Anne Perry mysteries do not rely on forensic science for their investigation. They are 'talkies'. The person trying to solve the mystery talks to himsAnne Perry mysteries do not rely on forensic science for their investigation. They are 'talkies'. The person trying to solve the mystery talks to himself and others until the answer seems clear. This was a thin mystery so it is a good thing it was very short. I did not look to see who or where and was surprised to find Lieutenant Victor Narraway in Cawnpore, India sometime not long after the terrible uprising and massacres- 1957. It is a powerful setting....more
Despite my intense sadness at the loss of American jobs to cheaper overseas labor, especially to India, I am interested in the country and its historyDespite my intense sadness at the loss of American jobs to cheaper overseas labor, especially to India, I am interested in the country and its history. The Raj Quartet is four books in one. The Jewel in the Crown (451 p), The Day of the Scorpion (483 p), The Towers of Silence (392 p), and A Division of the Spoils (598 p). I was really glad for this as I would have hated to get to the end of any of them and have to wait to get the next one from the library. As I read the last page, I wanted the book to go on.
The book consists of many long sections; each section from the point of view of a different person. Soon you see the people repeating and coming into the stories of others. Some of these voices were very easy to like and some not. I wonder how much village life has changed. I wonder what traces are left of the British occupation. We know the rancour continues between Pakistan and India (Muslims and Hindus) from our nightly news. How much rancour remains against the British. It is surprising to me that this colony only achieved its independence in my lifetime considering that its subjugation began in the 1700s. ...more
The Sheltering Sky ------------------ Two twenty-somethings from New York, on a whim, arrive in North Africa and begin to travel south to smaller and smThe Sheltering Sky ------------------ Two twenty-somethings from New York, on a whim, arrive in North Africa and begin to travel south to smaller and smaller isolated locations. Why? The woman, Kit, believes in omens, signs., She regulates her life to the extent she exerts any control in an effort to avoid the horror she is sure awaits her. "Each escape merely made it possible for her to advance into a region of heightened danger." "All she could hope to do was eat, sleep and cringe before her omens."
Why are the here? Port, the main male in the story, "kept his head down, seeing nothing but the dust and the thousands of small sharp stones. He did not look up because he knew how senseless the landscape would appear. It takes energy to invest life with meaning, and at present this energy was lacking. He knew how things could stand bare, their essence having retreated on all sides to beyond the horizon, as if impelled by a sinister centrifugal force. He did not want to face the intense sky, too blue to be real, above his head, the ribbed pink canyon walls that lay on all sides in the distance, the pyramidal town itself on its rocks, or the dark spots of oasis below. They were there, and they should have pleased his eye, but he did not have the strength to relate them, either to each other or to himself; he could not bring them into any focus beyond the visual. So he would not look at them."
Kit has no need to work having inherited money so there is no occupation listed on his papers when he arrives in Africa. In order to get through the entry process, Kit volunteers that he is actually a writer, just modest. "Then for a few hours the idea of his actually writing a book had amused him. A journal, filled in each evening with the day's thoughts, carefully seasoned with local color, in which the absolute truth of the theorem he would set forth in the beginning -- namely, that the difference between something and nothing is nothing -- should be clearly and calmly demonstrated.
The story covers the encounter between these two people and Africa. Who will win?
Let It Come Down ----------------- Mr. Dyar has left America, where he worked as an anonymous teller in a cage at a bank. "His own life was a dead weight, so heavy that he would never be able to move it from where it lay. He had grown accustomed to the feeling of intense hopelessness and depression which had settled upon him, all the while resenting it bitterly." He lives with his parents. One day, after gazing at the advertising pictures in a travel bureau window he writes to an acquaintance, whom he has heard is still living in North Africa after the war, and asks for a job. Things happen to Mr. Dyar. "Although he was not given to analyzing his states of mind, since he never had been conscious of possessing any sort of apparatus with which to do so, recently he had felt, like a faint tickling in an inaccessible region of his being, an undefined need to let his mind dwell on himself. There were no formulated thoughts, he did not even daydream, nor did he push matters so fr as to ask himself questions like: "What am I doing here?" or "What do I want?" At the same time he was vaguely aware of having arrived at the edge of a new period in his existence, an unexplored territory of himself through which he was going to have to pass."
How will Mr. Dyar and North Africa, the main characters in this story, get on?
The Spider's House ------------------
A writer, Mr. stenham has been living in Fez, a city in Morocco, controlled by the French for some time. We are never told what he writes but to him it is of no consequence. He is a student of the Moslem character. "Unaccountable behavior on the part of Moslems amused him, and he always forgave it, because, as he said, no non-Moslem knows enough about the Moslem mind to dare find fault with it." Mr. Stenham speaks schoolroom Arabic and visits with Moslems in their homes.
The other big character in the novel is Amar, a Moslem boy who decided not to go to school and therefore does not know how to read or write. He works and hustles for a living while residing with his parents. He is a little different from any of the other Moslem's we meet. "They think they know once and for all what the world is like, so that they don't ever have to look at it again." Amar makes all his decisions in real-time based on his understanding of the tenets of Islam and custom. At one point he is being interrogated. "He would offer no information except that explicitly demanded by Benani, and then he would confuse him by telling the truth. Nothing could be more upsetting, because one always judiciously mixed false statements in with the true, the game being to tell which were which. It was axiomatic that a certain percentage of what everyone said had to be disbelieved."
Will these two insightful people be able to bridge the cultural and religious gap? In the background for this story is the simmering nationalist desires of some Moroccans and the feeling of entitlement felt by the ruling French.
The Spider's House was my favorite. I would like to know what a Moslem reader thinks of the characterization of Amar.
NOTE: The spelling in the book was Moslem rather than Muslim....more
He is white and she is black. They were comrades and then lovers and then married (illegal in South Africa) and then parents of a little girl. At theHe is white and she is black. They were comrades and then lovers and then married (illegal in South Africa) and then parents of a little girl. At the home of another 'comrade', "They're all young but it's as if they are old men living in the past, there everything happened. Their experience of life defined: now is everything after. Detention cells, the anecdotes fromo camp in Angola, the misunderstanding with the Cubans who came - so determinately, idealistically brave - to support this Struggle at the risk of their own lives, the clash of personalities, personal habits in the isolation of acadres, all contained by comradeship of danger, the presence of death eavesdropping always close by in the desert, the bush."
And now? In South Africa what can take place in the life of this small family in the new democracy with the new political leaders with the old antipathies just as real?
Gordimer's writing style is very terse and repetitive and initially annoying. Eventually I found myself skimming the repetitive bits. It was if she had to remind you why some event was more significant to one of the main characters by reminding you again that they had been part of The Struggle against apartheid. I think it is worth reading because in the end it is about ordinary, real, not perfect life and how we approach it in our thoughts and do or don't respond with action. ...more
A very slow, pleasant tale of a British man who works in the British embassy in Occupied Palestine/Israel, a middle-aged British school teacher visitiA very slow, pleasant tale of a British man who works in the British embassy in Occupied Palestine/Israel, a middle-aged British school teacher visiting the Holy Land and some Arabs on both sides of the border with Jordan. There is some cogitating on what it means to be Jewish and what it means to be Catholic and what it means to be Arab. Nothing is very strongly stated or decided. Limp.
I read another review that says this was extreme when written. It does not stand the test of time.
Rethinking, I pick up information about the way people think from what I read but is it truthful. Did Muriel Spark understand the Arab mindset or did she make up details for her characters from some single encounter, prejudice, or thin air. Even if I read critically some of this point of view seeps into my mind.
About a letter the British embassy man, Hamilton, had written the young Arab, Abdul, thought: "It could not result in any large benefit to Hamilton or his friends, nor could this information damage Hamilton's enemies. It was disinterested and therefore beautiful, even if it was useless to the immediate world. And this was something Abdul could never make his middle-class Arab acquaintance understand - how it was possible to do things for their own sake, not only possible but sometimes necessary for the affirmation of one's personal identity . . ."
After an affair with a British woman, "Abdul had acquired from the woman humor ..." ...more
The Orient in this book is everything from what we call Egypt and the Middle East to the Pacific ocean. Orient is from the root - where the sun rises.The Orient in this book is everything from what we call Egypt and the Middle East to the Pacific ocean. Orient is from the root - where the sun rises. The villain in this story is the Occident (from the root - where the sun sets) mainly England, France, to a lesser extent the rest of Europe and of course the United States. The book concentrates on Egypt, the Middle East and the religion of Islam. The book does not contain any information about or history of these lands or the Islamic religion. It is a critic of the interaction between the Occident and the facts of the Orient.
"Knowledge of the Orient . . . in a sense creates the Orient, the Oriental, and his world. . . the Oriental is something one judges (as in a court of law), something one studies and depicts (as in a curriculum), something on disciplines (as in a school or prison), something one illustrates (as in a zoological manual). The point is that in each of these cases the Oriental is contained and represented by dominating frameworks."
Edward Said represents himself as a profoundly angry man in this book. He begins by saying the interaction over the last hundreds of years is normal and then condemns it. "This whole didactic process is neither difficult to understand nor difficult to explain. One ought again to remember that all cultures impose corrections upon raw reality, changing it from free-floating objects into units of knowledge. The problem is not that conversion takes place. It is perfectly natural for the human mind to resist the assault on it of untreated strangeness; therefore cultures have always been inclined to impose complete transformations on other cultures receiving these other cultures not as they are but as for the benefit of the receiver they ought to be."
"The relationship between the Occident and Orient is a relationship of power, of domination, of varying degrees of a complex hegemony...". I looked up hegemony and the dictionary says it is domination but by culture rather than power. Said appears to believe that all scholars and travelers since the time of the Romans have defined something called the Orient with hostile intent. "The Orientalist makes it his work to always be converting the Orient from something into something else: he does this for himself, for the sake of his culture...". "We need not look for correspondence between the language used to depict the Orient and the Orient itself, not so much because the language is inaccurate but because it is not even trying to be accurate."
"The political importance of Orientalism comes from the possibility of its direct "translation into economic terms" and "the closeness of a field to ascertainable sources of power in political society." "All academic knowledge about India and Egypt is somehow tinged and impressed with, violated by, the gross political fact" - the imperial interests of America, Britain, and France. "For readers in the so-called Third World, this study [the book] proposes itself as a step toward an understanding, not so much of Western politics and of the non-Western world in those politics as of the strength of Western cultural discourse, a strength too often mistaken as merely decorative or 'superstructural' . . . [it is] a formidable structure of cultural domination". This is why he states conservative Islamists must crack down hard.
These ideas are rehashed and repeated for countless pages. I started skipping big sections after one hundred pages. Said gets angrier and angrier. He pulls out the most repulsive things ever said and uses them to paint all efforts to understand as hostile. "For no other ethnic or religious [Islamic] group is it true that virtually anything can be written or said about it, without challenge or demurral." Orientalists are "slanderous and racist". "Orientalism is a form of paranoia." "Orientalism is a Western style for dominating, restructuring, and having authority over the Orient."
I don't recommend this book to anyone. Said does not find any material ever written on the subject to be neutral let alone praiseworthy so you will not get any ideas for future reading from him.
Feb 1, in Harper's Magazine February edition, "Madame and the Masters: Blavatsky's cosmic soap opera" by John Crowley he writes, "British theosophists ... introduced a non-religious young barrister named Mohandas Gandhi to the Bhagavad Gita - which he read first in English translation." A society can, if history is not important to it, lose knowledge, discount its own history. Having swarms of academics from outside the society attempt to excavate and understand is not a totally negative, colonial, strong-arm tactic. It is important that someone cares and preserves even if they are not the politically correct members of that ethnic group....more
I really liked the beginning of this book. Thought provoking cliche.
"Is it possible, finally, for one human being to achieve perfect understanding ofI really liked the beginning of this book. Thought provoking cliche.
"Is it possible, finally, for one human being to achieve perfect understanding of another."
Problem is the man in the book is almost too lazy to understand himself and just gets pushed around by real and unreal things. Somewhere after page 300 there is a major shift and a bunch of new, unrelated stuff is introduced and I lost what little interest I had. I did finish it because I am a stubborn person. Three stars because it is (at least the first half) well written - not trivial....more
Mr Ono is a retired artist. As the book begins, he feels that his career was very successful and that he work had a significant influence in JapaneseMr Ono is a retired artist. As the book begins, he feels that his career was very successful and that he work had a significant influence in Japanese art. The second world war has ended and the Americans are occupying Japan. Different people adjust to this occupation in different ways. The book, in a meandering fashion, covers the changes in Mr Ono's personal interpretation of his place in history as he interacts with family and friends.
There are many interactions which are culturally impenetrable to me as a non-Japanese reader. Meaning is never just stated it is only vaguely, indirectly hinted at. Factual details from a trustworthy observer are totally missing. In the beginning I wanted to know exactly what Mr. Ono did or did not do in the past. By the time I had slogged through this very short book I really didn't care. I still think that I would enjoy reading a book about the end of WWII and the American occupation of Japan from the Japanese point of view. Unfortunately I do not feel as if I have read that book yet....more
Sorrow in Sunlight [alternatively entitled 'Prancing Nigger'] (1925) Author: Ronald Firbank * A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook * http://gutenberg.Sorrow in Sunlight [alternatively entitled 'Prancing Nigger'] (1925) Author: Ronald Firbank * A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook * http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks07/0700...
The title is your first clue. This book is totally politically incorrect. Set in some unnamed very warm Colonial country, every one, European and native is described as foolish and society climbing. The natives are given especially vivid treatment as they copy the European ways. The dialect and descriptions will offend most readers.
So what sort of humor does the book hold and why was it considered a classic in the 1920s (published 1925)? Toward the later half of the book at a ball the author comments on the flowers, naming and describing them including "Ronald Firbank (a dingy lilac blossom of rarity untold) . . . were those [flowers] that claimed the greatest respect from a few discerning connoisseurs."
or consider this scrap of dialog:
"I think I'm going in."
"Because," Madame Ruiz repressed a yawn, "because, my dear, I feel armchairish."...more
I have not read the Brother's Grimm so perhaps I should not be so hard on older ideas and levels of violence. This book is definitely not politicallyI have not read the Brother's Grimm so perhaps I should not be so hard on older ideas and levels of violence. This book is definitely not politically correct. Women are property; bought and sold; beheaded; forced to marry; admired for their beauty and nothing else. Most of the stories are larded with 'poems' and 'songs' which seemed irrelevant to me and were deleted by some earlier translators. Although there is reference to the faith, Islam, there is much drinking and coarseness.
The worst part is as part of the trick, to extend the interest of the blood-thirsty king for yet another night, many stories are started and rather than being resolved sprout other stories. In the beginning the breaks are at the point of resolution or a point of high tension. Later in the book the interruptions seem less well placed. There are only two hundred seventy one nights included in the book. The last story is very drawn out, one of my least favorites, and then the book just ends. There is a Translator's Postscript "Tradition has it that in the course of time Shahrazad bore Shahrayar three children and that, having learned to trust and love her, he spared her life and kept her as his queen."
A strange and funny bit was the introduction of Shahrazad's sister into the bedroom so that at some point, when the springs quit squeaking, she could ask for a story. I picture her sleeping under the bed. At the end of all stories but the last one it says "But morning overtook Shahrazad, and she lapsed into silence." I wondered when they slept.
The introduction, proudly states that is is a very close translation of the earliest extant copy of the text with nothing added or left out. This literature colors our present view of the middle east and perhaps it should not. Perhaps it is as obsolete as little children pushing old ladies into lite ovens a la Grimm....more
I have been putting off writing a review because apparently this is a well-thought of book. I found it boring and repetitive. There were a few cleverI have been putting off writing a review because apparently this is a well-thought of book. I found it boring and repetitive. There were a few clever thoughts but they were soon beat to death. There was the slightest sprinkling of history of the Indian nation....more
Each chapter is presented with the voice of a different character. A murder has occurred and the book is a mystery story in that it tries to identifyEach chapter is presented with the voice of a different character. A murder has occurred and the book is a mystery story in that it tries to identify the murderer. Mainly, however, the book is a discussion of the place of illustration in the Islamic world. The ideal of beauty and the making of illustrations seems to have reached Istanbul from China. . . . "for Turkmen illustrators for whom the face of a beautiful woman meant one with Chinese features." p.384. At the very end is a chronology which might have helped had I read it first. Because of my lack of knowledge of Eastern and Middle Eastern history as I began reading I thought it was a book of fantasy/realism like some Latin American authors have written. I now think all the names and dates were real.
Evil is described as "dens of wine, prostitution and coffee" but it is presented as perfectly natural that "the sole remedy for carnal desires is to seek out the friendship of beautiful boys, a satisfactory surrogate for females . . ." p.352 The Koran is referred to in very few instances and no religious authorities are heard from. It is hard for me to find a sympathetic character when they are presented with this set of beliefs.
The other intellectual pressure on the society is the portraiture by 'Frankish artists' in Europe where the illustration does not present Allah's idea of a person but an actual recognizable physiognomy of a living human. Debate swirls around this new illustration. The discussion is repetitive rather than deep. The question of the place of the Islamic artist is not decided or even clarified. As a mystery the book is not gripping. Maybe it would be a five for an art historian....more
I do not know if Mrs. Nafisi is a good teacher of literature. I have never attempted to analyze writing as she does. The main writers she taught wereI do not know if Mrs. Nafisi is a good teacher of literature. I have never attempted to analyze writing as she does. The main writers she taught were Nabokov, Austen, and Henry James. This seems an odd mix. She intersperses literary analysis with anecdotes about her students and her own life. I learned some things I did not know about Iran.
The biggest take away for me was how easy it was for her and the young people she was in college with to argue and demonstrate for change, for revolution and how terribly wrong something, that had seemed so desirable, worked out. We are in the age range and my college experience was similar. Luckily the student voices in my experience had a very limited affect. They may have stopped the Vietnam war sooner and they messed up curriculum at the college for several years as their wishes were indulged. They did not rend the fabric of society like they wanted....more
I wonder if the writing is more interesting in the original - maybe he wrote it in English. I don't know. The plot and the exotic location make up forI wonder if the writing is more interesting in the original - maybe he wrote it in English. I don't know. The plot and the exotic location make up for the ordinary writing. A big chunk of the book is about Mariam and I really wanted to follow her story and then. The next chapter is about Laila and I really didn't care about her as much. After what seemed like too long the strands of the narrative cross and the rest of the book satisfactorily traces their lives....more
Set in Istanbul in 1836, this book has a great main character and an interesting plot. The details about the city, the court, occupations and food madSet in Istanbul in 1836, this book has a great main character and an interesting plot. The details about the city, the court, occupations and food made me want to do more reading about the place and period. From my western, Euro-centric point of view this book exposed a new front in the march of history.
The story is about the old, customary ways of the Ottoman empire and the new sweeping in from other countries. At one point an elderly black eunuch tells Yahim, the main character, that he cannot change. "I can't. Anyway, modern people are supposed to know stuff. They all read. Eating up the little ants on the paper with their eyes and later on spraying the whole mess back in people's faces when they don't expect it. What do they call it? Reform."...more
This book is epic in length and covers three generations of Indians in the countries of Malaya and Burma (Myanmar) from 1885 until the end of the twenThis book is epic in length and covers three generations of Indians in the countries of Malaya and Burma (Myanmar) from 1885 until the end of the twentieth century. This is a very large scope and it is covered by disconnected chapters that are almost standalone essays. A few are strongly written - the torn loyalties of the Indian soldier when faced with continuing to serve a British master as part of the empire or switching to the Japanese side to drive the British out. Some of the essay / chapters seem to build to a point of interest and then abruptly end. The subsequent actions of the characters may never be revealed, may be revealed multiple essays forward or might have been tucked into a prior chapter as 'throw away' detail. I would only recommend this book to someone who was interested in a very high-level understanding of Indians in Burma. I did not understand or empathize with any of the characters and would have preferred more in depth coverage of a shorter period of time. Maybe it is an Eastern "War and Peace" and needs to be read several times....more
LIES LIES LIES LIES LIES A mountain climber falls for the locals and the locals are muslim. Great tidbits about rural Pakistan. Timeline preceeds and gLIES LIES LIES LIES LIES A mountain climber falls for the locals and the locals are muslim. Great tidbits about rural Pakistan. Timeline preceeds and goes beyond 9/11. . "If you want to thrive in Baltistan, you must respect our ways. The first time you share tea with a Balti, you are a stranger. The second time you take tea, you are an honored guest. The third time you share a cup of tea, you become family, and for our family we are prepared to do anything, even die. We may be uneducated. But we are not stupid. We have lived and survived here for a long time." ---- now that I know he is a liar I reduce my stars in order not to mislead anyone else into reading this book...more