Someone asked me what I would do if I had a fortune to spend, without much thought I said I would spend my life acquiring great books, great wine and great memories. Not much different than the way I live today, without a bank account that looks like a telephone number.
As a child I think I saw more of the world through the written word than my own eyes. I would wake up with my hand reaching for the book I had fallen asleep reading under the blankets. I ate breakfast with one hand relaying a spoon to the cereal bowl and the other turning pages.
As I got older I read less, but not less passionately. No matter where my life had taken me I always ended up with a book at my side to keep me company, even if it took me a month to finish it, even if weeks would pass without a glance at its pages, I would still have it there, like a lucky charm. Often the book in question had been bought absentmindedly at a market, one of those “I should have already read this by now” tomes that had slipped by me..
More time passed and I realized that I was having difficulty reading without distraction. The phone will light up and I spend the next twenty minutes scrolling through Instagram, absentmindedly reading images, forgetting the book at my side. One day I realized that I had the same book on the side of my bed for the past three months and I still hadn’t made it through part 2 of 3 and it certainly wasn’t because the author was uninvolving. I just couldn’t pay attention to anything for more than five minutes. My attention span has turned static.
I think a lot of us can relate to this problem. I have good news: All is not lost. With a little focus and sometimes just leaving the damn thing at home and going for a walk or a cup of coffee for a while, it’s just you. Anyway, These are my favorite books I’ve read in 2015, I’ll keep updating this list, I hope it grows large enough to overwhelm a shelf.
I love Blaise Cendrars (Née Frédéric Louis Sauser) because he is a master of self invention and has the vocabulary of all the men he claims to be. He re-named himself Blaise Cendrars which is a blend of “Braise” (embers) “Cendres” (ashes) and Arts. His writing is quite fiery as well, especially in Moravagine which tells the tale of an aristocratic mad man released from the asylum by his admiring psychiatrist who is studying what happens when madness is set free. I won’t go into much detail because it’s worth the read, but it made Henry Miller laugh, from joy and anxiety.
“I might repeat to myself, slowly and soothingly, a list of quotations beautiful from minds profound; if I can remember any of the damn things.” -D Parker
I love this book because it speaks of one thing only: people. And I love people. Parker captures the bittersweet in life and with her magic, offers it on a page in a perfect anecdote as dry as the champagne she drank. She describes people in these amazing, two word terms that paint a vivid picture. “Useless romantic” “Vicariously tearful” are some of my favorites but her stories are full of them. I brought this book on a trip two vacations.
I was at Stories in Echo Park with a couple dollars and no clear idea on what to take home with me, when Alex said ” Waiting for a book to call out? I think one of these should be the one” and he placed four books by C.L. in my hands. The four covers create one face and I asked Alex if I was supposed to start with the left eye first. He said they weren’t in any sort of order.
I picked The Passion According to G.H. because… it was the thickest and they were all the same price. (I know.. I know) but the summary was intriguing. It doesn’t read like a novel, it reads like a first account of someone having an epiphany and I won’t go much further than that. It has some truly remarkable sentences and the translation is stunning.
“But I was realizing, in an immemorial effort of memory, that I felt this astonishment before: It was the same one I had experienced when I saw my own blood outside of me, and I had marveled at it. Since the blood I was seeing outside of me, that blood I was drawn to with such wonder: It was MINE.”
I think it’s interesting that the four books all have different translators, which make me wonder how they’ll differ. (Translators can destroy a book, the way that Gerard Hopkins liberally added his own southern flair to Sartre’s Troubled Sleep was really distracting and weird.)
I’m unsure what to read next. I still haven’t finished Octavio Paz’s Labyrinth Of Solitude even though it’s stunning, so maybe that one will be next. I wish I had a long plane ride to read it on, it needs that kind of space because it’s easy to get distracted..