Sunday, February 03, 2008

The Sunday Salon

After a rough stretch of slumpy reading, I think I might've finally settled into a stride. This week I received The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot, by Naomi Wolf, in the mail from Chelsea Green Publishing for review. I've had my eye on this provocative book since I heard Wolf give an interview about it on NPR. The premise is this:

In a stunning indictment of the Bush administration and Congress, best-selling author Naomi Wolf lays out her case for saving American democracy. In authoritative research and documentation Wolf explains how events of the last six years parallel steps taken in the early years of the 20th century’s worst dictatorships such as Germany, Russia, China, and Chile.

The book cuts across political parties and ideologies and speaks directly to those among us who are concerned about the ever-tightening noose being placed around our liberties.

In this timely call to arms, Naomi Wolf compels us to face the way our free America is under assault. She warns us–with the straight-to-fellow-citizens urgency of one of Thomas Paine’s revolutionary pamphlets–that we have little time to lose if our children are to live in real freedom.

I'm not terribly far into it, but so far it seems tirelessly researched, meticulously documented, and wonderfully written. And it makes me angry. Very angry. But I'll share more when I review it properly.

I've also started The Namesake, by Jhumpa Lahiri, and I LOVE IT. I read her Pulitzer-winning short story collection, Interpreter of Maladies, several years ago and remember her style being warm and cozy. Maybe it's a weird way to describe stories that often spoke of loneliness and heartache, but the reading itself was just so darn pleasant. I love the details Lahiri includes that make exotic places come to life and endear me to characters that aren't always very likeable.

The Namesake is no different so far. The details are great, the reading is smooth like butta, and the mental images she conjures up are stunning. Here's one of many favorite passages:

"A slight limp causes Ashoke's right foot to drag almost imperceptibly with each step. Since childhod he has had the habit and the ability to read while walking, holding a book in one hand on his way to school, from room to room in his parents' three-story house in Alipore, and up and down the red clay stairs. Nothing roused him. Nothing distracted him. Nothing caused him to stumble. As a teenager he had gone through all of Dickens. He read newer authors as well, Graham Greene and Somerset Maugham, all purchased from his favorite stall on College Street with pujo money. But most of all he loved the Russians. His paternal grandfather, a former professor of European literature at Calcutta University, had read from them aloud in English translations when Ashoke was a boy. Each day at tea time, as his brothers and sisters played kabadi and cricket outside, Ashoke would go to his grandfather's room, and for an hour his grandfather would read supine on the bed, his ankles curled at his side. For that hour Ashoke was deaf and blind to the world around him." (pg 12)

Of course, it doesn't hurt that this passage is about books, but the whole novel is infused with great details. Foods, colors, sensations. I just love Lahiri and would love to write like her. And she needs to put out another book soon or I might just curl up and whine once I'm done with this one.

Enough of my prattle. I'm going back to the books!

Happy salonning to everyone!


  1. I watched the movie, The Namesake, recently and thought it was very well done. I enjoyed the book, but wasn't wowed by the story, if that makes sense. I think I appreciated the movie more than I did the book. It was probably timing more than anything else. I really did like the author's writing, however.

  2. Hey, I just saw Naomi Wolf speak on a panel on "Defining Beauty." Will be blogging that soon :) I heard this latest book was very good.

  3. I know what you mean about the anger that gets stirred up when reading about the crap that is happening under this administration. A couple of months back I read Naomi Kline's book "The Shock Doctrine" and not only did I see what is happening politically and economically (in this case it's all bound up together), I also saw some stuff that sort of hit home. Her book prompted me to research the CIA's interrogation of enemy combatants called the Kubark Manual and I saw things in that the police used on my daughter-in-law. In turn, somehow this lead me to research The John Reid method and now I am on the rampage. I won't rant on your blog. However, I will say that you may want to pass on the word to your faithful readers that no matter what, if you are ever detained or arrested please, please, please do not say a word! Never, ever talk to cops! If there are any cops reading this blog...well...again, I won't be rude on someone else's blog. Anyway, A-Train please warn people if they want to save themselves a lot of money, seemingly endless trouble, and tons of heartache, never talk to cops except to say I want a lawyer and that is all! Maybe I should stop reading books that get me all riled-up.

  4. The Naomi Wolf sounds very interesting. And I'm also a fan of Lahiri, having read both The Namesake and Interpreter of Maladies. I also have the DVD of The Namesake at home waiting to be viewed ...

  5. The Namesake is one of my all time favorite books. And yes, she does write as smooth as butta (love that!). Her writing has what the entertainers call the "it" factor - that indefinable something that makes it stand out as remarkable and unique.

    I made the mistake of loaning my copy (hardcover!) to a co-worker who left the company without returning it. I'm still upset about it. I know I can buy another one, but it's not the same.

    Anyway, I'm glad you're enjoying it.

    I was disappointed in the movie, however. As you might imagine, it couldn't do justice to that writing :)

  6. I have The Namesake in my stacks. Loaned it out to a friend who loved it. Now to read it myself!!

    Going to an Obama rally this Friday night!!! Our caucus in Saturday night!!! YES WE CAN!!! :)

  7. I wish Jhumpa Lahiri would hurry up and publish something else too. I still remember a couple of the stories from Interpreter of Maladies and I read it several years ago.

  8. I liked Lahiri's writing style, but I found the stories in Maladies very slight. I'd be curious to read more by her.

  9. I'm going to keep an eye out for Maladies, as I enjoyed the Namesake a lot too. Embarassingly, I borrowed a copy from a close friend and this post's made me realise I still have it. I hate when people do that to me so I'm going to return it as soon!

  10. I loved 'The Namesake' and 'Interpreter of Maladies' was the only short story collection I couldn't put down. There is a new Lahiri due later this year called 'Unaccustomed Earth'.

  11. I looved The Namesake! (which is why I'm avoiding the movie) I can't wait for that new Lahiri to come out. :)


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