>I can’t believe it…this is blog post #200!
There are a few books I’ve read this year that I haven’t talked about, so I’ll try to pull it all together here.
Polite Lies – Kyoko Mori. When Mori wrote this book in 1997, she was 40 years old and she’d lived exactly half her life in Japan and half her life in the US. Her upbringing in Japan was sad. Her distant father had two mistresses and didn’t bother to hide it from her mother. When Mori was 12, her mother committed suicide rather than live a dishonorable life. A month later, her father married one of the mistresses –an unsympathetic woman with no warm feelings for young Kyoko — and moved her into that same apartment. At 20, Kyoko Mori left Japan to go to college in the US and it became her permanent home, with only occasional visits back to Japan. In Polite Lies, she examines the different ways the two cultures handle different issues. It’s obvious that her unhappy childhood colored many of her perceptions about Japan, but overall, I think she strives to be fair. Much of her discussion of Japan reminded me of how things are done in Korea. Highly recommended for those who enjoy reading about people caught between cultures.
The Uninvited – Geling Yan. This satirical novel is also known as The Banquet Bug. Dan Dong, an unemployed Chinese factory worker, lives in a crappy apartment with his wife. While going for a job interview one day, he accidentally is mistaken for a journalist and invited to a banquet the company is giving. It’s a great deal: Dan gets to eat exotic food and the company slips journalists an envelope with a little money as a thanks-in-advance for any publicity they might get. Pretty soon, being a banquet bug is Dan’s new career and all goes well until a journalist named Happy takes an interest in Dan’s rapport with a famous, ageing artist, and the companies are slowly starting to get wise that they’ve got banquet bugs everywhere, and have alerted the police. In spite of the crackdown, Dan sneaks his wife into a banquet so she can sample some of the fare for herself. Unfortunately, she’s about as journalist-like as the minced pigeons with tofu on the menu. A big thank you to Herschelian at The 3 Rs for sending this to me!
How To Be Good – Nick Hornby. Katie Carr is married to an extremely angry man, who prides himself on his anger and sarcasm. She’s had enough of his attitude after so many years, but one day, he goes to a faith healer who not only heals his back pain, he completely wipes out her husband’s sour state of mind, causing him to do a 180. Now he’s determined that he and his family will make the world a better place, starting with letting the faith healer, DJ GoodNews move in. But this new and improved husband isn’t exactly what Katie wanted, either. A really funny novel that makes some pointed observations about how we, as a society, want to be “good” and help others as long as we’re not inconvenienced or caused discomfort in any way. Sometimes Hornby writing as a female character didn’t work for me, but he is is very good at depicting those petty, grinding arguments that long-married couples are wont to have.
A Bad Case Of Stripes – David Shannon. Lame children’s picture book. And I’m not saying that just because I’m older’n dirt. Let me put it another way: Seuss and Sendak don’t have any competition here.
The Case of Madeleine Smith – Rick Geary. A well-drawn, excellently researched graphic novel about a case in 1857 Scotland in which a young woman from a well-off family may or may not have poisoned her secret lover.
The Borden Tragedy – Rick Geary. The Lizzie Borden story has been told many times, but this graphic novel version is a knockout. The research is terrific and the art is great — especially Geary’s detailed drawings of the layout of the Borden home.
The Almost Moon – Alice Sebold. For most of her life, Helen has been the caretaker for her mother, Clair, who seems to have always been mentally ill, and now suffers from dementia. One day, after her mother has soiled herself, Helen goes to clean her as usual, then suddenly snaps. The next 24 hours detail Helen’s life, past and present, as she tries to figure out how long she has left before others discover what she’s done. Parts of The Almost Moon take the reader back to Helen’s childhood, and as her mother’s illness is revealed, the shadowy figure of her father is also illuminated, and one is left wondering, with a totally non-nurturing background like that, why Helen didn’t cross the line sooner. Surprisingly, this novel is darkly funny in places.