186. The Dark Tower

Yesterday marked the first day of the Chinese New Year celebrations here in Malaysia.

(well, technically all around the world, but one can never be too sure)

Family reunions are always great, especially during Chinese New Year – free food, red packets with money inside (more of the money and less of the red packet), holidays – what’s there not to like?

For the constant antisocial which I am, it’s also a great chance to catch up on reading, since I’m not much about catching up on the life and times of relatives.

Fiction is usually so much more interesting than real life anyway.

This reunion, I’ve brought with me the last book of The Dark Tower with me, a book which I’ve been trudging through at a painfully slow rate since the September of 2013.

With about 200 pages to go until the end of the behemoth of a tale, I thought it was as good an opportunity as any to get up to speed, and probably – fingers crossed – even finish the book, and hence the epic series.

Yesterday night, I flipped open to where I had left off with the gunslinger and his ka-tet: on badlands avenue.

Earlier this evening, at about 5pm, I stood at the final chapters of the book, wondering if I should complete it at all.

The hardest goodbyes are always those that are delayed.

But – much like the gunslinger after the long years of travel and the blood shed along the way – I carried on. I began this journey a little less than a year ago, this long march towards The Dark Tower; and I was so close to completing it – I’d be damned if I didn’t see this through till its bitter end.

In the foreword written, “On Being Nineteen (Among Other Things)”, Mr. King talked about how his epic work was, in large parts, inspired by Mr. Tolkien’s epic work concerning Hobbits.

I guess history has an interesting way of repeating itself, because now, after the end of Mr. King’s epic story, I feel that I may have an idea or two for mine.

After all, ka is a wheel.


145. Too Many Books, Too Little Time


What is it with me and my obsession of buying new books?

Nothing wrong with the buying of books. In fact, the literate portion of the human race should spend more on books; and the illiterate portion of the human race should be made able to spend on books. Of course, I’m biased as a writer, but you would agree with me that there are incredible worlds and wisdom that would be lost forever if we didn’t read enough books.

A recent casual study by the ever entertainingly intelligent xkcd has determined that a dedicated reader could read the complete works of 500 to 1000 active writers, depending on the writing speed of those writers.

As of 2009, there were 43,390 people who identified themselves as writers of fiction within the United States alone. In 2003, the United States reported a 99% literacy rate among its citizens aged 15 and above. With a population size of 319 million people (2013 estimate), about 80% of whom are above 15 years of age, this equals to about 253 million literate folks against 43,390 writers. Even if you take the writers out of the literate folks number (let’s assume that they’re too busy writing to be reading anything), there is still plenty of room for plenty more reading for everyone.

The average reading speed is between 250 to 300 words per minute, so that’s between 15,000 and 18,000 words per hour. With 64,000 words contained in the average novel, this means that just by spending an hour a day reading, a person can finish reading a novel a week, and still have the weekends off!

(many thanks to Wolfram Alpha for its incredible resource of data)

But we’re talking about focused reading here.

In a world filled with so many wonderfully entertaining things, it’s easy to get distracted and go from one awesome thing to the next; which is the case with me and my books. I mean, I’ve barely even started with the books that I had bought from last year’s Big Bad Wolf book sale when I came across Mr. King’s epic Dark Tower series in early March this year. Then in my journey with Roland and his ka-tet towards The Dark Tower, I’ve picked up no fewer than 10 new titles, and they’re all just sitting there waiting to be read.

At least when I was too broke to buy new books for myself, I was kind of forced to stick with the same 2 books per week, until the time came to return the books to the library, and I got myself another 2 books. That’s the power of focus right there. Right now, there is a serious demand and supply problem between me and all the books in the world. I have so many unread titles just sitting around that – I kid you not – I almost gave away my brand new copy of The Hobbit (fancy dragon illustrated cover and all) for a gift exchange.

(luckily, a fun-looking big bouncy pink ball was found just in time for said gift exchange; and thus the hand of Abraham was stilled, and Isaac was spared)

What I really need – and I can hear the chorus of voices agreeing – is to do some proper focused reading. Start a book, finish a book without getting distracted with another book in the process. Focus on completion. Focus on the end.

Perhaps I should pick up a book on that.

73. Dude, How Have You Not Watched This Movie?

More gems from family group chat:

Billy has 49 pieces of bacon. He eats 35. What does he have now?
Happiness… Billy has happiness.


I’m so jealous of Billy.

You can buy bacon too.

Fat cholesterol.

Totally going to.
Delicious cholesterol.

Evil cholesterol.

Yummy cholesterol.

Killing cholesterol.

Happy cholesterol.

Happy dying cholesterol?

Awesome cholesterol.

Only God is awesome.

Godly cholesterol.

?? ???

Someone should just make a show out of my family’s life.

People around me are continually surprised at the number of movies I have never watched. It appears that since I am a writer of stories, I should have, ought to have, must have watched a particular list of movies in order to qualify. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • The Matrix
  • The original Star Wars trilogy
  • Silence of the Lambs
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey
  • Fight Club
  • The Shawshank Redemption
  • Back To The Future
  • Groundhog Day
  • Blade Runner
  • Donnie Darko
  • The Godfather
  • Memento
  • Scarface
  • No Country For Old Men
  • Any of Woody Allen’s or Quentin Tarantino’s movies (except for Midnight in Paris and Reservoir Dogs)

The news, when broken to them, is usually immediately followed by a “Dude, how have you not watched this movie?” reaction on their part. I used to shrug and go, “Yeah, how have I not watched these movies?”. But these days, I cannot help but feel slightly annoyed at this.

Hit rewind to a few years ago: I was just beginning to discover the joys of writing stories, and was just starting to take it seriously. Now comes along a fellow book enthusiast, and we begin talking about the books that we like to read, and she mentions that her favorite book is The Secret Garden, by Frances H. Burnett.

I, of course, had to admit that I have heard of the novel, but have never read it. Upon hearing this, she gave me a look of what appeared to be dismissive contempt, and this came out of her mouth:

“You haven’t read The Secret Garden?? Don’t call yourself a writer if you haven’t read The Secret Garden!”

Well, excuse me.

I wasn’t aware that there exists a list of books that I must have read, or a list of movies that I must have watched before I can properly qualify as a writer of fiction. I mean, I understand the joys of experiencing a classic; but I don’t think there is a necessity for it. At the end of the day, I couldn’t care less if Mr. Nolan has only watched 3 movies in his entire life, or if Ms. Rowling has never read a single word of Stephen King’s work, because the both of them tell pretty damn good stories.

It is, of course, the responsibility of every writer to read a lot, and to write a lot; and the more quality works they surround themselves with, the better. But seriously, don’t be that guy who goes, “Dude, how are you even a writer when you haven watched/read this and this, man?”, because it’s bloody irritating. Can you imagine other people doing the same thing to you?

Dude, how do you not know about quantum theory, man? It’s literally the most important thing in the world!

Dude, how can you not know about how the double-entry system works, man? It’s what keeps businesses running and people employed!

Dude, how have you not heard of Kraftwerk, man? They’re the raddest thing around right now!

Dude, how don’t you know about tall recursion, man? It’s the best thing ever!

Dude, how don’t you know that you don’t know, man? It’s, like, the beginning of all knowledge!

Parents, tell your kids; kids, tell your parents; friends, tell your friends:


55. Hile, Gunslinger

It was Tuesday when I finished reading Song of Susannah, and started out on my final trek towards the dark tower with the seventh and final doorstopping novel in the series: The Dark Tower.

(I briefly considered putting the quest on hold for a month or so to read John Green’s novel titled The Fault In Our Stars, but ultimately decided that I didn’t want to make any detours when I’m already so close to the end of the journey)

If the speed at which I had completed the fourth and fifth novels are any indication of my reading speed and habits, I should expect to arrive at the final conclusion of The Gunslinger’s quest for The Dark Tower by the end of November, or at least some time in December. I only hope that this final semester of being in university and this year’s nanowrimo project doesn’t interfere too much with the reading process.

(I just realized that I had finished reading Song of Susannah – a 450-page novel in 2 weeks. What sort of madness is this?)

Ever since I had discovered the new section of literature in my university’s library, I have been surrounding myself with some serious, serious literature. Not that I have been reading them – I just physically surround myself with all of these classic works and hope that some of their genius might transfer over into my brain through osmosis.

It was only on Thursday evening that I had borrowed the first of these books. Because I am still holding on to the scriptwriting manual by Xander Bennett, I had to choose between a collection of short stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald and the novel that properly put Ernest Hemingway on the map as a serious man in the serious world of literary writing.

Now sits on my table is For Whom The Bell Tolls, a 500-page novel which I should finish within the next 2 weeks if I intend to dodge the late fee.

Having read the first chapter while I was stranded (well, not really stranded – I was really biding my time, waiting for the evening traffic jam to subside before I headed home) in the university library on Thursday evening, the first thought that came to my mind was that language and writing styles have evolved surprisingly little over the course of the past 70 years or so. Of course, Hemingway’s style of writing was probably what shaped modern literature to be what it is, which was why he won the Nobel Prize, but the thought that immediately followed was, “Well, this is going to be fun.”

I really hope it turns out to be fun enough that I manage to complete the book and return it on time.

Even as I write this, George R. R. Martin’s epic fantasy series A Song Of Ice And Fire (don’t ever make the mistake of calling the series Game of Thrones in front of the fans of the books; they’ll rip you apart) sits on the shelf beside me. Soon, I say. After I have seen the room at the top of The Dark Tower; after I have explored the depths of Hemingway’s mind and the colors of Fitzgerald’s lifestyle; after I decipher the underlying truths in the works of Dickens and Shakespeare; then I will immerse myself into a world at war.