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Sunday, February 25, 2007

Books read in February

My February Book Review:

  • Foreign Country - Jonathan Raban

    Borrowed? No.

    This book got rave reviews from some very well-respected authors and reviewers, including Salman Rushdie. I liked it very much in some parts, and not so much in others. Well-written, no doubt. I think it's one of those books that would be of especial interest to those who know something about sailing, or Africa, or what it feels like to be a white person in Africa. Or English.

    Recommended? For sailors, travellers, Afrophiles, and travel writers.
    Reread? No. Well, maybe. But not soon.

  • Passions of the Cut Sleeve - Bret Hinsch

    Borrowed? No.

    A rather early study of gay culture in China throughout the ages. I believe this was the writer's PhD thesis. Interesting, but dated.

    Recommended? Not really.
    Reread? No.

  • The Sleeper Wakes - Marcy Knopf

    Borrowed? No.

    This book is a collection of short stories by some of the literary lights of the Harlem Renaissance. Featured writers include Nella Larsen and Angelina Weld Grimke. Beautiful book, really powerful writing, and some of the writers are women I'd never heard of or never read. Includes some all-time favorites, like Zora Neale Hurston, but it's a book to be read and reread.

    Recommended? Heartily.
    Reread? Repeatedly.

  • The Bride Price - Buchi Emecheta

    Borrowed? No.

    I've had this book forever, and why I didn't start it earlier I do not know. Twelve smacks in the head with a sheet of wet paper. Ow. Beautiful. The writer, who now lives in the UK, is very prolific, very talented, very very good. All that said, it's a very depressing story. But still worth reading. Don't take my word for it. And yes, it's available for loan, but you must return it, or 922 cats (and kittens!) may torment you.

    Recommended? Highly.
    Reread? Not for a bit, I'm afraid.

  • Take the Cannoli - Sarah Vowell

    Borrowed? Sadly - No!

    It is my understanding that the writer is a highly acclaimed Hip Young Person. And I can't deny that she is a wordsmith. However, when she mocks Maya Angelou, I have to question her purpose. Perhaps she's just too terminally hip to tip a hat to other writers. For what it's worth, she's entertaining, but not memorable.

    Recommended? Only to those in pursuit of terminal hipatude.
    Reread? Why?

  • Nectar in a Sieve - Kamala Markandeya

    Borrowed? No.

    Another writer who comes highly recommended and raved. I wish I'd put the book down when I started to feel disenchanted, but in my own defense, I felt if I could give Daniel Deronda another bash, I could certainly persevere with Kamala Markandeya. Frankly, this is one of those books that has become, to me, all too representative of Third World Literature, or, more accurately, Third World Writers Writing In English. The writer is talented, and can capture your interest, but the story is so unremittingly dreary and depressing. At least Buchi Emecheta's book had its delightful moments. This book was unending misery.

    Recommended? Only if you've stocked up on your psychoactive meds.
    Reread? I haven't. There isn't a stockpile large enough of happy pills, that is, for me to reread this.

  • 'Tis Pity She's A Whore - John Ford

    Borrowed? NO!!! Dammit.

    This is one of those plays that makes me grateful I was born in these times - even if global warming is proceeding apace, and the fish are dying out and there won't be any tigers or hippos in a decade, and we'll all be living on texturized soy protein. At least we won't have to deal with a misogynistic church and its maggoty mouthpieces, the educated classes. She's a whore because her brother seduced her, you see. Whereas he, the seducer, is a fine upstanding young - schmuck. And her husband, who beats her, is A Man Wronged. And her father who gets her married off is Merely Caring For His Brood. And the friar, who urges her to marry the wife-beater, is Simply Trying To Save Her Soul. Pardon my foreign language of choice, but fuck the lot of them, the self-righteous, hypocritical swine - no offense to swine, who are fine sources of protein, not to mention quite charming in their own right. In any event. It was a difficult read.

    Recommended? Certainly not, and I don't care if you are majoring in English Literature.
    Reread? Only on pain of suffering and death.

  • The Post Office - Rabindranath Tagore

    Borrowed? No.

    This charming, sweet little play is a spiritual allegory. I found it irresistible, delightful, even though I don't care for deist superstition. It was not intrusive deism, just a very sweet allusion to something better in human nature. Or so it could be read. And so, certainly, did I read it.

    Recommended? Highly.
    Reread? Oh, yes.

  • Rabbit-Proof Fence - Doris Pilkington

    Borrowed? No.

    The author is the granddaughter and grandniece of the three women who made the astounding trek across Australia that is commemorated in the book and film of the above title. The writer is not very skilled, but the book is worth reading for its glimpse at the lives of the Native Australians and the incredible cruelty they suffered at the hands of white Australians.

    Recommended? Yes.
    Reread? Not anytime soon, but not for lack of wanting.

  • I Married A Barbarian - Dennis Bloodworth and Liang Ching Ping

    Borrowed? No.

    This is a sweet story of a long and enduring relationship between two people who came from the opposite sides of the world to settle in Singapore. I wasn't planning to read any love stories, but it's set in a period that is germane to The Book Writing Project, and I got caught up in the story anyway. No great literary masterpiece, but nice. And sweet.

    Recommended? Only for those who are interested in World War II, and the period between 1940 and 2005, or Asia, or - love stories, I guess.
    Reread? Probably not.

Short list this month. I blame two bouts of the flu, some badly-needed weeding of the garden, and work.

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At 11:14 PM, Blogger Sandy-LA 90034 said...

Good God, you're an inspiration! Sorry about the flu bouts, but you're a gazillion books ahead of me.

At my advanced age (just turned 60), I've just taken my second collge class -- a UCLA extension poetry class no less. The other class was taken 20 years ago -- Intro to Sociology.

I've used popular romance, mystery, science fiction, etc. books as an escape my entire adult life. I take medication for ADHD and other OCD diagnoses and if a book fails to keep my attention, I can't get further than the first page or so.

Your reading list has been an astonishing discovery for me and I admire your tenacity and determination so much.

I consider myself a refugee from multi-national corporate headquarters. I spent 35+ years working many hours of overtime to keep up with administrative support positions for top fortune 20 corporations.

I've read many books of interest to me -- psychology, quantum physics, business-related, environmental, etc. The only way I could get myself to stick to reading them was by treat myself to a restaurant meal after overtime work and I'd reward 15 minutes of heavy duty reading (underlining with red pen) with a romance novel or mystery that didn't require concentration.

This is a long comment and probably too much information you're not interested in, but I enjoy your comments at 4Legs' blog and Lizzie's and came here to check out your blog.

You may be influential in steerinig me to some books I would never have thought to read. Thanks for the inspiration.

At 12:42 PM, Blogger ThePoliticalCat said...

Hi, Sandy-LA, how nice to see you! Gee you're only a couple of years or so away from my own age. Actually, I thoroughly enjoy your comments, please feel free to come by and chat any time. I'm working 12-hour days this entire week and probably next week as well, but I promise to get back to you when I can.
If you've read my earlier posts, you'll see that I too spent a lot of my time reading mystery and science fiction, while acquiring books of other types by the boatload and never reading them. Last year, I took 3 weeks' vacation for family reasons (ugh) and decided I'd take some of the unread material. I got through 48 books in 3 weeks.
Of course, I was reading on the train and the plane and the bus and in waiting rooms and in the bath and at restaurants, so it's really not that surprising, I guess. Plus, being away from home (no chores) and eating out created more reading time.
Anyway, I impressed myself so much that I decided to winnow my massive book collection and make public lists and force myself to read. It's working!
Thanks for the info! Now I know who you are, in addition to enjoying your comments on the different blogs we haunt. I would never have found Lizzy of 922 Cats without you!

At 5:25 PM, Blogger McBlogget said...

Hmm, that's an odd concept that a history book can be "dated", especially since the book's only 15 years old!TH

At 9:47 PM, Blogger Sandy-LA 90034 said...

I would never have found Lizzy of 922 Cats without you!

Isn't she great! And I must say that I am twice as entertained now that the two of you carry on some very amusing duets. You guys make me laugh out loud!

I'm so glad you saw my comment and replied!

Hope your work load slows down soon.

At 12:19 AM, Blogger ThePoliticalCat said...

I wish! I'm actually taking Friday off to recuperate, but it looks like I'm coming down with a cold now. (Again.) I'm glad I've provided someone with amusement! You've often done the same for me, so do come visit! It's always nice to see (hear) you.


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