Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sunday Book Coveting

Thanks to Guardian, I covet the following books this Sunday. Posted the snippets from the same source.

What I talk about when I talk about running by Haruki Murakami

When Haruki Murakami starts to talk about running, he could end up talking about almost anything: girls' ponytails, Rolling Stones albums, the clouds in Hawaii; all the novelist's quirks are here in compact form. But mostly this memoir is simply about running itself - Murakami completes at least one marathon every year - and about writing. "Most of what I know about writing fiction," he says, "I learned by running every day." True to form, the book's physique and pace are a long-distance runner's, light and whippety, seldom slowing to anything less than a breezy, pop-existentialist jog: "On cold days, I think about how cold it is. And about heat on the hot days ... but really, I don't think much of anything worth mentioning."

Human Love by Andrei Makine

In a prison hut on the Angola-Zaire border lies a man, almost a corpse. It's the beginning of Angola's long civil war and this is Elias Almeida, Angolan orphan and Soviet agent. Human Love is his story: a tale of hopes and betrayals in a region of Africa torn apart by competing cold war ideologies. It's also a love story, in which the human - and humane - love of the title struggles to overcome the crushing revolutionary zeal of impersonal powers. Makine's writing plays on striking images and uncomfortable contrasts. Africa here is a vast elephant, carved up by hunters; fat African conference delegates represent starving people. Lauded in France, Makine ought to be far better known in this country: Human Love offers a dark, delicate introduction to his work.

The Stepmother's Diary by Fay Weldon

Weldon's 28th novel is a humorous dissection of female relations and the perils of adopting a new family in a second marriage. Sappho is married to Gavin, who enjoys a suspiciously over-intimate relationship with his daughter Isobel. To make this female competition all the more stifling, above the marital bed hangs a portrait of Gavin's late wife Isolde. Watching over this Freudian labyrinth is Sappho's mother Emily, a "widowed, sexually active psychoanalyst" to whom Sappho has entrusted her diary to keep it from Isobel. These days, Weldon suggests, it's not the wicked stepmothers you have to watch out for, it's the evil stepdaughters, who "change from little darlings into Winehouse monsters almost overnight".