Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Shout Out : Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights by Salman Rushdie

I can't begin to say it better than all the other reviewers and blurbs....

...a spellbinding work of fiction that blends history, mythology, and a timeless love story. A lush, richly layered novel in which our world has been plunged into an age of unreason.....
In the near future, after a storm strikes New York City, the strangenesses begin. A down-to-earth gardener finds that his feet no longer touch the ground. A graphic novelist awakens in his bedroom to a mysterious entity that resembles his own sub–Stan Lee creation. Abandoned at the mayor’s office, a baby identifies corruption with her mere presence, marking the guilty with blemishes and boils. A seductive gold digger is soon tapped to combat forces beyond imagining.

Unbeknownst to them, they are all descended from the whimsical, capricious, wanton creatures known as the jinn, who live in a world separated from ours by a veil. Centuries ago, Dunia, a princess of the jinn, fell in love with a mortal man of reason. Together they produced an astonishing number of children, unaware of their fantastical powers, who spread across generations in the human world.

Once the line between worlds is breached on a grand scale, Dunia’s children and others will play a role in an epic war between light and dark spanning a thousand and one nights—or two years, eight months, and twenty-eight nights. It is a time of enormous upheaval, in which beliefs are challenged, words act like poison, silence is a disease, and a noise may contain a hidden curse  Inspired by the traditional “wonder tales” of the East, Salman Rushdie’s novel is a masterpiece about the age-old conflicts that remain in today’s world. Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights is satirical and bawdy, full of cunning and folly, rivalries and betrayals, kismet and karma, rapture and redemption.

This one has it all:  shades of "Ghostbusters", queens, genies, fairy tales, graphic novels, bewitched characters who float above the earth, unable to touch earthly objects - making it impossible to fly on regular planes (try explaining that to the TSA!!), and also creating real problems in the lavatory (think about it!).   Deep thoughts, astonishing fun.  Convoluted thinking giving us an inventiveness at once breath-taking, thought-proking, and plain raucous fun.  An example:
On the day that Adam and Eve invented God.....they at once lost control of him.  That is the beginning of the secret history of the world.  Man and Woman invented God, who at once eluded their grasp and became more powerful than his creators,  and also more malevolent. Like the supercomputer in the film TERMINATOR: "Skynet", sky-god, same thing.  Adam and Eve were filled with fear because it was plain that for the rest of time, god would come after them to punish them for the crime of having created him. They came into being simultaneously in a garden...and they had no idea how they got there until a snake led them to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and when they ate its fruit they both simultaneously came up with the idea of a creator-god, a good-and-evil decider, a gardener-god who made the garden, otherwise where did the garden come from, and then planted them in it like rootless plants.

And lo, there, immediately, was god, and he was furious, "How did you come up with the idea of me," he demanded, "who asked you to do that?" and he threw them out of the garden into, of all places, Iraq. "No good deed goes unpunished," said Eve to Adam, and that ought to be the motto of the whole human race.

This is one I read and listened to in audio, and promptly went and bought my own copy.  Like the Thousand and One Nights,  the reader will want to reach for this one for bedtime stories over and over.  It's delightful, it's very deep, and it will continue to provide wonderful amusement, intense contemplation, and enjoyment for many readings.   Try it, you'll love it.

Title: Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-eight Nights
Author: Salman Rushdie
Publisher: Random House (2015) 304 pages
Genre: Whimsical fiction; fantasy
Subject: Mythical retelling of humanity and creation
Setting: Everywhere
Source: Public library, Audible
Why did I read this book now? It is being considered for the Maine Readers Choice Award

Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks

 The Secret Chord

I've been reading this for several months now, taking it slowly, and in small pieces. I'm not finished yet.

Like much of Geraldine Brooks' work, it is meticulous in its luscious detail. Well developed characters are another hallmark of anything she writes, and several times  I found myself hunting for my Bible to see how this dovetails with my previous experience of the central figures - King David and the prophet Nathan.   Unfortunately, that got in the way, and I had to put it down for awhile.

This book deserves to be read on its own, without the previous prejudices many of us will bring to the narrative from previous and unconnected Biblical studies.  It is well written, deeply researched, and brings a humanity to historic people we have not had before. I'm about half-way through and look forward to finishing it when I have a nice quiet piece of reading time available.  I want to be able to take everything onboard and savor it.

Title: The Secret Chord
Author: Geraldine Brooks
Publisher: Viking (2015), Edition: ARC, 320 pages 
Genre: Historical fiction
Subject: King David
Setting: ancient Israel
Source: e-galley from publisher via Edelweiss
Why did I read this book now?  The subject interests me, I'm a fan of the author's and it's being considered for the Maine Reader's Choice Award

Monday, February 1, 2016

Shout Out: Prudence: A Novel by David Treuer

The publisher tells us:
On a sweltering day in August 1942, Frankie Washburn returns to his family’s rustic Minnesota resort for one last visit before he joins the war as a bombardier, headed for the darkened skies over Europe. Awaiting him at the Pines are those he’s about to leave behind: his hovering mother; the distant father to whom he’s been a disappointment; the Indian caretaker who’s been more of a father to him than his own; and Billy, the childhood friend who over the years has become something much more intimate. But before the homecoming can be celebrated, the search for a German soldier, escaped from the POW camp across the river, explodes in a shocking act of violence, with consequences that will reverberate years into the future for all of them and that will shape how each of them makes sense of their lives.

My impressions:
 Set in Minnesota, "Prudence" is a story beginning and ending with  a young Native American orphan girl. This framework surrounds the stories of several men of various races, sexual orientations, and educational and vocational backgrounds.  The author manages to pack incredible character studies into a short 200 pages.  The writing style is a bit disorienting, but his use of both first and third person narrators seems to fit the story being told.  The setting is World War II, the story is about inter-racial relationships, betrayal, and poverty, but bottom line it's about love, despair, and growing up without guidance. It's not a happily ever after story, but neither is it so dark and dreary that the reader loses hope.  I found it a quick and engrossing read leaving more positive than negative reactions than I expected from the publisher's blurb and other reviewers.

Title: Prudence
Author: David Treuer
Publisher: Riverhead Books (2015)
Genre: Literary Fiction
Subject: Native Americans, inter-racial relations
Setting: Minnesota
Source: Public Library download
Why did I read this book now? It is being considered for the Maine Readers Choice Award.