Friday, 26 March 2010

Reading habits, writing non-habit

For a while I have been suffering from literary constipation - nothing coming out. I am thinking of changing my blog's subtitle 'To create the habit of writing, irregardless of quality' to something that more clearly reflects the realities of my writing habits. It seems I am stuck between two bad ways of thinking. One has been previously described by Henry Miller - the desire to write literature. That is, to write something of the quality of the writing of authors I admire. The second is to write accurately - to write non-fiction that has been researched to the level of good journalism. Both reflect a failure to write because I don't think I am good enough (in terms of either quality or accuracy). In short - I lack faith, I am fearful of criticism, I lack motivation. Objectively I recognize both these bad habits, and that they should not stop me from posting blog entries. Just reading other blogs is enough to see that there are many who disregard such concerns with abandon. Unfortunately, I am not currently among them.

Constipation can occur because nothing for a long time is going in, or despite something going in, nothing is coming out. My affliction is definitely the latter. So much goes in. I am given a mild boost in the knowledge that my head churns, gurgles, even seethes with sentences, metaphors, starting paragraphs etc… Now and then are short explosions where a few paragraphs are expelled - written down and saved but never published. Literary flatulence.

Just over a year ago (12 March 2009) I posted a list of books I had read whilst in Vietnam. For the sake of my own memory, I thought I should update the list to include those I have read since then. I have missed many out - having been returned to their rightful owners or just forgotten for the moment. I also also spent a lot more time this year reading online news, blogs and marginalia of the web - which has cut into my 'real' reading time more than I would have wanted. Still, I feel blessed to have had the time to read so many good (and a few awful) books. These are listed in no particular order:

The Pornographer's Poem - Michael Turner
Hospital - Toby Litt
In Defence of Food - Michael Pollan
Good Germs, Bad Germs - Jessica Snyder Sachs
The Botany of Desire - Michael Pollan
Omnivore's Dilemma - Michael Pollan
Tropic of Cancer (reread) - Henry Miller
A Pale View of Hills - Kazuo Ishiguro
A Personal Matter - Kenaburo Oe
The Silent Cry - Kenazburo Oe
First Abolish the Customer - Bob Ellis
Common Wealth - Economics for a Crowded Planet - Jeffrey D. Sachs
The End of Poverty - Jeffrey D. Sachs
Economics Explained - Robert Heilbroner & Lester Thurow
Naked Lunch (reread) - William S Burroughs
Footsteps - Pramoedya Anata Toer
House of Glass - Pramoedya Anata Toer
The Great War for Civilisation - Robert Fisk
Middle East Illusions - Noam Chomsky
Rogue State - William Blum
Perfect Spy - Pham Xuan An
Bias - Bernard Goldberg
The Political Mind - George Lakoff
Lipstick Jihad - Azadeh Moaveni
Requiem for the Sudan - J. Millard Burr and Robert O. Collins
What is the What - Dave Eggers
America Town - Mark L. Gillen
Ghost Wars - Steve Coll
The Road of Lost Innocence - Somaly Mam
The Fugitive - Pramoedya Anata Toer
All That is Gone - Pramoedya Anata Toer
The Wisdom of Whores - Elizabeth Pisani
The Great White Shark Hunt (reread) - Hunter S. Thompson
Pathologies of Power - Paul Farmer
Where the Ashes Are - Nguyen Qui Duc
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close - Jonathan Safran Foer

Currently Reading:
The Hidden Connections - Fritjof Capra
The Giants - J.M.G Le Cleszio
The Slap - Chirstos Tsiolkas
Philosophical Investigations (rereading) - Ludwig Wittgenstein