Saturday, July 18
July Reading Stack
Since school started, haven't really had much time left for personal reading. I got my copy of Zadie Smith's The Autograph Man around registration period, and I'm barely a third of the novel in. However, that scant reading lead me to a curiosity about the musician Leonard Cohen and how he's just goyish. The novel has this running commentary about which things/people/habits, etc are Jewish and which are goyish. Cohen stepping into a cafe placing a very green order of soy mocha latte is goyish. It's difficult to explain if you haven't read the book. The novel is also described as "postmodern." Now there's a term which people are always hardup to explain.
Last weekend, faced with the prospect of having no book to read, I ducked into a trusty Booksale branch and got a copy of Alex Garland's The Tesseract, which is set in Manila--lots of crime, dirty little hotels with naked bulbs and blood on the sheets, weather so hot that the lead guy opted to stay inside a McDonald's and watched rich little kids have their blasted kiddie parties. The first chapter reminds me so much of the opening chapter of The Beach. It also reminds me that I still have a cling-wrapped copy of The Coma somewhere in my shelves in Manila. Maybe Garland is a writer best appreciated when you're in your early 20s and with a good head trip.
Also still in its original plastic wrap is The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service by Eiji Otsuka and Housui Yamazaki. The cover is a nice brown craft paper and orange, and the back cover features a body with the parts cut into parts and meant to look like a paper doll that you can join together with staples or something. The series tag line is "Your body is their business!" According to the blurb, Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service is about "five young students at a Buddhist university find there's little call for their job skills in today's Tokyo...among the living, that is! But their studies give them a direct line to the dead--the dead who are still trapped in their corpses, and can't move on to their next reincarnation! Whether you died from suicide, murder, sickness, or madness, they'll carry your body anywhere it needs to go to free your soul." Given the topic, the plastic is there to warn off those with weaker stomachs and those under 18 who can't properly appreciate this odd blend of Pushing Daisies, CSI, and maybe Conan the Kid Detective. (The undead also reminds me of Pizzeria Kamikaze, an Israeli comic book wherein all the suicides end up in a world similar to ours, except everyone there died by their own hands and given another chance at, uhm, living. First followed it in Bipolar and it's been turned to a movie: The Wristcutters. Anyway.) There are 5 stories in the volume, so the episodic nature allows you to jump and enjoy one of the adventures. The pullback is that this is just Volume 1 of 9 (as of last count) and it's not exactly as cheap as the other mangas, so following the adventures will be costly.
The last and newest one on my stack is Xiaolu Guo's 20 Fragments of a Ravenous Youth. I read part (or most?) of it by hanging out in MPH and Borders in Kuala Lumpur last year. It's about a farm girl who tries her luck in Beijing by being a film extra. It's funny and (a lot of people will stone me for this) quite different from all the other Chinese writers I've previously read who have written about Mao era China. The book cover is rather pretty. But of course, the other attraction is that Fenfang works in the film business and that has always been interesting to me. 20 Fragments was published in Chinese eleven years ago, and only recently translated into English. Since then, Guo has written one other novel, A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers, which was her first try at writing in English. Also read bits of that last year, but alas, I was too poor to buy it and now it's not available in the bookstores in KL anymore. But I'm looking forward to finishing not just 20 Fragments but all these books really, really soon.