Saturday, September 18, 2010

media consumption

I don't read as much here, because I don't have my home library's delicious selection of books that really grab me. Instead there's a WorldTeach collection in Santiago, the expected set of loaners that volunteers pass around, and anything I feel like picking up off the street (which is rare, because the small selection is always very expensive). I've been plowing through Lost, which is occasionally interesting if I hold it lightly.

I have read a few books, though: Reading Lolita In Tehran, Siddhartha, and The Alchemist. I'm also about 1/3 of the way through Steinbeck's East of Eden, which is one of many books I feel I should have read, except I don't usually read fiction. I read some science fiction and fantasy, of course, good nerd that I am, but not usually Literature, as such. I don't usually find it engaging, and moreover I'm always aware that there's a craft and a structure to it that I just don't appreciate. I'm not very good at teasing out symbolism and allegory and parallelism and whatever else a novelist can put into a novel, and even worse, it doesn't move me emotionally. I learned to do literary analysis for school, but only for school, and it's always an intellectual exercise: I don't feel like understanding a novel's structure or symbols ever changed my direction or helped me see the world differently (except to understand that novels have structure and symbols and these affect other people). I just like a good story.

East of Eden fits the bill, and in addition to the masterful writing I'm too much of a philistine to fully appreciate, it's wonderful, perceptive prose, and eminently quotable. This, for example, is true:
It became more apparent than ever why old Sanchez had built his house in the little draw, for the wind and the dust did not penetrate, and teh spring, while it diminished, still gushed a head of cold clear water. But Adam, looking out over his dry dust-obscured land, felt the panic the Eastern man always does at first in California. In a Connecticut summer two weeks without rain is a dry spell and four a drought. If the countryside is not green it is dying. But in California it does not ordinarily rain at all between the end of May and the first of November. The Eastern man, though he has been told, feels the earth is sick in the rainless months.
I still feel that way sometimes. I come from a green land of year-round moisture, and I hate California weather.


  1. Hmm, I wanted to just say something about how I agree with you about the weather, but I feel like I'm somehow failing as a comment conversationalist to do so... so... I'll just say that over the summer I read "100 Years of Solitude" for a similar reason. It was an odd book, and I don't know that I really got much out of it. It seemed so superficial, there was hardly any dialog, more a chronicling of a town & family in broad strokes, and I found it hard to connect to. I might have to pick up East of Eden next time I have time to read something for fun - I've gotten a bit tired of sci fi and fantasy somehow, so I'm on the outlook for good recreational reads. Maybe I just don't know where to get any good stuff anymore.

    Heh, I've been "writing" (read "staring at the screen, going through references, occasionally composing) a grant proposal all week. You'd think I'd be sick of writing, but here I am babbling like an idiot. Oh well. Next: more grant writing, and also, a paper. wheee!!!! *brain-splode*

  2. I really enjoyed _Siddhartha_. Isabel Allende's _My Invented Country_ and Steve Reifenberg's _Santiago's Children_ give a good sense of what Chile is like (if you're curious--I certainly wasn't, before I lived here).

    Have you read Iain M. Banks and Vernor Vinge's novels? I haven't picked up a ton of scifi in the past years, but I found them really engaging and different from everything else I'd read.

    _100 Years of Solitude_ (in English) was the summer reading for my Spanish AP Literature class. It's definitely got a lot of the tedious in it, and I remember it being very abstract and not very meaningful without the context of the politics and culture it references; actually, I recall it as being mostly political, about the devastating American corporate and military interventions in Central America of the 1825-1950 period. So, yeah, not a sparkling page-turner.