Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Translit Trip

Who, What, Where, When and Why.  This is what you need to know, right?  Gods Without Men by Hari Kunzru dodges these questions, while weaving an interesting story. 

Who:  There is quite a cast of characters in Gods, including animals who were men, men who were named for animals, people who believe that they can communicate with aliens, and most importantly, Jaz, Lisa, and their son, Raj, wealthy New Yorkers who have lost their way. 

What:  Well, I'm not quite sure.  At times the characters are people innocently looking for enlightenment.  At other times, they appear to be a cult.  Some of the characters are just looking for a vacation.  Others for the answer to all of life's questions.

Where:  Another good question.  All of the characters are bound together by "Pinnacle Rocks."  However, the Pinnacle Rocks in the story, while said to be in a National Park, don't seem to be part of the Pinnacles National Monument in California.  Kunzru's Pinnacle Rocks involve three points, blatantly like a holy trinity.  The characters all feel a need to be near the rocks, even if they are not sure why.  When flying to Kunzru's rocks, one would fly into Las Vegas.  Due to their attraction to aliens, they seem to be closer to Area 51 than Los Angeles.

When:  That's an easy one.  1947, 1778, 1958, 1920, 1970, 1871, 1971, and 1775, in that order, but with chapters from 2008 and 2009 alternated between the other years. 

Why:  Hmmm.  Several of the characters, especially the twentieth century characters, are drawn to the rocks and the group that surrounds them by a desire to communicate with aliens.  The earlier characters are on missions to explore the territory, but find strange things.  The characters from 2008 and 2009 are running away, with nowhere to go, and find themselves at the rocks.

Much of the story focuses on Jaz, Lisa, and Raj.  Raj has autism, which has shifted the entire focus of the family from the pursuit of happiness to just getting through the day.  Jaz is Indian and Lisa is Jewish, but they don't think that makes any difference in their relationship until they face an unexpected challenge, and both turn to people of their faith to confide.

I read Gods Without Men after reading THIS review in the NYT.  I was really interested in the new genre that the critic/author, Douglas Coupland, describes as "Translit".  Per Coupland, "Translit novels cross history without being historical; they span geography without changing psychic place.  Translit collapses time and space as it seeks to generate narrative traction in the reader's mind. . . With Translit, we get our delicious cake, and we get to eat it, too, as we visit multiple pasts safe in the knowledge we'll get off the ride intact, in our new perpetual every-era/no-era."  Sounds great, doesn't it?  If I had read THIS NYT Review instead, I would have skipped it.  It's hard to believe that the two reviewers are even talking about the same book, let alone in the same Times.

The briefest summary of Gods, and again, in Coupland's words, would be this:   "People come and go, damage is done, people return and some vanish".  While I certainly don't regret reading Gods, I probably won't frequently recommend it.

And my friends, that completes the Support Your Library Challenge.  24 books from my library read or listened to (so far) this year.

Half Time Report:  I am now on disc 18 of the 36 CDs that make up World Without End by Ken Follett.  I am really enjoying listening to it, and am in no rush to finish.  So far, much of the drama has centered on whether or not a new bridge should be built, and if so, who should build it, who should pay for it, and who should get the tolls.  Sounds pretty boring and 14th century doesn't it?  Not if you live in Metro Detroit!  Right now, a businessman named Matty Moroun, and his Ambassador Bridge Company are waging what appears to be a multi-million dollar campaign to try to keep the State of Michigan from building a new bridge to Canada, so that he can build it instead.  Either Governor Snyder or Matty Moroun should read World Without End to get some tips on how to be conniving and persuasive.  Follett even has a character named Matty, but right now she's in hiding after being accused of being a witch.  Snyder might be wishing he could take Moroun out of the action with an accusation like that about now.

In Other News:  Yep, it's that time again.  I just ordered my Thanksgiving turkey today.  Click on this link to understand why this has anything to do with reading or not running!

Next up:  The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli

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