Sunday, August 8, 2010

Have you read the red book?

I don't even know why I'm writing this right now. I'm completely and totally exhausted. Literally ever part of me is tired, and knowing that this week is gonna be crazy is making it worse.

We (the fam and I) got home around 5:30 this morning from Utah. I've never been more glad to get out of a car in my life. We've driven from Utah to Virginia before, but it's never been 5 of us in a Toyota Corolla. Looking at cars makes me want to hurl. Waynes World- style.

It wasn't all bad. I got a lot of reading in, which felt so good. The past few weeks, actually, I've been able to read some good stuff. Some of it for school, some of it for myself, some of it at the recommendations of others.

I finished The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz which was lent to me almost 3 weeks ago. It's a crazy book, but I highly recommend it. I didn't know what to expect when I first started reading it, other than a brief synopsis from the lender, and I think that's part of what made it so crazy. The way Diaz tells the story is so captivating. He has this insane voice and an incredible combination of storytelling techniques that make the novel like nothing you've ever read. At the same time, though, while you're reading it it's so obvious that that's how the story had to be told. And the ending, oh my gosh, the ending. I re-read the last section of the book maybe 10 times. I won't quote it or spoil it. It has to be read with the rest of the book. Anyways, it's a crazy, bombastic, ghetto-fabulous kegger of a book.**

** Credit goes to Jeff for recommending it. For future reference, if Jeff White tells you to read a book (or really, if he tells you to do anything), read (or do) it. It will probably change your life.

In other news, I started reading Cormac McCarthy's The Road. I've seen the movie and I've been told by tons of people (including Mr. Jeff White) that I've "got to read this book" for something like 3 months, but I've never had time to read it until now. About 5 days ago I got an email from my English 495 teacher with a list of suggested reading for a future project and it included The Road, so it's now school reading. I started it Wednesday night around 11:00 and couldn't stop. With all my notes, though, I only got through about 50 pages. Looking back, I'm glad I saw the movie first; it's helped to keep the story more fluid. So far I love it and I'm pretty psyched to write about it. The way Cormac McCarthy writes is surprisingly simplistic. When I say simplistic, I don't, by any means, mean 'simple,' I mean he doesn't add flourishes to everything, which I like. Every once in a while, though, he throws in a sentence that blows my mind- partially because it's so profound and partially because he has a way of deriving totally abstract concepts from really simple actions/situations**

** I'm not explaining it as well as I wish I could. The man is a genius, I'm not.

Also on the list of books is A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers. I've been a fan of Dave Eggers for a little bit. I fell in love with his short stories a while back, but lack of time/life kept me from reading any of his longer stuff. I attempted starting the book last Summer before I left for school, but only got about 25 pages in before I had to start reading textbooks again. Picking it back up again (again, because of Jeff) was one of the best things I did all semester. Dave Eggers has, in my extremely limited opinion, one of the best voices as an author that I've ever read. He's really clear about his intentions as far as what he wants you to get out of what he's writing, and sort of shoves it down your throat, but in a good way. Reading him is like getting into a heated discussion with someone, and having them get louder and louder as they make their point. He's also got a really solid way of balancing the 'heavy' with humor. Parts of the book are heartbreaking, and other parts made me laugh out loud (not small guffs of suppressed laughter either, we're talking laugh-ter). Anyways, if you're looking for a mini journey/wake up call, read it.

This semester I got to read a lot of Russian literature for one of my classes. I've always like Russian history, so getting the chance to read the literature was pretty exciting. We read stuff from Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Gogol, Lermontov, Chekhov, etc. There were a few highlights here and there, but my favorite pieces ended up being Chekhov's short stories. I don't know why I'd never read them before, or why they're not more widely-read in America. The man had a wicked sense of humor, and an even more wicked sense of suffering. My favorite of his stories is one called Misery. Without giving too much away, it's about a coach driver who's son has just passed away, and all he wants to do is talk about it. It's a perfect story. Period.

Right now I'm in the middle of Reading Lolita in Tehran. I'm about half-way through it, and I haven't really formed an opinion on it yet, partially because I've ended up breaking up my reading of it over the course of about 3 months now. It's got a lot of historical/ cultural background on the Middle East, though, which is pretty tight. Ever since Dad started working in Iraq I've wanted to learn as much as I can about the Middle East. Even if the book itself weren't amazing, I think getting a glimpse at the Islamic point of view of certain issues would be worth it.

Next on the list:

In the Name of Honor- Mukhtar Mai (look her up)
Things Fall Apart- Chinua Achebe
Half the Sky: Nicholas Kristof
My Name is Asher Lev- Chaim Potok
Life of Pi- Yann Martel
This is Your Brain on Music- Daniel J. Levitin
The White Album- Joan Didion
The Shipping News- Annie Proulx

Anycrap. That's all I got.

Reading's pretty cool, kids. A-wink.

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