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Weeding

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I checked in at the Booking Through Thursday blog, which is the host for a weekly book meme or blogging prompt. Here is this week’s prompt:

Do you ever weed out unwanted books from your library? And if so, what do you do with them?
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Weeding in progress. I have to weed more often as the pile of unwanted books stagger more quickly than my acquisition pile does. The rule is I would nix any book of which I don’t have much impression. I line up paper shopping bags from the grocery and start putting books in. Don’t look back.

For a Friend

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I checked in at the Booking Through Thursday blog, which is the host for a weekly book meme or blogging prompt. Here is this week’s prompt:

If someone you know has just published a book, do you feel obliged to buy a copy? Even if it’s not the kind of book you’d normally read?

It really depends on the depth of the relationship. If I just “know” the person but hardly keep in touch, I would browse for it at the bookstore and see what it’s about. If it’s someone who keeps regular contact, most definitely I would purchase a copy to show my support, even if the book is out of my range of preference. But there’s always exception. I have met self-published authors on this blog for whom I meet and arrange reading event.

“Extreme”

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I checked in at the Booking Through Thursday blog, which is the host for a weekly book meme or blogging prompt. Here is this week’s prompt:

What’s the furthest you’ve ever gone to get something to read? (Think extremes as well as miles—wrangling a ride from a stranger to a distant bookstore just to get the newest book from a favorite author?) If your absolute favorite author (living or dead) was coming out with a brand new book tomorrow, how far would you go, what would you do to get a copy?

I’m not desperate to get my hands on new books but I will go very far to find the books I really want to read. After The Painted Veil, I decided to peruse everything written by W. Somerset Maugham that I can find, but I had no luck in this country. Most bookstores carry the volumes of short stories. L.P. Hartley was another overlooked author whose works have not been released for decades. Publishers would spit out one rub after another George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm but totally neglected his essays and other non-fiction works. All these are available, in UK paperback editions, in bookstores in Asia, for roughly the same price. I’m not a fan of online book shopping, let alone giving my money to Amazon. I enjoy the tactile pleasure of book browsing in the bookstores. Also by shopping at the local indies the money will go back to the community. So even with the convenience of ebooks at my finger tip, even with online sales, I would bring my shopping list with me when I fly to Asia.

If I really need to hunt down a new book, a good place to try is the local library book store if I can find proofs. The Strand in New York City has a basement full of proofs and ARCs. The consignment stores are also great treasure haunts for out-of-print books. Costco has selected new titles at discounted prices.

Plot- or Character-Driven

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I checked in at the Booking Through Thursday blog, which is the host for a weekly book meme or blogging prompt. Here is this week’s prompt:

Which is more important when you read — the actual story or the characters? I’ve read books with great plots, but two-dimensional characters, and I’ve read multi-layered characters stuck in clunky stories, and I’m sure you have, too. So which would you rather focus on, if you couldn’t have both?

Some of my most memorable reads are character-driven. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro focuses on the personal journey of the butler Stevens, who looks back in retrospection, with regret, that he feel likes one of history’s victims, as he comes to realize that he may have taken the wrong path. Stoner by John Williams is also propelled by a dense characterization of the title character. John Williams, in depicting Stoner, whose indifference becomes a way of living among the dark forces and sadness that have swept over the society, seems to be saying that most of us will live quiet, unremarkable lives that can probably be summarized in a few sentences and that contribute nothing to humanity’s accomplishments. The Great Gatsby encompasses both—with quick actions that drive the story forward but also superb bantering/dialogue that reveals the depth of characters. If I cannot have both, I’ll pick a character-driven because character-driven stories emphasizes on characterization, inner conflict, and relationships—elements that can set the wheel of the plot.

Re-Reading

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I checked in at the Booking Through Thursday blog, which is the host for a weekly book meme or blogging prompt. Here is this week’s prompt:

I’ve asked before if you re-read your books (feel free to recap), but right now I want to know if that habit has changed? Did you, for example, reread more as a child and your access to new books was limited by how often you could convince your mother to take you to the library? Has the economy affected your access so that you’re forced to reread more often now? Have you grown to look at old books as old friends so that you’re happy to spend time with them rather than rushing the next new thing?

I always re-read my favorites—The Great Gatsby, The Master and Margarita, East of Eden, and The Remains of the Day, to name a few. I’m appalled by readers and book bloggers who think re-reading is a waste of time because there is “so many books but so little time.” Let’s face it: you can never read every book ever published, not even every book in your preferred genre. Re-reading IS an indulgence, but it’s not a waste of time. You could read a book a day for the rest of your life and still not make it through even a quarter of the titles published in 2013 in the UK alone. But does quantity really matter? Re-reading is more a guilty pleasure. I first encountered the aforementioned titles when I was younger—mostly in my college years. Ever since then I have re-read them every once in a while. With each re-reading, the books open up further and resonate differently. Good literature never exhausts its possibilities and meaning. They bestow fresh gifts every time their spines are cracked—they grow in me. At this moment, I’m desperately in need of a re-read since I’m very annoyed and irritated by the current book, infested with skewered hyper-intellectualism and annotated references. (If you know what book it is?)

Fan Fiction

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I checked in at the Booking Through Thursday blog, which is the host for a weekly book meme or blogging prompt. Here is this week’s prompt:

What do you think of fanfiction? In general—do you think it’s a fun thing or a trespass on an author/producer’s world? And of course, obviously specific authors have very firm and very differing opinions about this, yet it’s getting more popular and more mainstream all the time. Do you ever read or write it yourself?

I admire creativity of fan fiction and the writers’ nostalgia of a world lost and that can only be re-lived through the pages. I also have mixed feelings about writers’ tapping into a ready-made market. Somewhat like taking the easy way out, if not cheating. I think most publishers who scout fan-fiction simply look for popular works that can be repurposed as original novels. (In Bangkok, at the bookstore I overheard a conversation saying EL James’s Fifty Shades of Grey originated as a piece of fan fiction based on the Twilight series. I don’t really care for either.) In spite of a few good ones, usually very esoteric, like The Gentle Axe, a take-off after Crime and Punishment, I see (the proliferation of) fan-fiction as the lowest point we’ve reached in the history of culture: it’s crass, celebrity-obsessed, naive, badly written, derivative, consumerist, unoriginal—anti-original. From this perspective it’s a disaster when a work of fan-fiction becomes the world’s number one bestseller and jump-starts a global trend.

Points of View

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I checked in at the Booking Through Thursday blog, which is the host for a weekly book meme or blogging prompt. Here is this week’s prompt:

Which is better (or preferred) … stories with multiple character points of view? Or stories that stick to just one or two at most? And, why?

I don’t have a preference as long as the story is coherent. I do understand why authors choose to write a mystery or historical fiction in multiple points of view for the suspense factor. When I begin a book, I want to know the relation of the narrator to the action of the story—whether the narrator is, for instance, a character in the story, or a voice outside of the story.

Personal stories often require a tight POV to really understand the nuances of that personal struggle. Epic tales tell a bigger picture story and often require multiple people to show all sides. If the story is about a person and their journey, close and single POVs (third or first) can be a great choice, because they allow you to really get into the head of that character and focus on their problem. A story about a situation, be it a quest, a war, a terrorist attack, might be better told through the eyes of characters who can see all sides of it. A good example from recent reading is After Her by Joyce Maynard.

Multiple POVs can be tricky because when a novel has a lot of them, it can be a red flag of a premise novel. So unless every person who is telling the story has a solid reason for being there, it’s best o be without that narrator. If the only reason is because “you can’t show that part of the story any other way” then you might want to reconsider. If there’s no goal driving that character, or nothing in particular happens to him/her, then the story will fall flat. Multiple POVs work best when each POV brings something unique to the tale. A fresh perspective, goals of their own, a subplot that connects to a larger theme that encompasses the entire story. The reader cares about that POV, even if all they care about is to see them get what they deserve. A recent example that exemplifies multiple POV is Five Star Billionaire by Tash Aw.