have many things to say about it?

in case you hadn’t gotten the memo, i’m currently obsessed with FSG originals.

went to mcnally jackson today and picked up gong ji-young’s our happy time, hwang sun-mi’s the hen who dreamed she could fly, and francoise sagan’s bonjour tristesse.  excited to start them, yey yey!

looking forward to:

  1. gong ji-young, our happy time (2014 july 1, atria books/marble arch press)
  2. catherine lacey, nobody is ever missing (2014 july 8, FSG originals)
  3. edan lepucki, california (2014 july 8, little, brown)
  4. haruki murakami, colorless tsukuru tazaki and his years of pilgrimage (2014 august 14, knopf)
  5. jeff vandermeer, acceptance (2014 september 2, FSG originals)
  6. ian mcewan, the children act (2014 september 9, nan a. talese)
  7. marilynne robinson, lila (2014 october, 07, FSG)
  8. kazuo ishiguro, the buried giant (2015 march 05, faber & faber) (2015 spring, knopf)

(will edit this as needed)

(new ishiguro!  NEW ISHIGURO!!!)

Anonymous whispered: Hey! I really love your posts, they're awesome. As I read them, I was wondering whether you listen to music when you read books? If you do, what kind of music? (Because for me, I really like to listen to music that fits the particular part of the book that I'm reading. It helps to bring out the atmosphere.) or you think listening to music when reading a book is a big no no? I'm just pretty curious :)

hey, thanks for the lovely message/Q!  (:

i’m a huge music listener and am pretty much always listening to music, even when i’m writing, which i feel is sort of unusual?  idk, i know more people who want/need silence when writing, or maybe that’s just my pool of peers.

when i’m reading, i listen to whatever i’m in the mood for personally, not necessarily something that fits the book i’m reading, but the volume gets turned down when i’m really into a book.  i listen to a lot of korean artists — nell’s my favourite band, and other favourites are eaeon, mot, monni, jaurim, dear cloud, and 3rd line butterfly — and i like rock/indie in general (i love the sound of guitars).  my favourite singer-songwriter is a lovely woman named vienna teng, and i’m always excited for more from metric and missy higgins and radiohead.  i admit there aren’t very many bands/artists i’m super crazy into anymore, other than nell maybe, and i have phases — like, two weeks ago, it was coldplay, specifically “paradise,” but, right now, i’m obsessed with hillsong’s “oceans,” though maybe i guess i shouldn’t say “right now” because i’ve been floating back towards nell since yesterday …  anyway, generally, i like music that has atmosphere and tone and puts me in good, floaty headspace when i’m reading/writing.

when i’m writing, i definitely look for music that fits the mood of whatever i’m writing — i like making up soundtracks, which also means that i listen to a fair number of film soundtracks (joe hisaishi, clint mansell, dario marianelli are favs), and sometimes i’ll actually pick up some music from movie trailers because trailer music is all about tension and mood and emotion.  i also listen to my fair share of classical music — i default towards beethoven, brahms, mozart, rachmaninoff, elgar, dvorak, chopin, debussy, some holst and tchaikovsky — with a preference for full orchestral/choral or piano pieces.

so i guess i tend to gravitate towards rock/indie and classical?  and boa.  boa will always be my pop bias.  :D  haha maybe one day i’ll make a mix of music i find myself going back to when reading/writing.

march + april!  and, yes, sometimes, i read on the ipad.  very, very rarely, though.

eleven.  portrait of an addict as a young man, bill clegg.

his words, his caressing hand, carlos on top of me, the drugs and vodka roaring through me — shame, pleasure, care, and approval collide and the worst of the worst no longer seems so bad.  one of the most horrible things i can imagine — having sex, high on drugs, in front of noah — has been reduced to something human, a pain that can be soothed, a monstrous act that can be known and forgiven.  you’re okay, noah reassures me with his soft voice and gentle strokes, and for a few long minutes, i am.  (133)

i read this and ninety days within 24 hours.  clegg’s a pretty adept writer, and i liked how he used the third person when it came to talking his youth — it didn’t read like a shtick but created a nice sort of hazy distance between clegg the adult and clegg the child.  i also appreciated that he isn’t writing to make apologies or excuses for his addiction and its consequences but simply telling his tale the way it happened, no concern for making himself look better or more sympathetic.  which worked because i wasn’t very sympathetic towards him and felt myself growing frustrated and irritated with him.

this was an interesting read in that it made me step back to question how i might react if i had a friend in a similar situation.  i admit that i didn’t like all the answers i discovered, but it’s refreshing when you read something that challenges you as a human being — i’d say that it really is a testament to clegg’s own stark naked honesty that i had to stop to ask myself what i would do and that the answers, in turn, challenged me to be more supportive and understanding of friends who are struggling.

twelve.  ninety days, bill clegg.

so i return to new york, see the studio on 15th street, and even though the rent is pretty cheap, i can’t afford it.  the landlord and broker need all that money.  since jean and dave are out, and because most of my family is broke, i ask elliot.  the first time in my adult life i’ve asked anyone for money, and elliot’s yes is as uncomplicated as if i’d asked him for a french fry off his dinner plate.  as uncomfortable as the asking is, as grim as the circumstances are that bring me to the question, the yes is a miracle.  the yes, with all its confidence and kindness, is like jane’s kiss on the street near one fifth, or jean’s bags of food.  it cuts through the plaque of shame and reminds me that somewhere underneath the wretched addict is a person worth being kind to, even worth betting on.  and i do not look like a good bet, that much is clear from any perspective, but when i tell elliot i don’t know when i’ll be able to pay him back, he just says, i’m not worried.  i know you will.  (74)

i’d say i enjoyed this more than portrait of an addict as a young man, not because ninety days depicts his struggles to get clean — i’m not really that interested in redemption stories — but because it got me in the heart with the emphasis on community.  getting sober wasn’t something clegg did on his own; it was the people beside him who made the difference, whether it was by providing him with groceries or by struggling themselves to get sober or by simply waiting for him to get sober, to get back to work.  there’s such a poignant beauty to that, and something convicting there, too, because it’s so easy to get wrapped up in our own worries and selfish needs, too absorbed with wanting something in return for our “generosity.”  the stark naked honesty from portrait is here, too, and a whole lot of love and a whole lot of gratitude, and it really was a beautiful, humbling thing to read.

thirteen.  my education, susan choi.

“come on, regina  you ‘love’ me, you want to come set up house?  you ‘love’ me, you want to be joachim’s other mommy?  you want to pay half my mortgage?  you want to bake little pies every day?  what is this bullshit?  what more do you want?  you have me.  quit the ‘gimme.’

“what ‘gimme,’” i whispered, my throat walls grown thick.

“your ‘i love you’ is like ‘gimme, gimme,’” she said, pulling into her driveway.  she turned off the engine and we listened to its tick-tick dying noise as if marking the hours before dawn.  then she seized my hand and at her touch i yanked her close, a tug-of-war stalemate across the gearshift of the saab.  “i want you here, too,” she whispered.  “i want you sleeping with me, in my bed.  i want that even though it’s insane, and my life goes to pieces if we get ourselves caught, i still want it.  can’t that be enough?”  (95)

my feelings re: my education are … not smple:  i found the narrator, regina, both fascinating and irritating (she cries a lot), and i wasn’t necessarily that sucked into the story, but i enjoyed the book overall.  it made me want to read more susan choi (i promptly went out and bought the foreign student and american woman) because i ended up really liking/enjoying regina’s voice in my education, even if i were ambivalent about her (again, too much crying).  i found her arc immensely satisfying, though, loved the way she grew up and matured, and i actually liked the big time jump in my education — i think it served the story well, and i’m not really a fan of big time jumps in general because i tend to find them lazy, whether in novels or in korean dramas.

i felt pretty ambivalent about my education while i was reading it, kind of thought the story was a little whatever, but the further i got into it, the more i didn’t want to stop — the more i liked that there wasn’t a high concept or complicated narrative.  i’ve also heard susan choi in conversation twice in the last few months, and i came away from both events being more curious about her and wanting to hear more from her, although she was really more the moderator at both, because she’s very smart and very poised and has an awesome haircut, which never hurts.  it’s always a plus when you like the author, i say, and susan choi’s definitely on my radar now — i’ll be keeping an eye out for any other events/readings she does in nyc!

fourteen.  the interestings, meg wolitzer.

but when she looked over at ash and ethan, she often felt a small reminder of how she herself didn’t entirely change.  her envy was no longer in bloom; the lifting of dennis’s depression had lessened it.  but it was still there, only closed-budded now, inactive.  because she was less inhabited by it, she tried to understand it, and she read something online about the difference between jealousy and envy.  jealousy was essentially “i want what you have,” while envy was “i want what you have, but i also want to take it away so you can’t have it.”  sometimes in the past she’d wished that ash and ethan’s bounty had simply been taken away from them, and then everything would have been even, everything would have been in balance.  but jules didn’t fantasize about that now.  nothing was terrible, everything was manageable, and sometimes even better than that.  (363)

you know, it really says a lot about a book if, as you’re flipping through it for passages you pencilled, you want to sit down and read it again.  even though you’ve just read it again for a second time in less than twelve months.

i still love ethan figman.

the paperback launch for the interestings was held at powerhouse, and meg wolitzer appeared with susan choi, and it was fun listening to wolitzer talk about the book — how she, too, had been in love with ethan figman, so much so that he wasn’t flawed, that she wrote the book in order, that she tries to get to know her characters first.  she also likes to read something great while writing, not really into the fear of being derivative, and thinks that flashbacks and flash-forwards are false constructs because we’re constantly toggling the past, present, and future in our lives — and there was more, but that’s all i feel like typing up here now.

i wrote about the interestings more in my 2013 reading recap, which you can read here.

fifteen.  drifting house, krys lee.

he says, “appa, i can read now.”

he can read, and you were not there to teach him.  (“the salaryman,” 108)

READ. THIS.  seriously.  read it.  it’s fucking incredible, easily one of the best books i’ve read this year.

there’s a thread that runs through this collection, not necessarily a narrative or thematic thread but an emotional, atmosphere one — it starts with the first story, and, as you continue reading and getting further into the book, the thread pulls tighter, pulling you in tighter and upping the unease that’s been hovering around you as you’ve been reading.  it’s a great unease fed by lee’s atmospheric prose — don’t be deceived by its seeming simplicity — and her stories are narrow in scope but so profoundly deep emotionally.

one of the things i absolutely loved about drifting house, though, is that lee has one foot firmly in korea and one foot firmly in america.  i mentioned that briefly before, but that’s actually a very difficult line to straddle, i’ve found — usually korean-american authors tend to skew more american, which, but lee manages to depict both cultures in language that captures both korean and english, not only in diction but also in tone and voice.  and she does it all with such finesse and ease — there’s nothing clunky about drifting house.

i know this might sound a little weird, but it’s late, so forgive me .  basically, you should read it because it’s a great, incredible, unique book with a great voice, and i am so stoked for her novel, whenever it’s released!

sixteen.  the corrections, jonathan franzen.

he was remembering the nights he’d sat upstairs with one or both of his boys or with his girl in the crook of his arm, their damp bath-smelling heads hard against his ribs as he read aloud to them from black beauty or the chronicles of narnia.  how his voice alone, its palpable resonance, had made them drowsy.  these were evenings, and there were hundreds of them, maybe thousands, when nothing traumatic enough to leave a scar had befallen the nuclear unit.  evenings of plain vanilla closeness in his black leather chair; sweet evenings of doubt between the nights of bleak certainty.  they came to him now, these forgotten counterexamples, because in the end, when you were falling into water, there was no solid thing to reach for but your children.  (335-6)

this was a second read, too — i first read the corrections back in 2011 — and i’d say i enjoyed it just as much as i did the first time around.  i still dislike most of the characters (caroline’s the worst; denise is my favourite; and i have a soft spot for alfred), but i have to give it to franzen for writing these full, human characters in a full, lived-in world — ugh, he’s so good, and what i [almost] resent him most is that he makes it read so easy.  the effort isn’t there on the page, letting itself be known; the words flow easily, naturally off the page; and his dialogue is pretty damn great, too.

the thing with the corrections is that you put up with these unlikable characters for 400-, 500-some pages, but the payoff is great when the lambert children finally put their shit together and grow the fuck up and become adults.  there’s a nice redemption there, and it’s not the sort that feels excessively tidy, like franzen is trying to make up for the book by sweeping up the end, but it’s a human redemption, the way that, sometimes, it really is one event that makes us sit up straight and pay attention and take responsibility for ourselves, our families, our lives — and, seriously, it’s pretty damn gratifying.

seventeen.  sleepwalking, meg wolitzer.

it was children who did it, who drained the life from you, who made you run around the room playing piggyback until you were out of breath.  it was children who scared you as no other people could.  the first time lucy had tried to kill herself and ray had been called ashore by the local coast guard, he had seen helen standing all alone on the dock, clutching herself tightly, and he had known without any doubt that it was about lucy.  he had been able to tell from the urgency of the way helen stood, and when he got off the boat he had slipped into her arms and wanted to stay there forever.  (128)

sleepwalking is wolitzer’s debut novel, published when she was twenty-two, and it was reissued recently with a new cover that uses the same type that her other books use.  first novels are interesting to me (franzen’s first is bizarre, but that might be because i had such a strange experience reading it) because it’s interesting to see where writers begin and how they grow, and you could definitely see the youth in sleepwalking, though you could also see the potential and how wolitzer would go on to write the interestings.

to be quite honest, i found sleepwalking pretty mediocre, nothing that spectacular or interesting.  i kept wanting more to happen, but nothing really did, so it was a rather anticlimactic read.

eighteen.  freedom, jonathan franzen.

she has embarrassingly inquired, of her children, whether there’s a woman in his life, and has rejoiced at hearing no.  not because she doesn’t want him to be happy, not because she has any right or even much inclination to be jealous anymore, but because it means there’s some shadow of a chance that he still thinks, as she does more than ever, that they were not just the worst thing that ever happened to each other, they were also the best thing.  (569)

this was a second read, too — i also read freedom back in 2011 — and i liked it a lot more this time around.  my vague memory of freedom the first time around was that there was too much politicizing, too much of franzen ranting about his own sociopolitical views, but i didn’t find it to be so excessive this time around, although i did still think some of it could have been edited down.  not so much to interfere with my enjoyment of it, though — i basically spent a weekend ploughing through freedom because i didn’t want to stop.

my favourite arc in freedom is that of patty and walter’s marriage.  i think both characters do some terrible things to each other, but they learn from their terrible mistakes and find their ways back to each other, in a sense redeeming each other.  i do think the death in freedom was a cop-out — it was too convenient, too easy — and i’m still not sold on whether or not it was necessary (or effective) to have a third of the novel be written in “patty’s” voice, but i wasn’t that bothered by it during either of my reads.  i derived much enjoyment from joey’s plights, though — they were funny only because joey’s young and does grow up and learn from his stupidity — and, generally, if you were to ask me what freedom’s all about, i’d probably say that it’s a book about redemption, about these characters doing all these shitty things to themselves and to each other but redeeming themselves and each other, and it’s all pretty damn satisfying.

and you know, something franzen just does so well — he sets a general stage, introduces the characters, and then he pulls these long threads from that, zeroing in one character and then another and then another, and you’re kind of wondering how these all come together, but then he does it, weaves all the threads together, and creates this whole, complete narrative.  it’s fucking great to read and a whole lot of fun.

i love franzen.  i enjoy his nonfiction voice, his sense of humor, his perceptions and self-examination, his awareness, and rereading the corrections and freedom made me realize how much i love and miss his fiction voice.  does he deserve all the crazy hype he gets?  i don’t know; i can’t say; but is he good?  hell yes, and i’d even go so far as to say that he’s better than most, at least in creating these big, expansive, human worlds with real human people — and, hey, it’s been four years since freedom, so that makes it five more years to go until we get a new novel from him?

nineteen.  tongue, jo kyung-ran.

the thousands of taste buds on my tongue wake up one after the other.  taste is the most pleasurable of all human senses.  the happiness you get from eating can fill the absence of other pleasures.  there’s a time when all you can do is eat.  when eating is the only way you can prove that you’re still alive.  large raindrops splatter onto the table, signaling the imminent arrival of a squall.

to eat or not to eat.  to love or not to love.  that is the question for the five senses.  (108)

this took me a while to get through.  i found it interesting because it’s about food and there are some great passages about food in it, but i also found it a little slow because the narrator seemed stuck in the same place for the majority of the book — and, when she did get into action to seek out revenge, it was abrupt, like she’d jumped suddenly from point a to point e.  i could see what jo was doing by laying a gradual groundwork, but, even so, maybe it was too subtle, maybe it felt too much like groundwork without enough structure, because i would’ve loved if the narrative had built more and led more gracefully into the ending.

the ending was fantastic, though, and it was still an interesting read, and i did ultimately enjoy it, although i guess we’ll see how memorable it was.

currently, halfway through the emperor’s children and american woman and started the lullaby of polish girls.  i don’t have any kind of “theme” as far as reading goes at the moment, just that i’m still aggressively avoiding books written in the first person and constantly looking for books that are beautifully written — and, okay, this is long enough, and i need to sleep, so good night!

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)

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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!
aausten