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Reading With Sea

A book club on your own time

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Thank you all for a wonderful six months.  After this month Reading With Sea will be finished.

I deeply appreciate all of your contributions to the group and please, please, please keep reading.

Yours,

Sea

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One thing that I hate about reading is having to skip over some books while selecting others.  I love books and I love the idea of books. Even before I read I bought.  I dislike having to choose one over the other.  And thank you, but I don’t need reassurance:  I live under this vain idea that everything has got something to offer.  I realize some authors are better writers and some plots are more creative and all of these types of things.  But these facts do not alter or lift the guilt I feel for not giving some the attention and time I wish to.

There are stacks and stacks that I have yet to even begin making my way through.  There are books in these teetering piles that have been living inside these heaps and on my shelves for months and others still for years.  Titles that at one point in time inspired me to bring it home; at one point convinced me that I had a need for it.  Books that had aspirations to assimilate into my intellect and my life and I once had an eagerness to let them yet now I keep them guarded by other books who are equally zealous and not about to let some other book jump the line.  I have so many books in what some people call a TBR (To be read) mound that my nightstand pile has turned into my actual nightstand.  I had to move the furniture piece (the ACTUAL nightstand) out of the way and now have stacks of books on the floor, against the wall holding my bedside lamp.  Books are replacing furniture.  If you are wondering if this scenario is making me happy wonder no longer: it does.  It does.

Being an inquisitive person is constructive to everything but my pocketbook.  Even after I picked up a handsome pile of hardbacks on Saturday morning for dirt cheap, I found myself arriving at a book store Sunday evening.  In this particular store, biographies live upstairs while essays, criticism and poetry live downstairs.  In between my lingering in isles I created my own step class and might have even burned a few calories.  I have this innate tendency to completely engulf myself into intellectual searches.  I soon found myself sifting through biographies and when I would come across names and titles of works that interest me and I hop downstairs to look at the original works which inevitably introduce yet another author’s name to me and back upstairs I head.  This continues for the better part of an hour and I leave with postcards – a completely unforeseen conclusion to my impromptu inquisition.  The only disappointment rests in my original goal’s dead end.  At the outset, I had intended to pick up a history of Uruguay and found every other South American country represented with one exception – Uruguay.

Nick Hornby once wrote that “reading begets reading.”  This thought jumbled in my mind brings me to wonder how my reading begot my reading would trace back through its lineage.  What would be the essence or the original text that was responsible for splitting in two, then four, then eight and now a number too large to count and forever in need of reorganizing and dusting.  My recent trends of curiosity have prompted me to stockpile essays on the subject of reading as well as works written by A.M. Homes, and an attempt to find more collections of letters.  Where did I originally decide to love collections of letters?  Where did this desire originate?  I cannot remember now.

March was a total bomb.  Or maybe it was a bum.  A bummer.  A bummer bomb.  Bomb bummer.  It doesn’t matter.  Basically I purchased a lot and read practically nothing.  A bust month.  Oh, March, where did we go wrong?  Let’s retrace.

It started out ambitious as ever with a scan over the calendar and a steady, long look at those beautiful and open 31 whole days.  Looking over my lists the tallies come to 13 books purchased and a whopping 2 books read.  The reading began with Chronic City by Jonathan Lethem.  The thing I love about Lethem books is that multiple reads deliver multiple realities.  There are so many freakin’ layers to his stories and characters that I am constantly regaining a grasp on what is actually going on.  I found this similarity in all of the books I have read by Lethem with the exception of Motherless Brooklyn which I found slightly easier to follow.  In Amnesia Moon the lines of reality and dreaming (if I could call it dreaming) were so intangibly blurred I was not sure which characters were real and what to count on.  Lethem is famous for invisible foundations that somehow manage to still provide footing.  In Chronic City Lethem followed suit to the tee.  Chase, the leading complexion, carries on for most of the book carefully tucked inside his little bite of world when suddenly unleashed on the reader is something I can only consider a monster, which tears the walls down of Chase’s own little Truman Show to reveal that his life is made-up.  What?  Lethem!  Made-up?  You didn’t!  You sly cookie.  Again!  Lethem always catches me with my pants down, literaturely speaking, of course.

After having my brain dissolved and rearranged by Lethem, I lock away his tentacles between the two hard bound covers and shelve it only to pull down American Rust. I had never been acquainted with any of Philipp Meyer’s writing, but what could go wrong with a Philipp who spells his name with two p’s at the end?  Most Phillips go with the normal two l’s, but not Meyer, not Meyer.  I thought – what is a rebel like this going to do with a story about five characters out of the back country in Pennsylvania?  Come to find out, not much or in the very least, not enough.  Two weeks later after the initial christening I found myself avoiding the book like a relationship gone sour.  I found myself sneaking around my bedroom quietly hoping the book wouldn’t notice I was choosing to spend my free time without it.  I had made it through enough of the chapters to be introduced to all five of the main characters, but had no desire to meet them again.  Luckily for me, I get an email from my friend, Drenning, to meet him at a reading.  And alas, my first introduction to Melissa Febos commenced.  And yeah to Drenning.  Three cheers for him because Melissa Febos’ writing style was just what I wanted and needed.

As I wrote about earlier, when I went to her reading I was not intending to buy her book.  Not for any desire to be unsupportive, but simply because I had already bought a crap load of books for the month and was the very embodiment of a poor excuse for a reader.  I was already feeling defeated in my reading accomplishments for what I previously thought would be 31 beautiful days of reading.  Blah.  I was down and out and felt buying another book that most likely would not be read would really drop me lower.  I didn’t want to feel worse than a shmuck.  How did a serious intention of not coming home with another book turn into freshly shaved legs and hiding under the covers at midnight with Whip Smart?  Melissa Febos is just that good.  The moment she walked on that stage with her striped polo dress and gray knee high boots and I heard what came out of her mouth that so few writers have: a good reading voice, I was sold.  Simply sold.  It turned out I was not disappointed in the least bit by her wit, but her writing even continued to grow on me.

When I was through with Whip Smart, which took not as long as I would have hoped, I was still refusing to return to American Rust, so I read Whip Smart a second time.   Thus ending the month with 2 books read, 1 twice read and 13 books bought.  On one hand a very unproductive reading month.  One the flip side, I read a new book by one of my favorite authors, Jonathan Lethem and discovered a new favorite author, Melissa Febos.  I believe I described Febos’ writing as expansive and limitless.  How could it get any better than that?  Even if it was entirely an unproductive month it was a lucky month.

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Hello everyone this is Sea’s cousin and fellow member of the book club Sam Noh. The Catcher in the Rye is one of my favorite books so when Sea asked for nominations for the reading group it was the first thing to pop in my head.  Now I am sure that most of you have read the book. I myself have read it about 12 times.  The reason why I continue to read it I keep finding new things that I missed in the previous read.  The main character Holden is a person of many layers and I thoroughly enjoy peeling away those layers each time to try to discover the real him.  I also find several similarities between myself and Holden and that was interesting the first time I read it.  So those of you reading it for the first time and those reading it second or third time read these questions first and then see if they alter your perception of the story.

-Sam Noh

Find the discussion questions for The Catcher in the Rye on the book discussion page!

I have been searching for a desk.  Space is limited momentarily so I want something on the small/medium side of sizing.  After searching and searching and looking at everything on craigslist, I found an image of a desk that is unique and about the size that I am seeking.  I am thinking about making it, but I need a second opinion.  What do you think about this desk?

Or… this one:


I often find myself doing what I call: self-studies.  The way my mind works – it engulfs whatever current preoccupation it’s encountering.  If there is something that I am interested in, I have the immediate compulsion to obtain a stack of books on the subject and sit surrounded by them all while I divulge the information.

Typically, each year there just happens to be something that I want to deeply study.  It develops that these subjects or ideas are things that I want to reflect on and study for a long period of time, perhaps because I want to become well versed on the subject or I am attempting to form an educated opinion on a matter or a debate.  A lot of times one year’s self-study will be the result from a thought or question that had remained on my mind during the previous year.

I don’t know what this year’s self-study will be.  Last year was a philosophy I was attempting to create around balancing life.  The year before that was connecting.  The year before that was friendship.  The year before that was the book of Hebrews from the Bible.  It’s a random thing each year as my mind ponders a vast array of things even on a daily basis.  Sometimes, these self studies happen to be combinations of things I want to deepen my knowledge and experience in.  A long while back, I wanted to read about architecture.  From that point on I have had a new self study at least every year.  My bookshelves are full of collections of these studies.  In one section, there are my architecture books gathered, in another my books on Hebrews, on another all my philosophy books, on another all books by Ha Jin on another I have stacks and stacks of Robert B. Parker’s Spenser series, which are my guilty pleasure reads.

This year I want to read all of Ayn Rand’s novels.  Not her philosophy, because I am already versed in Objectivism enough to curb my taste for it, but I love her novels.  That is a relatively easy endeavor, but I have gotten so use to doing yearly self-studies and the past year’s subjects have come to me naturally, so I am struggling not having one for this current year.  I feel as if they are journeys of some nature and not being on one right now gives me the feeling of being displaced in a way.

Do any of you ever have “self-studies” of any kind?  What are they like?

-Sea

REMEMBER TO VOTE!

Our Book Raffle page was updated this morning to include 4 of the 5 National Book Critics Circle Award nominees for 2010.  Please place your votes on what you would like to read in the coming months. I also updated the Sea’s Reads page so you can see more of what I am up to.  I haven’t read as much as I would have liked to during February, but I bought more than I should have.  You?

-Sea

Last night I decided to put The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand on the shelf and pick up one of our March books, Chronic City by Jonathan Lethem.  I love Ayn Rand books so I’m going to feel anxious about returning to it the entire time I am reading Chronic City, but I am looking forward to a month of good discussion and I decided to be prepared to begin talking first thing come March.  I hope to read at least a third of the book beginning today and then also the next copule of days and be finished by the weekend.

Is everyone ready to kick off March?

Today is going to be a busy day for me. The following images are a look inside my head today:

(Moleskines, new computer coming, new computer bag coming, drinking coffee, reading Chronic City, vacuuming my house and studying).

What does your day look like?  What’s your Wednesday Rant? I’m around today, so let me know what you are up to.

-Sea