Saturday, May 30, 2015

Drifting by Katia D. Ulysse (2014)

Drifting (2014) is the debut novel by Hatian-American author, Katia D. Ulysse. Although to call it a novel might be a little misleading. This book deftly straddles the line between the narrative focus of a novel and the variety and pacing of a collection of short stories.

Through a group of interconnected narratives, Ulysse tells the stories of Haitian women and girls, both in Haiti and after their often complicated immigrations to the United States. These are hard stories and rough journeys, but the wholeness of the characters and the richness of even the briefly described relationships brings in a wave of humanity and joy. Her emphasis on female friendships, both for girls and grown women is particularly moving and serves as a backdrop for the often pretty horrible other parts of the character's lives.

Ulysse is one of the strongest new writers I've read in a long time, and this book is both powerful and extremely readable. I haven't read many Haitian writers beyond Edwidge Danticat and reading Ulysse's book made me want to revisit what I'd already read and go out to find even more. You will like this book, y'all.

[Note: I received this review copy through the LibraryThing Early Reviewer program.]

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Embroideries by Marjane Satrapi (2005)

My latest selection from the St. Denis bookshelf in exile is Embroideries by Marjane Satrapi (2005). I read Persepolis for my DAFFODILS book club several years ago and really enjoyed it and its perspective on the experiences of Iranian women, so checking out another one of Satrapi's books sounded like fun.

This brief graphic novel collects together the various sexual and romantic exploits of a group of Iranian women told as they gather to gossip and drink tea while the men nap after a big family gathering. The individual vignettes are charming and Satrapi's cartoony, expressive style works very well in this context. The book as a whole, though, is pretty thin, and there isn't much here in the way of character development or depth. Still, spending a half an hour reading the stories of these funny, endearing women, isn't a bad way to spend your time.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

One Act: Eleven Short Plays of the Modern Theatre, edited by Samuel Moon (1961)

I am working on a plan to actually read all the books on my bookshelves that I haven't read yet. We'll see how far I get, but for now I've started with the very first one: One Act: Eleven Short Plays of the Modern Theatre, edited by Samuel Moon (1961).

I bought this at a book sale at the library where I work -- we had purchased it for the collection in 1968 and, according to the catalog card in the back, it didn't circulate one time between then and when the library was automated in the mid-1990s. I guess budding theologians don't think they need to read these intriguing lesser-known jewels by some of Western literature's best playwrights, but they were really missing out!

It had been awhile since I read a play, and a really long time since I sat down and read a one-act play. I forgot how much fun they are -- just like a short story, the author needs to fit a lot into a small space, and also like a short story, that constraint allows for a lot of experimentation and surprising depth.

I enjoyed all of these plays (full title list: Miss Julie, August Strindberg; Purgatory, William Butler Yeats; The Man With the Flower in His Mouth, Luigi Pirandello; Pullman Car Hiawatha, Thornton Wilder; Hello Out There, William Saroyan; 27 Wagons Full of Cotton, Tennessee Williams; Bedtime Story, Sean O'Casey; Cecile, Jean Anouilh; This Music Crept by Me upon the Waters, Archibald MacLeish; A Memory of Two Mondays, Arthur Miller; The Chairs, Eugene Ionesco), but the two that grabbed me the most were probably Tennessee Williams' 27 Wagons Full of Cotton (which he later developed into the script for Baby Doll -- I really want to watch this version sometime) and Arthur Miller's A Memory of Two Mondays (why look, an amazing YouTube version of this one is available as well, along with a neat introduction by Miller himself).

Interestingly, with the exception of Miss Julie and a few of the other plays, the majority of these works were written less than ten years before they were brought together in this collection. I like the contemporary old-school theatre feeling the collection has and the plays really work well together as  a group.

Here's to reading all those books on all our shelves!