Saturday, May 15, 2010
What I Have Read Lately
Island Beneath The Sea By Isabel Allende
The latest novel from Chilean literary legend Isabel Allende follows Tete, a biracial girl born a slave in Saint-Domingue (present-day Haiti) in the late 18th century. Toulouse Valmorain, a French plantation owner, purchases Tete, rapes and impregnates her, gives her child away, and forces her to care for his child and deeply troubled wife. After the beginning of the Haitian revolution, Valmorain, his family and slave Tete move to New Orleans to try to put their lives back together. Tete finds comfort in voodoo and in the charms of the new city while waiting for the freedom that Valmorain has promised her. She has other children that she is able to keep with her to an extent, but this is only a partial benefit for her. This a sprawling epic of a novel, written in Allende's trademark style, with gorgeous place descriptions, a keen eye for history and a predilection for high drama. I enjoyed this book and devoured it in one sitting.
I re-read American Gods by Neil Gaiman.
Titans clash! The intriguing premise of Gaiman's tale is that the gods of European yore, who came to North America with their immigrant believers, are squaring off for a rumble with new indigenous deities: "gods of credit card and freeway, of Internet and telephone, of radio and hospital and television, gods of plastic and of beeper and of neon." They all walk around disguised as ordinary people, which causes no end of trouble for Shadow, who can't turn around without bumping into a minor divinity. Released from prison the day after his beloved wife dies in a car accident, Shadow takes a job as emissary for Mr. Wednesday, avatar of the Norse god Woden, unaware that his boss's recruiting trip across the American heartland will subject him to repeat visits from the reanimated corpse of his dead wife and brutal roughing up by the goons of Wednesday's adversary, Mr. World. At last Shadow must reevaluate his own deeply held beliefs in order to determine his crucial role in the final showdown. Even when he isn't in top form, Gaiman, creator of the acclaimed Sandman comics series, trumps most storytellers. And I Love This Book!
And on a similar note I have been reading about the Chippewa and Ojibwa spiritual lives and myths and I just got the book:
The Harvard Psychedelic Club : how Timothy Leary, Ram Dass, Huston Smith, and Andrew Weil killed the fifties and ushered in a new age for America
Publishers Weekly gave it a Starred Review. It's hard for folks who didn't live through the 1960s to imagine what it was like to live in a drug- and sex-soaked culture, one where traditional values were drowned in a rush of hedonism and hippiedom. Names like Timothy Leary and Ram Dass bring back all the memories and all the conflicts. In this beautifully constructed study, Lattin (Jesus Freaks) brings together four of the most memorable figures from that period. Each comes across as a flawed genius and irrepressible fanatic. The author says of Leary that he activate[d] conservative anxiety in America, but this could easily describe any of the players in this grim and gritty story. Laying out their stories side by side in roughly chronological form, the author traces the lives of each of the players, exposing a kind of dysfunctional relationship among them that is not part of our corporate memory. This is a fast-moving, dispassionate recounting of a seminal period in our history, and all in all, a wonderful book. (Jan.)
Well, I guess I should put down the books now and go out and work in the garden!
Talk to you later,
Nobody talks so constantly about God as those who insist that there is no God.
- Heywood Broun