Currently Reading: Tales from the Thousand and One Nights

I’ve decided to begin a weekly (or bi-weekly depending on my reading habits) series called “Currently Reading” (title subject to change), where I will simply write about the book I happen to be reading at the time. For now, this is going to be very informal, but my hope is that it will evolve over time to showcase some quality literary analysis on my part, and work out my brain muscles. I need to more regularly practice analyzing literature, and although the text below is hardly an “analysis,” it is a start, and a start is 100 times better than nothing at all.

I love that feeling I get when I read something and then years later read it all over again and just barely remember it. It’s not like a fading memory. It’s more like deja vu. I’ve been here before. 

I’m currently reading Tales from the Thousand and One Nights, a book I was required to read sections of during a British Literature (I know that seems strange) course I took during one of my first semesters of college. Lately, I’ve decided it might be useful to reread pieces of literature that I was required to read in college, and see how my appreciation of them might change.

In case you’re unfamiliar, Tales from the Thousand and One Nights is comprised of stories from Persian fairy tales, Indian folklore, and edits and additions from various Arabic storytellers and scribes (Introduction). The edition I’m reading, translated by N.J. Dawood, includes many well-known tales such as “Sindbad the Sailor and Sindbad the Porter,” and “Aladdin and the Enchanted Lamp.”

Before I picked up the book this weekend, I tried to recall specific details that had stuck out to me when I first read it in college. All that came to mind was that this was the story of a young woman (Shahrazad) who cunningly told stories of magic and adventure so enthralling that they delayed her death for 1001 nights. And that the collection is considered a frame narrative, a fact that was drilled into my head during ENG 294 or 211 or whatever. I also remembered that I initially found some enjoyment in the book, and that it was one of the first pieces of literature that I freely talked about during class discussion. In other words, it’s not intimidating.

In fact, despite the vulgar language and mentions of sex, many of the stories strike me as quite juvenile. I want to say that the stories are simple, but I must also point out that the framework is quite complex, and it’s sometimes difficult to keep track of who is speaking, of what world the story is currently in, of the fact that this is, at least physically, one cohesive work. Perhaps this is good in some ways. It means I’m getting sucked into the story. Or it might mean I’m bored out of my mind and sidetracked.

I’m just over halfway through the book now, and must say that some stories (Aladdin, for example) truly capture my imagination, while others seem to ramble on and lose me. This seems fitting, considering the slew of different contributors. Remember, this wasn’t written by a single author.

Unfortunately, at the moment, this book is doing little more than entertain me. In some instances, I do feel a twinge of something similar to deja vu, because I get sucked into a story that captured me years ago, and it’s exciting and fresh again. I’m not sure that I’ll ever read it again, but if I do, I’m curious to see how my reactions to the work may evolve. Perhaps I’ll analyze it in the future, which will likely create in me a new found appreciation for the book.

I couldn’t find the copy I’m reading on the publishers website, but here’s a link to it on Amazon (sorry):


My Bucket List as of 6/17/14

Setting goals makes me excited, and putting them down on paper makes them feel more achievable. Below is my bucket list as of today. I’m sure it will continue to change, and I’m hoping that as the years go by, I can begin crossing some of these items off and creating bigger goals. I’m ready to get out in the world and make these things happen!

  • Pay off my car and student loan in 5 years or less/become financially independent of my parents
  • Visit India, the Ganges River
  • Backpack through Sequoia National Park
  • Backpack for a week straight, period
  • Establish myself as a writer (whatever that means)
  • Get published in literary magazines (poetry and academic writing, literary analysis)
  • Write and publish a chapbook
  • Write and publish a collection of poetry
  • Meet Richard Siken (or at least see him at The Pygmalion Festival 2014)
  • Survive for 6 months straight on freelance work alone
  • Road-trip the U.S./live in a vehicle
  • Live in Portland, OR
  • Start my own zine
  • Work full time as a poetry editor
  • Meditate regularly
  • Get paid to record an audio book
  • Read every piece of literature that T.S. Eliot refers to in The Waste Land and blog about my journey/experience/thoughts/analysis/etcetcetc
  • Practice writing in meter so thoroughly that it begins to come naturally
  • Master the art of scansion
  • Run a marathon

What’s on your bucket list? Do we have anything in common?

Critical Reading Post Graduation

Reading is important. I don’t think I should have to tell you, but if you want, you can read all about why herehere, and here. I graduated from college 6 months ago (wow), and one of the single greatest things was suddenly having the free time to read and write for leisure. I majored in English with a Creative Writing concentration (something I will never regret), which allowed me to focus the bulk of my time on literary assignments (<3), but left very little time (ie. none) to read the Tom Robbin’s novels in my nightstand.

Although I don’t have nearly the amount of free time I thought I would have, I will say that having the ability to read for pleasure again is truly liberating, and if you don’t pick up a book now and again, you absolutely should. Oddly enough though, I still haven’t finished Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas. Instead, I’ve been reaching for The Great Gatsby, The Waste Land, and even the Heath Anthologies from my college days. I’ve been using this time to catch up on reading I should have done years ago, but the fact that I’m reading because I want to, and not because a teacher is telling me to, is so much more rewarding.

Although I most certainly read for fun (Jack Kerouac’s The Dharma Bums was a fun one!), following college, I’ve primarily been reading as a way to keep learning. And although reading for pleasure is certainly noble, critical reading is perhaps even more beneficial. I like to read a fairly even amount of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, and each genre serves a different purpose for me. When it comes to poetry especially, I like to dive deep into the book, beyond the words physically on the page. I like to spend my time making association maps to find connections between different poems and images in a collection. I like to note the similarities in style between different writers. I like to research the epigraphs and quotations. I like poems that lead me to other poems. And sometimes, I like to dive even deeper by writing about what I read (in my opinion, the most effective way to analyze a piece of literature is to write about it). And if I’m writing about a poetry collection, you can bet I’ve read it cover to cover at least 3 times. Doing this keeps my critical reading muscles in shape, helps me to focus on varying writing styles, and gets me motivated to work even harder on my own poetry.

I read nonfiction to keep me motivated (Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art is a great read for anyone struggling against resistance, ie. You want to write more than anything, but will do anything except write), and to keep me educated (I’m currently reading Autobiography of a Yogi, a great read if you have any interest in yoga, meditation, or Indian culture). The thing that’s really cool about reading nonfiction? You’ll always have something to talk about.

And fiction, I truly do read for pleasure and pleasure alone. I better bust that Tom Robbins out of my nightstand.

My point is that reading is an activity you should never stop doing. Read for fun, read for knowledge, read for personal growth.

Read books that challenge you, then read them again.

Want to see what I’ve been reading this year? Check out my reading list. What books have you been reading?