Wednesday, March 23, 2011

370 and counting

I'm not sure how it happened but I'm currently addicted to entering books on Goodreads. I've had an account for several years never thinking much of it even though I do have a long (as in decades) held desire to know how many books I've read in a year and to be able to keep track of which books I've read overall. Maybe I'd finally had enough of it, enough not knowing. Or maybe I'm reaching out for some sort of meaning, to construct something which says, "I've lived" or "I'm here!" or "My life counts--see how many books I've read." Whatever the deeper fucked up psychological reason, it doesn't really matter much why. I enjoy inputing the books, sometimes scanning a book I haven't touched in years, seeing my notes at the beginning (e.g. "1998 Thanksgiving Rexburg," "Book club 11/2008"), remembering my motivations for reading.

And I'm noticing patterns. There is a small spike in more serious nonfiction titles in 1999, which didn't make sense to me at first. But then, duh, I realized I finished my master's degree in 98 and then all of sudden had all this intellectual curiosity and also some time. That curiosity led me to many books (Kozol's Amazing Grace, Cahill's How the Irish Saved Civilization, Rodriguez's Hunger of Memor) and eventually led me out of teaching high school and to SLCC where I'm at now.

My actual reviews (if I enter one at all) are quite short but are less review, more reading autobiography. I've less interested in evaluated the books than of marking what the book meant to me at the time of reading. For example Kozol's Amazing Grace made me aware of poverty in a way I'd never been aware of before, made me feel in in my bones. Under my review for The Roadless Traveled, a book I'm unsure (maybe even afraid) how I would respond to now, I clearly situate the book in my life history:

"For a long time this was my personal Bible, my bulwark against Mormonism and religion. The section on love had a profound effect on me and continues to come to mind as an adult: real love is always based on the concern for another person's spiritual growth. e

My mom gave me this book, an amazing insightful move."

Having entered hundreds of books over the last few weeks, the supposed big events (graduations, LDS mission, girlfriends, jobs, houses) of my life grayscale into the background, allowing defined book covers into the foreground, which knit together my emotional and intellectual shifts and development.

It's an episodic, much less linear, representation of my life. For the moment it is a representation I intend to indulge in, savor, squeezing out the supposed milestones. I rather like seeing my life as stitched together passages about love and spiritual growth from the Road Less Traveled (read in 1986) with Kabat-Zinn's (read in 2009)ideas on mindfulness and accepting where one is. On one hand the two readers of these books, separated by 23 years seem impossibly distinct and distant; on the other hand both readers--the 17 year old unsure about his desires and the 40 year old unsure about anyone defining his desires--clearly come from the same self, the same self who has now for years found such pleasure and discovery through reading.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Pesthouse: A post-apocalyptic reshaping of the American Dream

The second paragraph of the prologue made me pause, gave me hope in that I was about to experience something BIG:

"But there are always some awake in the small times of the morning--teh lovemakers, for instance, the night workers, the ones with stone-hard beds or aching backs, the ones with nagging consciences or bladders, the sick. And animals of course."

What a lovely, spot on passage, BIG passage. And overall this post-apocalyptic tale did not disappoint as we watch the unlikely pairing of Franklin and Red Margaret, Franklin tenderly pulling the sickness out of Margaret as she suffers abandoned in the pesthouse.

Yet the journey is devastating, in several ways more violent and less hopeful than McCarthy's harrowing The Road. Here too they travel on a road towards the ocean and hope. But this is a world fraught with illness, fear, and calculating marauders who slaughter and laugh. America has been brought down to its knees; there is no liberty or freedom or American Dream.

Crace courageously tries to at once deconstruct the American Dream through fire and pain...and I wanted embrace his new dream built out of the ashes but, ultimately, stood back--book at arm's length--and watched, unable to completely embrace it.

Still, the impossible romance--the tenderness, the humanity amongst hopelessness, the understated understanding--between Franklin and Margaret will remain with me.

Monday, March 14, 2011

A sprinkle of grading

Spring break is wonderful even with a sprinkle of grading to finish up the day:

  • first bike ride of the year with Ali yesterday (she did take crash but recovered and got back on the horse)
  • reach 200 books on my Goodreads account though I cheated by adding 30 Three investigator books from my youth--but hey I loved these books and they had to go on the list
  • Read a good sized chunk of The Pesthouse by Jim Crace, a post-apocalyptic journey novel. Kind of similar to The Road in content though not style.
  • finished Waltz with Bashir, an intriguing/disturbing animated film about a Jewish soldier who has lost his memories of serving in Lebanon
I will leave you with one of the most compelling/haunting images from Waltz...