keeping Literary in Fiji

Village life, as you can imagine, can be rather monotonous, and intellectually fulfilling conversations can sometimes be difficult to come by. So, I just finished by 40th book, the past thirty-nine ranging from nonfiction on modern to fiction on the near end-of-the-world (I put a complete list at the end of this article, and recommend pretty much all of them, especially those with an asterisk at the end.)

In college, I wrote poetry – passable for dorm open mics, but not likely beyond that. My writing dwindled from a high in sophomore year, and I’ve not found much inspiration for poetry here that wouldn’t come off as cheesy, obnoxious or unintelligible.

Fortunately, I found a short story I began nearly two years ago and forgot about. It’s about Mfecane, a Chinese-Botswanan woman in the 2040s, working for a vertical farm as a water manager, and not much happens except observations on a very foreign yet very likely world of an expanding Kalahari desert, drowning Kiribatians and the slow end of consumerist values as we know them. Well, not quite that much, but plenty like that. I quite enjoy working on it; it is a creative escape, something I haven’t really had here, that I look forward to working on for a couple hours every few nights or so.

I enjoy writing: there are moments, moments I would like to call literary, that I would like to one day revive and bring to life on the page. Like when I was at a party my senior year, and a freshman I had never spoken to compared dorm living to living in a refugee camp, and I was so shocked and incredulous like what the f*** is wrong with these white people? that I said nothing, nothing at all, just staring at her until she said that I could go talk to other people if I liked and I said okay, I will, and did exactly that.

Needless to say, I feel a little freer on the page. That I can use my author ego to throw around somebody’s whiteness (mine too) without being told that I have a problem with my whiteness: I’m perfectly aware of that, thank you. Or ruminate on the human results of massive human failures, or whatever.

Here are the books I’ve read in no particular order: they’re really all quite good, or at least I don’t regret reading any of them, and my favorites amongst them are asterisked.

  1. The Age of Ambition, by Evan Osnos
  2. The Bone Clocks, by David Mitchell[1] *
  3. The Sixth Extinction, by Elizabeth Kolbert
  4. Life after Life, by Kate Atkinson
  5. Why Nations Fail, by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson
  6. Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison
  7. Lies my Teacher Told Me, by James Loewen
  8. A Long Way Gone, by Ishamael Baeh
  9. All Our Names, by Dinaw Mengistu *
  10. Dreams From My Father, by Barack Obama
  11. A Single Man
  12. A Game of Thrones, by George R R Martin
  13. Oil On Water, by Helon Habila
  14. The Education of a British Protected Child, by Chinua Achebe
  15. There Was A Country, by Chinua Achebe
  16. Every Day is For The Thief, by Teju Cole
  17. This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. Climate Change, by Naomi Klein[2] *
  18. Redeployment, by Phil Klay[3] *
  19. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Diaz *
  20. The Speaker of the Dead, by Orson Scott Card
  21. Xenocide, by Orson Scott Card
  22. Children of the Mind, by Orson Scott Card
  23. Sherlock Holmes
  24. Mystic River, by Dennis Lehane
  25. Anansi’s Boys, by Neil Gaiman
  26. The Shock Doctrine, by Naomi Klein
  27. The Future of Transportation, by Citybooks
  28. Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson
  29. Seveneves, by Neal Stephenson[4] *
  30. The Martian, by Andy Weir
  31. The year of the Flood, by Margaret Atwood
  32. In the House of the Interpreter, by Ngugi wa Thiong’o
  33. Catch-22, by Joseph Heller
  34. Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates *
  35. Six Degrees, by Mark Lynas
  36. Dreams in a Time of War, by Ngugi wa Thiong’o *
  37. A Short History of Nearly Everything, by Bill Bryson
  38. Zeitoun, by Dave Eggers
  39. And the Mountains Echoed, by Khaled Hosseini *
  40. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, by Dave Eggers

[1] Strange, undoubtedly, but an interesting and gripping skipping-through-the-decades sci-fi magical realist saga that ends in a world savaged by climate change.

[2] An excellent appraisal of the current situation, and carefully-researched condemnation of free-market capitalism’s inherent tendency to oppose constructive environmental work.

[3] Short stories written by a former soldier on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and coming back from them: humanized the American soldiers involved, thus making the entire scenario all the more terrifying.

[4] A fun and interesting thought-experiment on the near-end of the world: what would happen if we knew the world were to end two years from now? Stephenson says we’d try to ride it out in space. Actually quite a dope and epic saga.


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