November Reading Wrap-up 1

“Pangs of Love” by David Wong Louie
I suffered a lot while reading “The Barbarians Are Coming”, but as soon as I finish it, I take on this book. Do I ever learn? Am I an incorrigible self torturer? The first story “Birthday” is like “The Barbarians Are Coming” (BAC), deja vu all over again. The writing style is the kind that’s painfully subtle, deliberately stylish, leaning towards being dark and pessimistic. I am not against pessimism, but I prefer the enjoyable kind of pessimism. Everybody is a partial pessimist. That’s inescapable. Well it is hard to be a complete optimist when one realizes that every life ends in tragedy–death. It can be a beautiful death on a fulfilled life, but still it is death. So back to this first short story of this book “Birthday”. It’s about a chef, just like in BAC, who’s emotionally connected with his step son but was separated from him after the court ruling, which favored the biological father.

I can’t go on reading this book anymore. The first and the second story are too depressing for me to go on. I’ve suffered enough for BAC already and can’t go on like this. My self flagellation has its limit and its peril. The problem with the book is that there’s no telling if the rest of the book is more upbeat or at least hopeful. I am not asking for much, am I? Just give me some hope. I don’t mind a sad story, but I can’t handle a hopeless story. Actually life is not as hopeless as what is described. It is not.

Sartre in 90 Minutes” by Paul Strathern. I don’t like Sartre’s books and can’t finish any of them. I tried “The Word” and can’t even finish one third of it; bought “Nausea”, but couldn’t stand the first page; bought “Being And Nothingness”, but was so depressed by the huge volume to read it. However it is very strange that I like all the books that talk about Sartre’s life and his philosophy. Why? I don’t understand. I guess I just don’t know myself. Same happens to Shakespeare. I don’t like his plays with all those archaic words and incorrect grammar. However I like books and lectures and movies about his plays. How weird.

“Nine Horses” by Billy Collins
Even the complaints are delightful to read. I wonder why? I hope this will not offend any of the poet’s fans–somehow I can always imagine a beautiful instagram page with an artistic picture when I read his poems. Probably the poet’s fans will hate me for saying this, but this is what I think. Actually I want to start a matching each of the poem with a picture while writing an alternative poem.

“Forgotten Wars: Freedom and Revolution in Southeast Asia” by C.A. Bayly, Tim Harper
I only read this a little and hopefully I have more time for it later. The end of WWII is just an opening for new battles. It’s as thick as two books, but I hate speed reading, which takes all the fun away. I was looking for this book’s predecessor, “Forgotten Army”, but couldn’t find a reasonable priced one. It ended up I had to settle on this sequel, which, in the opinions of book reviewers, is not as well written. Still, it’s a nice book, though I cannot agree with the author’s high praise of Louis Mountbatten, who’s described as a left leaning royals and a sympathizer of liberal views. Really? That’s very hard to believe. The book just throw statements like that here and there without providing proofs–probably the author doesn’t have any.

The Complete Stories of Anton Chekhov, Vol. 1: 1882-1885” doesn’t include all those popular stories of his, but still the style of surprise, being humorous without trying to be humorous, and a lot more. I think if I can read Russian, the language of the stories will be more interesting. English translations just can’t do justice to the original work.

“How to Live Like a Crazy Rich Asian: The Ultimate Guide to the Fashion, Food, Parties, and Lifestyle of Singapore” by Philip Choo
I am interested in Southeast Asia and how people live their life there. I hope there’s a book with more details but this one suffice for now. I am very interested to know the history of the place and all the stories. I enjoy this book even if it is mainly about weddings and food. So many different food that I’ve never heard of things like pandan, kaya etc., which is so exotic it makes my mouth watering. Where can I get a book that talks about Southeast Asian stories and with a bit of history thrown in? I am interested in food and weddings, but the region has more interesting things. I would like to read stories of the ethnic conflicts, the restless events after WWII, the style of democracy and a lot more.

“If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face?” by Alan Alda. At first I didn’t pay attention to this book and left it unread for a while. For one thing it has such a long title. Since I tend to judge a book by the cover and the title, such a long title is, in my opinion, an indication of content deficiency. However when I listen to it–it’s a audible book–I start to feel that it is an interesting and serious book, especially for immigrants. Although the book is not written for immigrants, it can apply to many of the situations an immigrant will encounter. For example, it says that one has to think about how to make other people understand you since saying it is not enough. So everybody in this life is a leader and an interpreter, no matter you like it or not. Even for immigrants who suffer from the disadvantage of language, for people in general who grew up in an environment that doesn’t encourage self expression, living a life is being a leader in this communication process.

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