Saturday, July 15, 2017

Favorite fiction

Favorite Fiction

The Hobbit. I read this book in one day, one summer when I was a teen. I think if you're going to avoid fantasy, at least you need to read this one. I read somewhere that C.S. Lewis tried to be non-religious in his fiction, and Tolkien tried to be religious. Tolkien was Catholic. It still feels the other way around.

A Season of Migration To The North. Read this one in a comparative literature class. I like the identification and ultimately individuation. Lent this book to someone who was going to Mauritania for the peace corps, though there's not much of a sense of place there.

Painted Bird. It just keeps getting worse and worse, like Angela's Ashes. Full catastrophe living. World War 2 setting, for those who like WW2

The Stories of Raymond Carver. Nobody finer. Wish he'd written a novel, and more stuff. I met his last wife, Tess Gallagher. She signed a book of poetry about the time around his end, loss and grief. Carver has poor, alcoholic setting. People say he has a minimalist style, but I think of it more as a naturalistic style, nothing added beyond what was there.

I, Claudius. I'm going to reread this soon. I love Roman history. The way it seems to try to be civilized, but are bloody and ruthless. I think we are not far from living like this.

The Sun Also Raises. I went through a Hemingway phase in college, visited his house in Chicago, went to cafes he said he went to in A Movable Feast. Obviously, A Farewell To Arms is a good novel. But for my money the best one is The Sun Also Raises. I love it when he goes fishing. I love it that the man is impotent or castrated or whatever. Where else is the narrator like that? I wish I could have lived in Paris and Europe between the wars. I'm against bull fighting, and the running of the bulls is perhaps a cliche now, but when I was younger I wanted to do that. What adventure.

New York Trilogy by Paul Auster. These are three novelas, that sort of go together somehow. I saw him read once for one of his lesser novels. I've been fairly disappointed with his novels but I still read them. I feel like he has such promise.

American Pastoral, The Human Stain and I Married a Communist. I know that's 3 books, but I love Philip Roth and I can't pick one that sticks out. Portnoy's Complaint is awesome, but I can't remember much and sticking to my method, I need to remember more than just liking the novel to be included on this list.

Parable of the Sower, Parable of the Talents. OK again not one book, but it's hard not to have these books that are built on each other. When I discovered Octavia Butler, I read all of her novels except Kindred, in a row. I need to read Kindred.

Three Body Problem. Liu Cixen is Chinese, scifi from another country, awesome. This one has so many excellent twists and turns. I might make a scifi list, but this one goes above and beyond the genera.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian. I know it's YA, but it was such a tight perfect novel and I love Sherman Alexie. He's like Paul Auster in that he doesn't seem to fulfill his potential, but he wrote the book that stands out.

A Mote In God's Eye. I'm not going to give away the plot, go read it. Also one of my favorite quotes from the Bible.

The Song of Achilles. This one is on sale for $2 kindle edition. For those who could not get through the Illiad. A modern retelling with liberties of the Illiad. I have mixed feelings about historical novels. I feel like I need to know all the liberties taken, even if I don't and that frustrates me. Even so this book is amazing.

The Sense of an Ending. It's almost a perfect novel, an idea I don't quite understand, but I read once that The Good Soldier is one--I didn't find it so.

Buddha Da. I got into the alternate spelling quickly, and enjoyed this Buddhist novel. This is I think the best Buddhist novel, but unlike this blog, I have not read them all.

Malloy. Beckett is awesome.This usually comes packaged with 2 other novels as well, and they do continue on, though it gets harder and harder to read. I did finish them all, so that says something. Read that book in an Irish literature class, and I'm forever grateful I took that class.

Love In The Time of Cholera. I know I should like One Hundred Years of Solitude better, but I fall for the romance.

The Treatment by Daniel Menaker. I loved the confrontational psychotherapist, who confronted narcissism. I liked the romance as well.

White Oleander. Like Painted Bird, what horrible thing is going to happen next. Set in modern times.

The Left Hand of Darkness. Reread this recently to see if I wanted to recommend it. Half way through I didn't want to, but by the end I really enjoyed it.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being. I think about this. One of my friends.

Crime and Punishment. Read the novel in Leningrad where it was set. When he uses the word yellow to describe, it was! Leningrad was yellow when I was there! The buildings, the water. I love reading a great novel in the setting. Read Darwin in the Galapagos.
Almost favorites, reread, sentimental favorites

Slaughterhouse Five. First novel I loved. Read part of it in a cabin on a lake in upstate Wisconsin. I have reread a lot of his work and like it, goes down smooth, but somehow it doesn't feel great. I feel like I outgrew it, which I rarely feel. I fill similar about Douglas Adams.

Stranger in a Strange Land. Reread this recently and the narrative didn't dislodge me as much.

The last 11 books I've read

I read almost 2 books a week. I have no money to purchase books. I have not yet met the $10 payout threshold from people clicking on my links. I bet I don't get any money for books that are free.

The Seven: I felt like this book wasn't really a book because we had not really been introduced to all the characters in the team. One was a philosopher, and she was an interesting character. I think this book is still free.

A Horse Walks Into A Bar. A stand up comedian and a retired judge childhood friend who narrates his last performance. It's not that funny, though you can get people to laugh at some of the jokes outside the dark book. My next book needs to be Palestinian. This book won the Booker prize in England. Perhaps the author also holds a British passport.

Star Nomad. This book felt like Firefly plus Star Wars when they were on the cruiser or on the battle star. Still, I became fond of the characters, and a complete mission happened in the novel (Not all free books do that!). It's still free on Amazon.

On Chesil Beach. This book is a study in sexuality, two internal monologues given for a married couple on their honeymoon night. Got this book at the library. It's a short little book. I like the author, read other books of his, like Amsterdam, which is very good.

The Icarus Hunt. This was probably a complete novel because I got it from the library and they were not trying to get me to buy another book. With complications and interesting situations, this was a lovely read. I now like Timothy Zahn. There is a good plot summary of the book here. At $6 this book is a good deal.

Space Team. This is a copy of Douglas Adams. I didn't mind when A Million Tiny Pieces was copying Hemmingway, because I love Hemmingway. I actually think more writers should be copied. So another enjoyable addition to scifi comedy! You can buy all 6 books for $21, or the last five for $20, which comes to $4 a book, not bad.

The End Of Your Life Book Club. This is a memoir about a son while his mother dies of cancer. They connect by reading books together. It's quite touching and the mother is an awesome person. The book discussions were a bit abbreviated, but it did get me to read On Chesil Beach (see above). There are other books I'd like to read from the list.

Beyond Cloud Nine. This book is now $4. I thought this was just going to be a space wars book, but it developed characters that I came to like. There are twins and substance abuse is present.

The Kreutzer Sonata. I read this because it was referred to a lot in Second Person Singular. I had not read this one from Tolstoy.  I have read War and Peace, and The Death of Ivan Ilych. I read his young memoirs. I've stalled reading Anna. You can get all his works for free, just find the right book.

Second Person Singular. Got this from a list of Palestinian writers. The reviews indicated that Israeli characters were not really drawn well, but I found it fascinating. I just read an Israeli, so I wanted one from the others side. I know "sides" is reductive, binary. They will both have to love their children more than they hate the other. By not picking one side I'm am a liberal. I don't think you can justify death in any way. Every war has increased the land in Israel, so I don't recommend anyone trying to invade. It's a shame that in order to get a homeland for the Jews, they had to trample over people who have a historic claim to some land. Things move fast in politics and then really slowly.

All The Birds in the Sky. This is a unique gender bending science fiction. There is time travel and an interesting style of writing. Like The End of Your Life Book Club, an editor has taken to writing. You can get a kindle version of this book for $3.

Monday, May 8, 2017

immortality?

I was watching Z, and unlike much of the scholarship hitherto, Zelda was seen as the talented one, and Fitzgerald was obsessed with fame and immortality and feeling sorry for himself and keeping Zelda down.

My thought was, you can't really know about "immortality" and it isn't permanent. The internet has the false air of forever. We need to come to terms with the absolute forgetfulness the universe will have regarding individual humans. When the sun expands and engulfs the earth, we hopefully will be on other planets, but I also can't say that humans were really worth saving. I keep thinking about Battlestar Gallactica and the cylons saying, "they never asked if they should live on." I think humans are too short sighted and violent. Humans are also capable of great things, and if you just look at the highs, maybe they are worth preserving. I suppose we are our lows and highs and everything in between. We try to survive. Except for our collective death instinct. Trump has a death instinct when he wants to deregulate the EPA. Imagine a new car--the polluter--when driving a gas guzzler is not enough, now pollute more. But I digress. There's an article I saw on line, are we depressed or are we reacting to depressing events in our times? That is the eternal question.

I don't think people are one thing, they are many things, have both sides. Schopenhauer hoped to be remembered in the history of philosophy. He is that father of pessimism, but he hoped in various ways, no matter how much he was disappointed by life. He fed into it with his behavior, I think.

I'm reading The Love Artist by Jane Alison. Alison makes Ovid obsessed with fame. I guess it's possible for people to be motivated by that, it's just I don't think that way. Even a great teacher who impacts hundreds of lives, an author with a huge following, in 200 years, it is unlikely anyone knows their name. And if say you hit the literary cannon jackpot and your works survive on, it's only temporary. Another few millennial and the cannon is cut. And cut. When we're traveling into outer space which authors will survive. I have a feeling Carl Hiaasen won't stand the test of time, but he is quite popular and enjoyed in these times. I'd choose appreciation in my lifetime over immortality. I put all my chips in this life.

The female character in The Love Artist is interesting. Their relationship is interesting. I wonder at Alison and who she had experiences to write this novel, or if it was pure imagination. The book has gotten me into Ovid in a way I couldn't have been before. Historical novels are a good entry into the study of things. It has the over arching narrative I need, as a whole to the parts learner.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Christian award?!

One of the scifi novels I recommended yesterday, I read some reviews of it on Goodreads and people read it because it won an award for Christian fiction. What? The Star Curiously Singing was not even very much into Islam, which was the only religion there. Here's what I wrote in my review:

Not sure how this is a Christian novel, the reviewers seem to think it is. The future "what if" society is Muslim. Whether it's a fair or unfair depiction--well it's a future dystopia. You could easily create a similar "Christian" dystopia, change the terminology. Or any religion for that matter.

The idea that "A not A squared" is about the trinity is a bit far fetched because Christianity doesn't state "God is not God".

The idea of freedom and subjugation are ideas not exclusive to Christianity. I found the Islam superficial. I did not see any exclusively Christian themes.

I have not looked to see if Kerry Nietz has discussed the award or his faith. Even if he is a Christian, I'm not sure if I still feel that in this novel is Christian. I am sensitive to the Christian presumption in America as someone who is not Christian. I did not read it as Christian and am surprised to see this book characterized as Christian.

You could maybe argue that the oppressive structure of Islam necessarily lead to an oppressive and freedom restricting society, but honestly, even the Buddhists in Myanmar are persecuting Muslims so every religion can do those things. You can't have a free society if you don't have the freedom to not embrace the dominant culture. Religious freedom in America doesn't just mean Christian sects persecuted in Europe around the founding times of America. It includes all the religions. If everyone spent a year or two in NYC they would see that many religions can co-exist together in harmony. Life in a similar suburban enclave that sees itself as practicing the one true religion and lifestyle is perhaps comforting to those who fear difference. Most people are bored with that already, and know the diversity in the world is more interesting. There are more Christian terrorists than Muslim in America. Trump's ban of countries does not even target the countries where the Muslim terrorist came from. The problem is fundamentalism, literal thinking in the spiritual life, and worldly ambitions cloaked in religion. To the people who are threatened by difference--good luck with that.

I guess if bashing Islam is Christian, maybe this book is Christian... I wouldn't think that that was Christian.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

4 Scifi novels I highly recommend, and 2 others

I'm poor. I used to spend an average of $35 a month on books from Amazon. I have a too many books, I need to get rid of many of them for when we move to a tiny house. It will be hard to have the final winnowing. I have a lot of books I got from other people who I haven't read yet. And I have at least a book case of precious books, college books that rocked my world and my Buddhist texts.

I got a Kindle hoping to use it when I was traveling. One book instead of a big meteor of books. Then I liked it that the Kindle cut down on my hard copies. Now I like it that you can look up a word immediately. You can cut and paste text easily. And there are a zillion free books.

For a while I collected children's books for my baby. Then I collected classics and scifi. Now I have a bunch and don't need to collect any more. But I want to trumpet 4 amazing scifi novels I read.

The first novel is Robinson Crusoe 2244. This is a future dystopia where the son of a ruling elite is escapes into the wild, and survives, and finds many interesting things.

I wanted to read the second one after I read it, but the library doesn't have it. I need to join more libraries to see if they have it. I use OverDrive with the Queens library in New York City. I have read about 15 books that has saved me considerable money, or rather given me access when my poverty would have restricted me. They have seemingly all of Haruki Murakami. There are odd holes in the digital collection. It's a new thing. I end up reading Kindle versions from the Amazon sight. I feel like I'm stealing almost to get free books. The other thing I like about it is that I can take risks, try a book and if I don't like it, just stop reading it.


I've also seen a movie and there are audio books, too. I mostly do Free Audio Book app that streams and downloads books from Librivox. Lately, I've been listening to Ovid, because I'm about to read a historical novel about him. Which I learned about in a course in historical novels on Coursera. I'm going to read the book and then watch a lecture by the author on historical fiction. Amazing.


I got that book through the reserve program. They send the book to my nearest library when it becomes available. Another amazing program. My eyes seem to be going and I prefer Kindle so I can enlarge the text.


But back to amazing scifi. The next one is Prototype D. Another dystopian future where there are insiders and outsiders, and they try to make robots to kill the outsiders. A very interesting novel, and quite prescient for our times when outsiders are demonized and othering is done all the time.


Next novel is The Last Policeman. This is a detective novel at the end of the world. I read all 3 books and the first is good, but reading all 3 isn't bad either. There could even be a 4th one, but all along he doesn't plan for future survival.


The 4th novel I'm reading right now, almost done, and I'm quite enchanted by it. The Star Curiously Singing is still free on Amazon as of 5/3/17 10am!


This novel is a stream of consciousness of a debugger who is tapped into the stream. The debuggers are slaves in a Muslim future. I chose it hoping to learn more about Islam, but aside from learning some terms, I haven't really learned anything about Islam.


Here is what Amazon says about it: "Sandfly is a debugger. He is property, bought and paid for in an Earth under sharia law. All faiths but one have been banned. And the rule of the great Imam is supreme."

I contemplate writing a future Buddhist utopia, that has some dystopian edges. Not sure utopia can exist, but it would be fun to try. I don't think The Star Curiously Singing is pro or con against Islam.

Just to throw in another book I really enjoyed, I really enjoyed The Schopenhauer Cure. I knew Yalom from his textbook on group psychotherapy. He also has a textbook on Existential Psychotherapy I want to read. I read his novel, Lying on the Couch, after reading Love's Executioner and other essays. I really like his essays and fiction, and I read the group book, and I want to read the other textbook. 

Anyway, the book is about a psychotherapy group and it's pretty gripping. The bits about Schopenhauer are as interesting as they can be, though they are the places where the novel drags at points. Learned a lot about S. I have his World As A Will and Representation which I might try reading at some point.

Friday, February 3, 2017

4 to 1

I was reading Reviving Ophelia the other day, because I have a daughter and I want to get a jump on adolescence, because my eldest son is in it and it seems to be an important time. She noted that children's books with male characters outnumber female characters by four to one. I've been noticing that as I sweep up all the free children's books (Including Beatrix Potter's first one) in my poverty, I'm noting this is often true. My beautiful daughter doesn't really like to be read to these days, and has a bit of a destructive and masochistic streak at the moment, but she does like to turn pages, so cardboard books are the best. She really liked a book about baby faces. Nowadays she doesn't have the patience and walks away. There was a stage where she kept handing it to us, and then when we read she took the book away or walked away. Now that I think of it, I'm not sure if there are any females in that book. I need to get the one with girl faces around the world. I thought about my sons who don't pick books with female narrators. What if the gender was switched in the Potter books? A female Potter and Weasley, and a male Hermione.

Eragon became available from the digital library. I'll read it after I finish a book on the five hinderances.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Haruki Murakami + name dropping and the purpose of this blog

I'm on my 5th Haruki Murakami novel I've noticed some patterns. But what I want to say is that one frame of his fiction is to have a modern skeptical Japanese person, having many supernatural things happen to them, and they engage but they still are not so much converted, though accept their experience.

There's always unemployed normal people who aren't salarymen, they follow classical and rock and roll. There's always a young girl. The protagonist does not jump to sexual thoughts easily, though there are times when they are embarassed to, but not with the young girls.

There's an existential aspect to the characters lives, they riff existentially. They search for a self in a world where we have lost the village and religion. There are no convenient answers and often the contingent feeling of life makes one feel empty. And yet the protagonist tends to listen to their inner voice.

There's a kind of undercurrent of Buddhist thoughts, akin to a writer from a Buddhist country, they just percolate from his character's musings at times. (I love the idea of the blog Buddhist Fiction--she doesn't have him among the author list on the right and I couldn't find a way to search her blog), though I do get e-mails of every post.

Finally, even though the characters seem pretty western, Japanese culture seeps through. I've learned a lot about Japan following up google searches, and looking at the geography and maps. History as well.

I'm going to name drop as a sort of way of saying why I want to start this blog.

I've gone on writer binges, my last one was Octavia Butler, and my favorite authors throughout my life went in this order: Kurt Vonnegut, Ernest Hemingway, Raymond Carver, Raymond Chandler, Paul Auster, Milan Kundera, Samuel Beckett, Philip Roth (Octavia Butler, Haruki Murakami). Of the newer writers I like Johnathan Franzen. I've also loved one off novels and not really gotten into authors. I was a philosophy major in college, but I've loved fiction since I grabbed Slaughter House Five out of a box of books that was being thrown away and it blew my mind. Science fiction is fun for me and I often go over the list of Nebula awards and Hugo awards, and I have to admit I've read a lot of Star Trek novels since I've watched and rewatched all the series and wanted more.

Authors I have seen read in public: Paul Auster. I can't remember others, though I've gone to more than one reading. Authors I have have met: John Saul is my stepfather's friend. I took a creative writing class with Renard Allen (who was compared to Joyce, Faulkner and Woolf in his book Rails Under My Back. I hung out with Laurie Colwin, a friend of my deceased uncle. Of course she died too early in her sleep. I went to school with the stepdaughter of Janet Shaw who wrote the adult novel Taking Leave. I've gone on small binges of some writers: John Updike, Carol Maso, Sherman Alexie. I recently read Alexie's young adult novel and quite enjoyed it. I've read books to my sons, and they stopped letting me read to them on the 4th Harry Potter. So I read the next two and I'm going to read the last one next. I loved Chaucer and Irish literature, Samuel Becket. I was named after a James Joyce protagonist, though I've changed my name. I've gone on binges of Hispanic writers, African-American writers. I had a friend who took a class with David Huddle, and I read a book of his short stories, The High Spirits.

I read history, graphic novels, young adult literature, children's books, psychology, psychoanalysis and the history of psychoanalysis. My favorite writers in psychoanalysis is Irving Yalom, Stephen Mitchell and Philip Bromberg (the last whom I saw at a talk). I have a blog that reviews Buddhist books, and charts my spiritual journey. I started a masters of English at Queens College but I think I only got through 2 classes before life swept me in other directions. I took a class with the chairman who edited a book on critical theory, who made fun of my wish to write about an Allen Ginsberg poem. (I saw Allen Ginsberg walking on the street before he died, I lived a block away from him on 12th street for a while) I had a little beat phase. I've gone on a major memoir binge. I know someone, an acquaintance,  who teaches nonfiction writing. I met an author at a party once, but I don't remember her name, I didn't follow up. I had a drink in the bar where O Henry was supposed to have written. I've read a fair amount of poetry and I have a signed copy of Tess Gallager's book of poems, when I went to a reading of her. I love plays, love Shakespeare, haven't gotten into the modern titans besides Arthur Miller and Eugine O'Neil. I saw Waiting for Gadot with John Goodman and another guy I've seen in a lot of movies, who's name escapes me. Had to write a paper in social work school about a play. I was a philosophy major and saw some famous philosophers, read many of them. Richard Rorty is probably the most famous. Read an article recently where, among many others, he predicted the raise of Donald Trump. My parents are into mysteries, and I've tried to read many, but the ones I liked most were Tony Hillerman and Kirk Mitchell.

When I came to NYC I hope to be a writer, but quickly changed tack and gave up. I gave my resume to Knopf at the doorway, but didn't really get an interview. I wrote short stories last in Allen's class at QC. I still fantasize about being a writer. I also sometimes pretend I'm Chuck Klosterman in another blog.

At the risk of starting another blog that vanishes into the void, I wish to make comments on fiction.