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A Guy's Moleskine Notebook

Thoughts and reflections on works of fiction and literature. Pondering of life through pictures and words. Babbling about gay rights. Travelogues and anecdotes.

  • [1] Annie Proulx: Brokeback Mountain
  • [2] Arthur Golden: Memoirs of a Geisha
  • [3] Yu Hua: To Live
  • [4] Alan Hollinghurst: The Line of Beauty
  • [5] Colm Toibin: The Master
  • [6] Carlos Ruiz Zafon: The Shadow of the Wind
  • [7] William James: The Varieties of Religious Experience
  • [8] Charles Higham: The Civilization of Angkor
  • [9] Graham Greene: A Burnt-Out Case
  • [10] Dai Sijie: Mr. Muo's Travelling Couch
  • [11] Alan Hollinghurst: The Swimming-Pool Library
  • [12] Mikhail Bulgakov: The Master and Margarita
  • [13] Colm Toibin: The Blackwater Lightship
  • [14] Alan Hollinghurst: The Folding Star
  • [15] Ross King: Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling
  • [16] Fyodor Dostoevsky: The Brothers Karamazov
  • [17] Jonathan Franzen: The Corrections
  • [18] Colm Toibin: The Story of the Night
  • [19] John Banville: Shroud
  • [20] Leo Tolstoy: Resurrection
  • [21] Peter Hessler: River Town, Two Years on the Yangtze
  • [22] Ian McEwan: The Atonement
  • [24] Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Love in the Time of Cholera
  • [25] Ignacio Padilla: Shadow without a Name
  • [26] Umberto Eco: The Name of the Rose
  • [27] Richard Russo: Straight Man
  • [28] Fyodor Dostoevsky: Notes from Underground
  • [29] Alan Hollinghurst: The Spell
  • [30] Hermann Broch: The Death of Virgil
  • [31] James Baldwin: Giovanni's Room
  • [32] Ken Kesey: One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest
  • [33] Xingjian Gao: One Man's Bible
  • [34] C. Jay Cox: Latter Days
  • [35] Harper Lee: To Kill A Mockingbird
  • [36] William Shakespeare: The Taming of the Shrew
  • [37] Daniel A. Helminiak: What The Bible Really Says about Homosexuality
  • [38] James Baldwin: Tell Me How Long the Train's Been Gone
  • [39] Kenji Yoshino: Covering - The Hidden Assault of Civil Rights
  • [40] Italo Calvino: If, On a Winter's Night A Traveler
  • [41] Arthur Phillips: The Egyptologist
  • [42] George Orwell: 1984
  • [43] Michael Warner: The Trouble with Normal: Sex, Politics, and Ethics of Queer Life
  • [44] Andrew Sullivan: Virtually Normal
  • [45] Henry James: The Wings of the Dove
  • [46] Jose Saramago: Blindness
  • [47] Umberto Eco: The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana
  • [48] Dan Brown: Da Vinci Code
  • [49] Kazuo Ishiguro: Never Let Me Go
  • [50] Ken Follett: The Pillars of Earth
  • [51] Leo Tolstoy: War and Peace
  • [52] Michael Thomas Ford: Alec Baldwin Doesn't Like Me
  • [53] Jonathan Franzen: How To Be Alone
  • [54] Jonathan Lethem: The Fortress of Solitude
  • [55] Matthew Pearl: The Dante Club
  • [56] Zadie Smith: White Teeth
  • [57] Fyodor Dostoevsky: The Double
  • [58] Jose Saramago: The Double
  • [59] Andrew Holleran: Dancer from the Dance
  • [60] Heinrich von Kleist: The Marquise of O & Other Stories
  • [61] Andrew Holleran: In September, the Light Changes
  • [62] Tom Perrotta: Little Children
  • February 06, 2006

     

    Book-buying for different occasions

    There is time for everything; and there is a book for every occasion. I always scrupulously maintain a mental book-buying list that is more specific than grandma's grocery list. Braving through the fumes of the city's used bookstores, I was on a mission to locate all the works by Alan Hollinghurst after I read The Line of Beauty. The Swimming-Pool Library (1988) depicts London in 1983 and in retrospect constitutes an air of the reckless sex. The period in which it was written was significant in the sense that was the last summer before AIDS swept and changed the gay community for good. The Folding Star (1994) became my faithful companion during my recent trip to Southeast Asia. It is a lengthy and hypnotic novel that tells the story of an emotionally detached man and his infatuation with his 17-years-old student. Substantial pages of the novel is some accentuated unreality of the man's dream and awareness. The Spell (1998) was unfortunately out-of-print in the United States. So I boarded my outbound flight to Hong Kong with The Folding Star and two movie tie-ins: The Memoirs of a Geisha and Brokeback Mountain. With a stroke of luck, I picked up a new copy of The Folding Star at Asia Books in Bangkok on my day of arrival. It's still sitting on my night-stand, all wrapped up and patiently waiting for its turn.

    The point I try to make is that there is an unique occasion for every book - a call for the reading of a specific title. I designate a pile of books, usually stored in a plastic bin, which I would take with me on vacation. These books are usually light reads, trade paperbacks, and background materials related to my destinations. Past vacation readings include The Blackwater Lightship (when I was on a roll of Colm Toibin's works), The Civilization of Angkor (primer to history of Angkor architecture during my trip to Cambodia), and collection of short stories and essays.

    Re-read pile consists of mostly Penguin Classics. I enjoy and specialize in Russian literature so The Master and Margarita is a frequent visitor to my reading list. The philosophical depth in redemption and death exuded from this novel makes it my current all-time favorite read. I conducted a third reading of Crime and Punishment and a second perusal of Brothers Karamazov last year, both translated by the husband-and-wife team Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. So as you see, Dostoevsky is another regular on my reading list.

    So what is on now? I've got a random to-be-read pile from which I select my next reading. Here they are:

    Existentialism from Dostoevsky to Sartre, Walter Kaufmann
    The Overcoat, Nicolai V. Gogol
    The Last Temptation of Christ, Nikos Kazantzakis
    The Egyptologist, Arthur Phillips
    Shakespeare's Language, Frank Kermode
    The Spell, Alan Hollinghurst
    Adrift on the Nile, Naguib Mahfouz

    So many books, so little time. I might be able to clear the list during spring, unless serious intrusion of some literary delights occur.

    2 Comments:

    Blogger Greg said...

    My bookshelf contains at least 100 books that I've picked up over the past few years, with the good intention of reading. And yet, I'm always finding something new that sparks my interest. So I buy it, add it to the stack, and eventually start to read it. I did that with Dolores Claiborne from Stephen King -- purchase in 1993 and finally read it this year.

    As you said, so many books, so little time.

    2/08/2006 11:09 AM  
    Blogger Matt said...

    Greg-
    I'm running out shelf space that I have to do separate piles on the floor. The vacation pile is now in a plastic bin underneath my bed - since I just came back from a 6-week vacation.

    I just finished reading the 5-volume The Dream of the Red Chambers, an acquisition from more than 5 years ago. Also waiting patiently in line are books people gave me for birthday.

    2/09/2006 8:02 AM  

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