Friday, September 24, 2010

Lisa Moore - February

The first book that came to mind when I read the description about Lisa Moore's February is Anita Shreve's The Pilot's Wife. And I don't mean prose style because I have not read Moore at all. Instead what struck me was this rumination on and coming to terms with loss that both books seem to have at their heart. I was terribly queasy reading The Pilot's Wife because it set me thinking about a lot of things. I am curious how I might perceive that book now, ten years after I first read it. Back to Moore, February, according to one of my favourite readers, DGR,

is a book about the excruciating pain of grief and loss, about tragedy and its long-term impact, about family and love, solitude and loneliness, memory and so much more, yet for all its inherent sadness it's also full of moments of hope and happiness. There can be no easy way to end a book like this, in fact it could all have gone horribly wrong, but to my mind Lisa Moore achieved something quite beautiful and completely perfect in the final pages, the significance of which will not be lost on anyone who decides to read this one.
You might want to cry for Helen...well I did.

I realize, as I do all these review readings of this year's Booker longlist, that I am more inclined to read a book that deals with a personal journey of some sort: physical, psychological.The most affecting events in life are seldom the most dramatic. Therefore too much drama in a book is a big put off for me. But, to the credit of this year's judges, the listed books seem very interesting, unique and worth reading. I am glad I chose a good list to explore.

Is February on my reading list? You bet.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Christos Tsiolkas - The Slap

Christos Tsiolkas's The Slap has been popular for a while, has already won a Commonwealth award, has garnered plenty of reviews. It did not make it to the Man Booker 2010 shortlist. But, here are a couple of interesting reviews of the book:

One, from the Guardian, is neutral, throwing in guarded praise, yet sharing enough of the story and its premise to let the reader decide if The Slap might be worth her time
The premise is this: an obnoxious child does something faintly threatening at a family barbecue, and the father of the threatened child smacks him. Everyone is so upset by this that the barbecue breaks up in a hurry, and within a day, the parents of the slapped child have the slapper arrested.
...all the characters in The Slap are touchy, and that seems to be part of Tsiolkas's point – in the Australia of the 21st century, multiculturalism has won. People of all ages, all ethnic groups and all political persuasions are interconnected and intermarried, and, at least some of the time, they just can't handle it. The Slap, which was first published in Australia in 2008 and has since won the Commonwealth prize, is a "way we live now" novel, and it is riveting from beginning to end.
the great thing about The Slap is that it cannot be neatly summarised. Tsiolkas uses his premise as a guy-line to stabilise his larger structure, but his real talent is for exploring the inner lives of his eight primary characters, four women and four men, ranging in age from 18 to 70. And each of these characters is a sharp observer of those around him or her, so many more lives are illuminated as well.

The other, from someone who calls himself the Common Reader, is categorical in its dislike of the book
The story is very simple.  A barbecue is being held, and when two children are fighting, the father of one of them slaps the other child.  The parents of the slapped child are outraged and report the matter to the police. 
What does The Slap say about the human condition?  That humans have no capability for self-awareness, that we act entirely to suit ourselves with no thought for others, that we are bound by our upbringing and our native culture and cannot conceive of ways of thinking other than our own, that we are dominated by our physicality, defined by our need for gratification whether through sex or drugs.
The author seems to hate his characters and has created a set of stereotypes on whom he can vent his spleen – the self-made businessman who goes home and beats up his wife, the drug-taking teenagers, the earth-mother aging hippy who breast-feeds her three-year old, the conference attenders who screw around while high on speed, the drunk neer-do-well with pretensions to be an artist.  Its a world populated by cardboard characters who all act so totally predictably.

A boy is slapped by another kid's father. The act has repercussions. What happens around this incident in the lives of all the people involved appears to be what the novel is trying to portray. And from the Guardian review, the author uses this premise to explore the way people live if not in the world, atleast in a multicultural melting pot that could be today's Australia or somewhere similar.

Interesting? I think so. Particularly since one reading of the book is literal and another reflective. I did not read any of the other reviews and will give this book a shot.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Man Booker 2010 Shortlist

Right, shortlist out, sort of disappointed that Skippy Dies didn't make it, but happy for Room and C going strong too. Thought Thousand Autumns might have a shortlist chance but I guess the experiments on language (dialogue) didn't fit parameters.

The shortlist:

Peter Carey Parrot and Olivier in America (Faber and Faber)

Emma Donoghue Room (Picador - Pan Macmillan)

Damon Galgut In a Strange Room (Atlantic Books - Grove Atlantic)

Howard Jacobson The Finkler Question (Bloomsbury)

Andrea Levy The Long Song (Headline Review -
Headline Publishing Group)

Tom McCarthy C (Jonathan Cape - Random House)

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Emma Donoghue - Room

Did you know that Room is about a five year old child Jack and his Ma, who live in a eleven by eleven locked room? And that Jack thinks that this Room is the world until Ma reveals to him about the one outside?

Well, I didn't until a few minutes ago, and I have no intention of knowing more until I read the book though I bet my life that I will be crying over some parts. Funny I never thought of myself as maternal until my son came along and now when I see a baby held precariously on the pillion of a motorcycle my heart takes a dive and I just want to fly out and make sure the baby is okay. Earlier I'd have made a dry remark about how careless these pillion riding moms were. So Emma Donoghue on my to read list. And no, I did not read any reviews of the Room. Those will have to wait until I finish the book.

Emma Donoghue's website has plenty on her and her works: start with the FAQ if you like.

Room at the Man Booker website.