Monday, August 09, 2004

A look at books

I just finished reading THE CRAZED by Ha Jin. This was the first one his books i have read and i quite enjoyed it. Its setting is a provincial university in China and in many ways focuses on the plight of 'intellectuals' both during the Cultural Revolution and in the 1980s. It is this point of view that made it quite interesting to me. And just as a short mental note, if i ever have to teach a course on Modern Asia, i should consider using one of Ha Jin's short stories to look at the Cultural Revolution.

The other book that has been taking up my time is HAby Gordon Sheppard. Subtitled "A Self Murder Mystery", HA looks at the suicide of Quebecois auteur Hubert Aquin (yes, we probably all know him best for NEXT EPISODE's startling win in the CBC's Canada Reads a few years ago) through a dizzying array of interviews, film scripts, newspaper articles, literature, letters ...you name it. And at first i found it quite engaging. i loved the style with which it was written. It gave me food for thought for the ol' diss. Sheppard skillfully includes a wide selection of voices without passing judgment on them. He also manages contradiction well.
The story is also engaging because right from the out set it is made clear that a number of people, including Aquin's wife, knew that he was going to commit suicide, and yet they did nothing to stand in his way. This made me see suicide in a different light. But after about 600 pages with 250 more to go, I am starting to get fed up with the whole thing. I loved it in the beginning and now i just wish it would end! Sometimes less is more.

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