"...it raises the question of whether there is any special quality, aside from length, that distinguishes the short story from other literary forms, and if so to what extent these particular writers avail themselves of it. I think there's at least a unique potentiality in the short story, and that it has to do with, among other things, omission and a quality of internal resonance between the parts that, if handled well, can escalate the emotional power of the whole"He definitely gave me good reason to add five more books to my must-read books. br> br>
"...What makes the collection so good is partly the fineness of detail - emotional as well as social and sensory. Story after story plays with the same set of variables, but always in different, vividly imagined situations, and always with unpredictable outcomes." Buy from Amazon
Loosely connected around the family of an elderly landowner, KK Harouni, the stories tell of servants and poor relations navigating the whims of their patrons with a mixture of mercantile calculation and surprising love.The harsh realities facing powerless, impoverished women are especially well handled. Buy from Amazon
"...a collection of 15 stories that shuttle between Nigeria and the US. Once again the strains and betrayals involved in fleeing one culture for another figure prominently, with the uprooted heroines caught between the devil of a dysfunctional homeland and the deep blue sea of suburban America.Adichie has a flair for drama, particularly where violence is involved." Buy from Amazon
"..Petina Gappah is a Zimbabwean writer currently living in Switzerland. Aids, corruption, lethally callous attitudes to women and surreal levels of inflation ("we handed over a million dollars each to our driver" is a typical line) form the outward coordinates [of this collection]...All of these pieces depend on swiftness and lightness for their effect; flaring up into momentary life and then fading out before they acquire any burdensome solemnity, and this, too, seems true to the essential nature of the form." Buy from Amazon
The least favorite among the five, Lasdun still says "...what turns it from a good story into a great one is the leopard, and the connection Tower sets up between this unlikely creature and the boy whose murderous feelings it comes to embody. That he does this via the almost delinquently playful motif of spottedness, risking the seriousness of the story's emotion, but getting away with it, and thereby adding a level of pure joy to the performance, suggests that he is a natural-born short story writer." Buy from amazon]]>
Finally, however, after careful consideration, I made up my mind to come here. One reason for my decision was that all too many people advised me not to do it. Perhaps, like many other novelists, I tend to do the exact opposite of what I am told. If people are telling me -- and especially if they are warning me -- "Don't go there," "Don't do that," I tend to want to "go there" and "do that." It's in my nature, you might say, as a novelist. Novelists are a special breed. They cannot genuinely trust anything they have not seen with their own eyes or touched with their own hands.
He then goes on to deeper issues
"Between a high, solid wall and an egg that breaks against it, I will always stand on the side of the egg." Yes, no matter how right the wall may be and how wrong the egg, I will stand with the egg. Someone else will have to decide what is right and what is wrong; perhaps time or history will decide. If there were a novelist who, for whatever reason, wrote works standing with the wall, of what value would such works be?]]>
What is impressive about the book is its control, and its humane comprehension of radical otherness. In this regard, it ideally justifies itself, as one always hopes novels will. You can imagine replying to someone who was curious about what it’s like to be schizophrenic, “Well, start with John Wray’s novel.” Lowboy may often be lost to himself, but he is not lost to us. Wray knows how to induce and then manage a kind of epistemological schizophrenia in the reader, whereby we can inhabit Lowboy’s groundless visions and still glimpse the ground they negate.]]>
The shortlist for the 2009 Arthur C Clarke Award was also announced this week, consisting of six works, with the early frontrunner being the Neal Stephenson for Anathem.
Irish poet Seamus Heaney was awarded the £40,000 David Cohen prize in recognition of the "sheer scale" of his literary achievements.
His fellow poet and chair of the award's judges, poet laureate Andrew Motion, honoured Heaney for a body of poetry that over the past 40 years has "crystallised the story of our times, in language which has bravely and memorably continued to extend its imaginative reach", and for his critical writing, his translations and his lecturing, which "have invigorated the whole wider world of poetry".]]>
Today, I will write about Too Loud a Solitude. Of all the books I picked up, this one tugged at my heart strings a little bit more than the rest. For Bohumil Hrabal’s Too Loud a Solitude is a book which is deceiving in its simplicity, scathing in its humor and uncompromising in its honesty, but most of all, it is profound in a way that makes you think about it for a long time even after you have turned its last page.
From the very first line,
“For thirty-five years now I’ve been in wastepaper, and it’s my love story.”
I was hooked. Fortunately, the book was short enough that I did not have to skip too many meals to finish it one sitting.
The book is about Hanta, an old man who has spent his entire life compacting paper, but is overflowing with ideas.
“I am jug filled with water both magic and plain; I have only to lean over and a stream of beautiful thoughts flows out of me.”
An unusual character, the book explores his world in minute detail and within the narrow perspective of his vision, which rarely expands beyond the compacting mill in the cellar, rife with mice and his home, that is so full of books that it might he collapse if he turns in his sleep.
Hanta is also an alcoholic, claiming that he has “drunk so much beer over the past thirty-five years that it could fill an Olympic pool, an entire fish hatchery”, but it is only to “muster the strength for his godly labors”. Despite his job of destroying books, he has saved quite a lot of them from the evil shredder – either giving away or selling, but mostly just stacking up in his tiny home. But Hanta, who may be a nitwit according to his boss, is also a fountain of knowledge, from which can sprout Talmud, Hegel, Kant or Lao-Tzu.
“Because when I read, I don’t really read; I pop a beautiful sentence into my mouth and suck it like a fruit drop, or I sip it like a liqueur until the thought dissolves in me like alcohol, infusing brain and heart and coursing through the veins to the root of each blood vessel”
In Hanta – the destroyer of the written word, yet also its perpetrator - Hrabal has found the perfect setting to examine the permanence and abstraction of ideas, the inevitable march of time which threatens the relevance of all of us, the different kinds of relationships one can have with the written word and the myopic nature of an individual’s perspectives.
“And so everything I see in this world, it all moves backward and forward at the same time, like a blacksmith's bellows, like everything in my press, turning into its opposite at the command of red and green buttons, and that's what makes the world go round.”
The novel might have a narrow focus, but it also covers the gruesome details of Hanta’s existence, from the mice in his cellar to the details of his mother’s and uncle’s deaths and his haranguing boss. He also talks about his unlucky love life: of Manca, “who never having known glory, will never relinquish shame” and the nameless gypsy girls who “had their pictures taken everyday, but never saw a shot of themselves”.
Despite its short length and outlandish setting, the novel is rife with symbolism. It is as much a thought-provoking satire as it is a literary treat. If you haven’t read it yet, I don’t know what you are waiting for.]]>