16 10 / 2012
Just because I haven’t been posting reviews, doesn’t mean I haven’t been reading. I’ve been too busy to write. But, I found a little bit of time so here goes…
If Sons, Then Heirs by Lorene Cary
If Sons, Then Heirs is somewhat of a family saga, mostly set in South Carolina, about heir property given to King Needham from his master following the abolition of slavery. His widow, Nana Selma, now lives on the property in the present day and is worried that the land will be taken from King’s descendants when she dies. Enter Rayne, King’s great grandson, on the brink of starting his own family in Philadelphia, who visits Nana Selma a few times each year, but has no desire to take over the land. The story follows Rayne on his most recent visit to see Nana, chronicling their discussions of his family history, the hardships in claiming Needham ownership of the land (and the sneaky white folk behind it all), as well as him coming to grips with Jewel, his mother who sent him from New York one summer to visit Nana Selma (and his belligerent grandfather) when he was six, but never bothered to send for his return.
Very interesting premise, what with the property law situation and the family history thrown in, but Cary lost me a few times in the book because the story seemed to be too complicated, especially for fiction. There was Nana suffering from illnesses and trying to get property ownership settled; Rayne and his girlfriend, Lillie, and their financial struggles in Philly; Rayne getting used to being a stepfather to Lillie’s son, Kalil; Rayne struggling with his newly found mother, Jewel; Jewel’s story, and her husband’s battle with cancer; King’s story of the land, his tragic death, and family history…as you can see, there was a lot going on. In addition to that, the story was almost boring and it was a bit too long for my liking. Had I not previously enjoyed Cary’s memoir, Black Ice, I would have given up on this novel early on.
I liked the positive themes of family working together to preserve their history and land, Rayne eventually embracing the responsibilities that come with manhood, and the very uplifting conclusion, so there was some good to finishing it.
I’d recommend this to those who like historical fiction, stories about Black migration and property ownership, heavy family and manhood themes, and novels with an introspective male protagonist.
17 9 / 2012
Open City by Teju Cole
Along the streets of Manhattan, a young Nigerian doctor doing his residency wanders aimlessly. The walks meet a need for Julius: they are a release from the tightly regulated mental environment of work, and they give him the opportunity to process his relationships, his recent breakup with his girlfriend, his present, his past.
But it is not only a physical landscape he covers; Julius crisscrosses social territory as well, encountering people from different cultures and classes who will provide insight on his journey—which takes him to Brussels, to the Nigeria of his youth, and into the most unrecognizable facets of his own soul.
Teju Cole is a very smart, articulate writer. I am fascinated by how his mind works. Needless to say, I have mixed feelings about this novel. It is very literary, and though I am wont to enjoy books that fall into this genre of fiction, this story was more dull than interesting, which caused me to fight through to the very end.
Cole is extremely descriptive, giving a massive amount of history and other intricate details about the architecture that Julian encounters during his daily walks. The people that he meets along the way are treated with a similar kind of dignity, like relics and landmarks whose circumstances and actions must be explained, even if it has nothing to do with the actual point of the story. This book is definitely a written portrait of the human condition, with Julian meeting people from all walks of life, various cultures and countries, and sharing how their interactions affect him.
Julian came across more dull than his acquaintances, though, which made it very hard to enjoy the book. I can hate or have disdain for a main character, but being bored by him is torturous. Cole made up for it with the smart and slightly humorous minor characters scattered throughout the book.
I’d recommend this for those who have a deep affection for literary fiction.
09 9 / 2012
"Sometimes it’s easy to forget that real people produce the documents we see. For instance, when we see billboards on the freeway, an instruction manual for a computer, or an application form for employment, we often forget that a writer or a team of writers actually sat down to produce those documents."
Dobrin, Keller & Weisser. Technical Communication in the Twenty-First Century. 2008. pg33
One of my professors in my Technical & Professional Communications program explained to us last week that she used to work for Quaker Oats for a few years, writing nutritional and other hodge podge information found on cereal boxes, and writing the small, short manuals that come with the toys that come in cereal for children. Everyone was shocked. Who knew people really took time, and got paid real money, to do that? And to think, that’s what I’m in school for…ha!
Luckily, it’s an industry that will never go away. We will always need writers, even for the things that people barely give their attention.
28 8 / 2012
An Accidental Affair by Eric Jerome Dickey
James Thicke is a man whose mysterious past runs as deep as his violent streak. He’s channeled the intensity of his soul into twin passions-success as a screenwriter, and marriage to movie actress Regina Baptiste. In the midst of filming his latest script, starring Regina and leading man Johnny Bergs, James receives a video of his wife caught in the most compromising of situations.
Hours later, the clip of the on-set infidelity has hit the Internet and gone viral in the blogosphere and across all channels of social media. James responds to the affront by savagely attacking Johnny Bergs, and the spectacle has both the paparazzi and the police amassing at the married couple’s estate. James goes on the run, but only as far as the city of Downey, California. As James tries to protect Regina from Hollywood’s underbelly, lust, blackmail, and revenge become his constant companions. Does an accidental affair spell permanent danger?
I haven’t been as enthused about Dickey’s novels for a while now. His stories used to be one of my “Black girl who loves to read” staples, but I eventually either grew out of his story lines or he stopped putting much effort into creating enjoyable books. From the above book synopsis, one would think that this story would be entertaining, but unfortunately, An Accidental Affair falls into the “un-enjoyable” books category.
My book club chose this for our August themed “New Novel” selection. From the get go, the book was filled with name dropping and attempts to put the reader into the world of the modern blog and social network driven media. Every few pages contained a blog entry or a Facebook status or a reference to a tweet. That would have almost been ok had the story line been somewhat believable and not ridiculously repetitive, but all it did was add to the already long list of irritating quirks within the book that were excessively distracting:
- Every characters’ full name was given every single time they were mentioned
- Every character always wore a t-shirt with a quirky saying on it
- The author seemed to intentionally keep the race of the two main characters a secret
- There were full pages of dialogue with no mention to who was speaking, or HOW they were speaking, resulting in a lot of confusion about the conversations taking place
This book was unneccessarily long as well. Had it been cut down by 200 pages, or even reduced to a novella, I think I would have enjoyed it much better. Not being too much of a fan of erotica, I thought I’d be severely turned off by the sex scenes, but the actual scenes weren’t so bad. The circumstances surrounding them were, though, causing much of the story to be completely unbelievable.
All in all, I wouldn’t recommend this story to anybody. It almost came across as if Dickey may be stuck in a contract requiring him to produce a certain amount of books, so he’s doing that, but not using the talent and thought in structure that put him on the map. I hope he gets back to writing good, entertaining novels, soon and very soon.