Sleeping and reading are about the only thing that have managed to suppress my intense sadness about not being able to be with Oksana, my anger at the way the Turkmen government is treating her, and my disappointment at watching what was supposed to have been idyllic vacation turn into a miserable bust. And, believe me, I mean only suppression because the minute I awake or quit reading all of those ugly emotions roll over me like a drowning wave.
I’ve read some history, Irish and Afghan, a psychological treatise, a collection of science fiction stories, but mostly novels (historical, crime, comedic, western). I have exhausted just about everything that appeals to me from the hotel’s paperback collection of mostly “summer reads” left by primarily British guests. A few of the stores in town carry used paperbacks that are essentially more of the same but at ridiculously inflated prices.
I have reorganized my computer files and rewritten my will. Writing, which is often “therapeutic” for me, only draws into focus how lousy I feel about everyone and everything. I have no desire to be with anyone or do anything. I don’t go to the hotel pool for fear some chain-smokers will want to tell me how much fun they are having or I will have to listen to the ınsufferable Euro pop music from the 1980s and 1990s that is pumped poolside from about 10 a.m. I want to punch the lights out of the next salesman or pitchman who beckons me into his shop or restaurant with “my friend, my friend.” Fuck you. I’m so steeped in self-pity that even seeing happy couples or families walking together fills me with sadness, envy and resentment. I don’t even like being in my own presence.
The vacation-from-hell reading list
Seeing by José Saramago; not one of his strongest works, but still engrossıng.
Rebels: The Irish Rising of 1916 by Peter de Rosa; sad, almost comic at times, yet inspiring.
Hombre by Elmore Leonard; I couldn’t get a few scenes from the movie with Paul Newman out of my head.
A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Maria Lewckya; hilarious at times.
Canal Dreams by Iain Banks, who has one fertile imagination.
Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh; a great sweeping tale.
Archangel by Robert Harris; an engrossing thriller set in Russia after the Soviet collapse .
A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon; ah, the dysfunctional family, the motherlode of material.
Minority Report (and other stories) by Philip K. Dick, a surprisingly weak writer for all his fame and, believe me, the movie is much better than the story.
Critique of Criminal Reason by Michael Gregorio; characters include a dying and embittered Immanuel Kant.
A Political and Diplomatic History of Afghanistan, 1863-1901 by M. Hassan Karar; nation-building and resistance during the Great Game
Knots & Crosses by Ian Rankin; another very average writer.