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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
  • October 29, 2006


    More Random Thoughts on Hong Kong/Arriving Shinjuku, Tokyo

    Thank you all for your e-mail messages and comments. I miss all of you back home--you've been on my mind. I just checked into my hotel room in Shinjuku, one of the busiest neighborhoods in Tokyo, known for delicious soba (cold noodle), sushi and katsu don (deep fried pork chop over rice). Before I dive into sights and thoughts of Japan, I have to rewind and share some random thoughts in Hong Kong.

    My gaydar totally failed in Hong Kong. I was waiting in line for the bus that would take me to the Big Buddha in Po Lin Mnastery and standing behind me were a mixed group of ruggedly-looking, atheltic, bearish (meterosexual?) men who from time to time stole a glance or two at me. One of them, who had a close-fitting Armani Exchange t-shirt on and was clad in the trendy Keen sandals (which I bought myself a pair after seeing him wearing), was probably in his mid 30s, maybe 5'8", was smiling at me in a countenance as if he was going to buy me a drink at the bar. Anyway, we never talked, and I regretted not initiating a conversation. About half way through the bus ride, that group of guys got off and it turned out that they were reporting to their week-long shift at the Correctional Service facilities! Something about their profession and their interaction among themselves told me that none of them, not even the cute one with a rugged look, was gay. Oh well.

    I've been scouring bookstores for the last few days looking for a detailed street map of Tokyo. Hong Kong, in my opinion and impression, is not a readerly city, a fact that can be easily corroborated by the bestseller chart, which is usually dominated by DIY books, weight loss journals, and comics. I mean, the last time a work of fiction that topped the chart, was Da Vinci Code. So go figure. Maybe The Devil Wears Prada will stand a chance. Usually a work of fiction of literature will have its 2 days worth of glory on the chart if it is made into a motion picture. So no sooner you walk into a bookstore in Hong Kong (which is usually not bookish but more like an interior design salon) than you see a section called "Movie Tie-in". Anyway, I want to say there might be hope for the future generation as I have spotted more and more people browsing the literature section. I saw a guy reading Shopaholic--whose effort I compliment, although I would rather have him picked up a copy of Chekov's Short Stories, which exemplify precise, descriptive, and arresting prose. In the meantime, I'm still reading Heinrich von Kleist's The Marquise of O-- and Other Stories--a collection of intriguing works that with the psychological mysteries and covulution keep on reversing what I might have speculated about the outcome of the stories.

    I purchased a new digital camera--I know, you all might be craning your neck and waiting for my pictures--which I will post very soon. The new one is also a Canon, the ixus 900Ti, with 10.1 mega pixel resolution and a 3x optical lens. This one also is endowed with the picture-in-picture function and is upgraded to ISO 3200. I'll be taking lots of shots with the newbie in Japan, and yes, I promise the pictures of me in swimtrunks. LOL

    Stay tuned for more. Until next time, be well. By the way, I'm writing this post at the airport internet terminal while waiting for the shuttle bus.

    October 25, 2006


    Checking in from Hong Kong

    The city doesn't sleep. No sooner had the white-collared folks and kids gone home from a busy day of work and school than night crawlers wake up to partying and clubbing to the wee hours. Hong Kong is somewhat too fast-paced for that peace-loving, solitude-craving poet in me! I have got tired of elbowing jostling subway, crowded streets and busy restaurants--so I have taken refuge in the hidden countryside--negotiating some difficult terrains of meandering trails that are foreign even to locals. Stay tuned for the pictures, most of which capture beautiful sceneries of beaches and myself.

    Today I woke up at the crack of dawn, to the chirping of birds and the tintinnabulating of bicyles delivering fresh poultry, had a quick over-nurturing breakfast(three eggs and milk) and taken up a 10-km hike spanning over three hills (so the cross section of which would be like a camel's humps). The cardio would compensate my recent indulgence on food! The views from the trail was spectacular although the hike was arduous, with steeped elevation change. I encountered only a few morning joggers who probably covered the easier segments of the trail before I was left alone with only wind's company. I made the final descend onto the popular village of Stanley 3 hours later and treated myself a cup of fresh-squeezed orange juice.

    I plan to check out an upscale gay bar in town--Rice Bar--a subdued, low-key, jazz bar that is tugged away in the financial district on Jervois Street.

    I have not been deprived of reading. The suspenseful prose of Heinrich von Kleist has never failed to intrigue me on the road. I finished The Earthquake in Chile shortly after I arrived in the city and that only made me want more. Not only did the earthquake destroy the just and the outlaw, it also brings out the best of human nature--heroic courage and self-sacrifice, mutual help and compassion, and the worst--the frenzied search for scapegoat and the religious zeal that serves as a pretext for sickening cruelty.

    The Marquise of O- reads like a psychological mystery in which the heorine fell into the hands of some ruffian enemy troops who attempted to assualt her. What intrigued me the most is a deluge of prose depicting the upheaval which the troops had caused in the citedel and the scene in which they tried to rape her. Served to mitgate the quick action is one crucial sentence on which the outcome of the story hinges. It also justifies the marquise's courage to call forward the mystrious man who had impregnated her--her bearing a staimina of social disgrace and derision.

    So much about reading...I do have acquired a few volumes while scouring the bookshops here in Hong Kong: Labyrinths by Borges and some short story collection by Chekov.

    Stay tuned for all the pictures, which for sure will be better than a thousand words. A lot of them would be candid (amlost trivial) shots of daily life--food stalls on the street making egg sandwich, old man pushing a hand-cart full of crumpled-up papers, swimming session (that, could be a little scary, with me in my swim trunks...) and the rush hour crowd dashing on both sides of subway platform.

    Looking forward to going to Japan on Oct 30. Until then, hope all is well with everyone. Thanks to Matt and Tony for their messages. Hope you'll enjoy this special report from the Pearl of the Orient. I'll upload the pictures soon.

    October 10, 2006


    On The Threshold to Paradise

    I'm due at the airport to drop off the checked bags at 10 pm tonight. Despite the inevitable dread of air travel these days, with tightened security, longer lines, and the dull prospect of a 14+ hours flight, online check-in mitigates some of the hassle. Auto check-in is such a cool idea through which I can even pick my own seat for all the flights in my itinerary. That means no more badgering (and bribing, just kidding) the ground agents for aisle seats. All I need is to punch in my passport number, confirmation code and contact info. This will spare me from the long line that will wrap around the check-in counter at the airport as I can bypass the queue and drop off my bags at the designated counter. What a relief!

    I travel very light since I will most likely sleep through half the flight. In my Timbuk2 I've got my iPod, the charger (thanks to Cathay Pacific for built-in electrical plug on the seat), a smaller personal toiletry tote, and a couple books:

    The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop by Lewis Buzbee
    The Marquise of O and Other Stories by Heinrich von Kleist

    and my Moleskine journal and a pen. Throughout the years of traveling I have developed this pet peeve of people who tirelessly and inconsiderately rummaged through their bags stored away in the overhead bin. Why do people fly with so much crap when all they have got is a mere 32 inches of space?

    I'm ready. I'll throw in some pictures and anecdotes from time to time whenever I have access. See you all in 5 weeks. Take care.

    October 08, 2006


    A Wedding That Feels Like Coming Home

    Yesterday I attended the wedding of two good friends of mine, one of whom is my roommate from college at Berkeley. The ceremony took place outdoor at a golf course that is tugged in the beautiful folds of the Napa Valley, in front of an oak tree. It was, in fact, more than a wedding, but rather a reunion of the college friends. The wedding was gorgeous not only because of the lush, verdant setting and the oboe-cello tunes diffusing through the light breeze, it was one that stroke my heart-chord as I was reminiscing the days when we ate, studied, and spent time together on campus. A good number of us came to celebrate Weizhu and Patty's special day with their kids--strollers neatly parked at the back of the ceremony seating, tupperware full of cheerios and fruit, toddlers crawling on the freshly mowed lawn, babies whining for attention. As I was sitting there and watching groom and the bride proceeding to the altar, lighting the unity candle, conducting a tea ceremony to honor and show respect of their parents, a sudden awareness-- one that is magnified by time's indifference seized me, but not with joy and happiness. Seeing my friends remind me of my being single, but to my gratitude and joy, it is the feeling like coming home to be with a family.

    October 06, 2006


    Sandy Lam's Latest MV - Face To Face


    Yesterday was like the past life
    With a looming blurry face and
    not capable of telling details--an
    Inexplicable feeling

    Whether feeling has presaged the happening, or
    Happening has exerted the feeling, it's
    Like joining the dots,
    Bespeaking a broken heart

    A moment like lightning sparkles the thunder,
    at the split second when eyes are open and
    Heart is ashened,
    Truth to be revealed

    Perhaps it goes too flourishingly
    That quickens the fading
    Red and sodden eyes can finally
    See the hidden truth lurking over horizon

    The past lives in the room next door
    Phone call that was never answered
    Scenes playing insouciantly in my mind, but
    Once I let let go and
    Open my eyes I finally see the truth

    I finally summon the courage to face myself
    With a sobriety that is a disguise of cowardness, which
    Restores me back to senses
    Being together and breaking apart are merely two faces of life, and
    I no longer need nobody's hug, but
    Find myself in my own cozy room

    I finally summon the courage to face myself
    With a perfection that is a disguise of blemishes, which
    Restores me back to sense
    Right and wrong are merely two ways of life, and
    I can embrace my shortcomings, but
    Find myself in my own cozy room

    I finally summon the courage to face myself
    With a perfection that is a disguise of blemishes, which
    Restores me back to senses
    Gain and loss are no more than two sides of a coin, though
    It is always flipped to one side, but I find
    Blue sky in my room

    October 05, 2006


    Old vs. New Books

    I left a comment to Danielle's post on buying old books vs. new books. She talks about how she might scour a used bookstore to browse and perhaps buy a book, but if she wanted something new it just went without saying that she would buy it new and quite often at full price. I would do the same except now almost all the books I read or put on my reading pile are in print--and that means the cost of buying these books new can be staggering. So I rely on the used bookstore, and thank God the city offers some of the best used bookshops with wide selections and book-savvy staff.

    I read and re-read works of my favorite authors: Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Banville, Saramago, Ishiguro, Hollinghurst, Franzen; for pleasure, and also analytically, conscious of the style, the diction, the way these authors employ close third-person narration to describe their characters, who are often given to sober fits and semi-delirium for significant portions of the narrative, etc. So it just goes without thinking I would buy books new, whether they are hardback or paperbacks.

    Sometimes I want to experiment (experience) with new authors, authors whose works I have yet to read, or other forms and genres of literature. I encounter inevitably the uncertainty of whether a book is up to my liking (I'm sure every devoted reader and bibliophile can relate)--I usually read the first few pages and try to be conscious of the style, the diction, the tone and the writing. This is how I discovered Heinrich von Kleist as i have mentioned in my blog, and also Desperate Characters by Paula Fox, a thin novel with dazzling prose that slowly unveils the faultlines of a marriage through the incident in which the woman, heedless of her husband's warning, got bit by a stray cat while feeding her.

    I have also used Alibris, and Powells Books, both of which are great resources for used and rare books. Recently I was looking for Rebecca West's 1966 novel The Birds Fall Down after coming across a literary tribute to her on the paper. I had no luck anywhere scouring all the local bookstores, not even the used store. It turned out that the novel has been out of print for 20 years! So I looked it up at and ordered a copy from a bookseller in California for more expedite shipping. These sites are treasure boxes for book lovers!

    October 04, 2006


    Heinrich von Kleist II

    I cannot help riffling through The Marquise of O and Other Stories before my vacation starts and this title novella, which isn't all that long, has a grabby, switchbacking plot that pulls me right in as soon as I read the first sentence:

    In M-, a large town in northern Italy, the widowed Marquise of O-, a lady of unblemished reputation and the mother of several well-bred children, published the following notice in the newspapers: that, without her knowing how, she was in the family way; that she would like the father of the child she was going to bear to report himself; and that her mind was made up, out of consideration for her people, to marry him.

    One sentence contains more plot and enough appeal to pull me in. I realize that the Marquise, who has a spotless reputation and is already a mother--to dispel whatever doubts I might have harbored otherwise about what I'll read subsequently, namely, that she is pregnant and has no idea how such a thing might have happened.

    This is the power of Kleist, who usually gives very little physical description of his characters, but tells you what sort of people they are. His stories usually proceed in a series of twists and turns that keep reversing each one of our assumptions and expectations. The convulution jars one's sense of who the characters are, of what happened, and of what will happen.

    I have to stop or I'll finish the whole story collection before the vacation starts!

    October 03, 2006


    Wedding Music Sampler for Frank & Stephanie