Phoebe Cornelius, the protagonist of “The Ether of Space,” the second of the five long stories in this collection, makes a living explaining scientific concepts to laymen. This is Andrea Barrett’s forte also. Three of these stories are set in the wings of some great scientific discovery: Phoebe is trying to comprehend Einstein’s Relativity; her son Sam becomes a pioneer in the relatively new science of genetics; and an earlier story explores the impact of Darwinism on the younger generation of scientists in America. In all these cases, Barrett explains the underlying concepts with great clarity.
A title such as THE UNAMERICANS begs this question: what is an American? Or more specifically, what is an American in Molly Antopolâ€™s world? A traditional answer might be to have a personal sense of identity and to be unencumbered to pursue oneâ€™s most shining hopes and dreams in a land where anything is possible.
Molly Antopolâ€™s characters are mostly Jewish and they are mostly alienated â€“ from spouse or kids, from past ideology and beliefs, and often, from their most authentic selves. Each story is a little gem onto itself.
The idea for writing a modern version of the biblical story of Joseph came apparently from the author’s husband. It is a brilliant one, even more brilliantly executed. First, because she uses it for resonance rather than prediction; you recognize the biblical parallels after they have occurred, but you never know when she is going to depart from the Genesis version, so her novel remains surprising to the end. Second, because the Egyptian setting grounds the book in aspects of Jewish history that are perhaps less well-known, but obviously relevant to the eternal geopolitical situation in the Middle East. And third, because the Torah reference provides the perfect opening to explore many issues in Jewish teaching and philosophy, most notably those concerning divine providence, accident, and free will. The title of her novel, actually, is borrowed from a treatise on these very questions written in Cairo by the twelfth century doctor and philosopher Maimonides. The result, in Horn’s hands, is a richly layered novel that is humane, exciting, informative, and thought-provoking, all at the same time.
February 18, 2014
Â· Judi Clark Â· No Comments
Tags: 2013 authors, Jewishness, Memory, Norton, Story Retold Â· Posted in: Facing History, Family Matters, Literary, Middle East, Speculative (Beyond Reality), Theme driven, World Lit, y Award Winning Author
BIRDS OF PARADISE by Diana Abu-Jaber is a richly layered and beautifully written novel. It is akin to an archeological dig â€“ each layer uncovering unexpected treasures. The book begins five years before Hurricane Katrina hit and ends during its aftermath.
This is a beautiful book. If you want to read something that has the same effect as gazing at a vast and perfect ink-wash painting, calming and yet utterly absorbing, reach for this. Like the tiniest haze of seeping ink will be skillful enough to convey a distant village nestling in the hills, or the flight of a crane; there is not a word misplaced in this small and lovely work. Its theme is poetry, and indeed the exquisite style does full justice to the subject.
MILLENNIUM PEOPLE by J. G. Ballard is an important existential novel, not as some suggest about the corrosive effects of technology, but rather about the vacuity of middle class life. As the middle class comes to realize that all the things for which they have yearned are meaningless traps, they become consumed by a fear of nothingness. In response they seek authenticity. They find authentic feelings from violence and protest, the more meaningless and random the better.