Books I've Read This Year

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Invisible MonstersInvisible Monsters
Chuck Palahniuk
(Read from 10/13/03 to 10/17/03)

Another bizarre read. More campy. Less gross-out stuff than some other ones. And way too may coincidences and weird connections to be believable. But this is a Palahniuk novel. Why am I worried about believability? This is high melodrama, people!

So Mark and Tomi are now official members of the Palahniuk cult. I chomp through a book in a few days, bring it to Mark at Monday night meditation, he reads it even faster than I, then passes it on to Tomi. What ever will we do when there are no more Palahniuk books to read?!?!?

BTW, here's a link for Chuck Palahniuk's personal blog: http://www.chuckpalahniuk.net/index.php.

A Million Little PiecesA Million Little Pieces
James Frey
(Read from 10/03/03 to 10/03/03)

I'll be starting this book today on the plane to Utah.

Update: Didn't get too far into this book before getting bored. Will try it again later when I have the time and patience.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-timeThe Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
Mark Haddon
(Read from 09/29/03 to 10/01/03)

A great story! The narrator is Christopher, a 15-year old autistic savant who finds his neighbor's dog dead with a pitchfork stuck in it and determines to solve the mystery of Who Killed Wellington. Not only does he solve the mystery, but he uncovers all kinds of other disturbing things in the process. The thing is, Christopher is a person you'd probably steer clear of on the subway. He groans and barks when he's upset. He gets either aggressive or withdrawn in crowds. But because he is telling the story, you learn not only the reasons for his strange behaviors, but also how he manages to deal with his limitations in order to accomplish the tasks he's set out for himself.

Oh, you know what? This description is not doing justice to the book at all. It's Christopher's voice that is so captivating. I've been trying to think of the right word to describe it for days now and just can't. He makes me happy. You just have to read it to see what I mean.

ChokeChoke
Chuck Palahniuk
(Read from 09/22/03 to 09/28/03)

Just as twisted as the last two. But even more disjointed.

SurvivorSurvivor
Chuck Palahniuk
(Read from 09/15/03 to 09/20/03)

So, not only are Palahniuk's books good airplane reading, but also good BART reading and good jury duty reading. Yeah, they are formulaic. But the formula is a creation of Palahniuk's twisted mind. I'm eating this stuff up right now and refuse to feel guilty about it.

LullabyLullaby
Chuck Palahniuk
(Read from 08/29/03 to 09/04/03)

What a great airplane read! A bizarre plot and driving pace that keep you hooked. Rhythm and repetition. A story like some strange pop song. The narrator's voice is similar to that in Fight Club, one of my favorite movies, also written by Chuck Palahniuk. In fact, it was hard not to hear Edward Norton's voice in places. His flat, staccato tone.

Certain parts of the book were unpleasant to read. Certain creepy parts, like Mona tweezing bits of broken dollhouse out of Carl's infected foot or Helen drinking Drain-o and then breaking off her teeth on diamonds and rubies and emeralds before spitting them up with blood and bile. Those parts were unpleasant, not so much because of their gross-out quality, but because they actually reminded me of the stuff I was writing on GOL back in the day. For some reason, I never enjoy reading stuff that sounds like something I might have written.

Gnostic GospelsThe Gnostic Gospels
Elaine Pagels
(Read from 07/09/03 to present)

I heard Elaine Pagels on Fresh Air talking about her latest book, Beyond Belief, which I have not read. I was intrigued and realized that I had had The Gnostic Gospels sitting on my shelf unread for years. So, I'm diving in now! Read more.

Welcome to My Country Welcome to My Country: Journeys into the World of a Therapist and Her Patients
Lauren Slater
(Read from 07/03/2003 to 07/04/2003)

Slater tends to get annoyingly poetic at times. But these stories are pretty interesting. Read more.

Everything is Illuminated Everything is Illuminated
Jonathan Safran Foer
(Read from 06/11/2003 to 06/30/2003)

If a 22 year old American white boy can write a book like this, maybe there is hope for our world after all. I was skeptical at first and a bit put off by what I perceived as the book's blatant contrivances. But those "contrivances" won me over more and more each day and became as important a part of the story as the narrative itself. I may actually read this book again. Read more.

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
Dave Eggers
(Read from 05/22/2003 to 06/09/2003)

Clever, but not staggeringly so. Read more.

Bel Canto Bel Canto
Ann Patchett
(Read from 05/06/2003 to 05/21/2003)

A simply lovely book. A brief respite from the literature of depression and despair. The guests at a lavish birthday party at the home of the Vice President of an unnamed South American country are taken hostage by a group of terrorists. During the months of internment, guests and terrorists alike are drawn together by two of the hostages - the soprano who performs for them each morning and the translator without whom communication would be nearly impossible. I don't have much else to say. Here are a few quotes from the book.

The Myth of Sisyphus The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays
Albert Camus (translated by Justin O'Brien)
(Read from 04/23/2003 to 04/30/2003)

A difficult read. Meaning of life stuff. Or rather, meaninglessness of life. I get through maybe a few paragraphs each day before my brain is exhausted by the dense prose. Suddenly, I am captivated by the view from the train window -- even in the tunnel. Here are my ongoing notes...

The Stranger The Stranger
Albert Camus (translated by Stuart Gilbert)
(Read from 04/09/2003 to 04/10/2003)

Whew. An intense story examining questions of choice, responsibility, and how one lives in a universe without God.  Unfortunately, the Gilbert translation is overly ornate compared with the Hemingway-esque style of the original French.  The newer version shown in the picture is truer to the original.  Read more...

Prozac Diary Prozac Diary
Lauren Slater
(Read from 04/03/2003 to 04/08/2003)

A disappointing, self-indulgent book. Not at all like Lying, which I loved. Read more...

Darkness Visible Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness
William Styron
(Read 04/02/2003)

An overly literary account of the author's bout of depression. Fortunately, it is only 84 pages, 20 of which I had already read, as they appear in Nell Casey's anthology, Unholy Ghost. His description of Camus' The Stranger makes me wish I could read French. Maybe I'll pick up an English translation anyway.

A Writer's Diary Virginia Woolf: A Writer's Diary
edited by Leonard Woolf
(Read from 03/11/2003 to 04/01/2003)

Depression. Loss. Despair. But also joy. Pleasure. Gossip. A woman desperately trying to convince herself that other people's opinions don't matter, yet obsessed with getting good reviews. Some passages made me gasp in recognition, made me think, "Yes! She's speaking for me." Then I remembered that I am not a prolific genius. Perhaps it is precisely because my crests and troughs are not so high or deep that I am still alive. Then again, she survived into her 50s, and I am only 38. Read more...

LyingLying: A Metaphorical Memoir
by Lauren Slater

I LOVED this book. Lauren Slater is a liar. Who knows whether she really ever had epilepsy or whether or not any of this book is actually true in a literal sense. But her writing is exquisite and the emotions are raw and direct. She's a smart lady. Not to be trusted, but definitely to be read.

The Lovely BonesThe Lovely Bones
by Alice Sebold

I bought this book in the airport to read on the plane to Utah. It was good, easy plane reading material. Easy to read while waiting for Dad to get out of the hospital. Not great literature.

The HoursThe Hours
by Michael Cunningham

Had to read this after seeing the movie and then reading Mrs. Dalloway. I will have more to say about this book later. I'll just say right now that I don't understand why it won the Pulitzer. The movie was a masterpiece, whereas this book just seems like plagiarism of V. Woolf.

Mrs. DallowayMrs. Dalloway
by Virginia Woolf

Had to read this after seeing the movie, "The Hours," for the second time. Wanted to find out what the movie was based on. A difficult read because of the sort of stream-of-consciousness style. But worthwhile.

Unholy GhostUnholy Ghost
edited by Nell Casey

A collection of writers on depression. Discovered Lauren Slater through this book, whose other books are now on my list to read. But it's perplexing to me that none of these writers has expressed anything like my own experience of depression, which has to do with utter boredom, complete lack of creativity, and hour after hour of computer solitaire.

LiliLili: A novel of Tiananmen
by Annie Wang

Interesting novel about a young "hooligan" girl in China in the 1980s. Informative, if clunkily written in places.

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