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Atlas + Oreo

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As soon as I turned the last page of Atlas Shrugged, I started from the beginning to read the first chapter. I should have known the significance when a chapter is titled “The Theme.” I just didn’t register at first. I consider reading and finishing the book a paramount achievement. It’s one of those books whose philosophy that you don’t necessarily agree with in full but that it provokes you to think. Finishing this book justifies taking a break from reading—for a day.

Another reason for this break is the lack of luck in finding a copy of Oreo by Fran Ross, a satire of racial identity that was ignored during its era. Published in 1974, the book had disappeared as quickly as it had appeared. It certainly didn’t speak to the wider cultural landscape of the moment. I really like to get a copy and read for myself.

Things Readers Are Sick of Hearing

Taking a break from Atlas Shrugged posts, I bring you a fun article on a list of things that people who love books are sick of hearing. See which one provokes you the most.

1. “You’re staying in tonight to read?”
Is there anything so exciting that would take me away from my couch and punkin in the evening? I won’t exchange my reading time for anything except for maybe a good cocktail.

2. “I wish I had time to read, but …”
…but you have to be glued to the phone and make sure you don’t miss every latest Facebook status updates. I gotcha!

3. “You’re buying more books?”
This is end of a date if this question pops up in the conversation. Buying books like grocery, and proud of it!

4. “Oh, I don’t really read.”
I have actually met a lot of people whose response to my question “what is your favorite book?” is “oh, I don’t really read.” How is that even a thing?! You are doing yourself a great disservice if you don’t let yourself get lost in some fictional world every once and awhile, or learn about real life things that have happened to other people. Reading is such an amazing thing, and it makes you so much smarter and someone I would actually want to have a conversation with.

5. “You must have loved [the only novel people who don’t read are talking about this year].”
“…”

6. “Can’t you just wait for the movie to come out?”
An Artist of the Floating World was published in 1986. I’m still waiting.

7. “Why do you always have a book in your purse?”
What am I gonna do while my espresso is being pulled? Books are my life!

8. “Fiction doesn’t count.”
It’s shown scientifically that human beings who read fiction are more empathetic and kinder people.

9. “Can I borrow your copy of…”
I will only loan my books to friends who love books. I’m livid about people passing my books on to others, or books coming back dog-eared, and stained with coffee rings and have crumbs stuck between the pages.

More Summer Reads

Goodreads has (yet) another summer reading list. This list has something for everyone. Go take a look. I find the books under amateur sleuth and literary bookworm quite appealing.

Reading Atlas Shrugged

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I’ve been having a nose in Atlas Shrugged, which I read in conjunction with several book bloggers. One quote has been recurring throughout and I have only begun to realize its significance:

But what can you do when you have to deal with people? (Part I, Chapter VII)

This question is uttered on many occasions by Dr. Stadler, first in Part One, Chapter VII. Dr. Stadler on the government’s behalf asks the exclusive rights to “Rearden Metal”, a new metallurgical compound invented by Hank Rearden. The blue-green metal is tougher than steel and would be an asset to the railway industry. Rearden refuses and the government proceeds to indict him for violation of directives. The quote in question demonstrates Dr. Stradler and the looters’ (people gang up on successful industrialist like Rearden) belief that people are generally irrational and must be dealt with in a manipulative or repressive manner. Stadler believes most people are incapable of rational thought and must be told what is best for them. He believes they will support pure thought only if it is government-sanctioned, and this is why he has supported the creation of the State Science Institute. As the story progresses, this view of people becomes a justification for the increasing power of the government and its adoption of brute force. The question is also stated by Dr. Floyd Ferris at the unveiling of Project X. While coercing Stadler to deliver his speech praising the monstrous machine, Ferris reminds him that at a time of hysteria, riots, and mass violence, the people must be kept in line by any means necessary. He underscores his message by quoting the question Stadler himself is known for asking.

Does this sound relevant to some of the governing bodies nowadays?

Happy Fourth!

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—that Taggart boom and Rearden Metal and the gold rush to Colorado and the drunken spree out there, with Wyatt and his bunch expanding their production like kettles boiling over! Everybody thinks it’s great—that’s all you hear anywhere you go—people are slap-happy, making plans like six-year-olds on a vacation—you’d think it was a national honeymoon of some kind or a permanent Fourth of July!” (Atlas Shrugged, Part I, Chapter IX)

Happy Fourth of July from Phoenix.

“Who’s John Galt?” – Atlas Shrugged Read-Along

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I kick off second half of 2015 with Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, reading in conjunction with Tina at Book Chatter. Here are the mechanics:

Runs from July 1-Aug 15, 2015
Use #AtlasRAL to talk about it on Twitter.
Tina hopes to write an update post on my blog after each part (I, II, III) just to see how we are doing.

Schedule:
Part I by July 15 (approx 300 pages)
Part II by July 31 (approx 320 pages)
Part III by August 15 (approx 450 pages)

First published in 1957, it’s a huge book with a tremendous scope. It is a dramatization of her unique vision of existence and of man’s highest potential. It explores the pursuit of profit and success against individualism. It probes the relation between faith and reason. Is self-esteem possible or are we consigned to a life of self-doubt and guilt?

I started this morning and I’m riveted at it already, despite the daunting size. The famous opening line “Who is John Galt?” is a mystery. Nobody knows where the expression comes from. The mystery of the plot certainly hinges on this bizarre question. Thank you Tina for calling the shot to read this one!

Lazy Sunday Reads

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It’s Sunday, a week before the long 4th-of-July weekend. I have to regroup and finish current readings in time for the Atlas Shrugged read-along scheduled to begin on Wednesday 1st of July. I’ll schlep the door stopper with me to Arizona for the long weekend. It would be fun to sit in the pool and chill out with the book.

I’m about halfway through We Are Not Ourselves and am feeling slightly stuck. It’s not a plot-driven but an intimate scrutiny of a family in which husband and wife are not on the same footing in their aspiration to the stakes of American Dream. The writing is superb but my mind can be less patient than what the author is revealing on his pace. So when I feel stuck, I put it down and read a tale from Grimm’s Fairy Tales! The kitty also reminds me to take a break too! He would sit on the book and demand pampering!

Writers Nobody Knows (Let Alone Reads)

Both of my favorite local indies, Green Apple Books and City Lights, shared a list of ten great writers nobody reads. Honestly, reading is an old sport, and it takes much longer time to finish a book than to watch a movie or to listen to an album. Reading takes concentration and effort. A lot of books have gone unnoticed, unfashioned, forgotten, neglected, and out-moded.

Ten new names for me, many more opportunities: Marcel Schwob , dying young, is a writer whose influence far exceeds his readership. Mary Butts has a penchant for scandal. Marguerite Young takes so long to finish a novel that she is forgotten. Joao Guimaraes Rosa is the Brazilian James Joyce. Julien Gracq is geographer teacher-cum-writer. Jane Bowles can be classified as a very quirky and strange writer. Augusto Monterroso is the author of one of the world’s shortest stories. Rosemary Tonks retreated from the literary scene and preferred nobody to read her work after the publication of two collections of poetry. Fran Ross is a writer who was way ahead of her time. Driss ben Hamed Charhadi is an illiterate shepherd and petty drug trafficker in Tangier!

I have also come across hundreds of writers forgotten by history or ignored altogether. Some undoubtedly deserve their fate; others, immensely talented writers, would nearly break my heart. This list couldn’t have come to me at a better time as I’m thinking about my summer reads. I’m never a fan of fluffy beach reads so this list gives me a good reason to browse the dusty shelves of used bookstore and seek out these forgotten authors.

Marking the Books

Some people like to keep their books clean, I like to pencil in my thoughts on the margin and underline a passage that appeals to me. I can’t agree more that reading is a continual conversation with the author. Not only dies reading encourage critical thinking it also provokes a response.

I cannot agree more with this Time Magazine article about writing in your book. Marking my book is indispensable. I’m interacting with the author and what is written. I own almost all the books so I am not guilty about marking them.

Han and Hanff

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I’m back to my old haunt from college days—Walden Pond Bookstore on Grand in Oakland. It’s a wonderful used bookstore with an amazing fiction and mystery selection. I love the high shelves of fiction all on one wall extending to the back of the store. I love the creaky wooden floorboard. This reminds me why I love indie used bookstore so much—I always find books that are either forgotten or no longer in print.

People probably won’t know who Han Suyin is. But I say she’s the writer of A Many Splendored Thing, which was made into a movie, set in Hong Kong, called, Love is A Many-Splendored Thing, would that ring the bell? Han, like her heroine in Splendor, is a Sino-Anglo mixed woman who was trained in medicine. She was born in Beijing and lived in Hong Kong after the war. This copy of The Crippled Tree is the first I come across after a long hunt.

The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street is the sequel to 84 Charing Cross Road, a record of a postal love affair with England through a twenty-year correspondence with a London bookseller. In this book, Helene Hanff’s dream come true as she makes her way over the pond to visit England. Finding this book also makes my dream come true.