On January: Y U SO LIGHT? and other updates
Ah, January. You were such a meh month: I started off the year with you and with high hopes and bigger reading goals. I had my resolutions, yes, of which I decided not to share for fear of incurring the jinx of breaking them within the first day, week, month. I dealt with insomnia, and there was a whole week’s lapse when my family played tour guide – going about town with our balikbayan aunt and her friends – during which not a single book was read. Then we lost internet at home, and I almost went mad with deprivation. I got hooked on Book Crossing, and it made me realize that my clingy-ness to people was transferred to my books and it was time to let them go. Well, at least those that have already been read, will never be read, and were given to me by my ex.
While my book sale purchasing served as a reminder as to why I never leave the house (I tend to gravitate towards book sales, no matter the purpose of my leaving the house in the first place), the books I’ve read have been quite light. I beat myself up for having waited this long to read one, was pleasantly – nay, passionately – surprised by how great another, and was glad to have not ignored the presence of yet another. And I made my ten-books-per-month quota in the nick of time.
- Foe by J.M. Coetzee
- The Canal by Lee Rourke
- The Helmet of Horror by Victor Pelevin, translated by Andrew Bromfield
- Lion’s Honey by David Grossman, translated by Stuart Schoffman
- Memories of My Melancholy Whores by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, translated by Edith Grossman
- Noctunes by Kazuo Ishiguro
- The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
- The Color Purple by Alice Walker
- The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
- The Last Time They Met by Anita Shreve
I have, ahem, inducted myself into the subculture that strives to read the books listed on the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. Also known as the 1001 Library, the 1% Read Challenge, and reading oneself to death, I’ve dubbed my pet project the 1001 Reads. And while everyone else is set on reading only through a specific list-slash-edition (of which there are three: 2006, 2008, and 2010), I have – painstakingly, and basically out of boredom – combined all three editions in (based on my opinion – you may think otherwise) a nifty little spreadsheet that you can download. Last year I read three, though I plan on reading them again sometime this year: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz , Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy [all editions], and The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger* [all editions]. January saw me read another three, the first two of which I still can’t believe I waited this long to enjoy: Walker’s The Color Purple [all editions], Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day [all editions], and Coetzee’s Foe . I’ve set a goal of at least three books per month; hopefully there will come a time when I’d feel snobbish with my choices and read only books that are on the list.
I’ve thought about this since late last year, and in an effort to further my being a wannabe literati (or literata, as the former is actually plural, pointed out by a random BookCrosser who visited my blog – you may pretend I have a multi-personality disorder and that every personality reads, so as to correct my erring blog name, thank you very much) I’m also reading through winning titles from some of the major literary awards, namely:
Pulitzer Prize for Fiction / Novel | Man Booker Prize | National Book Awards for Fiction | National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction | PEN Hemingway Award | PEN Faulkner Award | LA Times Book Prize for Fiction | Ambassador Book Award for Fiction | IMPAC Dublin Literary Prize | Orange Prize for Fiction and New Writers (which was ended last year) | Man Asian Literary Prize | the Guardian’s Not the Booker Award | NBA’s 5 Under 35 Fiction Selections
I’ve limited myself to fiction and a peppering of short story collections for my Book Awards project – one can only read so much in a lifetime, and currently, at my age (twenty’s just a quarter of an average human’s life span, and I’m pretty sure my mental capacity can only tolerate so much, ahem, wisdom and insights from some of these books. I promise to steer away from themes relating to marriage, old age, and the American suburbs, until such a time when I can actually relate and better appreciate them. Also, Roberto Bolano’s 2666 – goddamnit that book can kill). At least three books monthly is required, and I’ve been doing a bit of cheating by reading books that have won awards and are on the 1001 list. Hee hee.
What else, what else.
Ah. Someone (my memory fails me now) mentioned the Canongate Myths in their 2011 reading resolutions. I was curious, and then I was hooked, and now I’m bent on reading all of them, too. A generous BookCrosser (hello, LittleSuz!) sent me my first two books, both devoured on separate overnights: Lion’s Honey, David Grossman’s interpretation of the story of Samson (Grossman blew my mind with this one), and The Helmet of Horror by Victor Pelevin, a chatroom re-telling of the myth of the Minotaur’s labyrith (subtly hilarious, and quite the mindfuck). I suggest you check out the Canongate Myths titles – they have some really interesting reads.
Overall, January was pretty good. I think the light reading (and really light blogging) was meant to remind me that despite what seems to be an attempt at literary suicide I plan to take on this year, I shouldn’t forget to read out of sheer enjoyment, and not of insecurity. Or maybe not.
PS. I’m sorry if the blog’s such a mess. I know, I know – I’m such a slacker. Ugh.