Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Random Book Babble

Despite the wide open spaces surrounding my four walls here on the edge of America, a familiar closing in kind of mood crept up yesterday, signaling that a few hours escape to Daytona was in order, a drive to help blow away the metaphoric cobwebs. Daily views around home are unfailingly those of distant vistas, panoramic swaths of deep blue and sandy white and people at either at rest or play. Infrequently it’s good to get away from a day of losing oneself in cloud formations and sandy sculptures, to jump into the liveliness of people hustling about their daily work or on errands in crowded shops and streets.

All that is probably just an excuse for me to spend some time in the big Barnes & Noble store in Daytona. I tried a temporary fix the other day by visiting the local Bookland store (a small bookstore owned by Books A Million), but it’s the mini-stop of bookstores and more often than not a waste of time, a useless placebo for book junkies. So it was off to Daytona and the big B&N.

The past two weeks have been a designated re-read period for me, and while keeping up with what’s new on bookstore shelves and in related newsletters, focus has been more on a second look at three books read over the last few years. Not an unusual plan, being one who enjoys returning to a book after a passage of years, this time it was a Julia Glass book from 2002, Three Junes, Haruki Murakami’s novel, Kafka on the Shore (2002) and Edward Rutherfurd’s 2009 historical novel, New York. As it happened, a pre-ordered new release arrived in my mailbox and I squeezed it in between the Murakami and Rutherfurd books; that was Michael Connelly’s latest, The Drop.

Three Junes is a book I would recommend to anyone unreservedly—a fine, fine book. The wonder and skill of Murakami’s latest book 1Q84 is precisely what sent me back to his earlier Kafka on the Shore. Another one to recommend without hesitation. Before the third book on my reread list, I took a couple of days to work my way through the latest Michael Connelly featuring his long established Los Angeles detective, Harry Bosch. Such economic writing from Connelly, not a wasted word or phrase that doesn’t propel his story. Stories about New York, be they old, fictional, historical, contemporary or non-fictional are right down my line. I have always liked the epic books of Edward Rutherfurd and his 2009 book, New York is another historical novel, surpassingly picturesque and studded with fascinating facts concerning the city’s development.

Tuesday in Barnes & Noble was rewarding as usual. There was really only one book on my mind as I entered the store, but you know how that goes. Read the other day on NPR an excerpt of the new Alan Bennett book Smut, and was hoping to lay my hands on that. Took some digging but it was there between two distracting stacks on an out-of-the-way table. On a nearby shelf I came across a book unheard of, unmentioned, or at least in my world; a small 2011 hardback release by Lou Beach titled 420 Characters: Stories. The first thing that caught my eye was a quote from Jonathan Lethem: “Holy sh*t! These are great!” Each of the stories is limited to 420 characters, including letters, spaces and punctuation. Sound familiar? They we're each written as a status update on the author’s Facebook page. One example…

‘The storm came over the ridge, a rocket dropped rain like bees, filled the corral with water and noise. I watched lightning hit the apple trees and thought: “Fritters!” as we packed sandbags against the flood. There was nowhere to go that wasn’t wet, the squall had punched a hole in the cabin roof and the barn was knee-high in mud. We’ll bury Jess later, when the river recedes, before the ground turns hard again.’

That’s it; the end. A haiku-like story that leaves the reader to fill in the blanks.

The last was a totally unexpected find, a new release of Haruki Murakami’s popular 1987 novel, Norwegian Wood. I read this book at the time of it’s first release when I was living in Japan, a time when Murakami was still undiscovered outside of Japan. Since reading 1Q84 I have been thinking again of this and other Murakami books. The new release is in conjunction with the release of a new movie version of the novel. It is a Japanese production, but has been released outside of Japan recently.


  1. That venture to Daytona should stock up your reading material for quite a while.

  2. And I rarely if ever go back and reread a book--even great ones that thrilled me. My loss, I suppose. But a large part of the passion for books is the discovery of new adventures in the paper trade that will stay in my head as long as there are clear thoughts abiding there.


About Me

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Oak Hill, Florida, United States
A longtime expat relearning the footwork of life in America