New books from J.D. Salinger?

I already mentioned my excitement for the new biography of J.D. Salinger being released this week (September 3rd). Rumor is that the book contains information about the author that hasn’t been revealed before, from new sources not found in previous biographies. But one of the most exciting rumors is that the book (and the film it accompanies) promises the release of new works by Salinger that no one has seen before.

Apparently there are five books slated to be released. According to The New York Times:

One collection, to be called “The Family Glass,” would add five new stories to an assembly of previously published stories about the fictional Glass family, which figured in Mr. Salinger’s “Franny and Zooey” and elsewhere, according to the claims, which surfaced in interviews and previews of the documentary and book last week.

Another would include a retooled version of a publicly known but unpublished tale, “The Last and Best of the Peter Pans,” which is to be collected with new stories and existing work about the fictional Caulfields, including “Catcher in the Rye.” The new works are said to include a story-filled “manual” of the Vedanta religious philosophy, with which Mr. Salinger was deeply involved; a novel set during World War II and based on his first marriage; and a novella modeled on his own war experiences.

What I’m especially interested in is how these new books will change the way society views the existing works by Salinger, especially Catcher in the Rye. Will other stories about the Caulfields be taught in American high schools alongside the original book we have? Personally, I loved Catcher when I was in high school (thanks in great part to an excellent English teacher), and I would have been happy to study other books or stories relating to the family in order to see how a change in narrator might alter the story the reader is told.

The article does not say when we can expect to see some of these new works of Salinger’s , but hopefully we’ll learn more after September 3rd!

Read More: 

The entire NY Times article

More about the new biography

 

 

The Vampire Chronicles: Interview with the Vampire

If anyone still thinks Interview with the Vampire is a story of a bloodsucking killer in the same vein as Dracula (pun intended), they have obviously not read the book – or grossly misunderstood it. The book, and all those that follow it in the series, are about a very human desire for meaning in an ambiguous world. 

**Warning: The remainder of this post contains some serious spoilers**

From the start, Louis is repulsed by the thought of taking human life. As soon as he learns that he can live off the blood of animals, he subsists off rats. Even after he returns to killing humans he still feels revulsion and sorrow when he does it.

The entire book relates his search for the meaning of his existence, even if (or especially if) that meaning comes from the Devil. Louis is so desperate to believe that he’s evil. He doesn’t want to accept that there’s no meaning to his life except for the meaning he creates himself. He’s exceptional among his fellow vampires in his inability to create his own meaning. He needs someone to explicitly tell him why things are the way they are.

The first person he turns to for meaning is, of course, Lestat, who only mocks him and at one point says to Louis and Claudia that they are “greedy, brooding vampires who haunt our own lives.” When Louis realizes he cannot get any satisfaction there, he and Claudia attempt to destroy Lestat, and then flee to Europe, but not before Louis makes a stop into a church for the first time since his brother’s funeral. Though he claims not to believe in God, he makes it obvious as he steps into the church that he wishes for God to reveal himself, to strike him down as he enters.

The most revealing statement Louis makes to reveal his desperation to be confirmed as an evil being can be found on page 136:

“It struck me suddenly what consolation it would be to know Satan, to look upon his face, no matter how terrible that countenance was, to know that I belonged to him totally, and thus put to rest forever the torment of this ignorance. To step through some veil that would forever separate me from all that I called human nature.”

In Paris, Louis finally discovers in Armand someone who may be able to provide him with the answers he’s been searching for. He seeks the ultimate meaning from Armand who reveals that he has no meaning to give. I think it’s this, along with the loss of any meaning he did have (protecting Claudia and Madeleine) that led to his despair and eventual apathy toward his life.

In a 2010 interview, Anne Rice puts this concisely in her own words and expresses her own feelings on the search for meaning:

“The Chronicles themselves were about the search, the refusal to accept that it’s a dark meaningless world. And I’m still obsessed with this. I believe in God now, but I’m obsessed with, how do we live a good life? How do we serve God? How do we know what he wants of us, if all around us we see corruption in the churches, disagreement…”

To be clear, Rice does believe in God, though she left the Christian church just months before this interview was conducted.

Alright, so I have one down!

In the future, I hope to explore the theme of meaning further, as well the following:

  • Lestat and his relationship with music
  • Undertones of incest in Rice’s work
  • Blaming God

Next up, my favorite book in the world: The Vampire Lestat.

Do Chinese people hate reading?

This morning I was browsing /r/books and came across a blog article written August 17th entitled “Materialism is destroying China’s interest in reading books.”

If you didn’t already know, I’ve been living in Shanghai for the past year and (I hope) have come to understand something of the culture. I’ll confess that I haven’t paid too much attention to the popularity of books here, though, so the article was pretty interesting.

According to the blog article, China possesses the world’s largest publishing industry, with 8.1 billion books printed in 2012.  But the number of books read per capita is shockingly low compared to their neighbors. The average Chinese person reads 4.39 books per year, the average Japanese reads 8.4, and the average Korean reads 11. Click here to read the entire article.

But I was heartened this weekend when I attended the 10th-annual Shanghai International Book Fair. My roommates and I had to fight to see the bookshelves and the queues to get in were impressive. 95% of the books were in Chinese, of course, but there was a decent selection of used paperbacks, modern novels, and classics in English.

I took a few photos just for you guys:

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I needed one of my taller roommates to take this photo because I couldn’t see above everyone >.<

CIMG0101The stairways were crowded with people reading their newly-bought books, eating, or just taking a break.

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One of the main halls.

CIMG0115The line ends on the right in the foreground, curves to the left at the far end of the picture, and continues behind me (the photographer) for about 50 meters. This was only one of two entrances.

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My roommate and some freaky…things.

CIMG0111And some cosplay. Because China.

I look forward to attending the event again in 2014, though hopefully they’ll cater more to expats, considering it’s supposedly an “international” book fair…

One more to add…

Yesterday, as you may recall, I posted about 5 books I’m looking forward to in the fall. This morning, Reddit again reminded me of one I forgot (mostly because it won’t be released in English until next year).

Haruki Murakami’s new novel, which in English is called Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, was released in Japan on April 12th of this year. Within the first week it had already sold more than one million copies (and has continued to sell about a million copies every week since then). Murakami is steadily growing in popularity in the U.S., and the release of the English translation of his new book in 2014 is bound to create a stir. But I’m not sure I can wait that long.

The Spanish translation is being released on October 15th of this year…in two months. If I pre-order it, not only do I get to read it months before most native English-speakers, but I also get to practice my Spanish reading skills XD

There’s not much information in English about the book yet, at least not on GoodReads or Amazon (unless you can read Spanish), but The Asahi Shimbun seems to have the best article I’ve found yet about it. From that article you can also link to another interesting piece about how the book has led to a huge spike in classical music sales. I’d hope Murakami gets some kind of cut from that…

Five new books I’m excited about!

Thanks to Reddit, I came across a page on Daily Finance announcing the Big Fall Books Preview. Until now, I didn’t know that was even a thing, but I’m glad it is!

Some of the books on my list are from that preview; others are not. Here are the books I’m most highly anticipating:

1. The Wolves of Midwinter by Anne Rice

Release Date: October 15th, 2013

Is anyone surprised that this is number one for me? I hope not. This is the second in Rice’s Wolf Gift chronicles, and while the series so far does not measure up to either The Vampire Chronicles or the Mayfair Witches series, this new series is refreshing (and better than Rice’s Songs of the Seraphim series).

2. Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools by Diane Ravitch

Release Date: September 17th, 2013

A few years ago I read Ravitch’s The Death and Life of the Great American School System and found it powerful and thought-provoking. Ravitch is a research professor of education at NYU, and as such I believe her to be an authority on America’s public schools and that her work is well worth reading.

3. Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East by Scott Anderson

Release Date: August 6th, 2013

I think Americans (myself included) are depressingly ignorant of Middle Eastern history and how it relates to our own country.  The review states that the book too “years of intensive primary document research,” and that is one of the crucial ingredients to anyone book on history I am going to read. I don’t know anything about the author, so here’s hoping he doesn’t disappoint me.

4. Salinger by David Shields and Shane Salerno

Release Date: September 3rd, 2013

The author of Catcher in the Rye was notoriously reclusive. This biography promises to be more comprehensive and insightful than any that have come before it. I find Salinger’s most famous novel to be incredibly unique and important to American literature, and so I look forward to (hopefully) getting a good look into Salinger’s life.

5. Doctor Sleep (The Shining #2) by Stephen King

Release Date: September 24th, 2013

I’m not really a Stephen King fan. However, I read The Shining in a lit class in college, and was impressed by it. It was unsettling – far creepier than either of the movies were. Also, I anticipate a lot of chatter about this sequel and so think I had better be familiar with it.

Why did Orwell write ‘1984’?

I just now stumbled upon an article from The Daily Beast that features a letter Orwell wrote before writing 1984.

Good stuff! It’s interesting to see how Nazi Germany, the USSR, and the threat of Japanese imperialism influenced his view of fascism and the supposed decline of democracy.

I’m not inclined to believe that the U.S. is headed toward the type of world Orwell portrayed in his most famous novel. But I do agree with what he writes in the last line of his letter: “We have to keep on making it [our cause] the better, which involves constant criticism.”

My Preferred Dystopia

What I’m about to do here is monstrously unfair. You may recall my post about Wool a couple weeks ago. Well, today I’m going to compare that book to Vladimir Nabokov’s Bend Sinister, a very unique kind of dystopian novel.

In his introduction to the latter, Nabokov makes quite clear that his novel should not be compared to other dystopian novels. He writes, “[A]utomatic comparisons between Bend Sinister and Kafka’s creations or Orwell’s clichés would go merely to prove that the automaton could not have read either the great German writer or the mediocre English one.”

Harsh criticism for the creator of 1984. And I can’t help but feel a little bad about myself after reading Nabokov’s book, since I had a really difficult time not drawing comparisons.

Enough. Let’s start with the real material:

In writing 1984, I’m certain Orwell intended to make a commentary on where society was headed. The same can most likely be said of Brave New World, among others. But we can hardly claim the same for Wool. I believe that Hugh Howey was focused more on the entertainment aspect of his novel than the social commentary aspect. He probably was also thinking of what would bring in the most cash. Unfortunately for him, Wool has failed to garner the same attention as The Hunger Games.

Anyway, in this sense I think Howey and Nabokov have something in common: neither meant to write a social commentary. Nabokov states himself, in his introduction to the novel, that the book is intended to demonstrate “the torture an intense tenderness is subjected to.” This makes sense in retrospect, when you consider the protagonist’s relationship with his wife and child.

Whether he wants it or not, though, comparisons of his work to other dystopian novels is going to keep cropping up.  I’ll admit that Bend Sinister will be added to my “dystopia” bookshelf.

My new venture (aside from re-reading The Vampire Chronicles) is David Hume’s A Treatise of Human Nature. That’s something to look forward to, right? Right??