Milo loves to read so please enjoy his reading list from 2015 along with some notes and quotes he has compiled from some of them.
“A Treacherous Paradise” Henning Mankell
“The Son” Jo Nesbø
“All That Is” James Salter
“The Marriage of Sticks” Jonathan Carroll
Because somewhere in the course of their lives I had selfishly used every one of them. Used them in small or large, forgotten or impossible-to-conceive-of ways to get whatever it was I wanted at that moment. I had loved them and tricked them or hated them and forgotten them, ignored them, paid them court, stolen their hearts or said no to theirs when they were offered. I had gone into their lives blind; I had gone in knowing everything. I took their love, I took their hopes; I took their time and I paid it no respect.
Some of them had asked for something back; some had asked for a lot back. Each time I gave only what I wanted or had a surplus of and wouldn’t miss. They gave what they cherished or what kept them alive, what made them tick or gave them faith. What they got from me in return was nothing, wrapped in a fine empty box with tinsel and glitter on it. Most people steal because they believe what they steal should belong to them anyway. To me it wasn’t theft, it was barter: I’ll trade you what I don’t need for whatever it is about you I want. That’s fair.
“The Astral” Kate Christensen
“A Tale For the Time Being” Ruth Ozeki
In reality, every reader, while he is reading, is the reader of his own self. The writer’s work is merely a kind of optical instrument, which he offers to the reader to permit him to discern what, without the book, he would perhaps never have seen in himself. The reader’s recognition in his own self of what the book says is the proof of its truth. –Marcel Proust, Le temps retouvé
And here’s a funny thing. Americans always call it World War II, but a lot of Japanese call it the Great East Asian War, and actually the two countries have totally different versions of who started it and what happened. Most Americans think it was all Japan’s fault, because Japan invaded China in order to steal their oil and natural resources, and America had to jump in and stop them. But a lot of Japanese believe that America started it by making all these unreasonable sanctions against Japan and cutting off oil and food, and like, ooooh, we’re just a poor little island country that needs to import stuff in order to survive, etc. This theory says that America forced Japan to go to war in sled-defense, and all that stuff they did in China was none of America’s business to begin with. So Japan went and attacked Pearl Harbor, which a lot of Americans say was a 9/11 scenario, and then America got pissed off and declared was back. The fighting went on until America got fed up and dropped atom bombs on Japan and totally obliterated Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which most people agree was pretty harsh because they were winning by then anyway.
Instructions for zazen
First of all, you have to sit down, which you’re probably already doing. The traditional way is to sit on a zafu cushion on the floor with your legs crossed, but you can sit on a chair if you want to. Te important thing is just to have good posture and not to slosh or lean on anything.
Now you can put your hands in your lap and kind of stack them up, so that the back of your left hand is on the palm of your right hand, and your thumb tips come around and meet on top, making a little round circle. The place where your thumbs touch should line up with your bellybutton. Jiko says this way of holding your hands is called hokkai jo-in (cosmic mudra), and it symbolizes the whole cosmic universe, which you are holding on your lap like a great big beautiful egg.
Next you just relax and hold really still and concentrate on your breathing. You don’t have to make a big deal about it. It’s not like you’re thinking about breathing, but you’re not not thinking about it either. It’s kind of like when you’re sitting on the beach and watching the waves lapping up on the sand or some little kids you don’t know playing in the distance. You’re just noticing everything that’s going on, both inside you and outside you, including your breathing and the kids and the waves and the sand. And that’s basically it.
It sounds pretty simple, but when I first tried to do it, I got totally distracted by all my crazy thoughts and obsessions, and then my body started to itch and it felt like there were millipedes crawling all over me. When I explained this to Jiko, she told me to count my breaths like this:
Breathe in, breathe out…one.
Breathe in, breathe out…two.
She said I should count like that up to ten, and when I got to ten, I could start over again at one. I’m like, no problem, Jiko! And I’m count in away, when some crazy revenge fantasy against my classmates or a nostalgic memory of Sunnyvale pops into my mind and totally hijacks my attention. As you’ve probably figured out by now, on account of the ADD, my mind is always chattering away like a monkey, and sometimes I can’t even count to three. Can you believe it? No wonder I couldn’t get into a decent high school. But the good news is that it doesn’t matter if you screw up zazen. Jiko says don’t even think of it as screwing up. She says it’s totally natural for a person’s mind to think because that’s what minds are supposed to do, so when your mind wanders and gets tangled up in crazy thoughts, you don’t have to freak out. It’s no big deal. You just notice it’s happened and drop it. like whatever, and start again from the beginning.
…Jiko also says that to do zazen is to enter time completely.
“Foreign Bodies” Cynthia Ozick
The boy was absurd. The boy was contemptible. The self-consciousness off it, lord of the world, commandeering a flock of chairs as if he owned the planet earth, one of those know-nothing Americans besotted with old tattered visions of Sartre, that dolt, that foul communist, that abettor of the worst. Paris was infested with these imitation baby Sartres and Gides sitting in cafés over their inky manuscripts, an apéritif placed just so at the nearer knuckle to authenticate the parody, the foolish superannuated play-acting. And this one in romantic agony over some tragic flaw in his genius! A plaything, their Paris, a toy: they would wear it out, it would wear them out, one or the other would be discarded. And when they were done with it, away they’d go, how easy to fly off with their easy American passports to those waiting rich cities and their movie tone skyscrapers, their happy Clevelands and Chicagos and Bostons! They could come and they could go, ignorant that the ground was scorched, so obliviously soft was it under their feet, and here was this raw entitled boy with his big dirty sandals up on a chair, showing dirty toenails…”
“The Shadow Girls” Henning Mankell
“Homework” Margot Livesey
“Evidence Of Things Unseen” Marianne Wiggins
Whether they call it God or conscience or the manual of Army protocol, people sublime toward where their inner fire burns, and given enough fuel for thought and a level playing field to dream on, anyone can leave a fingerprint on the blank of history. That’s what Fos believed.
Seemingly with no conscious motive she found herself drawn more than once to the edges of the tents where there was a different source of powerful attraction––hucksterism of gospellers and evangelicals, foot-bathers and berserkers, Bible salesmen, healers, layers-on of hands and snakeoil salesmen, roustabouts and self-made prophets, exhorters, raisers of the dead, dead levelers. The revelers. The drama of salvation. She’d stand on summer nights outside these tents and halfway listen to the preachers preach, it didn’t matter what the message was––the message was the same each time––people came to watch the message being sold. The events a tent invites, the alibis and cover stories that a tent invents were as attractive as any force in nature, Opal came to realize, as magnetic as any other, every other, vacuum. The preachers raised their healing hands like magnets and the people came, lined up like iron filings to have their pain relieved their cataracts dissolved their sight restored.
Youth never sees its shadow till the sun’s about to set: and then you wonder where the person went who you were speaking to in all your thoughts for all the years.
“The Shadow Year” Jeffrey Ford
“The White Lioness” Henning Mankell
“Jitterbug” Loren D. Estleman
“Music, In A Foreign Language” Andrew Crumey
’The rewriting of history is not a purely modern preoccupation. Indeed, one could argue that history itself is little more that an accumulation of alterations and amendments; the endless recreating of the past. We need only consider the subtlety of the immediate present, and the infinite malleability of our own perceptions, to realize that the past is a thing without substance, without meaning, unless it is interpreted. And to interpret is to rewrite.’ (written by the fictional surrealist ‘writer’ Alfredo Galli, who is mentioned and quoted throughout the book)
And it was the spirit of anarchism which pervades every aspect of Galli’s work, and which can be so endearing when it isn’t downright irritating, which first attracted me when as a young man I discovered the delightful Racconti Impossibili – the set of ‘impossible tales’ in which a description of a chair, for example, can gradually turn into an account of all the people who have sat upon it, and of all the other chairs on which they sat, and so on, in an endless process of multiplication which Galli cuts short with a comment such as ‘the rest is obvious’. What Galli offers us in his writing is an escape from the tyranny of logic. In literature, everything is contingent; everything can be otherwise. To anyone who had grown up in Britain during the grim decades which followed the war, this fact was very seductive. I came to realize the simple truth that in the world, also, everything could have been otherwise – and the way things are is such a special case as to be almost irrelevant, compared with the full range of how things might be. Why then does history choose one course as opposed to another? This is something I have often thought about, while observing the evolution of women’s fashion.
King imagined a situation which occurred during the war. An SS officer was assassinated by the Resistance, so the local commander rounded up a hundred civilians and held them hostage, guarded over by a single machine gunner. They stood huddled in the market square, with only the lone soldier holding them back from freedom. If one person tried to take action, he would be shot immediately. If fifty ran for the gunner, then perhaps a couple of dozen would die before he was overpowered, and the survivors would run free. But the hundred hostages stood and did nothing. If there had been a million of them, watched over by the gunner, would the crowd have wasted a moment over the puny guard? Surely, they would have pushed forward to overwhelm him without a second thought. But what if there had been a thousand? Or five hundred? What is it that can give a group of people the courage to put aside their individual thoughts of self-preservation, so that others might live? Yet each of those hundred civilians stood from. Each clung to the hope that surviving another five minutes improved their chance of eventually going free. Some time later, the young machine gunner received the command to put an end to them all.
And what, King wondered, if that soldier had made the following humane offer to his hundred hostages; he would spare the first one who tried to escape, but would kill any who tried to follow. What then would be the response? A moment of nervousness, perhaps, and than a stampede.
A nation is oppressed, and does nothing. If one person cries out and protests, he is imprisoned. But then that rare thing appears; a leader who has both power and humanity. And he decides to be lenient with some of those who cry out. Then the stampede becomes inevitable. This was what was in King’s mind as he idly watched the anxious stranger at the counter.
“The Doll” Taylor Stevens
“The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers” Thomas Mullen
“The Age of Miracles” Karen Thompson Walker
“When We Were Orphans” Kazuo Ishiguro
“From the Teeth of Angels” Jonathan Carroll
“My Brilliant Friend” Elena Ferrante
“Drive” James Sallis
“The Coroner’s Lunch” Colin Cotterill
“Innocence” Taylor Stevens
“Bad Intentions” Karin Fossum
“Death At La Fenice” Donna Leon
“Silence of the Grave” Arnaldur Indriðason
“The Diagnosis” Alan Lightman
“The Informationist” Taylor Stevens
“The Litigators” John Grisham
Thought I’d read at least one Grisham novel to see what all the fuss is about. It does keep you moving along but mostly empty calories here.
“Nowle’s Passing” Edith Forbes
A lovely surprise - in-depth characters, and a beautiful tale of family and the complexities of growing older. Fabulous.
“A Swell-Looking Babe” Jim Thompson
“The Other Side of the Bridge” Mary Lawson
When he was younger, Ian had assumed that as you got older things became more clear. Adults had seemed so sure, so knowledgable, not just about facts and figures but about the big questions: the difference between right and wrong; what was true and what wasn’t; what life was about. He’d assumed that you went to school because you had to learn things, starting off with the easy stuff and moving on to bigger issues, and once you’d learned them that was it, the way ahead opened up and thereafter life was simple and straightforward. What a joke. The older he got, the more complicated and obscure everything became. He understood nothing anymore – nothing and nobody, including himself.
“So Brave, So Young, and Handsome” Leif Enger
“Body and Soul” Frank Conroy
“Fun will only take you so far.” He paused, stroking his mustache. “There are deeper pleasures than fun. Fun is good, it helps things, helps to forget things. But it isn’t everything.”
In discussing the merits of music competitions for Claude, a boy prodigy:
“What about competitions?”
Both Levits and Weisfeld shook their heads. “He doesn’t need all that craziness,” Weisfeld said. “He’s already got a sponsor.”
“Between us,” Levits said, “we have the necessary connections. Competitions are for people from Nebraska who don’t know anybody. I agree with Aaron.”
“I’m an artist!” Claude protested.
“Yes, yes!” Weisfeld cried. “We know what that means. We know, but not everybody knows. Even some people who talk like –“ He interrupted himself. “You remember when you used to play for Mrs. Fisk? For her little boy?”
Claude was stunned. Could Weisfeld read his mind?
“You remember Dewman Fisk,” Weisfeld continued, raising his voice, “the famous ballet enthusiast and culture maven for the mayor? and the pretentious Mrs. Fisk, one of our best customers? You think they knew anything about it? About what it means to be an artist?” Claude was doubly speechless – first the talk of the Fisks, and second the controlled anger in Weisfeld.
“They know practically nothing.” He stroked his mustache as if to calm himself down. “Music is a decoration. A diversion to take their minds off their troubles. Maybe a hobby. To them, the artist is a high-class entertainer. They don’t even know they don’t know anything, those people. It can drive you crazy.” He crushed the washed paper from lunch into a ball and threw it in the trash. “So don’t expect anything. Be careful with those kind of people.”
“Hit On the House” Jon A. Jackson
“The Book of Laughter and Forgetting” Milan Kundera
“The Painter” Peter Heller
“Angels and Aliens” Mary Morris
“Cockroaches” Jo Nesbø
“The God of Small Things” Arundhati Roy
“Savages” Bill Pronzini
“Jar City” Arnaldur Indridason
“The Dog Stars” Peter Heller
“Heading West” Doris Betts
“An Artist of the Floating World” Kazuo Ishiguro
“The Likeness” Tana French
This isn’t just callousness, or self-preservation. The cold fact is that every murder I’ve worked was about the killer. The victim–and imagine explaining this to families who have nothing left but hope of a reason–the victim was just the person who happened to wander into the sights when the gun was loaded and cocked. The control freak was always going to kill his wife the first time she refused to follow orders; your daughter happened to be the one who married him. The mugger was hanging around the alleyway with a knife, and your husband happened to be the next person who walked by. We go through victims’ lives with a fine-tooth comb, but we’re doing it to learn more not about them but about the murderer: if we can figure out the exact point where someone walked into those crosshairs, we can go to work with our dark, stained geometries and draw a line straight back to the barrel of the gun. The victim can tell us how, but almost never why. The only reason, the beginning and the end, the closed circle, is the killer.
Daniel nodded, unsurprised. “Possible you’re braver than I am,” he said. “Or possibly–forgive me–you simply haven’t decided what you want from life yet; you haven’t found anything that you truly want to hold onto. That changes everything, you know. Students and very young people can rent with no damage to their intellectual freedom, because it puts them under no threat: they have nothing, yet, to lose. Have you noticed how easily the very young die? They make the best martyrs for any cause, the best soldiers, the best suicides. It’s because they’re held here so lightly: that haven’t yet accumulated loves and responsibilities and commitments and all the things that tie us securely to this world. They can let go of it as easily and simply as lifting a finger. But as you get older, you begin ti find things that are worth holding onto, forever. All of a sudden you’re playing for keeps, as children say, and it changes the very fabric of you.”
“Await Your Reply” Dan Chaon
“The Golden City” John Twelve Hawks
This is book three of the Fourth Realm Trilogy.
“It’s a game–only much more elaborate,” Miss Holderness said. “We make our citizens march around and fight each other. We make them weep and laugh and pray.”
Mr. Dash raised the bowl and grinned. “ And after we’re done with that, we can always make them die, sometimes in spectacular ways.”
Sweat trickled down Michael’s neck. He felt as if he had just finished running a race on a warm summer’s day. “My world has different governments and armies and religions.”
“There’s no need to fight against any of these groups,” Mr. Westley said. “We’ll show you how to guide them in a particular direction. First you create a frightening story, and then you provide a happy ending…”
“So this is what I’m proposing–not a prison of sullen, unproductive prisoners, but an interconnected structure that creates obedient workers and trained consumers. This worldwide system will guarantee more money and comfort for yourself and your family. We’ll get the stability of the old Panopticon–with a happy face.”
Most of the brethren were smiling and nodding. Mrs. Brewster turned her head back and forth as she watched her influence melt away.
“My plan can become a reality of we don’t waste our resources on limited strategies. Instead of waiting for people to join the system, we need to create a worldwide sequence of threats and emergencies that impels citizens to voluntarily give up their freedom. And why would they do this? That’s easy to answer. Because we’ve turned them into children scared of the dark. They will be desperate for our help, terrified of a life outside their cubicle filled with predators and danger.
“We can achieve this goal in a few years if we’re ruthless enough to consider every option. WE need strength, not diplomacy. We need leadership, not committees. We need to stand up and say: ‘No more half measures. No compromises. We’re going to do everything necessary to create a better world.’
“I stand before you as a faithful servant: ready to obey your orders and create your vision. This ins’t a dream that might come true. What I have described this evening is an inevitable reality…if you’re ready for the next step. All I need is your approval and support. Thank you.”
“Clock Without Hands” Carson McCullers
“A Guide For the Perplexed” E. F. Schumacher
I leave it to the reader to explore the enormous range if inner experiences which fill the lives of men and women. As I have emphasized before, they are all invisible, inaccessible to external observation. The example of bodily pain is instructive precisely because there is no subtlety about it. Few people doubt the reality of pain, and the realization that here is a thing we all recognize as real, true, and one of the great “stubborn facts” of human existence, which nonetheless is unobservable by our outer senses, may come as a shock. If only that which can be observed by our outer senses is deemed to be real, “objective,” scientifically respectable, pain must be dismissed as unreal, “subjective,” unscientific. And the same applies to everything else that moves us internally: love and hatred, joy and sorrow, hope, fear, anguish, and so on. If all these forces or movements inside me are not real, they need not be taken seriously, and if I do not take them seriously in myself, how can I consider them real and take them seriously in another being? It is, in fact, more convenient to assume that other beings do not really suffer as we do and do not really possess an inner life as complex, subtle, and vulnerable as our own. Indeed, throughout the ages man has shown an enormous capacity to bear the sufferings of others with fortitude and equanimity. Since, moreover, as J. G. Bennett has shrewdly observed, we tend to see ourselves primarily in the light of our intentions, which are invisible to others, while we see others mainly in the light of their actions, which are visible to us, we have a situation in which misunderstanding and injustice are the order of the day.In the life of societies there is a need for both justice and mercy. “Justice without mercy,” said Thomas Aquinas, “is cruelty; mercy without justice is the mother of dissolution” – a very clear identification of a divergent problem. Justice is a denial of mercy, and mercy is a denial of justice. Only a higher force can reconcile these opposites: wisdom. The problem cannot be solved, but wisdom can transcend it. Similarly, societies need stability and change, tradition and innovation, public interest and private interest, planning and laissez-faire, order and freedom, growth and decay. Everywhere society’s health depends on the simultaneous pursuit of mutually opposed activities or aims. The adoption of a final solution means a kind of death sentence for man’s humanity and spells either cruelty or dissolution, generally both.
Divergent problems offend the logical mind, which wishes to remove the tension by coming down on one side or the other, but they provoke, stimulate, and sharpen the higher human faculties, without which man is nothing but a clever animal. A refusal to accept the divergency of divergent problems causes these higher faculties to remain dormant and to wither away, and when this happens, the “clever animal” is more likely than not to destroy itself.
Man’s life can thus be seen and understood as a succession of divergent problems which must inevitably be encountered and have to be coped with in some way. They are refractory to mere logic and discursive reason, and constitute, so to speak a strain-and-stretch apparatus to develop the Whole Man, and that means to develop man’s supra logical faculties. All traditional cultures have seen life as a school and have recognized, in one way or another, the essentiality of this teaching force.
“Broken” Karin Fossum
“The Waterworks” E. L. Doctorow
“The Condition” Jennifer Haigh