Saturday, April 17, 2004


Reading SHARK DIALOGUES by Kiana Davenport reminds me of another book set in Hawaii, Linda Spalding's DAUGHTERS OF CAPTAIN COOK. Having lived in Hawaii for five years, I am especially sensitive to descriptions of locale and characters unique to the Islands. In fact, this brings up a noteworthy point regarding my personal reading addiction. I've moved around quite a bit in my 49 years, and each new environment has allowed deeper levels of access to worlds not my own. I don't think one has to visit Sri Lanka, for instance, in order to enjoy Michael Ondaatje's RUNNING IN THE FAMILY. However, if one were to spend time there, his writing would awaken memories for the reader. These memories are what enrich our reading of fiction, and whether of place, character or emotion, when reading we draw from an immense warehouse of images and feelings that lend shade and hue to the words on the page. Of course, we learn from our reading what the writer experienced, but simultaneously we learn about selves as we compare the writer's experience with our own.

I'll be writing more on Shark Dialogues later along with further mention of Linda Spalding and Michael Ondaatje (once husband and wife, BTW), as I'm also currently reading Spalding's The Paper Wife and Ondaatje's Running in the Family. The Paper Wife isn't as satisfying as Captain Cook's Daughters, although of all of Ondaatje's works (including Booker Prize winner The English Patient) this short autobiographical work about his family is the only thing of his I've been able to sink my teeth into.

Perhaps more later also on reader as vampire (see children's book The Ink Drinker for amusing example.)

Saturday, April 03, 2004

John Fowles

Have been reading Fowles' Daniel Martin in the bath lately. Was assigned The French Lieutenant's Woman in undergrad Modern British Lit and later saw the movie. Reading companion has mentioned Fowles' The Tree as being a book read in high school that dramatically affected all future thought processes. (The Tree is nonfiction, so not something that has prompted me to indulge thus far.) Daniel Martin is similar to FLW in that Fowles uses a structural twist to create an effect of pure genius. In FLW the twist comes at the end of the novel when we are given alternate endings. It's been quite some time since I read this novel, but if memory serves the perspective changes with the ending so you get two points of view on how the story ends. Fowles uses the same effect in DM to create a cat seat for the reader from which to judge the psychological growth and maturity of the characters. Fowles' characters are roundly portrayed so that the overall sense of familiarity the reader is invited to bring to the text becomes kaleidoscopic when combined with the added dimension of roving point of view.