Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Short cuts

I've moved out of my apartment in Brooklyn due to an impending leak disaster. So I haven't really been able to focus on any reviewing as of such. But in lieu of full out reviews, I just wanted to mention and shortly discuss some rather good books - fiction and non-fiction and drama - I've engaged with. I wish I had more time to go into them more fully, but for now I think this'll suffice.

Cold by Bill Streever (Little, Brown) is a fascinating read. Part travelogue, part memoir, part science discussion, Streevers's book takes you through the world of cold: whether it's on the Arctic Circle in Alaska or on the bitterness of the Middle West of America. Streevers,, who chairs the North Slope Science Initiative's Scince Technical Advisory Panel is obviously not just a scientist - he's a rare-breed: a scientist who can make discoveries - and write! Streevers goes into why people sometimes want to take off their clothing when their blood temperature starts to decrease, how nerves begin to die when it becomes bitter cold, how a group of schoolchildren never made it through a blizzard. There are a lot of entertaining and curious anecdotes. This is well worth the trip.

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers) tells the story of the young girl Minli who has a heart of gold; unfortunately her parents don't have such wealth. They live nearby a mountain - the Fruitless Mountain, so called because there's not much to reep from it. Minli is determined to have better fortune for her family. When told by a goldfish salesman that goldfish bring good luck, she gives the last of her money to him to purchase a fish. And so begins her epic journey, one that includes dragon companions, solving riddles, and eventually discovering the true meaning of friendship. It's a four-colour book, so the sketches, also done by Lin, are absolutely gorgeous. It's something just to have on the bookshelf, at the very least.

The Anthologist by Nicholson Baker (Simon & Schuster) is probably one of the best paeans to 'writer's block' I've ever read. It certainly gives Nabokov's Pale Fire a run for its money. The concept is simple: a reviewer/professor of poetry, who himself has been published every now and again, is supposed to write an introduction to this anthology of poetry. But he just can't seem to do it. So his special lady friend leaves him. And he has quite the existential crisis. Oddly enough, the book isn't really about this writer - his name is the ridiculous Paul Chowder - but rather about his strong opinions about English language poetry. Which make this ride wonderfully entertaining. It's like listening to a professor rant, but hysterically. (At least you're not in the classroom.) It's brilliantly done. I'm sorry to say that this is the first Baker book I've read.

The Complete Dramatic Works of Samuel Beckett may have been the best investment I made whilst at Oxford. Though it's sad that it took me until now to read past Waiting for Godot, Endgame, and my personal favourite Play. It's so intriguing to watch Beckett grow as an artist. Not that he needed to grow, per se; but you're able to see how he's able to eliminate character and words more and more through each of his theatre, television, radio, and film work. If anything, this collection makes you respect him more as an artist. Even when the work is tedious, the reader should be able to understand why. Absolutely stunning. And it's gotten me to finish reading his collected shorter prose, which is what's been engaging my mind as of recent.

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