THE POISONWOOD BIBLE
Barbara Kingsolver (Harper, 1998) ISBN: 0-06-017540-0
Ah, Africa. Africa, Africa, Africa. Having re-viewed Binyavanga Wainana’s How to Write About Africa (which I have tried linking to, but cannot make it work–sorry!), I’m somewhat more satisfied that The Poisonwood Bible at least doesn’t commit the most egregious of authorial crimes against the continent. And being aware that the book was written more than 15 years ago, for a white American audience, I should perhaps try to be more forgiving. Nonetheless, this novel seriously rubbed me the wrong way. I wanted to like it. I wanted to love it, because it had been recommended me so many times by people whose opinions I trust. I felt certain I would love it. What a bitter betrayal.
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At some point we seem to have accepted that, as peasants, if a bank or other large company imposes on us a penalty fee, for instance for paying a bill slower than they’d like, that as long as the company does it following the company’s own rules, we should find it fair for them to charge it. The historian of the future must see us as sufferers of Stockholm syndrome – as forlorn hostages who’ve somehow come to feel they owe something to their captors.
Have we forgotten how we got here? While you and Daisy ran hand-in-hand in the garden, ecstatic in the rain, they set about to laying claim to all the best flowerbeds and fencing them off. Now they charge you for the flowers and have convinced Daisy’s mother that if you don’t send seven a week, you don’t respect her. The Shamshiel they’ve posted at the gate doesn’t even have a flaming sword, just a valium of meaningless apologies. Continue reading
OF MICE AND MEN
Steinbeck, John (Covici Friede, 1937, ISBN (reprint) 9780749717100)
The educational films they showed us in middle school seemed all at least twenty-years old. On flickering projector film, scientists in brown suits took us on a tour of the body’s respiratory system while sanitised hipsters with pompadours showed us how to resist peer pressure. Crew-cutted schoolboys discovered the power of lunchroom manners while other sons and daughters of white hegemony learned how quiet helps at school. Deep-voiced fabulists sold us a version of the American legislative process with no pharmaceutical or energy lobbyists. Other narrators, whose measured delivery somehow conveyed the vastness of space, described the then nine planets of the solar system as the viewpoint swept out towards poor Pluto (of late expelled from the League of Planets for conduct unbefitting a solar planet). Continue reading