Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Patience Stone

Over the course of three days (though it takes only a few hours; it's very short), I read The Patience Stone, by Afghan author Atiq Rahimi. The story is simultaneously realistic, a piece of absurdist theater, a monologue, and a parable. Some moves seem false, but only, I think, if the reader requires this to be one particular type of tale, when in fact it's several types of tales. It's even a meta-tale. The "patience stone" is a fabled stone that absorbs everyone's sorrows and that will, at the end of the world, explode. The reader becomes a "patience stone" as we're forced to listen to a woman pour out her previously unspoken sorrows to her husband, who lies unconscious with a bullet lodged in his neck. The entire book takes place in one room and, as if we were watching a play, we are never allowed to see beyond this room, though we hear sounds from beyond it. Certainly the story takes place in Afghanistan in a time of war, but it might be Iraq or another Muslim nation just as easily. (Though a few minor details probably fix it in Afghanistan, the country is never stated.) The author is male, but he effectively "vents" a host of female grievances and leaves us with a full picture of the possible roles for women in this society (all of which are viewed in the protagonist or through women she mentions).

Friday, April 16, 2010

Interviewed, among other things

I was contacted this past week by Art Sippo and Ric Croxton regarding "Helping Them Take the Old Man Down." Both are pulp and comics fans, and they run a site where they post interviews with people who have something to say about either or both. My interview is "Book Cave Episode 70." (I think it can be saved rather than just listened to through iTunes, but I couldn't get that to work earlier.)

Still enjoying Lost Books of the Odyssey.

I'm also reading John Dominic Crossan's The Dark Interval: Towards a Theology of Story, which I picked up from a friend who wanted to get rid of a few books (out of many thousands) before she and her husband moved to a new house. It's been years since I read Crossan. I've appreciated some of his books; one in particular, The Cross That Spoke, ended my reading of him, as the theory at its heart (that the goofy "cross gospel" is a precursor to the relatively tame Easter narratives of the gospels) seemed not credible, at least from a literary standpoint.

Also reading Crossing Over to Canaan: The Journey of New Teachers in Diverse Classrooms, by Gloria Ladson-Billings. More about that once I'm farther along.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Finished In Cold Blood a week ago. Outstanding. What Capote achieves is rich insight into the minds of the killers without at any point granting validity to their reasoning. He presents it and explains it—as they see it in themselves and each other—but doesn't suggest that their reasoning is, in fact, reasonable. Rather, we're witnessing a kind of amoral Rube Goldberg device that results in the killing of the Clutter family. For me, what's most fascinating and trouble at the same time is the sense of how many such people move among us, those whose essential selfishness provides no brakes to their actions. Rarely does this result in murder; the consequences are, I think, more ordinary.

Such issues fit well with the considerations at work in "Clockworks," still on hold as I complete the revision of "My Story of Us Looking for My Comic Strip, by Franklin James Nemeth." I'll finish that tonight. It's much stronger now, having lost the second narrative voice and a large chunk out of the middle that had come from an early and far different version.

The Lost Books of the Odyssey is well crafted and thoughtful. Each small story (it is not, despite the claims on the cover and in its marketing, a novel) employs both the elements of ancient tale and (post)modern short story.