Reading the United States: Power by Linda Hogan

Oh, this is a good book. A really good book.

I normally can cruise through an engaging novel of this length (248 pages) in no time; I mean sometimes like in a few hours. Not saying that to brag or anything; when I hyperfocus on words, it’s GAME ON. Some people can learn guitar effortlessly…I’m a speed reader. It’s the closest thing I’ve got to a superpower.

About half-way through this book, I realized it would be over soon and I made myself put it aside. For a few days even. I wanted to live with it a bit longer; to stick with this world full of beautiful phrases and potent emotion.

I also needed to think about how I felt about all of it. I often tend towards non-fiction and clean, tidy ways of communicating. I’m the person at work who sends you a to-do email that’s just bullet points. Poetic expression can throw me off, and I’ll admit there were moments with this book that I felt overwhelmed; the language is lush. It twists and flows and doubles back…and it suits the storytelling perfectly. I’ve now reserved every title from my library by the author, Linda Hogan, and am totally looking forward to experiencing more of her work.

This is the book I chose to represent the United States, and it spot-on captures what I hoped it would. Not specifically the story, which is its own self, but the whole frame of What does it mean to be an American? Whose voices get heard? What the hell are we doing?

“…I’m enraged by this world that offers me nothing, yet expects so much of me.”

-Omishto, Power by Linda Hogan

Florida Panther
Florida Panther
(Image by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters, via Wikimedia Commons)

Reading Anguilla: The Night of the Rambler

Enjoyment of a particular thing is so subjective. You can love a movie the first time you see it, but view it again in a different mood, or season, or after a bad day…and sometimes your opinion turns the other way.

I find that to be so very true with books. Reading is the most intimate of experiences; it’s interior, and mysterious, and very personal. That’s one of the reasons I pull my punches in book reviews here on The Global Reader; the world is so full of opinions, and while mine are just as valid as anyone else, are they really needed? Does what I think have value for you, or is it just one more voice shouting into the void of relentless content? SO MANY THOUGHTS…

That all said…I didn’t enjoy this book at all. It hurt me to finish it, but I find Anguilla so compelling, I did so out of respect for the place. I found the characters themselves to be interesting, since this is loosely based on real events, but even after many, many, many words streaming past my eyes, I did not get to know them. I wanted to, and was frustrated by the distance. I feel bad writing this, but there you go. Make of it what you will. Would you like it? It would be great if you did! Will I read again it someday, in a different state of mind, to see if I get more out of it? Nope.

On the positive side, it did give me some insight into independence movements in the Caribbean, the start of understanding how labor moves around the region, how different industries affect different islands, and how much history affects life now. Not a bad haul from something that I had to force myself to get through!

An aerial view of the western portion of the island of Anguilla
An aerial view of the western portion of the island of Anguilla (image by Roy Googin, via Wikpedia)

 

Reading Kyrgyzstan: Restless Valley

Central Asia is endlessly fascinating to me, so I was super happy to have Kyrgyzstan up on my reading list. I landed on Restless Valley: Revolution, Murder, and Intrigue in the Heart of Central Asia by Phillip Shishkin as my introduction to this corner of the world.

But, second destination in a row where the locale is way more intriguing than the book I picked. I swear I’m not being curmudgeonly! Or at least I hope that’s not it…

There was a lot to like about this book, don’t get me wrong. The author obviously knows his way around the political and social terrain of a very, VERY complicated place. I doubt that any one viewpoint could fully embrace all of the intricacies baked into the cake there.

That said, this just read oddly to me. A bit repetitive perhaps? The author didn’t trust the reader to remember people he had introduced earlier, leading to awkward second meetings. I hadn’t realized before this book that would bother me, but indeed it does. Good to know, huh?

I am glad to have had the chance to learn what I’ve learned, and I look forward to some fiction titles I have picked out by Kyrgyz author, Chignhiz Aitmatov. Now, I have a bit of a sense-of-place before diving in. Onward and upwards!

Bei Inylchek, Tian Shan Mountains, Kyrgyzstan
Bei Inylchek, Tian Shan Mountains, Kyrgyzstan (image by Jürgen Grösel, via Wikimedia Commons)

Reading Tonga: Island Kingdom – Tonga Ancient & Modern

Tonga! So interesting!

BUT. I’m not saying that the book I ended with up (Island Kingdom: Tonga Ancient & Modern, by I.C. Campbell) was weighed down by a little too much Great Man Theory; yeah, wait…I am saying exactly that.

There were moments that my brain was happy: info about the uniqueness of Tonga’s geology and natural history, the amazing and brave Oceanic people that first made their way to the islands, the effects of European contact and the introduction of Christianity…I want to know more! Unfortunately, all of that got lost in an overly exhaustive list of chiefs, kings, and politicians. So. Much. Detail.

Too much.

So, I’ll be on the lookout for a more personal telling of life in Tonga. Please let me know if you know of such a book! I would be thrilled to check it out!

Approach to Fua'amotu Airport, Tongatapu, Tonga
Approach to Fua’amotu Airport, Tongatapu, Tonga (image by David Broad, via Wikimedia Commons)