Showing posts with label Toni Morrison. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Toni Morrison. Show all posts

Monday, November 6, 2023

3 authors I would like to have lunch with…

...and the single question I would ask them...

1. Toni Morrison

1987’s Beloved blessed you with a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1988. Do you think the esteemed and prized recognition you received for Beloved put pressure on your following efforts? I ask this because I have always had a difficult time finding myself immersed in your books post-Beloved. Due to this overwhelming feeling with trying to reach for the stories and plots behind the heavier prose. Sometimes I--as the reader--would just like the know what's going on.

2. Sue Grafton

How did you manage to get inside of my head to create a literary figure (as well as mystery genre icon) somehow incredibly relatable to me as Kinsey Millhone? Her wit, no-nonsense attitude, inconsistencies, and loner-ish-ness is so ME!

3. Mercedes Lackey

You come up with some great fantasy ideas. However, I sometimes tend to love your storytelling, while struggling with some of the directions you take with your plot. Then, on occasion, it’s the other way around where the plot supersedes your storytelling. So my question is how often do you allow your characters to dictate your story to release yourself from a functioning, well-rounded plot? Some of your books often leave great storytelling potential on the table [plot]. Such as the mother in the first Bardic Voices book.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

#ReadSoulLit FauxCast | Ruby by Cynthia Bond

The audio quality drops mid-way.  I do apologize.  We have glitches we can't control at times.  

Ruby by Cynthia Bond (Amazon affiliate link):

"Ephram Jennings has never forgotten the beautiful girl with the long braids running through the piney woods of Liberty, their small East Texas town. Young Ruby Bell, “the kind of pretty it hurt to look at,” has suffered beyond imagining, so as soon as she can, she flees suffocating Liberty for the bright pull of 1950s New York. Ruby quickly winds her way into the ripe center of the city—the darkened piano bars and hidden alleyways of the Village—all the while hoping for a glimpse of the red hair and green eyes of her mother. 

When a telegram from her cousin forces her to return home, thirty-year-old Ruby finds herself reliving the devastating violence of her girlhood. With the terrifying realization that she might not be strong enough to fight her way back out again, Ruby struggles to survive her memories of the town’s dark past. Meanwhile, Ephram must choose between loyalty to the sister who raised him and the chance for a life with the woman he has loved since he was a boy.

Full of life, exquisitely written, and suffused with the pastoral beauty of the rural South, Ruby is a transcendent novel of passion and courage. This wondrous page-turner rushes through the red dust and gossip of Main Street, to the pit fire where men swill bootleg outside Bloom’s Juke, to Celia Jennings’s kitchen, where a cake is being made, yolk by yolk, that Ephram will use to try to begin again with Ruby." ~ On Amazon

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Book Openers Revisited ~ PART ONE...

The first paragraph in a book doesn’t always “contractualize” you into the author’s work, but it starts as potential.  I mean just step back for a moment and think about the power the first paragraph in your favorite book had.  How did it deliver enough to keep you reading and re-reading the book over the years?  What was it about that opening that enticed you upon your initial exposure?  Did the author break you with a vivid setting?  Or maybe it was a character’s voice that captivated you?  Did the author deliver a joke that threw you into laughter, in a moment when you needed it?  Was it a matter of tone or emotion?  Or were you just excited when an author flung you right in the middle of a scene?
Whatever the case, we can’t deny the power of the opening paragraph.
So I decided to pull a few books off one of my bookshelves and share with you a couple of interesting ones I've loved.  Some are from books I found myself compelled to read by the author's style alone.  While some are from books I never read beyond just yet.  And some are from favorite reads of mine that has kept me coming back for more.

Loved the indefinable usage of the phrase “that place.” 
As the paragraph later concedes, "that place" turns out to be a black neighborhood.  Yet, somewhat usual, it's a neighborhood long gone as it fell victim to capitalism (to keep it light).  It fell at the hands of businessmen who uprooted the land and cut down trees to build a golf course and suburban neighborhood.  Hosting and furnishing whites only?  You bet.  Nevertheless, the catch is “that place” may be gone, but its spirit isn't.  There’s a haunting story stilled buried in the land‘s past.  And, of course, Morrison invites us into that haunting history with this opener.
Dare you step back into the 1920s and find out...

Friday, May 8, 2015

Last Thoughts on God Help the Child by Toni Morrison

“Spare and unsparing, God Help the Child–the first novel by Toni Morrison to be set in our current moment–weaves a tale about the way the sufferings of childhood can shape, and misshape, the life of the adult.

At the center: a young woman who calls herself Bride, whose stunning blue-black skin is only one element of her beauty, her boldness and confidence, her success in life, but which caused her light-skinned mother to deny her even the simplest forms of love.  There is Booker, the man Bride loves, and loses to anger.  Rain, the mysterious white child with whom she crosses paths.  And finally, Bride’s mother herself, Sweetness, who takes a lifetime to come to understand that “what you do to children matters.  And they might never forget.”

A fierce and proactive novel that adds a new dimension to the matchless oeuvre of Toni Morrison.”

It has taken me a minute or two to write about Toni Morrison’s God Help the Child, but I’m essentially here. I say "essentially” because I still haven't wrapped all my thoughts around the book; it’s a Morrison novel so I have to dig deeper than my initial reading to get the dept of its context (which often leads to over-thinking, analyzing, and a necessary re-reading). So I have to write this as I go, and keep it brief before I write myself right off the damn page. Low pressure.

I enjoyed God Help the Child–for a variety of reasons. One was Morrison’s conciseness. While I’m always there for soaking up her way with language, I’m sometimes left confused and bewildered as it concerns how she paints a scene. Thankfully, God Help the Child gave me little trouble in managing Morrison’s writing, style, and narrative flow. In essence: I gathered clarity of her scenes and overall story.  The prose in God Help the Child didn't feel like mental power tumbling to shape a clear picture/comprehension of what was taking place throughout the characters' narratives.  Nor did her usual poetics (did I just make that up?) override scene and direction.  This allowed me to stick with the book without getting lost or wandering toward outside distractions, similar to what happened during my reading of A Mercy.

Nonetheless, the most prominent reason I enjoyed the book came from its identifiable theme on how we carry what’s done to us as children (mainly by her parents) into our adult lives. The book’s exploration into uncovering that theme was many times rough, haunting, and maybe even barbarous. However, I found those tougher avenues to be honest and consistent with my take of the book's objective, albeit unsettling. God Help the Child is an emotional peek into the psychological development behind children, and it doesn't hold back from darker paths. From self-acceptance, fighting conditional love, and finding self-respect, God Help the Child touches it all.  And I really like that Morrison took on this because, as black people, we almost swerve away from psychological concerns in place of stepping into churches for spiritual solutions.  At least that thought came to mind once I finished the book.

Nonetheless, there were moments where I wanted a little bit more story and closure from some characters, one being Bride’s friend, Brooklyn. And there were also times where I felt a lot more telling took over showing. However, the dept that Morrison takes us through Bride and her beau, Booker (whose story I found the most compelling of them all), makes up for it all.  With these two, I felt like Morrison really takes you places you'd never even been before with a character.  (Just read about their journey and you'll see.)

I've always rung my hands over this personal topic, but God Help the Child is another book where I reflected back to those feelings I had growing up. While it wasn't anywhere near as severe as Bride’s case, the lack of praise I felt growing up definitely resurfaced while reading God Help the Child.  Which, in turn, only propelled my connection with the book, characters and themes.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Friday Reads

I’m about 60 pages from the end of Elizabeth Peter’s Naked Once More; and considering I'm off tomorrow, I have plans on sitting down tonight and finishing it. That means no PS4. So… I wobble a bit. 

Nonetheless, I do want to share the newly purchased books I'm following Naked Once More with. As seen, that'll be the latest by Toni Morrison, God Help the Child. Many of you know how I feel about Morrison’s writing post-Beloved. Therefore, I won't get into all that. The subject of brevity of style in place of coherency within scenes just won’t be discussed. But I feel like God Help the Child is going to be a good fit.  At 178 pages, it'll be the perfect weekend read. And that’s exactly what I plan to do with it. Just to be certain of my decision, I stood in the front of the bookstore for a good ten minutes reading a couple of pages.  I wanted to make sure Morrison's scenes bubbled up into my imagination effortlessly.  I say that in contrast to a wall of prose I have to sift through to gather my bearings on what exactly is taking place within the story.  Luckily, I got scenes.

On the opposite side of Morrison’s display was a newly released book called God is Always Hiring. It’s written by Regina Brett, and is subtitled with the statement, “50 Lessons for Finding Fulfilling Work.” I ached over it, while squeezing my coupons in my pockets. Then I answered that little voice inside of me telling me that this was exactly–in this right moment and time in my life–what I needed read.

It wasn't until hours later that I realized both titles contained "God" in it.  Hmmm.  I take that as some kind of sign.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

What Happened to Billy?

How in the world can I put the experience of reading this book into words? Maybe I should step back and do what I always do in the process of finding the right words, which is talk about how I've come across a particular book. For starters, I'm never one to turn away from contemporary African-American literature that pre-dates the Civil Rights era (though I always go beyond).  And although I spotted the book online, that didn't deter that near cosmic whiff I've gathered for sometimes nailing a darn good book via the Internet—as opposed to settling with the first couple of chapters within the bookstore.

I've never heard of the author of Billy, Albert French.  Post-Billy, I did a little research and realized that his catalog of available titles are sadly sparse.  This may attribute to me not knowing who he was, and why I haven't heard of him.  Or heard of his debut, Billy.  That’s discouraging, really.  I found French is an amazing writer, and one who really took me there with the rawness of Billy.  So with that being said, to read more of his biography, click the link HERE .  You'll find that French's personal story is inspiring, and that’s besides him penning Billy in six weeks.  

Those six weeks read more like six months of work.

Except for a slight adjustment in the omniscient narrative taking place in the beginning of the book (French‘s use of old, rural Mississippi parlance to illustrate the setting and characters eventually dials down), Billy was truly an outstanding (as well as a literarily upsetting) journey into the extreme justices that took place over blacks pre-Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s (I should actually mention that the NAACP begin the anti-lynching campaign in the 1930s, which has a slight correlation to the choice of events that took place in Billy). It’s an example the likes I've never really seen in literature, considering it involves a ten-year-old boy with anything but murder as his intent when he accidentally stabs a fifteen-year-old white girl named Lori. With that said, I kind of want to get away from French’s coherent forms and language/word choice and focus more on the social discussion surrounding Billy.

The tragedy of the story happens during an unsettling altercation between Lori and Billy. Billy and his best friend, Gumpy, crossed a bridge of railroad tracks out of segregation and into the white community of their town. Hopping along, they come across a pond (enthused to collect redbacks from within it) on a patch of private property farmland.  Instead of catching redbacks (a type of salamander) they find themselves in an inhospitable and violent confrontation with two girls, Lori, and her cousin, Jenny. The two girls attack; Jenny jumps Gumpy while Lori takes on Billy as he emerges from the pond.  The prideful Billy, having his face snubbed, beaten, and spat upon in the mud by Lori, eventually ends up escaping his assailant. Nonetheless, the event becomes increasingly deadly when Billy chooses to follow a fleeing Gumpy with Lori's aggressive taunts following his backside.  And because he doesn't react any further, it’s then that Lori (just as prideful and fiery as Billy) decides she hasn't had enough of him.  With Lori closing in for another attack, Billy stands prepared in his misguided self-defense and ends up puncturing Lori’s heart with a switchblade.

While she is a by-product of segregated views and societal entitlement, Lori was older than Billy, bigger than him, stronger than him, and very much in control than Billy.  Whereas Billy is from a community who couldn't fight back without the onslaught of further terror and deepened segregation, something that took place to the harm of Billy's community after the events.  In many ways, Billy and Lori seemed a touch alike, both seemed injudicious in their own way as children during that time.  However, the obvious difference lie in the fact that if the events have been reversed, Lori would hardly find herself tried as an adult facing first-degree murder. She would not find herself before a jury, slapping her with a death sentence in a guilty verdict that took less than twenty-four hours to "sinuate"—so to speak.  And most assuredly, it wouldn’t have been Lori strapped to an electric chair screaming for Jesus and her mother as those chilling last pages illustrated Billy’s death without a single syntactic wince. Well, frankly, nothing in this book was winced. It was all there. Front and center. Vivid and clear. Nothing fading to black. Only prevailing details that shaped the characters and setting, as well as the social focus, racism, and the ugliness of capital punishment for juveniles during a time (maybe some questionable cases in today’s age) where there were no civil rights for blacks to challenge those in authority.

Before I even read Billy, I remember telling myself that I hope this book didn't make me mad—didn't upset me. It did, but it didn't, until the final chapters when you watch Billy suffer up toward his death. That part was the painful part. And while I did feel for Lori, it can be said that Billy's story drew out a range of emotions unexplored from a book addressing this period.  As I mentioned, probably because it involved children.

So with so much of that said, should you ever find yourself looking for an author outside of Morrison, Wright, Ellison, or Gaines, please pick up Billy.

The following passage is taken from the book.  It's a reflection of one of the older members of Billy's community, Patch.  Here, she monologues how her age has caused her to see many tragedies within the community, and how Billy's approaching troubles are partly one on a long list.

"Old Patch folks just kept sitting.  Reverend Sims told them everything would be all right.  Them real old ones that done seen some time, knew them days Mister Pete talked about, had sad eyes.  Netty Lou Moore remembered things Mister Pete forgot.  She could remember before them Yankee soldiers come; she could remember belonging to them Hatchers too.  She told Reverend Sims, 'Ah done seens some bad times.  Wasn't nothin be back here.  Ya has ta wades in the Catfish ta gits back in here.  Ah remembers.  Its was right ups there.  Ya sees where the roads be now.  Its was right theres they comes.  Never forgits.  Theys come and gits that boy.  Ah remembers.  They comes and gits him.  His name was Elijah, that's what his name was.  Theys come down on thems horses and gits that boy.  Says he was stealin and doin too much lookin at thats white man's woman he was doin for.  Theys comes down here on thems horses and drags thats boy.  He sayin he ain'ts dids it, but theys drags him away and theys hang him rights down theres where the roads goes over the Catfish.  Thems were bad times.  Ya all can'ts remember.  Wern'ts born yets.  Thems were bad times.  They's comin agins.'"

~ Billy by Albert French

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Wilkerson's Other Suns

I’ve read some really fun and good books so far this year, but as of right now, the best belongs to The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson.  There is no way around how illuminative and influential this book is.  No way.  Listen, if you love Gloria Naylor, Toni Morrison, Ralph Ellison, Richard Wright, Zora Neale Hurston, Alice Walker, or J. California Cooper, this book is for you.  Absolutely.  I know my list of African American authors is short, so extend it however you feel.  Just drop any author in and tag them with this book.  I encourage everyone to read The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration.

The Warmth of Other Suns is non-fiction, categorized as History/United States according to Barnes & Nobles; however, it is chiefly a biography.  Without a doubt Isabel Wilkerson serves some powerful, informative details that illustrate African American life in the early 20th century U.S. South.  She continues to strengthen her book with the conflicts concerning the Jim Crow era, and on into black communities residing in the North and West through merging migrations.  Nevertheless, the true strength of the book lie in the biography of three African Americans Wilkerson staff to paint the tone and veracity of the book, via their personal firsthand accounts and experiences.  Their stories glow through Wilkerson’s years of personal interviews.  Each share a different decade of migration, and each travel to different geological and emotional destinations.  Whatever the cavalcade, their amazing stories are told through narratives so smoothly detailed and realized that I find it hard to ever forget about them and their respective journeys.

First on the list is Ida Mae Brandon Gladney, the wife of a Mississippian sharecropper.  Her story begins with her husband, George Gladney, and his romancing competitor vying for 16-year-old Ida’s hand in marriage.  Or better put, the endorsement of Ida’s mother to marry her daughter.  Eventually George marries Ida Mae, pulling her into his business of picking cotton on a white landowner named Mr. Edd's plantation.  Ida Mae isn't the best at picking cotton, but she manages alongside her husband.  That determination is clear in Ida Mae very early within her narrative; there is an unspoken toughness in her.  Nonetheless, being the wife of a sharecropper isn't easy beyond fieldwork either because what troubles her husband often troubles her.  

Considering that period, it wasn't uncommon for men like George to find themselves cheated by landowners.  Only a few African American men could follow mathematics and clean numbers in relation to their labor and its payoff.  For a black man to question or confront the landowner of his concerns is for a black man to gamble with immediate death.  The division of power and politics was that ruthless and clear.

So when one of George’s cousins find himself accused of stealing livestock owned by Mr. Edd, Ida Mae goes tense with the news that a posse of white men have gathered to hunt the cousin down.  Eventually they find him, beat him near death, and throw him in a jail cell.  According to Ida Mae, George’s cousin was never the same.  And when Mr. Edd’s livestock meander out of the woods and back to his plantation safe and sound, Ida Mae and George decide that it is time to take their family out of the South.  The incident hit to close, and it seemed only a matter of time before George is falsely accused on any white man’s whim and consequently beaten or killed.  That was just the way it was in Mississippi, so Ida Mae and George secretly embark on a train headed North and eventually to Chicago.

The second person carrying Wilkerson’s book is George Swanson Starling.  George begins his journey as an ambitious citrus picker in Florida (according to the book, this was the worse state for blacks).  Driven by his desire to excel beyond previous generations, George manages to complete high school and eventually move into college.  Teased for his ambition, George never allowed anyone to stop him.  However, what eventually halted his dreams was himself.  After two years of college, George sought his newly remarried father for more tuition money to keep pursuing his education.  With a new, blended family to support, George's father insist that he wait another year and work instead.  Unable to convince his father of the support he needed, George rebelliously married a local girl his father always disputed against.  Believing this would push his father into giving him the money to leave the state (and away from the girl) back to college, it only backfired.  Instead George’s father decided that it was best for George to work and take care of his new wife.  Without much of a choice, George went back into the citrus fields where his friends remained during his absence.  When George begins to use his education to challenge the work versus pay gradient, he attracts the unwanted attention of several white citrus field owners.  Unworried, George forwards his debates.  Eventually rumors of his potentially orchestrated demise begin to circulate through the fields.  Finally fearing the consequences of his outspokenness, George sets off to New York, leaving his new wife behind as he proceeds to change their future.  Unfortunately, George never quite seems to live freely without regrets.

Lastly, Wilkerson shares the story of Robert Joseph Pershing Foster from Monroe, Louisiana.  Robert comes from a family formed by education--which influenced and encouraged his own educational purists.  He and his siblings each make it to college, Robert in particular finding himself at Atlanta’s esteemed black college, Morehouse.  At Morehouse Robert studies to become a doctor and surgeon.  It’s here that he also meets his wife, the daughter of then Morehouse president, Rufus Early Clement.  Soon after his marriage and graduation, Robert joins the army.  While he faced plenty of prejudices as a black doctor in the U. S. army, it doesn't prepare him for the vacancy of opportunities he later face as a black doctor in his home state of Louisiana.  The medical community in the South adjudge black doctors to the poor, black, backwood populace only.  This realization builds pressure and frustration in Robert.  Always under the thought that he has much to prove to others, Robert eventually leaves Louisiana to California.  In turn, he removes himself from his Southern roots so completely that he almost chronically overlook how much he's already proved and achieved.

While the journey of the three are certainly different in both context and moral delivery, they each share something inspirational and reflective for generations ahead.  I say this beyond the complicated elements that made up southern plight and the response to civil rights.  As tantamount as those elements are, though.  Nonetheless, I found myself identifying with pieces of each of Wilkerson's storytellers' dilemmas, moral standings, and inner motivations.  Which really causes me to insist that people as a whole take part in everything that this book has to offer.  

Nevertheless, with that insistency I should also add that some strings of story and imagery come repetitiously.  Blame it on the years of interviews Wilkerson sources in the Acknowledgements, or the mountain of research she sites in the Notes.  But to be clear, this repetition is too minor to concede.

One serious thought The Warmth of Other Suns left me with concerns my personal lineage.  I'm from--and still live--in the South.  My family has always been here... as far as I know.  My grandmother was born in 1941, in the midst of blacks migrating North and West.  She grew up on a farm in Toney, Alabama, picking cotton with eight other children (she was the baby girl) born by Van and Maggie Abernathy.  While she clearly recalls her mother’s parents and where they lived, when I asked about her father’s parents she had this to say:

White folks owned everything--ruled everything.  My daddy didn’t even know who his mamma was.”  I asked her to elaborate a little more.  She added:  “There are bad colored men and bad white men and if a white man owned a colored man, he’ll do whatever he ask.

Needless to say, I got chills.

As for my grandfather, he passed in 1988.  He's in the above image.  Anyway, rumor has it that he was half Jewish, but nobody knows too much about his family because they weren't exactly happy with his decision be with my grandmother.  From what I can recall via one of my aunts, with the exception of one of his sisters, his family cut him off.  It is a saddening reality.  Especially when you want to know who your people are and where you come from.  

In any regard, my grandparents met while my grandmother was working “uptown” at this placed called Blue Front CafĂ©.  I should add that this was some time after she ran away from home.  So soon after birthing my aunt and mother, my grandmother convinced my grandfather to buy the house she currently resides in.  Our family has owned and lived in this home since its construction in the early 60s, right around the March on Washington, a Civil Rights movement geared toward the end of employee discrimination.  Since then, we've been here.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

7 Favorite Reads of 2013


With each year comes one concrete, consistent thing that forever entertains, comforts, and enlightens me... that would be books.  According to Goodreads I read more in 2013 than 2012.  I felt a little surprised, certain that it was the other way around for some reason.  Still, I had a few decent books on that list that I cropped through to find my 7 Favorite Reads of 2013 that I wanted to share on the blog.  Some of the books I've never written about; this is the perfect time to do so.  I also have another list comprising of a few of the books I rather leave in 2013.  Neither list is necessarily numbered in order of greatness, flavor, or level of entertainment.  It’s just a list of the books I walked away from feeling mostly inspired (or uninspired) by.
Here goes…
1. The Goddess Chronicle by Natsuo Kirino

Natsuo Kirino is a Japanese crime writer best known outside of Japan for the English adaptation of her grizzly novel, Out.  I was introduced to her by that particular book, after a bored bookstore stroll for new titles to read.  Quickly put, Out is about four hard-up Japanese women working in a bento factory while disposing bodies for extra cash.  Their method of disposal?  Divide the bodies into pieces before each takes a part to an undisclosed location for dumping.  It doesn't take long before their trust with one another, concerning money and their nasty dealings, begin to unravel from within.  And true to its nature, some of these women don't make it till the end of the novel.  While Out may sound like some sort of ABC crime novel under the streets of Tokyo, the psychology Kirino goes through with each of the women places this book a whole step above.  That exploration into a character's dark psychology (and impulse) is familiar in Japanese crime novels.  You see it in authors Keigo Higashino and Miyuki Miyabe as well.  Nonetheless, I was sold by Out's synopsis and have been a fan of Kirino since.  

The next novel adapted into English was her book, Grotesque.  Just as dark as Out, Grotesque follows the story of two Japanese sisters weighted by the inferior treatment of women in Japan.  One sister has turned to prostitution underneath the weight.  When I say this story will take you down some dark and scary places--I mean it.  It is one ride that will keep you hanging on just to find some kind of resolution with these sisters.  If you can stomach it, of course.  In 2008 the English adaptation of Kirino’s Real World was released.  Here we had another dark story featuring a group of Japanese teens assisting a murderer-on-the-run within their group.  Naturally, Kirino’s dark stories reflect societal concerns, particularly bullying and the heavy amount of pressure placed on Japanese students and academics, so addressed in Real World.  

So what is Kirino’s fourth English adapted book about?  

Almost the same theme concerning the overthrow of women in Japanese society; however, it’s told underneath a retelling of an old Japanese kwaidan-like myth.  The Goddess Chronicle takes place on a Japanese island shaped like a teardrop (let’s go ahead and push the symbolism).  On this island we’re introduced to two sisters born and designed to fulfill a local prophesy.  One sister, Kamikuu, must be a representative of purity and light, whereas the other sister, Namima, resides in the shade.  Natural to Kirino’s characters and storytelling, Namima wishes to escape her position underneath her sister’s shadow.  This wish becomes increasing dire when Namima is ordered by tradition to serve the goddess of darkness.  To serve the goddess is to live in isolation without the island’s graveyard, attending to the dead.  However, Namima carries a secret that breaks her tabooed position as a servant of the darkness.  Namima devises a plan to escape the island.  Should the tradition-baring locals find out about her secret, the consequences could equal up to her life.  Where Namima's eventual escape leads her is to the Realm of the Dead, where she meets the goddess of darkness herself.  It's here that Namima realizes that she has a lot to relate to with the goddess herself.  They both share the pain of the betrayal.  Now to find absolve (or maybe revenge) within those betrayals are the women’s common goal.

2.  Night by Elie Wiesel

3.  Tar Baby by Toni Morrison

4.  Linden Hills by Gloria Naylor

My post on Linden Hills.  

5.  The Shining by Stephen King

7.  Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

Now the 3 books I'd probably leave in 2013 follows...

1.  Jazz by Toni Morrison

Seems a little off I'm sure.  It's not that I disliked the book, it just wasn't what I'd hoped for.  I've learned that much of Morrison's material post-80's has what I see as a distracting dip in vivid prose and language.  The problem for me is that that "distracting" sometimes lures me away from gathering some sense of the plot of the book, or even the order of the plot.  Add in the multiple themes and narratives in JazzI just didn't leave fully connected with overall story.  However, some of the individual narratives in the book stood so strongly that it was like reading an individual short story inside the book.  Glimpses of pieces of the past that made the two main characters was where I enjoyed the book the most.  In any regard, it's definitely a book that needs a second, focused read.

2.  The Shadow Reader by Sandy Williams

The Urban Fantasy genre has failed me over the years.  After Laurell K Hamilton's Anita Blake series set the tone for what to avoid while writing/reading in the genre, I've been sketchy on picking up anything that even distantly suggests a girl must sleep with vampires and werewolves for a plot.  Save for the authors who introduced me to the genre (sadly, Hamilton is one), I try to look carefully for new authors in the genre.  I'm afraid they'll try to pull me in with a ridiculous plot about sex and a she devil who thrives on it to survive.  Williams, luckily, isn't any of those things.  However, what did annoy me about this particular book was that the heroine spent a little too much time than I cared for ruminating on her affection between two guys.  One guys is labeled bad.  One guy is labeled good.  We got a love triangle and the whole time I just wished the main character, McKenzie, would give up the need for romantic stability and just start slaying heads.  Something tells me that's a personal taste of mine.  Nevertheless, I'm actually on the fence about continuing the series.  I'll let it get a few books in then see.

3.  Deadline by Sandra Brown

She has some good ones.  She has some boring ones.  This was a boring one.  I hate to say it, but many times Brown's characters are all the same.  Their careers are different, but their desires are not.  Predictable in many senses.  I saw a lot of that in Deadline.  Same as in 2012's Low Pressure.  Same as in 2011's Lethal (which I actually liked).  As I said before, Brown's books sometimes read like Lifetime movies--and that's not a bad thing.  But here's what I see too often that annoys me.  There's a guy.  He's often a suspect involved in the murder contained within the book.  He likes the girl.  She's often related to the victim in some way.  They're either on the run from cops or bad guys.  Between that running, she is a wall to his desperate sexual advances.  She cracks.  He makes way.  Together they become a force to smoke out the true killer.  That's been her last 3-4 books.

That's the end of my list folks!  Wish I could've written about them all, but trust and believe me when I say that the ones that I didn't write about would've required an entire post.  Any suggestions or comments?  Do you have a list 2013 book list of favorites?  Share and let's compare notes!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Subjective Term? Literary Masterpieces?

I remember a literature teacher asking the class what makes a literary masterpiece.  Of course the class had to write and share an essay on the topic.  At the time I simply thought the answer lie in how well a piece of popular literature is written.  As well as how popular some generation of culture and society thought it as, placing it on a pedestal for whatever determined reasoning.  However, I later learned that it remains a subjective topic.  What I may consider a masterpiece may differ from another's thoughts on the same subject.  And all too often I don't even use the term "masterpiece".

Nevertheless, I'd like to share a few of my thoughts.  Many literary masterpieces gather critiques as either presenting lackluster material, or the complete opposite, over-enthused writing.  Therefore, there are several combined elements that may “constitute” a pleasant reading experience, or a dull one.  As an author’s style and syntax continues to be the defining factor in a reader’s experience, other essential ingredients determine how well the message of the novel obtains reception, ingredients that work in conjunction with an author’s choice of words.  This combination of properly used elements helps the reader appreciate the context of a literary masterpiece.  
The Joy Luck Club.  I would consider it a masterpiece.

Long passages of description often cause readers to skim text, missing quality pieces of an author’s message.  Many times description merges with narrative, making it difficult for readers to separate the two.  However, description has the tendency to imply itself throughout a novel, whereas narrative has a way of giving character (often character specific) to a novel, essentially presenting itself as a secondary role in the process.  A character’s role in the pleasantness or dullness of a literary masterpiece brings success to the experience if the character creates speculation within the reader.  Characters that appear predictable to readers may become to contrive to drive a literary masterpiece, as readers are looking to explore the setting within someone he or she can identify with or grow to identify.  A careful balance of inner and outer character statements contributes to a well written literary masterpiece, as character statements create speculation of the character’s actions throughout each manner.

Characters use dialogue to relate their terms to a real life translation for readers.  As many readers skip through narrative and description, it becomes dialogue that catches the reader’s knowledge of the novel’s presence and direction.  Much of this has to do with how text appears on a page, as dialogue tends to be “easy on the eyes.”  However, dialogue is not the absolute to a literary masterpiece, as much of the message infuses into the reader’s ability to visualize the setting and inner monologue of the available characters.  This requires structure, as authors who produce literary masterpieces must maintain a balance of dialogue, narrative, and description to bring pleasure to many readers’ experience.  Character structure allows the information of a novel to become clearer while bringing passion throughout the reading and analysis.  Messages readers receives from a novel is through each passage or piece of dialogue.  It's here that we search for powerful passages to evoke our emotions, not so much to spend time decoding an author‘s material. 

Many find word choices and their meaning brings the biggest appreciation into literary masterpieces.  Though description, character, dialogue, and structure are powerful characteristics that attribute to what an author should focus on when creating a literary masterpiece, these elements are just as important in an author who chooses to explore in other genres of fiction.  Literary masterpieces become important because of the words and meaning they evoke in readers.  Because of this they explore social and personal changes.  Modern contemporary authors like Amy Tan [The Joy Luck Club] and Toni Morrison [Beloved] introduced literary masterpieces that unveil the complexity of what it means to be of an ethnic minority [Chinese, Chinese-American; African, African-American].  Then authors like F. Scott Fitzgerald [The Great Gatsby] provided a glimpse into his concerns about the corruption of the American dream.  An author such as Ralph Ellison [Invisible Man] attacks both social issues and individual conflict within many of his novels.  Then classic masterpiece of Oedipus the King [Sophocles] asks readers to question their purpose in life in modern times.  

With an author’s use of word choice and meaning, his or her messages become striking and clear.  Not understanding the careful use of the two sometimes fails an author.  There are moments when an author does not fully understanding the meaning of a word and uses it.  Granted, a single word can have multiple meanings, but literary masterpieces must use words that remain in the context of the passage.  The message obtains clarity this way because with words used properly in the context of the text, there are no alternatives for the reader to misplace its meaning.  Nevertheless, there are abstract attempts at words designed to further the reader’s contemplation of the material, but a careful use will drive the text to its clarifying end.  Possessing a strong vocabulary (combined with imagination) to draw from authenticates (as well as distinguish) an author’s voice and ability to drawing meaning from his or her masterpiece.  Operating consciously or unconsciously, the arrangement of an author’s word choice takes intuition and observation.  An author who writes to challenge a reader’s personal beliefs or social conditioning takes the advantage by introducing words, meaning, and context.  This careful use supports his or her argument for change, or insight into other cultures and ideas.

Whereas numerous elements such as character, dialogue, narrative, and description goes into creating powerful pieces of literary works, those masterpieces that challenge readers with their use of words and meaning appear to generate cross-cultural conversations.  It is these words that contribute to the greatness of an author’s character, dialogue, narrative, descriptions, and use of metaphors.  Literary masterpieces are important in the sense that they often create changes in real life, just as they gather inspiration from a life in need of change and progression.

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