Thursday, October 4, 2007

Thoughts on a few books....

I just finished a deceptively simple little novel recommended by my former boss (that sounds weird, doesn't it? Boss seems to have such a negative connotation) Linda Holland. She thought it might make a good choice for our book discussion group and I suspect that, even though I can't really say that I liked the book, she's right and it would.

A Hatred for Tulips by noted newpaper correspondent Richard Lourie is one of those books that asks a morally ambiguous question that can't be answered in a right or wrong way. The story revolves around two brothers. Joop, the narrator, has grown up and lived in Amsterdam, harboring a guilty knowledge that has affected his every waking minute for the past sixty years. His younger brother Willem left Amsterdam with his mother after the devastation of World War II and has led a fairly privileged, very American life.

Reunited after all these years, Joop and Willem sit down over drinks and try to find any common ground between them, something that would indicate that they are even related. In the course of the afternoon's reminiscing, Joop reveals his secret for the first time. Readers may be disturbed, even horrified, by what Joop has done, but the questions arise: how far will a person go to feed his starving family, to gain love and acceptance from one person in a world gone mad with bombing raids and death camps? No, I didn't "like" this book but it will make for a great discussion!

I may have mentioned previously in this blog that some of my friends and I are playing around with an online book discussion group. We very virtuously agreed that we'd all wanted to read Gabriel Garcia Marquez at some point in our reading life. A couple of weeks ago, albeit after a couple of glasses of wine and a heavy dinner, I sat down expecting to fall in love with 100 Years of Solitude. Snore. How does one get to be 58 years old and still have guilt because a "good" book doesn't knock one's socks off? Could it be that recovering Catholic thing? I was soooo relieved when I read on our discussion blog that my very intellectual friend Laura had the same reaction. Whew! She commented that magical realism definitely isn't her thing and the irony is that, in the hands of Laure Esquivel or Isabel Allende, I've always enjoyed that unusual convention. But with Marquez, not so much.

On the upside, I'm about half way through a deeply felt book by another author, one I'd often heard about but never read. Andre Brink's Before I Forget is a literary, erotic paean to women. Chris Minaar, a lawyer, political activist and writer, now in his 70's, examines the meaning of his life through the curtain of memory. Disheartened by the state of the world, the war in Iraq being the centerpiece, and numb over the recent death of a lover, Brink, through Minaar, offers the reader a glimpse into the heart and soul of a thinking man and it is a wondrous sight. Oh, would that I could even remotely dredge up such facility with the English language! I'm not even sure that it can be learned.

I'd love to quote some lines from this book but I'm at home and Brink is on my desk at the library. I may slip it in sometime tomorrow. Meanwhile, I've got to head to Muvico to meet Andrea for The Feast of Love - one of my all time favorite books and one of the many that are being brought to the "big screen" this fall. Yes, yes, it only got 2 stars in the "No-News News-Press" but we are nothing if not optimistic!

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