Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Nadine Gordimer, Living in Hope and History: Notes from Our Century

nadine gordimer living in hope and history: notes from our century

Literary Nobel Prize tends to be a good book recommendation...  but wait, didn't I say just that in my last post?  I did, but Nadine Gordimer gives me a good reason to repeat it.  Living in Hope and History is my second encounter with this delicious writer and I'm looking forward to reading more. 

If you've read any more of this blog, you also already know that I love essays - another reason to savour Living in Hope and History.  Essays collected in this book can be roughly divided into two main groups:  those on writers and those on evils of apartheid (sometimes combined in the same piece).  There's more than that - as it should be in works written over a few decades - but sooner or later one of the two subjects surfaces.  I'm damn glad it does. 

While I'm not too hot on the apartheid bit (simply because of not being very familiar with it), I fell in love with Gordimer's deliberations on writing and a writer's position in today's society.  She makes the profession sound noble, more than that, she inspires writers, potential or otherwise, to strive for nobility.  

'Nobility' can mean something different to each individual, but for me it has much to do with the truth, with speaking of the truth loudly and clearly, unafraid of its inconvenience or unprofitability.  I spend a lot of time in virtual company of affiliate marketers presenting themselves as 'writers' and often end up bitter and disappointed under heavy showers of self-explanations these people create in defence of their profession.  Then along comes Gordimer, with her powerful words on writers as speakers of the truth (whatever this truth may happen to be) even in the face of adversity and I feel like I've just been given a breath of the fresh air.  There are people in the world who speak the truth even if their books are banned or burned, even if they themselves are being imprisoned, exiled, persecuted.  They don't give up.  They keep on repeating the politically incorrect truths because ultimately - the truth is more important, more powerful than politics.  Compared to that, all marketers of the world can go hang, they are not worth anyone's time and definitely not worth my upset. 

If, by any chance, you happen to be a writer struggling to oppose ever-present selling out or simply in need of inspiration, then Living in Hope and History is a must for you.

If you are anyone else, it will simply be a highly enjoyable, well-written book.

Oh, if you are a 'writer' who employs his skill in affiliate marketing, do not read it.  It will only make you sad.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Orhan Pamuk, Other Colours

orhan pamuk other colours

If I had to pick a single writing genre that I love best, I would probably say it's essays of every shape and size.  Somehow, whenever I pick a tome of essays, it doesn't much matter who wrote it.  I'm happy like a guinea pig anyway.  Fiction may convey truths disguised as lies, popular science may teach and dazzle, but nothing compares to musings on life, death and everything else. 

Yes, you've guessed it, Other Colours is a collection of essays.

When it comes to quality of writing, Nobel Prize tends to be a good indicator of what to expect.  Pamuk won the prize for his Snow, although if it was up to me, he would have got it for Other Colours.  I've read Snow and I've read My Name is Red, another book of his, and although both were pretty enjoyable, I didn't devour them as I did the essays (i.e. in one sitting - all four hundred pages!).  Pamuk's writing is not the easiest thing in the world, he steers sharply towards abstracts and poetry, but he sure can write. 

If I was to pick one thing I liked best in Other Colours, it would be numerous glimpses of the writer at work.  There are screenshots of daily routines, thoughts and motivations, in short - stuff that every writer will be familiar with.  A glorious opportunity to learn from the best, dear fellow penpushers :).

To keep the balance, I also need to get picky and complain a bit about one detail that I didn't like at all - book reviews.  There are quite a few literary essays, mainly concerning the classics - among others Dostoyevsky, Nabokov, Camus, Rushdie - but well...  can I share one of my pet peeves with you?  I totally hate it when book reviewers (even if they are distinguished and Nobel-decorated) presume to know an author's mind better than the author himself. How the hell does Pamuk (or anyone, anyone else) know what did Dostoyevsky have in mind when writing his novels?  It's not as if he could ask him...  Once a book is written in a language that I can understand, I don't need anyone to translate it for me further. 

There, I'm done with complaining.  Don't let my fussing spoil the pleasure of reading the book for you - overall it is highly recommendable.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Margaret Atwood, Oryx and Crake

margaret atwood oryx and crake

I don't think like Margaret Atwood.  I don't fully agree with what I presume is her world view, as expressed through multiple pieces of writing, creative or otherwise.  I'm not a particular fan of poetry and Atwood's books tend to be full of it.  And yet...  I can't think of her in any other terms than 'one of the greatest writers of our age'. 

She is good, damn good. 

Oryx and Crake is her another go at anti-utopias, the world after the Apocalypse.  What we get is a single survivor of a lab-generated human extinction project, trying to stay alive and musing of present and past.  The story is quite engaging, the imagery extremely vivid and the vision of the future...  well, not-so-impossible. 

Funny enough, I didn't detect preaching.  It's not a warning, at least not obviously so.  It's just a story, a good one, too.  

Oh, probably not recommended to underage readers.  Language has not been smoothed out and well...  it's not a nice story. 

But if you're an adult with a taste for fine literature, do try Oryx and Crake.