I’ve been reading these books for at least two months, but the progress is rather slow. Life has too many distractions and reading is usually the first thing to be sacrificed. And inevitably the regret will come later, “why didn’t I read books instead of watching that silly video of people gorging themselves to death?”
“Irrational Man” by William Barrett
This is a book published more than 50 years ago, but it is so good, so relevant, and so nicely written. No wonder so many people praise it. I bought it when it’s on sale and it is one of the few sales items that I don’t regret buying. It describes the rise of the existentialism, which deals with the question of men’s irrationality. WWI and WWII completely changed people’s view of themselves as rational beings–the old philosophies and thoughts and religious beliefs took a big hit.
It revealed that the apparent stability, security, and material progress of society had rested, like everything human, upon the void. … man (feels) himself as a stranger. When he ceased to be contained and sheltered within a stable social and political environment, he saw that his rational and enlightened philosophy could no longer console him with the assurance that it satisfactorily answered the question what is man?
I am at the 15% of it right now, but the content of the book resonates with me. Such a overwhelming sentiment of disconnect and confusion happens to immigrants too who have to deal with the values they bring with them from the Old World and the new values existing in the New World. This plays out everyday in their life. I wish I have the power to bring it out in the writing, but whenever I tried, it felt either too boring, too blunt, or too cliche. I haven’t found a way to express it in a readable, fun, and fresh ways.
This is not restricted only to immigrants. This also happen to people, I mean everybody, who have to deal with a changing world. Global warming challenges the old practice of continuous economic development; artificial intelligence wipes out many jobs–what will happen to “work ethics” when most of people’s jobs are replaced by machines?
And what is the dearest to my heart is the question of family. In a society or a community that is family based, what will happen to those individuals whose parents are bitter and dysfunctional? I am always interested in this question and I always want to know the ways for these children to grow up normally despite everything. It sounds like an old question that has been explored repeatedly, but I feel that it has never been explored enough.
“Typee” by Herman Melville
I’ve read 20% of the book and the hero and his buddy are still searching for a Polynesian village and haven’t encountered a Polynesian on their own yet. I gave it up a month ago, but now I will try to finish it despite the slow crawl of the plot that’s not moving forward. It is said this was the author’s first book and he was at the time still fumbling his way about techniques and contents. It shows. I read “Moon And Sixpence” and “Mutiny On The Bounty”, but I don’t really enjoy them. I want a good book on this and I am still searching.
“Who Moved My Blackberry?” by Lucy Kellaway
This is a fun read about a corporate executive, Martin Lukes, who has an aggrandized view of himself. He seems to live entirely in his own world, unaware of what other people think about him. He can’t connect with anybody. Actually he can connect, but only on the most superficial terms. His life is consist of ceremonial formality, and the effort to avoid responsibility while trying his best to claim the credit. That’s it and nothing else. Somehow he reminds me of a relative of mine, who was a staunchest believer in family, who professed his biggest love for his family, who would attack anybody who spoke one word of doubt about family. Simultaneously he was also trying his best to get away, to dodge chores, to find pleasure elsewhere.
“The Collected Poetry of Dorothy Parker” and “Selected Readings from the Portable Dorothy Parker”
There are many quotes from these two books even if I only read 30% of each. It is fun to read, but it is a little sad really. One has to get over the sadness in order to enjoy the comedy of it.
The heart that breaks in April…
Will mend in May again.
…he was in the game he played
kissed, promised, and threw me over,
rode away with a prettier maid.
My love went whistling by
Now what should I do in this place
And splash cold water on my face
And spoil a page with rhymes?
Ever is my heart a-thirst,
Ever is my love accurst,
Sorrow clings to my apron string,
I have so much to say.
My own dear love, he is all my world —
And I wish I’d never met him.
My love, he’s mad, and my love, he’s fleet.
My own dear love, he is all my heart—
And I wish somebody’d shoot him.