Current Reads, 13 May

By: tanekakoko

May 14 2008

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Category: Books

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Out Stealing Horses is like a small glittering thing that catches your eye, you take it home, clean it up and then discover that its not fools gold but lovely stone of some value. You do have to do a little work to see its true value, but its not hard work. You just have to like books that tackle some big subjects while parading around as a wistful bit of nostalgia. Initially I thought that Per Petteron had created something very close to My Life As a Dog, but no he hasn’t. He created something that starts with the same feel as that but by contrasting past and present realities, internal and external lives he creates a work that resonates with hard won reason and, at times, wisdom – at least the wisdom to acknowledge that some questions just can’t be answered when posed. It takes time and time only adds more complications and joys and sorrows and well, life. But he does this with gentle stories and characters who you can visualize and if not sympathize with, then at least they are fully realized and understandable. Humor plays a large part in why this book works so well, it is the humor of the everyday and obvious but told in a way that the laugh comes from your gut. Yup, I liked it and strongly recommend it.

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress is another short book but unlike “Out Stealing Horses” this jumps at you from the first page. No slow unfurling of layers here, no. This is miniature Faberge Egg, no, more of a Japanese Netsuke. Gorgeous from the start and just gets richer as you observe and study or in the case of the book, read it. This is not to say that this is a classic that will endure for ages, no and I compared this book to decorative art because as well written as it is, as strange as the location is, as turbulent as the times described are, it just doesn’t go far enough. It is a quick read, an enjoyable read and it has a message to it, but this message isn’t powerful as the characters and setting lead you to believe. I thoroughly enjoyed it and can recommend it for a nice weekend read.

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