Saturday, September 8, 2007

"Heaven ain't close in a place like this"

The Killers' concert was indeed delightful - their energy kind of lagged toward the middle third of the set, but the first and last 6 songs or so were phenomenal. I think part of the slowness at mid-show was that the songs from Sam's Town just aren't as high-energy as Hot Fuss and there was some dissonance involved with mixing more ballad-type music with straight-up, drums-and-bass rock. I thought, too, that the front end of the show was pretty heavily weighted with their radio singles, and that the crowd kind of got what they were looking for a little too early. But despite the pacing issues, the concert was a lot of fun, and I'm glad we were able to go.

Tonight Ben and I are going over to Karen and Brandon's for a potluck - Karen's parents are in town, so that will be fun. I'm in the process of making eggplant roll-ups, but while my eggplant slices are cooling, I thought I'd update my book log.

Measuring Time (Helon Habila, 2007). This novel is set in modern-day Nigeria, and is the story of two twin boys living in a largish village, Keti, some distance from Lagos. LaMamo becomes a professional soldier and Mamo, who ends up being the main character, becomes a historian and writer. I enjoyed this immensely - Habila's writing is spare and his words carefully chosen. Now that I've been thinking about pacing above, I realized that the pacing of this novel worked well for me - the chapters are all each only a few pages long, and the tone is well-suited to the story he's telling.

I took a course in Nigerian literature in undergrad, but we focused there on the immediately post-colonial era, and the native fables and folkstories that predated contact with European cultures. It was particularly interesting for me, then, to see a portrait of Nigeria today, reading about the problems with the current government structure and the quotidian experiences of village life. I was used to reading stories set within the traditional family and village structure of Igbo society, and so it was interesting to see how European and Christian influences have changed that society. The first example, of course, was that the twin boys were permitted to survive infancy, and the familial structures in the village seemed to be modeled more on the Christian practice of one wife per husband versus the traditional compound style with several wives in each family. But even beyond my interest in Nigerian literature, the characters were well-crafted and engaging, and I thought the story was interesting.

The Kindness of Strangers (Katrina Kittle, 2005). This book ... basically kicked the crap out of me. I started it yesterday night, and literally could not put it down until I had finished. It's a novel about incestuous sexual abuse, and it's very raw, emotionally. It's told from varying 3rd person limited POV, and it's ... powerful. I've read Kittle's other two novels, and she has this overwhelming talent for putting you right there with a character, which is a heart-wrenching experience when that character is an eleven-year-old boy whose parents have been sexually abusing him for years. And it's not heart-wrenching in an Oprah's book club, tear-jerker bestseller sort of way, but as if you're actually there watching this horrifying situation come to light. It resolves not happily, necessarily, but as well as it could, and the whole novel just feels so incredibly real. I feel about this book as I feel about the movie Traffic, maybe - I can't say I enjoyed reading it, because there's nothing enjoyable about the story she's telling - but I am incredibly glad I read it. It makes you feel exactly what it must be like to be in the middle of a tragedy, right down to the overwhelming anger you'd feel towards nosy Carlotta in the bakery and the it's not true, this can't be happening to me feeling of having something like this unfold right next door. I would wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone who could stand to read it, but I think you have to be ready to have your feet kicked out from under you. This is a novel I'm going to be thinking about for years.

Clay's Ark (Octavia Butler, 1984). This - I'll have to read again, I think. I liked it, but I kind of blew through it to see how the plot turned out. Part of the problem was that I knew that this novel was part of the Patternist series, but I hadn't known that it was more of an offshoot than a continuation - I kept waiting for the characters I knew to appear, and didn't realize until about halfway through that this was going to be an entirely separate novel from the preceeding ones. I really don't have any concrete thoughts on this yet, so I will definitely be re-reading, but I think I might wait a little while to do so.

No comments: