August 11, 2005

Are you reading anything good?

Well, unless you want me to expound upon the virtues of intermittently laying on the couch and the bed, then I don’t have much else for you. Unfortunately, vegging out for 2 straight days doesn’t provide much in the way of entertaining blog material. Being sick with a COLD in AUGUST SUCKS. In a desperate bid to write about SOMETHING, I thought I would throw out a few books I have just read. I decided to get rid of the Rancid Reads section on my sidebar and will just post periodically about things I have read lately. I had finished at least 16 books since I last updated that section and realized that it was really serving no purpose. Merely listing what I am reading isn’t very interesting when I never write about the darned book to begin with.

Rancid Reads: I recently read The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini . It has been so long since I have read a book such as this one - actually “devoured” is better verb usage for how I consumed this book. It was a very dark, powerful, educational, inspirational, heartbreaking read all wrapped up in about 370 pages worth. It blew me away. I read most of it on the plane coming back from BlogHer on a Sunday, then finished it up quickly on the following Monday so I could pass it off to a friend. This is simply not a book that I want languishing on my bookshelves - I want it OUT THERE, so others can enjoy it. It is basically a story of an Afghan boy growing up in a priviliged life in Kabul during the 70s and then the inevitable happens, Russia invades the country forcing the boy and his father to flee the country. I admit, this book particularly touched me because not only did have a good friend in college who had been an Afghan refugee, but also because so much of it was based in Pakistan - Peshwar and Islamabad - both of which I spent some time in during the early 90s when I visited the country. The author did an excellent job of describing the sights, sounds, and smells. He also was very good with conveying the nature of the people involved without diminishing them into mere stereotypes. Which, of course, he SHOULD be able to do since he is an Afghan himself, but really, this is a great book for a white person to read who doesn't have much experience with that area of the world. I can't wait to explore other books by this author now.

Unfortunately, the downside of reading such a stellar piece of work as the Kite Runner is that whatever follows is sure to not live up to expectations. And this was definitely the case with The Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle - a very different picture of immigration to America. First, my main issue with the book was the writing style. I had a hard time reading this book - it was like slogging through mud and I found myself frequently keeping track of page numbers to calculate how fast I could read and how far I still had to endure. The only reason I finished this book was that I was reading it for a book club. It certainly didn't help matters that the writing style reminded me of John Steinbeck which drove me batty. At the risk of being flamed, let me state for the record, that I cannot STAND Steinbeck’s writing style. Imagine my bitter laugh of irony when I read an interview later where Boyle states that Steinbeck was one of his literary inspirations - it all made sense to me then. In fact, the book reminded me of The Tortilla Flat, for some reason (if not for title only). Anyway, the story itself was quite interesting - it is the story of 2 couples, one American, the other Mexican and how their lives collide in catastrophic ways. The Mexican couple’s story was absolutely fascinating, but the American couple’s story was very disappointing - they were painted in one broad, racist stroke. Sorry, but many Californians have very valid concerns about illegal immigration and I didn’t think the book adequately addressed those. The author wrote the story in such a narrow way that there was no choice but to have sympathy for the Mexican couple and to have disgust for the American couple.

So, that said, I give The Kite Runner 5/5 Sheep (excellent writing style, fascinating story) and The Tortilla Curtain 3/5 Sheep (painful writing style, interesting yet narrow story).

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