|Meanwhile, my dog is wondering |
when she will get outside for a walk...
Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Wednesday, February 8, 2012
It's set in Thailand in the future. The worldbuilding is strong -- Earth is a post-petroleum dystopia where a handful of global bioengineering corporations control food production. Calories are precious measurements of energy. The windup girl of the title is Emiko, a manufactured human being discarded by her Japanese owner when he left Bangkok. Emiko somehow captures the hard heart of Anderson Lake, an undercover corporate agent who is looking for sources of untainted genetic food stock in Thailand. There are other well-developed characters (all but one are adults), the plot is absorbing, and the pace is that of a literary thriller.
Readalikes: The City and the City by China Mieville; River of Gods by Ian McDonald; Neuromancer by William Gibson; Fairyland by Paul McCauley.
Sunday, February 5, 2012
The atomic bomb is probably the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about the significance of the groundbreaking work done by the Curies, but there are many others. Redniss intersperses examples throughout. Page 70 describes Pierre's experiments with strapping radium against his own skin; the facing page recounts the experiences of a 14-year-old American who received radiation treatments for non-Hodgkins lymphoma in 2001.
Redniss' cyanotype prints feature simple line drawings that take up whole pages. Many of them have the colouring of blueprints, giving an x-ray effect, others glow in yellow, orange and red. Phosphorescent pigment is used on the cover, so this book literally glows in the dark. (I discovered this by having it on a bookshelf near my bed.) Check out the striking artwork on Redniss's website (scrolling to the bottom to get to the link to the interior pages).
Saturday, February 4, 2012
Janet Song narrated the audiobook (Blackstone: 16 hours) at a sedate pace and pronounced the occasional Chinese words with tonal inflections. The e-audio MP3 file that I downloaded through my library's Overdrive database had a couple of glitches, unfortunately, including a repeated section 54 minutes long.
This was one of those books that held synchronicities with other things I was reading at about the same time.
1. Hattie is pestered by superstitious relatives who believe that her parents' burial spot is the cause of the bad luck that has befallen their families. Under Heaven opens with a man gaining luck through his pious work in burying the dead. Interment location is also part of the plot in Beauty Plus Pity.
2. The first chapter in World and Town is titled "I'll But Lie and Bleed Awhile." In Taking My Life, Jane Rule recounts fainting while reciting this same passage in class.
3. Kevin Chong's disaffected protagonist (Malcolm) in Beauty Plus Pity and Paul Yee's Ray in Money Boy, both had similarities to the oldest son in Gish Jen's Cambodian family, all of them struggling to find their place in society.
4. The bureaucratic hassles and personal misfortunes in China that Hattie hears about from her relatives echo the troubles faced by protagonists in The Blue Dragon.
Do many of you read different books simultaneously?
Friday, February 3, 2012
Rosa does not say this as a compliment. She has more affection for her new granddaughter, Aminat. So much so that she considers Aminat hers, and not Sulfia's.
Rosa is the most indomitable woman I've ever encountered in fiction. Her capacity for meddling seems to have no limits. She's an unreliable narrator, but with such a great voice:
"I didn't look anything like a grandmother at all. I looked good. I was pretty and young looking. You could see that I had vitality and was intelligent. I often had to mask my expression to keep other people from reading my thoughts and stealing my ideas."
Too impatient to sit through a lesson familiarizing her with the parts of a car at her first driving lesson, Rose wrestles with the instructor. "I got the key, put it in the ignition, stepped on the pedal, and yanked the gearshift. The car must have been in need of repairs, because it moved in a series of jumps before coughing and stalling."
Author Alina Bronsky takes readers on an unpredictable ride through the years, following the lives of Rosa, Sulfia and Aminat. Like Aminat, Bronsky moved from Russia to Germany in late childhood. The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine has been translated to English from German. Dig in!
Wednesday, February 1, 2012
Fred Jourdain's coloured ink brushwork varies from classic elegance to modern vibrancy. View this stunning art at Jourdain's website here. It evokes both the setting and the shifting moods of the story, which was adapted from Robert Lepage and Marie Michaud's trilingual stage play, Le Dragon bleu. Some Mandarin dialogue is included in the graphic novel (with translation by Min Sun).
The prologue is a brief lesson in Chinese calligraphy, starting with the character for one, a horizontal stroke that resurfaces in a crucial plot point. Other calligraphy characters also relate to the story: an abandoned child; a desperate woman; "the rushing waters of a great river as it divides into three gorges like a single story with three possible endings." And The Blue Dragon does indeed have three alternate endings, so you can take your pick. It's a jaw-dropping masterpiece.