We are introduced to the characters of Juan Gabriel Vasquez's book of short stories in the afterglow of events. The sun has set prior to the start ofWe are introduced to the characters of Juan Gabriel Vasquez's book of short stories in the afterglow of events. The sun has set prior to the start of the tale. The monsters and ghouls have come the night before and we only see what remains. Couples have already decided to split, it's just a question of when to leave. Others experience the loss of a loved one and must still find the strength to remain upright. Everyone is searching for a new way forward, but none will find it.
The titular story combines all of the elements that are sprinkled in the rest of the work. A young couple already knows it isn't working out. A hunting party demonstrates their differences and further sets off a whole chain of events. The characters search for what was lost, but they return with less and less. All of the stories are so subtle, like a whisper. The imagery evokes so much emotion with so little action. We come away feeling empty at the end of these stories. This is the subtle brilliance in all of Vasquez's work.
I've always had the impression or sense of the fragility of living beings, as if each moment required an arduous energy to remain upright. P 25...more
Nisid Hajari's intent in Midnight's Furies is to sue for peace through showing the horrors of war.
The birth of both India and Pakistan was stained witNisid Hajari's intent in Midnight's Furies is to sue for peace through showing the horrors of war.
The birth of both India and Pakistan was stained with war, but it was the sectarian violence beforehand that set that stage. Paranoia, misinformation, and fear fueled the carnage, with Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs killing one another. It wasn't soldiers killing soldiers, but local villagers exterminating their rivals. Where once there were peaceful neighbors and families intermingling, then came violence of the most disturbing kind. The violence would continue after independence and would continue to haunt India and Pakistan to this day.
Hajari's book takes place in the time period after independence has been decided, but before the great partition. The tensions between Hindus, Muslims, and Sihks is palpable. The slow evacuation of the long ruling British creates a power vacuum and the need to settle old scores.
Nehru and Jinnah would mimic this distrust in the creation of the first two states independent of Britain, India, and Pakistan. Nehru and Jinnah's actions would shape the destiny of the two countries, both filled with problems. It's this legacy of conflicts at the very heart of both countries that has remained through the decades. Hajari adeptly identifies the roots of these conflicts and helps explain these two divided countries. Their rivalry was begun even before their birth.
Hajari attempts to provide an evenhanded account of the crisis. In the end, however, it would appear Hajari would paint Jinnah in the worst light. Jinnah's bitterness and paranoia would strengthen many of the religious radicals already existing in his country. His death would end the immediate crisis and war between the two countries, but his legacy would have them clash again and again. This might be a more even handed telling of the Partition, but that is the greatest focus. Hajari demonstrates the conflicts on both sides very evenly. It is the birth of these two countries told through bloodshed....more
"It was a normal mistake of which many are guilty: He thought he was a man and that men were not meant to be pushed around. But it was hot downtown an"It was a normal mistake of which many are guilty: He thought he was a man and that men were not meant to be pushed around. But it was hot downtown and he forgot his history, he forgot the time and the place. He lost his hold on reality. There was a cop and a waiting audience but he was Tod Clifton and cops are everywhere. The cop? “What about him? He was a cop. A good citizen. But this cop had an itching finger and an eager ear for a word that rhymed with 'trigger,' and when Clifton fell he had found it. The Police Special spoke its lines and the rhyme was completed. Just look around you. Look at what he made, look inside you and feel his awful power. It was perfectly natural. The blood ran like blood in a comic-book killing, on a comic-book street in a comic-book town on a comic-book day in a comic-book world." -Ralph Ellison The Invisible Man (1952)
"You stood up for yourself...that's all a black man can do. You're always outnumbered, always outgunned." Walter Mosley Always Outnumbered Always Outgunned (1997)
Ta-Nehisi Coates' essay Between the World and Me is a modern day telling of James Baldwin's The Fire Next Time. Coates attempts to prepare his son with his history of growing racial frustration. While Baldwin's text is a warning of things to come, Coates' essay conveys his vexation, unsure as to what to do about it.
It starts with the death of Michael Brown and the Grand Jury refusing to indict the officer who killed him. Coates' son is visibly upset, but he is not comforted. He must be told the story of his father's life and the life that is to come for him.
The main theme is that a black man is not in control of his own body. That today, if he is stopped by a police officer, he isn't in control of that situation. The policeman could do as he likes, arresting, shooting, or destroying his body. As we watch the Black Lives Matter movement, we see this pattern again and again. Whatever happened hundreds of years ago, fifty years ago, or today, it is the same.
I placed the quotes from Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man and Walter Mosley's Always Outnumbered Always Outgunned as an example. One would seem to think that things have been changing, or that we are on the brink of change, but it feels no different. Coates' frustration is palpable, and the reader is left desolate right along with him.
And you know now, if you did not before, that the police departments in your country have been endowed with the authority to destroy your body. It does not matter if the destruction is the result of an unfortunate overreaction. It does not matter if it originates in a misunderstanding. it does not matter if the destruction springs from a foolish policy. Sell cigarettes without the proper authority and your body can be destroyed. Resent the people trying to entrap your body and it can be destroyed. Turn into a dark stairwell and your body can be destroyed. The destroyers will rarely be held accountable. Mostly they will receive pensions. And destruction is merely the superlative form of a dominion whose prerogatives include friskings, detaining, beatings, and humiliations. All of this is common to black people. And all of this is old for black people. No one is held responsible. p. 9
The pursuit of knowing was freedom to me, the right to declare your own curiosities and follow them through all manner of books. I was made for the library, not the classroom. The classroom was a jail of other people's interests The library was open, unending, free. P 56...more
It started with a dead man on Instagram. I thought it was someone pranking an exhibit. It was a fiberglass man face down in the middle of the funeraryIt started with a dead man on Instagram. I thought it was someone pranking an exhibit. It was a fiberglass man face down in the middle of the funerary exhibit at the Asian Art Museum. It was part of the 28Chinese exhibit at the Asian Art Museum this summer. Instead of having the artwork in a separate gallery space, as they typically do for special exhibits, these pieces were interspersed throughout the gallery. It was Ai Weiwei made of fiberglass. The Death of Marat is what it read. It's this version of Chinese subversive art that I found fascinating. In order to provoke, the artist must first describe the culture all in one image.
@Large was an exhibition staged in Alcatraz as Ai Weiwei is forbidden to leave his native China. A subversive artist, this display centers political prisoners and the feeling of being confined. The Dragon Kite normally set free in the skies is now confined inside prison walls (With Wind). Those voices who seek to change broken government throughout the word are silenced in Stay Tuned. The editor David Spalding has punctuated the book with a great history on the artist as well as comparing him to those who forced political change such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Mario Savio. Excerpts of their works are included at the end. An art book is never the same as experiencing the art itself in its environment (especially powerful in this exhibit), but this book introduces the artist with a provocative exhibit. It will help inform the world of Ai Weiwei and raise awareness for others in his situation. ...more
There are times in our lives when we are asked to make amends, to forgive. The characters in Per Petterson's book are expected to forgive the wrongs tThere are times in our lives when we are asked to make amends, to forgive. The characters in Per Petterson's book are expected to forgive the wrongs that are done to them, but they refuse. The characters learn that they must stay true to themselves and to not let others diminish who they are. There are times when forgiveness diminishes us.
Wally and Jim are best friends growing up in rural Norway. Wally and his three sisters, Siri and the twins, must endure the daily punishment of their father. Their mother has long gone, only the father remains with his fierce boot and demeanor. When Wally finally confronts their father to end the violence, they are all left orphaned. If not for his friend Jim, they would have been split up and scattered. It would seem that Wally and Jim's relationship would be a lifelong one, but an incident on the ice in the heart of winter forever alters it.
The story is told from multiple perspectives. We follow Jim, Wally, Siri, and others as they grow up from 1966 to 2006. The narrative is sometimes hard to follow and each character doesn't have a distinctive voice. However, the major themes of identity and relationships come through strongly. There is a pervasive somber tone to the story, a tragedy always heavy in the air, like a Norwegian grey sky. The story demands a release, but the characters will not provide it.
He waited for a sign from her and she did half turn, but didn't really pause and didn't wave, and suddenly he realised how sinister it was, the scene that was being played out here in the gloom on the quay right now, as though what she did was letting her soul sink into the dark well of perdition with no more than a hurried, already vacant glance over her shoulder before she let go and fell, and whatever warmth she might have had, she snuffed out like a burnt-down candle.p256
I wasn't expected to believe a word of it, that was the whole point. We both knew why he limped and we had forgotten nothing, repressed nothing, but we weren't supposed to talk about it, no, that was the trick, instead we would just look at each other with maybe a quirk smile on our lips and share that knowledge, that memory, as though it was something that was ours together, his and mine. something intimate and violent, a secret, burning bond that held to together, a bond of blood. Then I stood up. No peace, I thought, nothing that bind us together. I refuse. P. 278
Our perceptions are often shaped by the media. From newspaper cartoons to art to television and the movies, we are inundated with the opinions and thoOur perceptions are often shaped by the media. From newspaper cartoons to art to television and the movies, we are inundated with the opinions and thoughts of a few. It's only those who choose to break the stereotypes and challenge the ideas of those few do those perceptions change. Jeff Chang seeks to document how society has changed in regard to race in the media. Morrie Turner's newspaper cartoon WeePals would break down racial stereotypes and mock those who would cling to them. Chang brilliantly documents the change in the media even down to a few small months here in there. It's in these small items that big ideas and social change come from.
There is always a desire to forget a painful past. A memory so deep within us that it must never see the light. It gets pushed down to where not onlyThere is always a desire to forget a painful past. A memory so deep within us that it must never see the light. It gets pushed down to where not only the memory but one's whole history is erased. A living, breathing memory can make it worse, a reminder. It's an isolating feeling to experience something so traumatic that it's too deadly to tell anyone. The experience is relived again and again in the retelling, but can we truly live a life partially erased?
Ana Juric's life in Yugoslavia seems perfectly normal to her. Countries are changing boundaries and names. Bombings are starting to begin. Ana, her mother, father, and little sister live an impoverished, but normal life. Her younger sister needs special care. After a special trip for a medical treatment, Ana faces the trial of her life. A nine-year-old child doesn't understand war until its true horror is revealed.
Fast forward eight years later, Ana is in New York attending university. She walks around with the heavy secret of her past. It is made worse in that her sister has the mark of memory, but she does not retain that memory herself. It forces Ana to face her past and exorcise her demons.
Sara Novic's Girl at War demonstrates a deep understanding of war's impact on children. Ana is troubled, but she hides it. She lies about her background and doesn't talk to anyone about it. It was only when her professor guesses her background do things start to unravel. She must face the memory to reclaim her past. It's a beautiful testimony of resilience and forgiveness.
"I used to think all languages were ciphers, that once you learned another's alphabet you could convert foreign words back into your own, something recognizable. But the blood formed a pattern like a map to comprehension and I understood the differences all at once. I understood how one family could end up in the ground and another could be allowed to continue on its way, that the distinction between Serbs and Croats was much vaster than ways of writing letters. I understood the bombings, the afternoons sitting on the floor of my flat with black fabric covering the windows, the nights spent in concrete rooms. I understood that my father was not getting up." p. 97...more
A great tome that recenters thinking about what motivates us to work (it's not about the money). Great analysis on job crafting (going above and beyonA great tome that recenters thinking about what motivates us to work (it's not about the money). Great analysis on job crafting (going above and beyond the job description) and job efficiency (tamping down on extras, just stick to the work). Finding a bigger purpose, better than pay, a higher purpose to the work. Don't fall into the trap of the ideologue, don't believe in just your version of events.
The general theme is that people don't just work for money. There is a bit of redundancy from more prominent works. I am reminded of some of the rules in Freakonomics (fine for parents who pick up their kids late becomes a service fee instead) and more particularly It's Not About the Coffee (emphasizing that mission and purpose goes farther than money as an incentive). Financial incentives do little to inspire people to go the extra mile. People need to have something to believe in, a cause, a purpose, and a mission. If you can provide that, it will go much farther than anything else.
The term "ideology" has not been used consistently over time. The term's history began in France in the eighteenth century, coined to denote a "science of ideas." People who the French Emperor Napolean termed ideologues were so in love with ideas that they ignore empirical evidence, sometimes right in front of their noses, that might contradict those ideas. A more recent manifestation of this view of people as so committed to ideas that they ignore evidence can be found in Jonathan Haidt's The Righteous Mind, which argues that people's moral commitments stem not from reason and reflection, but from deep-seated intuitions of which they are largely unaware. That is, people BELIEVE they make moral judgements by thinking the issues through, using reason to sift through evidence and arguments as a judge of pros and cons. But, in fact, Haidt tells us, they have a moral position before they ever turn their thinking loose on an issue. They use reason as a lawyer does--to make a case for what they already believe, and not as a judge, to tell them what they ought to believe. This orientation can lead not only to ignoring evidence, but to distorting it, a result of what psychologist Lee Ross called "naive realism." The naive realist is someone who thinks that "I see things as they are, people who disagree with me are distorting the truth." p. 61...more
Reason and faith battle it out again in Salman Rushdie's Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Days. A sly retelling of 1001 nights, Rushdie's proseReason and faith battle it out again in Salman Rushdie's Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Days. A sly retelling of 1001 nights, Rushdie's prose exudes wild twists and turns. Rushdie's familiar themes of exile, reason versus faith, and an overarching theme of the supernatural bathed in legend continue here.
The story begins in 12th century Spain. A disgraced philosopher, Ibn Rushd, meets a discreet jinni a, Dunia. Their relationship will spawn a new generation of people with extraordinary powers. These powers will lie dormant over centuries. The story picks up again in the near future where the bridge between the Jinn (genies) and humans have re-opened. The new strangeness has begun with jinnis again able to go into the human world. A struggle in their world bleeds into the human world. A battle for Fairyland will also determine the fate of the Earth now controlled by the dark jinn.
Rushdie is always a hard read. He jumps from topic to topic often without transition. The narrative is dreamlike and surreal with twists and turns. The events in the book seem to be a metaphor for him personally. An atheist philosopher exiled from his own country doing battle with a fanatical religion.
"So we become outsiders in our own place, and when trouble comes, and trouble is coming for sure, outsiders have a habit of getting it in the neck before anyone else." P59 "The rich are obscure to us, finding ways to be unhappy when all the normal causes of unhappiness are removed. But unhappiness had touched the Lady Philosopher. Her parents were killed in their private helicopter. An elite death but at the moment of dying we are all penniless." P 70
...he was in the grip of everything sad that had ever happened to him, he wished he had never become detached from the place he was born, wished his feet had remained planted on that beloved ground, wished he could have been happy all his life in those childhood streets, and grown into an old man there and known every paving stone, every betel-nut vendor's story, every boy selling pirated novela at traffic lights, every rich man's car rudely parked up on the sidewalk, every girl at the bandstand aging into a grandmother and remembering when they kissed furtively at night in the churchyard, he wished he could have roots spreading under every inch of his lost soil, his beloved lost home, that he could have been a pert of something, that he could have been himself, walking down the road not taken, living a life in context and not the migrant's hollow journey that had been his fate; ah, but then he would never have met his wife, he argued with himself, and that deepened his grief, how could he bear the idea that by remaining joined to the line of the past he might never had his one true passage of joy, maybe he could dream her into his Indian life, maybe she would have loved him there as well she would have walked down this street and found him here and loved him just the same, even though he would have been the self he never became, maybe she would have loved that self too, Raphael Hieronymous Manezes, that lost boy, that boy which the man had lost. P252
"In the end rage, no matter how profoundly justified, destroys the enraged. Just as we are created anew by what we love, so we are reduced and unmade by what we hate." P400...more
A thrilling read that combines climate change issues, history of the water wars in the American Southwest, and a rip-roaring action story. Paulo BacigA thrilling read that combines climate change issues, history of the water wars in the American Southwest, and a rip-roaring action story. Paulo Bacigalupi's The Water Knife takes place in a near too-familiar future where the water wars have taken on a new dimension. Where once these disagreements were resolved in a courtroom, they are now enforced with gunships. Water Knives don't have to cut you, they can just cut off your water. You will be finished all the same.
Told from the perspective of multiple characters, they are weaved together brilliantly by Bacigalupi. Angel is a Water Knife, a mercenary sent in when the court awards senior water rights to another jurisdiction. He comes in with his troops, they serve papers, and cut off the supply with force. Lucy is a reporter on the edge documenting the Phoenix Collapse that's all around her. One step from being blown away by a giant size dust bowl that destroyed Texas. Maria is a Texas refugee trying to make ends meet so she can travel north to Canada or West to California. All three are caught up in a massive conspiracy on senior water rights. A plot twist that honors those who know the history of water wars in the Southwest. It will put a smile on your face....more
A sparse and short collection of stories about a young child and his view of the world around him. He is puzzled by the relationship of his father andA sparse and short collection of stories about a young child and his view of the world around him. He is puzzled by the relationship of his father and his uncle. He doesn't fully understand getting older, what happens when someone dies, or adults behaving strangely. He must decipher his world with his five-year-old brain. For Per Petterson, it's a way for him to honor his parents and the tragedy of losing them.
I am a huge fan of Per Petterson's novels. I read Out Stealing Horses and was immediately taken by the sparse descriptive language. He can describe the bare emotion, frustration, anger, and bury it in the Norwegian snow. One could compare this short story novella to the Knausgard My Struggle series, but that would be unfair. Petterson is a far better writer and in touch with his inner emotions. Knausgard is trying to work them out, but Petterson understands what lies beneath all too well. ...more