The Almost Finished And Barely Begun Books — Reading AND Writing Of Late

This “Lunar New Year” thing took a big hit when I started studying The Cantos with those guys at work. No more do I have spare hours to read through two or three books in a couple of weeks and post about them. These days, the spare time that isn’t taken up by other projects, and working on lesson plans, gets devoted to studying the Cantos in increasingly more detail, which is strange considering that the more I study the poems, the more I consider their author a kind of madman.

In any case, I have only completed one book this month, which was, of all things, a Korean-language textbook. I’ll probably get around to posting a review of it, but I doubt it’ll be big on most of my readers’ lists of books to check out, so I am waiting till I have a few more books to talk about.

Meanwhile, books I intend to finish in November include Nabokov’s Pale Fire, Gary Snyder’s Turtle Island, Harold Bloom’s The American Religion, and Stephen Baxter’s Origin, the latter a book I’ve been waiting to read for a long, long time. I should be able to work in at least one more, in fact, since I’m almost finished the Nabokov and the Bloom; perhaps this history book I just picked up on early Japanese experimentation with biological weapons, or that steampunk classic The Difference Engine, which is the only Bruce Sterling book I’ve never read. Or perhaps I’ll get to that wonderful comic book I’m using as part of my Korean study… 순정 만화 by some fellow going by the name 강풀.

On the topic of other barely-begun books, I am itching to get back into the writing process of my futuristic American cold-war thriller, but the problem is that I have a festering short story that simply will not conclude. I think I need to go for a walk tomorrow evening, perambulate and think a little. And then there’s this other strange book that is blooming in the back of my mind, one that it was recommended to me I save for next November so I can join in on the NaNoWriMo contest, though if the book becomes any more enticing as a drafting idea, I may just leap at it sooner. Right now, there’s no plot to throw out there to catch anyone else’s attention, just this vague, weird, interesting moodiness and a particular flavour of strangeness to it, and a vaguely-imagined setting: some kind of alternate Asia, unlike the real one geographically and historically, where bizarre steampunkish colonizers from another Asian country are running the show in some vast empire’s backwater. It wouldn’t be a straight-up transposition of Japanese colonization in Korea; more like, imagine Japanese and Chinese royal houses conspiring to eugenically breed their royal lines into one, and then the Japanese thereby infiltrating the Chinese throne. I have the idea of a small but powerful imperial group taking over a vast empire nearby, and then halfway managing it, using their weird technology to take care of what they have no interest in.

And then there’s always that first completed novel of mine, which my friend Medrie claims definitely deserves the polishing it would take before I could send it out. This, too, I would like to get to, though in the time that’s passed since I wrote it, some more very good scenes have come to mind, which would help with pace and characterization; and since I don’t want a ghost-story being the first thing I send out into the world with my name on it, the manuscript can, I think, wait a little while longer. I would, however, be quite happy with a futuristic cold-war thing being the first thing I send out. So I need to finish my currently-deadlocked short story and then get back to work on the other stuff.

As a final note, I am beginning to suspect my trip to Nanjing for Taiping-related research shall be postponed till the summer at the earliest, or perhaps longer; but I also am beginning to feel, with each successive return to reading Ezra Pound, that the poetical qualities have not been leached from my body after all. I thought they had, after living so long outside of the circle of naturally spoken, free, living English, but in fact, some part of this experience has instead concentrated those poetical faculties into a very tense, very compressed point deeper inside… which means it just takes a little more time to summon up, or a little more energy.

In any case, the less I write here, the more I’ll write elsewhere. So off I go!

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