Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Salman Rushdie, Rohinton Mistry, Myra Syal

what I'm reading now:
The Satanic Verses, by Salman Rushdie. Hyperverbal, polylinguic. Intensely reminiscent of Carlos Fuentes. Metafiction, multiple historical time periods, interwoven/repeating characters, obsession with cinema.He's a new author for me, and I am entranced. I'll read everything he's ever written (don't disappoint me!) The way to my heart is too much information - woo me with a superfluity of words.
more to come on this book!

Two other writers with Indian themes I've been reading lately -

The most depressing book in the world: A Fine Balance, by Rohinton Mistry. (I chanced on it at Goodwill: again, it was in Oprah's book club, so there were about six copies.) It was very good; I got deeply attached to the people. One of those books that can make you triumph over small achievements - a good meal, a new shirt, a shared glass of tea...I love books that make you entirely enter their world (best example of this, by far, is Solzenitzen's A Day in The Life of Ivan Denisovich.) I loved reading about their initial wary tolerance and eventual family of choice between the four strangers and their daily life doing piecework against the clock. The widow Dina Dalal was my favorite. She quietly made her own small space for herself - her uprightness and inflexibility were monstrously frustrating but she was revolutionary and absolutely admirable as well. However, the book had the most completely horrible ending ever. Think of the worst possible ending and multiply it by four. I was so gloomy after this book; the ending was so excruciatingly awful because you could envision in such detail the possibility for a happier one. Sometimes I hate and detest realism. I never knew or learned much about the post-independence government of India. This book was a great primer on the worst of its corruptions. I had to do quite a bit of background reading in encyclopedias to ground myself. I learned about the partition and way too much about corrupt bureaucracies and usurpation of power (I actually snuck this book in last semester, so I read it over a long period rather than in one gluttonous binge) I recommend this book; but don't read it if you are depressed with the state of the world and human nature in general.

A throwaway chick-lit book: Life Isn't All Ha Ha Hee Hee, by Meera Syal. Actually set in the Indian community in London. Not bad if you like the genre. Lots of funny parts about relationships and mother-daughter bonds. Pretty bland and almost formulaic - you could insert any culture and write a ready-made book - although that may be unfair. However, still funny and enjoyable even with wildly improbable plot twists. It's well-written and smart, so I recommend it as a bathtub indulgence read for when you're feeling girly.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

npr link - al gore

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Tim O'Brian, John Grisham

Just finished two short books (I love summer!) First the good one: The Things They Carried, by Tim O'Brien. It was simultaneously numb and harsh and present. It was very short, jumpy, raw. It seemed reminiscent of something but I haven't read it before - maybe something of Vonnegut's attitude? Tragic, yes, but absolutely hilarious at the same time. I laughed out loud, and then felt callous for doing it. Deeply pessimistic? No, I think, more resigned than anything else. Anyway, I enjoyed it although it made me feel sick to my stomach. Almost too timely. Second, fairly lame book: A Painted House, by John Grisham. Another book that I finished just because I started - I picked it up at somebody's house and they lent it to me. (Thank you! I love borrowing books!) Now, I'm no snob, and I like Grisham's legal thrillers, especially with chocolate late at night. But this was an attempt at a much more serious book and much more carefully written. Also much more boring. I did enjoy it - but the protagonist was seven years old and not particularly fascinating. Brief synopsis: cotton farming sucks. Baseball and grandparents don't. Oddly enough there was a The Client like sequence where the kid witnesses a murder and keeps quiet about it ... I guess he had to stick a couple murders in there so as not to disappoint his fans. So - decent book - but doesn't quite become the classic evocation of southern farm life in the fifties it is trying to be.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

final verdict on birds without wings: much better than captain corelli's mandolin. I really enjoyed the backround on the greek/turkish/ottoman/armenian/kurdish conflicts. I'd never read much on that aspect of WWI before, except a bit on the balkans. Makes me want to pull out a history book. Definitely want to learn more about the ottoman empire. So, although the people were definitely similar, the setting was interesting enough to make it worthwhile.
trying to study for the mcat while watching 3-4 little boys is frazzling me. I have a newfound respect for my mother. i find it difficult to finish ANY task
oh yeah- i'm double posting here and on my xanga blog because I'm experimenting here but I'm eventually going to delete that one

Thursday, May 18, 2006


well. a new blog. I don't know html yet, so be patient. This is fairly experimental so far. I was not satisfied with myspace, and I haven't figured out how to move my old posts over. anyway, Bredon, the genius, is going to help me (right, Bredon?)
( about the title, it's from "To the Countess of Bedford")

"Poverty is the worst form of violence." - Ghandi

Louis de Bernieres

At the moment, this is my private blog- it's late at night, and I'm having trouble sleeping. I've decided to use this site as my private book journal - I hate it when I can't remember what I thought about a book or an author. I'm reading Birds Without Wings, by Louis de Bernieres, the author of Captain Corelli's Mandolin. It is a good read, somewhat grandiose and melodramatic. It's a bit too similar to the above mentioned book in theme and tone for my tastes, and again, a bit self-consciously tragic, although it is set in the Ottoman empire in world war I.. I enjoy the female characters, but it's a little much that they all seem to view men with the same bemused toleration or are interchangeable tragic/romantic heroine/victims. I'll finish the book because I started it and am interested in the people, but I don't think I'll pick up anothor book by the same author unless it has something radically different to say.

well - i'm farther into the book, and it is getting better. but I REALLY hate it when authors stick half baked poetry and songs into their books. (I could even live without Tolkein's.)

Alice Munro

I’ve heard and read a great deal of praise for Alice Munro, and so I had her in the back of my mind. Usually I have a habit of writing down author’s names on small scraps of paper and losing them for a few years. On my last rummage shopping trip I happened to see two collections of her short stories, Runaway, and The Progress of Love; so I picked them up, and have finally just finished reading them. I think I am a little disappointed. The stories were surely beautifully written. The protagonists were all women, in ordinary lives. They were perfectly drawn and photo-real. The stories were mostly set in small Canadian towns that reminded me of the small Midwestern towns I grew up near. There was a clarity and an unfulfilled quality about each of the women. Perhaps I read them too quickly, or too close together, but they seemed to blend together a little, as if there were really only a few characters stretched out with assumed names into all the stories. I was also strangely reminded of A. S. Byatt – not exactly in writing style – Munro is a craftsman that Byatt certainly isn’t – but maybe in perspective? Her female characters seem to share this distance from their own lives. And an clinical attitude about sex. I mean she writes about passion, but without emotion. Maybe it is only a timeframe similarity, as I get the impression that the women in both authors’ work are from the same decades. I do want to read her full length novels. The short story format usually leaves me a little disappointed. There is so little resolution in a short story, and so little time to get to know the people in it.
(I also posted this on myspace- - I think I am going to make this site just for books)

just some quotations

just some quotations
"Poverty is the parent of revolution and crime. "

"Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is in an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob, and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe."
Frederick Douglass (1817 - 1895), Speech, April 1886