Thursday, 29 October 2009

A New World

Hello...sorry, it's been too long. Finished Call It Sleep by Henry Roth last week, but have been caught up in the whirlwind of moving/settling in/starting a new life.

Anyway...I had said in my previous post that I had very much been looking forward to reading this novel, and it didn't disappoint.

Told in two languages (although both are English), the story of David and his immigrant family is powerful, heartbreaking and profoundly moving. I have always had a bit of a fascination with New York City history and how the millions of immigrants who came to the city made their way in such an unfamiliar and intense environment.

David's street language (English) is rough and coarse, but the language he speaks at home (Yiddish, translated into English for the reader) is beautiful and elegant. What happens in his home is a different world to what happens on the street, but violence rears its ugly head in both.

The reader not only gets David's experience of life in New York at the turn of the century, but also his parents' individual experiences. His angry father and loving mother both have their reasons for secrecy, but David is able to piece together their sad history and their reasons for coming to America. The struggles that both face are emblematic of the struggle that most immigrants faced.

Roth's voice in this novel is sympathetic, of course, and his prose invites the reader to feel the same sympathy without pity. A strained and fractured family experience in the wider context of harsh immigrant life: brilliant.

Next up: Great Apes by Will Self.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Future Shock

Finished The Children Of Men by P.D. James yesterday.

A sobering and fascinating look at our nearly immediate future - even though this book was written about ten years ago.

James' prose speaks eloquently of a time when human beings can no longer reproduce, and the human race begins to slowly die out.

The protagonist, Theo, is a professor and scholar who feels as if his life work is all now rather pointless. It does beg the question - what is the point of history when there will be no one there to remember/study it? Would we keep honoring the past if we knew that the future didn't exist?

I would like to think that I would still want to read, look at art, listen to music, visit foreign countries, fill my mind with all that I could. Why wouldn't I? I don't think I would want to wallow in the hopelessness of the situation.

James also writes of a government which treats its elders with contempt, its youth with indifference and its immigrants with a complete lack of respect. She definitely draws parallels with contemporary society.

All wrapped up in a suspense-filled drama, with sympathy, apathy, and nobility.

Up next: Call It Sleep by Henry Roth - a book I have been wanting to read for AGES. Very much looking forward to this one.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Curious, Indeed

Finished The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon a couple of days ago (been busy - now blogging about it, finally).

An easy read - as in quick - but touching and profound.

The story is told from the perspective of Christopher, a British teenager who suffers from Asperger's syndrome, a form of autism. Christopher's condition renders him unable to process emotions and feelings like the average person, but this doesn't mean he doesn't have them himself; he just deals with them in a very different way.

The story begins with the murder of a neighbor's dog, but takes on the shape of a complex and heartbreaking family drama, all seen through Christopher's analytical and seemingly emotionless eyes.

To me, however, it seemed that Christopher DID experience great tides of emotion and feeling (hence him feeling ill and agitated when confronted with an unpleasantness); his mind is simply unable to handle the extremity of feeling - so he retreats into the logical and cold world of mathematics and science to deal with what is happening to him.

Christopher's family situation is desperately sad, but it is because he is the way he is that allows him to deal with it in a detached manner - but with a very deep-down well of feeling that he is unable to show.

Sweet, sad, funny, heartbreaking. A good read.

Up next: The Children of Men by P.D. James.

Thursday, 1 October 2009


Finished Foucault's Pendulum yesterday.

Whew. My mind is still wrapping itself around this one. This book needs to come with a dictionary, encyclopedia and Cliffs Notes. SO much to discover and digest.

I don't even know if I can talk about this book coherently, so I will just say this: It was one of the most complex, byzantine, labyrinthine, brilliant books I have ever read.

I think my IQ has gone up by a few points just for finishing it.

Seriously, not sure I can say too much else without living up to its unbelievable size - in all senses. Will come back to discuss in a later post.

Up next: A break needed, so some lighter fare: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon.