February Reading Update

If anyone is keeping track, I now have a bookshelf named tsundoku. This is specifically for books that I’ve either bought or received but haven’t read. In the spirit of Fulfilling New Year’s Resolutions, I borrowed two more books from the library, which I also so far have not read.

On the bright side, I finally organized my bookmarks. #headdesk

Before

After

Anyway…….

General Reading Update

My 2020 goal of reading 60 books got off to a rocky start when I failed to finish any books for most of the month of January, with the sole exception of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, which I started reading last October and finally finished on January 2. I have literally nothing to say for myself except that it’s a fucking long-ass book and I got hit hard by the Harry Potter doldrums halfway through Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. If you’ve already read these books and you’re trying to marathon them as an adult for old times’ sake, all I can say is don’t.

Owing to the Harry Potter Fatigue (YES THAT’S A THING) and the general reading slump I’ve been in since last year, I fell about three books behind over the course of January and then quickly shot up to three books ahead by reading the first five volumes of Soul Eater in four days. I knew I’d have to pad out my reading goal with mangas, but I didn’t think I’d have to resort to them that fast. 😭

Currently Reading

I thought I’d start a New Thing here, which I’m naming Karo Reads It All. This tag will be for the posts discussing my current reads*, so please do come back if you’re a dork like me and you like to stalk other people’s reading lists! KRIA is the result of a thought I literally just had like a second ago, which is that I should make a specific tag for myself because I really love talking about what I’m reading to keep myself accountable and on track.

Update 3/25/2020: Karo Reads It All has been renamed Wyrd Bookshelf to allow more than one Wyrd Gurl to take advantage of it.

* Note: I will not be tracking mangas because I typically read those in one sitting, and I’m more concerned about my ability to finish books that don’t have pictures.


Memory of Fire: Genesis

The tsundoku quest got off to a strong start with Eduardo Galeano’s Memory of Fire: Genesis, which I started reading on the train on January 18 while on my way to see a production of The Merry Wives of Windsor (which, by the way, was excellent).

I spotted this completely by chance at my favorite secondhand bookstore and immediately knew that it had to come home with me because it’s quoted in the epigraphs in Cat’s Eye which is one of my most favoritest books EVERRRRRRRR yeah okay I’m a nerd but you knew that

When the Tukunas cut off her head, the old woman collected her own blood in her hands and blew it toward the sun.

“My soul enters you, too!” she shouted.

Since then anyone who kills receives in his body, without wanting or knowing it, the soul of his victim.

The quote came out pretty early in the book. I was excited. 🤩

Anyway, to be completely honest: I’ve been reading this book in stages because it is gorgeous, riveting, and absolutely inFUUUUUUUUUURiating. Never read this book if you’re in a bad mood because it’ll put you in a worse one and you’ll end up hoping in your heart of hearts that Columbus and Cortés and all the rest are upside down and inside out and burning somewhere in the deepest pits of hell.

I’m not saying don’t read it at all. I think this is a book that every American needs to read at some point. I can’t speak for its historical accuracy, especially as it is set during a confusing and poorly documented period of history (and even more especially as the author describes himself in the preface as “a wretched history student” and then goes on to say that he is a writer rather than a historian), but it still needs to be read because it offers a Latin American perspective on the creation of the New World. It also goes back through the history and mythology of some of the Native American tribes whose worlds were destroyed the minute Columbus set foot on American soil. Not gonna lie, some of these stories actually aren’t that nice. There seems to be a lot of kidnapping, murder, and theft. 🤣 This one is my favorite so far:

Resurrection

After five days it was the custom for the dead to return to Peru. They drank a glass of chicha and said, “Now I’m eternal.”

There were too many people in the world. Crops were sown at the bottom of precipices and on the edge of abysses, but even so, the food wouldn’t go around.

Then a man died in Huarochirí.

The whole community gathered on the fifth day to receive him. They waited for him from morning till well after nightfall. The hot dishes got cold, and sleep began closing eyelids. The dead man didn’t come.

He came the next day. Everyone was furious. The one who boiled most with indignation was his wife, who yelled, “You good-for-nothing! Always the same good-for-nothing! All the dead are punctual except you!”

The resurrected one stammered some excuse, but the woman threw a corncob at his head and left him stretched out on the floor. Then the soul left the body and flew off, a quick, buzzing insect, never to return.

Since that time no dead person has come back to mix with the living and compete for their food.

Some more quotes that stood out to me:

Sacrilege

The six are burning as a punishment and as a lesson: They have buried the images of Christ and the Virgin that Fray Ramón Pané left with them for protection and consolation. Fray Ramón taught them to pray on their knees, to say the Ave Maria and Paternoster and to invoke the name of Jesus in the face of temptation, injury, and death.

No one has asked them why they buried the images. They were hoping that the new gods would fertilize their fields of corn, cassava, boniato, and beans.

Moctezuma

Moctezuma has sent great offerings of gold to the god Quetzalcóatl, helmets filled with gold dust, golden ducks, golden dogs, golden tigers, golden necklaces, and wands and bows and arrows, but the more gold the god eats, the more he wants; and he is advancing toward Tenochtitlán, dissatisfied. He marches between the great volcanos, and behind him come other bearded gods. The hands of the invaders send forth thunder that stuns and fire that kills.

The Capital of the Aztecs

Emperor Moctezuma, who opens the gates of Tenochtitlán, will soon be finished. In a short while he will be called woman of the Spaniards, and his own people will stone him to death. Young Cuauhtémoc will take his place. He will fight.

“People Very Generous with What They Have…”

The Spaniards imagine that the Indians will cut them into pieces and throw them in the stewpot, but in the village they continue sharing with them the little food they have. As Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca will tell it, the Indians are horrified and hot with anger when they learn that, while on the beach, five Christians ate one another until only one remained, who being alone had no one to eat him.

Atahualpa

Before the iron tourniquet breaks his neck, [Atahualpa] weeps, kisses the cross, and accepts baptism with another name. Giving his name as Francisco, which is his conqueror’s name, he beats on the doors of the Paradise of the Europeans, where no place is reserved for him.

Don’t Try to Convert Me

This is one of the many, many things that’ve been making me mad while I’ve been reading Genesis, because I’ve never been down with the idea of going to another country and telling the people who live there that their religions suck and yours is the right one. While I support freedom of expression for every religion that doesn’t actively endorse harming other people, I draw the line at people who start trying to push their religion onto everyone else. It’s one thing to offer to teach someone who specifically expresses interest in your religious beliefs, but it’s another thing entirely to forcibly convert entire populations. Even just talking about it is making my headache worse so I guess this is as good a place as any to wrap up.


The Merry Wives of Windsor

As an antidote to the rage and gloom, I also started reading The Merry Wives of Windsor!

I started with the library’s copy but quickly found I didn’t care for that particular edition, which gave more room to the explanatory footnotes than it did to the play itself, so I ended up buying a different edition when I went to see the stage show.

I have to be honest: I’ve never been an avid Shakespeare scholar. It’s gotten easier to understand him as I’ve grown older, but a lot of his language and references still leave me in the dark, even if I’m able to follow the general gist of what the characters are saying. Case in point: I really struggled with the beginning of Merry Wives and wasn’t able to finish the play before I saw the show, but I’m actually really glad it worked out that way because the play is a lot easier to understand now that I have the context provided by the show. (Of course, I’m also having trouble motivating myself to finish this one because Reading Slump. Go figure.)

Buddy Reads

I tried out a handful of buddy reads for the first time last year. I’ve never tried them before and am not sure I’ll continue because one of them was successful, one of them was partially successful but later fell apart, and the rest of them turned into me reading the book/series and discussing my thoughts on the forum while everyone else read part of the book/series and then spent the rest of the time discussing the reasons they hadn’t finished it. The only buddy read I haven’t finished yet is my Harry Potter buddy read, which started with a group of us rereading the Harry Potter series and then slowly devolved to one of us reading the books and two of us offering excuses. To be clear, I am not that one because I read the entire series growing up and they’re pretty much lodged in my head. This is why it was a bad idea for me to join: I know the books too well, I’ve developed Adult Opinions about them, and I’ve found that I have a lot of problems with them, which may be a subject for a later post because I currently don’t have the energy for an in-depth analysis.

Also, to be very very clear, I still love this gorram series SO much. It formed a huge part of my childhood/teenage/young adult reading list, I know every story by heart (except maybe Order of the Phoenix cus that one was definitely my least favorite), and I find it shocking when I run across people who either haven’t read or don’t remember the series like what do you mean you haven’t memorized Goblet of Fire how do you even live with yourself 🤣

Final Thoughts

That’s all from my reading world. What’s on your nightstand?

The Count of Monte Creepo

I’ve been chugging through this brick for the last couple of months and it’s very interesting but man there sure is a lot of it x____x

Goodreads says I’m 70% through, and I’m gonna have to take its word for it cus this thing is huge. There’s about five million chapters, but they’re all pretty short, so overall you can get through large chunks of it fairly quickly. After I’m done I’m going to go back and reread the abridged version I started with, because I have almost no memory of the details and have no idea what got cut out when they abridged it. In this translation it takes him about 230 pages to break out of prison and get to the treasure pffffffft no wonder it’s almost 1300 pages 😣

I’ve been enjoying the book, but lately I’ve been getting that creeping feeling you get when you know that Adulthood Is Ruining Everything. I first found out about Monte Cristo when I was 11 because my mom started reading it to me when I had pneumonia and couldn’t run away from her, which didn’t seem like much of a compensation when I was missing the sixth grade Outdoor Ed trip. For context, here’s what I was probably reading at the time:

YES I KNOW I’M REALLY DATING MYSELF HERE SHUT UP.

Suffice it to say that Monte Cristo was a bit different from what I was reading by choice, but I liked the book and ended up finishing it on my own, which is a damn sight better than what happened a year later with Gone with the Wind. That was the abridged version, which is now falling to pieces and is currently sitting in my drawer at work because I keep forgetting I was going to run it through the glue binder. It worked for me because it was about getting revenge and punishing your enemies, and I wasn’t quite old enough to realize that the hero is actually super fucking creepy.

Maybe it’s adulthood, maybe it’s because I know the story now and can pay better attention to the details, maybe it’s because the unabridged translation is more precise, maybe it’s a little of all three, but the Count is so unabashedly creepy that I can’t quite like the book the way I used to. When I was in sixth grade, it was beyond reproach. As an adult, I’m finding I don’t particularly care for Monsieur le Comte. I’m currently on page 890. Here are the things the Count has done in that time:

  • While in Africa, he buys a mute slave named Ali, who was supposed to be executed by having his body parts hacked off over the course of several days. Ali is not naturally mute. The Count doesn’t offer to buy him until after his (Ali’s) tongue has been cut out, because “[he] had always wanted to have a dumb servant.” Ali is painfully loyal and grateful; the Count, in return, refers to him as “[his] dog” and makes it clear that he is willing to kill him if he stops being useful.
  • He lures Franz d’Epinay blindfolded into a cave, introduces himself as Sinbad the Sailor, tells him the creepy story about Ali with “cruel good humor,” gets him high on hashish, and sails off early the next morning without so much as a how-d’you-do. Actually, considering what he does to everybody else, this one seems remarkably kind.
  • He follows Albert de Morcerf to Rome, then proceeds to stalk the shit out of him, up to and including taking the hotel rooms right next to Albert’s, showering Albert with extravagant favors, and getting his bandit friends to kidnap Albert so that he can then rescue him. This kind of behavior looks like kindness and generosity to clueless Albert, but nowadays we call it “grooming.” If I didn’t already know Monte Cristo’s actual intentions, I’d think he was a rapist.
  • While posing as an abbot, he learns that a Corsican smuggler named Bertuccio tried to murder Gérard de Villefort. After hearing Bertuccio’s confession, he bails him out and sends him to himself (literally, he gives him a letter of recommendation and tells him that the Count of Monte Cristo will hire him as a steward), then buys the house in which Bertuccio attacked de Villefort and forces Bertuccio to retell the story of the murder and its aftermath.
  • Shortly after arriving in Paris, he arranges for Héloïse de Villefort’s carriage to crash in front of his house, then stages a dramatic rescue. When Madame de Villefort tells her son to thank Ali for saving their lives, the obnoxious little snot refuses on the grounds that Ali is “too ugly.” Ali does not speak French; the Count considerately translates Edouard’s remark into Arabic for him. (Excuse me, but why was this necessary?) After the rescue, the Count sends Madame de Villefort a recipe for poison, knowing she will use it to bump off most of her family.
  • He also owns a woman named Haydée, who was sold into slavery after her father was betrayed by Fernand de Morcerf. Though he treats her well and is about as affectionate with her as he can be with anyone, he still regards her as a slave. He makes her relive the story of her father’s death for the benefit of Fernand’s son (Albert), but specifically instructs her not to mention that Fernand was the one who betrayed her family while simultaneously telling Albert not to mention that his father served hers. After she finishes her story, she looks at the Count “as though to ask if he was satisfied with her obedience.”

I would include his manipulation of the Calvacantis and the Danglars, but I don’t give a fuck about either one of them. To be fair, the Count also uses his vast and apparently inexhaustible wealth to help the people he still cares about, but these acts of benevolence are so few that they don’t really balance out the fact that he’s expanded his revenge to include people who had nothing to do with his arrest. GOOD JOB, MONTE CREEPO.

I seem to have become one of those people who take pictures of their books, so here we go:

Since it was (1) Memorial Day weekend and (2) just generally a lucky day for buying books, I hit up two used bookstores today and I swear I was only looking for Moral Disorder but I somehow came home with nine books and since I seem to be confessing all my sins I might as well mention that I cracked and read Ghost Bride even though I said I wasn’t going to until I’d finished Monte Cristo oh gawd don’t judge me.

(Full disclosure: Moral Disorder actually isn’t my favorite but the main character is a copyeditor and I feel really represented and it’s still by Margaret Atwood and I’m about to build a shrine to her greatness and I will be the High Priestess and yeah okay you can judge me now 😖)