March reading

Pachinko – Interesting historical background. I felt like some of the emotional aspects were muted because of the time skips, but it was worth reading.

Master and Commander – Skipped all of the parts where boat things are explained so all that remained was a love story that starts with the most adorable meet cute. I’m currently listening to the audiobook, where the boat parts help me get to sleep.

The Possibility of an Island – I might have more to say about Houellebecq later, not today.

Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked – Interesting, but not super relevant to me at the moment because I don’t really use social media right now. I don’t follow enough people on goodreads or Instagram for those to be interesting/addictive, no Facebook, and I never started using twitter. I’d planned on using @pocketbookangel to collect quotes from whatever I was reading–maybe I will start at some point. Right now, I don’t have a “place” on the internet, which is a little weird because I’ve spent so much of my life online, but I no longer have a reason to be here. How was the book? Apparently I wasn’t interested enough to take notes or highlight any quotes.

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street – In a better universe, this is not a book, it is an anime with Akira Ishida voicing the watchmaker of the title. Maybe I’ll complain more about this book later, starting with the main character fussing over his Lipton tea in the 1880s (Lipton, est. 1890), and finishing with the creepiness of the main relationship. Tbh, the creepiness is the kind I like, but I was left wondering if the author realised exactly how fucked up it is.

The Old Devils – Some genuinely funny bits, and it was refreshing to read about older characters, but everyone is so awful in a realistic way that it feels entirely without grace. Given the title, I’m certain this was deliberate.

Fahrenheit 451 – Every time I read this book, I find new parts to dislike. Kids these days with their giant TVs and comic books! And I can’t even with the ridiculous author’s note except to say that I think the Vassar lady is a figment of his imagination.

A Study in Charlotte and The Last of August – Disappointing.

Powell of the month: The Acceptance World

April was going to be a no-Kindle month, an experiment in carrying paper books around, but I’m halfway through rereading American Pastoral and I just got Fever Dream, recent winner of the Tournament of Books, so paper books will have to wait.

In the interest of completeness, it should be noted that I also read The Productivity Project. It is embarrassing how many productivity books I’ve read when compared to how productive I actually am.

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February Reading

Ready Player One – Ernest Cline
Anthony Powell – A Buyer’s Market (reread)
My Cousin Rachel – Daphne Du Maurier
Put Out More Flags – Evelyn Waugh (reread)
The Vintner’s Luck – Elizabeth Knox (reread)
Mrs Caliban – Rachel Ingalls

And I’m in the middle of a bunch of books: Master and Commander, The Possibility of an Island, Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked, The Watchmaker of Filigree Street, and Under the Volcano. I’m planning on starting the YA Charlotte Holmes series, perhaps I’ll like it more than the romance one, and I am really looking forward to moving forward in A Dance to the Music of Time. I have no idea why I like them so much–they’re good, but I’d hesitate to say great, yet I’ve read through the whole series more than once. More than twice. More than…

I’ve recommended The Vintner’s Luck many times over the past 18 years. I’d run out and bought it based on the New York Times review, which promised good writing and a loyal & sexy angel, but the book was given away when I moved, so this is the first time I’ve reread it. It popped up on Overdrive, and I thought why not. Rereading it now, it seems awfully Anne Rice, and I have to admit I cringed at the descriptions of the angel’s leather trousers. It’s weird because I don’t feel any embarrassment about reading and enjoying Angel Sanctuary, and I would still recommend it to anyone looking for a soap opera about angel politics and angels making rocknroll fashion choices.

Half Read

Now that February is more than half over, it seems the theme is finishing books that I started months or years ago. In most cases, the books were not finished because the library disappeared them from my kindle–sometimes as I was reading. Paper addicts would probably see this as a sign of dead tree superiority, after all, librarians don’t have the time to swing by your house and snatch books out of your hands. However, I compared the amount spent on books in 2009 (pre-kindle) and the amount spent in 2014 (kindle + library), and the actual number is too embarrassingly large to post here, even though no one except my future self will read this. Future Self, don’t be too hard on Past Self! She didn’t know. But, to be completely honest, I did know. Every time I move, I lose a library (and I move a lot).

My description of Ready Player One as a collection of pop culture references attempting to be prose, and now that I’ve made it from 20% to 100%, it’s that plus sexist nerd wish-fulfillment. My Cousin Rachel is so good, but it’s the kind of writing that makes me feel bad about being a bad writer, which must be the reason I didn’t finish it before. Playback is definitely the weakest of the Marlowe novels–a first draft written in grief and alcohol.

An elderly woman on the train was offended by The Possibility of an Island–I can be a little oblivious when reading, so I hadn’t noticed that she’d got out her reading glasses and was staring at my screen until she started to complain. Too much pussy for 7 in the morning, so I put it away, and by the afternoon, it had returned to the library. It’s going to take me years to find out how the smug & annoying “comedian” becomes a smug & annoying clone–I started reading it in 2013. A friend had sent it to me because I’d loved The Map and the Territory, but I was too busy studying Japanese and writing about DI Lestrade to read it. And, the real problem is that it was a book. An actual paper book. They’re not only bulky, but it’s far too easy to leave paper books on the train, on the bus, in a taxi, etc. I left it in all those places, and then when it was time to leave Japan, it stayed on the bookshelf next to Nancy Mitford and a volume of Gintama.

January Reading

The Seventh Function of Language – Laurent Binet

The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao – Junot Diaz (reread)

Cheddar: a journey to the heart of America’s most iconic cheese – David Edgar

The Book of Revelation – Rupert Thomson

Big Little Lies – Liane Moriarty

Hunger – Roxane Gay

Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series (1-3, 5-9) – Louise Penny

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes – Anita Loos (reread)

The Long Goodbye – Raymond Chandler (reread)

The Little Sister – Raymond Chandler (reread)

Eve’s Hollywood – Eve Babitz

Crazy Rich Asians – Kevin Kwan

A Question of Upbringing – Anthony Powell

Other than rereading A Dance to the Music of Time, one volume a month, I don’t have any definite reading goals this year–fewer rereads? More translated fiction? No translated fiction? (too late for that) More nonfiction? The problem is that the moment I decide on a reading challenge and organize a list of books to read, then it feels like homework, and all I want to do is read Waugh.

Reading goal: this year I’ll read some books I haven’t read before.

This year might be like 2016 when the first book I read ended up being my favourite. In 2016, January started with Renata Adler’s Speedboat, and I ended up rereading it before the year ended. I started The Seventh Function of Language at the end of December, put it down, mildly disappointed because it wasn’t a campus comedy about Barthes solving mysteries, picked it up again on the first, and happily raced through it. It’s basically a violent and trashy airport novel for people who carry their lunches to work in LRB tote bags, and I love it.

Pumpkin Pumpkin Pumpkin (autumn is coming)

Every day this week, I’ve been getting Fancy Expensive Coffee because Fancy Expensive Coffee is to Williamsburg what takoyaki is to Osaka: everywhere and delicious. Today, in a budget-minded moment, I stepped into Dunkin Doughnuts and was dismayed by all of the signs promising Pumpkin and Fall. Summer is over and I didn’t… How can summer be over? Did it even begin?

This site was supposed to have two purposes, (1) exchange letters, and (2) reading/watching notes, mostly reading because I don’t watch very many things. The Golden Age is television is passing without much notice from me. I don’t know why tumblr worked better for my reading lists than trying to use this + Goodreads, but it did. Unfortunately, tumblr was such a lonely experience that it wasn’t worth keeping it just to track my books. Now, I’m going to try something different – an actual notebook. It would probably work better if I incorporated it into my planner or writing notebook, but I picked up something cheap and purple at the going-out-of-business sale at a stationery store, and I want to feel like I didn’t waste my money (I did).

What I would like to do is collect some prompts for those times when I don’t particularly feel anything about a book. It’s easy when a book is terrible or brilliant, but there are so many books out there that exist just to keep the reader from having to look at anyone on the train.

the curse of the raven boys

Every time I feel like going online to complain about The Raven Boys, my internet goes out. I got halfway through the book, logged in to wordpress to write about why I wouldn’t be finishing it, and then the internet went out for almost two days. I ended up finishing it, went over to goodreads to give it one star, and then the internet went out for the entire weekend. Earlier, I came here, a crowded Starbucks, logged into goodreads, and got a blank screen. As I hit ctrl-r, I heard waves of discontent roll over the tables. No internet. I picked up my coffee and left.

This post is a bit of a test. If I can get to the end, maybe my internet bad luck will break and I will be able to discuss why The Raven Boys is both incompetently written, baffling, and maybe a little racist..

Yesterday I saw an old friend and we walked around the city and and ate Japanese food and went to an escape room, which was something I became vaguely aware of after Sherlock S4 because that last (not-good) episode kept getting compared to an escape room and apparently everyone except me had been to one at some point. Working out the puzzles was fun, but I’m clumsy with locks, getting things in and out of a lock at the gym is always a struggle, so entering the codes correctly was a little bit difficult.

Outside there was a poster advertising the film Valerian, and it took me a moment to figure out what it was advertising because the leads looked so sulky and grim that I thought it might be an adaptation of The Turn of the Screw set in space. The last time I thought about Valerian was 10 years ago when a French woman tried to slap me because I said that Fujiko was better than Laureline.

Context: We were well into the second hour of a very expensive nomihodai and we’d been trying to drink our money’s worth in whisky cocktails. It was more than a little awkward because I hadn’t realised it would only be the two of us and I am not exactly the greatest conversationalist, and then for some reason, she ordered shots, which were not included in the nomihodai, but the bartender served because why not. However, tequila reduces my natural shyness, so when her (more than slightly racist) monologue about the terribleness of Japan turned to manga, I stopped smiling and nodding and I objected strongly to her description of Valérian and Laureline as better than anything Japan had to offer. “Laureline is nothing more than a cut-rate Fujiko,” I said. In case she hadn’t understood, “A bargain basement Fujiko,” I added.

“You say that again, I slap you,” she said, and I think it was supposed to be playful, but it came across as super intense, so I started to discreetly edge away (we’d been sitting next to each other on the banquette), but a drunk’s version of discreet is anything but, so I edged myself on to the floor.

She leaned over me, “Some people, they say I look like Laureline.”

“Naaaawwwww,” I said, and started giggling. She harumphed and ordered another round of cocktails, and then when they came, she drank them both. What I’d meant was, you don’t have red hair.

Anyway, now that I think about it, Fujiko/Laureline would be an amazing crossover pairing. And Henry James in Space would be super amazing.

That stroll down memory lane took up my internet time, so now I can’t complain about the book I read today, Virginia Heffernan’s Magic and Loss: the Internet as Art. I agreed with some of its points about the value of the internet, but overall it was so silly and poorly written that I started to question my own beliefs.

Lyric poetry has always been short. That’s why it’s not, for example, epic.

I think that is supposed to be a joke, but it is almost impossible to tell.

I confess to taking gross liberties with traditional books, savoring the rule breaking, skipping forewords, concordances, and boring chapters, while lavishing prurient attention on jacket copy, dedications, and acknowledgments.

Oh, you rebel!

It’s no surprise that the Harry Potter generation, who grew up on serial fantasy fiction set in the labyrinthine hallways of a magic school—as well as on suspenseful literary television like Lost, which is built on cliffhangers, errors, and indirection—have taken to the disorienting pagination of the Kindle and the lost-in-the-funhouse narrative that thrives in ereader form. These are books that defy the miserable school essay format: tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, tell them what you told them. They are filled with fake-outs and unfulfilled promises. The best Kindle books serialize easily and pulse with suspense that drives the reader emotionally (rather than rationally) through the maze. There are mistakes, redundancies, false starts, red herrings, loose and dead ends. Purity. The Goldfinch. Fifty Shades of Gray. Gone Girl.

Those are all straightforward narratives, I mean, if she thinks they are exceptionally twisty, someone should buy her a copy of Armadale or Lady Audley’s Secret. Additionally, one would think that in a book about the internet, a mention of the internet origins of Fifty Shades wouldn’t be out of place. There’s nothing “lost-in-the-funhouse”, assuming that’s a reference to Barth, about any of those books.

And I can’t even get into the last chapter, which drops the technology theme and rambles on about undergraduate grudges. If I hadn’t been so close to the end, I would’ve given up and gone back to The Raven Boys, which is the last book I dropped (at chapter 4).

Next on my summer reading, either Joshua Cohen’s The Book of Numbers or Heidi Julavits’s The Folded Clock. After that, I should be back to Harry Potter – I’m #6 on the waiting list now for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.