Books read in February
My February Book Review:
- Foreign Country - Jonathan Raban
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
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.
- The Sleeper Wakes - Marcy Knopf
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.
- The Bride Price - Buchi Emecheta
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.
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.
- Nectar in a Sieve - Kamala Markandeya
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
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.
Reread? Oh, yes.
- Rabbit-Proof Fence - Doris Pilkington
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.
Reread? Not anytime soon, but not for lack of wanting.
- I Married A Barbarian - Dennis Bloodworth and Liang Ching Ping
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. Stumble It!