Monday, February 20, 2006

Lois-Ann Yamanaka

Behold the Many is life-affirming and inspirational. The characters are imperfect and vulnerable. Consumption claims the life of sisters who in term claim the rights of sisterhood beyond death. The individual sisters, upon reflection, read best as representing parts of the whole. We are each the wicked & wild, rebellious sister, the gentle sister in our weaknesses and the heroine in the combination of these qualities. We all haunt the ones we love, possessing one another through assimilation of qualities rather than projection of best and worst.

Men have obviously been a point of contention for Yamanaka. Damaging relationships with a father and/or lovers has required binoculars to bring into focus the potential good that can be had from an equal relationship between the sexes. Actually, we are challenged to provide our own positive examples upon reflection when reading as Yamanaka seems willing, though unable, to come up with anything remotely resembling equal when it comes to the sexes. The differences, resulting from biological functions and anatomy, seems to supercede the possibility. There is not getting around the physical facts. Segue here into re-reading the reviews on fiction by the father of the Pill for general direction of mental tangent.

Yamanka is still quite young and writes with wisdom and vision. Her work is bound to deepen in wisdom, as she ages. Have read BLU's HANGING and HEADS BY HARRY, both charming and original re-creations of life in the Islands as seen through the eyes of its children (often multi-ethnic & minimally bi-racial). For anyone quesitoning the influence of Indo-European VS Asian values, Hawaii has been and continues to be geographical litmus paper testing ground.
Father of the Four Passages...
I just learned Yamanka has also written some children's boks and am ordering them for our library. Also, another novel: Saturday Night at the Pahala Theater.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Joyce Carol Oates' MISSING MOM

Some of Oates I connect with, others not. This one worked for me.
"If I look back, it's to look forward."
"'Parts of you that go out from you and into other people.'"
"Most of 'writing' is 're-writing.'"
Simple words, ideas stated lucidly, gracefully. Oates' Missing Mom is effortless prose, dealing with a subject that could easily become maudlin in less capable hands. The twist of a murder plays well against sibling rivalry and inter-generational communication gaps. Much of growing up and growing old results in the old adage, "If the young knew; if the old could..." (Which reminds me, I must do a blurb on the Doris Lessing novel by the this same title.)

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Amy Tan's Saving Fish From Drowning

Sometimes reading, and the guilt that goes along with lying in bed for days on end with no more ambition than to finish one novel in order to get to the next, has uses not obvious in physical reality.

For instance, does reading perhaps prepare us for death by allowing for an experience of living outside of the body or occupying another's thoughts.

Tan's book prompted the notion and a memorable passage:
"I was stuck in these thoughts, unable to leave my breathless body, until I realized that my breath was not gone but surrounding me, buoying me upward. ...every single breath, the sustenance I took and expelled out of both habit and effort...had accumulated like a savings account. And everyone else's as well, it seemed, inhalations of hopes, exhalations of disappointment. Anger, love, pleasure, hate--they were all there, the bursts, puffs, sighs, and screams. The air I had breathed, I now knew, was composed not of gases but of the density and perfume of emotions. The body had been merely a filter, a censor. I knew this at once, without question, and I found myself released, free..."

However, all in all, I was disappointed with the novel. This has happened to me before with Tan. I think KITCHEN GOD'S WIFE was the only book that met its promise. Seems like Tan has insight and experiences to share, talent to do it, but something is missing in the follow through. Sustaining a level worthy of the ideas may be the problem. Curiously, a term from her latest "insufficient excess" comes to mind "too much that was never enough."

I really liked the dead narrator's POV. The justification for reading as a means to a deeper awareness of the eternal questions came to me very early on and I had hoped for more AHA, intuitive leaps of imagination, from the protagonists' metaphysical experience.