my tragic right hip

Busting out bad joints all over the place

October 3rd, 2009

#53 – Drop City

When I bought my second-hand copy of Drop City by TC Boyle, I knew nothing about the book except for the fact that it’s on the 1001 Books list. My copy cost $3.99 and I bought from a now-defunct bookstore in Stratford, Ontario one snowy winter day my RRHB and I were out exploring my Irish roots in Millbank, Ontario. It was a great day. Then, like so many of my books, it sat on the shelf, and sat on the shelf, and sat on the shelf.

But once I started this book I resented anything taking time away from the reading of it. Drop City provides a refuge for anyone who wants to drop of out of society. A commune on an idyllic plot of land in California where hippies of all sorts call home, Drop City’s inhabitants don’t go for the Man’s version of how they should live their lives. But when he comes calling in the form of an injunction (coupled with some back taxes and compounded by more than one run in with the law), their fearless leader decides that the only free place left on earth is Alaska, and “Let’s go!”

Interspersed within the story of the caravan of hippies abandoning their commune (complete with a few goats strapped to the top of a merry-making old bus), is the other side of “dropping out.” The very real people who already make a life in Alaska by truly living off the land. There are benefits to both ways of life, but to say that the hippies are prepared for the harsh Alaska winter would be an understatement.

Ronnie (aka “Pan”) and Star had travelled across the USA to get to Drop City. They abandoned their education and their livelihoods (she was a teacher) for a chance to live a real life among truly free people. And they do find free love and a free life, if only for a fleeting moment before the reality of life, and their disparate personalities gets in the way of their idealism. Star’s soon left Ronnie behind for Marco, a violent drop out who is on the run from the law and from his entire identity (it seems), who represents a different kind of life and love for her by the time the novel reaches its conclusions.

Interspersed with the idealistic, even indiotic (at times), hippies, are the real societal “drop outs.” The people who live on the cold, permafrost borders of Alaska hunting, trapping and camping in cold wooden houses not meant for much more than a temporary stop along the way. The dramatic difference, not necessarily in idealism, but in common sense, between the Drop City band of ragtag, Ken Kesey-like bus people and the actual Alaskan settlers causes the necessary friction the book needs.

I can’t stress enough how engrossing this novel is from beginning to end. It’s one of those books whose narrative drives along at such a breakneck speed that you barely even register the fact that you’ve already read 150 pages, the sun’s gone down and you’re fingers are freezing from holding the book so tight. T.C. Boyle has a way of slowly building steam that will eventually boil, both within characters and situations, that overshadows the entire work with a sense of forboding. This isn’t a bad thing — it’s more that the novel knows its outcome already and you, as the reader, need to catch up as quickly as possible. Parts of this novel just made me cringe too — the idea of free love equalling the utter objectification of some of the women, that the mother among the bunch openly gives her children acid to prove they’re “turned on,” and the asumption that you can simply head to Alaska with little more than the goats on top of your broken down bus and expect to survive, all of which add to the dramatic tension of the most basic themes found in literature: humanity versus their environment.

I know I say this a lot but the 1001 Books list hasn’t let me down with Drop City. I’d highly recommend it. I’d loan you my copy, but I’m sending it to a friend as we speak.

September 28th, 2009

#52 – Corelli’s Mandolin

Many, many years ago my friend Kathleen handed me a copy of Corelli’s Mandolin and told me I had to read it. It’s a favourite of many friends of ours and it’s been sitting on my shelf for probably close to a decade (wow that’s frightening to admit). I don’t know what made me pick it up a couple weeks ago when I was on my way into the hospital to get a post-surgery check up, but I’m glad I did. It’s a lovely, flawed, novel.

At first, it was hard for me to get into the narrative. Louis de Bernières has an interesting writing style. It’s dense and worthy of your concentrated attention but it’s also whimsical and a little magical (reminding me of Allende and Garcia Marquez). Interspersed with the stories of two of the main characters, father and daughter Iannis and Pelagia, are stories of the Italian dictator, Greece rebels, Italian soldiers (including Antonio Corelli of the aforementioned mandolin), and various other people. It all comes together to create a rich and layered book that presented one of the most gruesome, terrifying portraits of war I’ve ever read. The scenes where Francesco (an Italian soldier) finds himself knee-deep in the fighting were as deeply affecting as Saving Private Ryan was when I watched it for the first time all those years ago.

The love story between Corelli, an Italian invader of the Greek island where Pelagia and her father live, is complicated by her previous relationship to a foolish, troubled boy named Mandras. War also divides them. The impossibility of the situation heightens their emotions but the impossibility of the situation refuses to abait, especially when both Italy and Germany are found to be on losing sides of the war. De Bernières plums the depths of human nature as it relates to society in this novel. It’s always up for discussion, whether it’s men forced to obey the orders of war or of humanity; for women forced into situations because of their gender; for the pressures that social justice sets upon a person, the larger themes to the novel go on and on. And like many novels that explore, these larger philosophical discussions are set against the very real situation of human suffering. Rape, murder, theivery, you name it, people do awful things to one another, but at the same time it’s the idea of love that keeps the idea that there’s a reward to life, even if it takes years to realize.

The end of the novel sort of fell down for me. To discuss it in too much detail would spoil the entire novel, so I’ll just say that it was flat and somewhat cliched, tired and a little bit implausible. Yet, the strength of this book for me was the gruesome, realistic and utterly terrifying sections about the men suffering through the harrowing days of combat. My heart ached for them.

READING CHALLENGES: 1001 Books baby!

September 9th, 2009

#48 – Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

Sometimes, you need a little lightness in your life. After a hard summer and an even harder year, I’m happy to say that there are a couple of things I’ve watched and read over the last couple weeks that just make me smile. Glee (Freaks and Geeks meets Fame meets Election) equals bliss and belly laughs, but it’s only one once a week. So over the last few weeks I was reading Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day only at the cottage and only before I went to sleep just to make it last that little bit longer.

I adored this novel.

Miss Pettigrew finds herself on Delysia Lafosse’s doorstep after a particularly trying last assignment as a governess. In fact, Miss Pettigrew has found herself sent off on a number of trying assignments as she attempts to make her way in the world. Plain (by her own standards), practical, and quite downtrodden, if this job doesn’t work out, Miss Pettigrew will find herself out on the streets. Only when Miss Lafosse opens up the door to usher Miss Pettigrew inside, there’s been a mixup — she’s not there to take care of any children but be a maid (of sorts) for the vivacious young actress/singer who finds herself in quite a pickle when it comes to her love life.

Over the course of the day Miss Pettigrew fixes, fiddles, meddles and generally makes herself indispensible to Delysia and her group of friends. She puts love affairs right, makes sure Miss Lafosse flies in the right direction and even spares some fun for herself. As the minutes and hours tick by, Miss Pettigrew evolves from the unconfident, unhappy, unsuccessful governess into a bright, witty, attractive woman who remains in charge of her station in life. It’s a simple Cinderella story in a way — but that doesn’t take away from the charm and utter bliss of this book.

When I was reading a little about the author, Winifred Watson, I learned that she wrote the majority of her first novel while working in an office as a sectretary. Her first books had darker themes and when she submitted Miss Pettigrew, her publisher rejected it (Lionel Shriver can relate). It’s a familiar story — publishers and agents rejecting books that find resonance, win prizes and get made into equally delightful Hollywood films (yes; I’ve seen the film version that starts Francis McDormand and Amy Adams). I’m so pleased that Persephone exists and a little ashamed that this is the first of their novels that I’ve read. It certainly won’t be the last.

READING CHALLENGES: Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day is one of the 1001 Books to Read Before You Die, and while I did actually buy it vs pull it off my shelf, I’m counting it anyway. Also, high props to Rachel for recommending it to me. She’s a gem.

May 14th, 2009

#30 – Bonjour Tristesse

Francoise Sagan published Bonjour Tristesse when she was just eighteen years old. Precocious, intelligent and hideously spoiled, the novel’s heroine, Cecile, leaves Paris to spend the summer on the coast of the Mediterranean with her father and his mistress, Elsa. As Cecile describes, “The first few days were dazzling.” Romance floats by on a boat carrying a young man named Cyril, and the two begin a love affair. Her days are carefree until her father, a bit of a playboy who has never settled down, invites a friend, Anne, to come and stay with them as well. 

Anne and Elsa are as different as two women can be, and what starts off innocently soon morphs into a love triangle that Cecile manipulates from her position as daughter, lover and friend. Spoiled and used to getting her own way, Cecile isn’t happy with a very specific turn of events so she does everything within her adolescent power to impose her will upon the adults. Her childish actions have very grown up consequences, and not a single person on that dazzling vacation walks away unscathed. 

The novel is short, succinct, and the narrative style reminded me a little of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Cecile’s own short fallings are endearing, and the entire book makes you long for those days when you were foolish enough to act upon your feelings every single moment of every single day. The P.S. section in my copy contained an interview with the author as well as a truly captivating essay about driving — just perfect for the start of summer when all I can think about is taking a road trip and spending hours in the car just driving, not really caring if I get anywhere in particular. 

READING CHALLENGES: Sagan was born in France, so that takes care of that country for Around the World in 52 Books. Reading her novel made me long for Paris, because it was just about a year ago that I was there with Sam. Also, Bonjour Tristesse is on the 1001 Books list, so that’s two challenges with one short page count (130!).

May 8th, 2009

#28 – Under the Skin

The closest book I can compare Michel Faber’s truly creepy, utterly addictive novel Under the Skin to would be Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go. I’ve been classifying it as speculative fiction, a book that takes place in a world that looks very much like our own, but slowly reveals itself to be very, very different. Isserley spends her days hunched behind the wheel of a slowly-breaking down vehicle trolling for hitchhikers along the A9 highway in Scotland. Her world is skewed, not only from the giant glasses she wears, but also because of her strange occupation. Little spears in the seat of the car sedate the hitchers once she’s determined whether or not they’ll be missed, and their bodies transported back to a farm where others of her race wait to process the “vodsels.”

Slowly over the course of the narrative you learn that Isserley, although she refers to herself as a human being, is quite different from the rest of us who define ourselves by that term. Her body mutilated so she can appear as close to normal in the “vodsel” world atop the earth, she’s in constant pain and her job takes its toll. I don’t want to give away too much of the plot because Faber’s ability to unwind the story over the course of the novel remains its strength. The further along you get, the further you realize how troubled Isserley is — both physically and psychologically.

The only other book by Faber that I’ve read is The Crimson Petal and the White, which, to this day, remains one of the most frustrating reads I’ve ever suffered through. The book sprawled all over the place, tumbled along for almost 1,000 pages (or at least it felt that way), and never came to a satisfying conclusion. The exact opposite is true of Under the Skin. The narrative is crisp and almost cinematic, you feel your own legs cramp as Isserley spends yet another day behind the wheel trolling for her victims. You shake your head as they get in the car. You feel even worse after the book finally reveals exactly what happens to them once they decend into the depths of the world underneath the farm.

To say this book wasn’t what I was expecting would be an understatement. And it’s it just wonderful when that happens?

READING CHALLENGES: Under the Skin is on the 1001 Books list, so it’ll count towards that challenge, and Michel Faber was born in The Hague, The Netherlands, so that’s one for Around the World in 52 Books too.

February 20th, 2009

#15 – The House of Spirits

Having never read any Isabel Allende before, and knowing how beloved (and lovable the author is; she came into the office about a year ago and wowed everyone) her novels are worldwide, I had earmarked The House of Spirits as a book I assumed I would devour. Yet, I found my attention drifting almost from the beginning and had to work really hard to finish all 433 pages of the book. The epic story of a South American family (Chilean, I’m assuming) who cope with decades of excess followed by the political turmoil that threatens to completely destroy them, it’s no wonder the novel is included in the 1001 Books list. It absolutely deserves to be, it’s a book full of the wonder and magic that often accompanies Latin-American fiction (dare I say magic realism, dare I? I know, it’s painful to do so, I do hate those generic descriptions) and chock full of the kind of strong, independent female characters that are ever-so lacking in the list as a whole.

But as I’m coming to find in my old age, I like cynical, swift prose. Maybe cynical is the wrong word, maybe detached would be better. Regardless, I can see the irony in my even writing this because (as the fellows in my writer’s group can attest) I write long, complex and fruity sentences. The longer the better. Annywaaay, Allende’s talent for creating gorgeous and alive worlds, from weaving political and social messages into her prose, and for writing love in ways that rival García Márquez cement her place as one of the greats working today. A story of three generations, the novel begins simply, with the arrival of a very special pet (a dog) under very special circumstances. “Barrabás came to us by sea,” writes Clara, the spiritual child who eventually marries and whose children end up leading incredible lives.

The story spreads out then as complex as the family tree that serves as its roots. But Clara remains its heart, even as she ceases to grace the pages in her human state. And just as every heart needs a body, the big house in the city that she called home centres the novel in a particular place (that’s not to say that a good part of the action doesn’t happen in the Trueba’s country home; it does). Clara’s husband, the formidable and furious Esteban, balances out his wife’s more esoteric characteristics and together they live a long (and for the most part happy in a way) life raising their children, and then their grandchild, Alba.

Time winds its way through the pages at first on the edges as the way of life for the family changes little until the country forces change upon them. Communism rises and then falls. Then a dictatorship comes along and destroys what good might be left (as the narrative makes clear), forcing people to flee and the old ways to be lost forever. Through it all, through the rise and the fall of the Truebas, Allende’s passionate writing never feels forced, but to me, I wonder if it’s all necessary. All of those words, those many, many words. However, I’m going to temper my writing about the book by the fact that my head is foggy, my concentration bogged down by medication and a distinct lack of focus. None of this remains the book’s fault. And not once would my sluggish reaction to the book convince me not to pick up another of Allende’s novels.

READING CHALLENGES: Two birds with one stone time: The House of Spirits is on the 1001 Books list and its author Chilean, so I’ll count it towards Around the World in 52 Books too.

January 31st, 2009

#12 – Ignorance

The last Milan Kundera book that I read was The Unbearable Lightness of Being. At the time I was living in Banff, Alberta with about six other women in a townhouse that had no furniture barring a really old, uncomfortable couch. We all slept on the floor in sleeping bags, worked awful jobs, drank too much and climbed many mountains (literally). I loved that book. But more I loved the experience of reading that book in that particular time and that particular place. In a way, it’s like Melanie pointed out in the comments here a few weeks ago, sometimes the books just choose us.

Kundera’s Ignorance takes these themes, or maybe ideas would be a better word, of time and place and how experience is tied explicitly to both, and explores them through two characters returning to their homeland after an extended absence. Irena and Josef run into one another in an airport, both having emigrated from their homeland (Prague) years ago, by chance. They make plans to have lunch the next day to catch up. For both, the return home is bittersweet, political regimes have changed, they’ve both moved on with their lives, had families, spouses, entire existences outside of the people they’ve left behind.

Is this right, if I say, “to coin a phrase”? — “You can never go home again.” The saying feels true for so many reasons. The time and the place will never be just the same again, it’ll always be tempered by our particular experiences, and the philosophical implications of such, and that’s what happens to both Irena and Josef. They feel the need to explain themselves: why they left, why it took them so long to come home, and what their lives turned out to be in their adopted countries. It can’t be an easy thing, coming home after years away when everything is different, older, changed, and you somewhat expect it to be the same. Not because of a conscious realization that change didn’t or couldn’t happen while they were away but more so because it’s impossible to imagine how much could be different.

Lives move so slowly in a way. Age catches up with people. Time turns hair gray and adds infinite bits and pieces to memories. But if you go ten, twenty years without seeing a member of your family or your friends, the awkwardness of the reunion will always remind you of how ignorant you are of the day-to-day occurences in their lives. There’s no judgment in Kundera’s novel about the impact of change for these two characters, in a sense, the narrator’s merely observing the moments where they realize the implication of their emigration. For a girl who’s always thinking of what it might be like to live somewhere different, it was an interesting book to read, a little bittersweet, and more than a little sad, but wholly fascinating.

READING CHALLENGES: One of the books from the 1001 Books list so I’ll cross it off from there. Kundera was born in Brno, Czechslovakia, which is now the Czech Republic, so I’ll add him to the Around the World in 52 Books challenge too. It’s interesting, to read a book that’s about returning to a place that has utterly changed since the collapse of communism. The book honestly made me want to go to Prague and isn’t that just the point of my armchair travelling reading?

January 11th, 2009

#6 – The Picture Of Dorian Gray

Like so many of the classics on the 1001 Books list, it’s easy to know the premise and/or general story of the books, but be utterly ignorant of the details. I’ve never read an Oscar Wilde play, but seen quite a few, enjoyed the films (both Wilde and The Importance of Being Earnest), and had only heard of Dorian Gray because my RRHB dragged me to the truly horrible The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. What a surprise it was to read The Picture of Dorian Gray. It’s different from what I expected, full of Wilde’s infamous wit even if the writing is a little melodramatic, but it’s also wonderfully spooky and even a little surprising in places.

A young, beautiful man becomes the subject of a painter, Basil Hallward. The blush and brilliance of his youth inspires the artist as nothing ever has before and the resulting piece contains a bit of magic he’ll never achieve again. Dorian Gray, the subject, learns of his own beauty, through the painting and makes a vain wish to never suffer the indignities of losing his youth. The painting, once it hangs in Dorian’s own house, starts to degrade each time he acts wickedly. It shoulders the burden of age. It withers, wrinkles and bleeds. Buoyed on by the psychology and philosophy of his best friend, Lord Henry Wotten, Dorian leads a life of purely hedonistic endeavors. He ruins women. He collects icons without any thought to their religious values. Society adores him, but he has enemies, women swoon, and men wish they were him. Sound familiar? Yet throughout it all, the painting haunts him, and makes it impossible for Dorian to completely forget his actions. The lives he ruined haunt Gray and by the end of the novel he questioning whether or not redemption is even possible.

The novel has gothic overtones, which I enjoyed immensely, as well as a character who’s driven to act in ways he may not have had he not been celebrated for his external qualities. In a way, the novel reminded me of Woody Allen’s film Match Point. There were so many quotable pages that I wished I had a physical copy of the book (instead of an ebook) so that I could earmark all the pages. And I was intensely curious about Wilde’s decision to imbue the book with luscious and sometimes over the top descriptions of the natural world in which they live. Flowers, the smell of winter, the pine trees, lovely blossoms, everything compliments the glorious state of utter hedonism throughout. The malcontent Dorian feels towards the picture gets locked up in a dusty old schoolroom, closed off from his everyday life. The violence in the novel is contained and away from good society, as Lord Henry says, crime is beneath them. The moral of the story utterly apparent by the time the novel ends and, in a world where Hollywood images of ageless people rule the magazine stands, I’m surprised more references aren’t made to the book in pop culture. A whole generation of Dorian Grays inhabit our modern world, raised up by millions wishing they too were young, beautiful and apparently indestructible.

READING CHALLENGES: The Picture of Dorian Gray is on the 1001 Books list, and is one of the 66 titles that I’ve highlighted for the year. Really I’m just trying to clean some space off my Sony Reader so that I can put some more classics on it. Truly, it’s the best gadget I’ve ever owned. It’s replaced my blackberry forever in my heart.

OSCAR WILDE SIGHTINGS: Left some lipstick behind and visited the statue in Dublin with Tina. Now I don’t feel so much like a tourist.

January 7th, 2009

#4.5 – "The Fall of the House of Usher"

Oh Sony Reader, I do love you. Before the holidays, I dumped a bunch of ebooks onto my reader, classics from 1001 Books that I could always have on hand in transit. Stuff that I could read when I finished whatever novel I was carting around at the time. One of the stories I put on was “The Fall of the House of Usher,” and I’m not going to tell a fib, primarily because it was short and I’m all about the numbers these days.

I love how 1001 Books states, “It seems to be stretching the definition of the word to its very limits to describe The Fall of the House of Usher as a “novel.” Note they use italics and I am sticking to quotes because you can’t tell me this isn’t a short story. I’m not complaining, I’m just clarifying for my own edification.

Annnywaay, this story scared the living crap of out me. It’s creepy, chilling and totally gothic in that yummy way that only Edgar Allen Poe can accomplish. A young man returns to the house of Usher where the only two remaining family members, Roderick and his sister, Madeline, live in a decrepit and decaying house. They’re both sick, Madeline from an illness that confounds the doctors, and Roderick from something that reads a whole lot like depression to my modern eye. The narrative creeps up to the last fateful night, and what Poe achieves in 61 electronic pages is really astounding. Stories within stories, pages devoted to mad poetry (as in its being written by a madman, not “mad” in the means “awesome” way), and a narrator who spends more time describing in intricate detail the abysmal surroundings than he does talking to his childhood friend.

One line in particular that I bookmarked: “Hitherto she had steadily borne up against the pressure of her malady…” Maybe I need to make that into a t-shirt it’s so fitting to my life. Now, one question: why is it that in ghost stories, things always happen in threes? It was the same in A Christmas Carol. And why does it take someone three utterly terrifying occurrences before they wake up and, um, get the fark out? I read a lot of Poe in grad school, but because my mind is terrible with titles, and well, let’s face it, entire plots, I haven’t counted off any of the stories in 1001 Books. I am going to go back to Project Gutenberg, though, and download some more. They’re just perfect for a stormy night barreling through the city in the red rocket.

READING CHALLENGES: 1001 Books, natch.

January 4th, 2009

#3 – In a Free State

The last thing I expected this morning was to get caught up in V.S. Naipaul’s truly excellent In a Free State. I woke up early, as I usually do, crawled out of bed, grabbed my book and cuddled up under the duvet on the couch. My RRHB slept. I read. He slept. I read more. He woke up. I crawled back into bed, fell asleep for a bit, and then finished the book. What a perfect lazy day before the craziness of real life picks up again the moment the alarm goes off tomorrow morning.

The last Naipaul book I read was A House for Mr. Biswas way back in second year university. I was captivated but that never brought be back to Naipaul. My post-colonial reading in later years turned back to Canadian, I left university, did my M.A., and never picked up another of his books. Another of the surprises that I found on my shelf, I must have ordered this book back when 1001 Books came out. In a Free State was first published in 1971 and it won the Booker that year. Bookended by two diary-like travel journals, the collection contains two short stories and a novella, from which it takes its title.

The first story, “One Out of Many,” follows a servant brought to Washington from Bombay. One day he steps away from his employer, leaves everything behind in the cupboard where he was sleeping, and becomes an illegal immigrant with an under the table job at a local restaurant owned by a fellow countryman. The story explores themes of alienation as Santosh makes his way in the United States, and slowly he discovers that he’ll need to leave almost 100% of his old life behind to survive.

This idea, of the cost of freedom and the impact of the realities of immigration, is carried forth into the second story, “Tell Me Who to Kill.” Leaving everything he knows behind, the narrator picks up and heads to London with the intention of giving his brother a better life, a life of studies, so he too can become “something.” He works hard, saves his money, and then as so many stories go, makes a bad decision that ruins everything. Told through flashbacks as he takes the journey to his brother’s wedding, the story becomes alive through his rich dialect, the obvious affection he feels for his brother, regardless of how he disappoints him, and the necessity of change when faced with adversity. It’s a crushing and heartbreaking story.

“In a Free State” inverts the situation. Here a white, homosexual man has come to Africa to serve the government,under ideals of serving for the greater good. Away from the safe collective where he lives, Bobby attends a seminar and then must make his way back during a time of political upheaval. His passenger, the wife of a British journalist named Linda, makes pleasant enough conversation to begin with, but it soon becomes obvious she isn’t happy either on the journey or in Africa. As their trip becomes even more arduous (they miss their curfew and are forced to stay at a ramshackle colonial resort), the polite nature of their relationship disintegrates. Armed with a sense of misapprehended colonial idealism, Bobby soon finds himself in all different kinds of trouble, some of his own making and much as a result of the political situations, and it’s damning. Like in the first two stories, Naipaul explores themes of alienation and separation, of family and work, of place and displacement.

I couldn’t put this book down. It’s a book I’d love to study. A book that reminds you how words can sever a problem from its root, pull it apart and set it down in a way that makes you see things more clearly, even if in the end, for all three protagonists, little changes despite how hard the world presses up against them to force their currents in a new direction.

READING CHALLENGES: In a Free State is on the 1001 Books list, and so I’ll cross it off there. But Naipaul was born in Trinidad, so I’ll count this book on my Around the World in 52 Books list as well. It’s actually a perfect book for that challenge. The landscapes, from the unknown African country that’s the setting for the novella to Egypt, from London and Washington as seen through the eyes of those who settle and are not born there, there’s an interesting sense of place that grounds the entire collection.

COMPS AND OBSERVATIONS: I couldn’t help but think of Blood Diamond when I was reading “In a Free State,” not because the stories are at all similar (it’s a terribly mediocre film in the end), but because when Bobby speaks to an African man in the book, he uses that patois that Leo uses at the beginning of the film: “Who your boss-man? Who?” As Naipaul describes the country as it slips from colonial to post-colonial rule, I kept hearing, “T.I.A. This is Africa, right?” from that scene at the bar. In terms of comps, for much of the story, I kept thinking of Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants,” despite the fact that it’s obvious that Bobby and Linda are not at all lovers, their conversations have that same read-between-the-lines feel to them and the dialogue is excellent.

WHAT’S UP NEXT:
I picked up Amanda Boyden’s Babylon Rolling while my RRHB was using the computer. Fingers crossed I’ll finish it tonight, which means I’ll have managed to finish 7 books while I’ve been off for vacation. Not bad indeed!

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Girl with titanium hip will rock. Girl with titanium hip will write. Girl with titanium hip will read. Girl with titanium hip will battle crazy-ass disease called Wegener's Granulomatosis. Now stuff that in your spelling bee!

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