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".

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Digging a hole.

Where would you end up if you dug a whole through the earth? Ed Champion would end up hundreds of miles off the tip of South Africa. Cindy and I would end up hundreds of miles off the southwestern tip of Australia, in the Indian Ocean. That's one hard earned Darwin award.

Where would you end up?

To World's End

Parts of the new Pirates of the Caribbean trailer remind me of China Mieville's The Scar.

Because of similarities in topic matter, there are inevitably parallels. Still, when the trailer premiered last night, there were scenes and images that I felt, could have come straight out of the novel. I wonder if any of the writers for the new movie read The Scar?

See for yourself.

Monday, March 19, 2007


You think 300 Spartans are impressive? Here's 700 hoboes!

I heard a voice last night...

What happens when your ex-girlfriend accuses you of snoring when you know you don't? Why you go out and buy a recording machine to prove her wrong of course. What happens when you play back the machine and hear voices where there should be silence?

Find out, in one of my favorite short stories of the year: "Whisper".

Sunday, March 18, 2007


I had spent my life waiting for something, not knowing what, not even knowing I waited. Killing time. I was still waiting. But what I had been waiting for had already occurred and was past.

One of my favorite stories in the American Gothic Tales anthology is John Crowley's "Snow".

"Snow" is set in a world, where the rich can afford to document their entire lives via camera for future generations. It tells the story of a man who seeks the memories of his deceased wife through eight thousand hours of video.

By that time it had transmitted at least eight thousand hours (eight thousand was the minimum guarantee) of Georgie: of her days and hours, her comings in and her goings out, her speech and motion, her living self---all on file, taking up next to no room, at The Park. And then, when the time came, you could go there, to The Park, say on a Sunday afternoon; and in quiet landscaped surroundings (as The Park described it) you would find her personal resting chamber; and there, in privacy, through the miracle of modern information storage and retrieval systems, you could access her: her alive, her as she was in every way, never changing or growing any older, fresher (as The Park's brochure said) than in memory ever green.

But the narrator soon discovers that there is a flaw in the system, and begins to understand the exact nature of the video that has been recorded.

"Snow" examines memory through the apparatus of technology. It dissects the way that we access our memories, and reveals to us the ephemeral nature of our lives.

There is no access to Georgie, except that now and then, unpredictably, when I'm sitting on the porch or pushing a grocery cart or standing at the sink, a memory of that kind will visit me, vivid and startling, like a hypnotist's snap of fingers. Or like that funny experience you sometimes have, on the point of sleep, of hearing your name called softly and distinctly by someone who is not there.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Going Gothic

The first question to be asked is, what is a gothic story? From Wikipedia we learn that a gothic story comprises of at least some of the following:

Terror (both psychological and physical), mystery, the supernatural, ghosts, haunted houses and Gothic architecture, castles, darkness, death, decay, doubles, madness, secrets and hereditary curses.

With stock characters including:

Tyrants, villains, bandits, maniacs, Byronic heroes, persecuted maidens, femmes fatales, madwomen, magicians, vampires, werewolves, monsters, demons, revenants, ghosts, perambulating skeletons, the Wandering Jew and the Devil himself.

The anthology that I will be reading is American Gothic Tales edited by Joyce Carol Oates. Oates does not limit her anthology to the tropes mentioned above, but seeks to define gothic in a less restrictive way:

The surreal, raised to the level of poetry, is the very essence of "gothic": that which display the range, depth, audacity and fantastical extravagance of the human imagination.

She adds:

Many of the writers in this volume are not "gothic" writers but simply---writers. Their inclusion here is meant to suggest the richness and magnitude of the gothic-grotesque vision and the inadequacy of genre labels if by "genre" is meant mere formula.

Here is the link for a list of stories and authors included within this book.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Meet Me In The Moon Room

I have just ordered a copy of Ray Vukcevich's Meet Me In The Moon Room. To find out why, read his short story Whisper. (It only takes 5 mins!).

Meet Me In The Moon Room has special significance for me since I first discovered this book along with M. John Harrison's Things That Never Happen, and Jeff Vandermeer's Cities of Saints and Madmen. It was the first book added on my first Amazon wishlist, in June of 2002, and while I have no idea why I have waited the subsequent five years to make the purchase, I'm certainly glad to finally have it.

Monday, March 12, 2007

People that absolutely DISGUST me

You try to believe that there isn't one human being that is so despicable that they have no redeeming qualities.

Thank you Judy Sugden for proving me wrong.

I wonder what happens to the ones with horrible debilitating genetic deformities that comes with this sort of cross breeding.


Eek I haven't updated here in quite a while, mostly due to prescription issues with my eyes last week. But I will be hopefully doing a lot more this week when it comes to updates.

I have just sped through The Magus, a book that I found fascinating 2/3rds of the way through. I say this because I was somewhat flummoxed by the last 200 pages in which the text took off in a completely different direction than the one that I had expected, and not in a way that I am so enamored with. I guess I am more used to reading material that goes from dark to darker, not from dark to well...I won't spoil the plot. I think I'll have a little more to say later on, when I have mulled the book over.

That's it for now. To Be Continued...

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Why I love The Strand!

I finally managed to pull together all the books that I purchased at The Strand.

Here they are:
Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons

I first heard about this book through my Folio Society catalogue. Sunday Times calls it the funniest book ever written.

Cold Comfort Farm is the story of Flora Poste, who at the age of twenty finds herself destitute and forced to live her backwater relatives on the oddly named Cold Comfort Farm. I imagine this is one of those books that's soothing to read at night, with a cup of hot chocolate, near a roaring fire.

This edition is the Penguin Classics Edition, cover illustrated by Roz Chast.

A Sound of Thunder and Other Stories - Ray Bradbury

I have to confess that I hated Fahrenheit 451; absolutely hated it. I thought the characterizations were cliched and 1-dimensional, did not find the writing appealing, and thought that the plot lacked originality. (I feel this way about many of our acknowledged "great" dystopian novels, but Fahrenheit 451 stood out as one of the worst)

That was a long time ago, and I've always felt that I should give Bradbury another chance.

The Unconsoled - Kazuo Ishiguro

I don't think I would have appreciated Kazuo Ishiguro if I hadn't had help from some very well written reviews online. Mr. Ishiguro is an powerful yet subtle writer. One that I appreciate enormously. I am really happy to get my hands on The Unconsoled.

Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov

It's probably high time that I finished this book. I began Lolita the summer of my freshman (or was it sophomore?) year of college, but never finished it. I'm glad that I waited this long. I am not sure I would have appreciated Nabokov as much as I could now.

I also really like this cover, and think its a fantastic pick for the novel.

Vellum: The Book of All Hours - Hal Duncan

David picked up this one. And I am glad that he did, since I was daunted by the reviews of it online. This one should be a doozy to read. Click on the link to find a review.

The Master and the Margarita - Mikhail Bulgakov

This book keeps on popping up on recommendations lists from authors and writers that I admire. I couldn't really pass up a copy for $5. I love The Strand.

The Tortilla Curtain - T. C. Boyle

T.C. Boyle, like Kate Atkinson, is one of the authors that I discovered by listening to The Bat Segundo Show.

I absolutely love Kate Atkinson, so I'm excited to try T.C. Boyle. (I know, not the soundest of logic, but it works more often than you'd expect).

I am very greatful to Ed Champion (The Bat Segundo Show) and Rick Kleffel (The Agony Column) for providing David and me with an ever growing lists of authors to read.

The Hollow Earth - Rudy Rucker

David wanted to read Rudy Rucker ever after listening to his interview on The Agony Column Audio Archive. Rudy Rucker sounds like a fascinating guy, so David was very happy to discover this at The Strand.

Blue Angel - Francine Prose

I have to confess that this is the only book that I regret picking up. The cover and synopsis pulled me in, but now after looking up a little info on the book, I'm not so sure that I will like it. Still you never know.

The End of Mr. Y - Scarlett Thomas

I was so happy to find a copy of this book at The Strand (it wasn't easy, and I nearly got trampled in the process) I have already finished it and would highly recommend it. Check out my review below for the synopsis.

Twilight of the Superheroes: Stories - Deborah Eisenberg

I'm currently reading this. Almost everyone gave it rave reviews.

I wasn't too fond of the title story ("Twilight of the Superheroes"), and thought the story was too ambiguous for its intentions, and somewhat contrived on the subject matter (9/11). I found the other story I have read "Like It Or Not" to be much more profound. I will write more on this collection in the future.

Read This!

I've been reading The Ghost Writer by John Harwood, and I can't stop.

It's fantastic--- beautifully written, haunting, inventive, and absolutely engrossing. (I'll be sure to provide links to reviews as well as a short synopsis later, although I'm afraid I won't be able to do it justice.)

I'm enjoying it immensely. I have spent the whole day inside with the book, even though this has turned out to be a beautiful and unseasonably warm day. I'm dying to find out what happens next, but maybe its time to go outside and get a breath of fresh air, and savor the anticipation of finishing the book tonight.

I usually don't have so much self control, but it would be a pity to stay in on such a beautiful day.

Oh the pleasurable dilemmas of a Saturday afternoon. If only all my days were like this.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Our Weekend

It was Cindy's birthday this past weekend. We went to New York City for a day, a really long day, that culminated with Spamalot. Here are some pictures we took during our day in New York City :

Here are a couple of really creepy dolls we saw at F.A.O. Schwarz

This is me and Patrick

This is Cindy. I forgot the bear's name.

And a blood thirsty smurf.

The End of Mr. Y

I'm sitting here looking at a copy f Deborah Eisenberg's Twilight of the Superheroes, and wondering if I should start it. The reason for my hesitation, is the mental fatigue from finishing the last book that I read. The book in question is The End of Mr. Y by Scarlett Thomas.

The End of Mr. Y is about a book, a curse, and a woman. There is also a smattering of mice. We will get to the mice later.

Ariel Manto is a PhD student who has developed an fascination for a book. A book written by an obscure 19th century author, a book which is rumored to be cursed. Then one day Ariel goes into a second-hand bookshop and finds the book.

Disregarding the curse, Ariel begins to read The End of Mr. Y which inevitably leads her down a drug-induced rabbit-hole into a world called the Troposphere. In the Troposphere, Ariel learns the ability to enter the mind via a simulation much like a computer game.

Her first trip through the mind of her neighbor, two mice, and a cat, leads Ariel to question her own sanity. However, when two sinister men appear on the scene threatening her life, and looking for the book, Ariel realizes that she has come upon something that is frighteningly real.

The narrative flies along at a break-neck speed as Ariel tries to resolve the mystery of the book, the Troposphere, and why she is being hunted down. In the process of her flight, she learns how to travel through human thoughts, and meets the god of Mice.

Depending on your taste and interpretation, the plot of The End of Mr. Y can be perceived as intriguing, trippy, or ludicrous. One librarythinger even tagged the book as chick-lit. I guess when the collective female population decides to stop worrying about our weight, start chatting about philosophy, and begin to cut ourselves to feel alive, then maybe we can call this chick-lit. (I'm not saying that we don't already do this, I'm just saying that I don't consider this the sort of thing that you look for when you read chick-lit.) Trying to categorize this book will make your head hurt. If you haven't read it, then don't believe anything anyone tells you about this novel. You can't define this book with catch-phrases. And if you are looking for comfort, you will not find it between these pages.

The greatest thing about the novel, aside from its ideas on philosophy, science, and theology, is the main character.

Ms. Thomas creates a fully realized character in Ariel, one so convincing that for two-thirds of the book, I felt that Ariel and Ms. Thomas were one, and I was reading a journal rather than a novel. I found this feeling surprising due to the fantastical nature of the plot, but believe that it stands as evidence to the deftness of Ariel's characterization.

Ariel's character is defined by it's subtleties. Her aberrancy, like most people's, lay under the surface of her character, and allow her to be 3-dimensional. They give her depth, but because of their subtlety and complexity, allow her to escape generalizations. I found myself deeply engaged with her character throughout the novel.

The End of Mr. Y is the sort of book that asks you to question your beliefs of reality. In fact it may turn your world upside down with its many suggestions, and ideas. How you react to this will determine whether you enjoy this novel.

That is not to say that there weren't certain glitches along the way--- some of the conversations were lengthy and self-indulgent, and I found the ending to be a little too nicely wrapped up for my taste.

Still despite it's zany premise, and its narrative indulgence, The End of Mr. Y holds up amazing well under scrutiny as an entertaining and believable novel of ideas.