Once I did a book review for a friend who published a Jane Austen fan novel. I sent my review to her, but she ended up deleting most of what I wrote. I know what’s in her mind: my review is too much about my own memory triggered by the reading, and my own life events related to the book. I know this is not a commonly acceptable format for book review, but I just can’t help it. I’m not able to use an objective tone, but rather I often put my own subjective way too prominently, making a book review more about my own experiences.
I’ve been trying to change that since then, but to no avail. If I describe the book and evaluate the book in an accepted “normal” way, I lose my interest in writing the review in the first place. So I end up still doing what I like to do in the past.
“Let Love Have the Last Word” by Common. I love this book, especially the beginning chapter and the last chapter, for which I highlighted so much that many pages are entirely orange or completely blue. I especially enjoy those passages, in which his therapist helps him dig into his psyche and I wish there are more of it. He is having “love addiction” and intimacy issues. Although he didn’t elaborate on these two issues, I can imagine what he’s talking about and how his life is. Another thing I like about this book is his attempt at communicating with his daughter–that’s such a cool thing to do for a father. A lot of fathers will not bother to do that, but he did. It doesn’t matter if the problems are eventually resolved, the fact that he tries to listen and communicate is wonderful.
“Child Harold’s Pilgrimage” by Lord Byron. I’ve always loved his poems and even tried to read all his poems. The plan was abandoned after about 50 pages since there are too many poems and many are just practice poems. His “Don Juan” is wonderful and I want to read the second time but haven’t found time to do it. However “Child” is a little disappointing. I tried to find quotes in it, but cannot find one.
I read “Don Juan” before and really like it, but “Child” is a very different book. It’s just not as witty and the character’s trip not as eventful. In comparison, “Don Juan” is so much better and I probably want to reread it. It’s said “Child” is the epic poem that established Byron’s reputation and people, especially women, vied for his attention ever since this book. I don’t understand this book’s attraction. Actually I read about fifty pages of Byron’s poems from when he was fourteen years old, and those random poems are as good as “Child”. Only in the last section, when the traveler came to Italy, the poem displayed Byron’s characteristic sarcasm. Too little, too late. The book soon ends and I’m left a little unsatisfied.
“Ravelstein” by Saul Bellow. I thought I would enjoy it. And I did for the first fifty pages. Then I started to feel disappointed by it. If I had read this book before 2020 and before “Me Too”, I would have enjoyed it more. However with the heightened sensitivity to negative portrayal of people of different gender, different nationality (basically different from one’s own small clique), I just feel the book is full of prejudice and bias. Towards the end of the book, he says, “Since we are often called upon for judgements, we naturally coarsen them by constant use or abuse. Then of course you see nothing original, nothing new; you are in the end, no longer moved by any face, or any person.” I almost laughed. Is this his own diagnose of his book? LOL. The whole book has a lot of harsh narrative concerning women, especially his ex-wife, a famous mathematician, who is based on a real person who’s still alive. He accuses her of coldness, snobbery, and being a Nazi sympathizer. How could he, being Jewish himself, marry a Nazi sympathizer? He should divorce her as soon as he found this out. Instead he’s married to her for ten years. Another thing he accuses her of is she being unfaithful to him–she is often absent for a month or two to travel to conferences–but if this is the case, he should have suspected something fishy long ago. I suspect that he’s never been faithful himself to begin with and he’s only annoyed that she is equal to him. I wish I can love this book as those numerous Bellow fans. In fact I have his Humboldt’s Gift lying on the desk as an indication of my willingness to love his books. However I just can’t love it. I’ve tried, but I can’t. He is intelligent and philosophical, but his misogyny is too much for me. He is a prominent figure, a Nobel Laureate, having married five wives, often surrounded by female admirers. It is almost incomprehensible to me that a man received so much female attention and admiration can be as misogynistic as he is.
“Nine Horses” by Billy Collins. I read this very thin book on and off for two years and finally I’m able to finish it. Love the little stories the poet can weave out of the smallest daily details. I want to read more of his poems, but I need to get to it.
“One Hundred Best-Loved Poems” By Various Poets. I finally skipped the ancient poems and head directly to the romantic period. And it is wonderful. Skipping is the most enchanting part of reading a book, like flipping channels on TV. Sometimes it is the only enjoyable thing to do.
“Notes from a Young Black Chef: A Memoir” By Kwame Onwuachi. I wrote an entire post on this book here. I’ve always loved books on kitchen since I know every dish has a story and every ingredient is a thesis. Also the book has shown me that every day in the kitchen is a struggle and a hustle. His life story is fascinating, although he doesn’t dwell on the details. He’s more interested in getting to tomorrow while I am more interested in the elaboration of today.
“Collected Lyrics” by Edna St. Vincent Millay. My favorite poet and I want to finish this book in March, but probably not quite likely. I haven’t finished this. I am only half way through. She’s my favorite poet for this year.
“Essays” by George Orwell. I’ve read two thirds of the book and still one third to go. I’ll write a post about Orwell later since there are a lot I want to say about him.
March Not Read
“The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War” by David Halberstam.
“An Introduction To Existentialism” by Robert G. Olson.
“The Forgotten Wars” by Christopher Bayly & Tim Harper.