Sibyx digs into her book pile in 2017
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This is very unambitious looking because it is just to the end of this year as I like things to be neat and tidy. So two book goal for November and a two book goal for December.
I'm also going to be strict about the pearl rule with these books -- even if I decide it is NOT worth reading, I will be listing it here as having been dealt with one way or the other and no longer on the shelf.
My current off the shelf read is Susan Choi's A Person of Interest and it is looking very much worth reading. Published in 2008 I think it is has been lurking around for nearly that long. I can go see when I entered it here and know for sure.
Nope, I seem to have had in on the shelf and not entered into my books all this time. I know, from the amount of "fur" on the top of it that it has been a loooooong time. (Embarassing!)
A Person of Interest Susan Choi
Dr. Lee is a tenured professor of mathematics at a university in the midwest who gets caught up in a bombing (reminiscent of the Unabomber) when the popular professor in the office next to his gets blown up. The fun begins when Lee's natural reticence, combined with his fierce determination to preserve his right to privacy, and a deeper inability to examine most parts of his past, draws the attention of the FBI investigators. Things go from bad to worse as Lee, traumatized by his experiences in his youth of the violent communist takeover of his (unspecified) country, responds in ways that bring him close to being a suspect. His personal life too is a shambles, two failed marriages, an estranged child and these come into play as well. A Person of Interest is not a perfect novel, but it is solid enough for me to be glad I finally picked it up and read it. ***1/2
Next up, another book languishing on the tbr shelves since at least 2010:
The Well of Loneliness Radclyffe Hall. I made the mistake at some point of reading some reviews and I know it is a worthy book but with some blind spots and tediously detailed writing . . .
The Well of Loneliness Radclyffe Hall
If all you did was judge The Well of Loneliness on literary merit, you would have to throw it out the window well before you reached the end as the writing is histrionic, a mass of clichés and stereotyping, annoyingly repetitive, and utterly predictable. But don't do that for this is the sort of novel that proves that novels aren't always about good writing; sometimes what lies at the heart of a novel--what drove the writer to write it--matters far more than the story itself, which is window dressing to carry the message, in this case a message so compelling as to shift the book into a different realm. WoL was published in 1928 and promptly banned, as it is the story of a male soul born in a female body. The first openly lesbian novel, it is clear that Hall's purpose was to write above all a romance that might draw in any reader of any orientation, and having drawn them in, start changing their perceptions. As annoying as the book often was (the gender stereotyping made me cringe and howl) yet just often enough Hall would drop all the foolishness briefly and I would be moved by Stephen Gordon's predicament, her confusion, her attempts to be true to herself but also to be sensitive and respectful of the people around her, and her gradual disillusionment and despair. I am sure Hall's novel has made a difference. It's significant, historical, and, in its own odd way, a very genuine creation. ***1/2
Interesting point about the quality of the writing. My RL book group used to award marks out of ten for how well-written we thought a book was, and also how much we enjoyed it. Mostly the two were closely related but sometimes it was surprising how badly written a book could be yet still be hugely enjoyable. The one that sticks in my mind is Seven Years in Tibet - the author wasn't a writer, he was a war escapee relating his experiences, but what a wonderful glimpse into a culture that would have been largely unknown to the world then. When something is written from the heart it can transcend literary norms.
I have Saturday coming up in my ROOTS choices. (I'm starting out with the books I am fairly sure have been languishing for YEARS--sometimes more then ten!--on my bookshelves. That and The Wind-up Bird Chronicle are likely to be December's ROOTS reads. I have a non-fiction book too, by Wade Davis that I KNOW has been on my shelves for ten years and more. And I love his writing, so I can't say why. He wrote the book about Mallory's (and company) attempts on Everest in the 1920's. Into the Silence.
>23 connie53: Thank you, Connie. I belong to the 75 book group where I post reviews of all the books I read. And I suppose one can just look them up from my home page too.
Came to report that I have finally started the Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and am loving it so far. This is the sort of read that makes joining ROOTS great -- I can't understand why I Put Off reading it for so long.
Did you see Ishiguro's Nobel speech? He was exactly the person I'd hoped he would be from reading his novels - gentle, thoughtful, interesting and with a social conscience.. here's the link, it's long but gently enjoyable.
Shadows in the Sun Wade Davis
Davis's passion for the well-being of the remaining wild places, especially the forests, of the earth is evident (understatement). I've had this on my shelf for far too long because while there are moments when the reader can marvel, there are far more where one cringes at the wasteful folly of humankind. The kernel essay for Wade's extraordinary book on Mallory and the attempts in the early 1920's to climb Everest, Into the Silence (surely a masterpiece of the adventure genre) is here, and tales of time spent in Amazon rain forests, the northwestern rainforest of North American and many others. Wade also waxes eloquent about the research aspects of these places and the practices and wisdom of shamans whose approach, combining the physical and spiritual (or if you prefer, body and mind) helps countless millions in real and often very practical ways. It's a tough read, but a rewarding one. ****
The Opposite of Fate Amy Tan
Tan's mother pronounced the word "faith" as "fate"--a misunderstanding that Tan didn't disentangle until she was an adult. I don't think of faith as being the opposite of fate exactly, but I can see that the former contains the idea of hope, which is central to Tan's philosophy (for lack of a better word) and is thus also a part of Tan's evolution as a daughter and a writer.The essays are mostly not written for this book specifically, but were written for various talks, awards, and the like over time and so the book is a patchwork. Parts were a bit too "aren't I somebody?" for my taste, but I there is an aspect to those bits of wonder -- Tan's own amazement that she's done so well seems genuine enough, however I hastened over those bits. I'm interested in her life as a writer more than her skiing or her time in an amusing literary rock band. One chapter stood out for me -- about the self-policing now in fashion (because it is a fashion and nothing else)n that you have to stick in your own ethnic milieu or you are trespassing. She writes, on this subject of "ethnic authority" : "It's as though a new and more insidious form of censorship has crept into the fold, winning followers by wearing the cloak of good intentions and ethnic correctness." While conceding that the effort;s basis, to correct the stereotyping of the past, she continues that her objection has to do with whether literature must serve as the cart and horse that hauls away human ills." This one essay made the book worthwhile to me. Whatever happened to the idea of trying to enter into someone else's skin to better understand them, Wordsworth's negative capability, or more simply put empathy? Tan writes well and can tell a great ghost story (of which she has more than one in her own life) and so it was a pleasant read but not stellar. ***
Tan's memoir is one of the books on my proposed 2018 list of ROOTS reads, but I picked it up and polished it off before finishing up my intended final 2017 ROOTS read. I expect that I will finish up the Murakami before the end of the year, so likely I will exceed my quota! This is a good thing because the 2018 list is a bit too long and needs some winnowing. Alas, there are more than 24 books on my tbr shelves that were already there in 2010. The subsequent years are not as intense, as 2010 includes books that date wayyyyy back and many of malingered for possible decades.
My next nf ROOTS read will be Henri Nouwen's Genesee Diary. I grew up within a mile or two of the Trappist monastery he stayed in and we used to go over to the midnight mass there because it was wonderful. I'm not Catholic and would identify as a seeker or quester not attached to any one spiritual modality.
Great review of Amy Tan’s book - I enjoyed her novels but don’t feel moved to read this more personal book.
You’re not alone with the ancient ROOTs!