Thursday, March 03, 2005

More of last year

A few things:

Republic of Wine is weird. Good, but surreal. I think it might make more sense if I were a least as partly drunk as the characters. Of couse, that worked so well when I played "Keeping up with Dmitry" when I read The Brothers Karamazov. (To my defense, that was my *professor's* idea.)

I am an utterly shallow person. This can be witnessed by the fact that I will wait patiently until Jasper Fforde's Something Rotten and Louise Rennison's Away Laughing on a Fast Camel come out in paperback before I buy and read them. Why? You ask. Because, I want all the books in a series to physically match on my bookshelf. I am denying myself pleasure so my shelves look bettter. I told you I was shallow.

See, not writing reviews after reading the book, I can't remember enough, so...

Short and Sweet things:

Of the two David Lodge books I read, Thinks... was vastly superior to Therapy. Therapy, overall, was just meh. Thinks... was pure Lodge-tastic.

The Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde is phemonal. (The Eyre Affair, Lost in a Good Book, and The Well of Lost Plots) One big inside joke for those of us who read a lot, but still enjoyable to someone, like me, who is low on classics education. These books, did, of course, inspire me to pick up more classics. Yay for that. Yay for Thursday Next! Smart and absurd and light quick reading.

Out of the contemporary lit. by women pile I read Bel Canto by Ann Patchett, The Time-Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, and The Red Tent by Anita Diamont.

The Red Tent was one of my favorite books last year, definetely the best out of this trio.
Bel Canto comes next and The Time-Traveler's Wife was last.

The Red Tent was the first work of fiction I've read by Diamont, but her Choosing a Jewish Life impacted me in different ways. But, oh, The Red Tent is phenomanal and fantastic. It is the story of Dinah, daughter of Leah and Jacob of Biblical fame, told in her voice. As she is only barely briefly dealt with in the Bible, it is largely imagined, and how! Beautifully written and moving and outstanding and astonishing and superb. You should read it. Now.

I like all of them, but I thought ...Wife could have dealt with some issues better. The main character had some extremely violent episodes, but we never get to explore the darker side. We never explore how the wife's complete lack of other romanitc involvment has stunted her. We never explore the ramifications of growing up with an adult version of your husband and knowing early on that he will be your husband. It's like an arranged marriage almost and we never explore the greater impact... I just wish it would have done more. It could have done more but wanted to be a sweet love story. So it was. Nothing more.

Bel Canto was nice and I recomend it.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Booze Nation!

Mo Yan is my favorite author. I discovered this when I had to read Red Sorghum for a Chinese lit. class in school. I was only auditing the class and you know how these things go... I never finished the book for class, but I liked it so much that I read it over Christmas break.

His prose is so visceral in a way you rarely ever get, especially with Chinese lit. The smells and tastes and colors just permeate through everything.

Also, he always works with the same translator, Howard Goldblatt and it's obvious they have a really close working relationship, so the translation is faithful to Mo Yan's intent and artistry.

I'm suprised at Mo Yan's guts. I don't know HOW he gets away with publishing what he does, especially as one who works for the army! It's crazy.

Right now I'm reading his Republic of Wine. What I love is that Jiu Guo, the title of the book, is translated two different ways: Republic of Wine in the title, and Liquor Land in the actual text. I also like my own translation of Booze Nation. All are accurate.

jiu means alcohol and is modified to refer to a certain type of alcohol:
pu tang jiu is grape + alcohol= wine

guo mean country or nation (much to the fascination of my history advisor, the Chinese language does not really differentiate between these two concepts.)

Anyway, I'm not really far enough into the text to really comment on it besides that Mo Yan is AWESOME.

I thought I'd instead comment on a book of his that I read last year, in my continuing series of Books I read last year... (creative titling, I know)


Shifu, You'll Do Anything for a Laugh

Is a collection of short stories. The title story is a hilarious look at modern Chinese treatment of workers and lovers. I was very excited to read that the film Happy Times was an adaptation of this story, but was dissapointed. I really liked the film, but something kinda similair to the plot of the story occurs in the first 15 minutes of the film. The rest of the film is about something else entirely.

The collection also has a story that is a sequel of sorts to Red Sorghum, which was exciting.