Pared-down Book List

I’ll be flying to San Francisco, California in three weeks to visit my mother and her family. I told myself I’ll set out and buy a few books while I’m there so I took a look at my book list a few minutes ago to go over the books I want to buy and realized that when I said “few”, I was really underestimating. I have 67 books on my list… I’ve already accepted that I cannot buy them all no matter how much I scream myself hoarse to the heavens, so I’ve pared them down to twenty and twenty is already stretching it. I’m not happy about this number. I want to add more, but at the same time, I know twenty is still far too much. But here is my tentative list:

From Hell by Alan Moore

Sleepwalk and Other Stories by Adrian Tomine

Killing and Dying by Adrian Tomine

The Complete Optic Nerve Mini-Comics by Adrian Tomine

Human Wishes by Robert Hass

In Search of Duende by Federico Lorca

Windblown World: The Journals of Jack Kerouac

Hunger by Roxanne Gay

Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Machado

My Life in France by Julia Child

Staring at the Sun: Overcoming the Terror of Death by Irvin Yalom

100 Tales of Ray Bradbury

Complete Poems of e.e. cummings

Letters of Marcel Proust

Honey From a Weed by Patience Gray

Reborn: Journals and Notebooks by Susan Sontag

The Complete Essays of George Orwell

As Consciousness is Harnessed to Flesh by Susan Sontag

What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver

Selected Stories of Alice Munro

As you can see they’re a mixed bag of nonfiction essays, memoirs, journals, graphic novels, fiction, correspondences, and poetry. I’m still going to pare these down because I think it is impractical to buy twenty books on one trip, but….. Well, we’ll see. I’ll definitely put aside the authors I’ve read before so I have more room for new authors. Honestly, it’s times like this when I wish I were a billionaire. I’d buy all the books I want and not feel guilty for spending at all!

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When I Said I Wasn’t Going to Spend Money on Books This Month

I lied. I was quite surprised when I went over my purchases for the last month and realized that I had bought fifteen books in less than 30 days… but, well, I don’t really have any vices other than reading, and buying and borrowing books, so I thought this was better than, oh I don’t know, snorting lines of coke up my nostrils or nymphomania. So I passed by a secondhand bookshop on my way home today and told myself I was just going to have a browse. An hour later, however, I already had a stack of books that I wanted to buy propped up in my arms. Of course I had to kick myself and force myself to only get one, but after debating with myself for a couple more minutes, I finally settled on two: Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes and Selected Fiction by Henry James. I had to put Sue Monk Kidd, Leo Tolstoy’s biography, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and a collection of letters penned by soldiers during the Vietnam War on the back burner for now, much to my heartbreak.

To be honest, though, the real real reason why I went to the bookshop today was to look for the book I hid there a month ago. I was planning to buy it, but never got around to because 1). I was already buying too many books at that time so I thought I should just go back for it some other day and 2). At that time, the book didn’t call out to me as strongly. I was adamant on going back for it today though, in hopes of still finding it. I wanted to give it to this really special friend of mine whose younger brother took his own life just this week. The book is called An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness and I searched and searched and searched with pigheaded devotion until my fingers were covered in soot, but I couldn’t find the book anymore. I’m honestly so heartbroken that I won’t be able to give it to my special friend, but I’m looking at other options. I am not the best in comforting and communicating my emotions, and most of the time I wish I knew the right words to say, so when I show my concern and love to others, I’m not very upfront about it, and I hope the warmth that I want to convey shows through little things I do such as penning long and winding letters and giving books that I believe is a perfect match to the receiver because spoken words always fail me. I can only hope, but hope is never lost.

Rereading Wislawa Szymborska’s New and Collected poetry collection. This poetry collection is the closest thing I have to a bible, and Szymborska is my favorite writer. If I were to choose only one writer across multitudes of genres–although I hope no one would ever make me do that because that’s fucking criminal–Szymborska would always be top of my list, right next to the Dons of my dreams Pablo Neruda and Federico Garcia Lorcaaaaa!!

Reading Man and his Symbols by Carl Jung (for my Philosophy of the Unconscious graduate class)

Continuing When Nietzsche Wept by Irvin Yalom

Something mundane: I finally utilized the full potential of my Evernote and made a separate notebook for all of my terrible poetry drafts and fragmented thoughts, AND made a separate note for each poetry draft. This is it, this is my life coming together… hahaaaa I hope to work on these soon so I don’t continue hating myself.

My forever mantra: Dr. Manhattan’s monologue on Mars. As I was on my way home today, I couldn’t help but feel heartbroken over what my friend is going through. I will never know his pain, and I will never know what it feels like to lose my younger brother, but in these darkest hours I believe that my friend is more resilient than he thinks, with an unmatched reverence and vitality for Life. I know he will keep on. I have the utmost confidence and faith in him. And so, while I was lost in my reveries, I pulled out the small folded paper from my ID case to read while walking; I keep this with me every single day, for times such as this. It’s got Daily Mantra scribbled on it. Here is what it says:

Thermodynamic miracles, events with odds against so astronomical they’re effectively impossible, like oxygen spontaneously becoming gold. I long to observe such a thing. And yet, in each human coupling, a thousand million sperm vie for a single egg. Multiply those odds by countless generations, against the odds of your ancestors being alive; meeting; siring this precise son; that exact daughter… Until your mother loves a man she has every reason to hate, and of that union, of the thousand million children competing for fertilization, it was you, only you, that emerged. To distill so specific a form from that chaos of improbability, like turning air to gold… that is the crowning unlikelihood. The thermodynamic miracle.

But the world is so full of people, so crowded with these miracles that they become commonplace and we forget… I forget. We gaze continually at the world and it grows dull in our perceptions. Yet seen from another’s vantage point, as if new, it may still take our breath away. Come… dry your eyes. For you are life, rarer than a quark and unpredictable beyond the dreams of Heisenberg; the clay in which the forces that shape all things leave their fingerprints most clearly. Dry your eyes… and let’s go home.

Most days I try to be like Dr. Manhattan and improvise a monologue in my head while, say, walking or sitting by myself during the morning commute, but I never sound as poetic as him, and never as articulate. But I try.

Quiet Wednesday

Listening to the background noise in The MET museum. There’s very little

Thinking about job applications, the future, and all the angst that goes into finding a job that is meaningful, that I can love

Trying not to panic over (not) hearing back from places I’ve sent my applications to

Again, thinking about the alchemy maxim, Solve et Coagula. Dissolve and coagulate. That something must be broken down before it can be built up.

Hoping for a calmer state of mind, a bit more kindness from myself, to myself

Feeling annoyed of my recurring back pain

Wanting to just get home and cook my dinner. I plan to bake onion and leek rolls and make a hearty pumpkin soup from scratch. Which reminds me, I have to go to the groceries  to pick up a pumpkin when I leave the MET in a couple of minutes

Stuck on: The warring hotness and coldness of this one person, chapter 4 of Alan Moore’s From Hell, chapter 6 of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, and chapter 1 of D.H. Lawrence’s Women in Love

Dreaming of sticky pistachio bundt cakes and a quiet solitary afternoon in a gallery

of rooftop astronomy and books from my childhood

work and school classes were canceled again today due to the transport strike, so i had the day to myself. as usual i failed to write anything and got lost in my reveries again. i’m so sick of all this, of never having anything to completion. what is wrong with me? around high noon i found myself rummaging through the dust-filled book shelf behind the staircase and pulling out book after book from my childhood. i remember all these. the huge people and places atlas, the illustrated tome-like encyclopedias, the complete set of The Adventures of Poldy, a hardbound book of fairytales, flimsy paperback books on folklore, legends, fables, riddles, and children’s poetry written in my mother tongue, and a graphic bible. these are what got me into reading, these huge encyclopedias that seemed heavier and bigger than me when i was a child. i remember poring through the pages of one of them and reading about Egypt and mummification, how insects help flowers, the different plants of the desert, how hailstorms are formed, the Boer war, how papyrus is made, the Bayeux tapestry, so on and so forth. i open each one and see scribbles from when i would pretend to be a librarian and fix my stamp and name on the pages. i think i still want to be a librarian, secretly…

i also found my complete Jane Austen novel collection. i forgot how huge and heavy this book is. it resembles more of a tome, actually, and i still remember its tissue-thin bible paper, the sound the pages make when i ruffle through them. perhaps I ought to read Jane Austen again. one of these days. I also took an interest in my dad’s Meade ETX70 telescope. it’s been sitting by the terrace door for years and no one’s ever touched it, and i realized, earlier, how much of a fool i am, to be so enamored by so much science fiction when i had a telescope right here all along, and i could look at the cosmos every night if i wished. i could see Mars if i wanted, instead of closing my eyes in bed and trying very hard to picture in my mind Bradbury’s Mars. Or Alan Moore’s Mars. I went through the telescope’s manual this afternoon and am planning to play around with the telescope tonight. i checked the phase calendar and tonight we have a Waning Crescent. i’ve since written down some important dates. November 4 would be a full moon, and the 3rd of December a Super Full Moon. i’d love to see all the moon’s phases. in fact, i’d like to look at the moon every night now, i’d like to know it more intimately, and perhaps if things were in my favor, i’d be able to see someday the orion nebula and the ice caps on Mars. perhaps it wouldnt hurt to pick up rooftop astronomy as my latest hobby. i am very much tired of the things and faces around me that i’d actually prefer it if i could look up at the stars every night instead so id be reminded how insignificant and little i am in this world. it helps that way. I’m so scared for all of us, how we think so highly of ourselves, how we view the world as ours for the taking, never knowing that there is a price to be exacted. how shameful that despite of the universe’s generosity and open palms, we think we can just snatch everything away and brand it as ours, when we are never really free, when we really never own anything, to view ourselves as Somebodies when we are really just some bodies. how dare us demand kindness from the world when we are indifferent to its pain? who are we to ask for more? who are we to insist on peace?

i am so troubled by myself. i graduated two days ago and am feeling really anxious because it dawned on me that i am unemployed. i’ve been beating myself up for not having a job before graduation and i know people will say that i should rest for a month or two before looking for a job, but i really am so anxious. i feel as if i will never amount to anything, and that i will never be certain of anything. i suddenly feel as if nothing in this life makes any sense, and i’ve been mellow these past two days, just contemplating about everything and it’s so so difficult for me to find meaning in anything right now, that all i can think of is gazing at the moon and the stars because real people and real life and bills and rent and money and work and social customs and modern dating and the fucking rat race and all of this shit about life that make me anxious and scared–i wish they’d just all stop fucking mattering!!! i honestly am so lost and so afraid and ashamed and angry at myself and anxious i cannot think clearly anymore

Monday Currently + book haul

Reading way too many books all at once again. Such is the life of a haphazard reader; I cannot ever just stick to one book throughout. Right now I am reading When Nietzsche Wept by Irvin Yalom, Women in love by D.H. Lawrence, It Must’ve Been Something I Ate by Jeffrey Steingarten, and Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. Just finished Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke three days ago and I keep forgetting how cruel and unsparing it is. What a fucking writer, Alan Moore.

Writing this blog post. I haven’t written anything to completion these past couple of weeks and I’m still trying my best not to hate myself for that.

Listening to Alice by Cocteau Twins. I’ve been listening to Cocteau Twins for the entire week and my favorites so far: Cherry-Colored Funk, Pandora, Blue Bell Knoll, Ivo, Donimo, Alice, Carolyn’s Fingers, All Flowers In Time (DUH!!!!!!! I know it’s not Cocteau Twins but it’s still Elizabeth Fraser! And Jeff Buckley is just LOVE)

Thinking about how this Monday is going to be. I woke up relatively early, around 6:00 am but got up around 6:45.

Hoping to figure things out soon. My graduation is this Saturday. I canceled my attendance, so I wont be marching. I don’t have the patience for rituals and ceremonial bullshit; of course finishing university means a lot to me, but the marching I just cannot fucking understand. Well, now I am trying to figure out what I want to do and I find myself lost.

Wanting to speak to and see this certain person more… Ahhhh why am I so meek! Why am I so afraid of coming clean with my feelings! Why! Why! Why!

Feeling a jambalaya of feelings!!! So I’m enjoying Irvin Yalom the most right now, I would totally recommend him. I haven’t read anyone like him; secretly I want to be like Lou Salome in the book.

I’ve pared down my duties to only one—to perpetuate my freedom. Marriage and its entourage of possession and jealousy enslave the spirit. They will never have dominion over me. I hope, Doctor Breuer, the time will come when neither men nor women are tyrannized by each other’s frailties.

and

I hope too, you and I will become friends. I have many faults, as you’ve seen: I am impulsive, I shock you, I am unconventional. But I also have strengths. I have an excellent eye for nobility of spirit in a man. And when I have found such a man I prefer not to lose him. 

I mean?!?!?! God, if I were as brave as Lou Salome then I’d never have to feel anxious around this man I have feelings for! I could just go up to him and say, HEY, I DONT NEED ANYTHING FROM YOU, BUT I LIKE YOU. A LOT…… Ahha sometimes i gross myself out ngeuhhh

I am also past the first 100 pages of Lolita and I don’t know how much of Vladimir’s beautiful prose I can take to excuse the content. Truth be told, I am getting squirmy and squeamish reading about Humbert Humbert’s affairs with little Lo and now I am just angry at Humbert and don’t find the book that enjoyable anymore, but I am adamant about finishing it. I am still on the first pages of Women in Love and I’m still trying to get into the swing of Lawrence’s writing. As for Steingarten, I adore his food essays thus far. He’s the food critic of Vogue if I’m not mistaken? And happening upon his book was mere chance. I dropped a coin and when I picked it up, my eyes landed on his book, which was hiding beneath the shelves of the book thrift store. The pea cover attracted me and, well, I bought it. I’m really into food literature right now and have a couple of others lined up for my next purchase. There’s just something about food in literature! Reading about food, it always feels like home, even though I do not really have a home in the physical sense because this house does not feel like home, there is always that warmth in reading about food.

Eating nothing. I don’t eat breakfast because I get lethargic when I’m full. I’ll probably drink white tea later though.

Loving these perfect pair of trousers. I’ve been thrifting a lot of clothes lately and I found THE perfect pair of pants. I’m still debating with myself whether its color is burgundy, shiraz, maroon, or dark cherry red but who fucking cares, they fit perfectly and elongate my legs and it was such a steal. It’s very very difficult for me to find a good pair of pants, so finding this pair is like finding a best friend. Lol.

I also thrifted a lot of books and magazines. Sometimes I feel guilty for buying so many books and the occasional clothes, but I tell myself most of what I buy is thrifted anyway, and that’s the cheapest I can get them so I try not to feel too bad…. Everything is thrifted except for The Dispossessed and The Ocean at the End of the Lane, which I got from a commercial bookstore.  Here’s what I bought these past two weeks:

Skeleton Crew by Stephen King- bought this the same week I watched It. Feels good to be reunited with my favorite childhood writer. I was never brought up on the classics, but read a lot of Stephen King and Gaiman in grade school and high school.

Wired magazine’s one and only scifi issue

Conde Nast Muhammad Ali special commemorative edition

It Must’ve Been Something I Ate by Jeffrey Steingarten

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery- I’ve read this in my second year in university as a PDF version and loved it so much. I cried when Renee died and I cried when Palome promised she’d never try to kill herself or try to ever burn a thing again because from now on, she will look for moments of always within never–Beauty in this life, and I cried when the book ended so there you go. I love this book so much. :((

Volume 1 of John Betjeman’s letters

The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin- I figured I needed another scifi gem to satiate me while I wait for my Bradbury short story collection

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman- Bought another Gaiman. Just because.

The Hundred-Foot Journey by Richard Morais- the movie was just alright so I thought to read the book, because books are always better…… ahha you didn’t hear that from me though!

Women in Love by D.H. Lawrence

Two New Yorkers from the past two years

The Simple Things magazine

Regeneration by Pat Barker

Gould’s Book of Fish by Richard Flanagan- I regret putting this book down because the first paragraph reeled me in. His prose is such a joy to read, but since I am reading so many books right now, I told myself I’d just read him once I finish Lolita.

Will start soon with: 

John Betjeman’s letters

On the Genealogy of Morals by Friedrich Nietzsche

Some other things I am grateful for: 

My brother. He’s my rock. Last night we stayed up until midnight just talking. Of course, we talked about his emotions. We need to do this constantly, because I hate the idea of him keeping everything to himself and not knowing who to run to when he’s fed up with everything about life. He is doing well with his affairs; his ex is being crazy and is spreading rumors about him in class to ruin him, so he’s been avoiding everyone… Why do people do this? When you break up with someone, how can you be so cruel and ruin them to other people as an act of punishment? Why cant you just let them live? Why can’t you just move on? His ex supposedly still loves him and wants him back, but my brother is soooo done with her manipulative narcissistic bullshit. Rightly so because he doesn’t deserve swine like that. Sigh sigh. Anyway, I also taught my brother how to play Dungeons & Dragons last night and he is floored. He’s jealous, obviously, because I didn’t teach him sooner. I’ve yet to teach him how to create a character, but at least I’d have someone to play with now!!!! Life doesn’t have to be so lonely

common things 2

I woke up around 7:30 in the morning yesterday and I was upset about it because I wanted to wake up at 6 am. Still, I found myself awake half an hour past seven, and I didn’t get out of bed until ten minutes later. By then I only had 15 minutes to make lunch for work, but my cooking took longer than I estimated, and was only able to step in the bath at 8:15. Not that I intended for that to be, I did spend a good deal crying before showering. It went like this. I’ve been meaning to get up early in the morning since the month started; I’m not an early riser, I’ve never been, and I’ve tried so many times in the past to get out of bed earlier, but I always oversleep through my alarms and/or do not have the discipline enough to heave myself up from bed the moment I open my eyes. Either way, 7:30 for me was already a good sign, and I tried so hard to make it a good morning, I tried so so hard. I cooked my quinoa and my tofu and vegetables, and was extra careful I didn’t burn anything. My dad was having breakfast that time, though, and I don’t know, I guess his morning remarks got to me. This was around 8:00 and I was almost done, when he said something along the lines of, “You always take too long when cooking your food. You just don’t want to share because you’re selfish.” He says things like that a lot on a daily basis just to mess with my head, and I don’t know what it was that triggered the dam, but I found myself so furious. I finished my cooking, placed my food in my tupperware, and marched to my room, my heart beating fast. When I got to my room, I reminded myself I had the choice to be angry or to let it go, and while I was telling myself that I shouldn’t be angry, I suddenly started crying angry tears. I’m trying. I’m trying so, so hard. I’m trying so hard to get up early in the morning when I’d rather sleep my life away and be effaced from this earth, I’m trying so hard to cook food when I’d rather starve myself, I’m trying so so hard, and all my dad did was make me feel worse about myself. I was so angry I bawled my eyes out and by the time I got to my bath, it was already 8:15 and I was running late, yet still I spent a few more minutes crying unstoppably in there. I am honestly trying my best to make this life livable for me, and most days I cannot even find a reason to get up and care for myself. I am trying so hard. To try to calm myself down, I found myself watering my plants after taking my bath. I saw that some of their stems are not upright; I don’t know why. I took a closer look and saw a few holes on the tiny leaves, and a small grey feather on the soil in one of the pots. I think the birds are eating my plants. I am frustrated over this because I want to see my plants grow, from seed to fruit, but I know birds have to eat as well. I’m honestly considering making maybe a tiny scarecrow to shoo them away. Now I am worrying that perhaps my plants are dying, perhaps thats why they are not upright. I’d say they are about 3-5 inches tall now, but some of their soft stems are flaccid. I don’t understand. Should I buy/make fertilizer? Install a tiny scarecrow? Water them more?! I don’t know what I’m doing wrong, and honestly, I found myself crying again because I couldn’t even care for my own plants. It’s pathetic. It was a hard morning for me, as you can see.

Today, however, was relatively better. I woke up at 6 am, but spent a good deal daydreaming. I hate my maladaptive dreaming. I still haven’t found panacea for it, and I don’t think I ever will. I’ve been doing it since I was a child and I can go on daydreaming for hours without stopping. I can’t seem to control it. Anyway, I got out of bed at 6:40 and was supposed to run at 7 am, but I saw my preserved dragonfly on my desk being devoured by ants. Somehow, the ants were able to puncture the plastic pouch and was swarming all over my dragonfly. I had to save it, I haven’t mounted it yet and it would be such a waste if it disintegrated. I swatted the ants away and saw the tail of the dragonfly almost falling apart, dangling from its hinges. I immediately made a relaxing jar for the dragonfly, using a tupperware and moist tissues. In a few days it will be soft and pliable enough to mount, and I will mount it this time for real. It is my fault, too. The dragonfly has been dead for three weeks and I should’ve mounted it on the styrofoam and framed it as soon as I found it, but I kept putting it off. I finished around 7:30 am by then, and forced myself to do cardio for 25 minutes on the treadmill. I also arrived at work ten minutes earlier than yesterday. I wanted to prove to myself that I can do so much better than yesterday, that my day and my state of mind can be better if I willed it. I have to keep my emotions in check, and everything else.

I also read George Orwell’s Shooting an Elephant last night before going to sleep. I forced myself to read, even if it was just a short essay, because I haven’t had the time to read novels lately and I am angry at myself for that. I know I should be making time for reading and writing, and I honestly have no excuse for this. I guess I just don’t have the heart to do it these days.

I also just finished touring about a hundred and fifty 4th graders here at the MET museum and my god, I feel so drained right now. I always get scared of kids in museums; a lively, rambunctious kid is the last thing you want right beside a classical painting that costs millions and millions in this day. Multiply that by 150. Nope. And the noise! Que horror! They really sounded like bees, a huge swarm of bees! My ears still feel a bit fuzzy and me a bit dizzy, but they’ve since left and I can finally have my headspace.

Did I mention it’s raining outside? I want to walk under the rain, but I am still trapped here in the museum for another hour and a half.