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Category Archive for 'Literary'

“Tell me the truth,” I said.
“What truth?” he echoed. He was making a rapid sketch
in his notebook and now he showed me what it was: a long,
long train with a big cloud of black smoke swirling over it,
and himself leaning out of a window to wave a handkerchief.
I shot him between the eyes. – Opening lines of this book.

In The Dry Heart, her first novel after the war, author Natalia Ginzburg deals with the “world writ small” telling the story of the marriage of an uncommunicative and unnamed woman married to an even more uncommunicative man. Less than a hundred words after the novel opens, the conclusion is revealed: “I shot him between the eyes,” a statement of great drama because of the context’s lack of drama. Using the woman’s point of view, the author carefully shifts back and forth in time, illustrating what happens, and more importantly, what often does not happen, in this marriage. Matching her realistic style to the undramatic nature of the marriage, Ginzburg slowly builds the tensions, eventually revealing everything the reader needs to know about the past which will explain the bold admission of murder in the first few words.

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With this collection of stories, the favelas of Rio de Janeiro have produced a young author of stunning talent and the ability to convey images and feelings about the overcrowded, poverty-filled neighborhoods which are homes to many young teens who have little control over the neighborhoods in which they grow up. These teens, as we see in these stories, face death because they get mixed up with the “wrong” crowd, sometimes resort to theft and physical force to survive, and often become involved with guns simply because they are available. Some teens may have high hopes but find few legitimate outlets for their energy and creativity. New author Geovani Martins knows the Rio favelas well, having grown up and lived in them until the end of his teen years, but unlike most of the teens whose stories become the subjects of this collection, Martins was able to take advantage of a unique opportunity – he attended writing workshops at FLUP, the literary festival of the Rio favelas, which gave him an opportunity to channel his talents in surprising new directions – and he now has this powerful, new story collection to his credit.

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Note:  Every six months or so, I enjoy looking at the statistics regarding this site to see which reviews garner the most interest.  Reviews which have been on the site for many years have a greater chance of being in the Top Ten than new books, of course, and, as a result, some books have […]

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“At thirty I had almost forgotten what it was like to be alone in a forest, or to immerse myself in a river, or to run along the edge of a crest beyond which there is only sky. I had done these things and they were my happiest memories. To me, the young urban adult I had become seemed like the exact opposite of that wild boy, and hence the desire grew to go in search of him. It wasn’t so much the need to leave as the desire to return; not to discover an unknown part of myself but to recover an old and deep-seated one I felt that I had lost.” Paolo Cognetti, author of 2017’s prize-winning THE EIGHT MOUNTAINS, continues the story of life in the alpine heights of northern Italy during summer vacations, with his own memoir, THE WILD BOY. Readers of EIGHT MOUNTAINS will be familiar with the area and the personality of his main character, remarkably like his own, as shown in this memoir by a man who has just reached age thirty. Newbies unfamiliar with Cognetti should enjoy an opportunity to share the life of a person of letters who is wondering about the direction he may take – a quiet book by a thoughtful writer for whom the trip to the mountains is a chance to relive times past through the activity of the present and learn from it

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One thing a reader can often count on in a book by Hiromi Kawakami is that her main characters will be independent, but deliberately “ordinary,” and that her plot lines will also be unpretentious and solidly realistic. In this story collection, however, the author blurs the lines between reality and imagination in new ways, drawing the reader further into her plots, themes, and characters. In ten stories about the loves of Nishino, a man whose primary purpose in life is to seduce and “love” the women he meets, author Kawakami introduces his lovers, women who appear to be in charge of their lives, living independently. Their meetings with Nishino, sometimes by accident, are usually the catalysts for change, at least temporarily, and it is usually the women who end the relationships. Though this sounds as if it might be a feminist theme, Kawakami, a witty and insightful author, also fills her stories with ironies, since the women also become willing victims of a man who does not have to do much to win their approval or even their love. Nishino’s primary talent is in tailoring his behavior to whatever each woman wants in order to get whatever he needs. As a result, Nishino is a cipher – someone the reader never really gets to know – though he provides whatever the women seem to want for however long they want it – as long as he is not otherwise occupied. A strange and elusive collection of love stories on many levels, The Ten Loves of Nishino also raises questions about memory, commitment, and the different environments in which love is possible.

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