субота, квітня 01, 2006

book reviews, mostly

Zgurivka was great. I actually had the language skills to carry on at least basic conversations with Mama Luda, the food (as always) was very good, and Sasha and I played the computer game "Chicken Invaders from Outer Space". Sasha, who kept saying, "Where'd you learn that word?", found a new way to annoy both female members of the house...he would speak in English so Mama Luda wouldn't understand, and then I'd have to translate. Ah, the joys of having a younger brother...

I've also spent some free time reading books that I borrowed from the Kyiv-Mohila Academy library. The funniest line yet comes from Katharine Howard, a book about the 5th wife (of 6) of King Henry VIII:

Lady Baynton said, "Try to forget it, Katharine. 'Look ever to Jesus and He'll carry you through'."

That splendid hymn had not yet been written, but the sentiments were as true then as now.


So, um, since "Yield Not to Temptation" hadn't been written yet, and it wouldn't be written for a few hundred years, why quote it?

My other interesting read was God Lives in St. Petersburg, a book of short stories by Tom Bissell, who was an MSU grad, joined the Peace Corps in Uzbekistan, quit early because of a relationship back home that ended up not working out, but then went back to Uzbekistan and Central Asia as a writer. I read his book on Uzbekistan, Chasing the Sea this past summer. It made me happy I was going to Ukraine.

I'm not sure if I recommend God Lives in St. Petersburg or not. If you're offended by sex, language, and violence, I don't recommend it, and he also is pretty unforgiving to the missionaries who are in his stories. But he writes some lines in a way that only a former PCV can:

Second, you had your Do-Gooders. These people, God bless them, needed a serious...clue. Each fall I'd see a new group of hatchlings turn up in the Capital, their first day in-country, snappily dressed, taking pictures with disposable cameras for Mom and Dad back home in Iowa and Nebraska and Michigan. Then they'd get shipped out to the villages. Three months later I'd see them back in the Capital shopping for Snickers bars and deoderant, crazed and dandruff-ridden.

Tee hee...

But the story that I found most compelling was "Animals in Our Lives," a story about an English major who moves to Kyrgyzstan to teach ESL but comes home to his girlfriend to save their relationship, only to see it fall apart. What caught me was not so much the story's content, although as a PCV I can understand it, but the setting...it takes place in a slightly fictionalized East Lansing. North Campus is described as "endless greenery plunked with long flat structures terraced with rococo Modernism, gloomy campus-Gothic firetraps [West Circle!], stark administrative fortresses designed from the academic-industrial-complex blueprint popular in the mid-1970s". Grand River Avenue and Trappers' Cove Apartments are mentioned in the story, and the main setting is a fictionalized Potter's Park Zoo. It was like being at home, in a weird way.

1 Comments:

At 8:45 дп, квітня 20, 2006, Blogger Jason said...

"The funniest line yet comes from Katharine Howard, a book about the 5th wife (of 6) of King Henry VIII:

Lady Baynton said, "Try to forget it, Katharine. 'Look ever to Jesus and He'll carry you through'.

That splendid hymn had not yet been written, but the sentiments were as true then as now."

The context is rather sad - Katharine, to cut short a long story, caught the lustful and lecherous eye of a morbidly obese Henry VIII. She herself was between 18 and 23 years old when they married (accounts differ).

Not only was Katharine physically repulsed by the blubbery old king, but she loved another - a young courtesan who was more her equal in age and beauty.

In time, Katharine and the courtesan mutually yielded to passion. The adultery was found out. Henry VIII's lackeys subjected Katharine to a humiliating trial, then executed her in February of 1542.

The whole story slightly resembles Salome ordering the death of John the Baptist. A fleshly-minded king takes a young woman, gifted by God with beauty, and puts her in a virtual no-win situation.

What a blessing that we no longer live in a time when kings ruled with capricious power over their subjects and men ruled with capricious power over women!

Love,
~Jason

 

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