Do Not Say We Have Nothing

In a single year, my father left us twice.

This was work. I don’t know how I managed to read two similarly build up novels (the other one being Disappearing Moon Cafe), but this one was the tougher of the two. Maybe because the comparison material was so recent. Both left me wondering how I’d like something contemporary written by an Asian actor.

Anyway, time moves every way but chronologically in Do Not Say We Have Nothing. Keep your head with you, because there’s a lot of characters going through a lot of things. The most brutal one, probably Mao’s ‘Cultural Revolution’ and the horrors of Tiananmen Square.

These aren’t light, bright stories. There seems to be no end to what a family can be put through, and the small, mythology-like side steps only make the difference starker. How did anyone come out alive?

It’s a novel to take in in small doses, to learn and see through another set of goggles.

Do Not Say We Have Nothing, Madeleine Thien, Granta 2016

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Readathon: live

14:00 hours life happens when you’re busy making readathon plans: we’re leaving two hours earlier than expected. Read? Newspaper. I’m taking my book with me, but not great at reading in the car. This might turn out to be a eight hour readathon.

16:00 hours

22:00 hours back home, read about forty pages. Book is weird enough and versatile enough to probably easily get me through the next hours. Going to read until I reach the last fifty pages: I need something left for work – traffic transport this week.

24:00 hours I started reading at 14.15: page 45. Now, at 23:45, I’m at page 149. Little over a hundred pages in ten hours is nothing in my book, but as I might have been reading less than two hours in those ten hours ..not that bad. I’m taking the book to bed, in case I wake up somewhere during the night. I wonder if I will dream of art deco movies on Venus because of it.

10:00 hours Page 175, good morning. It’s been ages since I read in bed, instead of just grabbing my tablet to check on ONTD. I guess this readathon – although I’m participating on the amateur kiddie level – helps you move your focus back to reading. And I say this as someone reading up to eight books  a month.
I underestimated my book keeping skills. No, not administration-wise (though I don’t think I do those too badly either), but books kept to read. I realised I still have Zen & The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance lying around. It doesn’t call to me at all, but it takes the brake off of my reading of Radiance. Approx. four hours for 260 pages, let’s see how this goes.

12:00 hours Now my stubborn streak strikes. Page 260 and I want to be done with it, finish this book in the next two hours so I don’t have to look at it again. The randomness of it (collected stories, scripts, interviews) make it both easier and harder. I don’t have to follow one plot line, but that means there might not be one satisfying conclusion either. I read on.

14:00 hours And that’s it. Done. In the end there was kind of a conclusion, just maybe not the one I thought of to be a possibility. Reviewing Radiance is going to be a challenge. The readathon, even though I felt like I participated in the smallest way (no challenges, friends, donations added), was fun. A throw back to the time of staying up late, waking up early, walking into the restroom with your book – all because reading had to be done. So yes, I’ll probably be around for the October edition.

Readathon

Whoever thought that this was a good idea. Tomorrow is Dewey’s 24 hour readathon, and in a moment of I-don’t-know I signed up for it.

Anyway, I am allowed to start at 14.00 hours local time, and after that it’s just ..reading, I guess.
I have 400 pages left of Catherynne M. Valente’s Radiance. I read her children’s book The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making and am very curious about her ‘adult’ writing.

In the evening I’ll go indoor skydiving for my mother’s birthday, but if I need more to read/have more time to read, I have the ebook Every Heart A Doorway. This was a free download earlier this week at Tor.com, and I couldn’t resist. It’s also just a novella, and what’s another 100+ pages?

Am I going to be reading through the night? Very probably not, but it still means that I’m going to need something to read until two o’clock Sunday afternoon. I have the latest volume of Saga left, and I always re-read the previous volume, so that’s a chunk. If life still hasn’t eaten away my reading time, I have a manuscript left: 80.000 words. Surely that will get me to two.

Let’s do this, I’ll keep you updated!

 

 

P.S. it being the weekend, I also have a fat weekend newspaper with two appendixes and a magasine. Sounds like a back up to me!

The Marriage of Opposites

I always left my window open at night, despite the warnings I’d been given.

Visually stunning, to start out with a cliche compliment. A book that could very well be turned into a TV show, but is vibrant, bright and visual enough to not necessarily need the obvious image to accompany the story. The story is the image, full of them, bursting in technicolour.
The blurb talks about the life of the mother of painter Camille Pizzarro, but ‘story about stubborn woman on a small island in the 1900s’  would have done fine as well. Rachel isn’t impressed by what her parents, religious community and society tells her to be and do, and fights their ideas in many ways. Old stories, mythology and distance to the rest of the world turn her into a heroine in a magical-realistic world.
That doesn’t mean that she’s likeable full time, the woman is stubborn and arrogant and stubborn. Camille – being her carbon copy – doesn’t make things easier inside the family (home). It does make for bigger surroundings, with Paris becoming a participant of the story later into the book. And through Hoffman’s words, Paris might have never looked lovelier.
Still, this is Rachel’s book, and she deserves it.
The Marriage of Opposites, Alice Hoffman, Simon&Schuster 2015

Het Kremlin

Het Kremlin is een van de beroemdste bouwwerken in de wereld.

Een geschiedenisboek voor de toegewijde geschiedenislezer. Wat een hoeveelheid informatie, en terwijl ik alleen maar een beetje meer wilde weten over die vreemde Russen en hun geschiedenis.

Merridale gaat eeuwen terug, langs elke keer dat een deel van het Kremlin wordt gebouwd, herbouwd en afgebrand. Van stammen naar tsaren naar communisten naar ..wat er nu zit, alles mag in detail er in.

Dat is pittig, en de eindeloze opstapeling van feiten maakt het niet toegankelijker. Het kan best dat de zus van de politicus mooie oorbellen had die zeventig jaar later werd terug gevonden, maar had het redigeren niet iets scherper gekund? Misschien af en toe wat grafieken of stambomen als visuele steun?

Meer naslagwerk dan lettervreterboek dus. Al weet ik nu wel meer van de Russische geschiedenis; ik snap er de Russen alleen nog niet door.

Het Kremlin: Een politieke en culturele geschiedenis, Catherine Merridale, Nieuw Amsterdam 2013

De lege etalage

Somos felices aquí.

Een beetje minder herhaling had best gekund, Van Iperen. Zelfs als de lezer maar een hoofdstuk per keer leest, hoeven de feiten niet elk derde hoofdstuk herhaald te worden.

Trieste feiten, helaas. Cuba is niet eens de eerste (noch vast de laatste) in de categorie van landen vol (vruchtbaar) potentieel, om vervolgens vernietigd te worden door een overheid/autoriteit die de kolder in de kop krijgt. Is het eindelijk afhankelijk van de Spanjaarden, de Russen en de Amerikanen, valt alles uit elkaar door een corrupte versie van communisme/socialisme (ik vermoed dat Castro het zelf ook niet meer weet).

En dan komen de verhalen van armoede en hypocrisie. De tweede om de eerste te ontwijken, want het is niet veilig om kritiek te spuien. Ook al moeten dochters prostitueren, worden inwoners bij toeristische spots weg gehouden alsof de armoe besmettelijk is, en worden woonruimtes uit ingestorte gebouwen gecreëerd. Er is niets anders, namelijk. Voor de inwoner is er niks, behalve de zwarte markt en de onzekerheid.

Dit is een boek uit 1996, en het milde optimisme (‘In 2000 kunnen we misschien met een wederopbouw beginnen’) prikt maar een klein beetje. Kom maar met een update, Van Iperen. Laat de liefste mensen van Zuid-Amerika uitspreken of er nog iets van die hoop over is. Knip de herhalingen er uit en het pagina-aantal hoeft niet eens te veranderen.

De lege etalage: Cuba na de revolutie, Art van Iperen, Atlas 1996

Disappearing Moon Cafe

He remembered that by then he was worn out from fighting the wind.

Sometimes you are simply (already) invested in a novel because you struggled to get it. Or like ‘struggle’; it’s not like I had to climb trees and survive the Sahara to get to it. It was just a tough-to-acquire eBook with a picky view of in which app to work. Anyway.

This was an experience, opposed to just another novel. Maybe I’m simply not used to Asian actors and their certain style yet, maybe it was simply because the jumps through time got me bewildered a few times.

There’s over a century of stories within the family, from second(/third/fourth?) cousins to daughters-in-law, first sons and grumpy (great-)grandmothers. A Chinese family in Canada, Chinese-Canadians and the Chinese family members left behind in the other country.

It’s a family tree book with immigration, racism and sexism mixed in. The not-western point of view doesn’t alienate, because everything that happens is simply too familiar. Everyone’s got a family, some roots just grow further and wither slower.

Disappearing Moon Cafe, Sky Lee, Douglas & McIntyre Ltd. 1990