Thursday, July 15, 2010

Overheard at Booth one

Henry Thoreau Payne, recounting the two books that he has just finished, by his newfound heartthrob, named:

Amelie Nothomb

Fear and Trembling

Brilliant little gem! Follows a brief overview of a year in the life in 1991 of a young young twentysomething Westerner who wants to work for a Japanese corporation - who starts off as an office clerk and works her way down to bathroom attendant, all because of her ignorance of the subtleties of the oriental culture that she so completely admires and, in fact, is part of.

But knowing a language is only half the battle, it seems, and to be a part of the culture, sometimes you have to actually be part of the race.

There was a review of the movie that called the book "racist" - imagine! They were reviewing the MOVIE and called the BOOK racist! Really, though, it was the Japanese who are racist in this book, beleiving that Amelie could never be Japanese, because Westerners simply do not have the mental capacity. And to the reviewer who says that some of the characters are mere caricatures, I say PHFFFTTT! Sometimes it is people who live their business titles and entitlements who become caricatures - caricatures of the people they think they should portray themselves AS!

Anyway, all that just to say that I should never read the reviews of others - just makes me mad and I can no longer see the work on its own. Before I read that stinky review, I loved that book. Now, sadly, I feel bad for liking it. One of my own faults, actually, I always absorb the opinions of others and make them my own. Bad habit, that, really,

But, then, onto

The Character of Rain

And I promise you I haven't read any reviews of it and don't plan to, either, because this book is brilliant! It stems from the Japanese idea that all infants are gods until they reach the age of three and then are sent off to boarding school. This book tells the story from the point-of-view of an infant during the year of the age of two, and wonderfully captures the absolute megalomania of the infant mind. The child thinks that she is god, acts like she is god, wonders why nobody else understands her god powers. What's truly amazing is the description of the absolute bewilderment that this god faces when she can't undersand the occasional mispronuncation of a word, or the inability to correctly move her limbs in the way she wants.

Both of these books are by my new favourite author of the summer, and yes, they both appear to be autobiographical in nature, and yes, I read the Fear and Trembling first and then went right out to get Character of Rain, and it turns out that was a good choice, because the second certainly filled out the character of the narrator - because in Fear and Trembling she made mention of thinking she was god as a child, and the second really illustrates that idea, and when i looked at Nothomb's bibliography, turns out she wrote the books in the sequence in which I read them.

Ergo, I believe that as she was writing the former, she got the idea to expand in the latter. Fascinating, that little insight into the writer's brain.

I can see all your eyes are glazing over. Fine, then, my review may be boring, but the books are not. You'll be captivated. You'll want to finish each in one sitting, maybe two, but definitely no more than that.

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