This winter break, I had a lot of free time, so in addition to trying to learn Beyonce’s 7/11 dance (which, of course, I managed to make myself look like a flopping potato), I also read a few books, too. Here are some short reviews/synopses that I wrote of the (probably only) four books I’ll have had ample time to read this semester (RIP me).
Zora Neale Hurston’s 1937 classic Their Eyes Were Watching God tells the story of beautiful Janie Crawford, a young and naïve girl who blossoms into a mature and independent woman throughout her three marriages. Intertwining narration with the heavy vernacular dialogue of southern African Americans, Hurston weaves self-identity, feminism and faith into an unforgettable love story. If there’s any book that can amplify the voice of an ordinary African American woman so loudly and proudly, it’s Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God.
Joshua Ferris’s And Then We Came to the End isn’t named one of the top ten books of 2007 by the New York Times Book Review for no reason: much like a book version of The Office, And Then We Came to the End details the lives of a group of coworkers for a failing advertising agency. Combining the witty and detailed banter and gossip that comes with spending nine hours a day with a group of people that you sometimes call friends, other times competitors or even strangers, Ferris’s debut novel manages to both beautifully capture the atmosphere of a workplace and engage our attention until the very last sentence (literally).
Now, for some reason, J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye didn’t really speak to me as much as the other three novels — perhaps because it so thoroughly captures the attitude of a rebellious teenager struggling to come to terms with himself and stumbling through the stage of life we call growing up. Perhaps it was the frustration that came along with reading about his ventures and his mistakes, and the fact that the ending never gives full closure about his maturity (which, absolutely perfectly mimics real life), that made me slightly uncomfortable, but as I’ve said twice already, that may be a result of the fact that it’s so real.
Grapes of Wrath was 20th-century America’s masterpiece. Column McCann’s Let The Great World Spin is 21st-century America’s masterpiece. Tying together the lives of more-or-less unrelated characters by Philippe Petit’s infamous high-wire walk between the Twin Towers, McCann weaves together beautiful, intense and passionate stories of those watching the mysterious man walking in the air that day. This single gravity-defying act serves as a single point of intersection between a variety of different characters, but as McCann shows, our lives are inherently intertwined and forever linked together, just like the Twin Towers were when Petit walked across between them.