Islands in the Stream or Lolita…I’m torn…. Monday, Sep 21 2009 

So many books to read, so little time. I desperately want to read both of these books right now. I was just reading a little background on “Islands in the Stream” by Ernest Hemmingway. It was published in 1970, posthumously, found by Mary Hemmingway amongst 332 other works left behind after his death. The book, which is divided into three separate books – actually contained a fourth called “The Old Man and the Sea”. Sound familiar? “The Old Man and the Sea” went on to become one of the novels that helped him earn the Nobel Prize in 1954.

This novel holds a special place for me because it is my husband’s favorite book of all time and he reads a lot and well – so that is saying something. I am anxious to find out what he loves so much about it.

We finished reading “The Girl Who Played With Fire” by Stieg Larssen a few weeks ago and will be discussing it at book club next Saturday night. I’m looking forward to that discussion. I love the book and I have this theory that Stieg did not die of natural causes but was murdered for uncovering some ugly truths – not unlike the characters he created. I cannot wait for the final of the trilogy to be released next month.

Until then – I’m off to read “Islands in the Stream”.

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Catcher in the Rye – Book 98 – Completed Monday, Sep 21 2009 

catcher in the rye

Ohhhh, how I did not enjoy this book…this book, some claim to be clouded in mystique, I found to be overall negative and whiny with unredeaming characters and a plot that goes nowhere with no resolution.

I can’t really write much about it because I did not find it to be deep or even to be representative of adolescence as a whole. Holden, who claims to be more mature, is very much the opposite. The only likable character in the book is his sister, Phoebe, who to me – is more evolved than her older brother.

I don’t get it. Did I miss something?

The Catcher in the Rye Tuesday, Sep 15 2009 

Ugh, I’m struggling through this one.  The funny thing is – I have a similar writing style and I hate reading it.  I find it really annoying.  I cannot get endeared to this character Holden Caulfield.  Thankfully this is a short book but I am anxious to move on to the next one.  I have to fight the temptation to skim.  Perhaps I will be pleasantly surprised as I continue onward…we’ll see.

Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse Sunday, Sep 6 2009 

150px-Siddhartha_Novel  

Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse

 

“Spiritual enlightenment may not be taught, only experienced, and each individual must tread their own personal path toward truth.” So says the back sleeve of this great small book.

 

I had first heard of Siddhartha about 15 years ago when I became half-heartedly interested in Buddhism.  I thought that the book was a biography and I only recently became aware that it was a novel – or in my opinion – more like a great poem. 

 

So beautifully is it written.  Only a hundred pages long it took me a week to read because I hung on every syllable.  Like the characters in the book, I searched for the deeper meaning, the secret in the words.

 

At first I was confused because Siddhartha Guatama is the first Buddha – the highest Buddha.  In this book, by the German Nobel Prize Winner Hermann Hesse, there are other Buddha’s that achieve enlightenment before Siddhartha.  There is Gotama – the great teacher and Buddha with many followers.  Siddhartha, in this book, rejects his teachings.  Then there is the Ferryman – who to me, in this story – is the real Buddha, the true first Buddha.  Something in me tells me to reject Gotama as the Buddha and my limited knowledge of the real Siddhartha – distracted me from the whole point of these words.

 

Everyone has the Buddha in them all the time – equal Buddha – equal potential for enlightenment, however, we are all on our own path.  Because one chooses the path of a humble monk over the path on one who marries, works, has children – does not make him closer to achieving enlightenment.  One does not have greater potential for peace because he is pious.  The demonstration of this – the brilliant way in which it is explained – is why this book is considered to be one of the greatest books of all time.

 

Hesse’s Siddhartha spends the first half of his life searching for that ONE thing that he is missing – the one thing he needs to know to attain peace and happiness.  He decides, quite rightly, that no one can teach it to him – not even Buddha himself.  He goes on to experience lust, greed, and everything that is the opposite of what you would think a great and perfect man would do and experience.  He suffers – again and again he suffers.  Each time he suffers he comes to experience a profound peace with that of which made him suffer.  For example – it was not until he rejected teachings that he finally let go of the thought that enlightenment is “learned”.  It was not until he experienced lust that he was able to let go of any desire to make love.  It was not until he experienced the feelings of greed and gambling and having much to eat and drink that he was able to let go of the desire for money and rich food and the numbness of wine.  It was not until he truly wanted to die that he let go of his attachment to life or death as we know it.  It is at this point that he hears the “Om”.  He hears it in the river water – it speaks to him, “Om” – Om is all of the thousands of voices in the universing converging together as ONE thing, one perfect thing. 

 

He meets the Ferryman, Vasudeva – one who I feel from the very first time they met – at almost the beginning of Siddhartha’s journey to enlightenment – that he had the light – that peace – that Siddhartha so desperately wanted to find.

 

On the banks of this river, after the realization of the “Om” or the first glimmer of the idea of “Om” (he does not achieve true understanding of this just yet) – he again sees the Ferryman, Vasudeva and asks if he can learn to be a Ferryman too.  They spend the rest of their lives together – in peace and happiness until one day, Siddhartha’s lover Kamala arrives with the son that he did not know he had. She has been bitten by a snake and is dying.  Left with this boy who has never known poverty – Siddhartha becomes desperate for his love and acceptance.  In return he only gets hate and resentment from the boy.  Eventually the boy runs away, stealing from Vasudeva and leaving Siddhartha is grief and terrible sorrow.  This is Siddhartha’s last suffering and he knows that the suffering is yet just one more blossom of truth that he needed to experience on his journey.  He suffers for an eternity – for an eternity the truth fails to blossom – until one day Siddhartha, while standing by the river, heard it laugh at him and his foolishness. He suddenly remembered, by looking at his reflection in the water – that many years ago – he had left is father to go on his own journey – left his father, grief stricken and pained and suffering – just has he was suffering now because of his own son’s journey that was different from his own.  It was a circle.  It was karma.  And he laughed and The river laughed…Yes, so it was, everything came back, which had not been suffered and solved up to its end, the same pain was suffered over and over again.”

 

Siddhartha sat down with Vasudeva and told him his story of how he heard the river.  Vasudeva (both were old men at this point) said, yes, you have heard but you have not quite heard everything yet, “Siddhartha made an effort to listen better.  The image of his father, his own image, the image of his son merged, Kamala’s image also appeared and was dispersed, and the image of Govinda, and other images, and they merged with each other, turned all into the rive, headed all, being the river, for the goal, longing, desiring, suffering, and the river’s voice sounded full of yearning, full of burning woe, full of unsatisfiable desire. For the goal, the river was heading, Siddhartha saw it hurrying, the river, which consisted of him and his loved ones and of all people he had ever seen, all of these waves and waters were hurrying, suffering, towards goal, many goals, the waterfall, the lake, the rapids, the sea, and all goals were reached , and every goal was followed by a new one, and the water turned into vapour and rose to the sky, turned into rain and poured down from the sky, turned into a source, a stream, a river, headed forward once again, flowed on once again…”

 

“Siddhartha listened.  He was now nothing but a listener, completely concentrated on listening, completely empty, he felt that he had now finished learning to listen…And everything together, all voices, all goals, all yearning, all suffering, all pleasure, all that was good and evil, all of this together was the world.  All of it together was the flow of events, was the music of life.  And when Siddhartha was listening attentively to the river, this song of a thousand voices, when he neigher listened to the suffering nor the laughter, when he did not tie his sould to any particular voice and submerged his self into it, but when he heard them all, perceived the whole, the oneness, then the great son of the thousand voices consisted of a single word , which was Om: the perfection.”

 

“In this hour, Siddhartha stopped fighting his fate, stopped suffering.  On his face flourished the cheerfulness of a knowledge, which is no longer opposed by any will, which knows perfection, which is in agreement with the flow of events with the current of life, full of sympathy for the pain of others, full of sympathy for the pleasure of others, devoted to the flow, belonging to the oneness.”

 

I am so moved by this story.  Simple is the thought. Great is the thought – not so simple is the journey.

Why the blog? Sunday, Aug 23 2009 

Why the blog? The simple answer is because it’s fun.

Writing a blog about something you love only enhances the thing you love;  in this case, I love books and I love to write – so put the two together – and it’s a perfect pairing.

The second answer comes in the form of a personal challenge.  I read a lot and over the years I have read a lot of “Great Books”  but there hundreds and hundreds of “Great Books” out there that I have not read.

Some of the books on the list surprise me, like “Catcher in the Rye”.  Who has not read this “Great Book”?  Well, me…I have not read it.  

Also, I love to write and I’m out of practice.  One of my best friends, Jerome, also a writer – said we should do something ambitious, like write one poem a day…I don’t think my mind is disciplined enough right now to take that on but writing this blog might help me get back into the swing of things.  I used to write everyday.  Poetry, short stories, prose, novels…but then life crept in and aside from sporadic journal entries – I stopped.

Shame.

One thing I have never stopped doing is reading.

You should not expect some great masterpiece of writing here.  This is just a journey, my journey and I hope that some one will read this and maybe be inspired to pick up one of these  great books and start reading it.

I love books.  In my home and in my life I am surrounded by books.  I have piles and piles of books – bookshelves full of books, boxes of books.  I dream about books.  I am in heaven in a rare book store. When I travel, a rare bookstore is often a daily quest.

Books make me happy.  I love the way they smell and feel in my hands.  I have never sold books at a garage sale.  I cannot bare to part with them – they become a part of me – even if I have not read them yet.

So, the LIST.  I got the idea for the LIST, as well as taking on the LIST by an email one of my friends sent to me.  It was the BBC list of “The Greatest Books of All Time” or something like that.  You were supposed to check off the ones you had read.  I had read upwards of 30 or 40 of them but it got me thinking that there had to be other lists.  I looked and there are tons of these lists.  Almost every major publication has made a list.  I decided to take all of them and create my own list. So the LIST – my LIST – is of books that I have personally never read or have started but never finished.  Every book on my LIST appears on someone else’s list and supposedly has at one time or another been considered or called a “Great Book”.  There are authors on this list that you might wonder at their absence.  The simple answer is because I have already read the book or am not interested in reading it.  For example, Jane Austen is not on the list because I’ve had the great pleasure of reading her books.  The same goes for F. Scott Fitzgerald.  I’ve also read a bit of Hemmingway and quite a lot of Shakespeare so you will not see them on my list.  Oh, I just remembered that I have not read “Islands in the Stream” by Hemmingway.  I will have to delete something and add that one to my list.  My husband says it’s the best book he’s ever read so I better put it on there.  My husband is a great reader and I trust and value if opinion.

I have a hard time reading certain material that is outside of my genre. I am a slow reader.  I never “skim”.  I like to let a book sink in.  I need to master the cast.  I recently tried to read a “”Great Book” called “Housekeeping” and I just couldn’t do it.  This might be the case with some of these books.  But I will blog about it and it will be fun.

For instance, I am so glad I stuck with Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina”.  It ended up being one of the best novels I have ever read.  I am glad that I stuck with “Pillars of the Earth” which is indeed in my top ten.

I recently read Jane Eyre – difficult to get into but again – great book!

I HATED “One Hundred Years of Solitude” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.  This is supposed to be a “Great Book”.  For the life of me,  I do not understand why.

It took me months to read “Ulysses” by James Joyce but when I completed it, I felt as if I’d climbed Mt. Everest.  I had to keep notes – tough book – but I can appreciate it for what it is – a “Great Book”.

Enough of an introduction.  I am going to finish reading, “The Girl Who Played with Fire” and then I am going to pick up the first book on from my list. I am going to start small with “Siddhartha” by Herman Hesse.  It is a smallish book and I’ve always wondered about it – thinking myself somewhat of a Christian Buddhist. (Oh, and by the way – the Dalai Lama says that a Christian can also be Buddhist, so if he says so – that is what I am.)

Happy reading.

Sunday, Aug 23 2009 

 

Books, books, books had found the secret of a garret-room
piled high with cases in my father’s name;
Piled high, packed large, –where, creeping in and out
among the giant fossils of my past, like some small nimble mouse
between the ribs of a mastodon, I nibbled here and there
at this or that box, pulling through the gap, in heats
of terror, haste, victorious joy, the first book first.
And how I felt it beat under my pillow, in the morning’s dark.
An hour before the sun would let me read!
My books!
~ Elizabeth Barrett Browning ~

The List Sunday, Aug 23 2009 

100 Books to Read before I Sleep

 

  1. War and Peace  –   Leo Tolstoy
  2. The Brothers Karamazov   – Feodor Dostoevsky
  3. Moby-Dick  –   Hermin Melville
  4. Crime & Punishment  – Feodor Dostoevsky
  5. The Portrait of a Lady  – Henry James
  6. The Catcher in the Rye  – JD Salinger
  7. Atonement  – Ian McEwan
  8. Brideshead Revisited  – Evelyn Waugh
  9. Catch-22  – Joseph Heller
  10. A Clockwork Orange  –  Anthony Burgess
  11. The French Liuetenant’s Woman –  John Fowles
  12. Madame Bovary  –    Gustave Flaubert
  13. On The Road  – Jack Kerouac
  14. Don Quixote –  Miguel de Cervantes
  15. Middlemarch – George Eliot
  16. In Search of Lost Time  –  Marcel Proust
  17. Women in Love  – D H Lawrence
  18. Le Pere Goriot –   Honore de Balzac
  19. The Scarlet Letter – Nathaniel Hawthorne
  20. Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
  21. The Golden Notebook – Doris Lessing
  22. The Last of the Mohicans  – James Fenimore Cooper
  23. Uncle Tom’s Cabin  – Harriet Beecher Stowe
  24. Candide  – Voltaire
  25. All the King’s Men  – Robert Penn Warren
  26. Appointment in Samarra –    John O’Hara
  27. American Pastoral  – Philip Roth
  28. The Big Sleep  – Raymond Chandle
  29. The Blind Assassin  – James Dickey
  30.  Handful of Dust  – Evelyn Waugh
  31. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter  – Carson McCullers
  32.  I, Claudius –  Robert Graves
  33. Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
  34. The Satanic Verses – Salman Rushdie
  35. Rabbit, Run  – John Updike
  36. The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy –  Douglas Adams
  37. Tess of the D’urbervilles Thomas Hardy
  38. A Prayer for Owen Meany John Irving
  39. 40.  Dune Frank Herbert
  40. Far From the Madding Crowd Thomas Hardy
  41.  The Story of Tracy Beaker Jacqueline Wilson
  42. The Godfather Mario Puzo
  43. The Magus John Fowles
  44. The Thorn Birds Colleen McCollough
  45. Artemis Fowl Eoin Colfer
  46. The Stand Stephen King
  47. The Secret History Donna Tartt
  48.  Kane and Abel Jeffrey Archer
  49. Good Omens Terry Pratchett & Neal Gaiman
  50. Metamorphosis Franz Kafka
  51.  Nostromo Joseph Conrad
  52.  Love in the Time of Cholera Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  53. Siddhartha Herman Hesse
  54. The Color of Magic Terry Pratchett
  55.  The Count of Monte Cristo Alexandre Dumas pere
  56. The Lost World Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  57.  The Moonstone Wilkie Collins
  58. The Picture of Dorian Gray Oscar Wilde
  59.  The Thirty-Nine Steps John Buchcan
  60. The Wind in the Willows Kenneth Grahame
  61. Vanity Fair William Makepeace Thackeray
  62. Watership Down Richard Adams
  63. Blood Meridian Cormac McCarthy
  64.  Lonesome Dove Cormac McCarthy
  65. The Confessions of Nat Turner William Styron
  66. Falconer John Cheever
  67. White Noise Don DeLillo
  68. Tropic of Cancer Henry Miller
  69. To the Lighthouse Virginia Woolf
  70. Things Fall Apart Chinua Achebe
  71. Under the Net Iris Murdoch
  72. The Sound and the Fury William Faulkner
  73. The Sheltering Sky Paul Bowles
  74. Revolutionary Road Richard Yates
  75. Ragtime El Docctorrow
  76.  The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie Muriel Spark
  77. The Power and the Glory Graham Greene
  78.  Possession AS Byatt
  79. A Passage to India EM Forster
  80.  One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest Ken Kesey
  81. Never Let Me Go Kazuo Ishiguro
  82.  Neuromancer William Gibson
  83.  Native Son Richard Wright
  84. Naked Lunch William Burroughs
  85. Atlas Shrugged Ayn Rand
  86. The Time Travelers Wife Audrey Niffenegger
  87.  Invisible Man Ralph Ellison
  88.  Enders Game Orson Scott Card
  89.  Remembrance of Things Past Marcel Proust
  90. A Confederacy of Dunces John Kennedy Toole
  91. His Dark Materials Phillip Pullman
  92. Of Human Bondage W. Somerset Maugham
  93. Heart of Darkness Joseph Conrad
  94. The Idiot Fyodor Dostoevsky
  95. The Poisonwood Bible Barbara Kingslover
  96. Anne of Green Gables LM Montgomery
  97. Gravity’s Rainbow Thomos Pynchon
  98.  Sons & Lovers DH Lawrence
  99. An American Tragedy Theodore Dreiser
  100. East of Eden John Steinbeck