Sunday, 27 November 2011

sixty-eight.

the Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy (1958)
 
""Cheer up, my little avocado" he said to me, pinching my hand. "You know, these American girls are just like avocados. What do you think, am I right, Max? Who ever even heard of an avocado sixty years ago? Yes, that's what we're growing nowadays". His avocado arrived and he looked at it lovingly. "The Typical American girl", he said, addressing it. "A hard centre with the tender meat all wrapped up in a shiny casing." He began eating it. "How I love them," he murmured greedily. "So green - so eternally green." He winked at me.
Sally Jay Gorce is an American girl with pink hair in Paris. Her uncle is sponsoring her for two years because she held her part of their agreement and got an education. She spends her days drinking in bars, dancing, taking up lovers and trying to get on the stage. She loses her passport after a wild night out and bombards Washington with letters in order to get a new one.

Elaine Dundy has written an amazing and witty portrait about a dazed and confused young girl in search of the meaning of life. The style reminded me of a lot of Patrick Hamilton, Jack Kerouac and a slightly less drunk Charles Bukowski. Were there any female beat writers?

Thursday, 24 November 2011

sixty-seven.

A House for Mr Biswas by V.S Naipaul (1961)

 "But bigger than them all was the house, his house. How terrible it would have been, at this time, to be without it: to have died among the Tulsis, amid the squalor of that large, disintegrating and indifferent family; to have left Shama and the children among them, in one room; or worse, to have lived without even attempting to lay claim to one's portion of the earth; to have lived and died as one had been born, unnecessary and unaccommodated."
Mr Biswas' mother was told to keep him away from water by the Hindu pundit whom told his future. Yet Mr Biswas seeks water which eventually leads to his father's death. Mr Biswas comes from a poor family, and he is sent to various jobs without much luck. He eventually gets a job painting signs for a rich family and he falls in love with one of their daughters.

Marrying the girl, Shama, means marrying the family. And the Tulsis are the in-laws from hell. Mr Biswas has to live with them and work for them for very little money and bad food. All he wants is to be able to build or buy a house for his family.

V.S Naipaul impressed me with a Bend in the River, and a House for Mr Biswas is also a great read. I really enjoyed reading about Indian descendants in Trinidad and Tobago. This book wasn't as comic as the cover made it to be, but it definitely put me in a good mood. I have already put more of his books on my wish list.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

sixty-six.

the Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2009)

"At night, something would wrap itself around your neck, something that very nearly choked you before you fell asleep."
Twelve short stories, set in Nigeria and New York portrait contemporary Nigerian women, men and their struggles, whether it is because of their spouses (arranged marriages or not), troublesome brothers, religion,  same-sex attractions or war.

How can you say so much with so few words? I loved every story, but some stood out more than the others. Imitation is set in USA where a Nigerian housewife is living with her children while the husband works in Nigeria and only spends two months a year with his family. One day she gets a phone call from her best friend who says that her husband has a girlfriend living in their house in Lagos. What would you do in a situation like that?

In A Private Experience, a Christian woman and a Muslim woman have found shelter in an abandoned store during a violent mob destroys the market place where they both went with their relatives. And they have to trust each other despite the fact that the uprising is about religion.

I think this collection of novels is my favourite book by Adichie, having read Purple Hibiscus and Half of a Yellow Sun last year.
""Is it a good life, Daddy? Nkiru has taken to asking lately on the phone, with that faint, vaguely trembling American accent. It is not good or bad, I tell her. It is simply mine. And that is what matters."

Thursday, 10 November 2011

sixty-five.

the Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery (2006)

Renée is the concierge at a fancy apartment building in Paris. She grew up in poverty and is satisfied with her easy job, although she is very clever and loves art - a secret she hides from the residents. Paloma is a 12 year old girl living in the apartment building. She is far too intelligent for her own good and contemplates suicide before she turns 13. When a Japanese gentleman moves into the building, their lives change.

It took a long time before I realised that the book was narrated by two persons and not just Renée as a girl and at present time. The story also seemed very dull in the beginning, but the last 100 pages or so were so good. I'm not sure if I liked the end or not, it did seem unfair that it ended the way it did.

The film version (also French) came out recently, and I have a feeling that it might be better than the book.