December 29, 2009
B.J. De Guzman
Though he’s a widely read journalist and author I became familiar with Kris Ex through his thoughts and philosophies on Twitter (he blessed me with a lot of wisdom in ’09). On top of being a digital philosopher, Kris is the Editor of RESPECT. magazine, which I personally believe crushes the other “hip-hop” mags out there (the jury is still out on the new Vibe since I haven’t read it yet). If you read The Library of Celia San Miguel you’ll see that great minds don’t just think alike, they also read alike. Here is a peek into Kris’ library.
What are you reading now?
I guess this is the point where I confess to reading really, really slowly (slower than I can write, actually) and having a short attention span. And not finishing what I start a lot of the times. All this means I’m usually reading at least a half dozen books at once. I’ve been reading “Blindness” by Jose Saramago for over three years now. It’s a great book–this meditation on morality and humanity and survival and social compromises that addresses some basic things about us as a species in a pretty unflinching way. I only have about 40 pages left, but I’ve moved three times in the past two years and can’t say I’ve seen the book in the past six months.
To not be a complete flake, I read a lot of short stories–I have quite a few collections, including O. Henry, Hemingway, Chandler, Saki, etc. that keep me actually reading and completing fiction, because I honestly don’t read as much fiction as I would like. The last book I actually completed was “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” by Junot Diaz.
What do you find memorable about the book?
I don’t think I’ve ever read a book of fiction where the author’s life experience that spoke to me as much ”The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.” It’s really, really intelligent in so many ways. It’s street smart, academic, nerdy/geeky and third world all at once. The narrative dances between worlds so naturally–from references to Mordor and Uata the Watcher to history lessons on the post-colonization Caribbean and back without ever seeming forced. Diaz really knows what he’s doing and you can always tell he’s labored over his words, but they never come off like that. There’s so much great stuff about that book.
What are two of your favorite books? Why?
My favorite book has got to be “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” by Marquez. I guess that’s a pretty expected answer and if I lose points for not being obscure or original enough or what have you, so be it. I’m really not about to play myself by championing something I don’t believe in for the sake of coolness. I really love Latin American writers and “Solitude” helped me understand the idea of magic realism in a way that nothing else had before. (Diaz plays around with magic realism in “Oscar Wao,” as well).
I was born in Haiti, so I have a lot of superstition in me, but that book helped me get a grasp on the way I see things at times. I’d been exposed to the idea of magic realism before, but reading that book about five or six years ago resonated with the way I experience what’s considered the supernatural. And the writing is just wonderful–the things he does with repetition and layering and weaving and imagery are awe-inspring. I pretty much compare every piece of fictional writing I do to that book. It kind of reminds me how much better I can be at every aspect of every word in every sentence.
Another book, is not really a book, it’s the Dark Tower series by Stephen King. It’s really the whole sci-fi/fantasy travel adventure, a la “Lord of the Rings” but without pages of elfin songs and updated for a post-television world. Stephen King is probably my favorite writer because you can always “see” him writing though his work, and also because he’s been at the forefront of speaking to our consciousnesses as they evolve through all of the advances of technology and information. Actually, I’m sure there’s someone on the web who’s doing it much better at this point, but for me, he’s the one writer who wrote knowing that he was contending with cable TV and the like and embraced the challenges and advantages of that.
The Dark Tower series is so masterful. King created a complete universe that’s part metropolitan, part western, futuristic, creepy and totally original without seeming like he was trying too hard. The whole thing is very tense, wound through these notions of honor and chivalry and duty and love and family, with the fate of many worlds hanging in the balance–which is always a plus.I’m not describing what I like about these books in detail because I’ve realized that each time I describe art and what I like about it, a little bit of my appreciation of it dies. It becomes this analytical, reviewed, rated, left-brain thing that just kills off my ability to enjoy it. And in this overly internetted world, people can get all of the opinions and reviews they need right from their toilet seat, if that’s what they’re really looking for.