Tag: confessions

Distracted by Other Books

Posted April 3, 2018 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Monthly Reading / 0 Comments

My Thoughts and Reading in March 2018

I live in a city that often does not get much rain. So when we get two weeks of constant rain it is a rare treat. There is nothing better than curling up in bed with a cup of tea and a good book, while thunder and lightning is raging outside. I was able to spend those two glorious weeks reading Frankenstein in Baghdad. Most people know about my obsession with Frankenstein, the book that literally changed my life. Normally I am apprehensive about any take on this classic novel but Ahmed Saadawi was able to deliver something sensational. His take on the classic was able to compare the tale with post-invasion Iraq in a unique way. Since it has been two hundred years since Mary Shelley’s novel, I cannot help but think about revisiting the book once again. Oxford World Classics did send me a beautiful hardback edition, so a reread is in my very near future.

Thinking about Frankenstein got me thinking about other books that have helped shape my life, which obviously leads me to my obsession with Russian literature. The Anna Karenina Fix seemed like the perfect bibliomemoir for me. As someone with a love for Russian lit, I found myself easily drawn to Viv Groskop’s memoir. One day I will write about all those books about books that I love and I have no doubt The Anna Karenina Fix will make that list. It made me want to reread so many of my favourites and then the ones I have missed, then go back to this book and read it again.

I am the type of reader that reads to learn about the world, to experience different cultures and explore new ideas. However there are times when I need to just switch off and read some palette cleansers. For me, this is crime fiction, but I am very particular about what I like. For the most, I will read an entire crime novel even if I was not enjoying it. Luckily there was something about Babylon Berlin that I loved. This is the first book in the Gereon Rath series and what drew me to this book was that it was set in 1929 Berlin. So in the background of this crime investigation we see Berlin as it changes, with the fears of communism and the newly emerging Nazi Party. I cannot help but compare it the Bernie Gunther series. While I have only read March Violets, since Philip Kerr passed way this month, I think I need to return to this detective and read The Pale Criminal. I did also read The Spellman Files at the suggestion of everyone who compared it to Veronica Mars.

The crime fiction I am attracted to the most is the old pulp era, the stuff from the 1920s to the 1940s. There is something about that writing, it is sharp and to the point, but still remains beautiful. Even forgotten classics like The Seven Madmen from Argentina seem to adopt that same style. The Seven Madmen is the kind of book that will remain with me for a long type and I am tempted to reread it, but I will get distracted by other books. After reading this book, I felt like staying with Argentinian literature and I was able to do that with the next book I read, Die, My Love.

The Man Booker International Prize longlist was announced and like many of my fellow book nerds, I was excited to see what would make the list. I had read Frankenstein in Baghdad but it was the only one on the longlist I have actually read. I would love to read the entire longlist but time and availability is always a factor. My library only had four of the thirteen from the longlist but I owned one already. So I thought I would make use of a Kindle Paperwhite to help. I have often struggled to get into ebook reading but the accessibility was my only hope to read the longlist. I will always prefer physical books, but maybe I will be convinced to read more ebooks. My constant distractions with other books and an ereader might be a deadly combination.

Obviously the first book I read was Die, My Love. The fact that it was Argentinian literature, made this an easy choice. This was such an affecting read, I will have to get a physical copy. After completing this novel, all I wanted to do was stay in Argentina forever. I think I could live a happy life only reading Argentinian lit, it has similarities to Russian literature but still feels very unique. I am also pleased to see a strong literary scene of Argentinian women; from Die, My Love, to books like Things We Lost in the Fire, Fever Dream and Savage Theories.

Unfortunately there were a few books that followed that I was not able to connect with, and left me unmotivated to read. Two were Man Booker International Prize longlist picks, The Dinner Guest and The Stolen Bicycle, but the third was this month’s bookclub pick. It was a modern take on Don Quixote set in India called Mr Iyer Goes to War and all I could think was about rereading Don Quixote. My problems with The Dinner Guest and The Stolen Bicycle were as followed; the first felt too similar to another book, while the later just went overboard with the one topic and that frustrated me.

The Man Booker International Prize longlist left me pondering translations. I love reading from around the world, to the point where I am considering turning it into a podcast. I discovered I do not know as much about translation theory as I would like. Maybe I need to explore some Walter Benjamin or as I discovered, Edith Grossman (who translated Don Quixote) wrote a book called Why Translation Matters. Do I need to know another language to explore translation theory in great detail? I know Umberto Eco also has a book on translations too, it is called Experiences in Translation. This might be another rabbit hole to go down in the new future.

I managed to have a very productive reading month, I finished it off with my second László Krasznahorkai book, which was his short story collection The World Goes On. This made ten books for March, and I am presently surprised, especially since I had three books that were a struggle. The only thing I currently have on the go is The 7th Function of Language, which is another book from the longlist. At this rate, I may be able to read the entire longlist before the prize is announced in May. However the availability of the last seven books is the major factor. I own two and waiting on one from the library, so it is becoming more of a possibility. I am having a hard time guessing what will make the shortlist, so I have delayed a few that I think might be on the list. That way I can still remain in the conversation.

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Tolstoy and the Purple Chair by Nina Sankovitch

Posted November 25, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Non-Fiction / 0 Comments

Tolstoy and the Purple Chair by Nina SankovitchTitle: Tolstoy and the Purple Chair (Goodreads)
Author: Nina Sankovitch
Published: Harper Collins, 2011
Pages: 241
Genres: Non-Fiction
My Copy: Audiobook

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

When Nina Sankovitch lost her eldest sister to cancer, she grieved for a long time. However when she turned forty six, she decided to stop her grief by reading. Tolstoy and the Purple Chair is the memoir of a year of reading, dealing with loss and loving books. Reading a book a day Nina learned about the magical healing powers of books.

I started reading this book as soon as a finished Ex Libris; I wanted to continue in the joys of personal essays about reading and thought this one would be a good choice. While there is a lot of beauty in the writing, especially in the tender moments about her sister and dealing with her death, something just was not quite right. I spent a lot of time thinking about why this book did not work for me; I just could not put my finger on what was causing the problem. Then I realised this book is just a repetitive conversion narrative.

What I mean by conversion narrative (there probably is a better name for this) is something like Confessions by St. Augustine; where the author writes about all their problems and how they miraculously were saved. This isn’t normally a religious journey like Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert but it is often a memoir of a struggling person that found a way to heal and have a better life. Tolstoy and the Purple Chair has that same formula over and over again; “I was grieving and then I found books”, “I had another problem so I picked up a book”.

Then there is the overly ambitious task of reading a book a day; from the start of the book I saw it to be problematic when she wanted to only read books about 200 pages. Then there was a moment where she didn’t want to read her son’s favourite book Watership Down by Richard Adams because it was almost 500 pages. The whole idea of ‘quality over quantity’ came to mind; what happens when you want to take your time with a book?

In theory the idea of reading so much might sound good but there is so much practicality that gets in the way. Nina Sankovitch does explore these day to day problems but more so in a way where cooking dinner or having a sick kid is getting in the way of her reading project. I like reading about someone taking up a reading project and documenting the results but I think this didn’t work. If you want something similar try The Year of Reading Dangerously by Andy Miller.

Question Tuesday: An Excellent Book That You Would Never Have Chosen, e.g. a Gift, but Read by Default

Posted July 17, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Question Tuesday / 0 Comments

I’d like to say that there isn’t any book that I won’t read if it was recommended to me  but there are books that I’ve put off reading but really need to get around to reading. My wife has been my biggest supporter; even before I became a reader she was encouraging me to read and to improve myself. I love her for that. One of the first books I read when I started out as a reader in 2009 was one of the books she gave me, which was Jeff Lindsay’s first book in the Dexter Morgan series; Darkly Dreaming Dexter. She knew that I loved the TV series and she helped use that as a good way to get me into reading. I did end up loving the series and is one of the few series that I’ve actually read all the books in it. But she has given me other books, which I’m still to read; mainly Confessions by Augustine of Hippo but the reason I’ve been putting it off because I have so many great books to read and I haven’t felt drawn to the book yet. I think if I read the book I might enjoy it, he seems to have had an interesting life and I’m interested in the internal struggle of a man between good and evil. There really isn’t a good excuse for not reading it. I should really read it sometime soon. I would love to hear from others if they want to answer this question also.

7 Deadly Sins of Reading

Posted June 23, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Random / 0 Comments

So blog tagging is annoying and I don’t normally participate in them, but I saw this post from Jae over at Book Nympho where she just pretty much told everyone to participate. I thought this would be a nice follow up to my confession of a reader post, so I’m going to join in. I’d like to encourage others to participate too as I’d be interested in reading their answers.

7 Deadly Sins of Reading

GREED: What is your most inexpensive book?
Obviously that would be a free book, but do ARC’s count? My latest ARC received would be The Dog Stars by Peter Heller. But if you aren’t talk about advance reader copies of books the last free book I received was the new 24hr book Willow Pattern, which I’ve read but not planning to review on my blog so I might as well talk about it a little here.  I thought it was an interesting social experiment but was it great literature? No, it was not. It’s amazing that a book can be written, edited and published in just 24 hours. It is interesting how the nine authors worked together but this really isn’t one voice and the story didn’t really flow well from author to author.

WRATH: What author do you have a love/hate relationship with?
I don’t think I really have a love/hate relationship with any author. Probably the closest would be my feelings towards China Miéville; I love what he does for literature but I keep hoping he will write another book that I will like. I love The City & The City but haven’t read anything else of his that even compares.

GLUTTONY: What book have you deliciously devoured over and over with no shame whatsoever?
That’s easy, I have a gluttonous feeling towards Frankenstein and most of my readers know this. I own multiple copies of this book and have already shared my thoughts on re-reading recently.

SLOTH: What book have you neglected reading due to laziness?
I’ve always wanted to read Finnegans Wake by James Joyce because that will make me look cool, right? I think it sounds like a weird and interesting book but I’m too lazy to put the time and effort into reading it, I think that’s why many people haven’t read it. I also want to read Ulysses  but that isn’t really a priority.

PRIDE: What book do you most talk about in order to sound like a very intellectual reader?
I don’t do that; let’s talk Russian writers shall we? I really think Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina was quite brilliant but I do prefer the works of Fyodor Dostoyevsky; Notes from  Underground may be a great starting point for Dostoyevsky but you really should read Crime and Punishment. Ok maybe I do, do that.

LUST: What attributes do you find most attractive in male or female characters?
I love the smart, witty characters in books. Maybe that is slightly nerdy of me but I think they are just the most interesting characters to read. I also love the inner torment of a character but that is not really an attractive feature. But ultimate fictional crush would be Alaska, she was so cool and I was so heart broken when she died.

ENVY: What books would you most like to receive as a gift?
I do need more copies of Frankenstein; I would love some nice leather-bound, cloth bound or maybe a first edition of this book. They would look so pretty on my book shelf.

So there we have it, more confessions. I would love for people to either do a post similar and link me it or let me know what their reading sins are in the comments.