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text 2018-06-22 22:56
Book Recs Solicited: Freedom and Future Library
On Liberty and The Subjection of Women (Penguin Classics) - John Stuart Mill
All Quiet on the Western Front - Erich Maria Remarque
To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
Step Across This Line: Collected Nonfiction 1992-2002 - Salman Rushdie
The Displaced: Refugee Writers on Refugee Lives - Aleksandar Hemon,Marina Lewycka,Ariel Dorfman,Viet Thanh Nguyen,Fatima Bhutto,David Bezmozgis,Porochista Khakpour,Vu Tran,Joseph Kertes,Kao Kalia Yang,Dina Nayeri,Maaza Mengiste,Reyna Grande,Novuyo Rosa Tshuma,Lev Golinkin,Joseph Azam,Thi Bui,Meron Hader
Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House - Michael Wolff
A Room of One's Own - Virginia Woolf
Giovanni's Room - James Baldwin
Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury
The Declaration of Independence and The Constitution of the United States - Thomas Jefferson,James Madison,Founding Fathers

You'd have to be living under a rock buried somewhere halfway down to the center of the earth in order not to be aware that in recent years our beautiful world has been shaken up by a number of crises the likes of which I, at least, have not experienced in my entire lifetime -- I can't remember any other time when I have so consistently felt the urge to put on blinders and wrap myself in a giant comfort blanket approximately 10 seconds after opening a newspaper (or its online edition), or 10 seconds into listening to the news.  Obviously playing ostrich has never done anybody any good, but God knows, it's getting hard not to succumb to the temptation. 

 

So what does a book lover do in order to keep her sanity, equip herself to separate fact from fiction (in news reporting, politics, and plenty of other places) and deal with rat catchers and fire mongers?  She turns to books, of course.

 

I've decided to build a "Freedom and Future" personal library, which will contain books which (1) have either deeply impacted my personal thinking or that I expect will come to do so in the future, or which (2) provide valuable food for thought in today's social and political debate, both nationally and internationally; be it based on a profound analysis of the issues at stake (as a matter of principle or long term), or because even though they may not be of lasting significance, they contain a thought-provoking contribution to the current debate (even if they were not written with that express purpose in mind -- e.g., books about historic persons or events or books by long-dead authors).  I'm not expecting to binge-read the books added to this library, but I'm looking to add them to the mix with a bit more focus than I've been doing of late.

 

In the past couple of days, I've trawled my own bookshelves for books to add to the library, but this is one area where, even more than anywhere else, I'm looking for suggestions -- I can already see that I'm at risk of falling back on my old standbys, and that's the last thing I want to do here.

 

So, tell me: What books have recently made you sit up -- or which are the books that you've come to turn to and trust for guidance and inspiration?

 

These can be fiction or nonfiction, and books from any or all types of genres (I only draw the line at splatter punk).  As the first part of my new library's title indicates, liberty and freedom rights are a focus, but I'm really looking for food for thought on all the issues that I think are going to determine the path human society will be taking (hence the "future" part); including, in no particular order:

 

* Liberty and freedom(s) (of opinion and press, movement, association, worship, the arts, etc.),

* Equal access to justice and judicial independence and impartiality,

* Equality and empowerment (gender / sexuality, race, etc.), and the plurality of society;

* Poverty / the increasing gap in the distribution of wealth,

* Education (general, political, etc.);

* Funding and freedom of research and science,

* Protection of the environment,

* Democratic institutions and processes and how to safeguard them,

* Xenophobia, war(mongering) and the preservation / restoration of peace,

* Persecution, migration, and internal displacement,

* Free trade and globalization,

* Technological advances,

* Ethics -- in all of the above areas.

 

I'm adding a few books to this post to give you a rough idea of what sort of things I've so far added to this library -- please take them as very approximate guidance only, though.  It can be something totally different ... really anything that's jogged your brain or made you reevaluate your perspective on any of the above issues.

 

Thanks in advance!

 

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review 2018-01-19 09:22
Rich, but unsatisfying
The Golden House: A Novel - Salman Rushdie

A man of extreme wealth immigrates from Mumbai to Manhattan along with his three adult sons. They change their identities and keep the reason for leaving their previous home a mystery though they don't live like recluses, just the opposite, they embrace their new homeland with excess and extravagance.

 

The Golden House is about this family and the unraveling of their mystery as told by a neighbour, a film maker, who takes an interest in them because he hopes their story will provide the plot for a movie he wants to make.

 

Salman Rushdie's characters are larger than life, and I mean down right over the top. Indeed, there are no ordinary people in this novel, every one is eccentric, brilliant, extremely talented, very well dressed and beautiful beyond description though Rushdie does his best to describe all the above lavishly and extensively.

 

In fact he spends so much time on sumptuous imagery, on references to Greek mythology and on quotes that might make sense if I knew author of the quote and the context in which it was being used, I very soon became bored and early on found my self skimming pages to find something that advanced the plot.

 

The Golden House is an "insiders" book. If the reader knows the locales, events, jargon, trends, author of quotes, context of quotes, the heroes and heroines of Greek mythology and their significance then I imagine you're supposed to feel included, with it, up to date, part of the club, and oh so contemporary. If you don't you're a boob, a rube, a member of the cultural lumpenproletariat and don't deserve to know what's going in his book.

 

Rushdie obviously is an excellent, clever, educated, intelligent, sophisticated member of the upper crust of society and he sets out to prove that in every paragraph of this book.

The writing is so rich, so decadent I felt the same way I did when during the Holidays I overindulged in Christmas cake, shortbread and mince tarts - well fed, yet ironically, unsatisfied.

 

Keeping with my New Year's resolution of not enduring to the end books I'm not enjoying, I abandoned The Golden House about a quarter way through.

 

 

 

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review 2017-09-12 19:44
The Golden House: A Novel - Salman Rushdie
I had never read a Salman Rushdie book before, but I had heard of him and what a good writer he was. So. . . I was pretty excited when I requested and received this book. 

That excitement lasted until I started reading it. It was just so tedious. And, yawn. . . boring.

There were numerous times when the narrator of this story would say the same things over and over again. Using different words, of course. I would be reading thinking surely there's been enough talk describing something with the Golden family and then several pages later it would be said again, paragraphs of content with different wording.

The narrator kept promising that "the story" will be coming. Well, after 60% into this story, I said "wow, I don't have to read all of this". I rarely like to abandon books because I feel so bad in doing so. But this one, I could not take it anymore. Not sure if this the writer's typical style, something that did not appeal to me either, or if it's different. 

I do appreciate, however, that Random House and Net Galley provided me with a free e-galley in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.
 
 

 

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review 2017-09-10 17:46
Golden House is Golden
The Golden House: A Novel - Salman Rushdie

This is some serious, epic Greek tragedy. At its heart is the question of “Can a man be both good and evil?” and yet it is also about the role of the storyteller and the unmasking of America. As always, his wordplay is a twisty, tangled delight, filled with a myriad of literary and cinematic references that gladdened the heart of this lifelong reader girl and degree holder of a Masters in Film Theory.

 

This is a long book, over the top in many ways, but so so clever. I was totally caught up in the lives of the Golden family – Nero and his three sons all cloaked in mystery that the intrepid Réné is hellbent on unraveling for his own artistic pursuits. And so, the narrator becomes part of the story.

 

And Rushdie’s commentary on American politics was brilliant. I suspect this book will earn him as many enemies as fans, but I adored it.

 

Thank you to Random House and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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review 2017-05-30 03:08
Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie
Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie

This is a strong work of literary fiction that didn’t strike any special chord with me. I’d tried unsuccessfully to read it several times in the past, but made another attempt this year and can report that it gathers steam as it goes, though it took me a couple hundred pages to start really enjoying it.

Midnight’s Children is part family saga, part magic realism, and all historical fiction, tracing the history of India in the 20th century (from British rule through the 1970s) as told through the eyes of Saleem Sinai, born at the moment of India’s independence and endowed with special gifts. It is a sweeping, ambitious sort of novel, and Rushdie of course seems to have had great fun with the language. Saleem can be a frustrating narrator, telling a story full of digressions and with grandiose ideas of his own importance (I tended to write this off as a character who believes he’s dying struggling to give meaning to his life and suffering, but that’s certainly not the only way to read it). But in the end I was swept up in the story and was glad to have read it, and one encounters a lot of Indian history along the way.

Overall, this is worth reading even if you struggle with the beginning. But if you’re looking for a giant work of Indian literary historical fiction, I’d still recommend A Suitable Boy first.

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