there's something about these books that really ought to be read during the day ...

… that manifests a desire to be read after midnight once everyone else is asleep.

Battle Royale, now that I’m roughly a third into it, is nauseating, as one would expect, not so much for blood or gore but for the story concept of sending middle school students into an arena to kill each other, all in attempts to control the population.  (Even now, I wonder how The Hunger Games managed not to be so sickening.)  As far as writing goes, it’s neither brilliant nor terrible prose; it’s sparsely and matter-of-factly written; and it works because a more elaborate or heavy-handed prose style would detract from the other values of the book, particularly as a portrait of humanity’s instinct to survive.  If Battle Royale is anything, it’s an excellent study of the human condition in an oppressed and conformative society (arguably allegorical to Japanese society and educational system), and the years have alienated me enough from the film* that I can appreciate the book fully for its own merit instead of drawing comparisons in my head.

Now.  If only I would read this during the day and not after midnight becase I literally had to put a thirty-minute buffer of You Are Beautiful between reading Battle Royale and going to sleep in attempts to keep the bloody nightmares at bay.  Lucky for me, however, I was so exhausted that my dreams are but hazy feelings that won’t be retrieved from the peripheries of my memories.

(*As far as I remember, the film was good, though I will not be watching it again any time soon to confirm my dusty memories.)

everywhere, anywhere, nowhere: book talk.

  • Roland Barthes’ Mourning Diary is written in snippets of thoughts rarely extending more than a few lines each, and it’s a small volume, stocky and sturdy, by looks deceptive because it’s harder to get through than some novels.  Glimpsing into someone’s grief is no easy feat, and I’ve found that this is a book I keep by my Mac and dip into every once in a while when I find my senses becoming dull, absorbing only a few pages at a time before setting it aside again.
  • One of my housemates is an exchange student from Japan, and I noticed on Friday night that she had Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore on her shelf.  Naturally, I had to ask if she’d read him and if she’d read his new novel, and she replied that, yes, she had, all three volumes of it.  The only response I could offer to that was a sigh of envy; 1Q84 doesn’t reach Stateside in English translation until fall 2012; and Murakami Haruki is one of the authors for whom I desire to learn Japanese.
  • Late last week, I broke into my shiny new copy of Demons but am wondering if I should put this one (and other currently readings) on pause for now and focus solely on my current reread of Anna Karenina.  Maybe instead of tackling Proust over the holidays, I’ll aim for Demons and The Brothers Karamazov … all the while sipping heavenly espresso and chowing down meatball subs in San Francisco?  Or pizza slices in Manhattan?  Ought I hoard hopes for potential jaunts to more homey corners of the world this holiday season?

we're playing along to mozart's requiem in d minor

Partly because of my love for this quote, it almost saddens me to admit that, thus far, The Cider House Rules has been a rather lacklustre read.  Granted, this seems a rather unforgiving statement that may be arriving too early because I’m admittedly only 41 pages in, but I’m not of the opinion that it’s too unfair to consider passing on a book when the first forty pages have failed to pique your interest.  The Cider House Rules hasn’t reeled me in like A Prayer for Owen Meany did from the get-go (Owen Meany, however, was an infatuation of sorts that went strong but tapered off near the end when it started to read too long), and, so, considering that my pile of books that must be read continues to grow, I may be placing this on hold for a later day.

Pity.  I plan on getting something inspired by that quote inked on me somewhere some time.  And that quote really was the main reason I picked up anything by Irving, too …

But, it must be said:  A Prayer for Owen Meany has some beautiful, beautiful writing.

a tour de force

Never Let Me Go is a book you read with your stomach done up in knots, with a stone pitching your heart downwards, with tears weighing heavily behind your eyes until they free themselves and fall, uninhibited, during the last fifty pages.  Ishiguro is sparse with his words and guarded with emotion, both factors that feed into the weighty heaviness of the novel, the punch in your gut when the premise of the story is laid out in stark black and white before you and you have to stop pretending that these characters might chance upon happy endings.  Much like Ruth and Tommy and Kathy are, at the end, you’re resigned, not in the bitter, unsatisfied way but in the calm and peaceful way, with their fate and with yours as a reader who turns the last page and inhales sharply, wishing there was more, that the blank space beneath the final sentence was like the other blank spaces at the end of the other chapters — but what more Ishiguro could give can’t be known because Never Let Me Go is a book you read and realise its completion and wish, I wish I’d never read this, so I could experience it again for the very first time. [01]

The second read is no less powerful than the first, however, but the above sentiments about knots and stones and tears are heavier the second time around because you know the novel, the characters, the way the story unravels.  You know exactly what it is that Ruth and Tommy and Kathy were created for, and you know how their lives spin, what tugs at their hearts, how their friendship winds, so there’s no mystery about the facts, no denial about what Never Let Me Go is about.  The punch in your gut, however, isn’t any less softened; you don’t feel any less for Ruth or Tommy or Kathy than you did the first time around; and you don’t wish any less that things could be different for them and for you because the second read brings you closer to them, leads you to details you missed before, makes you stand even more in praise of Ishiguro and his spare storytelling that doesn’t miss a heartbeat.

And, now, with the adaptation just over three months away (and your faith restored somewhat in adaptations [02]), you can’t help but state flatly to yourself, I’m going to weep my way through this film.

[01]  Similar sentiments expressed by Carey Mulligan.
[02]  Admittedly, this is also more of a faith in the cast and the films they choose — Keira Knightley, particularly, because she was in both Pride and Prejudice and Atonement, both of which I loved, although I can’t vouch for the faithfulness of Pride and Prejudice because I never got over my loathing to finish that book.  Three attempts, and I’m fine with never having read it.  But, back to Never Let Me Go, the trailer has me convinced that this will be good.