Saturday, December 04, 2004

Grit, Glory and Spittle

My reading these past few month occupied an axis of desert terrain or questions of Empire in all its profound ambivalence. Was such motivated by a 24 news cycle originating in more arid climes? More and more, I suspect.
Not long ago I found a pair of novels by Tariq Ali and purchased them, respecting Ali as a polemicist and activist for post-colonial groups throughout the world. I decided to read Saladin, which is essentially a fictional account of the historical Sultan's life from boyhood up to the time he drove the Franks from Jerusalem and reclaimed it for Muslims. It is borderline hagiography and the less said, the better.

Following on the heels of such was delightfully powerful memoir by Aidan Hartley titled Zanzibar Chest. Being only a few years older than myself, Hartley appears to have led an exponentially more challenging life covering war in Africa throughout the 90s and thus treading the same ground as covered by Gourevich and Scott Peterson, all of whom appear to have been friends in various hellish locales. More puzzling is Hartley's attempt to wrestle with the legacy of his father who served the Empire in the middle east and in Africa (Aidan and his siblings were actually born in Kenya). The prose becomes more speculative in these sections and thus less immediate. An excellent book nonetheless.

I read Jarhead by Anthony Sworford and enjoyed the narrative, was moved by his moribund imagery, yet felt my emotions marginalized, This may have resulted from a deliberate adjustment in sequentially. The machinations of the Iowa Writers Workshop were evident and over emphatic at certain junctures. Somehow the idea that every memoir has to broach some damaged aspect of the family nuclear and I inevitably mutter, "what the hell?" No one is questioning the spectrum of dysfunction yet I fear its mutations are often exaggerated in the cause of compelling the reader. having written, such I find it interesting that I read Jarhead in two days.

It was the reading of two more novels and the purchase of Niall Ferguson's Empire which ended this flurry. Hari Kunzru's The Impressionist and William Boyd's Any Human Heart were truly remarkable, both addressing the period of youth with all its insecurity and wonder and how education establishes not only a sense of entitlement amongst the British but, more insidiously, a calcification of vertical authority between races and classes. That period has ended as inexplicably as it began for myself.


Blogger The New Albanian said...

Tsk, tsk. "Fuck you" as a title? What will the mild-mannered folk of New Albany think?

Oh, I forgot - they don't think. Cheers!

4:14 PM  
Blogger edward parish said...

Really like the layout of the blog page as well as the subject matter.

8:10 AM  
Blogger roger said...

I loved The Impressionist too, although his new novel is pretty disappointing.
Suggestion for your Imperial adventures -- The Victorian Holocaust, by Mike Davis. Nice book to read in conjunction with Ferguson's history of the Empire.

11:40 PM  

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