Tag Archives: fiction

February Reading

Currently finishing A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History by Manuel DeLanda. Fascinating re-thinking of history using nonlinear metaphors, but sometimes I wonder if he pushes the metaphors too far; I don’t have enough background knowledge to say either way. I’ve got They Thought They Were Free (via pushcx) from the library which I’ll start this weekend. I’ve been very into history lately.

For fiction, Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth. Just started it a few days ago. It’s entertaining, but I don’t know how historically accurate it is. Follett was previously a thriller writer, and you can tell from some parts of the story. Much faster moving than Great Expectations and Dharma Bums, both of which I allowed to go half-finished from last month…

Forty-four percent of the way through the complete Sherlock Holmes works on Kindle and Mycroft is finally introduced:

“My dear Watson,” said he, “I cannot agree with those who rank modesty among the virtues. To the logician all things should be seen exactly as they are, and to underestimate one’s self is as much a departure from truth as to exaggerate one’s own powers. When I say, therefore, that Mycroft has better powers of observation than I, you make take it that I am speaking the exact and literal truth.”

“You wonder,” said my companion, “why it is that Mycroft does not use his powers for detective work. He is incapable of it.”
“But I thought you said—”
“I said that he was my superior in observation and deduction. If the art of the detective began and ended in reasoning from an arm-chair, my brother would be the greatest criminal agent that ever lived. But he has no ambition and no energy. He will not even go out of his way to verify his own solutions, and would rather be considered wrong than take the trouble to prove himself right. Again and again I have taken a problem to him, and have received an explanation which has afterwards proved to be the correct one. And yet he was absolutely incapable of working out the practical points which must be gone into before a case could be laid before a judge or jury.”

From the climactic final pages of Catch-22:

Yossarian crossed quickly to the other side of the immense avenue to escape the nauseating sight and found himself walking on human teeth lying on the drenched, glistening pavement near splotches of blood kept sticky by the pelting raindrops poking each one like sharp fingernails. Molars and broken incisors lay scattered everywhere. He circled on tiptoe the grotesque debris and came near a doorway containing a crying soldier holding a saturated handkerchief to his mouth, supported as he sagged by two other soldiers waiting in grave impatience for the military ambulance that finally came clanging up with amber fog lights on and passed them by for an altercation on the next block between a single civilian Italian with books and a slew of civilian policemen with armlocks and clubs. The screaming, struggling civilian was a dark man with a face white as flour from fear. His eyes were pulsating in hectic desperation, flapping like bat’s wings, as the many tall policemen seized him by the arms and legs and lifted him up. His books were spilled on the ground. “Help!” he shrieked shrilly in a voice strangling in its own emotion, as the policemen carried him to the open doors in the rear of the ambulance and threw him inside. “Police! Help! Police!” the doors were shut and bolted, and the ambulance raced away. There was a humorless irony in the ludicrous panic of the man screaming for help to the police while policemen were all around him. Yossarian smiled wryly at the futile and ridiculous cry for aid, then saw with a start that the words were not ambiguous, realized with alarm that they were not, perhaps, intended as a call for police but as a heroic warning from the grave by a doomed friend to everyone who was not a policeman with a club and a gun and a mob of other policemen with clubs and guns to back him up. “Help! Police!” the man cried, and he could have been shouting of danger.

Apocalyptic and ironic depiction of mob-rule and the corrupting-power phenomenon that has become known via the Stanford prison experiment.

A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean — Sometimes You Just Can’t Help

A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean

Every once in a while you find a book that speaks to you in a way you don’t understand. The story in itself ebbs and flows like the tide of water on a beach of characters that teach you more about yourself than you can consciously comprehend. The elegant prose so enraptures you in its profundity that you find yourself questioning whether you are remembering a part of the book or a first-hand experience—or that you have imaginary dialogues with the characters, as if they entrusted to you a part of themselves that intimately found its way into your conscience—and the winding narrative contains in it a symbolism that intrigues in a uniquely unorthodox, enigmatic fashion.

I’ve found very few of those kind of books.

A River Runs Through It is one of those books.

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The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho — Follow Your Personal Legend

I’m smack in the middle of a personal challenge to read at least one book every week. Because of school and work, I’m currently 13 books behind and playing catch-up. The erudition section of this blog is my attempt to chronicle my challenge and galvanize a lifetime of curiosity and learning. If you have read any of these books before, or happen to pick one up and find it interesting, I’d love to hear your thoughts too.


The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

For a long time I didn’t read fiction, even after some of my favorite authors and idols insisted that it helped them become better writers. I always believed that, aside from a few superstar novels, fiction couldn’t teach me anything I couldn’t learn from real-life.

I now see that as an extremely myopic view of fiction. When you read a book, you shouldn’t just read the book. Look deeper and try and get inside the author’s head. Why would she phrase a sentence this way, or why would he reveal such-and-such about this character at this point in the book? You don’t learn just from the words that are written on the page, but from which words are written, the way they are written, and the structure and story of the book in whole.

That said, The Alchemist is… Continue reading