I promised to write, but I also warned you about my track record with regard to promises I made online. But I did write, only not here--I've been constantly updating on my IWP experiences in my Facebook, along with some photos.
Since this is supposed to be a blog about novels, I'd just like to share that the biggest surprise for me during my first week here in the US was the libraries themselves: the Iowa City Public Library is just across a public market and the University of Iowa Main Library, which provided all of us writers in residence access, is open until 2 AM on weekdays and we're allowed to borrow up to 999 books at a time. The books were overwhelming; I decided to go first with the writers I long wanted to devour but whose books were not all readily available in Philippine bookstores and libraries.
On my first borrowing visit to the UI Main Lib, I brought 13 books back with me to the Iowa House Hotel, where we're staying, including these six books by Bolaño, which were the first I consumed with childish delight:
I know Nazi Literature in the Americas was already available in the Philippines in National Bookstore branches before I left in August, but I was not able to buy a copy, and I needed to read it in order to compare its last chapter with Distant Star--which is an extended reimagination of that chapter. I wanted to write my thoughts about these books here but most of them were already included in my drafts for the introduction of my Ph.D. dissertation, which I've been hardly working on for weeks now. I'm sorry I can't share them now.
As soon as we were given our VISA debit cards during our second week here, I bought a Kindle in Amazon. You know how much I loved the smell of paper in books we read and couldn't buy; I was honestly having withdrawal symptoms the first few days, but thought it might not be so different for writers who were amidst the transition from typewriters to computer (which I witnessed, but was probably too young, not yet in love with the written words, to care). I began reading via Kindle with China Mieville's The City & The City--a novel about two cities that exist in the same space but in different realms, and so the people from each city were taught early on to "unsee" the other city, otherwise they commit their highest crime of breach. I did not get to finish the book because it was in PDF and I decided later to read only the books that are actually released as ebooks (mostly with .mobi extensions), and now I sadly can't find a free copy of that novel in mobi/prc/epub. (If you do, it wouldn't hurt to share it with me, I guess.)
So I finally found the excuse to read David Mitchell's The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, the first book I finished in Kindle. It was not Mitchell's best for me but the part where Jacob helplessly had to leave his son in Japan in the end had the madness & sadness of lyricism whose addressee was not present, would never be embraced. I loved Mitchell's earlier novels, even the autobiographical and--compared to the first three--plain Black Swan Green, and so reading this one felt like being patient with, and understanding of, the youngest sibling of your best friends.
I intend to write a separate entry on the Thousand Autumns, like a did to each novel I read in the past, but I'm still considering the way to go about it here, in this blog, that will feel right to me. Somehow, after several entries on different novels, I still feel that there's something lacking, there's something I'm not doing right, that's why I keep on having this periodic hibernation, even if I haven't really stopped reading.
And so expect another period of silence, and then, if I'm lucky enough, a significant change here.