Reading of Late: Books #15-18 of my Lunar New Year List

Well, back at my parents’ place, I’ve been reading a lot. I mean, this is my holiday, and what do you know, I’ve got about 13 boxes of books that I haven’t seen in a few years all gathered in the garage.

There are also five boxes missing, including a box of my old compositions— almost all of the music I ever wrote has been officially lost and seems gone for good, though I am happy to say most of my extant juvenilia made it here safe and sound—the stories I wrote in elementary school made it, but not my musician ouevre. Ah well. A box of RPG game books also disappeared, as well as a fex boxes of books, including grad school textbooks and some of my favorite SF paperbacks. But most of my books and papers made it, which is nice. Since the boxes arrived/were lost almost three years ago, my father suspects it’s too late to claim the insurance on them, but given the value of what was lost, I hardly think it right to give up without trying. So I’m going to visit the bus depot with whatever information I can find, sometime this week. A hundred dollars of insurance per box, plus the shipping fee, adds up to a tidy sum, I should think.

In any case, the book-sorting has amounted to a kind of overload for me: it’s like seeing hundreds of old friends one hasn’t seen in years. Sorting, repacking, discovering things I’d thought lost, choosing what to bring to Korea with me, and culling the list to what I think I might definitely read in the next few years. It’s been a hell of a process, but it’s almost done.

In the process, I came across some books which I desperately want to read, but which I don’t think I can carry back—too heavy, too big, or things which I think I can read in the next week or two. So I have been reading a lot. And here, adding to my Lunar New Year List, are the books I’ve read so far.

#15: Walking on Water, by Derek Jensen, who was also the author of book #14 on my list. This book deals with education, and it’s an excellent read. Jensen pretty much points out all the things that are wrong, destructive, and evil about the way we educate our young people, and then suggests some ways of working past it. I’m not sure I agree with his methods, but that isn’t his point. His point is to look at the system critically to see if the ends it is pursuing are worthy, and if they aren’t, then subverting the methods used, to pursue more worthy goals for ones students. I agree wholeheartedly.

#16: Memoirs of a Siamese Twin: Reflections on Canada at the End of the Twentieth Century, by Canadian philosopher John Ralston Saul. As a diagnostician of the political ills that have plagued Canada for the last thirty or so years, definitely as far back as I can remember and arguably more, Saul assembled, in the late-nineties, a sweeping discussion of the ways in which our elites and leaders are failing Canada and Canadians, leading the nation down the garden-path towards corporatist, false-populist, Americanisation which, considering our rather different resource base, culture, and system, will be not only disastrous but also the loss of something that worked incredibly well for a long time.

The frustrating part, however, is that in discussing the book with my parents, who in some ways are quite middle-class Canadians, it became apparent to me that Saul diagnosed the problem too late for treatment. Canada is already seduced and is having its blood sucked out by the leeches that are its elite. Canada is falling prey to the negative nationalist mindset that we see creeping into dominance in ever corner of the national discourse. Canada has already been lost, and most people don’t even seem able to grasp why. In discussing it with my mother, the discussion devolved into an argument about whether Quebec was or was not the most victimized province in Canada. I am sure the middle class of Saskatchewan think themselves the greatest victims. BC, Northern Ontario… everyone is fighting for that which Saul quotes Margaret Atwood as calling the most coveted status of all, the victim status.

It brought to mind the state of health care in British Columbia. Talking with a middle-class family, I was told how one must wait in line for months before one is treated, and it was implied that a two-tier system would be a good solution. Talking with another friend, I said how sad it made me feel that this was presented to British Columbians as the only solution. After all, medical care is, to the Canadian mind, a fundamental right. We’re letting people convince us it’s better to start allowing the rich to step to the front of the line—to Americanise the system—is the only way to fix a system which is, after all, falling apart because it is under concentrated, purposeful attack, not because it is inefficient.

Read in 2005, Saul’s writing seems to me like a portrait of a tragically lost nation which just happens to still be sinking into the quicksand, beyond rescue perhaps, but not beyond a piteous last few gasps and a few years of crying out in sorrow.

Book #17: Akira, Book 1, by Katshiro Otomo. I mainly read this for the art, since I am trying to teach myself to draw, but I will confess: the storyline drew me in, and I was fascinated. I will probably thumb through the book again before I leave, just to look at some of the art, and see how Otomo pulled it off. Since I am teaching myself to draw, it will, I am sure, offer me no end of worthwhile lessons. For those who haven’t read it, all I can recommend is that it is well worth checking out.

Book #18: The Preacher, Book #1: Gone To Texas, by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon. This graphic novel is one I’ve had for years, but it’s sat in a box in my folks’ garage for the past three. It’s my second reading, but still a fabulous story, and like with Akira, I am eager to read the rest, though I don’t know when I will get around to it. Perhaps after I finish paying off my student loans, I shall go on a graphic novel binge; it would be a nice treat for myself.

The Preacher, unlike Akira, is a deeply twisted graphic novel featuring—and I am spoiling nothing by spilling these beans—a preacher possessed by an ungodly being, a vampire, and the preacher’s ex-girlfriend. The misadventures of the trio are fascinating, and yet also laced with the most awful, mind-curdling strangeness imaginable. While I imagine many people might enjoy Akira, I would not offer most The Preacher.

Next on my list is the old Bruce Sterling/William Gibson novel The Difference Engine, which I’ve owned for years and intended to read for just as long but never gotten to. I have never wanted to pick up a new copy since I had a lovely hardback waiting in a box. Once I’ve read this, I will have read every bit of fiction ever printed by Sterling in book form. (In English, anyway. I got for Lime a Korean translation of his brilliant novel Schismatrix, and discovered him referred to in it as Michael Bruce Sterling, which I guess confirms the rumor I heard that his name is a penname. Sort of.)

But before I do any more reading, I must post on more personal things—how it is to see family again—, and do my stretches. Off to that I go!

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