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04/11/08

  02:20:00 am, by Airycat   , 270 words  
Categories: Book Reviews, General Non-fiction, Poetry

Orpheus in the Bronx by Reginald Shepherd

Orpheus in the Bronx: Essays on Identity, Politics, and the Freedom of Poetry by Reginald Shepherd is undoubtedly one of the more difficult books I have ever read. Shepherd's thinking is a few levels above mine. He's definitely more academic than I. I still enjoyed it. Having an intellectual poet's viewpoint was enlightening, since I'm always looking for a better understanding of poetry.

His first chapter, "Portrait of the Artist," provides a perspective from which to comprehend his discourse. In the following chapters, Shepherd so conscientiously quotes and credits, that by the time I figured out what his point was, I had also learned a lot about what poetry is. (Also it gave me new ideas of my own about how to write poetry.) The section on readings was interesting and provided information about poetry, but since I have not yet read the poems/writings he's writing about, I have no thoughts of my own to compare with his. Shepherd did make me more interested in reading them, however, in particular those by Samuel R. Delaney, because I have read some of his other work. I think he saved the best for the end. There was a lot in his final chapter, "Why I write" -- things to make me think about poetry and about writing in general.

This isn't a book for the average reader. The very quotes and credits I found helpful by the time I understood, were also the stumbling blocks to easy reading. If you love explorations of poetry (in addition to poetry itself) and are at least somewhat intellectually inclined, it is worth the effort to read.

Orpheus in the Bronx

  02:07:00 am, by Airycat   , 567 words  
Categories: Book Reviews, Fiction

Danny Gospel by David Athey

 

When I first read Danny Gospel by David Athey, I jumped right in and thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a ride of theme park proportions with something unexpected at every turn. Although I saw it as lighthearted and humorous, I knew there was something more to it.
On second reading I saw the dark side. The humor I saw on first reading became of the "if I don't laugh, I'll cry" variety. Danny is a lost individual. It's understandable. He lost most of his family and he lost his family farm. He even lost his real name in a sense, since he's still known as Danny Gospel because his family was a gospel singing group, although he no longer sings. There are other losses and the losses of 9/11, though not personal, are perhaps just too much for Danny.
Danny just wants a normal life and, probably without realizing it, he starts out on a journey to find it. He doesn't know where he is or where he's going and he didn't know what to do about it until, in October of 2001, an average, lovely woman appears in his bedroom and kisses him. He still doesn't really know what he should do, only that he has to do something.
Danny Gospel is written in first person, so we get Danny's slightly skewed view of things. There were points in this story when I wondered what was "real" and what was Danny's imagination. It's deftly written so that we are never quite sure. I found nothing in the book predictable, and yet it all makes sense and follows logically, taking into account Danny's state of mind. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book from beginning to end.


When I first read Danny Gospel by David Athey, I jumped right in and thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a ride of theme park proportions with something unexpected at every turn. Although I saw it as lighthearted and humorous, I knew there was something more to it.

On second reading I saw the dark side. The humor I saw on first reading became of the "if I don't laugh, I'll cry" variety. Danny is a lost individual. It's understandable. He lost most of his family and he lost his family farm. He even lost his real name in a sense, since he's still known as Danny Gospel because his family was a gospel singing group, although he no longer sings. There are other losses and the losses of 9/11, though not personal, are perhaps just too much for Danny.

Danny just wants a normal life and, probably without realizing it, he starts out on a journey to find it. He doesn't know where he is or where he's going and he didn't know what to do about it until, in October of 2001, an average, lovely woman appears in his bedroom and kisses him. He still doesn't really know what he should do, only that he has to do something.

Danny Gospel is written in first person, so we get Danny's slightly skewed view of things. There were points in this story when I wondered what was "real" and what was Danny's imagination. It's deftly written so that we are never quite sure. I found nothing in the book predictable, and yet it all makes sense and follows logically, taking into account Danny's state of mind. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book from beginning to end.

Danny Gospel

 

  01:46:00 am, by Airycat   , 331 words  
Categories: Book Reviews, Uncategorized

A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

I'm not particularly fond of reading books that "everyone" is reading. Even as a child I'd look for something I'd never heard of before, rather than what was suggested. It was with some reluctance that I picked up A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle. I'm not sure why I did, especially since I'm not into new age stuff and that's what this seemed like.

I don't think Tolle is a great writer. The content was not hard for me to grasp, but I found the first couple of chapters annoyingly difficult to read. I persevered at this point only because I had promised my sister I'd keep up, for her, with Oprah's class on it. Ultimately, I'm glad I did keep reading. Tolle doesn't present anything through a religious belief, but I read with my Christian beliefs. There are things I don't agree with, perhaps don't quite understand, but I found that his basic premise of how we must be is in agreement with my faith. And I agree that it is powerful. Although I'm not sure of the terminology, because of my own connotations, I see the problem of ego as he presents it. By the time I got to the middle I had started to write notes and questions in the margins and the petty annoyances of his writing didn't bother me. (I think it's the amount of repetition, but I'm not really sure and I really don't think it matters. He's not a great writer, but he's decent enough. This book isn't about the writing. It's about the content.)

In the end Tolle says the book will either be gibberish or make profound sense to the reader. For me it was simple and profound, although not entirely new -- just presented differently. It's worth reading just to find out if it's gibberish or profound. If it turns out to be gibberish to you, take what you can from it and don't worry about the rest.

A New Earth

03/06/08

  01:24:00 am, by Airycat   , 451 words  
Categories: Book Reviews, Biography, General Non-fiction

The Translator by Daoud Hari

In another time I would never have heard of Daoud Hari, but he likely would be known in his own village as an educated man who knows many stories from other lands. It isn't another time, though, and Hari's book, The Translator: A Tribesman's Memoir of Darfur, is in my hands. What I find remarkable, beautifully so, is that Hari is a friendly, kind, gentle and loving man. The tribesman, potential tribal elder (looked up to, if not officially a leader) comes shining through. It is the saddest (a woefully insufficient word) thing that none of this is what Hari wants to show. The story he must tell, what makes him so remarkable to me, is painful and devastating (more insufficient words).

Hari has seen things no one should have to see, heard stories no one should have to hear, much less endure. He is from Darfur, a part of Sudan, where the "powers that be" are trying to eradicate those who have lived there for generations. He has seen his own village, and many others, wiped out. He has lost family members and friends

Hari is representative of his people. He is the way he was taught to be. His gentleness and faith in people are part of his culture. In The Translator, Hari gives us a glimpse of this culture and his youth. Then he tells the story of how he became, and his experiences as, a translator, mainly for journalists covering Darfur. The stories themselves made me want to put down this book. What is happening there is beyond horrible, but Hari's gentleness, his ability to find humor in the darkest situation, without belittling or destroying the genuine pathos of that situation, is what kept me reading.

Two lines in particular struck me. This first was in Chapter 10 Sticks for Shade: When noting the limited and often inappropriate aid the people of Darfur are receiving he stated "Perhaps the wealthy nations had finally blown themselves away and were no longer available to send their token remedies for the problems that their thirst for resources has always brought to such people as these." (pp. 73-74) A kind, gentle man, yes, but not blind or ignorant of the world. The second was something to think about. "The proof of a democracy is surely whether or not a government represents the hearts of its people." (p 85)

Where do we stand? Can we, as humans, afford to lose a people whose sense of hospitality interferes with their ability to torture others?

I knew something bad was happening in Darfur. I didn't really know what. It is far away and doesn't affect me personally. Daoud Hari has told me what is happening and made it personal.

The Translator

02/09/08

  02:39:00 am, by Airycat   , 202 words  
Categories: Book Reviews, General Non-fiction

Red Zone Blues by Pepe Escobar

I was expecting Red Zone Blues, by Pepe Escobar, to be something like a dry political discussion and found instead the, often conflicting, heart of the people. This book reads to me like Escobar's notes as he traveled. It has a choppy unconnected feel to it. There are some sloppy grammatical errors. I could nitpick the writing, but find any flaws are minor and outweighed by the content.*

Many might find the author to be anti-American, but, whether or not he is, he nonetheless provides an accurate picture of how America is seen by Iraqis. This is the value of the book. It should be required reading for all Americans. If Americans refuse to look at how others see us and/or demand they see us as we see ourselves, we are doomed. While we should not compromise on who and what we are, knowing how others see us should help us to make sure our actions are in line with who we really are (and hopefully not point out that we aren't who we think we are).

*This was an advanced reading copy, which is not the final, edited copy, something I was not aware of when I first began doing these reviews.

Red Zone Blues

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