Sunday, June 10, 2007

Speaking of Great Books...

While on my way from Mozambique to Rio, and then from Rio to San Francisco, I had ample time to catch up on my reading. I love to read for pleasure, but do surprisingly little of it at home in Maputo, perhaps because so much of my time is spent reading for professional reasons. Not that work-reading can't be pleasurable - I am honestly interested in many of the market research and development-world news I keep up on - but it just takes time and effort, and at the end of the day I'd rather make something with my hands like jewelry or a great meal than sit buried with my nose in a book.

So with two 10-hour flights and an equal number of 12-hour layovers on this trip, I had plenty of opportunity to read some great books.

The first one I read was "A World of Strangers" by Nadine Gordimer, a South African author. Although this book was written in 1958, and the main character is a man who works in publishing, I found I related quite a bit to the story on a personal level.

This was the second book by Nadine Gordimer that I'd read. The first one was her critically acclaimed 2001 novel "The Pickup", which I enjoyed immensely once I'd managed to get used to her sometimes difficult style of writing.

I find she writes in a similar manner to the way I catch myself talking sometimes. I'll begin a sentence in the middle, then loop around to the part that actually makes sense, making my conversation partner pay particular attention to see what on earth I'm talking about. I think I tend to do this because I talk as I think a lot of the time, and don't bother to rearrange the language in my head to make it more digestible for a listener.

With a lot of Nadine Gordimer's writing, I found I had to speak sentences aloud to understand what her characters were trying to say. She also has a strange habit with comma use, putting commas in places you wouldn't expect according to proper grammar rules, but that make perfect sense when considering the natural rhythm of spoken word.

The other great book I read was "Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight" by Alexandra Fuller, a Zimbabwean author who spent her childhood in what was then Rhodesia. She wrote from a child's perspective what it was like to grow up the daughter of white farmers during that country's struggle for independence. It was, like "The Power of One" and "The Poisonwood Bible", a poignant but also very funny take on some of history's most difficult chapters.

I think I will pick up additional books by both Nadine Gordimer and Alexandra Fuller when I am in the Johannesburg airport on my layover at the end of the month. Since Ricardo will be spending some significant time in Rio again this year, I imagine I'll have more of an inclination to read in the quest to make time pass as fast as possible in his absence.


Marcia said...

How interesting.

Ali, I'd love to know some examples of the different comma placements. Because I have no idea what you mean ;)

Bilal said...

nadine is a really good writer!
let us know when you are in SA..

Amber said...

Oh, I have wanted to read "Don't Let Go the Dogs Tonight". I forgot about it.


If you see them, you might pick up--
Eat, Pray, Love
The Mercy of Thin Air
Bleachy-haired Honkey Bitch


Ali la Loca said...

~Marcia - Most of the comma use I am referring to was in "The Pickup", which I actually borrowed from my friend Jenny back in Maputo. When I think of it, I will borrow it back and see if I can't find some examples for you.

~Bilal - I agree, and I especially enjoy her writing now that I have a bit of a reference after having visited SA several times. I will be back in Joburg at the end of June, but unfortunately only for a layover in transit, confined to the airport terminal.

~Amber - It is really good, I definitely recommend it. I've heard a lot about "Eat, Pray, Love". That last book title made me laugh!

African Kelli said...

I really like Fuller's writing style. A couple of others you might enjoy, if you haven't read them:
West With the Night
The Zanzibar Chest
Sunday by the Pool in Kigali

A few of my other favorite African reads. :)