Category Archives: Books

Overtimed out

I haven’t updated in quite awhile. Nor have I done much reading from my list. Oh well. Like I’ve said before, this is a super-long-term project, so…

I did finish 1919 back in April, and I started The Big Money. I’ve still not finished the U.S.A. trilogy, though. Nor have I finished Blindness by Jose Saramago, which I started in late April and have only picked up sporadically in the past couple of weeks.

It’s partly because I’ve been distracted by Stanley Cup playoffs. I picked a bad year to start reading from these lists, because there are only four things I’d care to watch when they’re actually televised and three of them – the Winter Olympics, Stanley Cup playoffs, and the World Cup – are 2006 events. Okay, so the Stanley Cup happens every hockey season, and I’ll be missing most of the live broadcasts of the World Cup games because they’re airing during business hours, but still.

It’s also because work’s been crazy, and I’ve been putting in massive amounts of overtime. Taking it back into Bookworm’s Quest territory and away from personal blogging, this means that I haven’t had the energy to invest in the books that I’d had in progress. The Big Money is even more difficult for me to read than the preceding book in the series, and the characters really start to blur together when you’re seriously lacking sleep. And Blindness, while well done and compelling so far, is not always “enjoyable,” and it’s hard to keep track of who’s speaking (which I’m sure is deliberate, a subject I’ll touch upon in a later entry).

So I opted for lighter reading material throughout the month of May. Most of that material is not on my master reading list. But, well, my sister had shown me the Memoirs of a Geisha DVD the last time I saw her. (Terrible movie, by the way – not only is it far too much of a chick flick for my tastes, it’s also a poor adaptation, and my sister kept asking me to elaborate events and details.) For the sake of comparison, this meant that I had to read the book by Arthur Golden.

I hadn’t read it since 2003. I really liked it at the time, but it looks a little different three years later. Now I feel that it moves a little too slowly for my tastes, and it gets to be a little sappy. But, I still think it’s pretty well-written, with some lovely descriptions. And it suited my needs nicely. It’s entertaining enough, and I don’t have invest too much energy and thought into it – I can just let go and enjoy it for what it is.

Blog entries and other site updates will be sparse for a little while longer. But I’ll be back with more bookish blather soon enough!

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The sheltering sky

I had read through a good portion of The Sheltering Sky and then had to put it on hold for a bit. You can only renew books once in the San Diego city library system, and I’d already done so just before the Olympics (and before realizing that I’d turn into a complete couch potato for almost all of the renewal period).

Anyway. I finally completed it. And my final impression does not match my initial impression. A couple of chapters in, I liked it. But now, while I certainly don’t think it’s bad, I just couldn’t really get into it, particularly in the later chapters. I probably would have liked it better if I had a reason to care about the characters, but I found them to be pretty empty, and therefore thought, “okay, but so what?” more than once throughout the course of the novel.

Maybe that was deliberate. Maybe Paul Bowles wanted to draw more attention to the themes than to any of the characters themselves. If that’s the case, then he succeeded. In fact, there are places where I felt like I was being beaten over the head with those existential themes.

It’s actually a relatively quick read (all my breaks from it notwithstanding), and the writing style does suit the story rather well. From an objective standpoint, it’s a job well done on Bowles’s part, and I can see why it’s on the Modern Library’s top 100 list.

I still wouldn’t recommend it if you’re looking for an enjoyable read, though.

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Couch potato

I haven’t finished a book since February 4. I haven’t even read much in the past couple of weeks. While I normally use the TV just for DVD viewing, I turn into a complete couch potato at certain times. And the Winter Olympics are one of those times.

I should be back to my normal bookwormy self next week, though.

1919 is getting more difficult for me to read, mainly because there are so many characters in U.S.A.. 700+ pages into the “trilogy,” I’m having a damned hard time keeping everyone straight, particularly since most of them aren’t remarkably interesting in and of themselves. The indistinctness helps create the social portrait – some of them are so vaguely defined, it’s easy to see them as an “everyman.” But it makes it harder for me to remember where they fit or how exactly their stories are progressing.

The Sheltering Sky is quite a bit easier, and I’d be done with it already if I just stopped sitting in front of the TV. I haven’t gotten too far into this book yet (I’m only a few chapters in), but I fly through it when I actually pick it up. I like it so far but can’t quite pinpoint why.

Hopefully I’ll finish at least one of these books by the end of the month. But we’ll see.

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A positive revisit

As I’d mentioned before, I had initially tried to read Orson Scott Card’s Speaker for the Dead when I was in high school, but for one reason or another, I couldn’t finish it. Apparently the 6+ years between now and then made a difference, because not only did I get through the book, I actually liked it this time around.

I’m still most intrigued by the social and cultural elements of the novel, and I liked trying to make sense of the piggies as the xenologers did (though I was annoyed by how things were made clear the end; the journey was more satifying than the destination). I feel that Ender is a better developed character in this novel, and the work as a whole is more complex than Ender’s Game. It certainly feels very different from the preceding novel, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Speaker for the Dead is a less comfortable book for me to read, but I am trying to get out of my comfort zone here, so no complaints there.

In other book news, I’m still going through 1919 (at least when I do pick it up, I read it in huge chunks), and I just started reading Paul Bowles’s The Sheltering Sky. Next on the list is Orson Scott Card’s Xenocide.

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The Stranger

I completed the Matthew Ward translation of Albert Camus’s The Stranger over the weekend. More specifically, I started it late-ish Saturday night and finished it just past midnight. It was an easy enough book to read, but I’m not sure how I feel about it. On the one hand, I really can’t identify with Meursault at all, and I just plain don’t like him; that’s definitely a strike against the book, considering how it’s his story and narration. On the other hand, it did provoke thought about the theory of the absurd, and Camus does do a nice job in bringing the character and his philosophy to life.

I do wonder how much gets lost in the translation, though. I’m one of those people who wishes she could read every language just so she can read original texts; having grown up in a practically trilingual household, where my parents tend to code-switch, and having dabbled in a couple of other languages myself, I’m all too familiar with just how poorly some words and concepts translate. Heck, I even buy the UK editions of Harry Potter, because I can read British English perfectly well and the US versions of the earlier novels change enough things to drive me batty. So if I read French well enough, I’d totally read The Stranger in its original language.

All in all, it’s not a bad book, and I’d say it’s worth a read, but I don’t particularly like it.

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