I’ll have to start reading children’s books, cookbooks and more graphic novels to push my numbers up. They should allow junk mail in too.
Booktree by Kostas Syrtariotis
“venice-based designer kostas syrtariotis presents ‘booktree’ at milan design week 2011 as part of the kidsroomzoom event. exactly as the name indicates, the shelf takes on the shape of a tree in which its outreaching branches climb the wall, providing space in which to store books and other small items. made from solid wood of either ash, ebony or tineo finishes, the ‘booktree’ can be assembled in 10 minutes and is hung to the wall, supported by only two screws. its overall dimensions measure H12 x L90 x W20 cm.”
I have heard of many people not liking this book, but it is a “spiritual” book like The New Earth by Eckhart Tolle so it’s bound to get criticism. Usually books with stories about heaven or God or faith are not really exciting for me to read. Not because I don’t like anyone who writes about them, but just that I won’t really believe in it until it happens to me or I see it with my own eyes. In this case, when I’m dead.
Surprisingly, I quite enjoy this book. There are several reasons for it and I would like you to hear me out:
1. It’s short and sweet. It’s the kind of book you would take with you travelling because you know you won’t read a lot once you get there, but you would still like to know that you’re holding a book to keep yourself company during dreary days.
2. Mitch Albom conveys what heaven in a believable way. And this is not saying that I believe that heaven does exist, because his version of “heaven” is really just a place where you will meet 5 people that had a huge impact on your life, and after those 5, you will be one of the 5 for someone else. It’s not filled with butterflies, clouds and cotton candy. It is nice to know that Albom believes that even when we die, we still have a purpose or something to do with our lives. To me, that makes more sense than “heaven” being a place where I will get whatever I want.
p/s: Ok, according to a couple of reviews on goodreads.com, Mitch Albom is pretentious and bashed the Harry Potter series. But I have to tell you that when I read this book, I didn’t know who he was (other than he has appeared on the Oprah Winfrey show) and that this book was somewhat semi-inspiring. I would have to say that if you want to start reading this book, you have to have an open mind, and not take it so seriously, because it’s fiction! Albom made heaven more interesting than most religious authors. Take it or leave it.
With the time I’ve spent on books, I reckon if I invest that same number of hours from age 5 till now I would be able to be in the state team for wrestling. Hence it is appropriate to contemplate on the evolution of my passion.
I began with Enid and the mainstream YA pulps like RL Stine, Christopher Pike; consciously avoiding Sweet Valley and the Ashley twins series. I did try reading one Sweet Valley book, it was disgusting and pink. They [books] were mostly stuff I borrowed in class, introduced by classmates because both my parents don’t read English well. So no Velveteen Rabbit or the Giving Tree for me. (Side note: pretty excited about the selection of books I’ll introduce to my offspring, if I decide to have any)
Along the way I graduated to the fantasy genre and stuck there for a good 5 years. At that time, reading was mostly about escaping and seeing how fast I can finish a i.e. trilogy. I did read other genres (The Outsiders, Animal Farm, Diary of Anne Frank) , not difficult to read but they did not strike a chord on the young me. I remembered these books because they were for class (I had to!). I stumbled on sexual contents and went out of my way to buy/borrow adult books just to bookmark the explicit parts (gay/straight/rape/whatever). My state of mind must have been very unhealthy at that time, but that obsession led me to other genres such as romance/ historical romance and other adult books which are not age appropriate. After a month reading romance books on damsels in distress, precious hymens ravaged by pulsating cocks and the characters happily marry at the end chapter, I quit and returned to fantasy with a deeper appreciation.
There was a period where I read mainstream paperbacks religiously. Robin Cook, Sidney Sheldon, Dean Koontz, John Grisham, Dan Brown (omg I feel so embarrassed), you name it. I thought I knew all about books then, like a connoisseur. One good outcome from this era was that it delivered me out from the fantasy bookshelves to the wider world out there. In college, I tried reading some books that were in the All Time Times 100 list. I did Margaret Atwood, John le Carre, Haruki Murakami, Hemingway etc. I did not get their works. I even tried the screenplays Death of a Salesman and Glass Menagerie, I did not get them too.
Then came a life-changing moment. I used to think science fiction was Star Trek, and my conversation about sf would have been like this, “Yea I’ve heard of them, I will try someday yada yada”. My ex-housemate passed me Isaac Asimov’s The Foundation and the rest is (sorry for the cliche) history. Biggest oxymoron of my life, the sf & f genre go hand in hand and it took me years to give sf a go. Looking back however, I’m so glad that Foundation was my first sci-fi, such an appropriate book to deflower my sf hymen!
The other reason why I’m writing so, is because I’ve realised that I’ve changed. I used to be more selective on what I would read and I would criticize the book not for its prose or flow but on the story. I would question the author, her/his characters and the plot and how I would have altered them to fit into my “value judgements”. Nowadays, my reading experiences begins with surrendering my beliefs and accepting what is on the page. Yes, I suppose the right term would be “I have become more tolerant” and because I’ve become more accepting of other people’s ideals I’m able to get more out of my reading.
I have yet to reread the books which were in the Times 100 apart from Hemingway (yes I get what he was trying to say now!). Currently, my obsession for the morbid has turn me to reading works of authors who had committed suicide.
On that I want to finish this with a lament. Sadly the book industry adheres to the principles of economics, so customers know best and they are number one. Writers do not necessary write on issues they truly feel deeply for, so to get published they have to grovel on their knees. Hell, I would write more spin-offs of heroines with tragic paranormal love if I’m desperate to get published! With that, I wish to appeal to your senses to try other genres.
- I have read some more books.
- I have not reviewed any except for the previous article.
- I really should, but I’m so lazy.
- I have 12 unread books on my bookshelf waiting to be read.
- I have experienced a sliver of ambition in me, and that is I want to be a writer.
- I am still ingesting and contemplating on my ambition.
Nobel Prize winning Japanese Literature
The author began with Kikuchi (a bachelor in his mid 20’s) been invited to a tea ceremony by his deceased father’s previous mistress, Chikiko. The tea ceremony was meant to be a miai for Kikuchi and Yukiko, unfortunately for Chikiko, Mrs. Ota and her daughter (Fumiko) gatecrashed the event. Chikiko was dumped by Kikuchi’s father and he went on to have an affair with Mrs. Ota till his demise, a fact which pisses Chikiko so bad that she became rather grouchy.
Point 2, the author illustrated early on of a flashback of 8 year old Kikuchi-kun and his father visiting Chikiko (when she was still mistress) and he witnessed Chikiko snipping off hairs from a massive birthmark on her boobies. Back at home, he overheard a conversation between his mother and his father about the birthmark and how it impacted Chikiko’s marriageability.
Mrs. Ota, soft, weak and feminine, unable to cope with her lover’s death decided to hit on Kikuchi and they got it on. Fumiko is all too aware of her mother’s infidelity and her new found relationship with her lover’s son. Eventually Mrs. Ota was consumed with shame and guilt, killed herself. Whereas Kikuchi became addicted to old lady Ota’s “womanness”, to the point of perving on older ladies because it reminded him of her. The suicide drew Kikuchi and Fumiko closer together, with Kikuchi contemplating a future for them. Eventually they too, got it on but the next day Fumiko disappeared (presumably she also killed herself because it was too messed up).
Pretty amazing and I like! The characters were woven so delicately like silks, conversations are fluidly passive aggressive and there are such things as subtle bitchiness. I wasn’t angry at the flaws which the characters have shown; rather I understood why certain events were done so. Kawabata linked a lot of simple moments, actions and objects into deep impactful meanings.
One of my ‘a ha’ moments from this book is this;
He could not call up the faces of his own mother and father, who had died three or four years before. He would look at a picture, and there they would be. Perhaps people were progressively harder to paint in the mind as they were near one, love by one. Perhaps clear memories came easily in proportion as they were ugly.
Yukiko’s eyes and cheeks were abstract memories, like impressions of light; and the memory of the birthmark on Chikako’s breast was concrete as a toad.
So human! I tried conjuring up the faces of my parents, not possible. Kawabata was a highly observant genius.
If you like your usual dose of best-selling authors which you can easily identify good v evil, do not read this book. If you enjoy the occasional art-house cinema with abrupt “weird” endings and you would have to google the theme of the story, do give this book a try.
- Thousand Cranes (bookatlas.wordpress.com)
“…and the distance between them, millimeters only, the space of a breath, opened up and deepened, became a cavern at whose edge he stood.”
A poignant tale of a once perfect family draped and destroyed by secrets and deception. In 1964, the ever hard working Dr. David Henry was caught between a blizzard and his heavily pregnant wife who’s about to give birth. He delivered his son, perfect and healthy. He was confused when her wife, then heavily sedated, started to push again and expelled a new child. He delivered his own twins! He immediately recognized that one of them has Down Syndrome and makes a split-second decision that will haunt all their lives forever. He asked the nurse to take the baby to an institution and made her promise to keep the other baby’s birth a secret.
This is by far, one of the most emotional book that I’ve ever read. The story was told through all these different point of views, in that way, the reader will really understand and I think, will definitely form a significant empathetic bond with all the book’s characters. The mother who lost her daughter, the grief, the never ending grief. The father-slash-doctor who regrets the decision he made on the night in question. The Nurse who was, for a long time, in love with the doctor. Paul, the first twin, caught between pleasing his father and fulfilling his dreams and a look into the life of a child with Down Syndrome, and the struggles and stigma of the time.
Dr. Henry’s regrets, his decision that, at first, he thought could save his family, eventually became a three decade nightmare that dismantled the very foundation of their family.
The perfect book to grab if you want to have a good cry.