Child of God, Cormac McCarthy
The more I read McCarthy, the more I fall in love. I’m working my way backwards, from his more popular work like The Road and No Country for Old Men to his lesser known stories. In this short novel we follow the morbid ‘hero’, Lester Ballard, as he indulges in a killing spree against the people of a small town in Eastern Tennessee. He is unforgettable as one of the most grotesque but interesting of characters, and a forebear to McCarthy’s later nemeses.
The English Patient, Michael Ondaatje (reread)
One of my favorite novels, and the kind of language and themes that I aspire towards in my own writing. If you enjoyed the film then I think you’ll love the book. This meditation on memory and history is far more fragmentary then Minghella’s adaptation, yet you leave with clear narratives for each of the characters. The plot is more distributed across the histories of the four – Hana, Caravaggio, Kip and Almasy – with the abandoned villa the common geography between them. The end with Hana & Kip is especially touching.
In the Skin of a Lion, Michael Ondaatje
This is a sort of ‘prequel’ to Ondaatje’s The English Patient. It takes place in Canada and includes the stories of Caravaggio and Hana’s parents. Really enjoyed this, for the language, characters and themes. But whereas Patient submerged us into the past, here we move with the ever-changing present. The structure weaves several lives, intersecting over and over again, like ghosts of one’s life reuniting. It’s a meditation on how one’s past shapes their future.
The Road, Cormac McCarthy
Highly recommended. After reading ‘No Country for Old Men’ and now this, I’m convinced I need to complete McCarthy’s body of work before he’s eventually awarded the Nobel Prize. Written in clear, terse language, he never leaves you confused as to what is happening or bogged down in metaphors and symbolism, leaving room for your own imagination to fill in the gaps. The plot is threadbare: a father and son (‘the good guys’) going from point A to B through a post-apocalyptic world. In this odyssey you’ll witness some of the most horrific scenes even written of what man can do when the civilized world falls apart. But McCarthy doesn’t dwell too long on these images, it’s really about a father and son trying to hold on to each other when there’s really no reason to hope for anything else.
The Gendarme, Mark T. Mustian
Really enjoyed how this novel interwove the present and past, flashes of memories, building into a narrative of what one man is ultimately guilty of. It reminded me of my own project because of the structure and details of the Armenian genocide. If you enjoy historical fiction give this a read.
TokTok (Arabic), comic book magazine
TokTok is an Egyptian comic book written and drawn by several contributors. I’ve read Issues 1 & 2 so far. You can read back issues online. You won’t necessarily learn anything new about the revolution or what it felt like, but it is entertaining, very Egyptian and I guess you could say a different kind of insight into how the culture tries to remedy social ills with humor. Again, it’s in Arabic, mostly Egyptian dialect, which is rare to find in written texts, so great practice for those of you trying to improve your fluency. You can learn more about the project and it’s genesis here.