Coming back?

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I’ve just changed my blog’s theme for a fresher look.

Even though I’m extremely busy these days, I feel like coming back on wordpress to post at least once a week. Because I do miss life here. I never felt left out – on the contrary, I met lots of people sharing the same passion for books. My days had a purpose – I’d read something amazing to share on the blog later. And I was always looking forward to my favourite bloggers’ next post.

Oddly enough my blog has been doing quite well without me – statistically speaking. I very rarely get less than 50 views and my number of views per day regularly peaks around 90. Today itself I got 97 views, which is quite crazy. All in all, that’s 62,241 in total. I wonder when it will hit 100,000!

Anyway, I hope people will react to this post. I can’t wait to interact with you guys, again! ūüôā

 

James Salter, Bangkok

I’ll tell you something funny, Hollis said, something I heard. They say that everything in the universe, the planets, all the galaxies, everything‚ÄĒthe entire universe‚ÄĒcame originally from something the size of a grain of rice that exploded and formed what we have now, the sun, stars, earth, seas, everything there is, including what I felt for you.

What I’m Up To These Days….

I’ve been in England for two weeks now. Lectures began last Monday.

This is my final year, and I’m determined to make the most of it – which means I’ll try to find the time to visit galleries and museums in London, read all sorts of books, and concentrate more on my studies.

Anyway, my room is such a mess that taking this little picture was not even easy. A¬†Manual for Cleaning Women aside, the books arrived on Friday. I hope – I will try my best – to read all of them before the year ends. I initially wanted to read the Booker Prize nominees first, but I lost my debit card and couldn’t order anything for 1 week! So it would’ve been virtually impossible to read them in 3 weeks or so with my lectures.

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Here is why I bought these books:

A Manual for Cleaning Women: I bought the book in Waterstones during the Fresher’s Week because I didn’t have anything to read in my room. I’m halfway through it, but I’ll read it sporadically now that I’ve received my other books – the reason being that reading nearly 400 pages of short stories can get very tiresome. I like it though.

This Is How You Lose Her: I had already added the books I wanted to read to¬†my Amazon basket even before I actually obtained my debit card back. However, when checking out I noticed that two collections of short stories present in the cart were by Irish authors. So I kept one (Young Skins by Colin Barrett), saved the other (Dark Lies the Island by Kevin Barry) and added Junot Diaz’s short stories, because he writes from a different background and I was very impatient to discover his writing. I’m currently reading and loving it!

The Vegetarian: The Man Booker International Prize 2016. At first I didn’t want to read it that bad. But I read how the translator, Deborah Smith, learned Korean shortly after finishing university at 21 and how she ended up translating The Vegetarian. I can completely relate to¬†her feeling that she needed to do something different, that will make her stand out, after graduating. I can’t wait to read this book!

The Glorious Heresies: Ah, another Irish author. I somehow forgot this book but I saw some people around here who were reading it. It won the Bailey’s Award despite not even featuring in the Booker longlist, so I have a feeling it might be a book that divides opinion. But,anyway, I am very much looking forward to reading it. (I wanted the other cover, but that one was cheaper.)

The Art of the Short Story: I’m loving reading short stories at the moment so I was very interested when I saw this book on goodreads. Paris Review is synonymous with quality and its selection of short stories (twenty in total) looks very promising. I like how each of them is given an introduction, so that we can witness the art of ”shortstorytelling”¬†in different¬†settings and styles.

The Sympathizer: This book won so many awards, among which is the Pulitzer. I added it to my tbr list because I wanted to read more books by Asians or¬†authors¬†of Asian descent. What made me want to actually read it now is simply the fact that¬†it is one of the best books of 2016. In 2017 I’ll have my eyes set on different books and might end up forgetting it. So now is the right time, I think, to read it.

Top Ten Tuesday: Favourite Modern Classics

I tend to read mostly modern classics, so, in some way, this list features some of my favourite books of all time.

Top Ten Tuesday is an addictive weekly meme – which I like to take part in whenever the theme is right – hosted by the guys at BrokeandBookish, as everybody knows by now. This week’s theme is: ‘favourite books in X genre’.

Here we go with the classics:

1. One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

I read this book more than a year ago and still remember most of it. It is splendid. I am loss for words when I think about the brilliant, poetic, scenes.

2.In Cold Blood – Truman Capote

I finished this book today, so I thought I could just as well put what I wrote on goodreads here:
A work of genius.
I hate ranking books, but I think it’s alongside One Hundred Years of Solitude as my top favourite.
The beginning was terribly intense and the ending hit me hard. I can read the book all over again.
Capote’s writing is beyond praise, both as an author and a ‘reporter’.

3.Labyrinths and Other Stories – Jorge Luis Borges

The man taught me what it truly means by ”think different”. He was a genius and I remember writing¬†once on the blog: ”Borges is¬†one of the most brilliant minds of his generation.” His stories, though different from one another (consider Emma Zunz and The Immortals) have for similarity the twist and intricacy¬†that only somebody like himself¬†could think of.

4. Lord of the Flies – William Golding

This book was one of my earliest classics. The juxtaposition of Golding’s sumptuous English against the gradual horrors the island sinks into is intense and oddly very beautiful. I think this book is timeless because of its ever-growing relevance in regards to young people (or anybody who doesn’t seem fully in control) in society.

5. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

As it was for countless other people, To Kill a Mockingbird was one of my very first classics. Since reading the book, I’ve read and loved many other more complex works. However, the fact of the matter is: Harper Lee’s story is a little masterpiece, and the memorable¬†scenes with the main cast are just impossible to forget.

6. Things Fall Apart – Chinua Achebe

It is just as simply written as Harper Lee’s work. For this reason I think this book is extremely underrated. Achebe’s talent shines through this simplicity though, as the¬†upshot of his story comes upon us as very raw and powerful in impact. Not so many people would have been able to convey such a clear, strong and impartial message through such simple words. His easy talent at storytelling made the story very¬†fluid and thus very compelling; I devoured the book.

7. Slaughterhouse-Five – Kurt Vonnegut Jr

An absolutely devastating and powerful story. Vonnegut’s seemingly ‘happy-go-lucky’ approach to the theme of war makes the book. While at times it can be funny – it is a satire, after all – it is deeply poignant and hits very hard at the end, when you start putting the pieces together and getting the big picture right. ”Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt.” This has to be one of my favourite quotes of all time.

8. The Great Gatsby – F.Scott Fitzgerald

Jay Gatsby is the most iconic character in literature – arguably. The story is short and intense, and seems to come right off¬†a play from the golden era of American theatres. Fitzgerald, with his gorgeous,easy,¬†words,¬†painted the setting as dreamlike, where ”Even Gatsby could happen”.

9. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou

Nowadays some individuals pull out the racist card so often that it is almost an insult to what Black people in the segregation period had to endure. I had a vague idea of what racism meant at that time, but I was still off the mark. Some scenes shocked me and left an indelible impact on me. It not only opened my eye on racism, but also made me understand that secluding people for whatever reason is just plain wrong.

10. Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy

A work of art. Tolstoy’s writing is out of this world. Some scenes were so very detailed that it was as if they were being enacted before me. You cannot but feel that sentiment¬†of grandeur and elegance that emanate from it. The cast is extremely well developed and the stream of consciousness is smooth and creamy in this book. Oh, I can¬†go on and on about what makes Anna Karenina an undisputed masterpiece.

Booker#8: Schindler’s Ark

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It was in early 2015 that I acquired this book in Folio edition. A pristine copy was available on eBay and I bought it just to expand¬†my collection of Booker Prize-winning books. I knew it was non-fiction, so I suspected it might be too heavy for me – despite the movie being one of the greatest ever made. As a result, I had no immediate plan to read Keneally’s book.

Then in July I watched The Labyrinths of Silence, a real-life story¬†about how a prosecutor goes after post-war Nazis to take them to trial. This somehow pinched my interest in¬†Nazism and the Holocaust, and it was then that I finally was keen to read Schindler’s Ark.

My impressions about this book? It is perfect.

Oskar Schindler’s story is inexorably intertwined with the horrors the Jews were subjected to. So, while this book is about Schindler, it is also a very comprehensive account of what the Jews were made to go through. The book showed me just how much of this infamous part of history I ignored: I thought the Jews were sent to¬†Auschwitz from the beginning, but the way they were treated changed over the years, going from bad to worse every time. I never knew, for instance, that it was the failure of the Madagascar plan that prompted the Nazis to use the Final Solution, which was the decision¬†to exterminate all Jewish persons on German territory. ¬†Neither was I aware of the obsessive degree of organization of the Nazis. They had plans for every situation and the Schutzstaffel (major paramilitary organization under Hitler) counted an impressive number of departments that would cater to any problem.

Part of the reason why Schindler’s Ark is such a powerful and troubling read is the way it impacts on you. Unless you’re well versed about this part of history, you will definitely be shaken by what happened to the Jews. We like to believe we know what happened, but we don’t even have the slightest idea. If I list everything here, it will somehow mollify the impact and be unfair to future readers. That being said, some of the most memorable scenes for me were:

  • what the Jewish jewelers were made to extract
  • every scene with Amon Goethe, the butcher of Plaszow
  • the¬†excavation of corpses in the forest in Plaszow
  • the first realization of the Jews that extermination camps were a reality

Of course, Schindler’s deeds are just as unforgettable. The book in some ways acts also as a biography of the man. We had to know about his early life in order to gauge¬†the weight¬†of his sacrifice. I very much like how Thomas Keneally painted an accurate, measured, image of the magnate. We could feel the warmth of the man – told by the Jews to Keneally as he was writing the book – yet we could also see that he was no saint at all.

Finally, Keneally’s writing in my opinion is what made this book worthy of the Booker. He doesn’t spoon-feed the readers with information: he assumes we already know about the SS, Hitler’s most important officers, the War, etc. However he takes his¬†time to paint a vivid picture of what happened to the Jews – how the people went from horrors to greater horrors. I vaguely knew about the Holocaust, but reading this book opened my eyes on the Jews’ suffering. Keneally also lets us know when he is being purely speculative and when he is not. To be honest, it was very interesting¬†to see how the mind of a biographer speculates when he is devoid of any concrete material.

I’ve written quite a bit here, but that’s understandable, for Schindler’s Ark is one of the best books I’ve ever read. It is unforgettable. It is a solid and very accurate non-fiction book, yet it also has that humane touch¬†that will¬†rock any soul.¬†¬†A must-read.

Read: The Collector (John Fowles)

I noticed this book on a huge table dedicated to compelling reads in Waterstones. The blurb was tempting enough, but I preferred checking it out online first before buying it. It turned out that it is one of the most popular classics published by Vintage. It was easy to find out why.

The Collector is hugely compelling.¬†So much so that it was almost impossible to put it down. I think in recent years this is one of the books I’ve finished really fast. First off, the English is simple and fluid. Then, it is very well structured. I thought Fowles, with such a plot as this, would linger on the kidnapper’s psyche and past, but he is instead very to the point. He uses paragraphs very economically and efficiently. Besides, where this story could have easily gone off the rails and become another absurd Hollywood flick, Fowles keeps to a realism that, ultimately, is what makes this book so intense. ¬†Indeed, the collector is a sick, worryingly sick, persona, and reading his account of events felt just like delving into the mind of a real psychopath. The ending was particularly sick. Sick: I cannot find a better word to describe what I thought of the man.¬†I also liked how Fowles’¬†painted the kidnapped as yet another of the collector’s preys. Some phrases he used in this sense were very apt and deftly lucid.

I was quite surprised with the narration, to be honest.¬†I knew so little about the story¬†that the peculiarity of the book had a pleasant, unexpected impact on me. I don’t wish to give away what this peculiarity is, and I guess I would advise people to avoid spoilers at all costs when it comes to this book.

To conclude, The Collector belongs to the lot of those delightful modern classics that don’t feel quaint and instead introduces¬†you to novelty in structure, language and plot. I’ve ¬†recently finished¬†The Narrow Road to the Deep North and Schindler’s Ark, two monumental reads, but The Collector is still one of those very good books that have already made¬†2016 a memorable year.