Summer holidays

Taken yesterday at the local botanical garden. I was amazed that this bird let me creep up to within a metre of it while it was enjoying dining on its own King Protea.

So far I’ve had a pretty quiet time on my holiday. We had a really good family Christmas and I’ve been taking it easy since it’s only a week today since my dog died. I’m feeling a bit numb about it now and I’m trying not to dwell on her death itself.

On the book front, I’ve got a lot to keep me busy. In no particular order we have:

Outliers (Malcolm Gladwell)
We are all made of glue (Marina Lewycka)
Cape Town Stories (Marianne Barnard)
The White Tiger (Aravind Adiga)
Daddy’s Girl (Margie Orford)
Touch: Stories of contact (edited by Karina Szczurek)
Engleby (Sebastian Faulks)
Cape Town Calling (edited by Justin Fox)
Shark’s Egg (Henrietta Rose-Innes)

I’ve started the Lewycka and am enjoying it. It’s light summer reading and her characters are quirky and amusing. I’ve also been dipping into “Touch” which is a collection of 22 stories by South African authors around the theme of human contact. Contributors include: Andre Brink, Nadine Gordimer, Damon Galgut, Ivan Vladislavic, Jonny Steinberg, Alex Smith, Zoe Wicomb. It’s perfect for when you have 30 minutes to spare but it’s not the kind of book I can read for a couple of hours at a time.

So far I’ve read one story from Outliers on the cultural aspect of plane crashes and it was thorough, entertaining and thought-provoking. I’m tempted to sneak a look at what some of the other book bloggers have said about it before I make up my own mind.

The White Tiger (TWT) won the 2008 Booker Prize with its unflattering portrait of India as a society racked by corruption and servitude. Reviewing it in the Guardian, Stuart Jeffries says that one criticism of Adiga’s novel is that he writes about the experiences of India’s poor without himself being poor. Adiga says it is a challenge to “write about people who aren’t anything like me”. But can he actually pull it off?

Stuart Jeffries: “But isn’t there a problem: Adiga might come across as a literary tourist ventrioloquising others’ suffering and stealing their miserable stories to fulfil his literary ambitions?”

Jeffries says TWT has many failings but its “engaging, gobby, megalomaniac boss-killer” narrator (Balram Halwai) seems to be a strength. From village teashop waiter to Bangalore entrepreneur, Halwai is the white tiger who breaks out of his own cage of servitude.

I can’t help thinking about the dark side of India which finds a favourable audience in the West. Makes me think of other writers from the developing world who show up the corruption of their own countries and are applauded for it in the developed world. Locally the name of RW Johnson springs to mind.

Daddy’s Girl is a local (and celebrated) crime novel by the multi-talented Margie Orford. Just not sure I’m in the mood for crime so soon after suffering a trauma of my own. And so I’ve been sampling this and that and allowing my thoughts to settle and flit off again and then settle and so on. Perhaps this is normal. But it would be great to lose myself for a day or so in a really gripping novel.

I’ll take a break and return in early January. Here’s wishing you a fabulous New Year and all the best for 2010.

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4 Responses to Summer holidays

  1. Beautiful photo and much appreciated on this cold, frosty Northern hemisphere day.

  2. litlove says:

    A very very happy New Year to you, Pete. I have my fingers crossed that it brings you everything your heart desires, and more. That’s a wonderful book list there – I want to hear your thoughts on all of them. And I really enjoyed Outliers – my first Malcolm Gladwell but certainly not my last.

  3. Harriet Welch says:

    I’m glad you enjoyed your Christmas with your family despite your recent loss. What is it like to have Christmas in the summer? And do your toilets really flush the opposite way from the toilets in the northern hemisphere, or is that an old wive’s tale?

  4. Pete says:

    Lilian – So glad you like it! It quite made my day yesterday.

    Litlove – Thanks, and a very Happy New Year to you too! Very impressed with Outliers so far.

    Harriet – I think Christmas in summer must be quite strange to those who’ve grown up with cold Christmases. But I’ve only known one snowy Christmas (in Canada) so a summery Christmas is normal for me. As for water rotating clockwise or counter-clockwise in different hemipsheres, I’m really not sure!

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