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Thursday, September 18, 2014

10 books that stayed with me in some way


Posted this on Facebook a few days ago.

(So I will post it here too, but with amendments. And links to previous blog posts related to these books. To help me remember.)

The rules: List 10 books that have stayed with you in some way. They do not have to be great works of literature. Don't think too much of your choices. Tag 10 people, plus me so I can see your choices.

1) DRAGONLANCE CHRONICLES by Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis

Read this when I was 12. In retrospect, these Dragonlance books are pretty bloody horrible. But they did introduce me to the fantasy genre, yeah. I read these before the Lord of the Rings books, His Dark Materials, Narnia etc.

But at that time, I was quite a fan. When I first got to use the Internet, back in 1997, the first website I tried to go to was "dragonlance.com", I subscribed to Tracy Hickman's newsletter, wrote a fan mail to Richard A. Knaak (and was absolutely thrilled when he replied) Ah, the early days of Internet. I was so much simpler.


Read this even earlier. Probably one of my faves as a child. Loved this and Glass Elevator.

3) LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Read this 9-10 years ago when I was in Perth. When you were suffering from the pains of unrequited love, and then read about some guy who spent half a century pining after a woman, you realize things aren's so bad after all.

4) INVISIBLE CITIES by Italo Calvino
Also read this during my Perth days, thanks to my pal Justin. After so many years of fantasy and scifi stuff, this opened my mind about the possibilities of literature.


My first Murakami. Discovered it when I was in Perth too (I would say that those years in Perth during my early twenties was when I made the most discoveries) I was pretty bloody frustrated, reading this. Almost hated it. My relationship with Murakami til today had always been somewhat lukewarm. But I would continue reading his works, some I really loved (HARD-BOILED WONDERLAND AND THE END OF THE WORLD, WILD SHEEP CHASE), some I enjoyed (NORWEGIAN WOODS, AFTER DARK) and some that disappear from my mind once I was done.


I'm going to make my amendment. While Wind-Up Bird Chronicles was my first Murakami book, my reaction to it was lukewarm at best. I don't think the book really stayed with me.

On the other hand, it was my favourite Murakami book HARD-BOILED WONDERLAND AND THE END OF THE WORLD which continues to linger. I read this in 2010, in my hotel by the sea at Brignagon, France. I think I might have finished it in one sitting.

I was reading it from afternoon to evening, when the sun was about to set, and golden rays of sun enveloped my room, until it was night, when suddenly there were fireworks outside. It was never just the book, but also the experience of reading it, that makes these things so memorable.

6) PALM-OF-THE-HANDS-STORIES by Yasunari Kawabata

To me, the best stuff by Kawabata had always been his short stories. Read some of the shorts during my last few months in Perth (thanks to former guestblogger Justin, who posted about this book on this blog), and finished the rest of it when I just moved to Tokyo in 2008. Heavy influenced. Two Three short films I did were inspired by this. LOVE SUICIDES (2009), KINGYO (2009) and the experimental THE WHITE FLOWER (2010). Thanks to the festival exposure of the former two that gave me, I think my career owes a lot to this book.

Yeah, watch Kingyo here


It's actually four books. Spring Snow, Runaway Horses, Temple of Dawn and The Decay of the Angel, but to me, it felt more like one really long book separated into four parts. The first two books inspired my feature film RIVER OF EXPLODING DURIANS.

I read this after former guestblogger Justin (now a published author) posted his very detailed review of the books on this blog in 2006.

8) 100 YEARS OF SOLITUDE by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

In 2011. I decided to read this book. After the first chapter, I was hooked. Prepared some snacks and drinks, locked myself in the room, kept on reading for 24 hours until I was done with it. It was the literature equivalent of a movie marathon.

9) MIDNIGHT'S CHILDREN by Salman Rushdie
I read this in 2008 (and then wrote excitedly about it). Also when I just moved to Tokyo. I was never the same again. Flashback to 2008, what I wrote on the blog post:

Yet for the first time ever, MIDNIGHT'S CHILDREN caused me to think a little about what my first feature film would be like. For some brief moments, I mentally made vague outlines about its possibilities, like a lovesick man imagining how his son would look like.

Whether I were to shoot it in Tokyo, or in Malaysia...

"My first film would be something epic." I said solemnly to my little sister on MSN, earning a confused '0_0' from her in return. And by typing out my sudden pronouncement, the ghostly apparition of an idea faded away, just as expected.

Of course, it was just a spur of a moment thing. Just a person suddenly feeling very inspired because he had just read a great book. Understanding my own situation, I added, in equal solemnity, to my sister (over the MSN):

"Yup. Finishing a great work of literature can be so inspiring at times."

As I am typing this. 6 years have passed. I am now waiting to watch my first film RIVER OF EXPLODING DURIANS in a post-production house, finalizing it. 6 years after declaring I would make an "epic", I ended up doing something as ambitious as I wanted. I don't think the 24-year-old me would be disappointed with the 30-year-old me.

10) SOUL MOUNTAIN by Gao Xingjian

Read this in 2012. My most vivid memory of it was reading this a few hours after midnight in a McDonald's at Shinjuku, as I was hanging out there with someone after missing the last train home. She had fallen asleep. I was mesmerized by both the languorous prose and her visage.