“Love is everything it’s cracked up to be. That’s why people are so cynical about it. Living with someone you really share things with is only wonderful, it’s actually better than all the love songs, all the silly movies say it is. It really is worth fighting for, bring brave for, risking everything for. And the trouble is, if you don’t risk anything, you risk even more.” Erica Jong, How to Save Your Own Life, 263.
“You see I thought love got easier over the years so it didn’t hurt so bad when it hurt, or feel so good when it felt good. I thought it smoothed out and old people hardly noticed* it. I though it curled up and died, I guess. Now I saw it rear up like a whip and lash.” Louise Erdrich, Love Medicine (233-234).
Kindness and a caring mind are two separate qualities. Kindness is manners. It is superficial custom, an acquired practice. Not so the mind. The mind is deeper, stronger, and, I believe it is far more inconstant” (170). Haruki Murakami, Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World
The Namesake (2004) by Jhumpa Lahiri is, again, a personal favorite. After reading it again, I relaized that it is an ordinary story of two generations of the Ganguli fmaily but this time, as an immigrant, I could connect more to the situations of Ashima Ganguli.
Themes: identity (Gogol and Gogol), home and the diaspora, immigrant, relationships (Gogol and his partners, Ashima and Ashoke, and the community of immigrants), and food.
The Shadow Lines by Amitav Ghosh is a personal favorite. I re-read this thinking that my love for it was misplaced but, surprise, it was not! One reason is Tridib, the central character, who functions as Ghosh’s mouthpiece.
Themes: home, memory, relationships (between generations), history, and borders (geography).
Place: “I could not persuade her that a place does not merely exist, that is has to be invented in one’s imagination… so that although she [Ila] had lived in many places, she had never traveled at all” (21).
The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende is one of the few magic realism novels by a female author. It was Allende’s debut novel, published in 1982. It narrates the lives of four generations of the Trueba family. Clara is the most ‘magical’ character. There are also elements of Marxism both as a form of government as well as in the relations between Esteban Trueba and his tenants. There are also grand descriptions of the decorations in the “the big house on the corner;” the house reflects the relationships as well as upheavals in the family’s social and economic positions. This novel reminded me of Julia Alvarez‘s In the Time of the Butterflies in Alba’s imprisonments and Maryse Conde‘s Windward Heights (which itself is a retelling of Wuthering Heights) in term sof the descriptions and a multi-generational narrative.
The Tin Drum by Gunter Grass is a postmodernist novel. Oskar Matzerath is the protagonist of the story. It is begins with him in a mental hospital. On his third birthday, he decided not to grow up, physically and psychologically. He also decides to beat his tin drum always. Oscar lives through the Third Reich and has numerous adventures (summary).
Themes: war, society, relationships (father-son, wife-husband, and mother-son), performance (circus), narration, and identity.
Hopscotch by Julio Cortazar, published in Spanish in 1963 and in English in 1966, is a strange novel. It is considered revolutionary but reading it from a now perspective,it seems pretentious or the other possibility is I am ignorant (which I am, of numerous things). It read like a discourse on life, relationships, knowledge, and feelings.
It is a postmodernist novel in its use of narrative voices (first person, third person, and stream of consciousness) and techniques. The novel has 155 chapters, the last 99 designated as “expendable,” some of which fill in the gaps while others add information or simply record random musings (almost journal and blog-like). Morelli, a writer, appears in these chapters that also have footnotes. The novel, as suggested by the author, can be read in two ways: as a linear narrative from chapters 1 to 56 or by “hopscotching” through the entire set of 155 chapters according to a “Table of Instructions.” The reader can also choose his/her own path through the narrative.
Hopscotch is an account of the life of Horacio Oliveira, an Argentinean intellectual. He experiences life in Paris in the 1950s. The other characters consist of La Maga and a band of bohemian intellectuals who call themselves the Serpent Club. The other members of the Serpent Club are: Ossip Gregorovius, a rival for Lucía’s affections, the artists Perico Romero and Etienne, Etienne’s friend Guy Monod, Wong, and Ronald and Babs (who are married). There is jazz, walking in Paris, and intellectual discussions (too many). Continue reading
“Perhaps she [Blanca] feared the grandiose love that had stood so many tests would not be able to withstand the most dreadful test of all: living together’’ (264). The House of the Spirits, Isabel Allende.
“My love, I do not love you for you or for me or for the two of us together, I do not love you because my blood tells me to love you, I love you because you are not mine, because you are from the other side, from there where you invite me to join and I cannot make the jump, because in the deepest moment of possession you are not in me, I cannot reach you, I cannot get beyond your body, your laugh, there are times when it torments me that you love me (…), I’m tormented by your love because I cannot use it as a bridge because a bridge can’t be supported by just one side” (425).
Julio Cortazar, Hopscotch