Hello! I’ve read three books this week. One’s puny, one’s medium-sized, and one’s probably the biggest book I’ve ever read…
Also, since the war is STILL happening, I’ve compiled yet another list of places you can donate to in order to support Ukraine. Please do so if you are able.
The Man With the Compound Eyes, by Wu Ming-Yi,
Translated by Darryl Sterk
“Leaving the animal hospital, she saw a follow up on the earthquake on the TV news. As Dahu had said, seismologists suspected this was not simply an energy release. The next report was news to Alice, though: a huge Trash Vortex in the Pacific Ocean was breaking up, and a big chunk of it was headed for the coast right near where she lived. Watching aerial footage of the vortex, Alice could not believe her eyes. She could not believe her ears, either, when the report, drawing on an international news media source, adopted a tragicomic tone, declaring that, in the vortex, almost everyone would be able to find almost everything he’d ever thrown away in his entire life.”
This is a very cool book. the main plot is basically that a tsunami sends a huge trash vortex into Taiwan’s coast, and as a result a boy from a mythical island and a woman who is grieving her dead husband and son come together and form a friendship.
The book is much more than that though. Other peoples’ stories are told in it as well. Most of the stories involve loss, but some of them also involve regaining joy in life. All of them involve the changing climate, and at the center of it is a mysterious man with compound eyes…
What makes the book so good is that people are at its center (in terms of exploring the human condition) instead of having less-developed characters and revolving around the premise of “Oh no! A giant trash-vortex is coming for us! What do we do!”
In other words, I’d recommend.
The Lost Soul, by Olga Tokarczuk, Illustrated by Joanna Concejo,
Translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones
“Finally, during one of his many journeys, the man awoke in the middle of the night in his hotel room and felt as if he couldn’t breathe. He looked out the window, but he wasn’t sure what city he was in—all cities look the same through hotel windows. Nor was he sure how he came to be there or why. And unfortunately he had forgotten his own name too. It was a strange feeling—he had no idea how he was going to find himself again.”
Come for Tokarczuk’s words, stay for Concejo’s great illustrations.
This book is very short and is basically a bunch of illustrations with some text in between (kind of like Hugo Cabret). It’s about a man who loses his soul and has to find it again. How does he do it? Does he even do it? Read the book to find out!
The illustrations are terrific, like I already said. The book also has a lot of wisdom in it, even though it’s very short (in contrast to her much longer book, The Books of Jacob which is humongous and may or may not have as much wisdom as this book has in it).
In any case, I’d recommend.
The House of Government, Part 1, by Yuri Slezkine,
Read by Stefan Rudnicki
“[About the Bolsheviks:] But the radical abandonment of most conventional [family] attachments, the continual sacrifice of the present for the sake of the future, and the violent casting-out of money-changers came, as all heroic commitments do, at the cost of recurring doubt. What if the discarded attachments were the true ones? What if the future came too late for there ever to have been a present? What if the philistines were only human? What if all the years in prison and exile were in vain? What is my strength that I should wait, and what is my end that I should endure?”
This is a huge book (45 hours long, or over a thousand pages in book-form). Given that, I expected it to be kind of a slog to get through. Imagine my delight when, instead of being a slog, the book turned out to be surprisingly entertaining.
The author’s very good at getting across dense ideas in a very engaging way (mainly through humor/wit/wordplay). So while the first several pages are devoted to a description of Moscow (which, in lesser hands, would be absolutely boring), Slezkine makes it absolutely fun.
He also makes some interesting comparisons between the rise of religion and the rise of the Bolsheviks in Russia, though I felt that it wasn’t fully developed (yet!)
All that to say, read this book.
As promised, a list of organizations to donate to in order to help Ukraine:
Stand Up For Ukraine—Provides food, shelter, education, and healthcare to those displaced by the crisis in Ukraine. Donate here: https://www.globalgiving.org/global-citizen-ukraine/
Islamic Relief USA—Works with NGOs on the ground in Ukraine to provide support to those in need. Donate here: https://irusa.org/europe/
World Food Program—Provides food to people in Ukraine. Donate here: https://donatenow.wfp.org/ukraine-appeal/~my-donation
World Health Organization—Helps support those in Ukraine affected by health problems during the war. Donate here: https://www.ukraine.who.foundation/?form=FUNNSJTYKVD