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text 2017-04-10 00:11
Authorial Encounters: NoViolet Bulawayo
We Need New Names: A Novel - NoViolet Bulawayo

   NoViolet Bulawayo recently appeared in my city. (I took this picture on my iPod.)


She read, of course, from "We Need New Names," and I learned something very important about the book: How the main character's name sounds. Of course, if you've read the book, you know her name is Darling. To my Midwestern ears, that's a distinctly two-syllable word, with the accent on the first syllable, a true trochee, in poetic terms. "Dar," like car; "ling," like swing. I suppose if you live in other parts of the country, you might say it differently: "dah-ling," "darlin'," etc.


For Ms. Bulawayo, who still carries a strong accent of her native Zimbabwe, Darling's name is almost a spondee. She gives a little bit less stress to the first syllable, so technically, it's an iamb, but both syllables get quite a bit of stress. And to my ears, it sounded very close to the name "Darlene." I heard "Dar-LING." So now I know. 


Her reading was beautiful. The book was fascinating. And she answered my question in the q&a! Can't wait for more from her.



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review 2016-12-14 20:24
The Siege of Krishnapur
The Siege of Krishnapur - J.G. Farrell,Pankaj Mishra

Later, while he was drinking tea at the table in his bedroom with three young subalterns from Captainganj a succession of musket balls came through the winder, attracted by the oil-lamp . . . one, two, three and then a fourth, one after another. The officers dived smartly under the table, leaving the Collector to drink his tea alone. After a while they
re-emerged smiling sheepishly, deeply impressed by the Collector’s sang-froid. Realizing that he had forgotten to sweeten his tea, the Collector dipped a teaspoon into the sugar-bowl. But then he found that he was unable to keep the sugar on the spoon: as quickly as he scooped it up, it danced off again. It was clear that he would never get it from the sugar-bowl to the cup without scattering it over the table, so in the end he was obliged to push the sugar away and drink his tea unsweetened.

The Siege of Krishnapur sounded fascinating - a depiction of the fall of the British Empire illustrated  in a small town in Northern India. 

I don't know whether this book fell victim to my reading slump, or whether it just missed the mark with me, but I could not get interested in any of the characters or the story, and on finishing, I don't even know whether I would have finished it at all if it had not won the Booker in 1973. 


It seems to me that The Siege of Krishnapur is one of those books that may have made more of an impression at the time it was written, but that has lost some of its appeal over time. Maybe the expectation of the book is to defy any nostalgia towards imperialism in its reader. But what if there is nothing to left to defy?


I don't know. This book maybe just wasn't for me. 

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review 2016-11-09 21:06
Review: His Bloody Project
His Bloody Project - Graeme Macrae Burnet

So the Man Booker Prize happened. And once again, I failed to read the entire shortlist before the prize was announced. This year was the closest I have ever come, however, as I finished five and was a third of the way through my sixth, His Bloody Project. This is the first year since I started this yearly tradition that all six were published in the US before the prize was announced; three of those were published in the preceding two weeks, so it was still a chore to read and review the entire list. For what it's worth, here are my thoughts regarding Graeme Macrae Burnet's contribution.

A few years back, the Man Booker committee was criticized for not offering enough titles with commercial appeal. I believe His Bloody Project is this year's answer to that call. Though it's set in a quiet village in a time before the world became overly noisy, this novel about a brutal murder bears much similarity to your run-of-the-mill murder/courtroom drama story that has saturated the airwaves for decades. That's not to say His Bloody Project lacks depth or literary merit, but it's certainly the Man Booker Prize nominated novel most likely to be adapted to screen in recent years. In grisly, heartbreaking detail, the story in the first half of this novel moves swiftly. The psychology of the characters and their stories, though told in simplistic fashion, are fascinating. Personally, I'm not a fan of court drama, however, so when the second half segued into testimonials and arguments, examinations and cross-examinations, my interest waned. Those who live for Law and Order will likely enjoy this novel thoroughly.

His Bloody Project was in many ways captivating, but it didn't strike me as a Man Booker contender. It was well written, but there was nothing unconventional about its form or breathtaking about its delivery. Long term, it will likely outsell its shortlist contenders. Had I finished this novel before the prize and had time to consider its probability of winning, I would've placed it in the middle of the pack, less likely to win than Do Not Say We Have Nothing and Hot Milk, but a stronger contender than Eileen and The Sellout. It's okay to be wrong sometimes.

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text 2016-10-25 21:22
Reading progress update: I've read 31%.
His Bloody Project - Graeme Macrae Burnet

Made it through 5.3 of the 6 Man Booker shortlisted novels. This one will remain unfinished for me as the Prize is announced. Impressions so far: a very accessible read has definite commercial potential. Not the likeliest of candidates for the Prize, but given the reputation of the Prize lacking commercial appeal, this one could change that image.

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review 2016-10-25 19:59
Review: Do Not Say We Have Nothing
Do Not Say We Have Nothing: A Novel - Madeleine Thien

This year's strongest contender for the Man Booker Prize: Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien. It is an epic, wonderfully imagined tale of two generations struggling through China's political campaigns, first in the 1960s, then in 1989. Do Not Say We Have Nothing is an incredibly intelligent and ambitious novel; it is multi-faceted, combing theories of mathematics and language with literature and musical composition.

Do Not Say We Have Nothing is a complex work, however, and can be hard to follow. Initially, the story seems to be about Marie, then Marie and Ai-Ming, but it isn't long before the reader is catapulted into backstory and stories within stories. It's easy to forget Marie even existed in the first place, which is unfortunate because I was anchored in her tale and her tale was effortless reading.

I had some difficulty staying connected, but in full disclosure I believe much of this was my own fault. Do Not Say We Have Nothing is the sort of novel that needs to be savored. By its very structure, it requires a careful reading. In my effort to read the entire Man Booker shortlist before the announcement (made difficult by US publication dates), I sped through this novel in a mere fourteen hours (not nearly enough time for me and for a work of this magnitude). As I approached the concluding chapters, I sincerely regretted that I hadn't taken more time to enjoy this great novel.

For the last several years, the Man Booker Prize judges have favored historical works. Many of these contained chapters from humanity's brutal history. Assuming the judges do not feel the need to deviate from the pattern for the sake of breaking the repetition, I don't believe this year will be an exception. Madeline Thien will win the 2016 Man Booker Prize.

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