Archive of July 2010

Tue 27 Jul

Lacuna (of the blog!)

You'll have to pardon the poor pun of the blog title, but I am well aware it's been a while since I last posted.  However I have recently read The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver recent winner of the Orange Prize.  I learned a few things from it and one was what a "Lacuna" is.  I had mistakenly thought it was some special accent for the Spanish language, but no, turns out it is a gap or missing part in a body of work, or a hollow space by origin and in secondary meaning of some anatomical bone.  I also learned a good deal about Trotsky's exile from Russia and the events leading up to his demise.  This becomes highly relevant in the light of later developments in this novel, when the infamous period of McCarthyism is detailed.  Although this is fascinating I did not find this work as engaging as " The Poisonwood Bible" which I remember as quite the page turner and more dramatic.  I wonder if anyopne could have guessed the recent revelations in the media about the fact that apparently McArthy was somehow RIGHT about the level of Russian espionage though?

I did not mean to say the Lacuna is undramatic, but perhaps characters are dwelt on a litle more and there is definitely something extremely introspective about the protagonist.  I cannot help feeling this is reflected in the character of the book as a whole, which is highly introverted and turns in upon itself as it progresses and the second narrator is revealed.  The whole American section of the work (broadly speaking the second half) made me pine for the earlier, "Mexican" chapters.  I was quite taken by the portrayal of a "quiet" homosexual who even seems to only gradually acknowledge his own sexuality, although it is made quite clear to us as it emerges.  I missed his mother following her early demise and his father was never very present either in his life nor in this novel.  Instead our hero turns to diaries and to writing for his salvation - yet I never found the portrayal of this convincing nor was I convined that his writing actually carried any literary merit.

I should dearly like to know if Ms Kingsolvers attitude and possesiveness and, dare I say it, neuriotic attitudes towards manuscripts is the model on which she drew for the fictional character.

This is not the only work I read during my abstinence from the blog though, and I do feel I enjoyed a much shorter work I read for the library reading group a good deal more.  Haruki Murakami's "After Dark" was a very gripping account of some six hours from midnight until daybreak in Japan.  During this time a mysteriously narcoleptioc girls sleeps and there are fictional scenes involving a Television which can be quite distrubing (at least to me) if one engages with them fully.  But this is just a sub-plot and the main action revolves around a student jazz player and the "sleeping beauty's" sister.  They are thrown together in the plot by seeming chance when he finds a late night diner full and joins her at a table.  Neither had any plans to sleep and their crossing of paths is the main plot sequence.  He offers her services to translate for a victim of a brutal attack in a "love hotel" and this draws her in to a strange sequence where we see a very disturbed man portrayed also and hints of gangland violence which actually provide a macarbre humour with a mobile phone at some point.

It is definitely Harukami  near his best, reminiscent of some of his short stories - though this definitely qualifies as a novel, albeit a short one.  Brevity is never a problem with this author though as he draws together plot lines and enigmas and then leaves a wonderfully enigmatic and open ending to the work.

I also learned belatedly that Harukami came quite late in life to writing and before that ran a jazz bar.  There is a scene that haunted me where they enter a jazz bar around one or two in the morning and the proprietor has a few lines , one about records (vinyl) and not rushing because the night time has a special quality of time and demands that you do things at a different pace.  I could not help wondering how much the author was drawing on his own experience running a bar and if the character was at all based upon himself.

The third book I read entirely was " White Tiger" and I feel this post is long enough so may blog about that in my next entry, hopefully without too much of a gap this time!