Sunday, May 21, 2017

The Book Odyssey

I checked this out from the library last year and found that there was a reading list in the back which is when I decided that this would be a great candidate for what I call the book odyssey.  I slated it on my Librarything Reading Challenge for this year and have had some fun borrowing and buying the books that I need to read alongside Reading Lolita in Tehran.  I bought my own used copy, restored it as best as I could (cleaning, covering etc.,) and got myself  a nice green highlighter for the list in the back.  I am NOT one of those people who highlight text or write fatuous comments in the margins throughout the book, but this is a working copy ( I also have working copies of 1001 Books To Read Before You Die and Harold Bloom's The Western Canon which I also highlight, but I have no qualms about doing so because I am working out of each of them and I think of them as tools for my literary enrichment).  Plus I don't mar the text, just the lists in the back.
I call it a book odyssey because of the many places I go to and the experiences I have with reading each book that is referred to (which makes me think of Odysseus).  I really enjoy doing this (I allude to other times when I have read such books that are rich with literary references such as The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Volume One and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Volume Two ) and seek to read the books referred to. It really enhances my enjoyment of the book I am reading.  I am always on the lookout for such books as they are an extraordinary source of reading indulgence and I often feel richer for the experience (even when some of the books are not what I would naturally choose to read).
What I mean by that is that Nafisi has a strong admiration of Vladimir Nabokov, and at the beginning of this odyssey I had only ever read Lolita which if you have read my blog entry about it you would understand that it was a repellent experience for me.  I saw that Nabokov had a gift for writing, and hoped that when I read something else of his I would get to appreciate that gift.  I have since then read Invitation to a Beheading which was sublime and has made me comfortable with the idea of re-reading Lolita sometime this year.
So it has been a very gratifying experience so far.    I have been in an all girls school with Muriel Sparks' The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, lived under siege in Nuha al-Radi's The Baghdad Diaries , hung out in Europe with  Henry James' Daisy Miller, floated around in the mind of Cincinnatus C. in Invitation to a Beheading, and been anxiously repressed in Bucharest with Saul Bellow's The Dean's December.  
The plan for this book odyssey is doing a little peeking ahead to see what books are mentioned, read those books, then proceed with the chapters in Reading Lolita until I encounter new books I haven't read yet. I have not progressed too deeply yet, but I love what I have read so far.  This project will probably exceed the year that I have allotted to complete it in because apart from the list in the back of the book I want to read everything else too by those authors mentioned.
To be continued...

Friday, May 12, 2017

Remembrance Of Earth's Past

Another Hugo Award winner, this first book The Three-Body Problem was exciting, so exciting that I had to read the following two books.  I listened to the audio versions of the first two, and read the last one as an e-book earlier this year.  Either medium was excellent, I enjoyed each book thoroughly.  This is a trilogy that is truly epic in its telling throughout all three books (something I did not expect since the middle book is what I have typically considered to be just filler... a place saver until you get to the end of the series when it gets all exciting again.  But The Dark Forest kicked butt all on it's own and was more exciting than the first book in its own unique way.  I actually wondered what more Cixin could say after I finished The Dark Forest, it had all seemed pretty well sewn up by the end.  Oh boy was I surprised, jubilant even, while reading the third book  Death's End.  I was cheering at one point, oohing and ahhing at another point, while still being pretty clueless as to how it would all play out in the end.   Reading these books was like bouncing on a trampoline... I never stayed still.  There was a various array of feelings running through me from one segment to the next (though it was never exhausting as emotional upheavals can be, it was always gentle).

I have raved enough about The Three-Body Problem that my husband went out and bought a copy of the first two books. I plan on reading them when we have the complete set as I figure that there is much that I would have missed listening to the audio book.  I think it says a lot about a book, especially hard/military science fiction genre books like these, that I would want to return to the story again.

This is science fiction with what I consider to be the traditional story telling style of the Chinese saga.  There are so many components to the books it reminded me of Romance of the Three kingdoms and had such a classic way of relating events that had me also thinking of Journey To the West.  These fractions of stories all wove together to make an incredible and inevitable result (which Cixin has very carefully helped you to understand that there could not be any other way to conclude his story).  It's clever and original and not what I have come to expect from a regular "Earth is being invaded by hostile aliens and this is how we fought them" type of story.  Death's End is nominated for the Hugo this year, I wish Cixin Liu the best of luck.


Ishiguro's first collection of short stories all with the theme of "music at nightfall".  I loved this.  Familiar as I am now with how Ishiguro writes, this was a special gift.  I was actually giggling (nervously) at one point when one of the characters in his stylized anxiety inducing stories went over the edge and fell in to what could only be "Basil Fawltyland".
What is usually gently built upon during the length of a full sized novel is delivered in a brief one-two punch in his short stories.  I really hope that he will write more in the future because these were perfect.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

She Kicks Butt

N.K. Jemisin that is... 
I first heard of her last year when I was listening to The Fifth Season (last year's Hugo Award winner) and I loved the book so much I went out and bought everything else she has written.  I had noticed her name on the lists before for the Nebula award (she really gets around!) but hadn't paid any attention to her yet.  I'm kind of glad that I didn't, and that The Fifth Season was my first N.K. Jemisin book. 
 Her books are different, excitingly fresh whilst building a story about her worlds that are believable and rich with history.  It's sometimes hard to go there whenever I start a new book, sometimes you have to wrestle a little bit, really pay attention, and struggle somewhat until you understand the new universe of the book, but I didn't have to do that with any of Jemisin's books.  It was as easy as sitting in my favourite reading chair with a huge cup of coffee and just savoring that first delicious sip of whatever she wants to tell me (and really perking me up!).  
I have read in total five of her books now and I am hoarding what is left like a miser.  There is another two books to be read after The Fifth Season and I am patiently waiting for the third one to come out before I read the whole trilogy.  Nothing to despair about...I had a huge copy of four of her books called The Inheritance Trilogy (The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, The Broken Kingdoms, The Kingdom of Gods plus the novella The Awakened Kingdom).  It kept me busy for a while.    
I like her characters too.  So far most of them have been women, doing significant things in a world that wants to make them insignificant.  I wouldn't call them feminists... rather they are survivors which gives them a strength more powerful than something that could have been achieved in any other way than adversity.  I can connect with them.
I still have  The Dreamblood Duology ( The Killing Moon and The Shadowed Sun) to enjoy until the conclusion of her recent trilogy known as The Broken Earth (The Fifth Season, The Obelisk Gate and The Stone Sky) is released in August.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Book Twins

Okay... my title is a little tongue in cheek (I'm thinking of Ishiguro's Japanese  novels).  Both of these books are about kids in extraordinary circumstances.  I have been looking forward to Never Let Me Go as it has been on so many lists of books to read.  By this time I feel I have a handle on his writing style and I revere him for his genius and subtlety.  Any writer who evokes emotion and stimulates thought is a god in my humble opinion and Kazuo's books will be re-read on a yearly basis.  These two books in particular will have to be re-read before I can truly write properly about them.  For now I have labeled them The Ishiguro Bildungsromans.