December Reading

Image by FETHI BOUHAOUCHINE from Pixabay

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.

25 thoughts on “December Reading

    1. It is an interesting book although it is written in a manner that is a little ranting and a little scattered. Still, I enjoy it. I love anything that is trying to bind philosophy and literature…

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  1. Happy reading! Once again I’m fascinated by your choices. Just great! I’m enjoying the Lilian Jackson Braun “The cat who …” mystery series right now … not quite high literature masterpieces but fun to read 😸

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    1. I love cats, although I’ve never read a book on cats before. Now you piqued my interest. You are such an avid reader. Everything we love is beautiful and I am still searching what I really love in books–I don’t have a very clear idea…

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      1. You will find out … to me books represent diving into other places, minds, eras, adventures. And every single book – paperback, hardcover, used, new – is My dream would be to have one of those old large mansion libraries, dark green or red walls, dark leather chairs, fireplace and shelves and shelves of books …

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        1. Oops, hit the button too quickly. Every book is a treasure and important to me … which is why I don’t understand people treating books like crap. Creasing them, bending pages instead of using bookmarks …

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        2. Haha, you are talking about me. Sometimes I just do that to a page and write my annoying comments. However I want to learn your tidiness. Actually I have a plan to completely throw away all the things I’ve been hoarding and make my place as pristine and clean as possible.

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        3. Do what makes you happy! I too get rid of stuff sometimes but I’d rather give away stuff I bought myself than old things from my parents and ancestors. They mean too much to me and I could still kick myself for the things I gave away when moving in with my now-ex due to space issues. I still apologize to the picture of my father since there were some souvenirs he brought back from business trips which I gave away. And it still hurts deeply thinking about some of those things. Stupid me. Never again, as I had to learn …

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        4. Wow, so true. So true. I lost many things too and one particular heartache was losing a photo album, which is irreplaceable. I can imagine your heartache over those old memorable items. How much we sacrifice for our relationships. This just shows how much a loving person you are. You are wonderful–having loved and having been hurt only makes you more wonderful, with more wisdom.

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        5. Aw, you are so sweet, thank you for your kind words! It’s difficult to lose things that are important to you. Even though people say, “It’s just things”. But those things are linked to memories, whether it’s photographs or something special you treated yourself to or something you received from a special person. Even though it’s the memories that can’t be taken away from you … one does like to be surrounded by items that remind us of those memories.

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        6. So true. Very difficult and when I was throwing away things, I didn’t think twice, but … soon it became obvious that it was an irreversible act. Once gone it was gone forever. That’s so disheartening. So true.

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        7. Yep, with some things which I sold at ebay I at least consoled myself that the person who bought it really wanted and appreciated it, that I had made someone happy. That’s at least something.

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        8. That is so beautiful. And a cat or two is absolutely indispensable for such a place. And I hope a mystery is happening in such an ancient library–a monk’s love affair is written and hidden in plain sight that one has to read between the lines to discover…

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        9. Haha, and it can be a library from an Austrian monastery or a minister who served the Austrian king. It holds a secret; it invokes curiosity and fear. And a lady who enjoys reading mystery books is coming to solve it. And her cat will be her helper; her ex-boyfriend will be the sidekick…

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        10. Oh, if that’s the case, we’ll get rid of the boring ex and get a new guy who also loves books and cats and mystery, but he’s not as courageous as the girl. So the girl and the guy constantly argue about what should be done…

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        11. I am just imagining a very polite and proper British with a very daring Austrian girl teaming up together to solve an old mystery. And the two should be arguing incessantly about what to do with differing views and opposite attitude–one wants no risk and the other just has to take risks.

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