Monday, May 05, 2008

The Fall by Tarsem

I can't wait! This is by Tarsem, the director of The Cell. A movie that I avoided for years because of Jennifer Lopez. But when I finally saw it, I found it so haunting that I couldn't get it out of my mind for days.

The Fall looks much better than Pan's Labyrinth, which I found to be disappointingly overrated and visually unimaginative.

I am surprised by the number of snarky predictions that are out there for the movie, mostly by people who haven't seen the movie, but hated The Cell. These same critics complain that The Cell was muddled. A most surprising critique since the movie was really straight forward when it comes to plot. But I guess vast amounts of imagination combined with strange and grotesque imagery makes many viewers uneasy.

If I ever lived in a fantasy, I would like to live in one created by Tarsem. The beauty and violence of his world is incredibly mesmerizing. I can't wait to see this in New York when it comes out this weekend!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Wit's End

It's such a beautiful day. The sun is out. My cat is enraptured by the birds that chatter outside our window. And sounds of baseball practice makes the day seem even more all-American perfect if that is at all possible.

I'm reading Karen Joy Fowler's Wit's End today. She reminds me of Ellen Raskin for some reason. The same loveable, but sometimes emotionally impaired characters. You sort of learn to love them unconditionally. That's something that most books can't make you do.

I worshipped Ellen Raskin as a child. The Westing Game gave me my first taste of great characters, and how disatrously flawed they could be. It's not often that a book can say something intelligent and at the same time have so much faith in human beings.

It's been a long time since I've found an author who writes for adults that has been able to inspire such feelings. It's delightful. I can't wait to read more of her. It's the perfect book for the perfect day.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Titus Groan and Reading Journals

A post that I forgot to post:

I have been reading a lot lately. But since a lot of the reading I am doing is not for leisure, it has been difficult blog about any of my thoughts.

As for aiming to have something to say about every book I read, it looks like a nearly impossible task at this point. I still want to develop the habit of keeping a reading journal—but somehow find it impossible to make this happen in a pratical way. The journal I chose is a bulky red leather tome that adds what feels like 5 pounds to anything that I carry. It’s not practical to keep handy, even if I had the good habit of taking it out and writing something when I’m reading, which of course I never think to do. The problem is time. I feel I have to speed through leisure reading because I feel guilty about all the work-related reading I have to do. Then of course, I speed through work-related reading because of the impending deadlines.

As I’m writing this entry, my mind is speeding through the amount of reading that I have to finish today. It’s ironic, because I’m reading a number of books that are so wonderful, for both work and leisure, yet I can’t seem to find the time to relish and digest any of it.

I hope I will be writing a entry on Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake, one of my favorite reads so far this year—which is saying something because I’ve also finished J.M. Coetzee’s Disgrace, as well as one brilliant and one very good short story collection by Alice Munro and Lorrie Morre, respectively.

What I think fascinates me about Titus Groan is it’s exsitence. It never ceases to amaze me that someone conceived this book, and penned these strange characters and the world that Gormenghast inhabits. It is also the first book that I have ever visualized. I am not a visual reader, and usually have to strain myself to imagine anything in detail, but with the world of Gormenghast, it was as if visions would just swim before me. It is superbly written, superbly described. It is from a different era, a different universe. The characters are so singular that they will probably stay with me for the rest of my life. This is what fantasy should be like.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The pleasure and misery of writing

I’m sitting here trying to plot out a zippy press release (it’s not so much writing as it is juggling all the phrases that you have to include into coherent sentences), while thinking about how I’m going to fit together my review for Iain M. Banks new Culture novel: Matter. Life has become by turns simple and wonderful----most of my waking life is now taken up by reading and writing---and laden with guilt and anxiety---writing is no longer a leisure activity, and I, a well-known procrastinator, has been given the flexibility of enforcing my own deadlines.

It takes me time to write. A blog entry or a fomal email will bring me the same amount of headache and nervousness as a book review or a term paper. There was a point in my life where I hated every sentence I produced. I tend towards complex sentence structures that will crumble with a misplaced comma ( see last sentence of previous paragraph---I doubt it's even correct; oh how I love the dash). It doesn’t help that I’ve always had sloppy grammar.

Reading is therapeutic, but writing, especially writing something that someone will read, fills me with dread. I think part of the reason is that I can never quite catch the internal monologue that’s running through me head. No matter how many times I revise my work, it never or rarely turns out the way that I have envisioned it. It’s frustrating, but it’s also a challenge that I want to overcome. Blogging helps; sentences are coming easier---I find fewer objections to what I write. Thank goodness that I have started it again!

Paradoxically, when I read something that I'm really proud of, I get depressed because I feel that will be the only good thing I have ever written. Does anyone else ever feel like this?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Arrival and my father

David and I read Shaun Tan's The Arrival today. It's a beautiful graphic novel that will resonate with anyone, but especially those of us who are immigrants. It is the beautiful, strange, and wordless tale of a man leaving his family behind and traveling to a foreign land in hopes of a brighter future.

The book would make a perfect gift for my father who immigrated to this country in the 1980's leaving behind his family---my mother and me. Living on a student's stipend and trying to save up money to mail home, my father would eat cabbage and onions for weeks on end. He tells one story of slipping and falling down on ice, again and again on one of the many steep and hilly roads in West Virginia trying to get somewhere on foot, when people with cars had even chosen to stay in. The story meant to be a funny anecdote always breaks my heart.

It would be the perfect gift, yet I fear to give it to him. For it's strangeness and whimsical, wordless qualities---something that I have cultivated a taste for---may be something incomprehensible to him. He may laugh at the novelty, shake his head at what he perceives to be a book for children. He hasn't had the time in his life to cultivate such tastes. So much of his time has been spent on providing for us, making sure we have a good future, and that I have the creature comforts that was denied him when he was young. Perhaps I give him too little credit.

I'm grateful for this book; for it's beauty and elegance, and because it reminds me of what my father did for me.
Here's an excellent interview with Shaun Tan on the book.

Thursday, January 31, 2008


It's a busy time for me. I have picked up my review duties at, and will also be reviewing a book for LT Early Reviewer. I'm really happy to be doing this. I think it'll get me back into the grove of thinking and writing about books. Here's what's to come.

The Shadow Year
- Jeff Ford (I'm having a minor crisis with getting the book delivered to the right address, that's what you get for moving 3 times a year. Can you believe that I have moved something like 9 times in the past two or three years?) So hopefully I will get my copy. I love Jeff Ford, so I'm really looking forward to this one.

Matter - Iain M. Banks: His new Culture novel; reviewing this one should be fun, although I have to say Player of Games was not nearly as good as everyone said it would be. I think the gold standard will always be Use of Weapons. But Culture novels are always a fun read, and this one has an incredibly complicated plot, which is never a bad thing for a Banks novel. I feel sorry for the poor marketers that had to write the synopsis though. It's pretty garbled...

The Uses of Enchantment - Heidi Julavits: I have wanted to read this for a while. I may not get a review copy, but I'll eventually check it out from the library , so one way or another I will try to write something about this book.

The View from Castle Rock - Alice Munro: I love Alice Munro, and I think it will be interesting experience to write a review for one of her short story collections.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Unfortunates

Yeahhh!!! New Directions is going to publish B.S. Johnson's The Unfortunates (known among certain circles as the book-in-a box).

Who is B.S. Johnson? And why have I been whipped up into a frenzy over this? B.S. Johnson is an obscure, experimental English writer. The Unfortunates is his extremely rare work---27 sections in a box, to be read in whatever order best suited to the reader's fancy. Go here for a look.

I thought I was going to have to shell out a lot of money for this book (at some point in the future), seeing as its extremely rare and out-of-print. But thanks to New Directions, we will get the pleasure of owning and reading this "novel" in May of 2008. I can barely contain my excitement!

This info comes from Conversational Reading, who also tells us that the book will be printed in the original format (27 unbound sections).

Monday, January 28, 2008


Originally I had started another blog, since this one sort of died somewhere in May of last year. But after looking around here, I realized that it would be a waste to ditch this blog. I think I may think about it a little bit and keep both blogs. We will see. My career change has finally happened for me, and I'm happy to report that I will be starting a new job in February at one of the big publishing companies. (My favorite one, yeah!)

I told myself that I stopped blogging because I wanted to focus on the job hunt, but I realize now that dropping the blog and many of my other review-related obligations was how I reacted to the stress and depression of changing careers and not being sure what I was doing with my life.
But I'm here to slowly pick up the pieces, and hopefully I'll have some insight into working in publishing for others who are interested in the field once I start my new job.

All I can say is that I'm really excited about being in New York City, and finally doing something that I think I'm really going to love. It doesn't hurt that I will be getting a lot of free books too =).

Hopefully you'll will be seeing a lot more posts here.

One last thing, go see Cloverfield. I don't care what anyone says, its a damn good movie. I felt shell-shocked once the movie was over, and that's something I've never felt before. I recommend the film based on that alone. Of course David and I did agree that the the film would have been stronger if they had cut the last 2 or 3 minutes (not the coney island stuff, but the scene under the bridge and the one before that).

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

What I'm Reading, Watching, Waiting For...

Highly anticipating: Focus Features is bringing Atonement, one of my favorite books, to the big screen. The movie, scheduled for limited release in December in the US, will feature Kera Knightly, John McAvoy, and Saoirse Ronan.

Watching the trailers made me tear up, which goes to show you just how much the core of the story moved me. Crossing my fingers that it will be worth the wait. I am certainly pleased with the cast and the director, although Saoirse Ronan is definitely not how I imagined Briony.

I am also now looking forward to seeing Stardust. Originally, I wasn't too eager to see this for a number of reasons:

  1. I wasn't impressed with the book. And as much as I admire and respect Neil Gaiman, his novels never did capture my imagination in the same way that his graphic novels do.
  2. I can't stand Claire Danes.
  3. The trailers made it look like a mashup between The Princess Bride, and Pirates of the Caribbean.

However I've decided to take a chance with this movie because it's been really well received by critics. Plus, I did enjoy Mirrormask, which I would highly recommend to anyone who hasn't already seen it.

Lastly there's The Darjeeling Limited. Wes Anderson, Adrian Brody, Owen Wilson; enough said.

Watching: Spaced---British comedy series co-created by the brilliant Simon Pegg (star and co-writer of Shaun of the Dead, and Hot Fuzz).

Reaction: It's certainly got its great moments, but it is a little dated and lacks the quality that I've grown accustomed to. (Will someone please, please, please bring back Arrested Development????) Still I love both the characters portrayed by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, so its worth it.

Reading: The Unconsoled

Initial Reaction: I'm not sure I could recommend this book to a lot of people, especially those who are not familiar with Kazuo Ishiguro. Even the critics didn't really know what to make of this book. But it comes recommended from many sources I trust, and hopefully my patience will pay off.

Plot: A famous pianist comes to a town in an unnamed European city to give a performance. Immediately upon his arrival, the pianist begins to have successive Alice-in-Wonderland-like conversations with the locals. Every person he talks to ask something of him, be it advice, approval, or help. People and location becomes familiar and unfamiliar in surrealistic ways.

One thing of interest to note on the style. The narrator (pianist) becomes omniscient periodically, observing the thoughts of the person he is talking or knowing the conversation of two characters when he is not present. I have never seen this combination, and it gives the narrative another level of surrealism. More to come.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

WSJ takeover

"He is an, I wouldn't say interfering, I would say he's an interventionist proprietor when he wants to be, but I guess, you know, if you own the title, then I guess you're allowed to intervene."

That's really not comforting.

The Moving Dilenma

It's time to start up this blog again. I will be moving fairly soon, which brings up fond memories of last years move--- no not really, that's just me being sarcastic.

I hate moving. I hate having to do it so frequently and knowing each time that it won't be permanent. Still, I guess I can be thankful that this move will take us out of the city (relatively speaking) and into a nicer, quieter area, with trees, and a huge balcony. I have always had a penchant for balconies. I think if I had my dream apartment, it would be on the 30th floor of a huge high rise with a balcony overlooking the rest of the city. I know, the irony is that this fantasy is probably someone else's nightmare.

The move is also a good time to get rid of all the stuff that I have managed to accumulate and couldn't bear to get rid of in the last move. Mostly, I'm determined to get rid of all that clothing that I never wear and never will wear.

Then there are the books. I have already packed four suitcases full of books, and there are still two full bookcases to go. I think I need to put a portion in storage until I have more space. It's hard to know which books I will be parting with. Certainly not any of my anthologies or short story collections. Nor my favorites or anything in my TBR pile. And it's hard to pack up the classics because you never know which day you'll finally be in the mood to read Faulkner. I should pack up the heaviest books: art books, coffee books, and my collection of Folios. But the thought of Folios sitting in a box makes me cringe.

That's why I'm waiting until after the move to make the decision; to see what my new apartment will be able to hold before I have to make choices. I know not the wisest thing to do, but there you have it. Anything to delay the moment where I have to put some of my books in a box and send them to West Virginia.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Mid-year Recap

Here are some musings about the books I've read so far in 2007. See Read in 2007 on the sidebar for a complete list and links to

Favorite book: Toss up between Special Topics in Calamity Physics (novel) and The Barnum Museum (short stories), although Atonement and Magic For Beginners are strong contenders.

Favorite short story: There were so many! I'd have to go with one of the following:

  • "Lull" from Magic For Beginners - Kelly Link

  • "The Game of Clue" from The Barnum Museum - Steven Millhauser

  • "Meet Me In The Moon Room" from Meet Me In The Moon Room - Ray Vukcevich ( A collection that did not make it into my favorite book section only because I have not yet finished it.)

Least Favorite Book: White Noise - Don Delillo. Which, slim as it is, would have benefited from being shorter.

Least Favorite Short Story/Novella Collection: There weren't any. All seven collections that I have read were strong. The weakest of the bunch was Steven Millhauser's The King In the Trees which I did not like because I thought he had written about themes of two of the three novellas better in another collection.

Most overrated: Notes on a Scandal by Zoe Heller and Amsterdam by Ian McEwan.

I pinpointed elsewhere on this blog why I did not like Notes on a Scandal. To sum it up, the book never explores or reflects upon the taboo themes that it dredges up to move the plot. It's ludicrous to me that it was nominated for anything, let alone shortlisted for a Booker.

I had similar problems with Amsterdam. While thematically and conceptually interesting, the characters were caricatures and the ending was preposterous. If you have never read Ian McEwan, steer clear of this one and pick up Atonement. Critics agree that Atonement is the superior book. I had no idea just exactly how superior it was until I finished Amsterdam feeling empty and annoyed.

Book that took the longest time to read: Wings of the Dove by Henry James, what else?

Honorable Mentions: The Ghost Writer by John Harwood. I love a good ghost story, and John Harwood's The Ghost Writer delivers not one, but four of the best and creepiest ones I've had the pleasure to read. This one's also an excellent mystery.

Mid-year Recap Continued...

My last post became so overly long that I decided to separate it into two.

Lastly, here are the four authors that I've been introduced to this year that I think particularly deserves mention:
Alice Munro, Steven Millhauser, and Ray Vukcevich, and Marisha Pessl.

I discovered Alice Munro on the train, so I will forever associate her with flitting light and the pattern of leaves dancing across the page. I love her for her darkness, ambiguity, and lilting language, but also for her ability to capture female characters with such clarity.

I was so captivated by "The Game of Clue", and the rest of The Barnum Museum, that I quickly hunted down every one of Steven Millhauser's short story/novella collections. Millhauser focuses on the study of miniatures, details, Critics find individual stories strong, but not enough variations in the themes of his collections. I don't have a problem with this, since I find almost all of the stories in his collections written so exquisitely.

I loved Special Topics In Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl.

The book is narrated by the precocious Blue Van Meer documenting the seminal events in her life that lead up to the mysterious death of her beautiful and much worshiped teacher Hannah Schneider. Blue Van Meer narrates the way that the Gilmore Girls would talk on speed, with numerous references to books, quotations, science, philosophy, movies, and music. Click here, here, and here for reviews.

It took extraordinary amounts of will to put down the book. I read it while stirring the pot, playing with the cat, and watching tv. I decided to take a bath instead of a shower, just so I could keep on reading the book. I would let out squeals of joy that scared my boyfriend and my cat, because the book was just that good. And I would stop every hundred pages or so, scared that I was going too fast, that it would end too soon. 40 pages before the end, I even thought about starting over from the beginning just so I could delay the inevitable end.

To my surprise some literary folks did not share my enthusiasm for Special Topics in Calamity Physics, leading me to the conclusion that you either delight and revel in this book, or find it irritating to no end.

Still I think most people can agree that Ms. Marisha Pessl is a force to be reckoned with. And I can't wait till she comes out with another book.

Lastly there is Ray Vukcevich. An author published by Small Beer Press. It's hard not to mourn for an obscure author who so richly deserve to be widely read, appreciated, and discussed. Ray Vukcevich captures moments of terror, foreboding, longing, and regret in short stories that are often no more than three or four pages long. Read him. You will not regret it.

Friday, May 25, 2007


After about 10 years, and at least 8 or 9 readings of Dirk Gently's Holistic Dectective Agency, I have finally put together every last piece of the ending---with help from the internet.

Douglas Adams, you were a brilliant, brilliant man.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Ranting about Rant

We're going to see Chuck Palahniuk on Thursday. It's really exciting because our city doesn't seem to have a literary pulse, and authors, especially authors that we like, rarely come to visit.

While I have not had the chance to read Palahniuk's new book, I'm excited to finally "meet" him. The last time he was in town, I was a college freshman who had no idea who he was and therefore passed up the opportunity that I regretted for years after.

I want to read his new book Rant: An Oral Biography of Buster Casey before the signing, but seeing as how it's a day away, I don't think it's going to happen. However, I did have a chance to read the reviews on Amazon. Stranded amongst the generally benevolent 4-5 star reviews, was this little review, posted on May 9th by Mr. Joseph Suglia (novelist) attacking Palahniuk's novel with the same sort of vim and vigor that people in the 14th century use to display when they lobbed fruit and vegetables at the village idiot. Since I haven't read the book, there's nothing much I can say in terms of his general evaluation of it's merits. I do, however, have a problem with his attack on Palahniuk's readership.

The sub-normal high-school stoners who comprise much of Palahniuk's massive`fan-base' will find the book more boring than the most boring documentary on rabies.

Ouch, that's harsh. Makes me feel like I should crawl back into the sewer that I was born out of for one thing.

On a serious note, I am absolutely sure that there are plenty of teenagers who love Palahniuk, and feel that his books are angsty anthems to their lives. But just because Palahniuk appeals to them doesn't mean that his work is invalid or that these 'sub-normal high-school stoners' don't have the intelligence to see the merit in his work. Secondly, sub-normal is inappropriate. I am so glad that Mr. Suglia had a normal and wonderful high school life. But I am really sick of 'normal' people making snap judgements about people that they don't understand or know.

I understand the statement was meant to be sarcastic and condescending, but it's disheartening to see one writer degrade another based on the supposed sub-normality of his fan-base.

**Update: Interestingly enough, when I checked Amazon today (May 11, 2007) Mr. Suglia had removed his review.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

In which I ponder a grilled cheese sandwhich

Ever since Fox cancelled Arrested Development, and Scrubs jumped the shark somewhere at the end of season 5, 30 Rock has been the shimmer of light in the vast, murky waters of unfunny, and cliched TV comedies. So needless to say, I am saddened by the news of Alec Baldwin's intended resignation over the irate message left on his daughter's cellphone.

Taking Alec Baldwin out of 30 Rock is like taking the cheese out of a grilled cheese sandwich.

Do you know what it's like eating a grilled cheese sandwich without the cheese?

Well, now we get to find out. Thank you media of America, once again you manage to make mountains out of molehills, and turn actual mountains into convoluted and inaccurate piles of crap.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007


Things will continue to be slow here, as I am in the middle of a career change and a relocation. The good news is that I will finally be working with books (if someone is willing to hire me *cross fingers*). The bad news is of course that I will be making a lot less money in a more expensive city.

Still, who cares? I will be working with books!

Anyways, I hope to pick up this blog again in full force when everything gets settled in the next 3-4 months.

In other news, I am currently reading Joy William's The Quick and the Dead. Joy Williams is an author that a was recommended by a very close friend. It's funny how our tastes, which were very different when we were younger, have converged.

The Quick and the Dead manages to be one of the funniest, and yet most evicerating and painful books I have ever read. It's wonderful, strange, and should have won the Pulitzer that it was nominated for.

That's it for now, I will be back in due time.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007


I haven't been posting here because I have been rolling up to my eyeballs in work (is that even an expression?).

General thoughts: I liked Lolita, although I found my concentration waning through Part II, as the writing becomes more fractious.

Humbert Humbert's confrontation with Clare Quilty reminds me of the scene in White Noise, when Jack Gladney tries to execute Willie Mink. In both scenes, there's this great sense that the protagonists find the realization of their revenge fantasy far from satisfying. In the end, both events rapidly become absurd and emasculating experiences for the main characters.

The character I felt for the most is not surprisingly, Lolita. Due to the connotations of Lolita in the English language, I have always imagined Dolores Haze to some extent as the willing participant in Humbert Humbert's fantasies. It was disturbing at the end of Part I to realize that this is not to be the case. The minor observations of the realities of Lolita's life with Humbert Humbert is tragic and heart breaking.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Family woes

On the day that my dad is suppose to visit me, while on a business trip from China---which has led me to go through waves of nausea, nervousness, depression, and manic activity, I get this message: "Hey Honey, I'm sorry I haven't called, but I won't be able to make it today. I'm flying to Colorado immediately, but will talk to you later."

I seriously think my father thinks that I still sit in a room and play with my toy unicorns all day, and therefore does not mind his lack of communication since he has landed in the U.S. (been almost a week), or the fact that he cancelled his plans with me on the day that it was suppose to happen---even though he knew in advance that it was going to happen---leading me to imagine nightmarish moments where he just shows up at my apartment unannounced. Thank goodness I was too tired to wash the cat.

"Oh, I'll be back in the States around April 8th, so we can discuss meeting up then."

Oh God. Now my whole April is ruined. In the language of my parents, " around April 8th" actually means any time in April (or May for that matter). Maybe I will send them that e-mail I concocted in my head that goes something like this:

Hey folks, how's it hanging? Guess what? I've decided that after all, I'm not going to be a lawyer or an investment banker.

I'm going to mess around with books, you know, utterly devastate you because you think anything but lawyering and i-banking means that I'm going to end up begging on the streets, and living under the bridge---all that good stuff you guys used to warn me against.

---Signed your loving and affectionate daughter.

Sighh.... If only they weren't such good parents, maybe then this act of disobedience wouldn't be so bad. But of course that's what happens when your the golden child growing up. Your parents get used to you being pliant. Ugh, I wish I had a rebellious phase. Instead I think I was too busy eating Doritos and reading Piers Anthony.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Perfect Fairy Tale

Some stories are beautiful in their simplicity and brevity: "LadyFaraway".