RSS

Tag Archives: human-rights

The Lacuna – Barbara Kingsolver

Mexico, 1935.  Harrison Shepherd is working in the household of famed muralist Diego Rivera and his wife Frida Kahlo.  Sometimes cook, sometimes secretary, Shepherd is always an observer, recording his experiences in diaries and notebooks.  When exiled Bolshevik leader Lev Trotsky arrives, Shepherd inadvertently casts in his lot with art and revolution and his aim for an invisible life is thwarted forever.

This has been on my to read pile ever since I read Cuban writer, Leonardo Padura’s excellent novel, The Man Who Loved Dogs. The title, The Lacuna alludes to much in the text, the gaps in the reader’s knowledge of Shepherd’s life, his feelings of not fitting in, and of the other characters stories and in part their motivations.

Like a game of football, this is a book of two halves. The latter part I found to be a lot more engaging, partly because it allows the narrator more room to speak, and also as it helps fill in another gap in history that I hadn’t really much knowledge about.  Perhaps that is excusable as most of European literature and history is focusing on the rebuilding of the continent after WWII and our own part in the Cold War.

The past is all we know of the future

To begin with I wasn’t overly blown away by the writing, more annoying was that certain themes were alluded to and then outright brought to my attention through the narrator. It would have been much more subtle, if left hanging in the background, for the reader to discover, even if on a second or third read through.

I didn’t get much of a sense of Diego Rivera as a character either, he is fairly peripheral, his wife Frida is more interesting and remains pleasingly enigmatic, although she is seen as faultless, precisely because of her faults. Trotsky is mainly seen as a hero/saint type of figure, lacking some of the complexity that could have made him more interesting, as in Padura’s book.  Shepherd himself is detached in this first part, as he struggles to discover his place, and true self. Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements
 
20 Comments

Posted by on 26/07/2018 in Fiction

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Music to Write By #3 – Assume the Position/(Don’t Worry) If There’s A Hell Below, We’re All Going To Go

Writing in the last week has had a different sort of soundtrack, there hasn’t been much in the way of music coming through my speakers, as I have been following all manner of different paths from; film analysis, to the situation with the Italian government, and the bad news of the EU trying to pass Article 13, scientific testing of free will, and the wacky world of Flat Earthers.  Forcing myself back onto the music front, the gold started flowing pretty much instantly with this gem:

I first came across this funky tune thanks to its brief appearance on The Wire.  Then it was featured more prominently on the closing credits of The Deuce, another David Simon (together with George Pelecanos) created show which documents the legalisation and rise of the porn industry in New York, as well as the accompanying drugs, real estate booms, police corruption and the connected violence.  The first season admittedly feels like a – quality – prequel but I expect big things from season two.  Watching this as it came out was great, the whole of last year was exceptional for quality television and nothing beat grabbing a few beers and having a TV night with Tom, catching up on whatever had previously come out over the weekend, in the US.

The tune took me back to a totally different time and place – only eight months ago – but so much has changed.  Thinking back to that period now, it was such a good time and discussing the show as the end credits theme rolled, it was always interesting to get an alternate take on what we just saw.  Discussion was made more insightful by a few beers, of course, but I don’t think I have been challenged in such a sustained way by myself, my peers, or film and TV before or since. Read the rest of this entry »

 
16 Comments

Posted by on 05/06/2018 in Music, TV

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Thought and Sport

Recently I have been making an attempt to widen my reading even more and so want to get back into reading Philosophy again.  In my researching for things to make this post interesting, it quickly and unsurprisingly descended into just watching Monty Python videos.  And from that, this post now exists…or does it, really?

Philosophy is something that could drive a person to the drink but thankfully the lighter side distracted me before the decision to finally plump for Soren Kierkegaard and John Stuart Mill to join the reading pile.  All I need now is the right sort of drinking frame of mind to really get the most out of them.

 
14 Comments

Posted by on 29/05/2018 in Humour, Philosophy

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini

Afghanistan, 1975: Twelve-year-old Amir is desperate to win the local kite-fighting tournament and his loyal friend Hassan promises to help him. But neither of the boys can foresee what will happen to Hassan that afternoon, an event that is to shatter their lives. After the Russians invade and the family is forced to flee to America, Amir realises that one day he must return to Afghanistan under Taliban rule to find the one thing that his new world cannot grant him: redemption.

Picking this up at the airport was always going to be a risk. as bestsellers always seem to be these days when it to comes to quality.  As expected it was an easy book to get into and a quick read, I enjoyed it to begin with, reading 132 pages in one sitting. Further on there were a few problems that niggled me and ultimately the book became distinctly average.

The first part of the book is superior to the rest by a country mile (or indeed a mile of any sort).  The depiction of Afghanistan and the life as seen through Amir’s eyes was interesting and his relationship with Hassan was one worth investing in .  Seeing the distinctions of class and race, as well as the influence of religion and the day-to-day life rituals of Afghans was something new and refreshing to read about.

I didn’t like Amir at all, he does nothing to endear himself to the reader but I appreciated that, it gives the writing more impact when I did feel sympathy for him.  His relationships with friends and family are decently done, enough to keep me caring about the characters throughout but never overly so.

There is some good prose – again mainly in the first part – and for a time I was totally engaged with the novel and the characters, sadly that ended with the first part of the book and it became more imprecise in its focus before descending into generic bestseller fare.  That is not to say that there wasn’t anything good to speak of in the latter ha;f, I found the nod to a lack of integration or acceptance of older immigrants, into new countries and cultures to be a good topic to approach.  Similarly the intolerance of Islam and the hypocritical way some have of applying religion, which stretches to all religions is a timely topic to write about. Read the rest of this entry »

 
34 Comments

Posted by on 09/05/2018 in Fiction

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

The Trial of Henry Kissinger – Christopher Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens goes straight for the Jugular in The Trial of Henry Kissinger. Under his fearsome gaze, the former Secretary of State and National Security Advisor is accused of being a war criminal whose reckless actions and heinous disregard for international law have led to torture, kidnapping and murder.

This book is a polemical masterpiece by a man who, for over forty years, was the Anglosphere’s pre-eminent man of letters.  In The Trial of Henry Kissinger, Hitchens’ verve, style and firebrand wit are on show at the height of their potency. 

The Trial of Henry Kissinger is certainly an eye-opening read and a devastating attack on both his character and many of his actions – which had a significant impact on thousands of lives around the world – showing him (with supporting documents) to be a morally bankrupt man.  As the quote on the back cover of the book from the Literary Review says:

‘This book is so stupidly defamatory that if Kissinger values his reputation, he really must sue’

The silence on this matter, from the Nobel Peace Prize winner himself really does speak volumes.

Chronicling the different events Kissinger was a part of – a litany of manufactured, supported and prolonged wars,  and sabotaged peace talks, all a tale of so many lives ruined and lost needlessly, – it is frightening to see how he moved through successive U.S. governments with his power intact.   Hitchens is clearly no lover of the man but as ever, his arguments are reasoned, razor-sharp and not afraid to court controversy.  There is a term ‘Hitchslap’ that does the rounds that is often used for his most incisive commentary and this is certainly a good example of the term.

One of the most telling pieces of information is that Kissinger’s papers (the ones he classified as personal, when it is suspected many are incriminating) are under lock and key at the Library of Congress and can only be opened after Kissinger dies thanks to the agreement beforehand.  Of course being in the public interest a subpoena would most likely open it up (and a huge can of worms) but there in lies the issue. Read the rest of this entry »

 
18 Comments

Posted by on 19/02/2018 in Essays, History, Journalism

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Black Sheep – Susan Hill

Brother and sister, Ted and Rose Howker, grew up in Mount of Zeal, a mining village blackened by coal. They know nothing of the outside world, though both of them yearn for escape. For Rose this comes in the form of love, while Ted seizes the chance of a job away from the pit. But neither can truly break free and their decisions bring with them brutal consequences…

dispensing with the normal ghost story – always atmospherically written by Hill –  which has become a bit of a tradition for me around the holiday season, this year I chose this short story instead to mix it up a bit.  Whilst not being conducive to Christmas cheer in any way whatsoever, it was a very rewarding read.

As the front cover says this is a bleak piece of writing and I can imagine that a lot of people may well be put off by that, however I really appreciated it for its unflinching portrayal of a tough and cheerless life.  The story is told in few words and as such the shortness of the book helps the reader through, as being under 150 pages long/short means the story is manageable over a brief period and doesn’t drag the reader into too much despair.

The miners and their families are easily recognisable, they could have come from other iconic works.  The citizens of the community resemble less extreme versions of those found in Zola’s Germinal or Dickens’ Hard Times for example. It does feel almost clichéd in that respect Hill writes on the side of accuracy as memorably depicted by plenty of authors and social commentors such as George Orwell’s insightful and agonising The Road to Wigan Pier.

As well written as it is, sometimes this is a tough read but I found it a book I could read quickly and more importantly wanted to read in a couple of sessions.  The strengths of the book lie in the simple yet descriptive writing, which contains many interesting and well-rounded characters and their struggles with their severe reality, of life and loss. Read the rest of this entry »

 
19 Comments

Posted by on 19/01/2018 in Fiction

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Naivety

I can think of nothing further to add to this…

arwenaragornstar

IMG_0570

When I was praying
For the victims
And for the living
Forgiving
Our enemies
Refusing
To give in
To anger
& Hate
I saw Death
Grin
Pick up its scythe
And go on cutting
Indiscriminately
Enthusiastically
All the while
Laughing
At my sheer naivety

Image credit: cheo36.deviantart.com

View original post

 
11 Comments

Posted by on 30/08/2017 in Poetry

 

Tags: , , , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: