Monday, January 31, 2011

India Calling : An Intimate Portrait Of A Nation's Remaking
by Anand Giridharadas

It didn't take long (only three pages) for the book to be troublesome. I was irritated by the author's blanket statements about what children in America say to their parents. "We don't call our parents by their first names and don't curse them in their presence. We get paid for having our teeth fall out but not for doing chores."
Anand Giridharadas is an American of Indian ethnicity and has lived a privileged childhood. Because he grew up in upper middle-class neighborhoods, he just assumes that all children have no manners and are disrespectful to adults. If he had been surrounded by working-class people, he would have found that the offspring would never have dared to talk and act in this manner.
Despite this annoying text, I continued reading hoping for something better.
The premise is that in 2005, Anand goes to India to live and work. He wants to see if India has changed since the time when his parents and grandparents were living there. He writes about the caste system which is disappearing. People that were servants are now masters of their domain.
As I only reached page 90, I don't know what happened or how the book ended. It got boring and his writing style was uninteresting. Anand is a journalist and it shows.
I don't think too many people would want to read about India unless they are planning to vacation there. The subject matter has limited appeal.
Not recommended.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Sarah : The Life Of Sarah Bernhardt
by Robert Gottlieb

I couldn't get into this book at all. The problem started with the first page. Sarah Bernhardt was born in 1844, or 1843, or 1841? How about where she lived? That's conjecture, also. Bernhardt was not interested in being accurate and was known to be an incredible liar. Perhaps the book would have been interesting if I stuck with it further but I think the writing just turned me off.
Mother Country : Memoir Of An Adopted Boy
by Jeremy Harding

Good thing this book was slim (189 pages) because it saved me from having to read it all. The reviewers are out of their minds. "Beautifully written, captivating, the most brilliant British memoir published in years." I guess if you're from England, then maybe it is.
Harding learned that he was adopted at the age of five. As an adult, he decides to investigate and try to find out who his natural mother was. It's easier to seek this information out in Britain as opposed to the United States. (Adoption records are sealed in America, but not so in England.)
I didn't get too far. The book plods along and is not very exciting. I was irritated at the tight binding of the paperback. You had to pull the page all the way back to read the text on the left-hand side. After a while, I could no longer stand doing that and closed up the book.
The Hare With Amber Eyes : A Family's Century Of Art And Loss
by Edmund de Waal

I waited months to receive this book so when it arrived, I hungrily jumped in. Alas, it was not to be. It all boiled down to the author's style of writing. He's described as a potter who "writes." That's laughable. I stopped reading the book after thirty pages. It felt stilted and lacked warmth. De Waal comes off as an insufferable elitist.
The subject is netsuke which are tiny Japanese carvings that can fit in the palm of your hand. Apparently he is the fifth generation of his family to inherit these exquisite figures so he endeavors to seek out how they came to be and who in the family first started collecting them.
I would have liked to have seen these carvings but the photographs are few and grainy.
What a disappointment!
Not recommended.

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Boy : A Holocaust Story
by Dan Porat

On the cover of the book is the most recognized photograph of the Holocaust. A child has his arms raised. His face portrays acute fear. A soldier is pointing a gun at him.
The author presents three Nazi men who may or may not have been associated with this particular pictured child and two Jewish people who encountered these Nazis in Warsaw.
The writing style is dry and pedantic. What's worse, though, are the imagined thoughts and conversations that Porat ascribed. For somebody that teaches courses on the Holocaust (in Israel), you wonder why he would have chosen to go this route.
His editors weren't too happy and many arguements ensued.
It's a shame because there's information about the Warsaw Ghetto and who was involved that I have never read about before.
Not recommended.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Learning To Die In Miami : Confessions Of A Refugee Boy
by Carlos Eire

Why did I bother to slog through 300 pages and skip the last four of a totally disappointing book? Perhaps I thought it would, marginally, get better? I should have stopped halfway through the mess.
A few years ago, Carlos Eire wrote Waiting for Snow in Havana which was so beautifully written and had such gorgeous imagery. In that book, he wrote about growing up in Cuba before Castro's revolution and then being airlifted out of the country.
Learning to Die in Miami is supposed to be a continuation of what happens to Carlos when he lands in America and learns to adjust.
The book certainly started out ok but then started to deteriorate. As soon as I saw his first metaphor (they're excessive), I should have stopped reading. He jumps around from past to future incessantly and after a while that becomes quite irritating.
Eire's style of writing changed from his first book and it's pretty dismal.
Not recommended.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Just Like Someone Without Mental Illness Only More So : A Memoir
by Mark Vonnegut

Gee, why does the last name sound so familiar? Of course, Mark is the son of Kurt Vonnegut and we get snippets of what it was like growing up in a family with a famous author. (Before he became a celebrity, he was a car salesman.) We also mainly find out that schizophrenia ran rampant through scores of relatives.
Vonnegut is a pediatrician and in the Introduction, he writes about the fate of medicine and how it has become idiot-proof due to the checklists on templates that doctors fill in so that insurance companies can pay them correctly. That was the most interesting part of the book. Sixty-eight pages later, I stopped reading. He tends to ramble and nothing is cohesive. Each chapter is made up of small vignettes of things that have happened to him or what he is thinking of.
The book is not interesting and kind of ho-hum.
Not recommended.