24 04 2016

I like to think of my reading list as fairly selective, and because of this, perhaps I have high expectations about how good they should be. It doesn’t happen often, but every once in a while, I will begin a book and within the first few pages, I won’t be hooked and I won’t enjoy the story for whatever reason.

Many a year ago when this book came out, I read about it in the paper and thought it sounded like an interesting novel (and also written by a local writer too!). I put it on my Later list– it was only now, years later, that I finally got around to it. I think my expectations this time around were fairly low, but Strip just didn’t click for me, and I was once again disappointed (as I was when The Geography of Pluto turned out to be a bore). The writing itself isn’t bad at all, although the writer over-describes things that don’t necessarily warrant so much figurative language.

But mostly, this book just has a really unlikeable protagonist that I found yelling at on a few occasions while reading, particularly when he goes on and on about his ballet instructor legend/lover who abruptly disappears. From all the Daniel this, and Daniel that, you’d think the protagonist was sixteen, not a twenty-something year old. However, I’d say the thing that made reading the first 60 or so pages of this book so difficult was that John, the protagonist, doesn’t tell the audience how he feels about certain events or people or things (aside from the aforementioned whining about Daniel and how he looks down on fellow dancers). This renders the story inaccessible and difficult for the reader to really empathize with anything that happens, not to mention it makes John come across as arrogant and not self-aware. Maybe it gets better when he gets to be a stripper, but I didn’t even get that far (also, for all the pages spent pining and moaning about Daniel, the plot could’ve moved along a little faster).

Sigh. Gay literature, like gay films, it seems, is really hit or miss.

Although you can’t see because the entire photo is blurry, the cover of the book is actually an out-of-focus shot of the backside of a male, so I thought I’d try to recreate it. I’m not exactly thrilled about sharing my ass to the world since I’m not a muscular dancer, but there you go. Enjoy it before I regret it.


Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

23 04 2016

Another meh read. I hear this book is one of the least liked books of the series so I’m hoping things get better.

Also, my crotch.



The Laramie Project

14 04 2016

This is a fantastic play that everyone should read. That is all.


So old

12 04 2016

It’s been two years since the last post and almost ten years since we all graduated from high school. Yeah, time flies and all those clichés, but does it get you wondering about whether or not what you’re doing is life making any impact in the world? I feel like most people get jobs to make money for themselves rather than make any sort of change; for example, someone in business or finance just makes money for themselves or for their clients. Whereas a doctor makes money but more importantly, aids and saves people. I find it frustrating that the “best jobs” are often ones touted as making the most income rather than measured in merit, and it’s still difficult to reconcile being a writer/artist in a world where people look down on you or have assumptions about your job. I constantly wonder if I should be doing something else, followed by constantly reassuring myself that what I’m doing is in fact worthwhile and meaningful. This entire paragraph probably should’ve been posted on my blog instead of this one that one checks anymore.

Also, I’m going to change the layout of this because it looks bland. How is everyone else doing? Excited for the high school reunion? I’m considering lying to people and telling them I own a medical marijuana clinic. It probably would come across as more accomplished than a writer.

Eyes closed

11 04 2016

Last night
I discovered pools
on my pillow of constellations
that sprang from my eyes
Even though I swore you off
like a sassy anthem
my head still drops the needle on the record
and i can’t stop it
Do not take this as a sign that he means something more than nothing
especially when
his last words–
I never want to see you again–
will be remembered
with eyes closed.

Sharp Teeth

7 04 2016

What a pleasant surprise this was. When I started reading, I had no idea it was even about lycanthropes and normally, I’m very averse to anything in the horror genre. But the writing in this book is simply fantastic, simple but evocative, poetic but not clichéd. And even some of the more gruesome violent scenes were great too–very visceral. There were times when I would clutch onto my own gut as the narration described characters getting their insides ripped open.

Overall, I was simply really impressed at 1) the writing, but mostly 2) that something like this was actually able to get published (and by a pretty big publisher too). Just goes to show you that strong writing counts for a lot, even when experimenting with form.


The Kite Runner

5 04 2016

So… this wasn’t as good as I thought it would be. And maybe the novel is better than the graphic novel but I have a feeling the language is what makes the novel so beloved to begin with. My main problem was that I found the main character so passive and inept that it was difficult to relate or sympathize with him, even when he loses his father or frustratingly fails time and time again to mend the relationship with his best friend and servant. Argh.

As for most people’s reviews saying they wept like a baby because the story was so sad… it reminds me of someone’s comment on Grave of the Fireflies. Lots of people also thought that film was super sad, but one person noted how the sadness in the movie is like a jump scare in a horror film — it’s too obvious. The film is trying too hard to make you feel things that it comes across as forced rather than natural and subtle. That’s why I thought the ending of Tale of Princess Kaguya was infinitely sadder than Grave of the Fireflies. And that’s why I didn’t feel sad at all reading The Kite Runner. It was too forced, trying too hard to be a tear-jerker, which only made me roll my eyes.

This review on Goodreads pretty much sums up my feelings about it:

“The very best part of the novel is its warm depiction of the mixed culture of Afghanistan, and how it conveys the picture of a real Afghanistan as a living place, before the coup, the Soviet invasion, and above all, the Taliban and the aftermath of September 11th created a fossilized image in the US of a failed state, petrified in “backwardness” and locked in the role of a villain from central casting.

Now for the not so good.

== Spoiler Alert ==
… because I don’t think I’m going to be able to complain about what I didn’t like about the book without revealing major plot points. (Not to mention, some of what follows will only make sense to someone who has read the book.) So if you don’t want to spoil it for yourself, read no further, here be spoilers:

My overwhelming emotion throughout the book is feeling entirely manipulated. Of course, one major reason for this is that the author’s attempts at metaphor, allegory, and forshadowing are utterly ham-fisted. When he wants to make a point, he hits you over the head with it, hard — Amir’s split lip / Hassan’s cleft palate comes immediately, resoundingly to mind.

But I feel manipulated beyond that. The members of the servant class in this story suffer tragic, unspeakable calamities, sometimes at the hands of our fine hero, and yet the novel seems to expect the reader to reserve her sympathies for the “wronged” privileged child, beating his breast over the emotional pain of living with the wounds he has selfishly inflicted upon others. How, why, am I supposed to feel worse for him as he feels bad about what he has done to others? Rather than feeling most sympathy and kinship for those who, through absolutely no fault of their own, must suffer, not just once or twice, but again and again?

Of course this elevation of / identification with the “wounded”/flawed hero goes hand in hand with an absolutely detestable portrayal of the members of the servant class as being at their utmost happiest when they are being their most servile and utterly subjugating their own needs, wants, desires, pleasures — their own selves, in fact — to the needs of their masters. (Even when they are protecting their masters from their own arrogance, heartlessness, or downright stupidity.)

I don’t see how the main character, Amir, could possibly be likeable. Amir’s battle with Assef, momentous as it is, is not so much him taking a stand because he feels driven to do so or feels that he must. Rather, he acts with very little self-agency at all — he is more or less merely carried forward into events. (And, moreover, in the end it is Sohrab (Hassan again) who saves him.)

I finished the novel resenting Amir, and even more intensely resenting the author for trying to make the reader think she’s supposed to care about Amir, more than about anyone else in the story.

A couple other points: I’m wondering if one theme of the novel is that there are no definitive happy endings, no single immutable moments of epiphany or redemption. Because Amir’s moral “triumph”, such as it is, over Assef, is so short-lived. He manages to crash horrifically only a week or two later, when he goes back on his word to Sohrab about his promise not to send him to an orphanage.

And lastly, I don’t understand why Baba’s hypocrisy is not more of a theme. He makes such a point of drilling into his son’s head that a lie is a theft of one’s right to the truth. His own hipocrisy there is a profound thing, and it’s a shame the author doesn’t do more with it.”

So after reading the graphic novel, I thought I might just read the novel version. And then I thought more about it and decided, nah. Once is more than enough.

kite runner


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