Monthly Archives: October 2011

Books of the Month – October 2011

This month, I loved:

  • Mice, a delightful, unpretentious little British mystery where murder becomes redemption
  • Wendy and the Lost Boys, the sad biography of a complicated, lonely woman who seemed to be all success and fun
  • Incognito, a celebration of our unconscious, or why our conscious, hard-working brain is not the star of the show
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Filed under New fiction

** One Day I Will Write about this Place by Binyavanga Wainaina

One Day I Will Write About This Place is the author’s memoir, from his embarrassing Ugandan mother with her funny accent to the harsh tribal conflicts that mar his schooling progress (before the IMF’s policies terminate it completely, at least in Kenya) — but at the same time Maasai braids can strike Nairobi’s affluent teenagers as supremely chic. The story seems rambling, almost incoherent at first but strengthens as he gets older and the narrative focuses on his quest of himself as a man and of a career in South Africa amongst the post-Apartheid tumult, all the way to his first successes as a journalist and writer. The best part of the book for me was the juxtaposition of the personal and the political, whether it is a woman to whom he is attracted who seems to change personalities with the language she speaks or the writing assignment about Sudan that falls through because he cannot write the donor-funded “edutainment” that is expected.

 

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Filed under True story

** Your Creative Brain by Shelley Carson

Your Creative Brain is a rather curious amalgam of self-help and research on brain activity, but the awkward combination of brain diagrams and hands-on exercises works reads pretty well. What I found most interesting is the delineation between what the author calls the deliberate pathway to creativity (work actively on a solution) and the spontaneous pathway (set aside the problem and wait for a flash of inspiration), and her insistence that each of us tries the one that’s less comfortable to us, at least once in a while.

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** Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness by Toure

Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness? starts with a simple observation that, with 40 million Black Americans there has to be more than one way to be “Black” and proceeds to share stories from the author’s life and many others’ about experiences with racism and battling artificial limitations set by people both within and outside the black community. Throughout the book I felt that many of the situations and challenges would apply very well to women, and although the author argues that the situation is quite different I’m not so sure… One of the nice features of the book is the last chapter that contains a number of outtakes — leaving the rest of the book flowing well. Nicely done!

 

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*** Mice by Gordon Reece

A delightful, understated novel, Mice is a story of school bullying cured by… murder! Its ambitions are modest and amply met. I don’t want to give away too much of the story but if you like British novels about quiet small towns with a mix of Agatha Christie detective work, this book is for you. A lovely, carefully exact narrative told in a sixteen year old’s voice.

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** A More Perfect Heaven by Dava Sobel

A More Perfect Heavenis the story of Copernicus, known for formalizing the idea that the earth moves around the sun rather than vice-versa, but along with his careful record-keeping we also learn about his military skills, his years administering the church’s property, and even his, shall we say very close relationship with his housekeeper, which provoked the ire of the bishop.

The center of the book is an entertaining but I thought stilted and time-consuming play showing the main event, Copernicus’s writing of his opus, which coud have been condensed in twenty pages — but perhaps a little levity is good?

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* Luminarium by Alex Shakar

Another book with an ending better than the body? I found Luminarium to be a slog, with laborious descriptions of immersive computer games, psychically joined twin with one in a coma, and bizarre neurological experiments that would never, ever pass the ethics review board. It’s not all boring, I must say. interspersed with the boring stuff are tender observations of hospital life, cruel descriptions of birthday parties for rich kids, and realistic tales of collateral damage when big corporations swallow little companies. And in the end all the weird dead-twin communication resolve in a rather elegant way, but a little too late for my taste.

 

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