22 January 2007

Books Read: December 2006

This is quite late, but here's what I managed for the last month of last year:
  • P.G. Wodehouse, The World of Jeeves
  • Jonathan Manthorpe, Forbidden Nation
  • John Irving, A Prayer for Owen Meany
  • Kiran Desai, The Inheritance of Loss
  • Amy Tan, The Bonesetter's Daughter
Manthorpe's Forbidden Nation is a history of Taiwan. First time I have delved into that topic and long overdue. It's comprehensive, but not particularly well written. Provides a pretty good background of who was on the island when and for what purpose, but was also written to defend Taiwan's claim that it is not a part of China. Whether you agree with that or not, it's something to keep in mind when reading it. The next book I would like to read about this particular subject is Melissa Brown's Is Taiwan Chinese? I describe myself as half Taiwanese, but call the culture Chinese. This seems problematic, so it would be interesting to see what others have to say about it.

Desai's The Inheritance of Loss was last year's Man Booker Prize winner. Desai also happens to be Anita Desai's daughter. Since I like the mother's Fasting, Feasting and the Booker folks usually chose well, DBC Pierre's Vernon God Little being an exception, I was looking forward to reading this one. Inheritance is a nice story, but not the rich reading experience I hoped for. The story has a lot of potential, but it isn't really exploited on either a narrative or textual level. The plot doesn't go anywhere far, which is fine, but the writing doesn't produce anything memorable either. This is a huge contrast with authors I love, like Rushdie, who can write phrases that are just hard to forget. I'm reading Shalimar the Clown now and it has a description of someone being murdered "like a halal chicken." There's a phrase you don't forget! Ineritance isn't a book that I'll necessarily recommend or remember. For most books, that's no problem. For one that I had high hopes for, it was a disappointment.

On a side note, my entire opposition to Vernon God Little has to do with the fact that at he uses the word "tanga" at one point. His character is supposed to be American, in fact it was part of the big deal about the book, it's American main character. But Americans don't use the word "tanga." They don't even know what it is. I would say "we" but I know. Anyway, it was a word that ruined a the whole bood for me.

The Bonesetter's Daughter was a nice read, especially for the flight home. Good old Amy Tan to remind you of come of the challenges of Chinese culture meets American upbringing. Unfortunately, after I finished it I picked up my mom's copy of The Hundred Secret Senses and realized that the two are as similar as any two early John Grisham novels. Couldn't read another Tan book but still enjoyed the first.

I've done more reading since, but have had difficulty picking books lately. Nothing is quite right. Unfortunately, that means I've started and put down two or three books as well as bought a couple. Finally settled on Rushdie for now. It's starting well with good writing and odd characters. So far, Shalimar is a driver.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...