Bedside books II

Bangkok Found: Reflections on the City by Alex Kerr. Thailand’s culture is not as highly defined as Japan, and a reliable guide is essential to take one down the roadmap into the origins and esthetics of the country’s food, architecture, design, dance, etiquette and other unique traits. You finish the book feeling you have seen a new Bangkok, a new Thailand, the same as before but deeper now and still mystifying.

Inside the Whale and Other Essays by George Orwell. Orwell’s prose is always like a fresh drink of water, not overpowering but deeply affecting. He was an early champion of Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer, recognizing him as the embodiment of Whitman, a tramp-philosopher outside the circle of conventional society and literature. Orwell’s Politics Vs Literature and Politics and the English Language must be read by all young writers.

Jack Kerouac: Selected Letters 1957-1969. What’s amazing about this volume is that all–ALL–of his major novels were completed by 1957, before his fame. The letters among all the young writers who made up the Beat movement now constitute an American history of soul and intellect among a group of red-blooded poets who were an antidote to the beginning of America’s loss of heart. The tale of Kerouac’s final days has no silver lining. This volume should be followed by the long essay on Kerouac’s  funeral by his old friend John Holmes, one of the finest things ever written about him.

Saving Daylight by Jim Harrison. It’s hard to pick a favorite book of poems by Harrison, but this may be it for its blend of American and Asian flavors set in a homely scene of everyday urgency, of a unique voice on a moment-to-moment quest for more experiences, more abundance of life. This book should be read with his After Ikkyu.

Sexuality and the Psychology of Love by Sigmund Freud. That Freud is discounted in many circles today misses the point. Bloom rightly tells us that Freud is really writing a form of literature cast as a pseudo science (or theory at least), a literature of consciousness and its imagined affects and effects. For a novelist, he’s indispensable: just put his insights below the surface of your characters and you’re off to the races inside the human soul. For a reader, you may squirm at times, but you’re glued to the page because you recognize the unfolding of life, yours and others.

Ikkyu and The Crazy Cloud Anthology by Sonja Arntzen. Ikkyu was the Billy the Kid Zen poet of Medieval Japan who lived with the outlaws and flowers of the night in between trips to his solitary mountain hut and his occasional stint as abbot of some big Zen monastery. A  deliciously split personality, he wasn’t willing to give up any element that reminded him that he was human, at-large in life which is not giving away anything free. He left us his life in poems.

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