Archive for September, 2011

Book 800 Eduardo Galeano – The Memory of Fire : Book 1 – Genesis

September 29, 2011

 

Due to the amount of out of print books in the 1980’s segment of the challenge, I had to order a lot of books beforehand instead of taking it one book at a time, as I had done for the 90’s and 00’s, When I found out that I was tackling a trilogy I did groan a bit. I mean staying stuck on the same book for a while can get a little bit tiresome – especially now that I’m starting school again so my increased workload means decreased reading time.

But I enjoyed this first volume so far. Galeano is attempting to chronicle the history of South America (and some other places in the areas such as Cuba) and starts off with Indian mythology and works his way til 1700. All the famous people have their parts – Columbus , Pizarro , Drake , Philip II etc .

The reason why I’m probably enjoying this so much is that all the info is presented into little bite sized chunks and vary a lot, sometimes there are poems , anecdotes and historical info . What Galeano is trying to bring out is that the history of South America is one of slavery and a race who were deprived for their land and culture, all in the name of progress.

Anyway volume 2 focuses on the years 1700 – 1900. Should be interesting

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Book 801 Kingsley Amis – The Old Devils

September 24, 2011

 

Like many others, my first Kingsley Amis was Lucky Jim , which I remember reading in the summer of 1998. I thoroughly enjoyed it and finished it off in one sitting. So I was glad to have the chance to tackle another one.

Ah well

I was very disappointed with The Old Devils – yes it’s a satire on Welsh mentality and academia but I found the prose so dry and stilted that the humour didn’t even have an  affect on me anymore.

Basically the novel revolves a group of ageing friends and their wives who booze around all day, that is until local hero Alun returns to Wales with his wife. What ensues are affairs , meditations on art, how modern life is rubbish and values. Eventually something happens to Alun which changes the lives these men lead.

I really wanted to love this book but I couldn’t. Maybe a second reading in ten years time?

 

 

Book 802 Ngugi wa’ Thiong’o – Matigari

September 13, 2011

 

My first attempt at reading Ngugi wa Thiong’o was when I tackled A Grain of Wheat in 2005. I admit I did not like the book. Unfortunately with Matigari my view of this author did not change.

The novel is a political satire of  the corruption that became rampant during pot independent Kenya. Matigari is a sort of Jesus Christ/ rebel warrior figure who tries to restore order in a land he had fought in order for it to be free.

As such it’s not a bad book but I had trouble relating to it , even though I did my research on the Kenyan politics. At times I was frustrated by the very bad translation and by the end I got heavily irritated.

Until someone manages to translate this novel adequately then my opinion of it won’t really change. It’s out of print so I wouldn’t recommend making an effort to obtain it.

 

 

Book 803 Lorrie Moore – Anagrams

September 9, 2011

 

Reading Anagrams reminded me of  watching a Woody Allen film ; clever plot , witty one liners and lots of laughs.

Benna Carpenter is a person who depends entirely on words. In fact she makes up characters and invents imaginary conversations with them. In the process she invents certain aspects of her life.

However in reality she  teaches a poetry class , falls in love with a student and has a close relationship with her one her best friend Gerard. Unfortunately certain events take place and Benna has to face reality, ditch the anagrams and live life as it should.

With the exception of its heartfelt last section, Anagrams made me laugh out loud constantly. I’m a huge fan of puns and jokes so I found the book an extremely enjoyable read. Plus it’s much better than the short story collection I read last year. On the surface this may seem like chick lit but trust me it’s much deeper than that.

 

 

Book 804 David Leavitt – The Lost Language of Cranes

September 4, 2011

 

One small drawback about this list is that sometimes the wrong book comes at the wrong time, this has happened with a couple of the previous novels, especially the V.S. Naipaul one I reviewed recently, however sometimes the perfect book comes along and the circumstances are perfect.

I’m slowly going back to my full routine and I really needed something light with a flowing plot and thankfully ‘The Lost Language of Cranes’ provided that. It’s an easy-going novel and although, the plot tackles a serious topic it never gets long-winded.

Philip is gay, but he has kept this hidden from his parent for about 25 years. The thing is (it’s not a spoiler you find out after a couple of pages) that his father, Owen, is a homosexual as well and has been keeping this as a secret.

The rest of the novel deals with Philips relationships  and Owen’s more secretive trysts. I guess, like Hollinghurst, Leavitt is trying to show that each generation has his own way of dealing his orientation.

Eventually both come out to Rose (who has had her fair share of affairs) who reacts in a typical way. Leavitt also tackles how parents deal with their children coming out – as the other gay/lesbian characters in the novel have their experiences as well.

If I do have one gripe it’s that I felt that some characters weren’t well-rounded and just used a sort of plot device, the lesbian Jerene and her lover are such an example. I mean other than revealing what the book’s title refers to ( a baby who was abandoned and gravitated towards construction cranes and even mimicked their noises, which gives the impression that they had a language – just like the characters in the novel have a lost language) she is a bit superfluous. But it’s really not much of a complaint as the character interaction in ‘…Lost Language….’ is so well executed that these quibbles seem silly.

Yes this is a novel about relationships and in-depth as well. It’s a pity that this book is out of print as it deserves a much wider audience.