Monday, January 15, 2018

My Reading List

Years ago Kristina was reading Snow by Orhan Pamuk. I forget why. Maybe a class. Maybe just because he is a writer of note. I sort of remember she wasn't liking it much. Over the years I bought three of his books but never read them. I'm really not sure if it was something she said about the writing or just the fact that he is of note,  highly regarded and loaded with awards.
When I was in Bellingham visiting Val I went into a really nice bookstore and loaded up. Then in SF I hit two book stores one of which being Green Apple, a favorite. And then I got a lot of nice books for Christmas. I am currently in book heaven.
As I read them I reorganize shelves. My desire is to have all of a writer together with the exception of certain books that fit in sets. I love sets. I have one shelf that has most of the to-be-read books (although they are all over the nest.) I had moved the Pamuk to that shelf and as I was picking a book to read I saw them and wondered why I never picked them. It's like I felt like they were books I should read and didn't really want to read. But I had no idea if I even liked his writing. So. I pulled them off the shelf and began.
He is, in fact, a really great writer. He is also a bit of a yammer-er. He writes a lot of internal dialogue and it goes on and on. The characters from all three books have stayed with me. The stories were haunting. It's rough when you're reading translation because you don't really know if you're getting the words the writer would have chosen. I fall hard for a writer with beautiful words. It felt like work to read the books sometimes. So I'm on a fence about him. I liked/loved some things but didn't really ever get that enamored feeling I get about a writer.
The book I have in my purse is The Buddha in the Attic. It's about Japanese picture brides immigrating to America. The writing is amazing. It's like a prose poem. The subject matter is so heartbreaking. It's startling to have that beauty and horror in the same book.
I feel like reading is a great way to feel through experiences that you don't have. From the Pamuk I have felt the difference in the life of someone growing up in Turkey around the same time I grew up here. From the Otsuka I am feeling rage about the lives of women. The Pamuk experience was actually more internal.
There are two more Pamuk books I want to read but I'm going to take a break. I'm going to read Americanah by Adichie. Seems like a timely story. I read a few of her books a while ago. I really like reading more than one book by a given author at a time. You really get a feel for their style.
There are books that make me swoon. I always want to be reading them and never want them to end. But I like books that make me think and feel. I'm not really sure where these books fit. As much as I struggled with the Pamuk books I can't get them out of mind.
There are only a few of my friends who will even get what I'm yammering on and on about right now. Because it's ... just ... a little ... loopy. 


Kristina said...

Ha! But it's a good kind of loopy. If one is ever going to be loopy about something, going back and forth about the positives and negatives, or just reconsiderations of an author or an author's work is a good place to loop. I think it was the yammering that may have put me off Pamuk. Never had the time to go back and read other works of his.

There are books that, while not entertaining reading, do grab you and you are changed thereafter. Reading Gertrude Stein has reconfigured neural pathways in my brain....not always pleasantly, but definitely. Faulkner was on the reading list for my qualifying exams for grad school, but I fell hook, line, and sinker when I read his one-line chapter in As I Lay Dying: "My mother is a fish," I will forever picture little Vardaman squatting in the dirt contemplating that silvery creature as his mother lays dying in the house.

In a growingly dark and disturbing world, this kind of loopiness is a good thing. It keeps the mind alive and the spark in the spirit lit.

Kristina said...

And another thing, don't get me started on Flannery O'Connor. That woman is dark as f#ck and yet she's considered a Catholic writer, who describes men burning out their own eyes by spooning lye into them. (!!!!!!!) Not exactly bedtime reading, but who can forget that??

On a more light-filled, less creepy loop, Annie Dillard is the writer who remains camped out in my brain, with her old tomcat, describing, in Pilgrim At Tinker Creek, that mockingbird she witnesses stepping off the roof of a building as if he's committing suicide, only to unfurl his wings at the last moment before hitting the ground.

Her words to explain this Zen-like moment are mine forever and inform my own personal aesthetic: "I think that beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do is try to be there.”

Tish said...

Oh man. As always you expand my book list.