5.02.2005

what i'm reading

Nadine Gordimer's July's People was excellent. In addition to its incredibly nuanced understanding of relationships and identity, the ending was positively chilling, not something I will soon forget.

By coincidence, the next book kept me in Africa: Peter Matthiessen's African Silences. Matthiessen is one of those larger-than-life people. He's written dozens of books, both fiction and nonfiction, and has a parallel career as an explorer and naturalist. He was also one of the founders, with George Plimpton, of the legendary Paris Review.

I've read two of his novels - At Play in the Fields of the Lord and Killing Mister Watson - and loved them both. Both books deal with the destruction of environments, and links that to the degradation of people's souls. They are also terrific reads - colorful, suspenseful, powerful.

Yet for some reason, I just cannot read Matthiessen's nonfiction. I have tried several books, several times each (let it never be said I don't give a book a chance!), and simply cannot get through them. So after wanting to read African Silences since it came out in 1992, I could not. It's about Matthiessen's many African expeditions and the annihilation of the large mammals there (elephants, rhinos, gorillas). I wanted to like it, but...

Here's something Matthiessen wrote about the war on Iraq. Unfortunately, it's not dated.

After I gave up on the elephants, the library informed me that another book I've wanted to read for ages has come in. (I'm totally loving this request-online system.) It's Still Missing, a feminist biography of Amelia Earhart, by Susan Ware. Earhart fascinates me - something I have in common with my idol (and all-time favorite Canadian), Joni Mitchell.

According to Ware, the mystery of Earhart's disappearance overshadows her life and considerable achievements, and she tries to "rescue Amelia from the cult of her disappearance" within a feminist perspective. I'll let you know how it goes.

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