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reading

Finding a book on Kindle is like finding a guy on Tinder. You have to make quick, uninformed decisions based on woefully inadequate amount of information.

To extend this bad analogy further: reading the book “reviews” on Amazon to determine whether a book is a good fit is akin to asking a guy’s flock of birds whether they’d hang out with him. Case in point: Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy got 4.4 out of 5 stars on Amazon.

Unlike Tinder however, once I’ve downloaded a book to my Kindle (whom I’ve named Marvin), I feel I’ve made a $9.99 and up worth of commitment – I have to see this through to the end. Reading has become an obligation and the stake is now unnervingly high in which book I choose to date.

I’ve had a bad dating streak lately.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette. I found the most popular guy annoying as hell and felt extremely guilty.

Mr. Mercedes. It’s my own fault to assume that since I loved Lisey’s Story I am a Stephen King kind of gal. ikr?

The Buried Giant. My bad for thinking that I was smart enough because I was able to appreciate The Unconsoled. So why the f* couldn’t I decipher the deeper meaning this time around? It’s not me. It’s you. You changed!

They’re not necessarily unworthy books, they’re just not for me. Ok, some of them I did find fingernail-on-chalkboard annoying and made my way to the end just so I did not have to listen to the whining — Looking at you Hausfrau and The Daylight Marriage. There were dates whose names and faces I can’t remember. Even ones I tried to forget. For some of them I’ve even gone so far as to expunge the record of us ever spending time together – deleting the copies from my Amazon account.

What made the bad streak even worse? None of these were one-night stands. Nooooo. These were dragged-out lengthy affairs because I have the opposite of a commitment issue.

After three months of slugfest I finally finished Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake. It occurred to me why someone once told me that I can’t say I am a Queen’s fan if I only like A Night at the Opera; The fact that is my favorite album is irrelevant. I adored The Handmaid’s Tale, Alias Grace and The Blind Assassin. Atwood’s writing remains brilliant and her vision of what the future could bring, thought-provoking. It is just not my cup of tea.

When I finally finished Oryx and Crake and saw the other two books in the MaddAddam trilogy waiting at the corner on Marvin (my Kindle), I thought, “Ok, let me power through these two books then I can start reading all these other books [I’ve also foolishly swiped right for].” It felt like a burden. A bitter vegetable. I slunk down in my seat, hating this whole thing.

Then I remembered: I am an adult now. I can eat desserts first. Heck, I can eat only desserts if I want to. Heck, I should eat only desserts. I should only go out with guys I like and I can change my mind even if I’ve swiped right. [apology for mixing the analogies…]

I picked up Marvin and deleted all the “I may get to that when every other book dies” books.

Then I went to the library.

Nothing beats actually seeing and flipping through the real things.

 

books you can touch and return

 

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I don’t know what’s wrong with me lately. Maybe for once it’s really not me that’s at fault. Maybe it’s The 2012 Best American Short Stories collection that I have been reading. I have cried suddenly and uncontrollably over several passages. None of them were overtly sentimental. Certainly for a collection of this caliber you would not expect a blatant tearjerker. Melodramas are considered to be uncouth and frown upon. Perhaps it’s the understatement, the deliberate nonchalance that tricked me into reacting to them so violently on a subconscious level. An unadorned sentence described in passing the disjointed human interactions plainly yet accurately so much so that I had to pause to feel it inside the hollow of my body. I caught my breath as I caught the profound sadness.

Then, while she is sitting on the toilet, she sinks into the special sorrow of peeing while your mother is out cold on the floor next to you.

She dreams vividly, then can’t call up the dreams on waking, but carries through the day their emotional tone, an echo from the blackout chasm of Darlyn’s free fall. She can hear her soft scream as she tumbles down again and again. This is the harrowing/fabulous form in which love has come to her.

From “The Last Speaker of the Language” by Carol Anshaw, originally appeared in New Ohio Review, which you could read here.

And then the tears came.

The tears came unrelentingly. They flowed with little effort and I was amazed at how much water was stored behind my eyes. The gentle, continuous flow made me wonder whether I was indeed crying. I sat there, with tears falling in silence, until I was caught by an urge to just give in.

Let it out. I said to myself. Just bawl your eyes out. Fling yourself on the bed and bury your face into a pillow. You know, the way you cried when you were a kid. When you broke your favorite porcelain doll that played Für Elise when you wound the knob on the bottom. Or when you came home from school after yet another day of nobody making eye contact. Or when you missed your parents while you were staying at a relative’s house and your cousin was being a brat and was mean to you.

When was the last day I had a good cry like that I don’t even remember.

I had not anticipated the tears as I opened up my Kindle after the plane took off. Something caught on the edge of my neurosis I guess and I simply came undone. At first I ignored the tears and wiped them away surreptitiously with my fingers. Again and again. I stopped reading and closed my eye, willing the deluge to stop. Still the tears continued. I wanted to stay away from clichés such as broken faucet, waterfall, fire hose, but really these would be the most effective way of making you understand the trouble I was having, sitting on a packed plane.

I tilted my head towards the window and angled my body away from the person next to me, worrying that the telltale movement of wiping my face with the heels of my palms would give me away. I soon discovered that not wanting to cry on a plane is very much like not wanting to cough in a movie theatre: Alas, your needing to control it somehow only makes the urge uncontrollable and worse.

Next I was heaving for air. My shoulders trembled. My chest rose and fell. My hands moved like windshield wipers.

I hope nobody notices what a mess I am.

On the other hand, I was wishing someone would have handed me a Kleenex.

I would have started bawling. So it’s probably good that nobody did.

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Books. I am talking about books here. Books made with paper (or if you are so inclined, dead trees). Although I do also love the feel and smell of new, crisp, uncirculated bills.

I have been very happy with my Kindle (which I named Marvin) esp. when I was trudging through 1Q84 in all its 944-page glory. It was a blessing to not have to log that book around for several months. (I did say I “trudged through” it…)

But I miss holding an actual paper book in my hand, feeling its heftiness of promisses and anticipation. I miss wandering amongst the library aisles picking up random books because, I confess, the book covers look interesting or the book titles sound intriguing, like a mystery waiting for you to solve.

These are chance encounters of the best kind.

 

 

You all know Chuck Palahniuk of Fight Club fan, and I know quite a few are rabid fans. How apropos was that I picked up this book from the shelf as I was pondering the enjoyment of feeling papers between my fingers that no technology can replace. In his re-introduction to the re-publication of Invisible Monsters (now dubbed Remix), he said that he wanted to do this book the right way, the way he envisioned it when he wrote the book a decade ago, inspired by his strange encounter with a Vogue magazine (What? No page numbers? And they make you jump back and forth to finish reading an article?)

I really love what he said about his desire to recreate that feeling of holding a hefty Sears catalogue in your hands, not knowing what’s inside, and every time when you randomly flip through the pages, you find something you’ve not seen yet. Full of surprises, promises of surprises.

From Chuck Palahniuk's reintroduction to Invisible Monsters Remix

 

Don’t worry my dear readers. I am not imaging this post to be a book review or something. I suck at that. What I am good at though is to MARVEL at the brilliantness of people and things that I encounter, and at the randomness of such discoveries. There was no reason other than serendipity that led me to pick up This Isn’t the Sort of Thing That Happens to Someone Like You by Jon McGregor and scanned through the first few pages. Once started, I was compelled to sit down in the comfy chair and read half of the book while in the library.

I don’t know how to describe the book. It suffices to say that Mr. McGregor is stingy when it comes to word count. But what he accomplishes in as few words as possible is unsettling and seething, the most disturbing kind of malice. I am still haunted by a few of the stories, wondering what happens next?

Brevity is the trademark throughout the book. The story, The Remains, is only 3-page long… The repetition of simple phrases brought chills down my spine. I have been wondering how one could visually, as in a film, convey this feeling so succinctly.

 

And for my stream of thoughts, conveniently, he is also fond of playing with syntax, and more, using the page as his canvas (apology for using such a cliche. I told you I suck at writing reviews…)

Could eBooks faithfully represent pages such as this?

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