Sunday, November 22, 2009

Cold and Dreary? Read a Book

It has been a cold, gray weekend in Seoul, the kind of bleak, cheerless weather that causes a depressed man to eye the kitchen knives too soberly and perhaps too long, and causes a little dip in the usually buoyant outlook of even one such as myself.

This was made all the more pointed by the predictions all week long from those around me that the weather would change for the better, certainly by the weekend. Well, I guess they were right--from cold and clear, it changed to cold and drizzly. It didn't even have the decency to snow, even though Principal Jun told me it would snow Friday night and be nice for the weekend. This while he was smoking a cigarette in the boys' restroom. (Korean education brings whole new levels of meaning to 'Do as I say, not as I do.')

All in all, it turned out to be a nice weekend to do some reading, so let me update you on my reading list:
  • Life of Pi by Yann Martel - a gripping read about a teenage Indian boy who grew up in a zookeeper's family in Pondicherry, and adopted the major religions for himself--all of them, simultaneously. Despite that, he felt like a kindred spirit to this rationalist, vanilla, middle-aged American. Nicknamed Pi, he finds himself sharing a lifeboat with a 450-lb adult male Bengal tiger. Perhaps. This novel has an ambiguous ending, and usually I hate those. But I liked this one.
  • The Cry of the Magpies by Kim Dong-ni, #3 in the Portable Library series. The title story is about a soldier who injures himself to escape from duty and returns home only to find that his betrothed has married his best friend in the meantime. Can't recommend it.
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak - The story of a young girl in WWII-era Munich, narrated by Death himself. It's hard to summarize this story, because even though it's not long on plot, it's got lots of levels. Superbly written with deep, detailed characterizations and a stunning climactic sequence.
  • Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami - well, I'm only one-third of the way through, but I can tell you it's about an old man who can talk to cats and a teenage runaway who loves libraries. They are somehow linked to each other, and the reading is an itchy race to see their convergence and what happens as a result.

Coming next will be The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl, from 2003, a combination of high-concept fiction, murder mystery and alternative history about a series of grisly murders in post-Civil War Boston that follow the outlines of Dante's Inferno, which the great scholarly minds of the time are called in to solve. Sounds delicious.

1 comment:

Kelsey said...

I read the Dante Club when it came out. Entertaining book.