We had a genuine snow event yesterday with 4-5 inches of heavy wet snow. Eldest and I decided errands were not going to happen so we spent the day inside watching the snow obscure the view and listen to the wind howl. I spent the day re-reading my friend’s manuscript and eldest sat writing a web series he and his friend are developing. Today the robins who arrived earlier in the month started peaking out from the evergreen trees and tweeting again today. I did manage to finish two books this week, After the Apocalypse: Stories by Maureen McHugh and The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett. I think it is helping get back into the swing of reading by starting off with short bursts.
Here is what caught my interest this week:
I can always count on Eva from A Striped Armchair to be reading a diverse and interesting set of books. This week she has two on my list. The first is a brief notation of a book she got out of the library this week called Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo. This is the first work by Journalist Katherine Boo who has previously won a Pulitzer Prize while working for the Washington Post for her series on homes for the mentally impaired. She is also the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship and other awards for her work in The New Yorker. The author spent three years with the occupants of the tin shacks and cardboard hovels of a slum in the shadows of the Mumbai airport. She chronicles the hopes and dreams of the people she meets contrasted by the harsh realities of their existence. Here is an excerpt of The New York Times review, “… exquisitely accomplished first book. Novelists dream of defining characters this swiftly and beautifully, but Ms. Boo is not a novelist. She is one of those rare, deep-digging journalists who can make truth surpass fiction, a documentarian with a superb sense of human drama. She makes it very easy to forget that this book is the work of a reporter. …. Comparison to Dickens is not unwarranted.”
The second book that caught my eye from Eva’s blog is Prospero’s Daughter by Elizabeth Nunez whose earlier novel Bruised Hibiscus is sitting on my to be read shelf. Nunez, who is from Trinidad, places this work on a small island off Trinidad in the late 1950’s. A white doctor accuses a young, black man of attempting to rape his daughter. Nunez uses Shakespeare’s The Tempest to explore issues of race, class, and colonialism. I have always liked The Tempest and how Shakespeare manages to explore the complicity of man and his relationships with so few characters and in such a limited space. If Nunez even manages to come somewhat close, this may be a work considering. Eva certainly thinks so writing:
I cannot emphasize enough how wonderful this novel was. As a postcolonial story, it’s masterfully layered and lends itself to multiple, close readings. As a piece of literature, Nunez’s play with The Tempest is smart and fun and powerful. And as a story, it’s impossible to not want to know how it ends or care for the characters involved…Nunez’s writing defies straightforward deconstruction or easy analysis, but it spoke to something deep within me, and I suspect it will speak to other readers as well. In case you haven’t guessed, I highly, highly recommend this to everyone.
Tomás Eloy Martínez is an important South American journalist and novelist. He frequently challenged authority and lived in exile during the Argentinian Dictatorship in the 1970’s. Martinez’s last novel Purgatory was recently translated into English and published in this country. Jackie of Farmlane Books reviews the novel with somewhat mixed feelings. Even so, I am interested in this novel for two reasons. One reason is the first line of the novel, “Simón Cardoso had been dead thirty years when his wife, Emilia Dupuy, spotted him at lunchtime in the lounge bar in Trudy Tuesday.” Emilia’s husband disappeared shortly after they were married in a period of time when many Argentinians were disappearing. Emilia believes, all these years, that Simon is alive despite the witnesses who say otherwise and spends the next thirty years in a sort of Purgatory. The second reason is the subtlety of the novel. This is what caused Jackie the most problems when reading and I like quiet, subtle novels so I am intrigued to see what I would think of this one.
Finally Alyce of At Home with Books had a link to a short article on the mental health benefits of rereading. I come from a long line of re-readers and my youngest is definitely a re-reader (it was obvious from a very young age) so it was nice to find out there are actual benefits to rereading.