Book Life is Real Life

Books I've read. Books I want to read. (Very) Short book reviews.

Consuming Life by Zygmunt Bauman

Consuming Life - Zygmunt Bauman

A couple of aspects of postmodern/post-industrial/consuming life according to Bauman, as I understand them:

We're all commodities
Preoccupation with images, because if you're not white enough (it's an Asian thing; African-American too, I guess), thin enough, hip enough (the Nikes, the Jimmy Choos, etc), you're out of the game. (What game? Social relationship, I think.) You are your image.

Pointilist nature of time
Emphasize on the here and now. Past and future hardly matter. (Modern people buy precious metals and houses, postmodern people buy designer stuff and refurbish their kitchen with stainless steel countertops even when they never cook.) Boredom is a vice. (Imagine office types who'd gladly get stuck in a traffic jam in order to go to some vacation spot, rather than spending time with their family to just talk and enjoy each other's company.) You consume to alleviate your boredom.

Let's Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste - Carl Wilson

What I learn from Carl Wilson's Let's Talk About Love: The Journey to the End of Taste:


1) Different people--with different cultural backgrounds, different levels of income and education, etc--will like different things. There's no need to be a snob about it. Besides, if you put yourself into it, you can find the intellectual merits of liking anything, whether it's Celine Dion or Kraftwerk.


2) In time, camp can be cool.


3) There's no such thing as "highbrow" and "lowbrow" in the West before the end of 19th century, just like there's no difference between public persona and the private self. (The "self" is a relatively new concept.) As the bourgeois became richer and more "upper class," they felt the need to set themselves above the rest, kicking the working people out of opera houses and confining them to music parlors.


4) Music can serve various purposes. It can give us a glimpse of the sublime, offer life-affirming (or life-negating) messages, become the soundtrack to our day-to-day activities. So, it's only natural that we have different kinds of music. But of course, it doesn't necessarily mean that a certain kind of music is superior to the other. (It's like this: not all questions need to be existential questions; sometimes you just need to ask simple question like, what time the next bus will come.)

Ten Nights' Dreams by Natsume Soseki

Ten Nights' Dreams - Sōseki Natsume, Lovetta R. Lorenz, Takumi Kashima

Bizarre and surrealistic tales about dreams. Short, so you can read it in one go. I really, really, really wanted to like this book, but I couldn't. I didn't even enjoy it. Something has been lost in translation, perhaps?


The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

The Historian - Elizabeth Kostova

The Historian gave an old story a new twist. It's a long-long-long narrative about vampire hunting. Not just a vampire, but the vampire--Count Vlad of the Order of the Dragon (aka Dracula).

First, a little bit of summary. A lady (which remained nameless all through the book) recaptured a chapter in her life when, as a young woman, she followed the trail set by her predecessors (her father and her father's post-graduate supervisor) in their hunt for Dracula. The quest extended for three generations (1930's-1950's-1970's), that's why I said that it's a long-long-long narrative. The woman told her story, which included his father's telling his own past experience, which included the memoirs of his supervisor. Confusing? I wouldn't blame you. Reading the book, there were moments when I had trouble keeping track of who it was that narrated the sentences before me. Really, it took full concentration to read the book.

It was the discovery of an old, mysterious book that lured each narrator (the girl, his father, her father's post-grad supervisor) into finding out all about Dracula, even going so far as attempting a quest in search of him. Save for the picture of a dragon with an inscription of "Dracula" halfway through the book, it didn't have any writings.

In my opinion, The Historian is good enough a story in that it had the power to captivate its readers (eg: me). Unless there's something more pressing that needed to be done immediately, I found it difficult to stop reading the book. That's just how skillful Kostova was at weaving her tale.

Regardless its title, The Historian--referring to Dracula's keenness in keeping the chronicles of men by means of keeping a private library--merely used historical facts as ornaments. These facts, I think, were not really important for moving the story forward.

Let me explain. There were a bunch of historical facts in The Historian it's obvious Ms. Kostova had done her research splendidly. However, even if she didn't incorporate them in her book, it wouldn't do story any harm. The story could still go along smoothly, just less interesting.

Another pet peeve: too much coincidence. So much, in fact, that even I manage to notice them. (I'm not usually that attentive.) It seems that wherever the girl's father went to--a foreign city with a population of one million, or an international congress discussing a topic completely unrelated to Dracula--he would always meet people that possess the same mysterious book. (Kind of like The Celestine Prophecy, if you know what I mean.) He's also very lucky to always find the documents with information necessary to continue his investigation, always in a short period of time. Even the grand closure, the slaying of Dracula, felt accidental. Isn't it quite spectacular that two people who had just arrived--in a timely manner, by the way--at the spot, were capable of successfully organizing the perfect ambush to beat an extremely intelligent character who had outsmarted his enemies for almost half a millennium?

Overall, The Historian is worth the read, especially if you like adventure novels with a sprinkle of history.

Outposts: Journeys to the Surviving Relics of the British Empire

Outposts: Journeys to the Surviving Relics of the British Empire - Simon Winchester I never thought I would say this about a book written by Simon Winchester, but it's boring. His pompousness (what's with former British colonies being "better" than their French/Dutch/Italian counterparts) I can take, but after reading a full sentence filled with names of obscure places that I don't care to know about, I decided that I didn't have the patience to go on with this book.

Emma (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

Emma - Jane Austen A good book, but not for me.

Hitohira Volume 1

Hitohira, Volume 1 - Idumi Kirihara Ide ceritanya bagus sih--tentang cewek pemalu yang "menemukan" keberanian lewat teater. Tapi alurnya terlalu "datar", menurutku.

Kobato., Vol. 1

Kobato, Vol. 01 - CLAMP Masih nggak jelas ceritanya mau dibawa ke mana. Tapi . . . karena Kobato-chan imut, saya kasih tiga bintang deh :D.

The White Queen: A Novel (Cousins' War (Touchstone Hardcover))

The White Queen - Philippa Gregory Not bad. Wouldn't go straight to my "favorite books" list or anything, but it's quite entertaining. Worth the read if you're into historical fiction.