Category: Books

Some New books

Some New Books

Some New Books

So remember when I wrote a post about books I wanted to read? Well, I haven’t read them yet, but I bought some new books to read in the future! Because can you really have too many?

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This time I wanted to read some new books that have won awards and were considered some of the best of 2017.

The Pushcart prize anthology is a yearly compilation of all the best works from small presses. It contains poetry, articles, and short stories, all carefully chosen to reflect the best of the best. This is a great choice if you are like me, and read multiple books at a time.

Another collection of short stories is the pink book, Leopoldine Core’s When Watched. I haven’t checked it out yet, but it was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway prize, so it must be very good.

Another finalist for he PEN/Hemingway prize was Bill Beverly’s Dodgers. This is a crime procedural type book. I’ve never read anything of the sort, so it should be a nice experience.

The winner of the PEN/Hemingway prize is Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi. I have no idea what this book is about, but it beat out a lot of other candidates. Also, it is a woman author, which I feel is lacking in my collection. I’m glad some new books of mine will include women.

I usually choose books based on whether or not they ‘speak’ to me. The Hemingses Of Monticello was one such book. It looks like it is non fiction as well, so I’m looking forward to it.

Since I liked Patti Smith’s Just Kids so much, I wanted to give Bob Dylan’s Chronicles a chance. This is just volume one, so stay tuned.

 

I hope you guys will check out some new books this year!

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Five Life-Changing Books

Five Life-Changing Books

No longer able to choose just one book to talk about, I bring to you five life-changing books to read this summer. Yes, I know it’s almost August, you better get started!

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Cancer Ward – Solzhenitsyn.

The ultimate allegory, Cancer Ward uses cancer as an analogy for the sweeping effects of Stalinism. It affects everyone, doctors, high-ranking officials, and the common man. The reason this book is number one on the list of books that have changed my life is because I am tremendously touched by Solzhenitsyn’s lack of anger. Cancer Ward is basically a memoir of his life after imprisonment in Stalin’s gulag. Solzhenitsyn has every right to be bitter, resentful, and downright furious at this point in his life. He was imprisoned for no reason, and now, once ‘free’ (or as free as possible, living in exile), he has cancer. However, the main character, Kostoglotov, has so many tender and gentle qualities.

Once he is free (from cancer this time), he walks around town and sees the world in a different light. This ending taught me a lot about seeing everything from a different perspective. Once you let go of anger, everything is seen anew. I hope to carry that lesson with me for the rest of my life.

The Sun Also Rises – Hemingway.

Every Hemingway book has had a tremendous effect on me. The Sun Also Rises was yet another lesson on how to see things from a different perspective. This book was a close tie with Number one on my list of five life-changing books. I’ve read Hemingway’s works many times over, and each time they affected me differently. Most recently, I saw his endings as not a loss, but a chance to start over. Many people believe he is depressing, but he doesn’t portray emotions. Hemingway is the father of showing without telling. He just writes words, what you perceive as ‘the meaning’ is a reflection of yourself.

The beautiful scene of the bulls goring the steers, with Bill constantly repeating, “must be no fun to be a steer,” was yet another allegory – my favorite rhetorical device. The whole book is filled with opportunities to add your own interpretation to what’s happened. This book taught me to find hope and faith in a situation where it seemed there was none. This is something I have used time and time again throughout my life.

A Happy Death (La morte heureuse) – Camus

I never read Camus knowing full well he was an Existentialist writer. Later on, I sought out to read Camus to learn more about Existentialism and to become more philosophically advanced. I never knew A Happy Death was his first book either. Turns out, it is a study of the Existentialist concept of creating your own happiness. In a way, this book was a kind of prediction for my future behavior (or maybe my behavior is a result of having read it?). I always believed that happiness is something you need to make for yourself, will for yourself.

Another aspect of Camus’s books that always stays with me is his descriptions. He is an excellent painter of landscapes. I constantly learn from him how to describe surroundings to make the reader genuinely see the places around him.

The Glass Bead Game – Herman Hesse

If you’ve never read anything by Hesse, The Glass Bead Game is a compilation of all his most famous themes: the meaning of life, following your heart, and the harmony and flow of life. There are a lot of allusions with the names of the characters, and in the German language, a lot of word play. For me, the concept of the main character leaving his post to pursue what he feels he really is destined to do, is invaluable. In this book, music works to create a sense of harmony between the mathematical and artistic aspects of the Glass Bead game. It’s a beautiful foray into a fantasy world where intellectualism is of greatest reverence.

Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden

Probably the only modern book I actually like. I read this book at a time in my life when I was “in love” with someone who did not love me back. This book, taking place in Japan at the cusp of – and during – World War II, made me feel like it is possible for me to have true love. It was one of those Romeo and Juliet type things, where it seemed like so much stands in their way, it will never work out. But it did. This book filled me with hope, and even though now I realize how silly my little crush was, the hope is something I chose to keep with me.

 

I hope this post didn’t bore you to tears, and I urge you to check out one of these five life-changing books if you haven’t already!

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Just Kids — Book Of The Day

Just Kids — Book Of The Day

Today’s book of the day is Just Kids by Patti Smith.Just Kids Patti Smith Robert Mapplethorpe book art photography history musician

Okay, can I just say, it took me two days to finish this book AND I was at work the entire time. Just Kids grabbed me and totally pulled me in. I love Mapplethorpe, so it was a no brainer why I would read this. But if you’re interested in history, how our modern culture came to be, pick up this book.

I usually just walk through a bookstore and read titles and take whatever gets my attention. I trust some other higher power to direct me to the book I need to read. There was something about this book that made me pick it up. Just the title alone is absolutely perfect. It’s about when Patti Smith came to New York with just the clothes on her back, and met Robert Mapplethorpe. They were just a couple of kids.

I seriously can’t explain how much this book touched me. It wasn’t anything in particular, but I felt like her depiction of Mapplethorpe was exactly how I’ve imagined him to be. It is amazing that he was able to project himself so clearly through his photography, that I felt like I knew him.

 

Enjoy!

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Poet Of The Day — Langston Hughes

Poet Of The Day — Langston Hughes

Today’s poet and poem of the day is Langston Hughes, one of the cornerstone poets of the Harlem Renaissance.

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I’m a huge fan of the Harlem Renaissance movement in poetry. One of my earlier posts referenced Claude McKay and the meaning behind these poets’ style and choice of words. Langston Hughes is in a league of his own regarding style. He wrote gospel and jazz lyrics as well as long ballad poems. But perhaps the poems most indicative of the style of the movement were his poems like ‘To You,’ below.

This poem is classic Harlem Renaissance. The simple rhyme and the poem’s succinct method of delivery are key. The message is clearly a call-to-action for people who are sick of the oppression and injustice faced at the time (and unfortunately, to this day). With ‘Dinner Guest: Me’ just on the next page it’s almost a scoff by the publisher at how little has been done.

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books I want to read

Books I Want To Read

Books I Want To Read

Today’s books of the day are all these books I want to read! I got them years ago and haven’t gotten around to reading. Mark my words, I will finish them by the end of this year.

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Thomas Bernhard ‘Extinction’

When I was reading Knausgaard’s My Struggle, I wrote down anything and everything that might be useful to me. Whenever I love an author, I always try to find books they read, in an attempt to learn more about them. Knausgaard called Thomas Bernhard’s ‘Extinction’ the scariest book he’s ever read. Later on, as I was reading ‘The Lady in Gold’ I came across Bernhard once again, this time he was mentioned for his criticism of Austrian government’s involvement with stolen artwork during the Holocaust, and refusal to accept its past.

His constant reappearance in my life can only mean I really need to get into this book!

Deathless

This book grabbed my attention because of its’ references to the domovy – a Russian house hobbit. I have no idea what this book will be about, but it is an American author who does an amazing job of describing Russian folklore and traditions without missing anything.

Phantoms In The Brain

This is a scientific book I bought because it included a whole chapter on the sensory parietal lobule. This part of the brain is where the compiling of all our sensory information takes place. Illnesses like phantom limb syndrome have been linked to a misfire in this part of the brain. When I was writing my papers at university about the implications of brain research I found some studies that suggested trans people’s gender dysphoria is also linked to the sensory parietal lobule.

I can’t wait to read more about these scientific findings!

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The Master And Margarita

The Master And Margarita — Book Of The Day

I guess it’s not really book of the day, since Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita is technically a story, but it’ll do for our purposes.

I’m sorry to have another non-English book of the day, but I’ve been on a kick lately. I think it helps me speak Russian better. I love comparing translations, so give the English a read and let me know what you think.

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I guess it can be classified as political satire, fantasy, fiction. There really is no way to define this genre. Bulgakov is brilliantly funny and sarcastic. And as is the case with my favourite books, not a word is wasted. There’s no filler, everything is vital to the unfolding of this amazing satire.

Without giving it away, the devil comes to atheist, communist Russia. Unfortunately, there is no english word for the Russian ‘smeh i greh,‘ it’s basically when you laugh at something you know you shouldn’t. And I’ve been doing a lot of that as I re-read this, laughing while shaking my head.

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Unsolicited Book Review — Strugatsky Brothers

Unsolicited Book Review — Strugatsky Brothers

a modern, forward moving society can’t function while plagued by archaic beliefs

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Strugatsky brothers’ Ugly Swans is about xenophobia. Writing in the sci-fi/fantasy genre allowed the brothers to speak freely about their issues with society without fear of persecution in 1960s communist Russia.

My book, which I read in Russian, consists of two separate but intertwined short stories. Ugly Swans is popular stateside, perhaps for the story’s disdain, and eventual collapse of the “old” world, as represented by the older, rigid, stricter parents.

The children are influenced by ‘slimies’ or lepers; people with weird physical deformities, who are nonetheless brilliant and worldly. Young people take to them and developed a level of maturity and intelligence unmatchable by their parents and teachers. What this leads to is fear and eventual segregation of the ‘slimies’ into a closed off leper colony.

As with most hatred and xenophobia, fear is the driving force. Fear is a knee-jerk reaction that doesn’t give us an honest interpretation of what is happening around us. The story represents the kind of fear people experience when faced with something new. All drastic changes carry with them a sort of threat to the current life we have. Banev, the parent of one of the children in the book feels the same. But before he has a chance to take action, he understands. That our knee-jerk reactions are not always accurate, and that an ending to an ‘old world’ can bring forth a change beneficial to us all.

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Limping Fate

The second story is called Limping Fate, I highly recommend it if you can find it in English. One of the first lines in the book reads, “Lately, I get the feeling that whoever is in charge of my destiny is downright messing with me.” (My translation skills leave something to be desired, but that is the gist).

Unlike Ugly Swans, this story is about an author, who is forced to have his works evaluated by a machine which determines if something is literature or trash. The real theme according to some, is whether anyone can really be the judge of artistic talent. However, since the stories were lumped together into one book (samizdat – at that), I thought it better to interpret them as compliments of each other.

The world depicted in Limping Fate is wildly different from the brave, forward-moving society of Ugly Swans. Here, the populace cannot adapt or keep up. They maintain their archaic ideas of what is talent, artistry, and competition. Eventually, these old concepts and ideas fall away.

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Our world today is very much like the future Strugatsky brothers had in mind when they wrote. Ugly Swans is imperative to our current lives. We are plagued by xenophobia — racism, sexism, Islamophobia, ageism — all of these have their roots in fear.

A society that is as technologically and scientifically advanced as ours is moving forward at a fast pace. As we move forward, archaic concepts such as the ones mentioned above, will become nonsensical. If people choose to hold on to some of these notions, they will eventually be pushed out of society. We can’t maintain moving forward as long as these ancient, and quite frankly, absurd, ideas remain rampant.

Racism is one such mind-boggling concept that seems to me centuries too old for current American society. It doesn’t make sense to hold an iPhone in one hand, drive an electric hybrid car, yet have the person next to you hate or fear another race.

These two stories made me wonder about what will happen next. The two stories were printed together for reason. It was a harbinger of sorts. I believe if people maintain their archaic beliefs, it will create a chasm between the open-minded welcome members of society and those who refuse to move forward. This chasm can have catastrophic repercussions on our lives. I hope people understand this and adjust their ideologies.

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Author Of The Day — Borges

Author Of The Day — Borges

Today’s author of the day is Jorge Luis Borges! I always felt a personal connection to him even though I am not too familiar with his work, because he was Argentine, and a chunk of family lives there.

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Borges is considered a fantasy author. A lot of his work deals addresses philosophy as well. I wanted to make him ‘author of the day’ because I think there’s no one else like him. His stories remind of surrealist paintings by Dali and Dadaist Max Ernst. Borges’ work was filled with labyrinths, infinity mirrors, and mazes.

When I first saw Dali’s “Persistence of Memory” it had a very profound effect on me. When I read Borges’ El Aleph I felt the same. It was very intricate and hard to understand and I had to reread it multiple times, as if I was in the maze myself. Every line and every word had importance and meaning. The House of Asterion, another short story, gave me chills after I finished it.

All these stories can be found in El Aleph, the book pictured above. It’s like a crash course on his writing. With an active imagination, it literally feels like stepping into a painting, or a world created by him.

 

Book Of The Day

Book Of The Day

IT — the movie is coming up and everyone is reading it, including me!

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As you can see, it’s very scary that even Yves is hiding!

Probably the most interesting thing about this book of the day is that throughout the story the characters remember their childhood, things they have completely forgotten about. I’ve read this book before, and as I re-read it, I found myself remembering parts of the book much the same way the characters remembered their lives. Stephen King has an incredible way of weaving stories. He is a true artist with words.

This is one of the most popular horror books/movies/tv series, but it is so much more than that. For me it is about the disillusionment of growing up, and realizing that there truly are some horrors out there. There is a lot of symbolism and hidden messages. Stephen King’s books have been a favourite of mine for their duality, and I encourage you to look deeper as you read IT.

 

Give it a read and let me know what you think!

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Knausgaard and Koffee

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Knausgaard + Koffee

Knausgaard ‘s ‘My Struggle,’ or ‘Min Kamp’ in Norwegian, is a pretty ballsy move. First of all, it’s got the same title as Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf.’ Second of all, it is a six part memoir of a man’s life.

Ordinarily, I would never read such a book. It seems very conceited and self-assured to write six books about your life when you’re only in your mid forties. But I like to challenge myself, and learn new things, and I figured Knausgaard ’s books would do just that.

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It was a very surprising read. It was not conceited or self-assured at all. If anything, he was extremely self-deprecating which created an interesting juxtaposition to the concept of a six-part autobiography. I love that.

What struck me is his way of describing mundane, every day things. He sees everything in such an artistic light. One instance of him traveling somewhere he remembered an old man who ran through the streets when it rained.

I always thought that it’s nice to travel, see new things. But unfortunately all of that is useless when you don’t possess the creativity to make something of the experience. But if you do, beauty, intrigue, and lifelong experiences are everywhere. I feel that Knausgaard and I are alike in that way.

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I could never go over everything that I loved about these books, but I thought i’d go over this one connection I found.

Victorianism and Social Media

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There is a part in Book two when Knausgaard meets a friend and they discuss their behaviors in the world. One of the concepts that came up was Victorianism, and the ‘staging’ of life. His friend mentioned that during the Victorian period everyone was very proper, it was almost as if people lived their life on a stage. Everything that you could see was exactly what people presented to you. What they didn’t want seen was behind the scenes. It was never meant to be revealed.

This got me thinking about social media and how we nowadays behave very much the same way. I do not have nearly enough knowledge to address human behaviors, especially how they change through time. But this made me wonder, are societal trends cyclical?

Social media, or ‘the root of all evil,’ as some like to refer to it, is really just a stage. We see what people show us, and what they don’t want seen is hidden from view. I’m not sure why Karl Ove’s friend brought that up as only an aspect of Victorianism; it can be argued that this is true for all time periods and people. But I think with the advent of social media, and it’s widespread use, this concept has shot through the roof.

We are all familiar with the negative aspects of social media and how it can lead to comparing, and eventually cause us to have a very negative outlook on our own lives. I think this is fascinating. Mainly because I didn’t grow up with social media, I wonder about it’s longterm effect, and it’s effect on young people who’ve never knowing any other life.

When I was a kid, and I wanted something I saw in an ad, my mom always told me ‘it’s a picture, you don’t know how it actually looks in real life.’ I was so fortunate to be brought up that way because it’s a belief I apply to things today. I always remind myself that what I see is what people choose to show.

I love social media, without it, I would not have access to my family in other parts of the world. It’s a useful tool. Knausgaard’s book shone a light on the fact that ‘staging,’ and ‘showing off’ to others is something that can happen regardless of technology. People are people, and will behave similarly throughout history.

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How good does all this look? It was good indeed, but don’t let me mislead you. I took these photos on the floor of my living room, while starving and in desperate need to consume that caffeine.