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Book Review: Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

This is one of those books that demands to be discussed.  I know because after my boyfriend lent it to me and I finished it, I called him immediately.  I wanted to talk about two aspects of the story in particular - its tip-of-the-iceberg character development and its web of seemingly random but of course meaningful details.
Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki follows the title character's quest to understand, in his early thirties, why his four beloved high school friends cut him off while he was in college.  Their rejection of him was sudden, mysterious, and brutal, casting him into a suicidal depression.  Years after the depression has ended, Tsukuru still feels scarred by the rejection.  He believes in his heart that he is empty, isolated, colorless, and unable to fully connect with others.  But when he meets Sara, a woman to whom he feels inexplicably drawn, he realizes that he must confront his past and his four former friends in order to pursue a serious relationship with her.
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Book Review: Che by Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colon

I'm back with another graphic novel!  And this one isn't about zombies - it's about Ernesto Guevara de la Serna, better known as Che Guevara.  This beautiful, color-illustrated comic book is a biography of the revolutionary figure, from the famous motorcycle trip he took through Argentina partway through medical school, to his success as an Argentinean communist fighting for Fidel Castro in Cuba, to his capture by government soldiers while aiding rebels in Bolivia, and subsequent execution without trial.
     A good fourteen pages of the novel are spent describing in brief the history of every country in South America.  I admit that I found this section boring at first.  But honestly I benefited from it, first of all because in high school I learned very little about South American history.  World Wars I and II got a lot of attention in my history classes, but the revolutions of Latin American countries did not.  So this book gave me a crash course.  Second of all, t…

Book Review: The Spanish American Short Story, edited by Seymour Menton

I love the cover of this book.  Look closely - it's a little skeleton man clasping his hands over a cup of black coffee.  I don't know what it means, but it's delightful.      Anyway, I read this collection of short stories in Spanish - El cuento hispanoamericano - for a class I am taking this semester, but it is also available in English.  According to my professor, it's a unique book in that it offers the best representation of Latin American short stories throughout modern history, with details about literary movements and authors as well.  I liked some stories better than others - "The Tree" by Maria Luisa Bombal and "The Ruby" by Ruben Dario were my favorites - but even the ones I disliked, such as "Secret Love" by Manuel Payno, were included because they were representative of a certain movement or regional style that was worth acknowledging.        My only issue with this book is that a story I just mentioned, "The Tree,&…

Book Review: Love by Toni Morrison

When I finished this novel, I wondered, as I always do when I finish a Toni Morrison novel, why I ever read anything else.  I read it over break, and after months of reading for school rather than pleasure, it was a relief to bury myself in beautiful writing.
Love follows the Cosey family through three generations, from the start to the end of the twentieth century.  The Coseys are a wealthy black family whose wealth comes from a beachfront hotel owned by Mr. Cosey, the grandfather and patriarch.  The story has various narrators, including the women who lived under his roof and his influence - his daughter, granddaughter, cook, and young wife, as well as the unstable teenage girl who feels his presence in the house long after his death.
     That detail particularly struck me as I was reading - the apparent immortality of his influence.  Mr. Cosey was a great man - a Black American who enriched himself in the face of violent racism, who quietly paid for the weddings and hospital …

Book Review: The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje

Beautiful writing and intensity of feeling were the major traits of this novel.  It is set in an abandoned Italian villa after World War II.  The villa is inhabited by a Canadian nurse, Hana, and a war patient whose entire body has been burned black.  Hana has chosen to nurse him alone rather than return home.  The patient is erudite and appears to be English.  Two other men, an Italian thief and a Sikh sapper, stumble upon and move in with them eventually.
     These five characters slowly reveal the traumas of their lives to one another.  But the most captivating story of all is that of the English patient, who narrates in bits and pieces his life in the desert and the love affair that changed it.  The speaking style of the patient is tense, intimate, and precise.  For example, while at the edge of a great loss, he "feels that everything is missing from his body, feels he contains smoke.  All that is alive is the knowledge of future desire and want" (157). This descr…

Book Review: The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore

You're reading my first review of a graphic novel!  Yay!  This will be the first of many because a) I want to read more graphic novels and b) sometimes I don't have time to read and review a novel every week.

     Anyway, I'm a fan of the Walking Dead TV show (despite being woefully behind this season) so I thought I should try reading the comic book series on which it's based.  I picked up the first volume at the library and read it in an hour.  It was so, so good.  The premise of the book is that while the protagonist, a sheriff named Rick, was in a gunshot-induced coma, some kinda zombie epidemic broke out and he must now find his wife and son.
     However, the story is less about the shock value of a zombie apocalypse and more about the impact of life-threatening circumstances on human behavior and civilization.  The book got me thinking about issues like private property, gun control, and women's rights.  Specifically, it challenged my absolute beliefs …

Best Reading from my First Semester

Ok, my only excuse for this long-ass hiatus is that I started college, and what with exams, essays, friends, newfound independence, and minor dramas, I nearly forgot I had a blog until this week.
But I'm back now, and here to tell you about the best books and stories I read during my last semester.

Novels
1. Citizen: An American Epic by Claudia Ward - A multi-media masterpiece about modern racism, with a particular focus on microaggressions.
2. Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward - The story of a young girl coming of age in an impoverished area of Mississippi, on the brink of one of the great natural disasters of the last decade.
3. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison - A classic allegory of the racial justice movement in America.
4. Beloved by Toni Morrison - Possibly my favorite book ever, Beloved is based on the story of Margaret Garner, a woman who escaped slavery with her children and, when recapture seemed inevitable, killed her children to their being returned to slavery.
Shor…