Recent Stuff I’ve Found in Books

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So this Friday, I bought two enormous fat thick Penguin volumes of Jorge Luis Borges in utterly pristine condition (fictions and non-). I own other books that cover some of the material here, but 1100+ pages of JLB is hard to pass up (especially used, especially when I have store credit).

And then today, I was made privy to this lovely Flickr set, “Things found in books,” and thought I’d play along.

So back to Borges: I was somewhat touched by this note (above) I found in the nonfiction collection: Mom sends the book to her son so he “may understand it,” “this most difficult book”; mom also reports it “very hard to read” and appends a frowny face.

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Maybe a week or two before, I found this lovely little wisp of paper:

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In Vlad Nabokov’s Lectures on Don Quixote:

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Which reminded me of this James Joyce clipping—not so recent, I’ll admit, but still carefully placed as a bookmark in a Finnegans Wake guide:

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Okay, annotations, more properly:

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Do most people leave stuff in books? I think most bibliophiles do. (Forgive the snobbish italics there. I’m sure there are bibliophiles who don’t, of course). I have a habit of never reusing a bookmark, so that when I pull out a volume there’s some little tag there that acts as a third point (along with the text and my addled brain) to help triangulate the reading experience (the concrete circumstances of the reading process, the where, the when, the how much, etc.).

And so, after finishing Pynchon’s Against the Day a few weeks ago, I resolved to return to Mason & Dixon. Pulling out my copy,  where I found an entry ticket to Wat Phra Ram in Ayutthaya. I’m pretty sure I bought the book in Chiang Mai (after buying V. in Bangkok; books were the only thing I ever thought were expensive in Thailand).

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A few weeks ago my grandmother let me take one of my grandfather’s favorite books with me when I left her house, a Walt Kelly collection.

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I was thrilled to find inside the Pogo volume the syllabus of my grandfather’s college chemistry class from the Fall of 1947:

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And some of his notes (cryptic to me, but endearing):

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I think the best part about finding my grandfather’s old syllabus tucked away into a book he loved is knowing that we shared a habit.

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Ruler of the World (Book Acquired, 5.06.2013)

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Ruler of the World by Alex Rutherford. Pub’s copy:

Alex Rutherford’s internationally bestselling series continues with Ruler of the World, the story of the third great Moghul Emperor, Akbar, leader of a triumphant dynasty which contained the seeds of its own destruction.

Akbar, ruler of a sixth of the world’s people, colossally rich and utterly ruthless, was a contemporary of Elizabeth I, but infinitely more powerful. He extended his empire over much of Asia, skillfully commanding tens of thousands of men, elephants and innovative technology, yet despite the unimaginable bloodshed which resulted his rule was based on universal religious tolerance.

However, Akbar’s homelife was more complicated. He defied family, nobles and mullahs to marry a beautiful Rajput princess, whose people he had conquered; but she hated Akbar and turned Salim, his eldest son, against him. What’s more, as any Moghul prince could inherit his father’s crown and become Emperor, his sons were brought up to be intensely competitive and suspicious of each other: to see each other as rivals for the greatest prize of all. And, as Salim grew to manhood, the relationship between father and son became tainted by rebellion and competition to be the greatest Moghul of them all.

 

Books Acquired, 8.10.2012 — Or, Here’s What’s New from Picador

 

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New stuff from Picador this month.

This is the one my wife gravitated to:

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Lives Other Than My Own, by Emmanuel Carrere. Blurb:

In Sri Lanka, a tsunami sweeps a child out to sea, her grandfather helpless against the onrushing water. In France, a woman dies from cancer, leaving her husband and small children bereft. What links these two catastrophes is the presence of Emmanuel Carrère, who manages to find consolation and even joy as he immerses himself in lives other than his own. The result is a heartrending narrative of endless love, a meditation on courage in the face of adversity, and an intimate look at the beauty of ordinary lives.

 I guess Picador have a new edition of Thomas Friedman’s The Lexus and the Olive Tree coming out. The book is 12 years old and seems kind of out of date:

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Do you know about Matt Taibbi’s agon with Thomas Friedman. He’s rough, I tell you, rough.

 

Rivalry: A Geisha’s Tale (Book Acquired, 8.06.2012)

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I haven’t read any of Nagai Kafu’s 1917 novel Rivalry: A Geisha’s Tale (new in paperback from Columbia University Press in translation from Stephen Snyder) because my wife immediately took it and started reading it. I think she’s almost finished with it. I can only assume it involves some kind of rivalry, probably between geisha. I’ll ask her (the following is a more or less an accurate transcription of wife’s comments to me from the kitchen as she prepared some kind of corn salad):

Um, it’s about this geisha, who, when she was like 17, 18 became a geisha, then got married and moved out to the country, this is like in her early 20s, and after a couple of years her husband died, so she went back to Tokyo back to her old geisha house and ran into one of her former, um, clients, and he fell in love with her like immediately so they started a relationship but she fell in love with an actor, but then, I’m not finished with it, but the client found out about the affair, so he’s going to patronize this rival geisha. Which I guess is why, Rivalry.

Do you like it?

I mean, it’s what you’d expect from a geisha book, I mean it’s about a geisha. It’s a good geisha story.

My wife reports she’s about half way through it and wants to find out how it will end.

Privacy/Homesick (Books Acquired, Some Time Last Week, Both Bearing an Eye)

 

 

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Maybe you saw Garret Keizer on Colbert, or maybe you’ve read his stuff at Harper’s; anyway, his new little book Privacy seems pretty good. I’ve enjoyed all the titles in Picador’s BIG IDEAS // small books so far, and a scan over Privacy suggests another intriguing entry. Full review down the line.

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Roshi Fernando’s Homesick came out a few years ago in the UK; it’s now getting the deluxe treatment from Knopf. Their blurb:

In this stunningly assured debut work of fiction, Roshi Fernando weaves together the lives of an extended Sri Lankan family.

At Victor and Nandini’s home in southeast London, the New Year’s Eve celebration is under way. Everyone is gathered around—clinking glasses of arrack and whisky, eating freshly fried poppadoms, listening to baila music—waiting to ring in 1983. Upstairs, The Godfather is playing on repeat for a bedroom filled with teenagers drunk on pilfered wine. And in the middle of it all is sixteen-year-old Preethi, tipsy on youth and friendship and covert cigarettes, desperate to belong.

But what does that mean, to belong? As Preethi moves through her life—befriending the local outcast, revealing her brother’s deepest secret, struggling with her own unhappiness and through a souring marriage—this desire for acceptance remains the one constant, both for her and for everyone she knows.Homesick moves back and forth in time, between London and Sri Lanka, circling the people in Preethi’s world: her brother Rohan; her friends Nil, Clare, Deirdre, and Lolly; her aunty Gertie; and terrible cousin Kumar. Together, they are bound by this shared need to fit in somewhere, this rootless desire for a place to call home.

Gorgeously drawn, told with wit and pathos, this poignant narrative blends love with loss, politics with pop culture, tradition with youthful rebellion. Homesick is rich with insight and a kaleidoscopic view of contemporary immigrant life that introduces us to the work of Roshi Fernando, a remarkable new talent.

I usually sift through these books acquired books before I post, but I haven’t had time to do it thus far with Homesick, so I can’t really comment on the prose. The cover has an eye on it, so it’s here, in this post.