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Going to actually try to really, truly keep track of this this time. Because dude, I'm curious. Now therefore, a list of books I read in 2011, with very brief reviews.

1. [Started in 2010] Refuge, by Terry Tempest Williams. Strange and beautiful.

2. The Bed of Procrustes, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. A book of aphorisms largely serving to prove what a cranky, egotistical douche Taleb is. Maybe. In reality, I still can't decide whether I hate it or not.

3. Faust, by Goethe (in progress) I stopped this, because the translation was silly. Anyone know of a really good one?

4. Delta of Venus, by Anais Nin. Wacky, sort of wonderful early-century erotica, no-holds-barred, so quite disturbing in places (underage homosexual prep school gang rape, anyone??). I'm tickled by her clear obsession with Freud.

5. Bloodsucking Fiends, A Love Story by Christopher Moore. Wonderfully silly, as he always is. Mildly offensive in places, in ways I've come to expect. Also, a few gorgeous places where his grasp of emotion and story really shines.

6. Anathem, by Neal Stephenson. I loved this book unreasonably. It feels to me like Stephenson here has finally gotten the hang of making his own geekery, which in other books can get tedious to some readers, be essential to the plot and characterization. Also, I cried and laughed a bunch, which really, is most of what makes me love a book.

7. Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal, by Christopher Moore. Yes, I'm having fun reading Moore these days. This edition is leatherbound in black with gold lettering and edging and a red ribbon bookmark, like a Bible. Awesome. I really loved this book, more than I expected to. It's a surprisingly respectful and heartbreaking retelling of the story of Christ, with a lot of laughs and a lot of those deep, emotionally resonant moments that Moore is so good at amidst the comedy.

8. Perdido Street Station, by China Mieville. I've been meaning to read Mieville for a while now, since everybody's talking about him. I'm only a little way in and it's fascinating, but really, really dark and gross, like Chuck Palahniuk without the humor. Not sure I'll be willing to deal with it. [EDIT: Finished; review here.

9. Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley. I didn't necessarily expect to like this book, but was pleasantly surprised, especially by the section narrated by the monster, which is the book's heart. The rest of it is actually rather weak, especially on the character-development front, but the pacing and relentless horror of it is astonishing.

10. Babel-17, by Samuel R. Delaney. I absolutely loved this book; I was astonished to finally read a book by a sci-fi writer in the early '60s who could write women sensitively, deal with race complexly, be exquisitely aware of emotional communication and intuition, and know something deep about trauma. Of course, Delaney was a gay, black writer working in that world, so I can't imagine how his work couldn't be different from his contemporaries. A lovely little book; the story is only so-so, but the journey is worth it.

11. Story of O, by Pauline Reage

12. Healing Through the Dark Emotions, by Miriam Greenspan

13. Fool, by Christopher Moore

14. Fudoki, by Kij Johnson (in progress)
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Back in the day, I felt like everyone was on Livejournal, and I got a lot of comments going with some frequency.

These days, I get mostly crickets.

I accept that it may just be because what I'm writing these days isn't as provocative of discussion as in the past. I also get the sense that a lot of people have gone off to Dreamwidth and other blogging sites, and that many people are spending a bunch of their online-social time and energy on Facebook and Twitter. So maybe that's it.

Still. It'd just be nice to know whether folks are listening. Ping here if you're still reading?
kitchen_kink: (bookish)
A while back some folks were doing a meme in which they named fictional characters they wouldn't kick out of bed for eating crackers. I kept meaning to do this, but it's only in the last few weeks that a bunch of them have come to light for me at once. For others, I'd have to do some digging in memory, but I might do so yet.

All that said, the characters below aren't necessarily characters I'd want to have sex with as they are characters I have major crushes on - intellectual, spiritual, sexual or otherwise.

I'll get the really weird one out of the way first: Elphaba, the child Wicked Witch of the West from Gregory Maguire's Wicked. I'm still in the first half of it, but I just love her smart mouth and total self-awareness. Even as she's so obviously unpopular, she manages to make Galinda, future good witch and intolerable upper-class beauty, look like an idiot.

Next, and perhaps no less weird, is Sasha, the stunted, limping, huge-voiced and intense-eyed radical leftist from John LeCarre's new novel, Absolute Friends. I'm sure some of this has to do with listening to this book on tape, and the wonderful John Lee's rendition of Sasha's booming, self-deprecating German accent, but he's also just such a hilarious and uncompromising and larger-than-life character that it's partially fictive crush and partially simple admiring envy at LeCarre's abilities.

Finally, the motherlode: Damiel, the angel who longs to be human from Wings of Desire. Though I adore Bruno Ganz, this love is quite specific to the recent ART production starring Bernard White, who is totally my new boyfriend. This particular entry might also be cheating, as it's so completely a combination of Damiel and Bernie that I love, not just the fictional character alone. Damiel, as written, is an articulate, melancholy romantic who records the endless details of life from the very beginnings of time, while longing merely to touch human skin, smell sweat, taste coffee, see color, feel something truly. Bernie White, in the role, puts on a loud Hawaiian shirt for his transition into mortality, and when he gets there, throws chairs all over the place, marvels at the wonder of a handshake, and inhales deeply of his own shoes.

All right, I confess: maybe it's just Bernie.
kitchen_kink: (bookish)
[livejournal.com profile] imlad and I have about 2 years' worth of The New Yorker, and we just keep getting more while we keep having less library space. We're reluctant to simply recycle them, but at least one library has informed us that magazines are difficult to donate.

Anyone want them, or know of people/organizations that might?

for [livejournal.com profile] regyt

Feb. 7th, 2005 12:44 am
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I've never quite understood New York. I like it well enough, but ultimately I find it too big, too ungainly and overwhelming, and after a few days there I'm usually happy to leave and get back to my funky suburb of my manageable little city.

But I appreciate people with a fierce love for a place like that; I think it says something brave and sharp and indomitable about them. People who love New York seem to me to be harder than most folks, but purer, too, more fully themselves. People who love New York have to protect their own personalities, not to get trampled or stripped by that impossible, merciless confusion. It crushes people under its teeming pressure until the ones who survive it are diamonds. [livejournal.com profile] dr_memory is another such sort. But when I read this passage in Jeanette Winterson's Gut Symmetries (incidentally, a book that's great in parts, but overall disappointing for those who love Winterson generally), I thought of [livejournal.com profile] regyt.

[After the first time she sleeps with her married lover, the main character Alice takes a midnight walk from Central Park to the Battery to think.]

I ignored the Stop-Go of the endless intersection traffic lights and took my chance across the quieted roads. Not night, not day, the city was suspended, its cries and shouts fainter now, its roar a rumble, like something far off. In the centre of it I felt like a creature on the edge. This is a city of edges, grand sharp, precipitous, unsafe. It is a city of corners not curves. Always a choice has to be made; which way now? A city of questions, mouthy and insolent, a built Sphinx to riddle at the old world.

I learned to feel comfortable in New York the way a fakir learns to feel comfortable on a bed of nails; enjoy it. Beauty and pain are not separate. That is so clear here. It is a crucible city, an alchemical vessel where dirt and glory do effect transformation. No one who succumbs to this city remains as they were. Its indifference is its possibility. Here you can be anything.

If you can. I was quite aware that much of what gets thrown into an alchemical jar is destroyed. Self-destroyed. The alchemical process breaks down substances according to their own laws. If there is anything vital, it will be distilled. If not...

Undecieve yourself Alice, a great part of you is trash.

True, but my hope lies in the rest.
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I'm preparing an intro to lit syllabus for college freshmen, and I'm wondering whether to include this. After all, it's in the reader. Question is, will they get it? Will they be insulted? And do I care? :)


JOHN & MARY
by Stephen Dunn

John and Mary had never met. They were like two
hummingbirds who also had never met.

-from a freshman's short story

They were like gazelles who occupied different
grassy plains, running in opposite directions
from different lions. They were like postal clerks
in different zip codes, with different vacation time,
their bosses adamant and clock-driven.
How could they get together?
They were like two people who couldn't get together.
John was a Sufi with a love of the dervish,
Mary of course a Christian with a curfew.
They were like two dolphins in the immensity
of the Atlantic, one playful,
the other stuck in a tuna net --
two absolutely different childhoods!
There was simply no hope for them.
They would never speak in person.
When they ran across that windswept field
toward each other, they were like two freight trains,
one having left Seattle at 6:36 p.m.
at an unknown speed, the other delayed
in Topeka for repairs.
The math indicated that they'd embrace
in another world, if at all, like parallel lines.
Or merely appear kindred and close, like stars.

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dietrich

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