Thursday, January 10, 2013

Banishing the blahs

Almost as soon as I growled about all the bad reading I'd been doing, things started looking up. I used a couple gift certificates I got over the holidays and got a couple exciting books into my hands. One that I'm already some 200 pages into is, while yes uneven, no not utter pure genius as some of the raves have claimed, still overall an enthralling, even exhilarating read: A Naked Singularity by Sergio de la Pava. I will probably post more about this book once I've finished it, but for now I'll just say hallelujah something new, something different, original creative innovative and not just all that good artistic stuff, but, equally important to me, something full of thematic meat, political-cultural heft, and heart.

I also got an old book, originally published in 1944, Freedom Road by Howard Fast. For some reason several people lately have mentioned this novel about Reconstruction to me and I'd found that the edition currently in print has a foreword by W.E.B. DuBois, which seemed in itself one hell of an endorsement, so I'd decided I've got to read it. Now I soon shall.

Meanwhile, I hope to soon fill another gap in my literary education. Until today, I admit, I'd never heard of J.G. Farrell. Now, thanks to my web meanderings, I know that he was a highly political writer whose greatest work is The Empire Trilogy, which consists of three novels that expose the depredations of British colonialism, in Ireland, India and Singapore. This from the Wikipedia entry on Farrell of course made me feverish to start reading his work: "When The Siege of Krishnapur won the Booker Prize in 1973, Farrell used his acceptance speech to attack the sponsors, the Booker Group, for their business involvement in the agricultural sector in the Third World. In this vein, some readers have found Farrell's critique of colonialism and capitalism in his subsequent novel The Singapore Grip to be heavy-handed ... ." Sounds fabulous, right? I ran right over to the university library and checked out The Siege of Krishnapur.

I'd been meaning for quite a while to, and now I finally ordered and have received the poet Daljit Nagra's book Tippoo Sultan's Incredible White-Man-Eating Tiger Toy Machine!!! (exclamations are part of the title, not my comment). I'm working my way through it slowly, one poem at a time, but, as expected, it's amazing. Deep, funny, harsh, cutting.

Finally, I've got a great date for this coming Monday evening. A friend and I are going to the Schomburg Center in Harlem for a reading and signing by Ayana Mathis, where I'll get her novel The Twelve Tribes of Hattie. Last week it was reviewed by Isabel Wilkerson, whose brilliant The Warmth of Other Suns was the best book I read in 2010. Wilkerson as reviewer struck me as apt since from previous reviews I had drawn the conclusion that Mathis's novel is in a way the fictive counterpart to Wilkerson's history. Anyway, I'm looking forward to this event, and then to reading the book.