Saturday, September 20, 2014
Monday, September 15, 2014
|Courtesy of junotdiaz.com|
Diaz, who writes both short stories and novels, creates an unique central character: the Dominican Republic (DR). The DR holds a strong place in Diaz's heart; he too immigrated to the US as a child and was raised in New Jersey. Currently a creative writing professor at MIT, Diaz strives to highlight a segment of the American culture that often gets forgotten: the immigrant population from the Caribbean. The DR is a central theme throughout his 1996 debut collection, Drown, where the reader is exposed to a series of short stories that are snapshots into the characters' souls. We see how they struggle to convey a macho (or slutty, depending on what they want) persona to the public, all the while mourning their inability to achieve higher goals like college or at least staying out of jail. Failures and triumphs are also in his Pulitzer Prize novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Having a generational 'curse' hanging over his head, Oscar is an overweight nerd, the exact opposite of what a Dominican man is supposed to be. He is a constant source of woe for his mother, who hopes that he can become more manly or at least more healthy, and for his beautiful and popular sister, who is completely unsure how to deal with her awkward brother. Diaz's latest award winning collection, This is How You Lose Her, we see how the DR paints the characters' (several characters resurface through all of his stories) relationships. Several stories are about how men want to stay with the women that they truly love, but they just can't escape the pressure to be 'manly' by cheating with several different women. In others, the reader is shown how women also can't stop playing men for money, cars, or whatever they want. The constant back and forth in their relationships is blamed on the instability of relationships and sex in the DR; however, this cultural norm for the DR does NOT translate well in the US. Throughout their struggles with themselves, their history, and their family, the DR hangs over their head, like a past they cannot escape and a future they cannot avoid.
|Courtesy of BarnesandNoble.com|
Love, loss, poverty, and, most importantly, a loss of culture is what drives Junot Diaz's characters; these people feel the stinging pain of trying to mesh their Dominican culture and identity in with the oft-sterile culture of the USA. They cannot regain what they left behind, thus they tend to fill the void with destructive behavior, almost barreling themselves towards the stereotype of a "ghetto" immigrant. It is these descents, these personal struggles, both real and imaginary, that Diaz creates for his readers.
Monday, September 8, 2014
|Courtesy of goodreads.com|
Cormoran Strike. An amputee veteran from the Afghan wars. A huge man that elicits stares wherever he goes. The illegitimate child of a famous rock star. A detective. It is these traits, good and bad, and so many more that make up Strike's personality, thus influencing his business as a private detective. Strike is that person that men want to be and women want to be with. In Cuckoo's, the reader finds Strike trying to pick up the pieces of his life after a long-term relationship implodes. He is drawn into the high-stakes and high pressure world of fashion, modeling, and the lives of the wealthy, where one of their own has committed suicide. The dead woman's brother convinces Strike that maybe something else happened. In Silkworm, Strike is once again entangled in a strange, cult-like world, this time of book publishing. An author has been brutally murdered and it seems like EVERYONE wanted him dead. Throughout both books, Strike is assisted by Robin Ellacott, his pretty and quietly intelligent assistant; she too is plagued by her own demons and continues to surprise Strike and the reader with her bravery and cunning.
|Courtesy of goodreads.com|
I am hoping that Galbraith/Rowling can breathe new life into the mystery genre. Recently, the genre has been overtaken by cozy mystery series (I love me some cozy mystery series but they all tend to be the same over and over again) and by gruesome, gory mysteries (Sorry, Jeffrey Deaver, but wow!). Galbraith/Rowling can be categorized with Dennis Lehane, Marshall Karp, Stieg Larsson, and those who don't shy away from gritty mysteries, flawed heroes, and the often violent nature of people overall. Perhaps, as the fan base of Harry Potter gets older, they can graduate to Galbraith/Rowling's new series; its written just as well as Harry Potter and also has the action, the tension between good and bad, the wit, and the ever-proper Britishness that we all grew to love.
Tuesday, September 2, 2014
|Courtesy of Goodreads.com|
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption is a non-fiction book by Laura Hillenbrand, published in 2010. It is going to be a movie directed by Angelina Jolie, to be released on Christmas 2014. It's an incredible book, spending 180 weeks on the NY Times Bestseller list. It is about a man who has done more and survived more than most of us could even dream of achieving. His life should make all of us aspire to be more. The book is gripping, suspenseful, romantic, heroic, and inspiring; I read it in three days, calling into work sick so I could finish it. The movie is already generating Oscar Award buzz, even though it hasn't officially been released; the trailer alone made me cry. Why haven't you read it yet? I'm not sure.
Louis Zamperini overcame QUITE a bit to become the very embodiment of the idea of a 'true' American. An small-town boy, who became a Hitler-dissing track star in the 1936 Olympics, Zamperini joined the military in World War 2, was shot down in his plane, floated adrift in the Pacific for 47 days, only to be rescued by the Japanese forces and then spent more than two and a half years in a POW camp. Surely this must end in tragedy, with this hero dying horribly? He did die... July 2, 2014, at 97. Zamperini was everything the "Greatest Generation" epitomizes: courage, faith, hard work, and an undying love for country and for family. The book is about Zamperini's journey to sports greatness, to military defeat and torture, accumulating in a self-realization and salvation that played a huge role in improving American and Japanese relations after the war.
Is this a tear-jerker? You bet! Hillenbrand, her first success being the underdog story of Seabiscuit, is in perfect form in Unbroken. Known for her meticulous research, Hillenbrand uses military archives, news archives, and personal stories from Zamperini, his family, and his friends to weave a tale that leaves the reader breathless and terrified, yet hopeful. Although clearly a non-fiction work, Unbroken reads almost like a fiction; the story is almost unbelievable and the outcome is incredible. Hillenbrand has a real talent for drawing the reader completely into the story and relaying emotions to where the reader can vividly feel them. No detail is left unexplored, no emotion left untouched. She takes you on the journey of Zamperini's life, from the angst of teenagehood fistfights to the unbending belief that he would survive his time in the POW camp. Hillenbrand, who became close friends with Zamperini while researching the book, wrote in her eulogy to him, "If anything defined Louie, it was that. What made his life transcendent, what made it resonate in millions of hearts, was not the hardship he encountered, but the way in which he greeted it, how he turned it to joy, and what that told the rest of us about the potential that sleeps within ourselves."
Why should you read this? Well, it almost seems unpatriotic to NOT read about an ultimate American patriot. He served his country as an Olympian, a soldier, a veteran, and a good citizen; all of this, and he never gave up. If that isn't the true American spirit, I don't know what is. And the book is an intense, but utterly gratifying read. You will never be the same after reading this.
Besides, you need to read the book before you see the movie!!
Quote taken from http://www.dailybreeze.com/general-news/20140731/laura-hillenbrands-eulogy-to-louis-zamperini