Thursday, February 18, 2010

Dichotomies

Some things to mention before starting in on the reviews.

1. It strikes me that the entire idea of ‘rating’ is somewhat overrated. Who am I to put numbers on other peoples’ work? From now on, rather than throwing ill-justified values around, ‘d like to nominate books into several categories. The categories are as following.

“A must-read”
“Read if bored”
“Read when there’s nothing else around”
“Procrastinate about reading”
“Lie about reading, then use Wikipedia/cliffnotes/etc”
“Do not read under any circumstances”
“Burn it! Burn it GOOD!!”

The books mentioned below are going to be somewhat skewed towards the upper spectrum of these, since plowing through a painful book (Edit: thank you to Rachel for catching this shot sentence!) is bad for ones' emotional and socio-economical well being. Time being money, and all that.

2. Both Wednesday morning painters and Art Grrls were cancelled yesterday. Again, because of the snow. Either the nature’s got something personal against artists in this region, or we’re overdue for some great wooly chipmunks.

3. In the past two weeks, books have been coming in interesting matching pairs. (Geishax2, Horrorx2). The trend is set to continue. This time there are only books, though, because Pillars of Earth makes a long, long audiobook. (My recent over enthusiasm with reading horror stories online may have something to do with it, too.)


Ted’s Caving page (Read if bored)
http://www.angelfire.com/trek/caver/page1.html
A chilling tale of 2.5 amateur cave explorers, tackling what seemed to be only a hole in the wall. It gets better and better, with a somewhat unexpected end. I only wish I knew if the author wrote anything else.

Guts, by Chuck Palahniuk (Read if bored)
http://www.seizureandy.com/stuff/guts.html
Most of the stuff I’ve read has somehow mentioned human sexuality. This short story falls in line with this expectation, while being both graphic and mildly disturbing in its climax. It’s about a horny guy, and a pool. Definitely not for the weak of stomach.


Slave
By Mende Nazer

AKA

“Humanitarian issues in Sudan”
Or
“From genital mutilation, to rape, to physical abuse, my true story.”

Rating: Read if bored, bordering on a must-read.

Apparently, this book made some headlines in Europe in the early 2000s, mainly because the woman who was the voice behind it was denied asylum in England. Eventually, after an international outcry, she was able to stay. Her journey started in the mountainous region of Sudan, within a seemingly happy family unit, within a seemingly happy village. The single most traumatic event of her early youth seemed to be the female circumcision, while exciting points included the acquisition of a kitten (later a cat with kittens of her own), a wrestling championship between several neighboring tribes, and wedding of her older sister.

Things went downhill from about the age of 12, when she was dragged off, along with others, by a group of Arab raiders. Mende ended up in a household of a wealthy Arab woman, who eventually shipped her to her sister in England, where escape was possible. The book isn’t exactly what you’d call a ‘masterpiece of English language’, but it is straight-forward and ‘sincere’, if that’s the word for it. It addresses such things as tribal identity, longing for family and friends, and a lack of simple humane treatment.

Human trafficking is still common in Africa. This disturbs me, as does one of the author’s comments about Westerners taking many things (such as personal liberty) for granted. Because we really, really do. But then, again, I don’t believe there’s any modern-day Western countries that have a thing for using war captives as a force of labor?

I’m kind of curious on what Islam’s got to do with it all, and wouldn’t mind reading up on the subject. Also, wonder if the local library’s going to have a copy of the Koran.


Beasts of no nation
By Uzodinma Iweala

AKA
“The case of missing past tenses”
Or
“Masturbatory tale by a Harward graduate”

Rating: Read when there’s nothing else around.

If you were looking for a honest-to-god tale from a child soldier, this isn’t one. Not that this book isn’t well-written- stylistically, it’s original. However, comparatively to Slave, it leaves much to be desired. Call me cynical, but this work of a well-off Nigerian, written from a first point of view, even based off of accounts and interviews by former child soldiers, does not come across as ‘real’. Decently structured and based mostly around violence, sex, and horrible conditions, it lacks the anecdotes and little ‘something’ that makes the main character appear human.