Last year’s books and next year’s plans

Well, it’s a new year, and although I usually make kind of half-assed, unspoken resolutions (except for the time I resolved to floss every day, which is also the only resolution I’ve ever kept for a full year), this year I’m going to lay out some specific goals for the blog—because I’m just sick of writing blog posts a year after reading the book (or, ok, two years at this point, which is just objectively ridiculous)—and I’m letting you know about it because if I manage to follow through, there will be a serious uptick in e-mail notifications and I don’t want anyone to be annoyed (at least not without being forewarned).

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Books read in 2018

I have, as usual, been falling behind on my book reviews. I’ve been reading, though, as much as I can while also being a full-time parent to a toddler and attempting to get in as much paid editing work as possible during nap times. I read 58 books last year, which is a fairly significant fall-off from 2017’s 89, for which I blame the fact that I weaned my daughter and thus no longer had several hours a day of being forced to sit still in a chair with nothing to do but read. Of the books I read, a little more than a third were for this project, all of them from the Philippines. I just managed to finish my last Filipino book on December 31, and have now moved on to Brunei, which is a blessedly short list. I also read a fair few books as background for the novel I’m writing: as many books as I could by Black British women, and a few memoirs set in prisons in the UK (and no, I am not writing the book that that sentence makes it seem I am writing). Anyway, only a day a few days a week late, here’s a list of books I read last year, with some brief annotations.

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Where I’ve been

I’ve found the difference between before and after having kids is not that you don’t have time for anything after kids, but you no longer have time for everything. Your free time is so limited that you have to pick one or two things to do with those precious hours. For the past nearly two years I’ve eschewed housework, personal grooming, and exercise in favor of reading Dear Prudence, knitting obsessively, blogging, and occasionally attempting to work on the novel-in-progress that I’ve been chipping away at for the last four years. Every once in a while I try to add something else–practicing violin, drawing, doing a load of laundry–and it causes everything else to fall apart. So when I started taking a creative writing class at The Grotto this month, it meant that the odd little moments I was using to write blog posts are now devoted to coursework. It’s an interesting and very San Francisco class, involving hypnosis, writing in gibberish, translating poetry from languages we don’t speak, and my new favorite, making poetry with the cut-up technique. Continue reading

What I’m Reading Now

According to Goodreads I have six books on the go right now. It was seven yesterday but last night I finally polished off the thoroughly mediocre Cuentos Filipinos that I’ve had from the library for six weeks so far (pro tip: if you’re thinking of producing a collection of short stories as a pretext for an extended geography lesson, please think again).

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Reading Indonesia in Ireland

Hi there. It’s been about a month since my last blog post; I’ve been doing a bit of traveling and also busy applying for a job that I really want, so the blog has taken a bit of a backseat. I’m still reading though! I’m currently spending a month in Ireland, attending three different weddings and giving the baby a chance to spend some with her grandparents and aunt over here. Before I left I tried frantically to read all the East Timor books I’d taken out from the library (with limited success–I got through The Crossing but Beloved Land and Funu proved too much for me). I returned them all with a sigh of relief last weekend, and headed off to Ireland with a bunch of the lovely Indonesian books that my in-laws bought me for Christmas. As much as I love the library, and as great as it’s been being able to source some truly obscure books that would have cost me a fortune to buy, it’s a relief to know that my current batch of novels don’t have an expiration date! I’m currently reading Desawarnana (which I did take out from the library and failed to finish before departure, but I photocopied the last few pages so I could finish them at my leisure), Blossoms of Longing (which is only available to read online via the Lontar foundation, so reading that on my computer when I have an internet connection), Max Havelaar (an actual book! that I own and can make notes in! yay!) and Sitti Nurbaya: A Love Unrealized (on kindle)–and enjoying them very much.


Resist the Bans: Support Writers from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen (reblogged from “Arabic Literature”)

Arabic Literature (in English) offers a suggested reading list of writers from Trump’s list of banned countries:

The violence of such an executive act cannot be countered solely with art, or translation. Still, as Samah Selim notes, translation can be “a form of radical knowledge production.” We can also collaborate with, and listen to, literary voices, as well as forging supportive, enriching, properly compensated connections between writers and literary communities, thus resisting the ban. […]

via Resist the Bans: Support Writers from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen — Arabic Literature (in English)

Monday Miscellany: Literary food blogs

I have discovered a new (to me) internet niche that I absolutely love: blogs about the intersection of food and literature. Here are some of my favorites:

Imik Simik: Cooking With Gaul: Mostly a recipe blog, but often with a decidedly literary bent (Naguib Mahfouz’s Palace Walk--a book which is on my list and which I should get to around 2033–sparks a search for the perfect Circassian chicken recipe), this beautiful collection is the work of Anny Gaul, a PhD student investigating “the emergence of the modern domestic kitchen in early 20th century Egypt and Morocco.”

The Little Library Cafe: A gorgeously-photographed blog with recipes inspired by specific meals described in books (Sole with White Sauce from A Room of One’s Own, for instance, or Bruce Bogtrotter’s Chocolate cake from Matilda). I haven’t tried any of these recipes so I can’t vouch for their deliciousness, but they’re beautiful to look at and the discussion of books is thoughtful and extremely readable.

Paper and Salt: A blog devoted to “recreat[ing] and reinterpret[ing] the dishes that iconic authors discuss in their letters, diaries, essays, and fiction.” Meticulously researched and full of fascinating literary gems–such as Ibsen’s stringent writing routine, or the fact that Keats was possibly the first person in the world to mention roast beef sandwiches in writing.

Paper/Plates: Recipes by a collection of contributors, loosely inspired by literary works (The Goldfinch, for instance, largely revolves around the narrator’s relationship with his mother; on this blog it is represented by an Egyptian bird’s tongue soup that reminds the blogger of her own mother). [update, 5/28/16: This website is being overhauled and archived posts are no longer available; poor timing on my part! It should be back up and running soon and I’ll take this note down then]

The Piebrary: Books, and sometimes poems, interpreted as pies. Whimsical and humorous, and the recipes look amazing; Prufrock’s peach pie looks particularly delicious.