My Feminist Sensibility vs. Love In The Time Of Cholera

Have you read Love In The Time Of Cholera? Have you been as enchanted by it as so many people and big reviewers seem to have been? The Christian Science Monitor thinks it’s boldly romantic, profoundly imaginative, fully imagined work of fiction that expands our sense of life’s infinite possibilities. I don’t quite grasp the difference between “profoudly imaginative” and “fully imagined” but “life’s infinite … Continue reading My Feminist Sensibility vs. Love In The Time Of Cholera

One Hundred Years of Solitude: A Literary Chameleon About Life

MANY YEARS LATER as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice. At that time Macondo was a village of twenty adobe houses, built on the bank of a river of clear water that ran along a bed of polished stones, which were white and enormous, like prehistoric eggs. The world … Continue reading One Hundred Years of Solitude: A Literary Chameleon About Life

Diving Into Magical Realism: Two Morsels

Without a doubt, Like Water for Chocolate is a tasty read. It  opens with the ingredients for Christmas Rolls,  Mexican style. But it goes beyond the usual food in fiction novel. A little further down, it reads: Tita was literally washed into this world on a great tide of tears that spilled over the edge of the table and flooded across the kitchen floor. That … Continue reading Diving Into Magical Realism: Two Morsels

Adam Johnson’s North Korea: Fiction as Trauma Narrative 

Disbelief. That’s my initial reaction as I follow the life of orphan master’s son, Jun Do, in Adam Johnson’s The Orphan Master’s Son, winner of the 2013 Pulitzer Prize. Is this really what life is like in North Korea? Lives subjected to unrelenting propaganda from its one radio station, and unrelenting trauma, probably almost from birth if you’re an orphan? As he grows up, Jun … Continue reading Adam Johnson’s North Korea: Fiction as Trauma Narrative 

Stark Truth: Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo

I suppose in a large country like India you can see life in as many ways as you can imagine it to unfold. But in the poorest hovels of that huge country the reality is that life unfolds in ways you’ve never imagined. Ways that make you wonder how people can endure them. Ways that coax your admiration for a resilient social class whose existence … Continue reading Stark Truth: Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo

Cruelty Knows No Bounds: In The Country of Men by Hisham Matar

The telling of a terrible event seems somehow more compelling when done from the point of view of a child. We often assume that a child does not have the biases of an adult to color his perception. We also assume that he’s less likely to lie when recounting what he sees. On the other hand, lack of a life history may mean a child … Continue reading Cruelty Knows No Bounds: In The Country of Men by Hisham Matar

Fiction as History: Amitav Ghosh’s The Glass Palace

Myanmar—does that ring a bell? You guess that, maybe, it’s the same as Burma. And maybe you’ve even heard of its most famous citizen, Aung San Suu Kyi. Or, maybe, you have no idea whatsoever what Myanmar is. And you couldn’t care less. Myanmar is fascinating—rich in resources, diverse, exotic, unique, complex. Once a monarchy, invaded by the British, then terrorized by a military regime … Continue reading Fiction as History: Amitav Ghosh’s The Glass Palace

Lolita

Mature Iranian Women’s Kinship with Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita—Reading Lolita in Tehran

I anticipated a great read with Reading Lolita in Tehran. It tackles two of my main interests—a woman’s journey through life, and her experience living in a culture quite different from that I live in. I strongly empathized with what I saw to be its underlying themes. But after reading pages and pages full of details to support those themes, I thought, okay, I get … Continue reading Mature Iranian Women’s Kinship with Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita—Reading Lolita in Tehran

Vietnam War, A Retrospective: Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Sympathizer

Forty years after the end of the war in Vietnam comes a widely-acclaimed, generously awarded début novel—The Sympathizer: A Novel by Viet Thanh Nguyen, published by Grove/Atlantic, Inc. in 2015. I’m going to throw in my two-cents worth among the throng of gushing admirers of this 2016 Pulitzer Prize winning novel (plus at least five other awards), because this work says something essential to me. … Continue reading Vietnam War, A Retrospective: Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Sympathizer

Kawabata’s Beauty and Sadness: Love, Sex, and Revenge

Is it merely coincidence that I see a thread running through the two books by Yasunari Kawabata that I’ve read? Maybe, I should read at least one more before I conclude that this 1968 Nobel Prize winner, who writes about obsession, is himself obsessed with the issue of older Japanese men preying on vulnerable young Japanese women. I understand Kawabata’s obsession better, after a quick … Continue reading Kawabata’s Beauty and Sadness: Love, Sex, and Revenge

Thousand Cranes by Yasunari Kawabata

I continue my romp into world literature with Yasunari Kawabata, the first Japanese to win the Nobel Prize in Literature (1968). In awarding him the prize, the Nobel Committee gave special mention to Thousand Cranes, along with Snow Country and The Old Capital among the many novels he had written. When I first read this novel, I wondered what about it merited special mention. Granted, … Continue reading Thousand Cranes by Yasunari Kawabata

God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

I seem to be focused on small things lately. Maybe in getting old, I have realized that big things are rare. I’ve learned one truly valuable lesson growing up (I want to believe we keep growing): You can fashion a good life out of small things. You do so by making big things of small ones. It’s not that hard—it’s what humans do to feel … Continue reading God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

SF Bay at sunset, from Oakland Hills

Queen of Dreams: Divakaruni, again

This book comes closer to home than the other two I’ve read by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. Literally. It’s set in Berkeley. At some point in the story, Rakhi, the daughter of the Queen of Dreams, might have lived next to me on the Oakland Hills. If she had been real of course. Rakhi is real enough to me because she is a modern woman coping … Continue reading Queen of Dreams: Divakaruni, again

Cultural Duality: With Downcast Eyes

In affluent Western countries, those that aren’t “us,” the “Others,” are minority, often disadvantaged groups. In France, the Other usually comes from North Africa (the Maghreb). Like Fatma, a Berber girl, in Tahar Ben Jelloun’s With Downcast Eyes. Fatma, like the male narrator in The Reluctant Fundamentalist, moves from her home. In this case, it’s from the hills of Morocco to France where her father … Continue reading Cultural Duality: With Downcast Eyes

Two Novels With Indian Roots by C.B. Divakaruni

The Palace of Illusions A woman with five princely warrior husbands–how cool is that? I didn’t read this book; I listened to it. I borrowed it from the local library while recovering from a vitrectomy (an eye operation). The two-week tedious down time—I literally had to keep my gaze on my feet—became so much more bearable. The dramatic reader was a delight and I appreciated … Continue reading Two Novels With Indian Roots by C.B. Divakaruni

Nancy Singleton-Hachisu’s Japanese Farm Food

Who expects to be entertained reading a cookbook? Hungry, perhaps and eager to try out recipes from it. But, in fact, some cookbooks do more than give you recipes and possibly some background story behind them, so they’re not only informative, they’re entertaining. One such book is Japanese Farm Food. I know little about Japanese farms and indigenous Japanese culture except for what I’ve seen … Continue reading Nancy Singleton-Hachisu’s Japanese Farm Food