Book Review #22: Pachinko (Min Jin Lee)
I had really high hopes for this book given that I had read rave reviews everywhere and had to wait for it to become available at the library for several months. In the end, it was a satisfying read but I also felt let down. I found the writing and plot sometimes to be overly simplistic and not prone to giving enough depth to characters. I know part of that was out of necessity because the book had to cover an absurd amount of time, but I would have rather read an even longer novel that filled in some more details for me. I will say it was the first book I read from start to finish in quite some time.
Book Review #2O – A Wizard of Earthsea (Ursula K. Le Guin)
I really thought I’d love this book. I have been reading Ursula K. Le Guin’s blog which is amazing. I love hearing her perspective on small moments, news events, and appreciate the value she provides as both a wonderful writer and someone older, who has an interesting perspective and view of the world. A Wizard of Earthsea is arguably her best known book. Written for children (or young adults might be more accurate), I found it really complex. Maybe it just wasn’t what I was expecting. The plot was almost hesitant, and I often found myself confused and having to go back a few pages to pick up the lost thread. I was curious about the book and how it would end, but couldn’t really get into it.
Recently, all of my life advice has included some variation of, “You’ll never be happy.” I increasingly think this is true, not just for me, but for everyone.
Happiness at its root is essentially a neuro-chemical reaction. Your brain shifts its chemical makeup slightly due to whatever reason and your mind interprets those feelings as happiness. Almost by definition, your brain will adapt to whatever that first stimuli was, and re-change the chemical processes to remove the additional dopamine.
What does this mean?
You basically can’t sustain happiness. You can live a meaningful life in many ways, but you can’t shift your life to ensure feelings of happiness are foremost in your mind. Being happy, by itself, almost causes a shift that will eventually reverse and be experienced as unhappiness.
Since realizing this (and most credit is due to my MBSR class), I care a lot less about my mood at any given moment. I still notice and acknowledge it, but now I try to accept it regardless of whatever it is. I don’t feel guilty for being upset or strive to channel happiness. Instead, I let myself accept what is actually present which, ironically, often leaves me happier because I’m not trying to force something onto my circumstances.
Book Review #19 – The Marriage Plot (Jeffrey Eugenides)
Jeffrey Eugenides has published three books: The Virgin Suicides (adapted into a movie directed by Sofia Coppola), Middlesex (a Pulitzer Prize winner), and The Marriage Plot. I have read all three. The Virgin Suicides, which I read in my teens, I thought terrible and completely unrelateable. Middlesex, I found completely moving and phenomenal, and the Marriage Plot. What do I think about the Marriage Plot? It is a book I have seen – at the library, at the bookstore – many times, picked it up, read the back cover, and placed it back down. I do honestly believe it’s not worth reading. The characters are flat, the plot is absurd and slow-moving — there is just a completely vapid nothingness. It almost reminded me of Revolutionary Road in terms of how much of a novel you can craft around unlikable flat characters who can’t seem to learn how to be better people.