The Book That Defeated Me

So. My last post was three months ago. In those three months, I haven’t read a single book. I have tried to read one but in three months, I have been reading the same book. Or rather, I have had the same book lying on my night table next to me and then I have been ignoring it for three months.
I managed 214 pages of it and then … nothing more. And the strange thing is, that I didn’t dislike it. I liked it. I liked it when I was reading it. But I forgot about it when not reading it and if you ask me now, I wouldn’t be able to tell you precisely what it was about. That may be because it was a 800+ pages book and I haven’t reached the part where it all comes together and starts making sense – it might also be because this is not a book for me.
And that bugs me.
Because I want to like this book. I want to like this author.
mdT2qD0PAy_ect1IYhvl5gQ-2The book I’m talking about, the book that has completely destroyed me and made a deserted wasteland of this blog, is Don DeLillo’s magnum opus Underworld. And there are parts of it I really, really like. I have written down quotes and impressions and they are all positive and things I enjoyed. But not enough to keep reading apparently. And then I stopped reading for the first time in 7 years.
When I have read other bloggers write about reading slumps and how to defeat them, I have to admit I have felt a bit superior. A reading slump couldn’t positively happen to me, I thought. I love reading too much, I thought. Reading slumps are for others who just don’t care about books the way I do, I snickered.
Watch me cover in shame!
Reading slumps can happen to everybody, I know now. I should have known earlier, of course, since when I started using Goodreads back in ’07, I was just coming out of a slump caused by too much studying. This was a time when I felt guilty whenever I read something that wasn’t related directly to my master’s thesis.
From this slump, I have learned two things. The first one is also going to sound arrogant, just like my idea that I was immune against reading slumps. A non-reader is just a person who hasn’t met the right book yet. I’m back to reading and I’m just loving it. I’m completely engulfed in this book and am enjoying myself so so much.
The second thing I’ve learned is, that my way back to reading, is fantasy literature. Last thing, I used DragonLance novels mostly and loved it. This time I’m reading urban fantasy – the Jim Dresden novels. I read the first two last year – and I almost finished the third one last night but the World Cup kind of distracted me.
Still, even though the last months have been filled with distractions – I started crocheting, I started trying to journal more in my moleskine and I discovered smash books – I’m hoping that I’m back to my normal dose of reading daily. And with that, I’m hoping I’m back to blogging and I’m hoping that there’s still someone out there reading…

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Top Ten Books On My Winter TBR

toptentuesday-1This is a difficult list to make. I sort of have two lists in my head. One with the books I really want to read – and the other with books I ought to read because they are part of my goal for the year. Even though there’s not much left of 2013, I’m not willing yet to give up completing my goal so I’ve chosen to write the second list (with bits from the first list thrown in!).
As always, the Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

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  1. John Irving: Widow for One Year. Each year I set a goal of reading a book by each of my favorite authors. I only need to finish this one to have completed this goal and I’ve already read about a third of it and so far I love it.
  2. Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl. I have been postponing this for years. I’m not sure why I keep on procrastinating on this one but I think I have to read it this year or I never will. And it’s one of those books that you really ought to read and I think I will appreciate it so there’s really no reason to not just get on with it.
  3. Doctor Who and Philosophy. I try to read some non-fiction every year and I haven’t been doing very good this year. So I’m currently working my way through this one. It seems fitting since it’s the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Year to be reading this book.
  4. VC Andrews: Flowers in the Attic. So when I saw that my book twin Heather had joined the Insatiable Book Sluts blog and was hosting a readalong, I was immediately interested. Of course. So I plan on reading this book even though I’ve never heard of it before. It sounds like a great read and something that will give me a breather before I tackle some more of the leftovers from my list of reading goals.
  5. Thomas Ligotti: Teatro Grotesco. Every year my boyfriend, my best friend and me challenge each other and decides a book for each of the others. I have already read the one my boyfriend chose for me (Martin Amis: Lionel Asbo) but I need to read this one as well. And I have to admit – I have zero interest in it. It’s short stories, it’s horror. Sighs.
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  6. Don DeLillo: Underworld. And if that one wasn’t bad enough, there’s this huge novel by Don DeLillo. I have a hard time with DeLillo. I really don’t get him. I sense there’s something – but I can’t quite understand what he’s bring to do with his novels. And this one I’ve already tried to read but failed. And I never fail at finishing books. So I dread this one. A lot!
  7. Frederick Copleston: A History of Philosophy. And there’s this one … I was intimidating to begin it and I’m still intimidated by it … I’m really not sure if I will get through this one this year!
  8. Margaret Atwood. I have on my list that I have to read something from Margaret Atwood this year and I really want to! I just don’t own anything by her so I’m hoping to receive some of her books for Christmas.
  9. Arthur Conan Doyle: The Complete Sherlock Holmes. So I have read – and enjoyed – about 30% of this one. But – I still have to read 70% more. And it’s been a long while since I read it so I am actually planning to start at the beginning… I’m starting to feel like I have been a bit too optimistic about what I was able to read this year!
  10. Some sort of non-fiction. At this point I’m not sure what this last book will be about – or whether I will even make it this far…

So that’s it for me. If I’ll make it through these books this year, I will be thrilled and absolutely ecstatic. Unfortunately, the chances of that happening are really very low indeed. But I’ll try! Luckily there’s not that many work days left this year and I have a rather long Christmas holiday so if I just prioritize reading every day for the rest of the year, maybe I have a small chance… Well, not really, but it’s fun to try!

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The books taken off from the 2012 version of the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die

So about three weeks ago I wrote about the new version of the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die and the 12 books that have been added to the just published version. At that point, I couldn’t find out which books had been taken off the list – but now I do. So here’s the list of the 12 books, the editors no longer feel we should read before we die.

  • Edward St. Aubyn: Mothers Milk
  • Paul Auster: Invisible
  • Paul Auster: The Music of Chance
  • Pat Barker: The Ghost Road
  • Peter Carey: Jack Maggs
  • Don DeLillo: Falling Man
  • Ian McEwan: Enduring Love
  • Haruki Murakami: Kafka on the Shore
  • Ardal O’Hanlan: The Talk of the Town
  • Ricardo Piglia: Money To Burn
  • Ali Smith: The Accidental
  • William Trevor: Felicia’s Journey

So these books are no longer worth reading apparently. I’ve only read two of these – Don DeLillo’s Falling Man and Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore – and I haven’t read enough of the rest of the books still on the list to really be able to say if that’s true. I think it’s okay to take off one book by an author to add a better book by that author instead – however, I loved Kafka on the Shore. I haven’t yet gotten around to reading 1Q84 which is now on the list so I don’t know if it’s as good or maybe even better than Kafka on the Shore. But I’m definitely willing to give it a go.

Don DeLillo, as I’ve written before, confuses me. I’ve read Mao IIFalling Man and parts of Underworld and I really don’t get what all the fuss is about. I simply don’t get him or his work. I don’t understand quite what it is he wants with his books. I liked parts of Falling Man, parts I thought were brilliant, but overall, I didn’t like it all that much.  I gave up on Underworld and although I plan on giving it another go this year, I’m really not looking forward to it. And I don’t remember anything about Mao II except that I was disappointed in it. I really feel most like giving DeLillo this last chance and then give up on him, if I don’t like this book. But I’m pretty sure that there are more DeLillo books on the list so maybe I’ll just push them down so his books will be the last books I read from the list – DeLillo’s books and American Psycho

But these books are off the list – what do you think about it?

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April 2012 – Monthly Wrap Up

April started with a short 9-11 theme where I read three books related to 9-11. I really like it when you get to look at a subject from different authors’ point of view. I loved it when I read a lot about Charles Dickens’ The Mystery of Edwin Drood and I have enjoyed it with these 9-11 books too. I really have to incorporate that more in my reading in the future! But … not much else happened with regard to reading this month.

Again this month I had hoped to make it through 6 books, but darn that Clarissa. She’s standing in the way of my making it to more than 4. I’m not sure exactly what happened this month. 3 out of the 4 books were rather short – and the last one, Battle Royale, was long (624 pages) but easy to read so even though I spent time reading Clarissa, I should have read at least 5 books. And this means that I’m only 2 books ahead now. I had hoped to be 4 books ahead at this point – I need to build up a solid lead to prepare for Les Miserables later this year …

So – here’s what I did manage to finish this month.

  1. Jonathan Safran Foer: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. An incredibly book about a boy loosing his father in the 9-11 attacks and trying to come to term with it. 5 stars.
  2. Don DeLillo: Falling Man. A survivor from the attacks on the World Trade Centers try to come to terms with his life and figure out how to put his life back together while a performance artist reenacts one of the victims’ fall all over town. 3 stars.
  3. Amy Waldman: The Submission. What if a Muslim American designs the winning monument for Ground Zero? What would happen? A good book that manages to evoke the feeling that was dominating in the time after the 9-11 attacks. 3 stars.
  4. Koushun Takami: Battle Royale. 40 students is put on an island, given weapons and told to fight each other ’till only one is still alive. The Hunger Games for adults – with much more violence. 5 stars.

I only read 1495 pages this month. Normally, I read more than 2000 pages a month so I’m not sure what happened. Yes, I did read some Clarissa, but still. I did that too in the previous months. And in some of them I read more than 2000 pages as well as a book on my kindle and some Clarissa. So this month was just bad. And I don’t know why…

So I did rather lousy with my challenges this month. I did read 3 books for my Mount TBR Reading Challenge so I have now read 13 books so far for this challenge. So I’m more than halfway there so this is going good. I did read another bonus chunkster this month for the Chunkster ChallengeBattle Royale with it’s 624 pages. I still need to read one book which is greater than 750 pages so I didn’t make any progress with this challenge. I didn’t read anything by either Haruki Murakami or Neil Gaiman, so no progress with either of these challenges. I’m struggling along with the Clarissa read-a-long – I’m finding it really hard to take time from the other books I’m reading to sit down with Clarissa. So I’m behind but not a lot and I will catch up at some point. I’m stubborn enough to finish this book this year (at least I’m pretty sure I’m that stubborn…!). And finally, my own challenge, my list of 25 books that I want to read this year … and I managed to read … none. Zero. Zilch.

Since I didn’t read even one book from my list of 25 books, I have some catching up to do. Since I don’t want to play catch-up in the last months of this year, I have to get some books read from my list and for the other challenges. So I have to focus on that in May. I plan to finish The City & The City, of course, and probably also Dragonfly in Amber and The Mists of Avalon – and hopefully 1 or two more. And that’s just to catch up! Sighs … But I made this list because I really want to read these books so I just have to buckle down and get to it! And that’s what May is for!

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Don DeLillo: Falling Man (review)

So Don DeLillo … I have had a hard time with Don DeLillo for a while now. I’ve read Mao II several years ago and didn’t really get it and later I tried reading Underworld and I gave it up after 100 or more pages because I didn’t really care about it. But it still sits there on my shelf, mocking me. When I saw this book, I knew I had to have it and give DeLillo another chance. And I plan on trying to read Underworld again later this year so this book is kind of an attempt to summon up my courage for that.

So Falling Man is my re-introduction to Don DeLillo. And I must admit that after having thought about it for some days after finishing it, the main thing I feel is frustrated. This is one of those book where I read it and I keep feeling that there’s something more lurking in it, something lurking just out of the corner of my eye that I just can’t see and just doesn’t get. I feel like I don’t have the proper tools to grasp this novel, unfortunately.

Where Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is about a family who lost a loved one in the 9-11 attack, this family didn’t loose anyone. But they suffered the same loss as every New Yorker did that day – the loss of innocence, of feeling safe. When the terrorists attacked the World Trade Center, Keith was in one of the towers. But he was one of the lucky ones, he managed to get out by walking slowly down the stairs in a line, together with other survivors. Keith got out and walked all the way through the city to his apartment, his old apartment where he used to live with his wife and child before they were separated.

But the 9-11 attack changed things and now Keith and his wife Lianne are trying to get back together, to make it work. But while walking out of the towers, Keith trapped a random suitcase and he decides to return it to it’s owner, Florence. Florence also survived the attack, walking down the stairs just like Keith did. And when Keith and Florence meet, they find that they can speak to each other about their experience in the towers. They meet and talk, they sit in together and eventually, things evolve between them. At least physically. So Keith is cheating on his wife while trying to get back together with her. Still, it’s clear that his relationship with Florence isn’t a real relationship, it’s a way of healing, of coming to terms with things together with someone who experienced it as well.

At the same time as I feel very frustrated with this novel, there are things in it that are truly amazing. I loved how the name Bill Lawson turns out to be a child’s mishearing of Bin Laden. I loved how he showed the kids sitting in their rooms, watching the skies for signs of more planes. Lianne’s group of people with Alzheimer’s, writing what they remember – wanting to remember the attack on the towers but forgetting against their will…

This is a novel about the impact of 9-11. About how it penetrated everything so that everywhere you look, you see the towers. You see the towers crumbling. And you don’t want to see that. The Falling Man is a performance artist who re-enacts a man falling from the towers over and over, all over New York. Lianne sees him once and as everyone else, she is shocked by this. He in some ways embodies the remembrance. Maybe because if you don’t remember history, you are doomed to repeat it? Or maybe because you have to face your fears before you can conquer them? Keith have to go back to the towers to be able to move forward.

The book begins right after the towers were hit. In the chaotic ash-covered streets of New York. And it ends inside the towers in a world where there’s only one thing to focus on – a staircase going down.

  • Title: Falling Man
  • Author: Don DeLillo
  • Publisher: Picador
  • Year: 2007
  • Pages: 246 pages
  • Source: Own Collection
  • Stars: 3 stars out of 5

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Introducing a new theme: 9-11

From my experience of reading several books related to Charles Dickens and his unfinished novel The Mystery of Edwin Drood I have learned, that it brings something extra to the reading experience when you attack a theme from several angles or view points. And because of that, I would like to read more in themes – choose a few books with the same issues or some other relation to each other and read them close together. My Dickens-Drood theme has been a rather huge affair and I’m not done with it yet. But this is not preventing me from reading other themes – especially shorter themes with only a few books.

                             

When something happens, when disaster strikes, it often takes some time before it shows up in fiction and popular culture. It’s been more than 10 years since 9-11 and my impression is that not many authors have dared to write about this theme. I haven’t read any books about it yet – and I have to admit that I haven’t watched any movies with this theme either. But I have three books on my shelves about 9-11 and I’m looking forward to reading them and to see what these three different authors have to say about this theme.

  1. Jonathan Safran Foer: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. The movie version of this was nominated for an Oscar for Best Motion Picture of the Year and the trailer looked interesting. The book looks very different from most other novels with it’s blank pages, pages with only one sentence on it or several pages with pictures of a falling man. Also, Jonathan Safran Foer is an author that I’m looking forward to reading so I’m excited about this.
  2. Don DeLillo: Falling Man. I have not had the best of luck with Don DeLillo so far. I gave up on Underworld and although I have read Mao II it didn’t make a huge impression on me (but I think I had the wrong expectations). This is a novel about a 9-11 survivor and I’m hoping this will change my impression of Don DeLillo – especially since I plan on giving Underworld another try later this year.
  3. Amy Waldman: The Submission. This novel is more about the aftermath of 9-11. It’s not mentioned explicit in this novel that it’s about 9-11 but it’s about a memorial for a devastating terrorist attack. A jury gathers to select what memorial – and the anonymous winner turns out to be an American Muslim. I’m so looking forward to reading this novel!