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Location: California

I love paper. Books printed on acid-free paper and bound in cloth turn me on. I'm crazy about bookmarks, and I buy too many stickers. I could spend hours in the build-your-own-greeting card section of my neighborhood craft store. My favorite thing to eat is bread, and my second favorite is fruit. (Mm, pineapple.) I read too much and too fast, and I watch too many food shows (two ways of looking at gluttony). Gloomy, rainy weather calms me and so I can't wait to move out of California, which will happen, sadly, too many years from now to count. I'm vegan, though I haven't managed to eliminate honey from my diet yet. I practice yoga; it's the only way I can keep fit. I have a better life than I ever imagined I would (or deserve to) have, but I do my best to enjoy it rather than feel guilty about it. That's my daily struggle -- and also to be thoughtful and observant and honest with myself.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

What I'm Reading

THE ARABIAN NIGHTS. Telling a story to save one's life -- something that not only Scheherazade does but also a good number of the characters in the stories she tells -- is such a strange, wonderful bargain. I was shocked to discover, reading these stories as an adult, how pervasive sexual transgression, particularly women's betrayal of men, is in this book. I read 1001 Nights as a child, in the Romanian translation, and all I remembered from that childhood reading was shrewd viziers, women peering through heavily curtained windows, glittering mountains of jewels, and gardens suffused with the perfume of jasmine. I often forget who narrates the story I'm reading at any one point because so many of them are told within other stories which are themselves nestled into other stories, like Russian dolls. This frustrates me no end but also forces me to rethink the concept of ownership of a story -- is there really one mind to whom it belongs?

RUNAWAY, Stories. This is Alice Munro's latest collection. It's simply wonderful. Munro is so patient with her stories; she lets them linger on the page, lets them build paragraph by paragraph into mansions of many apartments through which you can wander tirelessly and with undiminished joy. You get the feeling that you're not really reading but watching lives unfold before your eyes.

RASHOMON, and Other Stories, by Ryunosuke Akutagawa. I am mesmerized by this Japanese writer's prose: it's so measured, quiet, and clear as water. The stories take place in medieval Japan and have a deceptive simplicity and straightforwardness. There are touches of the bizarre, like the old woman who makes wigs from hairs she plucks from corpses' heads. But underlying every story is a deep and relentless concern with the intricacies of human life -- what gives it meaning (sometimes simply the desire to stuff oneself with yam gruel), how limited the eye and the mind are in seeing the truth.


Blogger madness rivera said...

OOoo, thanks so much for sharing. I really love the story of Scheherazade. I need to read it as an adult too - God, there's not enough time for all the reading I want to do. What edition are you reading, and you recommend it?

January 11, 2006  
Blogger Green Whale said...

I have the Everyman's Library edition and I recommend it very strongly because it's beautifully cloth-bound and looks like it will last a lifetime. The translation is by Husain Haddawy. ... And tell me about not having enough time to read everything!

January 12, 2006  

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