Sunday, April 26, 2009

this week i read...

yeah i'm one of those weirdos who still reads... books that is. quite voraciously actually. in some ways reading is my cheap replacement for continued schooling that i can't afford. i figure just because i can't afford to be a lifelong student doesn't mean i can't spend the rest of my life in the pursuit of knowledge. 

but let's not get it twisted. i'm not out there every day devouring tolstoy and nitzche. i looooove steven king. adore him. and i love cheesy murder mysteries and lurid true crime novels. but i also take great pleasure in reading tomes that are challenging and give pause. this week has been a calm before the storm; a relatively slow week before i dive into the hang for next week's group show. one of those weeks where the phone just doesn't seem to ring and there are many empty, quiet hours to spare. 

i spent those hours reading....

yes, i do on occasion judge a book by its cover. the quirky illustration by matthew green (jacket design by faber) caught my eye in a portland bookstore. also, can't escape the intrigue of the title. i have to hand it to nathan englander for this one. a charming surprise the ministry of special cases carries on the tradition of magical realism with a clever and at times laugh out loud story that takes place during argentina's dirty war. the story, that of the affable yet confounding kaddish poznan, a man's who's job it is to chip the names off of gravestones for families who would rather forget their controversial pasts, dances back and forth between passages of hilarity and mirth and scenes of great tension and terror. i found the book surprisingly heavy given the frequent humor. it had the sort of narcotic but arresting pace of gabriel garcia marquez, though i think that englander fell a bit short of the narrative power of marquez at his best. 

krakauer at his finest. i was a bit wary of this one. i'm a notoriously unspiritual person, and though i see validity in trying to understand religion as an extraordinarily powerful social force, i have difficulty wrapping my mind around what i perceive as the extremity of blind faith. under the banner of heaven starts with a flash and doesn't let up until the final chapter. even the final passage was pitch perfect, and i think that the quote that krakauer chose to conclude his book with couldn't have been more apt. meticulously researched and powerfully written krakauer's book takes an in depth look at america's complex homegrown religion, framing the tragic tale of the murders of brenda and erica lafferty at the hands of two devout fundamentalist relatives with compelling chapters detailing the religion's history and significant leaders. rather than attack mormonism as the direct source of such a violent act, krakauer explains how mormonism's fundamental tenants open the religion up to periodic splintering and wide interpretation. some of the stories about the various fundamentalist groups that have cropped up over the years are extremely harrowing in their graphicness. mormon fundamentalist groups are rife with institutionalized racism, blatant and often violent sexism and condoned acts of statutory rape and even incest. krakauer, a great adventure writer, alleviates some of the tension with wonderful passages describing the natural environment in the mormon kingdom of utah, and finds heros in unlikely places to champion in stark contrast to the antagonists of the story. a quick read and highly informative. only draw back? i may be rethinking that hiking trip i was planning to zion. 

i pull this book out every few months to peruse the brilliant essays on topics ranging from process to figuration. this morning i was re-reading a great interview with roy lichtenstein conducted by g.r. swenson in 1963. what a g.

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