Books 55-60 for 2018 – thoughts

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Well, it was kind of a wild-ride setting out to read sixty novels in 2018 … And I almost didn’t pull it off – truth be told, I had to spend the last four days of this past year reading 8-10 hours a day. But no way was I going to start a new year with the baggage of coming so close.

The Wisdom of the Desert – Thomas Merton

A collection of thoughts or credos from Christian Monks that isolated themselves in the desert. This was a thought-provoking read, and it definitely draws comparisons to the ways of living by Buddhist monks. That said I prefer literature of the latter, texts that speak more to an understanding of how the environment and harmony impacts a person’s thoughts, or more concisely an indirect spiritual connection. I.e. not the black and white martyrdom of faiths with firm decorum exploring isolation – but an interesting read none-the-less.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – J.K. Rowling (spoilers)

Harry Potter as a series – The last three books, (none of which I have spoken about yet) demonstrated a surprisingly good development of character growth. Or did they… This is a very good series, one I think everyone should read or read to their children, yet I’m a very evil person – so let me first air some grievances and then I’ll wrap up my thoughts on the seven books in a stoic bow.

Part of any Good vs Evil conflict is remorse towards evil – that wasn’t really there; wouldn’t a fate worse than death be: living but made powerless, wouldn’t that be true mark of the Good?  (Saruman being banished in LOTR for example)

Why did the friendships between Ron, Harry and Hermione become so redundantly flat?

I wanted a better Snape Harry resolution, granted it was my favourite part, (the character redemption) but it was all expressed in flashbacks. I would have loved Snape like dying for Harry or at least them hugging him it out or something.

Also, this climax of events should have led to some kind of new wizarding world order – couldn’t that have been flushed out? The universe had a ton of faults that led to this rise of evil, yet everything is business as usual post the end of Hewho(m)mustnotbenamed? Shouldn’t the Ministry of magic be redesigned? Shouldn’t the wizarding charter or constitution towards the rights of lesser magical creatures be re-written? Odes of inequality were sown throughout, wasn’t that the grander theme? Why wasn’t it concluded?

Hmm…  Also Shouldn’t there have been reaching implications that nothing will ever be the same? Even in the LOTR books, the Shire is impacted and changed for the first time, so great was the impact of the war (not in the movies).

That said finishing these books felt like I closed a loop I created in my childhood, when I stopped reading them at 13. The story is terrific, from the perspective of growing up and the innocence of youth with all the truck loads of nostalgia that comes with it.

Lincoln in the Bardo – George Saunders

Cool approach with multiple perspectives, although I preferred the historical citations more than the fictional ones that moved the main narrative. I guess this is a creative historical non-fiction/fiction? Booker prize, Oscar-bait? I found it too campy and a bit on the nose – there is a literal gates of heaven judgment scene …

Wabi-Sabi – Leonard Koren

Beauty in the un-order, in the simple and smooth – yet flawed, out of a hundred straight sticks, the bent one is what holds the eye. This novel speaks to a kind of tone in Japanese Culture that can be found in pretty much everything Japanese.  An interesting idea to embrace – the ideals of but never seek complete perfection. Not so much embrace flaws but respect them and hold them in esteem. Need to read more on this Wabi-Sabi concept.

Infinite Jest – David Foster Wallace

Okay, I knew this novel was going to be hard to read, but I didn’t think it was going to be as hard as it was. The only way I can begin to talk about this novel is to consider it as Art or as Anti-poetry – meaning that if poetry seeks to minimize the medium with abstraction. Wallace sought to maximize literature in Abstraction, leaving no stones unturned, spelling out metaphors but never explaining them in of themselves, if that makes any sense. Everything is complicated, everything: from sentence structure to prose, to word choices, to the footnotes, the multiple-narrative character switches, the meanings, the lack of meaning, the symbolism, the lack of symbolism – is the joke on the reader – on the industry? On what literature is? On why people read?

You can’t skim a line, let alone skip one. Every single piece is an import part of the puzzle he has created.

I loved it, as I love writers who expand upon Form, similar to Avant Garde artist that seek to move forward a movement. Fiction made immensely complicated is almost the point with this book, a complicated subjected matter isn’t essential, although it is definitely there. To discuss the subject matter would be a whole other can-of-worms as Infinite Jest is about everything and nothing.

This novel is an expansion of what is possible within the confines of the ‘written’.

Sooooo pretentious soooo Pretentious… And now I’m a notch more pretentious for reading it.

Alas, this was never my intent, alas here we are sixty books later.

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