Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Invisible Children

Although this is a documentary and not a book, it is certainly worth mentioning since it has relevance to this book blog. Our high school showed Invisible Children to a packed auditorium of students largely through a connection I have maintained with my former student Halle Butvin. Halle checks this blog for book ideas from time to time and noticed my comments about Beasts of No Nation back in the fall. She posted a comment on this blog, which led me to discover her blog, Locus Amoenus about her travels to Uganda and her work with Global Youth Partnerships for Africa. She came to my classes this week with a moving slide show of her recent visit to Uganda. She was joined by a member of the Invisible Children road crew and the persuasiveness of their presentations in the classroom packed the house for the screening that evening. I am proud of Halle's work and pleased that the students here in the suburbs may be opening their eyes, and hearts, to a cause larger than their own neighborhood.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Absurdistan by Gary Shteyngart

After all of the heavy reading I have been doing lately, this satire was a laugh-out-loud pick-me-up. Misha Vainberg is the irreverently funny hero of this novel which takes place in St. Petersburg and later in the tiny post-Soviet country of Absurdistan. Nothing is sacred in this expose of society and politics. I would recommend the chapter which outlines his "modest proposal" for a new style of Holocaust Museum.

Friday, January 12, 2007

What is the What by Dave Eggers

I have admired the work of Dave Eggers for a while, and do moreso now for the worth of this novel. Eggers interviewed Sudanese Lost Boy Valentino Achak Deng about his journey out of Sudan, his life in the refugee camps, and finally his difficult transition to life in the U. S. Eggers fictionalized his story into a novel that is so sad and so moving. I am amazed at the resilience of Deng and overcome by number of displaced persons from Africa that his story represents.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Perfume by Peter Suskind

After reading about the movie made from this novel, I was curious enough to read Perfume, the international best selling novel by German author Peter Suskind. This horrifying tale of an 18th century Parisian orphan, Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, begins on the day of his birth in a stinking marketplace. The wet nurse assigned to care for him by the monk who assumes his responsibility returns the baby because he has no odor - none of the warm caramel smells of newborn infants. Grenouille remains scentless throughout his life, but his sense of smell is highly developed which makes him a valued employee to perfumers. Because the novel is subtitled The Story of a Murderer, I expected more description of the murders, but I was somewhat pleasantly surprised that the novel was not like Silence of the Lambs. Rather it reminded me more of the sensory descriptions in a novel like Chocolat. I thoroughly enjoyed this vivid book.