There’s been a lot of awful news this week. But in the middle of that, beauty and joy persist. Here are a few things that reminded me of that.
Rabih Alameddine’s Tweet Stream
You may remember that I read and loved Alameddine’s novel An Unnecessary Woman. In that novel, Aliyaa lives in a world of books, art and music, and she also lives in Beirut. Violence is part of her world, just as much as beauty. Ultimately, I think the novel shows that art can’t (or shouldn’t) be an escape from life, but it is a part of life, probably even a necessary part. Beauty is not less real than chaos.
I recently (because of his World Cup tweeting and posts) started following Alameddine on Twitter. This week, his tweets, like his novel, have represented both art and political chaos. He has tweeted about Gaza, and he has tweeted a daily poem and images of artworks. I have been so glad to have those drawings, paintings and mosaics show up in my feed alongside photos of air strikes, tanks, and the wreckage of a downed passenger jet. Continue reading
Big Fat Book readalong
I’ve read a little more than 4 chapters of David Van Reybrouck’s Congo. Van Reybrouck could be called a Renaissance man: PhD, poet, playwright. I think his poetic side shows in this book, which often features vivid description and odd, telling details. It’s the product of extensive research, including oral histories from Van Reybrouck’s 10 trips to the Democratic Republic of Congo–including interviews with a man named Nkasi, who claimed (accurately, as far as the author could determine) to be born in 1882, and thus was 126 when Van Reybrouck met him. I’d say this book is headed for the short list of truly memorable non-fiction I’ve read or listened to in the past few years (the others are Wade Davis’ Into the Silence and Isobel Wilkerson’s Warmth of Other Suns–they’re all gripping stories as well as good history).
I’ve watched a lot of World Cup soccer in the last month, and thanks to Twitter I’ve been interested in the ways (post)colonial history is visible in national teams. I follow Duke professor Laurent Dubois (@soccerpolitics), who blogs at Soccer Politics and for The New Republic during the Cup, and who wrote a book, Soccer Empire, on French soccer and “the connections between empire and sport.” (And for my romance-reading friends, he’s Katherine Ashe’s husband). He tweeted and RT’d quite a bit about the “Africanness” of many European teams, including Belgium’s.
So with all that in mind, I was especially interested in Van Reybrouck’s discussion of how Belgians imported soccer to the Congo. Here’s a sampling: Continue reading
Posted in non-fiction, personal
Tagged Andy Weir, Ann Patchett, Congo, David van Reybrouck, Fifth Avenue series, Harlequin, Jenny Davidson, P.G. Wodehouse, Patricia Veryan, Reading Style, The Martian, This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, Time's Fool
Lots of my blogging friends have commented lately on troubles with reading–how we are not as good at focusing and challenging ourselves as we once were. And we’re not the only ones: of the recent jeremiads on reading, I especially enjoyed (if that’s the word) “Reading: The Struggle” by Tim Parks. It took the March Big Fat Book readalong instigated by Sunita to get me to read Donna Tartt’s Goldfinch (which, though long, turned out to be zippy and plot-driven). So I was glad when Ros decided to start another readalong in July. Here are early reports from some participating readers.
Although I have some Big Fat Fiction on my shelves (and e-reader), this time I decided to choose non-fiction. I’ve been listening to quite a bit of non-fiction (I blogged about that here), but I find it hard to concentrate on in print, so I figured the #BFB readalong would give me the push I needed.
This week, I read the first three chapters/110 pp. of Jonathan Sperber’s Karl Marx: A Nineteenth-Century Life. In fact, I read them twice, at least, because I’d read a couple of pages and find I had taken nothing in. This is not Sperber’s fault; it’s mine. Yes, this is an intellectual biography, so it can be dense (even a simple explanation of Hegelianism makes my brain freeze, and I’ve read some Hegel), but the writing is clear and engaging. I am just out of practice concentrating on something like this. I’m kind of appalled by how dumb I’ve gotten. ;) I am making an effort to carve out reading time earlier in the day, because when I’m tired, it’s hopeless. I need a Reading Fitness regime for the summer. Continue reading
I read three Mary Burchell books from the 1940s back to back because I borrowed a three-book collection from Open Library: it included Take Me With You, Choose Which You Will, and Meant for Each Other. (This was my first experience with Open Library, and although there were a lot of OCR errors, I learned to interpret them pretty quickly and only occasionally felt confused. Things like “/ *wi” for “I’m” did take some decoding. I look forward to reading more hard-to-find older genre fiction soon. *side-eyes TBR*)
I avoid “glomming” an author, and although I enjoyed all three of these books very much, reading them in quick succession reminded me of why I don’t glom: there are a lot of similar elements (including two heroes named Lindsay). Young (18-20ish) orphan heroines who need to make their own way in the world; older (late 20s-35), wealthy, often cynical heroes; a glamorous Other Woman; at least one character involved in the theatre. The basic trope here–the poor young woman and wealthy older man–is one I’d say I Don’t Like in the abstract. But there are books featuring it that I’ve loved, including these. So this isn’t a review but a meditation on why some iterations of what I’ll call the Cinderella trope work for me. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments on how a particular author/book has made you like Something You Usually Don’t.