Five-Star Reads from 2012

In 2012, I read a lot of books—among them, only a handful inspired me to slap down a five-star rating on the Goodreads.

Here is a list of five books that compelled five stars from me in 2012; also included are tiny samples of the books’ prose.


70% Acrylic 30% Wool
by Viola di Grado

“Leeds is like one of those sadistic pet owners that waves a piece of meat in front of his dog and then gobbles it down himself. You go out and you see that sun hanging from the sky and you feel happy. You think: Maybe the snow will end. You close your eyes hoping to feel warmth against your eyelids, but the sun has already disappeared, leaving the sky opaque and off-white, the color of a raw chicken thigh. The thing is that Leeds adores scarecrows…”

Say Her Name
by Francisco Goldman

“I took a Sunday morning train to the town nearest La Ferte. In the seat across from me sat a little boy dressed in a Spider-Man costume, traveling with his parents. I should dress like that, I thought. Maybe tomorrow I will. For a moment it seemed so plausible and even reasonable that tomorrow I might dress as Spider-Man that I felt a little scared.”

The Book of Laughter and Forgetting
by Milan Kundera

“Graphomania (a mania for writing books) inevitably takes on epidemic proportions when a society develops to the point of creating three basic conditions: (1) an elevated level of general well-being, which allows people to devote themselves to useless activities; (2) a high degree of social atomization and, as a consequence, a general isolation of individuals; (3) the absence of dramatic social changes in the nations internal life.”

Donald Duk
by Frank Chin

“Big kids, little kids. Girls and boys. They rove in clumps of bobbing five-headedness. Five-headed babies bulging diapers crawl under the tables. Some five-headed people sit. Lots of five-headed hawkeyed people stand. Lots of five-headed people are caught up in the tide of milling children and torn away from their tables to clump up with other people, float on the roving children, sink in the quicksand of little hands waving to each other across islands of tables and rest against the shoals of straight-backed shiny-skinned old people who dye their hair charcoal black. The twins always elbow him in the ribs when they see dyed black hair on a head in Chinatown. Where is Arnold Azalea? A white boy should be easy to spot in this crowd of smoldering hawkeyes. Everyone acts like they live here. The kids look at Donald Duk like a stranger.”

Red Earth and Pouring Rain
by Vikram Chandra

“When we actually crossed into Texas I was asleep. What woke me up was the radio buzzing about Hindu-Muslim riots in Ahmedabad, and I fumbled with it until it clicked off. It bothered me not because of what it was about but because it seemed too messy, it had too much of the stink of belief and the squalor of passion. I wanted the blade-edge feeling I had, the keenness of my senses and the rush of the speed. ‘We’re in Texas,’ Amanda said. We flew in a long floating curve, the road smooth and the yellow line perfect and steady under us. I leaned low over the dash and peered ahead, straining as if I would see instantly the long white trail of a rocket far to the south. I looked at Amanda, and I said, ‘Cool!’ and I felt my lips pulling back from my teeth. She laughed, her hair a dark red and flying, I could see her eyes shining, and it was something like love.”


So, there you have it—books I liked a bunch in 2012.

Got good books from 2012 you wanna quote? Read one or two among the quoted five? Well, by all means, have some commentary! You’re among friends, here.

Published in: on January 18, 2013 at 5:04 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Video Bloggery – 6/19/12

On blogging.

Published in: on June 19, 2012 at 3:11 am  Leave a Comment  
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My First Bite

Today, a literary agent requested to see more of KHUSH, my first novel. Before I say anything further, let me show a few rough statistics pertaining to literary agents in 2011.

Queries to prompt more material: .06%
Queries to prompt full manuscript: .01%
Queries to receive representation: .002%

Needless to say, the odds are against me.

Please, if you have room in your thoughts, or prayers, or whatever your function, send some of that sweet, sweet positivity my way.

Thank you, all of you, for participating in my life at some point, in one way or another. You have impacted the work that has carried me this far, regardless of our relationship—a lot farther than I knew myself capable. And an extra special thanks to my coworkers, who continue to be so tolerant, and supportive, of my chosen path.

Of course, this thing could still take years, but I don’t care. I feel pretty damned peachy.

Because, if nothing else, I am the .06%.

Published in: on January 23, 2012 at 8:47 pm  Comments (6)  
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The Pitcher

    I’m not fond of people. I don’t have a problem with them personally, as individuals—I like anybody, I guess. I just don’t like being around them, having to make the chat. This isn’t some brooding hermit act, it’s a matter of preference. I prefer to be alone. Sometimes I like to be around people without interacting with them directly. That’s why I write in coffee shops. I like to write in coffee shops.

    People enjoy asking about my novel. I think it makes them feel good to take an interest. I certainly appreciate the attempt, even if it’s feigned, but sometimes it feels like more work than it’s worth. These same people never read my little blog posts, yet they inquire about a 350+ page novel as if they plan to write a paper on it.

    I’ll be writing in one of my journals—I’m always writing in one of my journals— and some chipper soul, seeing me scrawling frantically all over the paper, will deem this an appropriate time to ask me about it.

    “You’re always writing in that journal of yours,” they say. Usually it’s a she. I don’t know why. Maybe men don’t like to acknowledge the accomplishments of other men.

    “Yeah. I’m writing a book.”

    “Really? Wow, I didn’t you you were a writer!”

    For some reason people seem astonished by this. I can’t tell if they’re impressed or simply surprised that I possess a talent.

    “What kind of book is it?”

    “Literary Fiction.”

    “No, I don’t mean that. I mean what kind. Like, is it Science Fiction, is it Romance, is it… I dunno. You know?”

    “I do. Literary Fiction.”

    At this point, their interest begins to visibly wane. Their eyes wander a little, they play with fabric on their clothing. If I wasn’t being such a stuffy tight-ass about it, they would probably give me money right then and there. But I’m a stuffy tight-ass when it comes to the inane—more so when my writing is involved.

    I sigh, “You know that big section in Barnes & Nobles that says ‘Fiction’?”


    “That’s my section.”

    The person lights up. They’ve seen that section before, just never bothered to look at it.

    “Oooooh! I get it! So what, is it like Lord of the Flies or something?”

    “Same section, yeah; but the two books are nothing alike.”

    “But you just said they were the same kind.”

    “It’s a broad genre,” I try to remain calm. “All kinds of books are in there, from Herzog to Every Thug Need a Lady.”

    “What’s a Herzog?”

    “Nothing. Don’t worry about it.”

    “Hmm… anyway, what’s your book about?”

    I can barely stifle the groan rumbling in my belly. I know I should be good at answering this question because I know that I am stuck with it. This question will never die—it will never fucking die.

    I want to say: “If it took me this long to get you to understand the genre…” But I don’t. I try to behave, most days.

    I smile. I grin, making my eyes all big and playful, so it is understood that what I’m about to say is a joke. Bustling with bravura I cry, “It’s about life!”

    Since they were forewarned, they laugh. They feel good about this, like they’re in on some kind of author humor and are now more worldly because of it.

    “Seriously though,” they say. “What’s it about?”

    Usually I offer some limp-wristed explanation that effectively deters them from ever wanting to read my book. I don’t do it on purpose; I can’t help myself. My book isn’t about anything, really. It’s about characters and observations. My book is about the way it’s written, but what a terrible sales pitch that is!

    I tell them it’s about a girl from India and I leave it at that. If they know my girlfriend is from India, they assume I wrote a book about my girlfriend. My book has nothing to do with my girlfriend and the fact that they assume my creative spring fails to extend beyond my bedroom makes me feel insulted. Yet I do nothing to alter their perception, even though I alone possess the ability to do so. My body language, squirmy and uncomfortable throughout the entire exchange, is about to implode. They leave me alone and I probably start scrawling the conversation into my journal.

    The worst part is that I hope to god they buy my book, read it, and tell me that it has changed their lives. I hope they fall in love with me and I hope to love them for it. Their opinion of the book means everything, yet I can’t be bothered to convince them to consider reading it.

    Hopefully the only reason I’m so curmudgeonly is because I’m a half-decent writer. Hopefully.

Published in: on August 7, 2011 at 6:45 pm  Comments (5)  
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