G. Willow Wilson, Alif the Unseen

July 18th, 2012

I just finished a remarkable book called Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson.  I loved it from page one (or whatever passes for that on a Kindle) until things started to bog down about (guesstimating) 50 pages from the end, where I was afraid the author had lost her story and was just going to pontificate, but she managed to get back on track and bring the novel to a satisfying close.

I have recently begun to think that fictional works divide into two non-overlapping (pretty much, anyway) categories: stories of can and stories of can’t.  Stories of can address life affirmatively.  It is not that they are blind in any way to the evils and ugliness that life can present, but in the end they can see reasons to continue living.  Stories of can’t see the same evils and ugliness and can’t bring themselves to anything but despair.

Alif the Unseen is a story of can.  I find such stories so much more satisfying than stories of can’t.

Bryce Courtenay – The Power of One

May 24th, 2012

I’m about three-quarters of the way through The Power of One, a novel set in South Africa about a boy who eventually becomes boxing’s Welterweight Champion of the World.  Boxing is not ordinarily a topic I care much about, but this turns out to be a good book.  I like the characters.  They seem quite real.  And there’s the occasional trenchant turn of a phrase.

There’s an abridged version with the same title for younger readers.  Read the unabridged version.