Friday, November 26, 2004

Full moon, too many books and too little time

Have been so busy looking for something incredible to read, I haven't been up for recording the less than amazing stuff I've started. However, a few deserve recognition. For instance, TANTRIKA by Asra Q. Nomani, THE WIND-UP BIRD CHRONICLE and THE CALLIGRAPHER by Edward Dock.

TANTRIKA is written by a journalist and is fact rather than fiction. Setting out to do a story on "tantra" the pop sex yoga craze of the new new age, Nomani rediscovers her spiritual and genealogical roots. Raised a Muslim, her family once had ties in Sufism. Hindu links to Sufi spirituality are uncovered from deep beneath the socio-political divide of modern India. With "tantra" there would seem to be no "there" there, and Nomani's inability to define tantra is part of the success of the book. Yes, it would seem tantra is about mysticism and sex, magic and our darker instincts, making it a no-no in traditional Hindu society the same way Kabalah is in Judaism today. Noman's exploration of the many western attempts to package and market tantra through workshops, etc. is interesting in that it reinforces an instinctive awareness that you can't buy the kind of "awareness" necessary to a true spirituality, regardless of the school of thought.

(Tantra Links 1 2 3 4 5 6)

Dock's CALLIGRAPHER tells a good story, but the best part of the novel is the nod to John Donne's poetry. That and the fact that it inspired me to get together the tools to learn calligraphy myself.

(Caligraphy Links)1 2

THE WIND-UP BIRD CHRONICLE is difficult to describe. The story proceeds slowly and I'm only about half way through it. There is magic in synchronicity. There is a sense of an insatiable curiousity kidnapping the cat that propels the story from one unlikely situation to another. Murakami requires that we respect kidnapping of cats has no relationship with catnapping.

(Synchronicity Links) 1 2 3

Unread, undead

Titles mentioned in post before last have not been given up on, merely set aside. This, for me, is always indicative of a less than perfect match for my current reading needs as well as the possiblity that the reading matter in question is not the best of the best.

I read lots of stuff that is only mediocre. Mediocrity doesn't necessarily mean of no redeeming value. I probably review at least 50 books a month for readability. Of those 50, I may actually start 10 and finish 5. Needless to say, there is never a lack of reading matter. But, the search for THE book of the moment is a neverending quest and when the right book is found, the quest ends fleetingly as I lose myself completely in the author's world, only to begin again, and again, and again: each new book a new consciousness to explore.

Books left lying about while I dissolve into the charmed creations of gifted writer of the moment are much like the undead, living in limbo until I return to infuse them with blood.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

new moon, new titles

Something new and different by Ellen Ullman called The Bug.

Finished tetralogy by Djerassi see below. Would say NO was best of the bunch. Now reading his Marx, Deceased. Plan to go on and read his non-fiction book about the Pill.

Ellen Ullman's List

Carl Djerassi's List

Monday, August 16, 2004

Carl Djerassi

Started with NO, even though it wasn't the first novel in his series, but it was enough to convince me to find the others and get up to speed. Since I would rather wait for the movie than see it on the news, learning about science breakthroughs in fiction is painless learning (sort of like getting a MA at the University of Hawaii). The title, NO, stands for nitric oxide BTW.

Djerrasi being the hailed as the father of the Pill, the implications of "no" to the whole feminist movement is a sort of undercurrent that isn't really addressed but is unavoidable for those of us who grew up in the 70's. The issues surrounding a woman's right to choose is here given a new dimension in relation to scientific progress in the field of reproduction.

The classical question of "What do women want?" is addressed by Djerassi by giving them what they want, power over their own biology as well as control over the male's ability to perform. Women have been between the proverbial rock and hard place, when it comes to sex. If we are aggressive, giving into our desires the same way men have historically, we risk intimidating the male to the point of erectile dysfunction. If we are passive, we lose the ability to take our own pleasure and must be dependent on the expertise, or lack thereof, of the male, once again feeding into a machismo that has little or no basis in a male's actual ability to please.

Djerassi has wedded his female characters to scientific advances giving birth to a woman of power and a male willing to rely on viagra-type methods to maintain erection; thus not being dependent on a feeling of superiority for gratification.

And yet, as we all know, the largest erogenous zone is the brain, so merely tackling the physical problems does't quite solve everything. In his fictional approach to addressing the problem, Djerassi doesn't let us down. He explores the psychology of role reversal and gives a believable resolution, though perhaps just a bit too romantic for reality. But, hey, that's part of the beauty of fiction. They can all live happily every after, or at least until the final period on the last sentence.

This weekend I started The Bourbaki Gambit, another of this tetrology, again not in sequence. More to come on this one, but suffice for the moment to say I am not disappointed.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Exit to Reality or Proteus and Euclid: A Love Story

Edith Forbes is new to me though she's written two other novels that I will be reading. Exit to Reality is a ghost in the machine type utopian novel. Characters uncover State secrets that reveal a world, thought to be real, instead to be virtual. Interesting philosophical questions are raised and explored: Would one rather have a virtual life free of the horrors of over-population etc or live wallowing in excrement known as the reality.

The brain's response to neuropeptides and stimulus as recipient of computer programming creates an interesting backdrop for a metaphysical question historically posed by both Hindus and Buddhists regarding maya, or what is real and what illusion.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Marge Piercy

Met Piercy at a library conference in New Orleans a few years ago. Well, met is an overstatement. I introduced myself when I was getting her signature on her book Sleeping with Cats. I'm not much on celebrities, but I wanted to share with her that my astrology tutor had named her daughter after her character and novel by the same name, Vida. I mean, if I were an author, that would be something I would want to know.

Piercy had a quiet, almost haunted demeanor. You could tell she would rather have been almost anywhere than at the center of attention of a room full of people. Not a particularly strong speaker, I do remember her sustaining my interest, but that's about it. Mostly, I had the sense that she had one foot out the door from the moment she mounted the podium. But that was ok, I would feel the same, were I in he same position. In fact this probably endeared her to me more than anything she might have said in a speech.

Anyway, I've just finished her 2003 novel The Third Child. I've read it over the course of two days, which is always a sign of total and utter engagement. There is something in Piercy that reminds me of Doris Lessing, a favorite author. Her writing is so personal, as if the entire novel were a letter between friends.

Other works of hers I've read include Vida, Woman on the Edge of Time, He She It, Small Chanes, Braided Lives, Summer People and City of Darkness, City of Light. She's written more and I look forward to ingesting the lot. I've been saving her autobiographical Sleeping with Cats. There are a few books that I know I will love but don't read because I enjoy savoring the idea of the book and the anticipation of reading it as much as I know I will enjoy actually consuming it. And, let's face it. That's what we do. We gobble. If reading were eating, I'd be obese. If reading were a controlled substance, I'd be faced with ongoing interventions. Viva la livre!

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Bruce Sterling

The Zenith Angle deserves some recognition, as do all of Sterling's books. This latest was especially interesting as he mentions the SR71, or Blackbird (secret US spy plane).

At our library last year we had a fundraiser, compliments of a former Blackbird pilot, in honor of the centennial of the year of flight. Not really expecting to enjoy it, I was there because it was work. Was I ever wrong. What a treat.

Incredible shots taken in flight on a plane that can make it across country in 45 minutes. Sterling's story didn't really have anything to do with this plane, though he mentions it more than once in relation to a special tool made of titanium (the SR71 was made of the same, allowing it to sustain phenomenally high intensity heat).

In his latest novel, Sterling relocates us to a reality so multidimensional that it could really be real. So far of all his novels the only one that hasn't played out inside my head just like watching a movie was The Difference Engine, which he co-authored. I had a discussion, an argument really, with the guy that turned me on to cyberpunk some years ago. He was in awe, enthralled with Gibson and Sterling and aspired to write as well as they did. Having an English lit MA, I was sure that his goal was shortsighted. I delegated his favorite cyberpunk authors to popular fiction and advised him to read "real" literature for inspiration for his writing.

The question in my mind now is the old one of "what is art?" Perhaps literary artform for the 21st century will be novelists who are able to show us movies inside our heads, incorporating high tech improbabilities with world politics, and a little romantic humor thrown in just because. Even in the new millenium we are still strangely human after all.

Saturday, April 17, 2004

Hawaii

Reading SHARK DIALOGUES by Kiana Davenport reminds me of another book set in Hawaii, Linda Spalding's DAUGHTERS OF CAPTAIN COOK. Having lived in Hawaii for five years, I am especially sensitive to descriptions of locale and characters unique to the Islands. In fact, this brings up a noteworthy point regarding my personal reading addiction. I've moved around quite a bit in my 49 years, and each new environment has allowed deeper levels of access to worlds not my own. I don't think one has to visit Sri Lanka, for instance, in order to enjoy Michael Ondaatje's RUNNING IN THE FAMILY. However, if one were to spend time there, his writing would awaken memories for the reader. These memories are what enrich our reading of fiction, and whether of place, character or emotion, when reading we draw from an immense warehouse of images and feelings that lend shade and hue to the words on the page. Of course, we learn from our reading what the writer experienced, but simultaneously we learn about selves as we compare the writer's experience with our own.

I'll be writing more on Shark Dialogues later along with further mention of Linda Spalding and Michael Ondaatje (once husband and wife, BTW), as I'm also currently reading Spalding's The Paper Wife and Ondaatje's Running in the Family. The Paper Wife isn't as satisfying as Captain Cook's Daughters, although of all of Ondaatje's works (including Booker Prize winner The English Patient) this short autobiographical work about his family is the only thing of his I've been able to sink my teeth into.

Perhaps more later also on reader as vampire (see children's book The Ink Drinker for amusing example.)

Saturday, April 03, 2004

John Fowles

Have been reading Fowles' Daniel Martin in the bath lately. Was assigned The French Lieutenant's Woman in undergrad Modern British Lit and later saw the movie. Reading companion has mentioned Fowles' The Tree as being a book read in high school that dramatically affected all future thought processes. (The Tree is nonfiction, so not something that has prompted me to indulge thus far.) Daniel Martin is similar to FLW in that Fowles uses a structural twist to create an effect of pure genius. In FLW the twist comes at the end of the novel when we are given alternate endings. It's been quite some time since I read this novel, but if memory serves the perspective changes with the ending so you get two points of view on how the story ends. Fowles uses the same effect in DM to create a cat seat for the reader from which to judge the psychological growth and maturity of the characters. Fowles' characters are roundly portrayed so that the overall sense of familiarity the reader is invited to bring to the text becomes kaleidoscopic when combined with the added dimension of roving point of view.

Sunday, March 21, 2004

heroin heroines

How to Stop Time: Heroin from A to Z by Ann Marlowe was facinating, even prompting me to want to try the same method of alphabetizing some aspect of my life into manageable vignettes. Somehow, however, I think success at this would be somewhat dependent on the kind of obsessive-compulsive personality to which Marlowe attributes her addictive personality. I.e., I don't think my life can be measured out in coffee spoons...

Still, a good read. I tried recommending it to a friend with a husband, at that time, in successful rehab. I thought it might be enlightening to read about the junkie mind set. But she was quite disgusted by the book and I got the feeling she intended to get it out of the house as soon as possible. We don't really want to analyze this too closely, as she is my best friend, analysis being best performed on strangers at a party as a parlor trick.

The book I'm currently reading, same topic, Ellen Miller's like being killed, has more the masochistic as opposed to obsessive-compulsive junkie heroine (pun intended.) Quite painful to read, Miller's novel is well-written but her character, unlike Marlowe's, is disgusting, wallowing in self-degradation. I must have started this book before and put it down for this reason. Episodes in the first part rang familiar, specifically a little section where she is subjugated to s/m humilation in a brief fling with her plumber, complete with Freudian overtones. Second time around, I'm still reading now over half-way through, though I have been surprised with myself. Suprised that so much of the novel I didn't remember the first time. The whole book has become an exciting exercise in conscious repression. If this novel is in any way autobiographical, Miller's courage in dredging up the slime in her unconscious to write about it is the secret to the strength of character I at first read missed.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Joyce Carol Oates

What I've read by Oates has been good, although I can't really say I'm enjoying this novel. It's beautifully written but not the kind of subject you can enjoy. The characters aren't the kind you want to identify with, all being emotionally crippled in one way or another. Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang, with that great heroine played in the movie by Angelina Jolie, has been my favorite of hers so far. The first thing of Oates I ever read was On Boxing, nonfiction and somewhat autobiograhical. I've shared it with a number of people and the feedback even from non-avid readers has been positive. The YA book, Big Mouth & Ugly Girl, I read after listening to the book on tape. Strong 'be yourself' message. Oates has written so much that I haven't read. Given the sampling I have, I would say it's all good. The only question would be choosing the titles that appeal to you, as she seems to be all over the place in subject and theme. Blonde will be the next of hers on my 'to read' list, as I've just noticed on the inside flap of The Tatooed Girl that it's a novel. For some reason I thought it was a Hollywood starlets bio of some kind. Hmmm, definitely, can't judge a book by it's title.

Sunday, March 14, 2004

psychiatrist

Read the final page of Mark Fabi's Wyrm to discover in the brief author's bio at the back on the book that Fabi is a practicing psychiatrist. Is cyberpunk now that mainstream, or is it just now upstream. Anyway, a couple of ideas that were notable from the novel: ...just as the churches were intended to take the place of the older pagan holy places...the brain...structurally and functionally, the newer part of our brains like the neocortex cover over the older reptilian brain underneath, just like the old megaliths covered over by later churches. But the snake is still there, biding its time. And, emotions are a rather primitive form of communication that is essential in establishing and maintaining social interactions.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Richard Powers

Just mailed the above title to my little brother for his 40th birthday. We are a reading family. This novel is about the power of story to heal. One of the reasons I wrote my first novel, was writing fictionally is a way to talk about things that don't fit into ordinary, rational frames of reference. I've read all of Powers, though I haven't finished his Three Farmers on Their Way to a Dance. Goldbug Variations was probably my favorite. It's about a librarian and the computer world, plus a mystery told via hindsight. Everything my little heart could desire. (Although I did give this book to a friend whose opinion I value and he didn't like it. Said it was too informative for his fiction tastes. Takes all kinds.) Galatea 2.2 was cyberpunkish though a little too dry to appeal to most cp fans.

The Time of Our Singing was slow going but about half-way through I became obsessed, especially as I have bi-racial extended family. Gain was a politically themed novel on environmental health issues. Liked it but it didn't make as big an impression as some of this others. Plowing the Dark was another cyberpunkish novel. Since I'm a devotee of the genre, I liked it immensely. Briefly, to recap the two cp novels, Plowing was virtual reality and Galatea was AI.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

CyberPunK

My dessert for the week is Mark Fabi's Wyrm. Very cool. With all the grief I get from our IT department about security, it's fun to read about "real" issues, like in the novel where a wyrm/virus type program has become sentient. Fabi raises questions of what makes for consciousness or how we define conscious awareness. I love books that make me think and entertain me at the same time. It's sort of like working vacations.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

One of the more interesting books I've read recently is Hallucinating Foucault. The author is Patricia Duncker. An appropriate title for the first post to this site, Duncker brings to life the love affair between writers and readers. I've almost finished another of hers, The Deadly Space Between, and am going to track down The Doctor as well. Reading for gourmands. Tastes like more.