Stikkordarkiv: USA

Go Tell it on the Mountain – James Baldwin

Phew. Done. Now, perhaps I can stop humming that bl**dy song every waking hour.


Go Tell it on the Mountain was picked as this month’s read for our bookclub by the simple expedient of pointing randomly into the shelves at Krambua* which are furnished with second-hand books. Not a bad result, really, it could probably have been much, much worse (I wasn’t at that meeting, so I don’t know what else is on those shelves, but I’ll check next time).

It’s James Baldwin’s first novel, and a good read. The quotes on my copy says he knows the Harlem language, which I have no reason to doubt. It’s almost always easier to point out what I don’t like about a book than what I do, so excuse me if this is a bit lopsided, but here goes: For one thing, I had a hard time keeping apart the events happening in Harlem and the events happening in «the south». The first setting is immensly urban, the second, as far as I can tell, is supposed to be rural. The pictures in my head, though, were mostly a sort of mix-up with a bit of spagetti western clap-board towns thrown in for good measure. The latter I take full responsibility for, but I feel Baldwin has to shoulder some of the blame for not making the settings distinct enough. Though it could be argued that he was doing it on purpose to show that nothing really changes and you can take the boy out of x, but never the x out of the boy or something. That would not sit well with the blurb on my copy claiming Baldwin deals with the old generation versus the new generation and the change in values, however Balwin can’t be blamed for the blurb, and I think the blurb-writer was a bit off in any case, it seems to me the old generation and the new have a lot in common and it’s down to individuals to make change. So there is that. The second quarrel I had is that I felt the novel ended somewhat prematurely. Perhaps I just didn’t understand it, but, well, I sort of wanted a bit MORE to happen. Like some of this change, which is in the air the whole way through, but which doesn’t really materialise.

Still and all, I gave it four out of five stars on Goodreads.

And I’m ticking off all sorts of things: A new to me author makes it the first book in my Boktolva, and surely, surely it can be called a classic? Well, it’s a 1001 book, so I call it a classic. And I guess I’m a bit early for black history month, but it seems a fitting read to celebrate the second inauguration of Barack Hussein Obama (who I have great hopes for now that he doesn’t need to worry about reelection).

I Left My Tent in San Fransisco – Emma Kennedy

kennedy_san_fransiscoI Left My Tent in San Fransisco by Emma Kennedy was one of the books I managed to pick up in Elgin last Saturday. After cracking up over The Tent, the Bucket and Me in February, it was a must-have. When the kindle ran out of battery one evening and I couldn’t immediately lay my hands on the charger, I started it, and I also brought it on the plane, as the kindle is no good during take-off and landing (being «electronic equipment» which has to be switched off).

Emma and her friend Dee go to the USA in 1989. The plan is to get jobs in San Fransisco for two months, earn lots of money and then travel back to New York for flights home, seeing the country on the way. Unfortunately, getting jobs in San Fransisco isn’t as easy as the pair have been lead to believe, and they end up having very little money to cover their trek across the nation.

The book is very funny. It is even laugh-out-loud funny, just like its prequel. It’s less funny than said prequel, but perhaps that’s mostly because I have been camping but I have never travelled across the USA by ground transport, and so the force of recognition is diminished (though not absent, I have, after all, travelled in the USA and also made my way around rather large chunks of Europe by bus).

Some of the best parts of the book concern the people Emma and her friend Dee meet along the way. They have to rely heavily on the kindness of strangers in their travels, and meet some pretty odd characters. To a certain extent this is also where the book is least satisfactory, because the description of the people and the situations are just a bit too shallow or short to really grab me as a reader.

But still: Very, very funny.

A Prayer for Owen Meany – John Irving

irving_meanyThis was a pleasant surprise for me, in terms of John Irving, as I’d concluded I needed to give his novels quite a bit of time before «getting into them». Not so much with this one, it had my interest before I’d reached the 50-page mark.

With around 100 pages left I got to work Monday morning after reading on the bus (as you do), opened the lokal paper’s web edition, saw a picture of Norwegian soldiers in uniform and thought «Huh? We have troops in Vietnam?»

A novel that makes me forget which century I live in? Now that’s a good sign.

It happens occasionally, but not all that frequently. I met a Norwegian who was on an exchange programme from the Norwegian army to the Swedish army in Stockholm once and my first reaction was «But I thought we were at war?», since I was currently embroiled in the Napoleonic wars in the company of Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin. This confused the poor bloke no end until one of my friends told him not to worry as my madness was of the harmless sort.

But back to Owen Meany. It’s a compelling story, where you get to know increasing amounts about the end throughout which I frequently find annoying but which Irving makes work. I realised what would happen some time before it happened, but not, I think, before the author intended.