Archive for March, 2014

ORFEO by Richard Powers

The protagonist of ORFEO, Peter Els, listens at age thirteen to a recording of Mozart’s Jupiter symphony and is transported. This novel continues the author’s literary exploration of cutting edge science and its impact on its practitioners. Peter Els becomes a composer of serious music, very much of the current moment in the arts. He is a musical idealist, with a belief in the power of music to truly move the listener. As he matures, his work becomes ever more difficult and timely. As a young man he was a prodigy in music with talent in science as well. The creative juices of both flow in his veins. In college he starts out in chemistry, but becomes enmeshed in music through the musical connection with his first love, Clara. In graduate school at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana, his work becomes ever more difficult and “modern,” in part through his collaborations with Maddy, who becomes his lover and later his wife for a while, and with Richard Bonner, an experimental theater director who he meets while in graduate school. Richard pushes him to become ever more radical.

March 20, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , ,  · Posted in: Literary, Reading Guide, Scifi, US Midwest

THE CAIRO AFFAIR by Olen Steinhauer

THE CAIRO AFFAIR takes place in Egypt and Libya during 2011 with flashbacks to Serbia in 1991. It is set during the period when the regimes of dictators Hosni Mubarek, Egyptian President and military commander from 1981 to 2011, and Muammar Gaddafi, a Libyan revolutionary and the de facto ruler of Libya for 42 years, came to a violent end. The revolutionary events of the “Arab Spring” brought to conclusion various repressive Arab governments. The “Arab Spring” is widely believed to have been instigated by dissatisfaction with the rule of local governments, though some have speculated that wide gaps in income levels may have had a hand as well. Numerous factors led to the protests, including issues such as dictatorship or absolute monarchy, human rights violations, political corruption, (demonstrated by Wikileaks’ diplomatic cables), extreme poverty, and a large percentage of educated, jobless and dissatisfied youth. The storyline of THE CAIRO AFFAIR, takes place around the above events…and the events are often current, which makes this novel more interesting.

March 19, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: Africa, Egypt, Thriller/Spy/Caper, World Lit

YOU SHOULD HAVE KNOWN by Jean Hanff Korelitz

Jean Hanff Korelitz’s novel of domestic angst, You Should Have Known, is the story of Grace Reinhart Sachs. She is a therapist who, for fifteen years, has specialized in helping couples mend or sever their relationships as painlessly as possible. In addition, Grace’s publicist has arranged interviews and television appearances to stimulate interest in Grace’s forthcoming work of non-fiction. It cautions women to be on the lookout for warning signs that should give them pause before they invest time, energy, and emotional resources in a serious relationship. Her message is that when women fall in love, they are sometimes dazzled by what they perceive as instant chemistry. Consequently, they may not pay close attention to their partners’ flaws; only when it is too late do they realize that should have been more circumspect.

March 18, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: Contemporary, Family Matters, New York City

BEAUTIFUL RUINS by Jess Walter

After looking up various images of the 1963 movie Cleopatra, the film that critically bombed but was lit up by the scandal of Liz Taylor and Richard Burton, I saw a coastline of Italy that looked exactly like the cover of this book. It is a most felicitous cover that captures the mood and time that this novel begins, in 1962. A parochial innkeeper, Pasquali Tursi, lives in a rocky coastline village called Porto Vergogna (Port of Shame), a place the size of a thumb between two mountains, and referred to as “the whore’s crack.”

March 16, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , ,  · Posted in: 2013 Favorites, Contemporary, Facing History, italy, Literary, US Northwest, World Lit

AMERICANAH by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

AMERICANAH is a wonderful epic saga of love, hair, blogs, racism in America, and life in Nigeria. It takes place over a period of about 15 years and is primarily about a Nigerian woman named Ifemelu and her first love, Obinze. The meaning of the word Americanah is a person who returns to Nigeria after spending time abroad.

March 15, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: Africa, Class - Race - Gender, National Book Critic Circle (NBCC), Theme driven, Unique Narrative, World Lit, y Award Winning Author

ALL OUR NAMES by Dinaw Mengestu

Mengestu’s third novel—another about the immigrant experience—is his most accomplished and soulful, in my opinion. He returns again to the pain of exile and the quest for identity, as well as the need for a foreigner from a poor and developing country to reinvent himself. In addition, he alternates the landscape of post-colonial Uganda with the racially tense Midwest of the 1970s, and demonstrates that the feeling of exile can also exist in an American living in her own hometown. The cultural contrast of both countries, with a narrative that alternates back and forth, intensifies the sense of tenuous hope mixed with shattered illusions.

March 13, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , , ,  · Posted in: Africa, Class - Race - Gender, Reading Guide, US Mid-Atlantic, World Lit, y Award Winning Author