Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Politics and Prose

It's a miracle that I can find any time to read fiction at all. For me lately it's just all politics, all the time. Thanks to Don and Andrea I've become addicted to Bill Moyers and his eloquent, frequent guest Kathleen Hall Jamison. Couple that with my nightly dose of Jon Stewart, who actually seems even more clever without his writers, and all I can say is thank God for Tivo! At least we don't have to waste precious hours on commercials.

My admiration for Barack Obama grows stronger every day and I have yet to regret that gut feeling I had about him ages ago, before he even thought about running for President, (well, perhaps he was entertaining the notion) when I read his first book Dreams from my Father. While I was certainly pleased to see that he won a Grammy for his reading of The Audacity of Hope, a book I highly recommend to anyone and everyone who wants a full accounting of where Obama stands on the issues, I was disappointed but hardly surprised that my local newspaper found it notable enough to put Obama's photo up there on the front page with rapper Kanye West for his Grammy win, yet failed to acknowledge the much more exciting news of his huge win in the Maine caucus the night before. Call me super sensitive but I've studied enough psychology to understand how this subtle form of racism sends a sly message to voters and it just infuriates me.

As for prose, I've still found time to finish one excellent and a few less than notable books in the past couple of weeks. If you haven't discovered Irene Nemirovsky, please do. I was drawn to Suite Francaise when I read the story of Irene's death at Auschwitz and the later discovery, by her daughter, of a suitcase full of manuscripts that she had written in the years leading up to her incarceration. These wonderful books are being beautifully translated, with all Nemirovsky's sublety and nuance intact, by Sandra Smith and published here in the states. The latest release, Fire in the Blood, is really just a perfect little tale. It begins so simply, with narrator, Silvio, reflecting upon his life and family relationships in a bucolic French village. The author chooses every word with such care that her keenly critical observations of the townspeople could go unnoticed by a less than discerning reader. She reminds me of a kinder, gentler Flaubert.
The phrase "still waters run deep" comes to mind with Nemirovsky. She builds to the climax so slowly and deftly that you don't see it coming until it floors you with that realization that you've been had. It was an "ah ha" moment that made me laugh out loud. I can't wait to see what will be translated next!

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