Essential Reading: March 2016
Where I’m from, winter is finally on its last legs. Despite the romanticism that is often associated with winter, I have never been a fan of the season. Yes, the whiteness of snowfall can often captivate a man who thrives on cynicism but hours and hours of shoveling just to clear up a few square meters of concrete can numb the heart to the beauties of nature. Anyway, here I am digressing at the very beginning just because I couldn’t find a way to open an post. But let’s get to the point, shall we? Here are the books that I’ve read last February:
- On the Abolition of All Political Parties by Simone Weil (4/5)
- The Professor and The Siren by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa (3/5)
- The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan (5/5)
- Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths by Shigeru Mizuki (4/5)
- Blue is the Warmest Color by Julie Maroh (4/5)
- The Zone of Interest by Martin Amis (5/5)
Simone Weil’s treatise on political parties has been not only a relevant read but also a revelatory one at that. I may not agree with every point that Weil raises in her essay but she makes a compelling argument against the political party as an institution in politics. The Professor and The Siren, a slim volume that collects three short stories written by Lampedusa, contains the exceptional title story about man’s primal relationship with nature yet the collection as a whole reveals itself to be disappointment as it also contains one mediocre short story about class in Italy and one forgettable short story about the struggles of a working-class Italian man. The Narrow Road to the Deep North, Richard Flanagan’s epic about the Pacific Theatre of the Second World War and a group of Australians POWs is a rich if flawed novel about humanity’s struggle for survival in the face of unexplainable evil. Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths is another story set in the Second World War’s Pacific Theatre but this time through the eyes of rank-and-file Japanese soldiers who suffer under the same men that has inflicted suffering upon Flanagan’s Australians. Blue Is The Warmest Color, a graphic novel by Julie Maroh, is an exploration of the sexual awakening of Clementine under the guiding hands of Emma and is a work of potent power about love, acceptance, and suffering. Finally, there is Martin Amis’ The Zone of Interest, his second novel about the Holocaust, set in Auschwitz and is a work of great importance and power. It isn’t as technically complicated as Time’s Arrow but is nonetheless a powerful novel.
Anyway, here are the books that I have lined up for March:
- Because She Never Asked by Enrique Villa-Matas – I have never read anything by Villa-Matas although he is one of the authors that has risen to the top of my To Read list by virtue of his reputation. Readers of this blog may know that I often initiate familiarity with an author by reading his or her shorter works and this NDP Pearl by Villa-Matas is a perfect example of that.
- Everything and Nothing by Jorge Luis Borges – I have read Borges’ collection, Labyrinths, and it has been part of my personal canon since. What is astounding is that, despite being a beloved part of my literary Valhalla, I have never read another book by Borges since Labyrinths. I am about to remedy that by reading another NDP Pearl containing five short stories and six essays (some of which I have already read).
- Runaway by Alice Munro – Speaking of personal canons, Alice Munro has been one of my favorite writers ever since reading her debut work, Dance of the Happy Shades. This will be my 4th Munro and I expect it to be nothing but excellent because Munro always delivers.
- Voices from Chernobyl by Svetlana Alexievich – The most recent winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, Svetlana Alexievich is whom I already admire greatly despite not having read any of her full-length works. This is because I’ve read several excerpts of her work and I was blown away by the nuanced way that she treats her subjects. Voices from Chernobyl is Alexievich’s oral history of the aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster as told through the accounts of those who have been affected.
Also, to commemorate the launch of the NYRB Comics imprint, I would also try and attempt to read some if not all of the graphic novels pictured below:
As I told someone earlier this month, there is a huge hole in my graphic novel knowledge and I intend to fill that hole with various “obscura and esoterica” which might be one of the most pretentious things that I have ever said in recent memory. Anyway, that’s the plan for March in terms of reading.