Bookings: White Teeth

I’ve been reading Zadie Smith’s White Teeth. What I admire most about Zadie Smith’s writing is that she can make certain character traits that would otherwise come off didactic instead become endearing or funny (e.g. an extremely religous overbearing mother becomes equivalent to a birthmark or mole). Really enjoying this so far. 🙂

Bookings: Feb – March

Today I finally finished Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities. The thing about this book is that it’s deceptive in its “simplicity”–the language is fairly simple, each story (and the book itself actually) is short but it really does take you on a journey: it’s difficult to read in one sitting because there are so many details, so many fragments and so many ideas which it discusses–I felt like if I read it too fast I would forget a lot of the things worth remembering. So yeah. I took my precious time with this. It was worth it though. I finished it this afternoon and jeez. Calvino has this way of really fixating on a concept and being able to point out which parts are the most twisted–I really admire that. He’s able to take this thing which is supposedly “simple” (in this case, enumerating cities) and then he somehow performs a kind of verbal origami thing where he takes everything and folds it over and over and over and turns it inside out until you aren’t sure where you started or what you were thinking before you read it. Fak. I really really loved this. Sigh. Dog-eared to death.

I also finished The Mistress’s Daughter by AM Homes, who in my opinion is one of the best writers out there, today. Her stories are amazing–strange and real and an odd combination of viscerally painful and extremely contemplative (almost like there’s a hesitation to get attached, even if you are)–and so when I saw this in the 50% off table in Fully Booked, I had to get it. ( I have to thank my lovely boyfriend for fronting me the dough–thank you, Keav!)

This is her memoir. I don’t want to say anymore because really, it’s told so well I don’t think I could even attempt to “summarize” it. I’ve never found a piece of non-fiction so compelling. AM Homes (or well, AM Homes as far as I can tell from this book) has a mind that is both morbidly curious about people and extremely vulnerable. She, too is able to do wonders with her ability to fixate on something. Shit. So good. It’s funny that I finished this on the same day as Invisible Cities because this I sped through like nobody’s business–I just needed to know more, more, more. Fuck. If you like being caught off guard and having your heard torn to shreds, you’ll love this book. The crazy thing about it is that the thing which hurt me is that it ends on a hopeful note; it broke my heart that it didn’t end broken. Does that make sense? GAH. I still have a literary hang over from this. :< This was good. So, so good.Image

My resolution for this year is to read a variety of forms per month. I think it’s important to go out of your comfort zone (although I don’t think there’s anything wrong with liking your comfort zone, either–you like what you like) and explore new things–if not to find new things to like, then at least to know what you don’t like.

This month, I’m going to be reading Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke (as recommended by my friend Ron) and Farther Away by Jonathan Strange Franzen (as recommended by my friend Trizha). I already read two essays from the latter and despite people always making fun of Franzen I stand by my opinion that I think he’s a decent writer and that even if his fiction is “conventional” or “straight forward”, I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. SO, yes. I will probably have to alternate these though or read them for two weeks each because ain’t no way I’m lugging both to the office.

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I solemnly swore that I would buy myself a book (or five) every pay day. So this month I got the Susanna Clarke one (which I’ll talk more about in another blog post) AND this baby down here: Siri Hustvedt’s newest book, The Blazing World. I’ve been a huge fan of Siri Hustvedt’s since 2007 when I stole What I Loved from my sister. I find that she (Siri H. , not my sister hahaha) has this incredible ability to tie art, psychology, science, creepy dolls and fairytales together so well. Crazy! Although admittedly, I didn’t enjoy her last novel (Sorrows of an American) as much I’m still excited to read this!!! It’s about art and murder–I will tell ya’ll how it goes. Although it is likely I will finish this by mid-April pa.

(Side note: I think maybe I didn’t enjoy Sorrows of An American so much because well duh, it dealt mostly with the struggle of dealing with being American with euro/jewish roots–this was also touched on in What I Loved but only tangentially–and I have difficulty relating to things which “get to the point” so directly. Hrrrm. Strange. )

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So, there. That’s what’s on the reading list/book report (HAHA) for this/last month. 😀

Coffee & Flowers: Trying Not To Feel Bad

Today, I had to ask to be sent home from work early because the thing they don’t tell you about the treatment of amoebiasis is that’s it is fucking painful. Mahapdi kind of pain, too. I spent my lunch break doubled-over while eating spam on a park bench (you gotta eat, the doctor said) and wondering how to tell my boss that I felt like dying. Anyway, in the end they let me go although I do feel disappointed in myself for not being able to sit the day out. Or I don’t know if that disappointment is just a defense mechanism for being afraid that I’ll get fired. I made my quota (a little over), even if I was half-day today but who knows, you know? Things happen. Mleh.

ImageAnyway, there’s nothing I can do about the amoebs except sit the pain out (at home), so I’ve been trying not to feel bad about the whole thing and just do shiz that will make the rest time worthwhile (although, don’t get me wrong–just not writhing in pain in itself is pretty worthwhile). So I’ve been listening to a lot of music and reading (or trying to, without falling asleep: this medicine is crazy strong) and writing. I’ve also downloaded s03e07 of GIRLS–so I’m looking forward to watching that in a bit.

So, yeah. :)) Basically trying not to feel bad. It is difficult, but it can be done! I thiiiink.

 

Coffee & Flowers: Progress, So Far

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Postcard by Arabella Paner

 

I’m spending today with my friend Akire at the studio which I mentioned in a previous post. We’re having a writing/get stuff done day and it’s going well, so far. 🙂 Here are a couple of things that I thought I would share:

1.) Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino

I really, really like this book. I’m a little less than halfway at this point and so I’ve gotten a feel of it, for the most part. The book is basically a bunch of short descriptions of cities (invisible ones, yes) as described by Marco Polo to Kublai Khan at a time nearing the end of his (Kublai Khan’s) empire. I really like how numerous short work can come together like this–every description of ever city is extremely precise and reveals a cleverly masked truth about the heading that city is filed under (“Cities & Desire”, “Cities & Memory”).

For example, here are a few bits I really liked:

“This city which cannot be expunged from the mind is like an armature, a honeycomb in whose cells each of us can place the things he wants to remember: names of famous men, virtues, numbers, vegetable and mineral classifications, dates of battles, constellations, parts of speech. Between each idea and each point of the itinerary an affinity or a contrast can be established, serving as an immediate memory. So the world’s most learned men are those who have memorized Zora.

But in vain I set out to visit the city: forced to remain motionless and always the same, in order to be more easily remembered, Zora has languished, disintegrated, disappeared. The earth has forgotten her.” (Cities & Memory, pp.15-16)

“On the map of your entire, O Great Khan, there must be room both for the big, stone Fedora and the little Fedoras in glass globes. Not because they are all equally real, but because all are only assumptions.

The one contains what is accepted as necessary when it is not yet so; the others, what is imagined as possible and, a moment later, is no longer possible.” (Cities & Desire, pp. 32-33)

“You do not come to Euphemia only to buy and sell, but also because at night, by the fires all around the market, seated on sacks or barrels or stretched out on piles of carpets, at each word that one man says–such as “wolf”, “sister”, “hidden treasure”, “battle”, “scabies”, “lovers”–the others tell, each one, his tale of wolves, sisters, treasures, scabies, lovers, battles. And you know that in the long journey ahead of you, when to keep awake against the camel’s swaying or the junk’s rocking, you start summoning up your memories one by one, your wolf will have become another wolf, your sister a different sister, your battle other battles, on your return from Euphemia, the city where memory is traded at every solstice and at every equinox.” (Trading Cities, pp.36-37)

2.) Prose Practice: The FB Art Challenge

I haven’t gotten as far along with this as I would like. So far, I have 20 people listed down and I only have 3 works out. The difficult thing about writing something with such a specific audience in mind is that you know, more or less, what it is these people will enjoy but you aren’t sure you’ll enjoy it or you aren’t sure how to bend your style so that it accommodates what they’ll enjoy. However, I think that this is excellent practice and that it does help with diversifying the ways in which you (can, if not prefer to) write.

You can access these works below:

If things go well, I may have another work up today. If not, then all succeeding work will be put up by late next week at the earliest. :<

3.) EM Zine Issue 4

We’re currently working on stuff to be included in EM Zine Issue 4, coming out in February at Komikon Baguio and Elbikon. I’m both excited and exhausted–excellent (haha) alliterations, if I do say so myself.

Jan Reads 2014 (Post 1)

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I got these books either for Christmas/my birthday and have been reading them. Two of them are short story collections (Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman & Moral Disorder) while one is a novel.

Here are my thoughts, etc. so far:

1.) Moral Disorder by Margaret Atwood

Excellent as usual. The thing I love (or one of the things I love) about Atwood is that the older she’s gotten, the better she’s gotten at writing about youth (and the imminent loss of it). This collection follows just one main character which I really like and which I feel sets it apart from a lot of her short story collections (or short story collections, in general).

I also love how she begins the book by introducing the main character as an old woman. Anyway. I don’t want to give too much away. This is one of my favorite Atwood books, so far. (Admittedly, I’ve only read a few–The Blind Assassin, Wilderness Tips, Betty {this is a short story, though} and Bluebeard’s Egg.)

2.) Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman by Haruki Murakami

I feel like I’ve read enough Murakami to last me a life time, to be honest–I was very into his work back during my early college days. I was hesitant to start this year with yet another Murakami book but I figured ah fuck it: if you genuinely enjoy something then why stop reading it just because you’ve read a lot of things like it before?

Also most of the books of Murakami’s that I’ve read are novels anyway so I don’t think my reading this is being too redundant. I really like it, so far–although (like my friend Trizha and I were talking about a few weeks ago) the thing about translated work is that a lot of the enjoyment factor comes from who/how the story is translated. I am partial to translations by Jay Rubin (Norwegian Wood, After Dark) and Alfred Birnbaum (A Wild Sheep Chase, Dance Dance Dance, Hard-boiled Wonderland & the End of the World) because they’re able to translate in a way that conveys meaning without sounding like a translation but also not sounding very western. I like that subtlety.

And it is this point which gives me a hard time re: which stories I like from this collection. The collection is comprised of very good stories but they aren’t translated by just one translator. Some were done by Jay Rubin, others by Philip Gabriel.

Take the first two stories, for instance: Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman and Birthday Girl. As a story–or as a story in theory, I feel like I would prefer the former because it deals with themes which I really like: the passing of time, the overlapping of time in memory; it’s also written (the structure, I mean) inwardly as opposed to something with a plot that moves forward.

However, I ended up enjoying the latter more even if it’s a little too straightforward (in that the delineations between past and present are very clear) for my taste in short stories and even if it it relies more heavily on mystery than I would usually prefer from Murakami (I say this because when Murakami employs mystery in his books he has a habit of either not resolving the mystery or resolving it in a manner that is so thumpingly calm, it drives me insane) because of how it was written/translated.

Now I’m going to contradict myself and pick a story translated by Philip Gabriel as my favorite, so far–I really enjoyed the story New York Mining Disaster, particularly how it talked about the death of friends, especially when you’re at an age where people are still supposedly beginning their adult lives.

3.) A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

I’m not done with this, yet and so I can’t say much except that it’s very funny and that it’s enjoyable, so far. 🙂

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