What have I been reading?
Time for yet another episode of the ‘What Have I been reading’-lists I’ve been keeping. I use a little booklet for this, and I’m already dreading the day that the book is full. Most of it is written in pencil, so that I could erase it, but maybe I’ll just make a 900 pages long notebook myself, in which I meticulously keep listed what I’ve read in my life. My children, or my parents, my friends will find this list one day, thinking that I spent too much time reading and too little time living. But They don’t know that that’s just the same. By the way, no Amazon links this time, cause i think you all should start to buy at your independent or secondhand bookstores. Go for it guys.
David Eagleman – Sum
This is one of the best books I read this year, I think. Eagleman, a neuroscientist and writer, comes up with 40 short tales (microfiction it is called) about how the afterlife would be. Especially the first ones made me gasp for air, admiring the great train of thoughts Eagleman is taking in all these little stories. On his website you can read a few sample stories. They are not all as great, and I think I read the book in a too short time. You should be able to just read one story a week, so you’ll be amazed for forty weeks. I tried to keep it to 3 stories a day, but ended up finishing it faster than I could.
Richard Brautigan – The Abortion
A story from the sixties about a man who works in a library for unwanted books, hooks up with an unwanted writer, gets her pregnant, and they decide to have an abortion in Mexico. The plot is a perfect recipe for melodrama, but Brautigan, the hippie that he was, makes into this sweet love story. There is this lack of tension, which makes it a good in-between read, but I’m not sure if Brautigan will ever become my favorite sixties writer (he has to compete with people like Vonnegut and Tom Robbins)
Paul Auster – Timbuktu
I’m a big Auster fan, and this was one of the few books i hadn’t read yet, but it quite disappointed me. I love the beginning, when Mr. Bones is still around his excentric boss, Willy Christmas, whose job it is to spread the merry Christmas thought, after Santa Claus himself told him too. I loved the hobo monologues. But then Willy Christmas disappears from the story, and you get this tale of a dog looking for a new home. It was just too much a disney story to me. It hadn’t the same depths like other Auster books. The main character being a scruffy dog just didn’t work for me. I can remember I felt the story had a bit a too much constructed plot, just because you’re dealing with a dog here. Making the dog able to understand people? It’s a bit too easy.
Alex Robinson – Box Office Poison
This was my Graphic Novel portion for this month – I have no graphic novel buying frenzy planned for the following weeks, so there probably won’t be one in my next list, though you never know off course how much i break my own promises – but boy did I love it. It wasn’t too alternative underground this time, although it still had this typical American “look at me, cause I’m neurotic feel to it”. Box office poison deals with the life of twenty-somethings in New York, growing up; It was like a more serious version of Friends in a way. One of the main characters is a comic book artist (see, it’s all self-indulgent), and ends up working for this guy who invented a famous super hero, but doesn’t get the recognition for it. But it’s also about friendship, relationships… really nice one…
Hugo Claus – Friday
Hugo Claus is supposed to be one of the finest writers to have ever lived in Belgium, the one Belgian writer ever been named for the Nobel prize, but I never had read something from him before. Excuse me: I had tried, but put the book away after 10 pages, cause it bored the hell out of me. Friday was okay, because it was a play, and because it was short. It’s about this man who returns from prison where he has been because he supposedly sexually harassed his own daughter. His wife in the meantime got pregnant from the man’s best friend. The emotional relationships between those three characters, the doubt about the guilt or innocence from the father..it was quite interesting. But there are so many referrings to a world in Flanders that no longer exists, that it also seemed archaic… I guess that most people nowadays will think this is just out of time.
Magnus Mills – The Scheme for Full Employment
Magnus Mills is a British writer, who is writing about absurd situations. Not very high-brow literature, but just a writer who likes to amuse his audience. I read a few books of him, and quite liked this one. It’s about the Plan, a sort of government business that involves people riding down in vans from one storage place to another, being on very tight time schedules. People that are part of the plan get payed good, have job security. But then there is this feud about the time schedules, and everything starts crumbling down. Witty stuff.
Mario Reading – The New Prophecies of Nostradamus
I’m interested in the obscure, and Nostradamus has fascinated me. But, I also think it’s a lot of bollocks. Mario Readings thinks it’s not and tried to interpret quite a few of Nostradamus’ predictions. I bought this book from a friend who works in a secondhand bookstore, and texted her just a few hours later that this is probably the worst book I’ve ever read in my entire life (well, no..nothing beats Siloam in Dutch translation) . You see, Mario Reading’s readings are laughably far-fetched. He connects dots by pulling a curly line from point A to point Q, to end up at point B. If he reads about burning suns, he’ll look up some sort of mythology, going from Egyptian to Persian mythology, and then come up with an interpretation that makes me think the writer’s a bit schizophrenic. This book got released in 2006, and the fact that every interpretation thus far, is completely wrong, proves my point. Don’t buy this junk.
Michel Tournier -The Ogre (book cover is in Dutch, exactly like the book I have)
Classic of the month. Don’t know how I do it, but I always end up reading at least one novel that is part of world literature a month. Anyway, this one definitely deserves to be there. It’s perhaps quite the dramatic, baroque and intellectual – with all the cultural references – story, but it touches a strange nerve that only classics are able to touch. I don’t know. These books have proven themselves, and though the status of this book is probably not that big in Anglosaxon parts of the world, it is also a book of a certain status. The story is quite hard to just put into a few words, but it’s about this man Tiffauges, who has his own garage on the dawn of World War 2, but has this urging sense of some sort of holy mission in his life. I don’t wanna spoil the rest of the story, but the outcome seems to be quite gruesome. It’s an allegory about the dark sides of life, without even realizing it until you finish it.
Brian Evenson – The Wavering Knife
This guy was on my list for a long time, as many others, but I finally decided to buy a copy of one of his books. Based upon reviews I read about other works of him, I had suspected more something in the line of Chuck Palahniuk, but Evenson is gruesome in a different way. He has this aura of intellectuality over him, which i like at times, and deals not so much with typical american themes. That being said, some of his stories are hilarious, e.g. the one where a disgruntled German man writes an essay about a travel guide his grandfather has written about mexico. He’s raving about the poor English translation by this American writer, but it turns out the English book isn’t even close to a translation. It’s a different book all together. Very nice one. Really makes me wanna read one of his novels.
Ian McEwan – Amsterdam
A modern classic perhaps, but one that didn’t appeal to me that much. Just up until the ending, when I decided that i was curious enough to read it all the way to the end. Here, the artifial atmosphere of intellectuality quite bothered me. An editor-in-chief of a news paper, a classical composer… I normally don’t care about jobs and lives, but I always have a hard time if books have characters of a certain standing (That’s why victorian novels don’t appeal to me at all). That being said, I think the book had some interesting themes, and the ending was quite surprising. I just think it would’ve worked better as a short story though.
Things I am reading now, but haven’t finished yet, are: Roland Topor, Daniil Charms and Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. Enjoying all three of them.
See you next time.
Tags: abortion, alex robinson, box office poison, Brian Evenson, classics, DAvid Eagleman, graphic novel, Hugo Claus, Ian McEwan, Magnus Mills, mario Reading, Michel Tournier, Nobel prize, Nostradamus, Paul Auster, Richard Brautigan, sixties, Sum, The Ogre, Timbuktu, worst book ever.You can comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.