Tuesday 25 September 2007

43. Mere Anarchy

Oy. Feeling no better today, but also, thankfully, no worse. I decided to take my own advice about reading less difficult books while convalescing and picked up Woody Allen's latest, Mere Anarchy.

This is yet another of the cartload of books I received for my birthday (see, I wasn't exaggerating!). It's a collection of Allen's signature silly short fiction and it is in no way emotionally or mentally taxing, unlike Triomf, which I will happily get back to when my head doesn't already feel like it's going to explode. Unfortunately, so far, it's not as funny as Allen's stuff usually is. Or, my sense of humour has changed. Or, it hurts me too much to laugh right now. I'm not sure, really.

I have had a few good chuckles, but while reading collections like Side Effects and Without Feathers, I laughed out loud a fair bit; mind you, I was studying for my comprehensive exams and so was, perhaps, a wee bit hysterical.

Don't ask me how I first heard of Woody Allen; that would be like asking how one first heard of Santa Claus. A Santa Claus who like to date his own adopted children that is.

Monday 24 September 2007

42. Triomf

There's something about oppressively grim books and physical illness for me. Somehow, it seems, that when I'm well and truly sick - as I am now (just diagnosed with bronchitis and a really bad sinus infection) - I find myself reading books that are almost unbearable in their own particular brand of gruesomeness.

In some cases - Crime and Punishment, Invisible Man - it's the book itself that seems to make me sick. Those two made me feel extremely claustrophobic and trapped and not long into either of them, I was suffering from some nasty bronchitis.

In other cases - A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, and now, Triomf - some part of me I don't understand draws me to the oppressive and overwhelmingly hopeless book when I'm deep in the pains and shivers of laboured breathing, dizzy spells, and fever.

The thing is, all these books are also incredibly compelling, so walking away isn't so easy, or even possible.

My friend Vee gave me Triomf as she needed the novel in its original Afrikaans for her thesis; the one I'm reading is, of course, translated into English by poet Leon de Kock (who is, I'm thinking, pretty wonderful).

Triomf is a "white" suburb in South Africa, built on top of the destroyed black Sophiatown; both of these towns are real. The story focuses on a poverty-stricken, violent, incestuous, perhaps alcoholic family called the Benades, and we are allowed to look into their lives as South Africa approaches its first democratic election. As you may well imagine, it's not a pretty sight.

In fact, I feel like it's making the claustrophobia I'm already feeling due to my trouble breathing much worse, and I may need to take a break with some either Woody Allen or P.G. Wodehouse in the interests of my good health.

That said, it's a very good book and I'll look forward to reading it more when I feel less oppressed by germs.

Tuesday 18 September 2007

41. The Moon and the Bonfire

I ordered The Moon and the Bonfire through www.bookmooch.com as part of my project of reading more Italian authors. I found Cesare Pavese on a list of Italian authors somewhere on the internet and this was the one book of his available on Bookmooch.

I started reading it the other night when I couldn't sleep (one of the many nights these days, *sigh*) and now I'm about halfway through.

I have to say, I'm disappointed and bored. Pavese is supposed to be one of the best modern Italian writers but I'm finding the book consistently underwhelming. I'm sure the translation isn't great, but no translator could hide this book's almost complete lack of substance.

I would like to tell you what's happening but I can't because almost nothing is. All I can say is, the narrator, who grew up in a small village in northwestern Italy returns there after many years in America making his fortune. He's spending all his time wandering around thinking about how things have changed, but in such a disorganized and uncompelling way that I don't care at all. I'll be sending this one back out into the world via Bookmooch once I'm finished with it.

Sunday 16 September 2007

40. Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman

The irony of this post is that it's 4:21 am here and I'm online because I can't sleep. I'm having bad anxiety about my dad wanting to come visit - I just started working on my thesis again for the first time in months and I'm afraid of losing my tenuous hold on working to a disruption in my day-to-day life.

Also, when I was sleeping, I was having weird dreams about there being snails all over my stove and kitchen counter tops. (A snail-let crawled 5+ feet up the wall by our front door and died there yesterday; that, and the fact that I don't know why some snails have houses and others don't, had me thinking about snails right before I went to sleep.)

But about the Murakami. I received this book as one of a cartload of books for my birthday last month. I was really looking forward to it because the last two books of Murakami's I read (after the quake and Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World) were fantastically good. This one is just okay so far. In fact, I positively didn't like a few of the first stories but the more recent two have been enjoyable enough.

I just realized that I started reading this book one night around 5 am when I couldn't sleep. Maybe this book is cursing, or adding to the curse of, my sleeping!!!!

On an unrelated note, my reading will likely be slowed down for the next 4 weeks or so. I just started a meditation course and it involves me meditating every day for 1 hour, except for Thursdays, which is when I have the actual 3-hour long class.

And one of these days, I should really start using the Italian language CDs my father-in-law gave me. It's just under a month until I fly to Italy for 6 weeks!

Monday 10 September 2007

39. Drowned Wednesday

I just realized that although I'm more than half way through Drowned Wednesday, the third installment in Garth Nix's The Keys to the Kingdom series, I hadn't made a blog entry about it yet.

I think I started this on Sunday morning and like all the books in the series, it's a fast and compelling read. Arthur is back in the Secondary Realms that are connected to the House and he's trying both to help Wednesday escape the curse laid on her by finding her Key and to rescue his friend Leaf who got caught up in the wave sent to his hospital room to take him to the luncheon of 17 removes with Wednesday. I realize that the above will make no sense if you haven't read the books in the series preceding Drowned Wednesday.

All I can say is that this is a good read and I'm glad that 1) I finally finished that piece of shit Werewolves in Their Youth and 2) I have Nix to give me breaks from the other crap book I'm reading - Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman. I'll write on the latter once I'm sure I'll actually finish it.

Monday 3 September 2007

38. Something Fresh

What can I say? I allowed myself to be lured into She Said Boom! (a great bookstore slash record store by Kensington Market) the other day and I left with two new Wodehouse books.

I got one called Money for Nothing and this one: Something Fresh, which is another story set in and around Blandings Castle as Leave it to Psmith is.

So far (and by so far, I mean the first 100+ pages), Something Fresh is very enjoyable but isn't yielding the big laughs that Leave it to Psmith did. Nonetheless, it is making me a little happier and so I can neither fault it nor regret it.