Tuesday, 29 May 2007

Book Clubbing

Here's a rundown on what I'm reading at the moment (the moods, the moods):

The Powerbook
Jeanette Winterson
Only just finished it, and realised it really is a power-book (without the overtly political, Foucauldian connotations of power). For those of us ashamed to scan the self-help aisle in the local bookstores, this is ideal. It's literary, uplifting, sensual and conversational all at the same time. A lot of books with fragmented narratives leave you lost, but this one is a gem in that its style seems to mirror the average human thought process with all its mindless deviations and mindful delusions. The cover says it would make a great gift for someone you love, but I think it's the best gift you could give yourself (because a gift to anyone else would entail a return!). Besides, you could then always lend it to the several people you are likely to grow to love...

YEARNING: race, gender and cultural politics
bell hooks
I've never before bought an "academic" book before first having to order it, but was pleasantly surprised to see this one in the Women's Studies section at Borders. I've also yet to come across a an "ethnic female" (or "female ethnic"?) writer who enmeshes the past, present and future of race and gender politics in the everyday as simply and brilliantly as hooks. In other words, this book moves because it uses the author's own experiences as an African-American woman in the pre-dominantly white academy to talk about the "theories" of feminism and postmodernism. What particularly resonated with me was her honesty regarding the hostility that prevails among women of color/black academics. Are some of us revelling in our "exoticism"? Are we only making sure our work appeases the tastes of white audiences, or also endeavouring to reach our native readers whose responses may be more critical? (This made me think of Deepa Mehta's films...her reviewers in India often accuse her of pandering to western sensibilities).

The Vintage Book of Indian Writing 1947-1997
Salman Rushdie and Elizabeth West (ed.)
A collector's item for those into Indian writing in English, this 500-page volume is as much an assault on the senses as the country itself. It contain short stories, novel extracts and non-fiction by Anita Desai, Nayantara Sehgal, Amitav Ghosh, Mulk Raj, Bapsi Sidhwa, Arundhati Roy as well as other legends and novices on the subcontinental literary scene. My only nagging concern would be Rushdie's introduction to the edited collection - a rather apologetic blurb on why only those writing in English have been included.

Gail Jones
Jones is one of my favourite authors, the poetic and evocative qualities of her fiction are without parallel. Her sentences are often very cerebral and academic, yet have the uncanny ability to get under your skin and linger there. This is her latest book, and in a recent review of it I read in The Age, it was suggested that in the absence of a formal apology to the Aboriginal people on behalf of the Australian body-politic, it is artists like Jones who have to offer a literary reconciliation. With an opening that reads - "A whisper: sssshh. The thinnest vehicle of breath. This is a story that can only be told in a whisper", I am both enticed and moved, and read on...

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