I read A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man as a high school student. When I re-read it again recently for the Hungry Hundred Book Club I asked myself, more than once, why I’d even bothered, not having liked it the least little bit the first time around.
Enough was enough, I told myself. Lesson learned. I was never going to read more Joyce. Life’s too short to spend time trying to like stuff I don’t actually like, regardless of how ‘important’ the stuff purports to be. But then, I read more Joyce anyway! Why did I do that?!
The Irish Embassy in Singapore invited local readers to participate in Bloomsday by reading James Joyce's short story collection Dubliners and coming for a discussion on 14 June 2019. I saw it as an opportunity to pursue the question of whether Joyce is really the founder of ALL modern fiction, as has been asserted.
Genre: literary fiction (short stories) Date started / date finished: 30-May-19 to 05-Jun-19 Length: 150 pages ISBN: Project Gutenberg 2814 Originally published in: 1914 Gutenberg link: Dubliners
The full title of the work is The Pilgrim’s Progress from This World, to That Which Is to Come. The work tells the story of a man named Christian who reads the Bible and thus comes to fear his doom and to feel that he is carrying a burden. He desires to be saved. Luckily, he subsequently encounters a man named Evangelist who advises him to travel to the Celestial City by a certain path. Christian tries to follow his instructions, with varying degrees of success, and (massive spoiler alert) ultimately reaches his goal.
Is it worth reading this venerable Christian text nowadays?
The characters of Little Women refer to the book and its setting, characters, and plot.
Genre: fiction (religious allegory) Date started / date finished: 16-May-19 to 20-May-19 Length: 145 pages ISBN: Project Gutenberg 131 Originally published in: 1678 Gutenberg link: The Pilgrim's Progress
Little Women, a popular and influential nineteenth-century American novel about the coming of age of four sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy, is familiar, charming, and—for those with a compatible upbringing—only a little bit too didactic.
It’s easy to admire Jo, the fiercely independent heroine of Little Women, a tomboy who cuts all her hair off, looks forward to spinsterhood, and aims to support herself by writing. I wonder if she’s a Mary Sue; others (doubtless more fruitfully) debate whether or not the book is feminist.
Toa Payoh, Tiong Bahru, and Katong are sold out at the publisher.
When and Why I Read We Love Chinatown, We Love Geylang Serai, and We Love Serangoon Gardens
These are attractive locally-produced books.
Genre: non-fiction (art)
Date started / date finished: 07-Jan-19 to 07-Jan-19
Length: 96 pages
ISBN: 9789810778231, 9789814615181, 9789811700569 (paperback)
Originally published in: 2015, 2016 and 2017
Genre: fiction (young-adult, political speculative fiction)
Date started / date finished: 03-Dec-18 to 08-Dec-18
Length: 261 pages
ISBN: ASIN B07KDTHQCT
Originally published in: 2018
Amazon link: Sofia and the Utopia Machine
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was not very fast-paced for a thriller. For many pages, the journalist character conversed with his ageing employer or sat in a cabin reading documents about an old, unsolved case. The girl is an interesting character. I don’t really want to read any of the other books about her, though. This one had too much sex, violence, and violent sex for my taste. I mean, I like George Martin’s Ice and Fire series, but his characters live in a separate, fictional world, whereas I’m fairly convinced, never having been there, that Sweden is a real place.
When and why I read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
I have finished my book club reading for the year so now I can read stuff that’s just sitting on the shelf…
Genre: fiction (thriller)
Date started / date finished: 26-Nov-18 to 30-Nov-18
Originally published in: 2005/2008
Amazon link: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
What does “free-market” mean? Does it mean everything is for sale to everyone all the time, for whatever price a buyer and seller can agree on? Maybe not. There are cases where everyone involved benefits from a common set of rules, whether those rules are created by a government, a financial exchange board, a consortium of private hospitals, or a professional association of lawyers and judges.
This book was cheerful, interesting, and accessible. If anything, I found it too accessible; I felt I didn’t need quite so much explanation and exemplification of the relevant concepts. Still, the sections on the “market” for kidneys alone make the book worth reading: markets among large groups of cooperating participants don’t just provide us with a variety of pleasant goods and services, they save lives. With highly trained, specialized minds like Roth’s working on improving methods of organ exchange, we have reason to hope for even better results in the future.
When and why I read Who Gets What and Why
From the title, I would have imagined a law book about wills, but it’s an economics book about markets.
Genre: non-fiction (popular economics)
Date started / date finished: 17-Nov-18 to 25-Nov-18
Originally published in: 2015
Amazon link: Who Gets What and Why
The structure of Station Eleven is undeniably clever. (The skill that must have been required is comparable to Toni Morrison’s when she crafted the story of Beloved.) Only gradually do readers piece together the relationships between the characters as Station Eleven skips around in time. Some slivers of story are from the time when a global plague first hits, and some are from the empty, bleak years following the deaths of most of the Earth’s people.
I found the story depressing. I tend to dislike stories about epidemics; they make me feel both disgusted and powerless. Add to my distaste for unstoppable illness the inevitable collapse of civilized society, which gives rise to the spread of lawlessness and dangerous cults, and you have a recipe for misery. The faint glimmer of hope tacked on at the end failed to console me in the slightest.
When and why I read Station Eleven
I keep hearing about this book.
Genre: fiction (speculative fiction)
Date started / date finished: 13-Nov-18 to 17-Nov-18
Originally published in: 2014
Amazon link: Station Eleven