Lately I have been trying to read more in Turkish. It has brought up some old frustrations. Long sentences, too many metaphors, unnecessary attempts a...moreLately I have been trying to read more in Turkish. It has brought up some old frustrations. Long sentences, too many metaphors, unnecessary attempts at imagery, and the excessive use of ellipses... (Ha!) It is difficult to find (for me, at least) emotionally mature Turkish literature that is not melodramatic, yet enables me to feel something. The two extremes are easy to find, if I can manage the long sentences (I think my Turkish is regressing, so the 64-word-on-average sentences are killing me! But then again, I was always like this, and I find this problematic in all writing, not just Turkish. And no, I do not suffer from attention deficit.)
Mustafa Kutlu manages to be whimsical and profound, not trying too much to do either, and succeeding to do them just right. There are many little stories tucked away in the mere 100 something pages of Uzun Hikaye (Long Story, as in "Oh, it's a long story.") The narrator is the son of a jack-of-all-trades guy, and together they travel from small town to small town (a particular type of small town, a kasaba, strictly defined in Turkey as larger than a village and smaller than a city, with 2,000 to 20,000 residents today, but back then, much smaller) leaving whenever the father stands up to some injustice and is duly exiled or threatened by worse. Uzun Hikaye is a story of childhood, growing up, first love, and a touching relationship between a son and father, but it is, as a whole, the story of every small town or village, every boy growing up, falling in love, and learning to earn a living. It is also the story of the perpetual immigrant, forced to move from town to town in search of work and opportunity that is not stifled by politics and identity issues.
Some things are very nostalgic for those who know this kind of life, but even for me, the big city person that I am. Kids climbing trees to collect fruit (didn't I get a good thrashing from my mom when I climbed the fig tree, notorious for tricking children with its seemingly sturdy, thick branches, only to give in with a hollow crack when you least expect it? and the walnut tree that gave us delicious young walnuts, painting our hands like henna with the green husk of its fruit), kids making bow and arrows from wispy plants (we all wanted to be Indians, because they got the bows and arrows, while cowboys just pretended to have guns in their hands; I suppose in America boys would have plastic guns, but we didn't have that many of those to go around), boys getting in line to watch girls walk by... It is funny how my memories of Istanbul in the late 80s and early 90s is full of this stuff, just give different professions to the adults, make the fruit raggedy and full of worms because the trees grew in apartment building backyards with nobody paying attention to them, the children less innocent with the advent of MTV and Freddy Kruger (how do I even remember this stuff?), and cars... many, many cars.
I find it hilarious that father and son opened a bookstore with the hopes of turning it into a cultural center where the whole town would come to read great books and discuss them, and perhaps more (discuss politics, for example). I suppose not much has changed; Turks still don't read much. (A very small portion of the population reads a lot and the rest, nothing.)
Someone described Kutlu's writing saying that it was "like water," and I agree. There is an ease in his language, a confidence in the greater meaning of words that does not distract from their immediate utility.
My favorite quote: "Emret, emret findik kabuguna gireyim." ("Tell/order me, and I will fit myself into a hazelnut shell.") There is a lot of Turk in that one sentence, from the nut that defines a big part of Anatolia's identity (Turkey is the major exporter of hazelnuts in the world, though fresh hazelnuts is what I highly recommend) to the devotion to the lover, begging her to ask anything of him, anything, and he will do it, no matter how impossible (drama, melodrama, passion... things that we think of as Mediterranean, but actually are even stronger themes in the rest of Anatolia.)
I am not sure if the novella is translated (I attempted to look for English and German versions, but no luck.) There is a film, which is supposed to be different, but good.
Recommended for those who like the films of Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Vizontele (a Turkish film), Hukkle (a Hungarian film), and Waking Ned Devine. (less)
Ness has done it again. It should not surprise me, but it is still something that brings awe. The writing is brilliant, the characters are bloody good...moreNess has done it again. It should not surprise me, but it is still something that brings awe. The writing is brilliant, the characters are bloody good, and the plot... Well, if you are going to have issues with the book, you'll most likely have them with the plot.
The story is bleak. It's never happy-go-lucky. The plot is twisted back and forth and back again. Some things become clear as the adventure unravels; some, never do. In the end, it is the journey that counts, for the characters, and perhaps, for the reader. I do warn those who have to have to have to have everything neatly explained by the end of a book, though; you won't get that here. What you'll get is a great adventure, a page-turner, a great coming-of-age story, and three very likable characters, all in their own way.
Recommended for those who like Polish accents, foxes, and Knight Rider (I dunno, the descriptions of the technology somehow made me think of this old TV show!) (less)
Hawthorn & Child follows two London police detectives as they investigate a bunch of cases. They are sitting on a guy who is involved with organiz...moreHawthorn & Child follows two London police detectives as they investigate a bunch of cases. They are sitting on a guy who is involved with organized crime. They investigate a drive-by shooting. There is a guy who is receiving threatening emails. There is a nutter who breaks into a house. They talk to witnesses, visit crime scenes, discuss business with their boss. Throughout the novel we see a lot of Hawthorn's life, probably because he has the more interesting one, as he is gay and single. Sometimes, it takes a while to figure out just who is telling what for what reason. Eventually the who and what becomes clearer, not too soon, and not too clear, but the reason is not always revealed. In this regard, the book is certainly brilliant; the reader feels as lost as anyone would walking on to a crime scene and being thrown bits and pieces of random information about what might have happened and who might have been involved. It is also refreshing that the formula does not work here; this is not Law and Order, where the crime is solved within the allocated 45 minutes of airtime. In fact, hardly anything is solved.
Ridgway spends more time in Hawthorn's mind, and so Hawthorn appears to be the main character of the book. He is troubled, maybe depressed, but not complicated, in that complicated way. He dates, he fucks, and he goes around London with Child. Child, here, is the more experienced, and perhaps better detective. There is a lot that is not described precisely, and a lot of ambiguity. In the end, Hawthorn is a bit of a blur, and Child seems crystal clear despite the fact that the author did not sit the reader down and describe Child's life and personality while leaving Hawthorn in the shadows. Ridgway achieves this effect, partly, in the way he narrates each character, and the little things he chooses to show or leave out about them. Overall, it is very effective, and in a way, the reader sees Hawthorn the way he sees himself, unsure of his future, unsure of what to do, other than this one thing he is doing, policing, and the other, guys.
Recommended for those who need a refreshing, unconventional crime novel.(less)
a + e 4EVER is a well told story of two high school genderfreaks. The story has everything from identity politics to punk rock (or from lipstick to PV...morea + e 4EVER is a well told story of two high school genderfreaks. The story has everything from identity politics to punk rock (or from lipstick to PVC). The illustration style is perhaps too grungy for my aging taste, and requires a bit of getting used to in the beginning. But I cannot really imagine this story illustrated any other way. The sharp edges, the dark corners, the growling faces all fit perfectly. Part coming-of-age, part coming-out-and-staying-in, part music dump, and part high school drama, a + e 4EVER is all that teenage love stories wish they were: edgy, real, smart, funny, and very sexually aware.
Recommended for fans of Potential (Ariel Shrag) and Revolutionary Girl Utena (I know, strange pairing...) Also try Spit and Passion, and Blue is the Warmest Color (though you will find that a + e 4EVER is in a higher league than these two in terms of the real gender/orientation issues and sexuality content).(less)
The best book I have read in a long while. Perhaps a bit too melancholic at times, what Wolf does with language and story arc is mesmerizing. I don;t...moreThe best book I have read in a long while. Perhaps a bit too melancholic at times, what Wolf does with language and story arc is mesmerizing. I don;t need to say more.
To some, the way it is written may be inaccessible. This book requires focus, attention, and an understanding that you have to let go of understanding everything right away, that things will be revealed in good time. (That said, I read it during my commute in the subway, so certainly not too hard to understand or read by any means.)
Recommended to those who like to contemplate life, existence, and death.(less)
It is very hard not to be in awe of a 23-year-old McCullers after reading this book. Drawing from your own childhood and teenage years is one thing, t...moreIt is very hard not to be in awe of a 23-year-old McCullers after reading this book. Drawing from your own childhood and teenage years is one thing, turning that into a deeply sad and absorbing tale that magnifies the all-too-real "problems" of the South is another.
Here, we meet a small town wriggling under the oppressive thumb of poverty and ignorance. There are four visionaries, who will never be that, but visionaries nevertheless. And their deaf and mute confidant. The lack of good communication is striking, where people find it hard to say what they think or believe they have been understood by those who hear them. In this regard, it was a good idea to read this book after Morrison's Beloved.
Beyond the hunger, the poverty, the ignorance and lack of education, beyond the racial lines that haunt every conversation, beyond it all, there is loneliness. This loneliness bleeds every one of the characters, bleeds them in their isolation, their desire to find someone to love/understand/listen, until it blurs their vision so much that when they are listened to, they think they are understood, and when they are hurt they think they are alive.(less)
I have not read anything by Connie Willis before, so now I am certainly going to read more. I also have not been so sad for having finished a book in...moreI have not read anything by Connie Willis before, so now I am certainly going to read more. I also have not been so sad for having finished a book in a long time. The book is about one man's search for the elusive Bishop's bird stump. Now, if you did not understand the previous sentence, that's alright. The search will continue. And there will be a boat, a dog (who likes to snore, a lot!), three men in a boat (to say nothing of the dog!), Darwin, drownings, many many many different kinds of fish, the river Thames, many many dresses with ruffles, a cat (who likes to eat all kinds of fish), a butler (who likes to read books!), a lady (who likes to talk with the spirits), oh, and, time travel, of course. Waterloo and Napoleon will be discussed often. And the signing of the Magna Carta. And if a single act and a single character can change the course of history, or a single cat. There will be a series of women who resemble other women in the way they talk, walk, demand, and argue. And it will all make one humorous romp of a tangled story that goes from 2057 to 1888 to 1395 to 2018 to 2057 to 1888. And in the middle of it all, one pivotal, hideous bird stump. Oh, and how can I forget, the butler! In fact, two very able butlers. This book made me laugh out loud many times, made me wish I had a butler named Baine or Finch, contemplate owning a dog, wish I could linger in the Victorian times and travel down some river on a boat, and is the reason why I will read Three Man on a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog) by Jerome K. Jerome. (less)
I cannot find my copy!!! I cannot find the zines, either! I am so sad :( I have read most of Urban Hermitt's zines and the bound book, The Flow Chroni...moreI cannot find my copy!!! I cannot find the zines, either! I am so sad :( I have read most of Urban Hermitt's zines and the bound book, The Flow Chronicles, when I was in grad school. The Hermitt is not really a hermit, as her queer+vegan adventures take her many places (from Oregon to Australia) as she meets many different people (crazy dumpster-divers to road-kill-eating environmentalists to skinheads to you-name-it). Sometimes the types of "alternative" politics and lives she describes, whether it be her own or those of the people she meets, were almost unbelievable to me, though I have met similar people with similar lives or have at least met people who would discuss such options (like never buying anything from a store and instead dumpster-diving for food and clothes as a non-consumerist choice). When I read the zines I always thought the language and the style of writing was unlike most zines; the storytelling was impeccable and well-edited, her language crisp, clean, and funny, and her attitude well-balanced with just the right amount of criticism and understanding towards her life choices as well as others'. I remember at some point when I went back to order the next zine (I read them well after she wrote them) I saw the bound book, which was no surprise, considering the quality of her writing and how interesting her stories were. I highly recommend all of Urban Hermitt's writings to those who are curious about radically-yet-not-so-radically different lives that one can lead in the capitalist, consumerist western world, those who like travel narratives, good story-telling, queer politics, and, uhm, interesting culinary alternatives. (Some of the zines as well as The Flow Chronicles are available from Microcosm Publishing, microcosmpublishing.com)(less)