One thing I did pack in my single bag when coming to China was a bunch of books. Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point got me hooked on sub-genre of sociological non-fiction a few years ago and my non-academic reading selections (well with my last English class at University High School being “The Art of Nonfiction” with Jesse Berrett, my academic reading applies as well) have been set in that direction ever since. So, when I packed for China, I aimed for mixing it up and brought a few (gasp!) novels.
One of those novels I completed a few weeks ago was Snow by Orhan Pamuk. I actually had been waiting to read this book for a long time, and it was magical indeed. The description is so rich and real that you feel are actually walking the streets of Kars (Turkey) with the omnipotent narrator. Pamuk begins by systematically hammering in the weather details into the pages but eventually it becomes a fine weave with the complicated plot. Images unfold slowly one by one and then are brought together in a whirlwind to conclude the novel. But what I thought of as the central themes of religion and terrorism slowed the pace of the book because I continually tried to pull conclusions after each chapter only to realize that those topics switch directions each chapter. Religion and terrorism are a means to an end for the book. They turn out to be less of the meaning of the book and more the plot. The meaning comes from the viewing the society created as a whole in conjunction with the landscape of the town of Kars.
The Dogs of Babel by Carolyn Parkhurst is a fun read but not exactly the best work of literature. There are some nice allusions and metaphors as well as some stunningly good one liners. The characters are well crafted. It’s even funny but don’t look to take away any mind-blowing ideas or feelings. It comes to a nice conclusion but the “staggering emotional wallop” that Holly J. Morris of U.S. News reports to have felt, wasn’t there for me. It was more of a winding murder-mystery with a relationship twist. Lots of fun, though. It’s good to have a suspense ending that you don’t find in most nonfiction work.