Eccentric Musings (jakaEM)

"I have undergone sharp discipline which has taught me wisdom; and then, I have read more than you would fancy." Emily Brontë


still figuring this place out - Jen W

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Friend of My Youth
Alice Munro
Progress: 115/288 pages
Survival: A Thematic Guide to Canadian Literature
Margaret Atwood
Say You're One of Them - Uwem Akpan I'm so angry with this book I could spit.
I can't even rate it, I'm so angry with it.
I certainly would never recommend it (even though I think everyone should read it).
It is an important book to read.
I'm glad I read it even though it was the most horrific, awful, despairing, bleak, pessimistic, horrific, sad thing I've read since...ever.
Glad is not the right word; not at all the right word. All those other words are right.
1=did not like it?
Yes. Both.
You can't like this; how can anyone LIKE this?
It's like poverty porn: it ended up numbing me, angering me, leaving me feeling as exploited as the children crying in the sand.
I feel myself blaming the author for showing me these things, in the way that he has.
It's not that I don't know they exist. It's not like he's shaming me (as an individual, as a colonizer, as a slave trader, as an INGO worker, as a person living in a democracy, as a person who consumes more than my share of oil, of food, of land, of air, as...).
He's not shaming me for my ignorance, or blaming me for my involvement. Although all of that simmers below the surface here.
There is plenty of shame and blame to go around, but that is not Akpan's thing.
Where one feels oneself - as a reader - feeling them and placing them is important.
Especially when you feel yourself blaming the victims.
Yeah. Sit with that a while.
I don't know that others will react with the shame/blame response. Maybe not.
This incredible tangle of emotions, the complexity of the shifting, illogical world within the stories, the convoluted politics, religion and social structures - the real world where these children and women and men live and die horribly, horribly, horribly - is perhaps best exemplified and explored in Luxurious Hearses.
I feel myself coming out of a swirl of emotions as I start to apply the logic of literary analysis here. And I don't want to do that right now, so.
Let me just say: what Akpan is doing, how he is doing it is as important as the stories he is telling, which are true stories. Fictionalized, obviously, but true.
Choosing to tell these stories through children's eyes is perhaps the most cold-blooded authorial choice I think I've ever witnessed.
Each story is unrelenting in its despair, its hopelessness. There are not enough synonyms for devastating to describe each story's ending.
This book brutalizes and traumatizes its readers as a way of demonstrating the brutality and trauma its characters have experienced (are experiencing).
For every reviewer who quibbles with the difficulty of the dialect, or the unevenness of the story length, or Oprah, I invite you to think about why that kind of analysis was comforting to you; why is your focus there? Where would your focus be if it wasn't there?
That is what I am thinking about.
I am thinking about why. and how.
And I am feeling as helpless and hopeless in response to a piece of literature as it is possible to feel.
And that is absolutely breathtaking in what it says about this book of short stories.
And that is why I am rating it 5 stars.
And that is why you should read it - but only if you feel you can.