Tuesday, December 11, 2007

2007-the year of books and travel, part three.

Wow, I can't believe it's Monday or Tuesday again already. It's time for another book post. Now last week I left off with telling you about how I failed at reading The Tale of Genji. I met my very cool smart cousin for the first time ever right about that time last summer. He's the only one I know who's ever tried reading it, and he stopped because it was "boring". I'm going to ignore that, and carry on with my plans no matter what.

Anyways, before leaving for Romania, I found a free copy of Marina Lewynca's Two Caravans, among the uncorrected proofs we have in the kitchen at work. Usually there's never anything good, but I took a chance with this one because her other book A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian was kind of popular. I think the thought was also to get into the eastern European mood, if there is such a thing. Two Caravans is told from three points of view. One is the young Ukrainian orange revolution girl, then there's the young Ukrainian miner-guy, and lastly, my favorite; Dog. He only talks in caps, and all his chapters start with I AM DOG I RUN. It's great. The story begins in a strawberry field in England, where a bunch of random eastern Europeans and two Chinese girls work for the shady Vulk. The characters, including their various accents are amazing, and the story gets pretty damn exciting towards the end. Such a great book.

By the time I finished it I was already in Romania I think, and that's where I started The Complete Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby that my cousin wanted me to read. This whole series of book posts is very much inspired by the Spree ( as I like to call it ), which is a compilation of 2 years worth of the " Stuff I've been Reading" column(?) he writes for the Believer. Even though I'm not a huge fan of Nick Hornby's novels, I really enjoyed reading about reading like this. It's definitely a book-nerd-book. You'll read it when there's no turning back and you will like it. Next I read True Tales of American Life, edited by Paul Auster. It's some 40 of the best stories from the radio show he did for the NPR, where he asked Americans to send in their true stories, an idea that he credits his wife for. The tales where so amazing, and sad and hilarious. While waiting out a storm by the Black Sea, I read them out loud to my friends, in our dingy little room, by cellphone light when the power went out. Or while slowly passing scorched sunflower fields on the slow train ride back to Bucharest, which took 7 hours because the tracks were dilated from the heat.

And what do you know, speaking of post apocalyptic burnt landscapes, I started reading The Road by Cormac McCarthy right after that one. ( Hey they are making into a movie..) It had been recommended to me by DJ and Oprah, and I couldn't resist buying it. Because the cover was so black and glossy. The story about this father and son who stubbornly refuse to die, in a world where that would by far be the easiest thing to do, really pulled me in. It was like jumping down a black hole every time I opened it. Leaving the noisy, sweaty Bucharest nights for a quiet, evil America where ashes fill the air. Pretty intense huh? It was. That's why it won the Pulitzer Prize.

So I thought I should read something fun and cheery after that, something about music. When I got back to Stockholm I picked out a new free book from the kitchen, called The Boy Who Cried Freebird by Mitch Myers. The first story was really funny, about this guy who always yells Freebird at every show he goes to, because it's his thing. And I thought the other stories would be good too because most of them were about bands I like. But guess what? They were just cool " rock n' roll fables" that Mitch Myers made up! Oh, I forget, some them were true but he won't tell us which ones! This is too crazy for me. Slowly I began to understand why the introduction was sort of defensive...he ends it with saying that his book asks the musical question " Do You Believe in Magic?", and if you do, his stories will speak to you. I guess Magic didn't free this young girl's heart, but maybe that's because I'm a child of the 80's and not of the 70's, I want the facts. ( I do like that song though. I'm not made of stone, jeez....)

Enraged by this complete nonsense ( I might be exaggerating, but if you believe in magic you'll enjoy it), I got the most reliable, down to earth book I could find, Woody Guthrie's autobiography Bound for Glory. And after I got into the colloquial southern way they talk in that book, which took a few pages, I really loved it. Woody Guthrie led an incredible life, and reading about it made me realize that autobiographies are something else entirely. It's just a completely different kind of reading, because you learn so much from them if they are as good like this one.

Johnny Cash- Further On Up The Road