Thursday, August 17, 2006

Reading Rainbow

I've been getting a lot more reading done now that I have to pack myself like a sardine on the L train to and from the city every day. I managed to tackle most of the books by some of my fave authors that I somehow missed when they were hot off the press. Granted, some of the books were hot off the press before I was born. But whatever.

Ah! Amy Tan. What can I say? Her prose isn't overly descriptive, and yet she leaves you enough to know who her characters are, defined by their actions and childhood traumas. This is, I believe, her most recent work. I was sucked in as soon as I read the introduction.

The novel is mostly based off the words of a cancer stricken woman in Berkelee California who believed the spirit of a dead Asian American socialite, Bibi Chen, could speak through her body. Creepy stuff. It follows a group of 11 tourists traveling through China to Tibet, who completely vanish. Which is also based off a true story. Tied in is a lot of musing on Buddhist beliefs vs. Western perceptions, and the political history and strife of Tibet's scarred relationship with China. Pick it up bitches.

In another reality spin, Kurt Vonnegut's Galapagos transported me to another world. One that doesn't have a past, present, or future tense. The narrative is insane, he manages to tell several different stories in a choppy back and forth way, yet seamlessly put together. Like if Quentin Tarantino made a documentary.

This story is also told by a dead man, following a group of tourists. (I am only just noticing this odd coincidence in my reading behavior.) But these tourists end up being the last survivors of the human race, who eventually repopulate Earth, after evolving into dolphin people. It all sounds strange, but somehow comes off really normal. Fascinating, and hilarious.

I always mean to read more Gabriel Garcia Marquez, but it's such a commitment, his words are lush, sentences long, and paragraphs longer. And yet, I'm drawn in. I would sometimes get through only one or two pages at a time, because I want every image, sound, and smell he describes to sink into my bones.

The story is one of unrequited, and undying love. Mr.Garcia-Marquez offers an amazing glimpse of Panama and South America at the turn of the century, during a long period of decaying affluence. We follow a pair of young lovers, and the routes of their lives when they separate, and eventually come back together when they are well into senior citizenhood.

Last but not least is Murakami's Kafka on the Shore. Now, I love me some Haruki Murakami. He's one of the most brilliant authors alive right now, and yet he is not that well known stateside. His style is like an eerily realistic sci-fi noir, where things happen you know have to be impossible; but you believe anyway.

It's a Murakami retelling of The Odyssey; which is touchy and tender. Like most of his work, the novel is filled with casts of fascinating people, and sometimes animalia. There is one particular character, a sort of outcast in society, who finds lost cats in his neighborhood, because he knows how to speak with them. It sounds cheesy, but is truly profound, simple, and enticing.

Come on friends. Take a break from your cell phones, digital ispace pods, computers (after you're done YangaBanging), and televisions, and pick up a good read. And in the words of the fabulous LeVar Burton, "I'll seeya next time."