“The high life of New York! Who could blame her if she was carried away by the glitter of it all, vanishing into the bright morning of the amber window borders or into distant and entrancing music as the door opened and closed that led to the ballroom? The toast of the shining town.”
– “The Freshest Boy,” Babylon Revisited and Other Stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald
by Haruki Murakami
Vintage, September 2000
(first published 1987)
Paperback, 293 pages
As middle-aged Toru Watanabe’s flight lands at the gloomy Hamburg airport and the plane begins taxying to the terminal, an orchestral version of The Beatles’ “Norwegian Wood” begins playing through the ceiling speakers. Hearing this song takes him back to his youth in the autumn of 1969.
At the age of 18, Toru moves from his home in Kobe to a university in Tokyo. One day in this new city, he runs into an old friend, Naoko, with whom he shares an obsessive grief over the suicide of Toru’s best friend and Naoko’s boyfriend, Kizuki, when they were 17. Although the two were never close before, they begin taking weekly walks together, exploring every corner of Tokyo as they become more intimate. Continue reading
As I mentioned last week, I recently realized that I read quite a few interesting books this year that I haven’t yet written about in depth on this blog. I don’t want to end the year without discussing them, but I don’t have the time or recall to write full-length reviews of each of them. Instead, I’m writing a short series of mini reviews. In last week’s segment, I wrote about books written by and about women, and this week I will write briefly about a few books by male authors.
Uncle Tom’s Children by Richard Wright
This is a collection of novellas by Richard Wright, who is known for his writings about race relations and the dangers African Americans faced in the first half of the 20th century. Like his other works, such as Native Son, these stories are filled with shocking violence and horrifying brutality.
Wright’s writing is incredibly powerful and made all the more effective by his use of sickening details, such as the sight of “a tar-drenched body glistening and turning” at a lynching. These stories were at times hard to read, and it was even harder to accept the fact that the horrendous acts of violence Wright depicts are not entirely fiction; the fear and the violence his characters are subjected to were very real issues in America’s past. However, despite the brutality of some of the stories, one or two offer hope that black and white people can work together for change. Continue reading
“I fell in love with Beijing’s eccentricities the moment I landed, the lavish landscape of skyscrapers intermingling casually with the ancient hutongs and decrepit apartments. It all seemed like part of the canvas of a brilliant beatnik engineer suffering delusions of petulance, never satisfied, always proud. Flaws weren’t pariah here; foibles were badges of character, not something to be brushed away in Photoshop.”
– Watering Heaven by Peter Tieryas Liu
I’m just dropping in today with a quick announcement: after more than 10 months of blogging at bookspeakvolumes.wordpress.com, I’ve finally upgraded to a custom domain name! This blog’s new URL is booksspeakvolumes.com. (Yes, I did add an “s;” it makes so much more sense this way, right?).
This is still a free WordPress blog, so the domain name change shouldn’t affect those of you following BSV through WordPress; if you are subscribed via the WordPress Reader or email, you will continue to receive updates. I’m not sure yet if the change will affect the RSS feed, so if you’re following via Google Reader or Bloglovin (or any other RSS reader), you may want to check your feed to make sure you’re still getting the updates or manually update your subscription to the new web address. (Does anyone actually know how this works?)
I’m so excited about this new step! I feel like a real blogger now, as if having my own domain name adds legitimacy to my ramblings. 😛
Thank you all for reading, and especially thank you to my wonderful boyfriend, who bought me the domain name as an anniversary gift (our third! And more than two months ago, but still) and helped me set up the domain mapping. You’re the best!
Looking back over my list of books read this year, I realized that there are quite a few books that I read and loved but, for whatever reason, did not review. I would hate to end the year without saying anything about these books, so I’ve written a small series of posts containing mini reviews of some of the books I didn’t write about in depth this year. This post includes mini reviews of books written by and about women.
The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht When Natalia, a doctor, finds out that her grandfather has just died in a village near the war-torn Balkan town where she is temporarily working, she sets out to discover the mysterious circumstances surrounding his death. She looks to the stories he told her of the Deathless Man for answers and discovers the story he never told her: the story of the Tiger’s Wife. This novel is deeply rooted in the Balkan story-telling tradition, and I loved the folklore aspect. Similar to magical realism, The Tiger’s Wife blurs the lines between myth and reality. I thought the writing was lovely and the story was intriguing. I look forward to reading whatever Obreht writes next! Continue reading
“The useless days will add up to something. The shitty waitressing jobs. The hours writing in your journal. The long meandering walks. The hours reading poetry and story collections and novels and dead people’s diaries and wondering about sex and God and whether you should shave under your arms or not. These things are your becoming.”
– Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed
by Peter Tieryas Liu
Fiction: Short stories
Signal 8 Press, October 2012
Paperback, 204 pages
Source: Provided by the author for review
Watering Heaven is Peter Tieryas Liu’s debut short story collection, and it is a beautiful anthology of stories about human loneliness, vulnerability, love, loss, and the crushing weight of the American dream.
All of the stories have some connection to Asia (most of them take place in L.A. or Beijing) and the combined Asian/American perspectives were really interesting to read.
TINY BEAUTIFUL THINGS
by Cheryl Strayed
Vintage, July 2012
Paperback, 368 pages
I never thought I would be the type of person to buy a book from the Self-Help section of the bookstore. And yet, a few weeks ago I found myself furtively sneaking down an isle lined with titles such as A Whole New You and The Happiness Code to ease a copy of Cheryl Strayed’s Tiny Beautiful Things from the shelf.
I loved Strayed’s memoir Wild when I read it this summer, and when I heard about Tiny Beautiful Things, a collection of pieces she wrote for the online advice column Dear Sugar, I decided to set aside my preconceived notions about advice columns and give it a shot. I’m so glad I did. Continue reading
I ravaged my local library book sale
It’s now December and there’s snow on the ground; it’s probably time to end my denial that winter is here! But before I get out the electric mattress pad (nothing better than a pre-warmed bed at night!), I’ll take a moment to reflect on a few November highlights!
– I road tripped down to Virginia to spend Thanksgiving with the boyfriend and his huge extended family for the first time. I am so thankful for the way they welcomed me into their homes and traditions. Continue reading