THE GIRL IN THE POLKA DOT DRESS by Beryl Bainbridge

The late Beryl Bainbridge, who died in 2010, is better known in Britain than over here. The winner of the Whitbread Award, and five times shortlisted for the Booker Prize, she was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in 2000, joining AS Byatt and preceding Margaret Drabble. She published sixteen novels over the course of her life, and was working on her seventeenth, THE GIRL IN THE POLKA DOT DRESS at the time of her death. Cast in a clear trajectory heading for an unmistakable conclusion, it does not feel unfinished, though the enigmatic compression which I gather is typical of all her books may perhaps be a little more enigmatic than usual.

August 31, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: United States, World Lit, y Award Winning Author

FRENCH FEAST: A TRAVELER’S LITERARY COMPANION edited by William Rodarmor

According to Richard Wrangham, a biological anthropologist at Harvard, when Homo erectus, already master over fire, threw some tubers on a spit, freeing up nutrients and easing digestion, teeth, jaws and intenstines shrunk, paving the way for the evolution of larger brains, and us, Homo sapiens. In the wilds of the prehistoric world, it’s likely our human ancestors gathered around a single fire for safety, and a communal feast, suggesting that our need to sit and break bread with each other – rather than scarfing down food, alone, in a moving car –is an ancient memory buried deep in our brains.

August 13, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: ,  · Posted in: France, Short Stories, Translated, World Lit

THE TAO OF TRAVEL by Paul Theroux

How many travelers has Paul Theroux influenced, I wonder? If poets and composers and artists are prodded, pushed and inspired by predecessors and peers, why not travelers?

August 12, 2011 · Judi Clark · One Comment
Tags: ,  · Posted in: Non-fiction, y Award Winning Author

ALTHOUGH OF COURSE YOU END UP BECOMING YOURSELF by David Lipsky

There is that question we asked one another in college: Who in history, if you could meet and talk to whomever you wished, would you select?… Reading Lipsky’s book, ALTHOUGH OF COURSE YOU END UP BEING YOURSELF, reads like a contemporary answer to the “who would you choose” hypothesis. Wallace is gone now, but what if you could just spend a few days with him, even a few hours? What was the man like, really? By his work, he will be remembered. But what of the man?

July 20, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , ,  · Posted in: 2011 Favorites, Non-fiction

THE SLY COMPANY OF PEOPLE WHO CARE by Rahul Bhattacharya

First, a quick background about Indian (specifically Bengali) cinema: The great Indian filmmaker, Satyajit Ray, was from the state of West Bengal and is one of Bengal’s most revered sons and cultural icons. It stands to reason that years after Ray’s death, the incredibly talented Rahul Bhattacharya (a fellow Bengali) would use Ray’s famous bildungsroman, Pather Panchali, as the inspiration for his debut novel.

At its most basic essence, Bhattacharya’s THE SLY COMPANY OF PEOPLE WHO CARE is also a bildungsroman—it traces the growth and coming of age of its protagonist in a country far away from home, Guyana.

May 22, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: 2011 Favorites, Debut Novel, South America, World Lit

IN A STRANGE ROOM by Damon Galgut

I’d heard a lot of buzz about IN A STRANGE ROOM, one of the titles shortlisted for the 2010 Booker prize, but since I tend to react negatively to waves of publicity, as the uniform praise for this book climbed, my interest plummeted. I almost didn’t review South African author Damon Galgut’s book IN A STRANGE ROOM, but I changed my mind, and as it turns out IN A STRANGE ROOM is one of the best books I’ve read this year.

IN A STRANGE ROOM isn’t an easy book to review. It’s divided into three distinct sections, and it’s possible, I think, to write the review in several different ways. After chewing over the plot now for several weeks, I’d argue that in this extraordinary novel, Galgut uses travel as a way of exploring two heavily nuanced relationships, and at the same time, parallels are drawn between journeys taken and relationships endured.

January 1, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags:  · Posted in: 2011 Favorites, Literary, Theme driven, World Lit, y Award Winning Author