Monday, February 4, 2013

Irrepressible Library

You know that feeling where you have a pile of books you can't wait to read, then your coworker comes in and gives you a book they absolutely LOVED, and you still have those other two books from your other coworker that you are slowly making your way through but have had in your possession since before Thanksgiving and feel guilty about that, and anytime you click open the internet you find more books to add to your pile that you are SO excited to read RIGHT NOW?

Yeah. That.



1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. A ginormous brick of a book, I can't really put my finger on why I want to read this book so badly. I used to scoff at books like these. Mainstream fiction and literary brown-nosing that English majors and hipsters read. (Although I've realised that disdaining the life of a hipster is, in itself, hipster.) But I've become enthralled with quiet books that sneak up on you and whop your senses, and it all started with The Name of the Wind. A book decidedly in the Fantasy section of bookstores. Then came other fantasy-but-mainstream books—The Gargoyle, The Night Circus—books that were shelved in the wrong section because Mainstream Fiction sells more, and the editors and publishing houses knew they could get more money by reaching a wider audience, because there ARE NO highbrow fantasy books.

First of all, this is utter bullshit. While I can't complain about a marketing move that gets a book into more hands, I hate that people don't go into the fantasy section because they think it is for children and "fake readers." There are amazing stories in the genre sections, just like there are flop/waste of time/shouldn't have been published books in the mainstream section. And personally, I think English programs would have a field day analysing and deconstructing the Use of Magic in a Dystopian Society, complete with allegory and metaphor and everything else Contemporary/Mainstream has. A little action or entertaining story does not lowbrow make. And even using "lowbrow" to mean "bad" is a terrible thing to do, because even if someone wants to read a wish-fulfilling porn thinly disguised as a book in polite society and get away with it even though porno mags are still frowned upon, at least they are reading. Even though wish-fulfilling is part of the reading experience. Ugh, I've tied my tongue in knots here, I didn't want to get in a philosophical discussion, and I could go on for hours more. Ok. \end{rant}

1Q84 is another of those Fantasy-but-shelved-in-Mainstream books. It has an intriguing premise, and I want to read it. All 1184 pages of it.

"Murakami is like a magician who explains what he’s doing as he performs the trick and still makes you believe he has supernatural powers... But while anyone can tell a story that resembles a dream, it's the rare artist, like this one, who can make us feel that we are dreaming it ourselves.” —The New York Times Book Review
       The year is 1984 and the city is Tokyo.
       A young woman named Aomame follows a taxi driver’s enigmatic suggestion and begins to notice puzzling discrepancies in the world around her. She has entered, she realizes, a parallel existence, which she calls 1Q84 —“Q is for ‘question mark.’ A world that bears a question.” Meanwhile, an aspiring writer named Tengo takes on a suspect ghostwriting project. He becomes so wrapped up with the work and its unusual author that, soon, his previously placid life begins to come unraveled.
       As Aomame’s and Tengo’s narratives converge over the course of this single year, we learn of the profound and tangled connections that bind them ever closer: a beautiful, dyslexic teenage girl with a unique vision; a mysterious religious cult that instigated a shoot-out with the metropolitan police; a reclusive, wealthy dowager who runs a shelter for abused women; a hideously ugly private investigator; a mild-mannered yet ruthlessly efficient bodyguard; and a peculiarly insistent television-fee collector.
       A love story, a mystery, a fantasy, a novel of self-discovery, a dystopia to rival George Orwell’s—1Q84 is Haruki Murakami’s most ambitious undertaking yet: an instant best seller in his native Japan, and a tremendous feat of imagination from one of our most revered contemporary writers. (BN)



The Mind's Eye by Oliver Sacks. This is research for my WIP. All about perception and vision and how your eyes can see one thing but your brain can interpret it as another thing and how patients have adapted to their strange senses and situations. Very interesting and easy to read. It is giving me science to back up my magic system, making it less arbitrary.

In Musicophilia, Oliver Sacks explored music and the brain; now, in The Mind's Eye, he writes about the myriad ways in which we experience the visual world: how we see in three dimensions; how we recognize individual faces or places; how we use language to communicate verbally; how we translate marks on paper into words and paragraphs, even how we represent the world internally when our eyes are closed.
       Alongside remarkable stories of people who have lost these abilities but adapted with courage, resilience and ingenuity, there is an added, personal element: one day in late 2005, Sacks became aware of a dazzling, flashing light in one part of his visual field; it was not the familiar migraine aura he had experienced since childhood, and just two days later a malignant tumor in one eye was diagnosed. In subsequent journal entries -- some of which are included in The Mind's Eye -- he chronicled the experience of living with cancer, recording both the effects of the tumor itself, and radiation therapy. In turning himself into a case history, Sacks has given us perhaps his most intimate, impressive and insightful (no pun intended) book yet. (GR)




Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Another book I am currently reading. I had to stop for a few days because it was just so get-under-your-skin creepy I needed a break. After that it was better, and now I am to the second part, I've reached the (probably first of many) holy shit part, and it is much smoother reading now. Though still not completely smooth. I never really understood before this how you, as a reader, could dislike the main character. It had never happened to me. I could always find something to like about the character, something that made me root for them. Not in this book. These characters are thoroughly despicable, and I hope they both lose. I hope the entire town dies in a nuclear attack so all the evil can be wiped from this book. Seriously. This book is worth suffering through just to read the magic GF spins with these words. The writing is snarky and crisp and beautiful, even while you're cringing. I know the twisting isn't going to stop (so many of my book-friends have read it), so I'm eager to see how it all pans out and ends. Read this book, then read a palate cleanser.

Marriage can be a real killer.
       One of the most critically acclaimed suspense writers of our time, New York Times bestseller Gillian Flynn takes that statement to its darkest place in this unputdownable masterpiece about a marriage gone terribly, terribly wrong. The Chicago Tribune proclaimed that her work “draws you in and keeps you reading with the force of a pure but nasty addiction.” Gone Girl’s toxic mix of sharp-edged wit and deliciously chilling prose creates a nerve-fraying thriller that confounds you at every turn.
       On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy's diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?
       As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?
With her razor-sharp writing and trademark psychological insight, Gillian Flynn delivers a fast-paced, devilishly dark, and ingeniously plotted thriller that confirms her status as one of the hottest writers around. (GR)


Which leads me to my next book:



The Spirit Thief by Rachel Aaron. Fun, quirky, and quick, this is one of the books from a coworker. She absolutely loved it, and hopefully I can read it quickly and not lose my taste for 1Q84, because sometimes quick, fun books lead to more quick, fun books, and it's tough to get serious again and dive into the doozies.

       Eli Monpress is talented. He's charming. And he's a thief.
       But not just any thief. He's the greatest thief of the age - and he's also a wizard. And with the help of his partners - a swordsman with the most powerful magic sword in the world but no magical ability of his own, and a demonseed who can step through shadows and punch through walls - he's going to put his plan into effect.
       The first step is to increase the size of the bounty on his head, so he'll need to steal some big things. But he'll start small for now. He'll just steal something that no one will miss - at least for a while.
       Like a king. (GR)



Little Brother and Homeland by Cory Doctorow. I need to read these. Right now. Because of this. We need more people like Aaron Swartz in the world, more people who will not only stand up for something they believe in, but do something the fuck about it. People who inspire. The world is only as good as the dreams of the people, but that means squat if everyone just sits on the couch watching Doctor Who reruns.

Marcus aka “w1n5t0n,” is only seventeen years old, but he figures he already knows how the system works–and how to work the system. Smart, fast, and wise to the ways of the networked world, he has no trouble outwitting his high school’s intrusive but clumsy surveillance systems.
        But his whole world changes when he and his friends find themselves caught in the aftermath of a major terrorist attack on San Francisco. In the wrong place at the wrong time, Marcus and his crew are apprehended by the Department of Homeland Security and whisked away to a secret prison where they’re mercilessly interrogated for days.
        When the DHS finally releases them, his injured best friend Darryl does not come out. The city has become a police state where every citizen is treated like a potential terrorist. He knows that no one will believe his story, which leaves him only one option: "M1k3y" will take down the DHS himself. (GR)



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