Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Catching Up x 5

Wow, I've been slacking on the lit supp bloggage. A quick review, then, of the five books I've read since last posting.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro Simply put, this is one of the best books of the decade (as you may have heard) but its greatness sneaks up on you. It's a quick and easy read, except that it's emotional and in the end frankly heartbreaking, and definitely not light. Oh, no. It's a meditation on both the darkest and most wondrous aspects of humanity. You realize its significance only after you've walked away from it and you start asking yourself how the length of your life relates to its worth. Oh, that Kazuo - he's good. Really good. As a bonus, the movie is out now with Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield, two of the finest young actors around.

Zami : A New Spelling of My Name by Audre Lorde Started reading this for the feminist book group, didn't finish it in time, skipped the book group, but then reviewed it for About. I mean, I was already well aware of Audre Lorde, her poetry, her significance, and in fact this book, though I had not got around to reading the "biomythography." I'm not sure it was necessary to come up with that word to describe it, but then again, in 1980 perhaps she and her writer friends were still not acknowledging that "all first novels are thinly veiled memoirs" as Jonathan Safran Foer later pointed out. It was interesting enough to get the slices of New York life - 1950s lesbian bars, West Indies immigrants, Harlem Catholic schools vs. public schools, Hunter College, the after-effects of an illegal abortion, the factory in Stamford, Connecticut, and so on. I did not, however, think it was all that in terms of giving any some great magical insight into Audre and her coming into her feminist poet self. I was jealous of her stint in Mexico, though. For the record, 'Zami' is not the new spelling of Audre - 'Audre' is the new spelling of Audrey. But that's just how this book rolls.

Le Petit Nicolas by Jean-Jacques Sempe Picked up this little French intermediate reader book, which I read part of years ago, to keep up with my goal of reading at least one book in French/Spanish every month (a goal I am not meeting, by the way. Gotta work on that.) As always, it was delightful. All the little sneaky insights, and all those elementary-age boys' antics, and all those adults' antics. Highly recommended.

I Will Fight No More Forever: Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce War by Merrill Beal I bought this at a used bookstore a couple years ago because my grandfather, who died last month, always half-jokingly declared, "I will fight no more forever!" to end a not-so-serious argument or discussion. I finally got around to reading it because I brought it on the plane when I flew to grandpa's funeral, in his honor. I learned so much about the Nez Perce people and how the U.S. royally screwed them over (big surprise) and how stalwart, noble, smart, and willing to compromise Chief Joseph was, right up to the end. He really was trying to help his people, too, to get back to land that could give them some kind of life/living and not just crap reservation life with no economic possibility on land that nobody (white or Indian) wanted. He just wanted to find a single white man who would actually tell the truth. The first half of the book can be a little dry when it gets into minutiae of battles and retreat, but the geography of it all was also super interesting, particularly because the aforementioned grandfather was from Utah and southern Idaho (shout-out to Pocatello!) and I suddenly had insight into what recent history this all was around there when grandpa was in high school. Everyone should know this history, everyone in the U.S. - but I'm worried that those who did, like my grandpa, have all left us or are leaving soon.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson Read this one for my other book group. Interesting. You know Shirley Jackson as the author of "The Lottery" of course. This book is a little less stark but equally creepy-insidious. The main character/narrator is subtly psycho, and this is totally worth a read. Also, there is a wonderful cat, Jonas, and he lives! Hurrah for Jonas!

After those five, I moved on to my latest prez bio, Polk, and I shall post about that next.