Saturday, December 10, 2005

Hunger and Boredom:

I hate being hungry, and I hate being bored. And, come to think of it, they’re similar: hunger is absence of food in the stomach and boredom is the absence of stimulation in the brain. Unlike many Haitians, I don’t have to worry about being hungry. To ward off boredom, I bring way more books to Haiti then I will possibly have time to read, especially given my ferocious writing schedule. I think the books are transitional, security objects.

Here’s a list of the books I’m reading in Haiti, in the order I plan to read them, along with a short review of the first: Teaching Man, It’s About Time, The Kite Runner, My Losing Season, Burmese Days, The Brothers Karamazov, The Collected Works of Mark Twain, The Jane Austin Book Club, Learning Creole Made Easy, and Among Heroes.

Teacher Man by Frank McCourt: McCourt’s Irish charm and way with words is apparent from the first page of this book as he chronicles his 30 years teaching composition, literature, creative writing and the like to the sons and daughters of New York City immigrants. McCourt disdains many of the responsibilities of teaching even as he excels at other aspects, like telling stories which entertain and engage his class.

This book, like My Losing Season, makes me wonder about the role memory plays and its reliability in reconstructing long ago events. When does a faded memory that is creatively described venture into the territory of fiction? How honest does an author have to be in admitting the license he takes filling in dim outlines? What is reality anyhow and is our description of what is happening as it happens any more “real” then our memories of said event? Eyewitnesses get things wrong hours after seeing what they think they see. These are writing questions for the ages. Despite my metaphysical conjurings, Teacher Man is a fun, fast read for which I feel special affection because my husband John gave it to me.

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