Wednesday, May 24, 2006

catching up on longform reading

While it's true that I read most of the time (while eating, smoking, drinking, crapping, resting, relaxing, watching TV, waiting), most of what I read is what is immediately at hand, which is usually short form - short fiction, comics, news magazines, genre mags, shampoo bottles.

When I choose to read novels, I'm a bit more picky since I have time issues (although it must be said that once in a blue moon a novel comes along, that begun at bedtime, refuses to be put down until the sun comes up the next day). I love narrative space of novels, all the page-real estate that can be used for details, textures, descriptions, extended romps through characters' mindscapes, ruminations on things like history, time, memory, loss and love. With a juicy, well-written novel, I like to take my time, savoring the words that fire up my imagination. I read and reread dialogue (sometimes aloud - that's the playwright in me) and follow the trajectories of emotion.

On my night table:

For my lit'ry diet, various books by José Saramago (to read and reread the kilometric paragraphs): Baltasar and Blimunda, The History of the Siege of Lisbon, The Stone Raft, All the Names. Looking for a good copy of Blindness. Saramago takes a lot of getting used to (I came to him late). It's like needing to have a new readerly framework, which works out just fine.

One of the several books I got from Dumaguete is Edith Tiempo's first novel from 1978 (oh, oh, I was 9 years old!), A Blade of Fern. I wanted to get her most recent ones like One, Tilting Leaves or The Builder , but decided to read our National Artist chronologically.

For spec fic, The Girl in the Glass by Jeffrey Ford - i'm a big fan of Jeff's short fiction but found his early novels a bit lacking towards the ending. I especially enjoyed The Portrait of Mrs. Charbuque for the language and the imaginative bits. And though it's not longform, Kelly Link's Magic for Beginners (two stories left). I enjoyed "Stone Animals" and the title story - some of the others I'd read previously in my other anthos. And while I'm digressing anyway, go and find a copy of Black Juice by Margo Lanagan, which contains some of the most amazing spec fic around - especially one of my all time favorites, "Singing My Sister Down". And she'll have a new collection, Red Spikes, out in Australia before Christmas (hmmm... how do I get a copy of that?).

As for non-fiction, I got myself the uber-thick The Classical World: An Epic History from Homer to Hadrian by Robin Lane Fox. I love history and though I've long made an effort to avoid the usual Greco-Roman cultural studies, I could not resist this mammoth hardcover. It is both erudite and acccessible, and I enjoy the way Fox has structured his historical analysis. Apart from my interest in things past, there is much here that new fiction can be based on. Everyone should read gargantuan history books. Everyone. Seriously.

After I get through these (but not the history book, which I intend to nibble at or bite from time to time), there's still the pile of other books I've been buying and putting on the bookshelves outside the bedroom.

From time to time, I ask writer and editor friends for their reading recos, which I then proceed to source:

Umbrella Country by Bino Realuyo (courtesy of Maricor Baytion). Bino was born in Manila but raised in NYC. How I envy Raindancer who just got herself a copy of Bino's latest book.
Women of Sand by Miral el Tahawi (courtesy of Marge Evasco)
My Travels Around the World by Nawal el-Saadawi (courtesy of Susan Lara)

I'll blog about those when I get to read them (book buying is a disease and I am a delirously willing victim).


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