Happy Wednesday everyone! We’re in the final stretch of the year. I can’t believe that in a matter of weeks we will be welcoming a new year. While the future holds a lot of uncertainties, it also beacons with hope; hope, after all, springs eternal. But as the year slowly draws to a close, I hope that 2022 is being kind to everyone. I hope that you get repaid for all your hard work this year. I hope that all your prayers have been answered or that you have reached a level of peace. More importantly, I hope that you are all doing well, in body, mind, and spirit. Let’s rock the rest of the year!
It is time for another WWW Wednesday update as it is a Wednesday. WWW Wednesday is a bookish meme originally hosted by SAM@TAKING ON A WORLD OF WORDS. The mechanics for WWW Wednesday are quite simple, you just have to answer three questions:
- What are you currently reading?
- What have you finished reading?
- What will you read next?
What are you currently reading?
As the new year looms, I have been busy ticking off books from my reading challenges. This has been going on for three months already and I am glad to report that I was able to achieve one. I was able to complete 90 books, my target for this year. This makes it three consecutive years with at least 90 books read, my fourth overall. Nobel Laureate in Literature Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio’s Wandering Star is my 92nd read for the year. This is also my first novel by the French writer who I only came across because of his being awarded the esteemed literary prize. Because of my burgeoning curiosity, I made the book part of my 2022 Top 22 Reading List. It is the 20th book from the said list. I am so close to my goal. Originally published in French in 1992 as Étoile errante, the novel charted the story of two young girls. The first one is Esther, a Jewish French who was barely able to escape the onslaught of the German Nazis during the Second World War. While her father was not able to survive, she and her mother were able to travel to Jerusalem. At this juncture, her story is cut short as the perspective shifts to the second primary character of the story, Nejma, a Palestinian. We read about her experiences in a refugee camp. I can’t wait to see how these two strands converge.
What have you finished reading
Another book I listed for my 2022 Top 22 Reading List is Kevin Barry’s Night Boat to Tangier, a book I first encountered shortly after it was longlisted for the 2019 Booker Prize in Fiction. I naturally wanted to read all of the books on the longlist but my limited budget did not allow me to do so. I guess it not making the shortlist slightly affected my decision to read it. Moreover, I was prioritizing other books. Nevertheless, I was able to obtain a copy of the book last year and because of my growing anticipation of the book, I made it part of the aforementioned list. This is to ensure that I will get to read it before the year ends. Thankfully enough, I was able to read it.
Also listed by the New York Times Book Review as one of 10 Notable Books for the year, Night Boat to Tangier introduced two main characters who, in another life, were active gangsters. The passage of time, however, has not been kind to them. The story was set over a stretch of twenty-four hours on October 23, 2018, and was set in the terminal building at the Andalusian port city of Algeciras in southern Spain. It was at the terminal that we meet Charlie Redmond and Maurice Hearne, both from the city of Cork in Ireland. The two gangsters were waiting for Maurice’s missing daughter, Dilly (or Dill?), to pass through on a boat from Tangier, Morocco. It was familiar territory for the two men as they were previously part of a cartel that smuggled Moroccan hashish to Ireland through the ports of Spain. As they wait for Dill’s arrival, Barry painted the two men’s backstories. Overall, it was an interesting work of literary fiction and Barry’s language was scintillating. Irish writers do have that inimitable talent for words.
It was in late 2018 that I acquired a copy of Rachel Joyce’s The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. The book’s rather lengthy title immediately piqued my curiosity, although I did find it rather puerile during my initial encounter with the book. You see, I have never heard of Joyce before nor have I read any of her works. It was the sheer pull of a new reading adventure that reeled me into the story. Unfortunately, like most of my books, it was left to gather dust on my bookshelf. To redress this, I made the book part of my 2022 Beat the Backlist Challenge.
Interestingly, the novel was Joyce’s debut novel and it was published when she was already entering her quinquagenarian years. The book, nevertheless, was a sensation in her native UK. It was longlisted for the prestigious Booker Prize and earned Joyce the “New Writer of the Year” award by the National Book Awards. It goes to show that it is never too late to pursue what we are passionate about. Back to the book. The titular Harold Fry was sixty-five years old already when we meet him. He was cutting the lawn outside his home at Kingsbridge on the south coast of Devon when he receives a letter from Queenie Hennessy, his former colleague. Queenie was dying from cancer while staying at a hospice in Berwick-upon-Tweed. Harold then set out on a journey by foot, hence, the title. As can be gleaned from stories of the same format, the novel flashes back to Harold’s past during the journey. I thought I knew what the story was about and felt it was bland. The plot twist toward the end of the book was unexpected; it caught me off guard. That was when the emotions hit me and everything started to tie up. I was about to give up. I am glad I did not.
What will you read next?
From one Nobel Laureate in Literature to another. After Wandering Star, I am lining up Sir Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul’s (V.S. Naipaul) A Bend in the River. I have long been curious about the Trinidadian-born British writer as I kept encountering him and his works on many a must-read list. Obtaining a copy of his works, however, was no walk in the park, at least if you are living in the Philippines. This long overdue venture into his oeuvre made me list A Bend in the River on my 2022 Top 22 Reading List. Once done with this book, I will be down with the last book on the said list, Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy.
However, because of A Suitable Boy’s length, I am reserving it for later reading. Instead, I will be focusing on books that are shorter. It has been years since my first encounter with (another) Nobel Laureate in Literature Naguib Mahfouz. I simply obtained copies of his works (Miramar and Palace of Desire) I randomly came across through an online bookseller. I had no iota about who he was nor have I read any of his works previously. A quick search on the world wide web yielded that he was the first Arabian writer to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. I liked Miramar although it was short. Meanwhile, I had to put off reading Palace of Desire as it was the second book in the Cairo Trilogy. Thankfully, I was able to complete the trilogy last year, prompting me to add the first book in the trilogy, Palace Walk, to my 2022 Beat the Backlist Challenge. The Cairo Trilogy is Mahfouz’s most renowned work, often considered his best.
From my 2022 Top 22 Reading List to Beat the Backlist Challenge, the third book I am planning to read is from my 2022 Top 10 Books I Look Forward to List. Like all authors on this list (save for Mahfouz), Pure Colour will be my first venture in Sheila Heti’s oeuvre. I first encountered the Canadian writer while I was searching for books to add to my 2022 most anticipated reads list. It came in highly recommended, hence, its addition to my own list was imperative. Pure Colour will be the eighth book from the said list. I am still hoping to obtain a copy of the last two books on the list, Quan Barry’s When I’m Gone, Look For Me in the East and Nikki May’s Wahala. Crossing my fingers.
That’s it for this week’s WWW Wednesday. I hope you are all doing great. Happy reading and always stay safe! Happy Wednesday again!