I must admit, I kind-of stole the title from a Book Riot weekly column on books acquired and books finished. I don’t think they would mind (unless, of course, they decide to push for the removal, which I would gladly do–I would not make it difficult, play hardball and eventually see myself getting sued for something so trivial and unnecessary), for such title utilizes a similar concept: newly-acquired reading material for everyone’s reference.
Anyway, there are books in this list that I bought weeks back in Manila (and where else? Booksale!), when we travelled there for a much-needed respite (and for other reasons that, despite its eventual junking, practically made us promise to relocate somewhere close) and one that had been in my to-read list ever since its release date was announced several months ago. It really pained me to realize that I’ve been neglecting this blog for God-knows-how-long and my immediate reaction was to begin writing again–one skill that I believe had suffered from the interval I inadvertently created.
Haruki Murakami’s newest work Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage is his follow-up from 2011’s mammoth-size of a novel, 1Q84. As always with Murakami, his writing mesmerizes, a metaphysical detachment from the banality of contemporary prose, and despite its apparent repetitiveness (of plot and structure; elements and style), he plunges his readers into the chasm of the fantastic and, quite possibly, a sort of literary hypnosis. I am currently in the book’s first pages, and from what I surmise, it would be a breathtaking read.
This morning, I finished Jim Thompson’s The Killer Inside Me, which was adapted to the big screen by director Michael Winterbottom, and featured a cast whose names are affixed with incidental nepotistic delineation: Ben’s kid brother Casey Affleck, and Goldie’s platinum blonde daughter Kate Hudson. Also throw in a dull brunette (something so wildly un-stereotypical) by the name of Jessica Alba. To most of the pulp-noir faithful, Jim Thompson is a household name, along with the likes of Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, James M. Cain, and even David Goodis, authors whose works are constantly adapted and re-adapted. Thompson’s include The Grifters (Melanie Griffith and Billy Baldwin), Pop. 1280 (made into a wonderful noir flick by Bertrand Tavernier with Philippe Noiret and Isabelle Huppert), and The Getaway (Peckinpah with McQueen and McGraw). The Killer Inside Me weaves the unconventional–challenging the morality and the intrinsic righteousness of law enforcement)–and the unthinkable into one warped-up plot set in a small town Texas.
Dean Francis Alfar’s collection of short stories, How To Traverse Terra Incognita was bought simply because it’s a Dean Alfar. I haven’t actually read his previously published works in book-form (Salamanca, etc), but I’ve been a follower of his blog when he was updating it. And his prose can rival a Vandermeer or a Gaiman, for that matter. Dean mostly delves on the speculative-cum-fantastic fiction, the kind of fiction I had the least patience to read, yet he uses the traditional Filipino penchant in supernatural belief as a mechanism to fuel his stories—something that made me rethink of my aversion to fantastic fiction.
When I first set my eyes on Warren Ellis’ Gun Machine, I knew I had to have a copy. Took me a almost a month to bequeath what was left of my peso to journey back to the Powerbooks branch where I first saw to actually find myself handing the bills over to the counter person. I’ve been an Ellis fan since I read his debut novel, Crooked Little Vein, back in 2008, and where, a cult following to godzilla bukkake, like a metampethamine shot straight up. Gun Machine is, surprisingly, half-baked and almost contemporary: the quality, less reminiscent of the eccentricity of Vein, but more reader-friendly. Gone is Ellis’ semi-wired oddity and is replaced with a “cautionary-cum-satirical jab at America’s gun culture”. The book is readable, just don’t expect it to be at the same level as Transmetropolitan.
These books I got at Booksale, a franchise used bookshop that mostly caters to the casual penny-scrimping Filipino. Inasmuch as I patronize Powerbooks and Fully Booked, but finances often preclude me from binging at this two big box shops. Despite my bargain book tendencies I inculcated while living in the US (literature is mightily pricey—as literacy is measured not by the abundance of books available, but by its apparent cost), I am meticulous in searching for a book in perfect condition.
- People Who Eat Darkness (Richard Lloyd Parry) – I’ve seen copies of this book at Barnes and Noble months back (or probably, a year back) and while the curiosity had not really attempted to murder the kitty in me, I decided to forego buying one. I’ve heard and read of the disappearance (and subsequent murder) of Lucie Blackman through Jake Adelstein’s wonderful memoir Tokyo Vice, mentioning the difficult conditions of Western expatriates working in the Japanese hospitality industry. Parry’s book, on the other hand, magnified it in unprecedented detail.
- Two Bond novels by John Gardner, Brokenclaw and Nobody Lives Forever – I was expecting to find Ian Fleming’s but I’d settle for this. Besides, I have read two of his Bond works long ago, Never Send Flowers and Seafire.
- The Pacific War Companion – Osprey Publishing books are just too pricey if you are going to purchase them at either Amazon or BN. Finding this at Booksale is a godsend.
- The Lemur (Benjamin Black) – Another blind buy, but only because I was hoping I’d find something of a gem. But guess what, The Lemur is far from being one. Serialized in the New York Times, Black (author John Banville pen name while writing crime fiction) goes for the broadsheet immediacy and length and is a big letdown, both in composition and style.
- The MacArthur Highway and Other Relics of American Empire in the Philippines (Joseph P. McCallus) – one of the non-fictions I bought (the others being Parry’s, and The Pacific War Companion), is perhaps, one of the little gems I found at Booksale. The book is part travelogue, part history, part social analysis on the influences of American occupation of the Philippines. McCallus travelled to the several cities and townships where General Douglas MacArthur did his island hopping to fulfill his promise of liberating the Philippines from the Japanese during the Second World War. Interesting to the point of simply chronicling what happened in the war and the conditions of such places decades after.
Chris Pavone’s The Accident is the sequel to his espionage thriller The Expats, which in spite of its overtly cinematic treatment, still is a captivating read. Both have standalone plot, but I think The Accident has more plausibility, though somewhat a bit lukewarm compared to Olen Steinhauer. I would say Pavone’s literary proximity is there with Dan Fesperman’s spy novels.
William S. Burroughs’ The Ticket That Exploded is bought blind. As always, Burroughs’ offbeat weirdness is not for everybody’s palate, the reason why I hesitated when I started reading it (now, unfortunately, ended up in my to-read pile), and perhaps why the counter girl told me the book was marked way below its printed sticker price (same went for Thompson’s book–I’m not complaining, by the way, it’s just that people usually tend to value literature by referring to what’s in the bestseller list). The book is part of The Nova Trilogy, where Burroughs attempted to create a “new space mythology”.
Leche (or Milk, in Spanish, or colloquially, a derogatory term in the Tagalog vernacular) is R. Zamora Linmark’s take on the Filipino diaspora through the eyes of a Fil-American balikbayan. I have read a short story by Linmark in Jessica Hagedorn-edited anthology Manila Noir, and for some reason I decided to go for this book than Galbraith’s The Silkworm. Although I think of bestsellers as the anchor as to which the entire book industry is hinged, I believe their quality is compromised by its readability and market climate. Anyway, I’ve started reading Linmark’s book only to discover my pressent state of detachment to the Philippines, something that I (or we, my family, in fact) need to rectify in the future.