I think that Djebar has an interesting point of view and worthwhile things to say. But I either should not have read this in translation or it is just...moreI think that Djebar has an interesting point of view and worthwhile things to say. But I either should not have read this in translation or it is just too...postmodern for me.(less)
The Man Died is an intimidating book, and an excellent one. I was most impressed by the sensory detail Soyinka records. His prison experience - I susp...moreThe Man Died is an intimidating book, and an excellent one. I was most impressed by the sensory detail Soyinka records. His prison experience - I suspect the same is true for other prisoners, but I don't know - leaves him with nothing but sensory details to record. So it's extremely powerful, especially when he is fasting. (He goes a little crazy.) I've only read Death and the King's Horseman and some articles, so I can't really compare with his other work, but this was easiyl the most impressive thing I've read by Soyinka so far.
However, for someone who isn't a great student of history or somewhat lacking in dates and names and things, an annotated version of The Man Died would be much better reading. I definitely didn't catch all the allusions and I would have liked to. But there probably isn't an annotated version out yet.(less)
Baldwin has an eminently readable style of writing that I hope very much carries over to his fiction. I always admire clarity in writing, and the rich...moreBaldwin has an eminently readable style of writing that I hope very much carries over to his fiction. I always admire clarity in writing, and the richness of his work doesn't suffer from the clarity, as sometimes happens with other writers. Also, he has very interesting things to say! Very much recommended.(less)
This is considerably funnier than Things Fall Apart, but it is not as moving - it is not a tragedy. Or, at least, it is not a personal tragedy althoug...moreThis is considerably funnier than Things Fall Apart, but it is not as moving - it is not a tragedy. Or, at least, it is not a personal tragedy although probably any book that deals with this topic is a tragedy. It reminded me very strongly of Xala and the writing of Jonathan Swift.(less)
Color is an elegant but sincere volume of poetry. Although Cullen deals with race, he does through through the lyric poetry Holy Trinity: sex/love, de...moreColor is an elegant but sincere volume of poetry. Although Cullen deals with race, he does through through the lyric poetry Holy Trinity: sex/love, death, and nature. Some of his poems are the kind of thing that would have been called "Song" about two hundred years earlier, about a third are witty epitaphs (maybe a bit too witty, although "For John Keats, Apostle of Beauty" is wonderful). I think the poetry is dated a little, and maybe a bit too earnest. But they are still enjoyable poems and very nicely done.(less)
Masumoto has written a very specific memoir, about nature, work, and family. I don't often find books from a perspective such as his, and was very hap...moreMasumoto has written a very specific memoir, about nature, work, and family. I don't often find books from a perspective such as his, and was very happy to experience this one. It is extremely readable, often gently funny, and if not quite elegiac then definitely thoughtful.(less)
I like Alexie because he is the kind of writer that breaks you open and makes you laugh when he does it. I think that, in a lot of ways, he writes in...moreI like Alexie because he is the kind of writer that breaks you open and makes you laugh when he does it. I think that, in a lot of ways, he writes in a way that wouldn't normally appeal to me - he's sort of maybe very slightly the Kevin Smith of books, but only a tiny bit - and when I say that I mean the way he actually arranges words. And also all the first person narrators and the 1990s-2000s sense of his storytelling. But Alexie does make it work, and his stories are always more literate than I expect/remember, which since books about books (and also meditations on storytelling) are some of my favorites things, is good.
The sadness in these stories is always, always paired with redemption - but never in a fix it way, which is what saves them from giving easy answers to difficult problems. "What You Pawn I Will Redeem," the most-talked about story and which you can read on the New Yorker website, is perhaps the best example of this theme, but it runs through all the stories in the book (okay, "Lawyer's League" might be an exception).
I like "Flight Patterns," "The Life and Times of Estelle Walks Above," and "Do You Know Where I Am?" the best, I think.(less)
Even though Embroideries is very funny and clever and enjoyable (and, lest we forget, short) I was really disappointed in it. I still liked it, and I...moreEven though Embroideries is very funny and clever and enjoyable (and, lest we forget, short) I was really disappointed in it. I still liked it, and I like the idea too! Except then it turned out that all Satrapi does with her book is talk about men. It's an interesting look at upper class Iranian ideas about sex from several generations of women but . . . seriously, I am sure there are other parts of their lives they could talk about just as wittily and viciously.
It's fun, but it's like a meringue made with fake sugar. (less)
I'm so glad I started reading James Baldwin, because I really like him. He is perceptive and sensitive and intelligent - which is kind of a rare combi...moreI'm so glad I started reading James Baldwin, because I really like him. He is perceptive and sensitive and intelligent - which is kind of a rare combination. Usually intelligence cancels out compassion in writers, but not in Baldwin. Go Tell It On the Mountain is notable for the way Baldwin interweaves Biblical stories and the (I think semi-autobiographical) religious community. I enjoyed Notes of a Native Son and I look forward to reading more of his novels.(less)
I thought that this was a book I would like, would even love, but I was wrong. William Kennedy wrote many many years ago that One Hundred Years of Sol...moreI thought that this was a book I would like, would even love, but I was wrong. William Kennedy wrote many many years ago that One Hundred Years of Solitude was as important as the book of Genesis and therefore, like Genesis, the only required reading for every person in the world ever. Leaving aside the many obvious problems with such a statement, let me say that Kennedy is indeed correct in saying that it Marquez's book is similar to Genesis in many ways: it is complicated, mythological, deeply rooted in an alien (to me) conception of the world, and multilayered. Like Genesis, I did not give a damn about anything that happened to anyone.
Perhaps it is the translation, because I have heard that his book is excellent in Spanish and miserable in English. And I loved the imagination! Which was practically cinematic (it reminded me of Powell & Pressburger, and there are no filmmakers I admire more for their imagination than the Archers) but I just could not invest myself in it. It was like Chinatown all over again (haha, in more ways than one, shall we say?).
I like books that are ambiguous and confuse me, and leave themselves open to dissection. (Maybe, in this case, vivisection.) That is not a problem I have with literature in general, and nor was it a problem I had with THIS book, because I wasn't confused [unless I was supposed to be:]. Anyway, very disappointed.(less)
August 2009 By the time I reached page 20, A Suitable Boy had already rocketed up to #1 on my Desert Island All Time Top 5 List. I loved every second.
J...moreAugust 2009 By the time I reached page 20, A Suitable Boy had already rocketed up to #1 on my Desert Island All Time Top 5 List. I loved every second.
July 2010 I've now read A Suitable Boy twice, and my immediate feeling of affection for it has ripened. It is, as you probably suspect, a book that requires a certain level of commitment: if it will have any meaning (beyond, I suppose, a portrait of India in 1950-52, struggling with independence) that meaning will have to originate at least in part from the reader's willingness to dive into the book. There are extreme highs and lows here, but because of the way Seth writes - which I love - those extremes are not always immediately apparent. The handful of truly devastating things are related in the same blessedly matter-of-fact tone as the day-to-day absurdities, or the (very rare) moments of exquisite happiness or pleasure. I suppose this could trick you into thinking that A Suitable Boy is a boring book, but it's just a book about people . . . and people are a mixed bag, all of them. They're quite interesting . . . But there's no point in overreacting (at least, not if you are the narrator. Mrs. Rupa Mehra, for example, is basically required to overreact.).
I love the way the book's components come together in an entirely coherent, very funny, work. I also love that it is a book for thinking. Books that wallow in feeling too much bore and bother me, and although I would never, ever, ever characterize A Suitable Boy as emotionless or passionless. Passions and emotions are definitely present, but so is a tendency to think about things.
Some brief observations/thoughts:
1. The resolution of Lata's marriage is always something of a relief to me. I think she makes the right choice. That said, I did find the relationship with Kabir rather more convincing and complex this time around. I also think her role as Olivia makes more sense. The first time I read the book, I thought of Lata as much more emphatically a Viola character, but on rereading Olivia seems to suit her after all: "If I achieve nothing else in life, thought Lata, I shall at least have turned into one of the World's Great Neurotics."
2. I really love the political digressions. They jar some people, which is fine, but I think they really help shade in the world of the book. Probably, in the impossible-but-inevitable movie these will make casting a bit difficult: Roshan Seth is almost certainly meant to play the Nawab of Baitar, but it is impossible for any other actor to play Nehru. Conflict!
3. Maan. Such an idiot. Against my will, I love him . . . probably because Firoz does.
4. And I was a bit disappointed to learn that the sequel (which, don't get me wrong, I am totally thrilled for) is not The Adventures of Malati Trivedi and Amit Chatterji, although of course I think they would be Very Wrong for each other in some important ways. But they could definitely have a passionate affair, at least.(less)
While The White Woman's Other Burden was not quite what I expected (the title have misled me slightly - I should have paid more attention to the "othe...moreWhile The White Woman's Other Burden was not quite what I expected (the title have misled me slightly - I should have paid more attention to the "other"), I was very glad that I read it. Jayawardena examines Western women who made (or attempted to make) positive contributions to South Asia, especially on behalf of women and girls. There is understandably a great deal about education and child marriage. I thought it was interesting that Jayawardena focuses mostly on Hindu and Buddhist groups, but I assume that was where most of the material was for whatever reason.
The topic is a sensitive and complex one, which Jayawardena acknowledges throughout. She writes clearly and concisely, and the book is divided up into biographical sketches or articles. This allows her to cover a lot of ground.(less)