I thought I’d better do a catch up here. So easy to fall behind. Our bodies get in the way of our lifestyle. We must tend to teeth, eyes, bones and whatever else starts to fall apart as we age. Lots of appointments but pretty caught up now. I am getting new reading glasses next week. I have had a year of very poor left eye vision and now it is as good as it can be, two pairs of glasses have been ordered. One for life, one for books.
So I’ll start with what I’ve read this month and what I thought of it.
First off is the Armchair Explorer book by Lonely Planet project. I spun the wheel and ended up with the country Haiti. I did a bit of exploring and travelling through google and settled on the female Haitian author Edwidge Danticat. The book I chose is called Krik Krak.
Her Wikipedia profile reads: Edwidge Danticat is a Haitian-American novelist and short story writer. Her first novel, Breath, Eyes, Memory, was published in 1994. Danticat has since written or edited several books and has been the recipient of many awards and honors.
From Good Reads: At an astonishingly young age, Edwidge Danticat has become a celebrated new writer. She is an artist who evokes the wonder, terror, and heartache of her native Haiti–and the enduring strength of Haiti’s women–with a vibrant imagery and narrative grace that bear witness to her people’s suffering and courage.
When Haitians tell a story, they say “Krik?” and the eager listeners answer “Krak!” In Krik? Krak! Danticat establishes herself as the latest heir to that narrative tradition with nine stories that encompass both the cruelties and the high ideals of Haitian life. They tell of women who continue loving behind prison walls and in the face of unfathomable loss; of a people who resist the brutality of their rulers through the powers of imagination. The result is a collection that outrages, saddens, and transports the reader with its sheer beauty.
My thoughts: This book is not for the faint hearted. The atrocities committed by the soldiers as they sweep through villages is enough to make one want to stick your head deep into sand and not look up. Absolutely horrific. I’m talking nightmare materials. Her stories of experiences under the dictatorship of Haitian leaders and actions of the soldiers as they sweep through villages. The atrocities….are just that. I’m glad I read it and understand more of the history of Haiti but I will have a rest from exploring future books. The writing was wonderful and the author doesn’t shy away from the hard issues. Although she resides in the USA now she still considers herself very much linked to her homeland.
The other book I finished was These Precious Days by Ann Patchett. I listened to it on Audible and it was narrated by her. A series of vignettes about her life, well written but I must admit I got weary of repetition in this book. She begins one chapter about her views on not wanting to have children in her life. Okay, fine. Then it comes up again. And again. And again. And again. It made me wonder if she was as committed to her choices as she claims.
I wanted her to talk more about other aspects of her writing life and her life in Nashville with her book store. She did move on to another important story in her life. She did some work with Tom Hanks. During the interview she met his personal assistant, an Asian woman in her 60s who she was really drawn to. Long story short, when this friend she makes develops pancreatic cancer in the time of Covid and needs to attend medical trials, Ms Patchett whose husband is a doctor organises for it to happen in Nashville. (ignore the grammatical structure of that last sentence.)
The woman moves in with the Patchett family and from there the description of the friendship finishes off the last section of this book. It is quite emotional but it is also. r e a l l y o v e r d o n e in my humble opinion. I found everything she wrote about was hammered into the earth like a person driving a very long spike into the ground with a sledge hammer. I know there are many who love this book. The only book of hers I have read is The State of Wonder. I enjoyed it very much and I want to read the Dutch House. I hear so much about her books and I’m sure I’d enjoy them. I think writing fictional stories well and then changing to writing memoirs well are two different things. In this case I’ll stick to the fiction.
New Books waiting to be read: Latest Readings by Clive James and Allegorizings by Jan Morris. I have started Latest Readings and am enjoying it quite a bit however he does mention British authors who I am unfamiliar with and has discussions around them. I don’t mind this as I enjoy his writing. I will share a short blurb from inside dust jacket: In 2010, C James was diagnosed with terminal leukemia. Deciding that “if you don’t know the exact moment when the lights will go out, you might as well read until they do.” James moved his library to his house in Cambridge, where he would “live, read and perhaps even write. ”
As he unpacks boxes of books to set up his library I enjoyed hearing him rediscovering favourites of the past and talking about his desire, or not, to reread them. I am only part way through this book so will certainly continue.
Allegorizing by Jan Morris- blurb from the cover: Soldier, journalist, historian, author of 40 books, Jan Morris led an extraordinary life, witnessing such seminal events as the first ascent of Everest, the Suez Canal Crisis, the Eichmann Trial, the Cuban revolution and so much more.
This book was not to be published until after her death, which occurred last year, age 94. She revisits key moments and talks about her travels across the USA, across Europe to trips she loved on trains and ships. She talks of experiencing the deaths of her old friends Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay and also about the relationships in her own life.
I am really looking forward to reading this.
I could go on with a couple of more books I’m really wanting to get into but I will leave it now. The future looks promising. Beginning in February a shared reading will begin of Oscar Wilde at Fullers book shop. Book groups will begin there too. Fullers book shop are going to have socially distanced, vaccinated and masked book groups of 12 and also will be holding Zoom book club meetings for those who are worried about coming into the groups face to face. They are beginning poetry nights once a month and I have applied to be in one but numbers are limited so I may not be able to go. I am in a couple of their groups already and I know there are others who want to join in. (Can’t be selfish…..can I?)
I’ll leave you here as this is long enough. I will try to get back to you before another three or four weeks goes by. All the best and stay well. Get those jabs and wear those masks (whether you like it or not).