March Madness may well be over, but all that reading has left me way behind on reviews! I did manage to start all my 10 books in March, but unfortunately didn’t manage to finish Point Omega by Don DeLillo. I really pushed myself to read as much as possible this month and I’m delighted to be down into the 720’s already. Many thanks to the wonderful Cedar Station for all the support! I’m quite looking forward to reading at a more leisurely pace and choosing books as and when I feel like reading them. I’m also looking forward to reading some more pleasant books, given the high level of rapes, murders, child abuse, death and in the case of Tampa, several crimes against literature.
So, to round up, here are books 8 and 9 and the madness will spill in to April when I finish 10.
No 727 Race by David Mamet
8/10 of March Madness
In Race, a wealthy white man, accused of raping a black woman, turns to a law firm comprised of two male partners (one white, one black) and a young female, African-American junior associate. Although wary about taking Charles’s case, their hand is forced when their junior associate Susan, who is African American, makes two elementary legal errors. But the action shifts from questions of Charles’s guilt or innocence to internal politics and the issue of whether Susan is a victim of discrimination or the dubious product of affirmative action.
Race feels a bit like the younger sibling of Mamet’s superior Speed-the-Plow with the pair of legal eagles replacing the cynical fast-talking Hollywood producers and a characteristic female neophyte who they really should be keeping a closer eye on before she puts a spoke in these very masculine wheels.
This feels like a play of two halves and the opening scenes which examine the ducking and diving and intellectual power play in the legal profession are much more successful than the attempts to question the audience’s assumptions about race. Mamet does make a good attempt at turning our preconceptions on their head. “Do you know what you can say to a black man on the subject of race?” the apparently affable black lawyer asks the white defendant, a question to which we learn the only correct answer is “nothing”.
But while admiring Mamet’s panache in taking on so fraught a subject, the play does often feel mechanical. Mamet is in danger of seeming provoking rather than provocative. The characters are little more than points of view in this dramatic discussion where the theme is all and though the dialogue is as edgy and compelling as ever, featuring Mamet’s trademark overlaps, backtrackings and repetitions.
Again, I would imagine the play comes to life more in the performance, this video of the original Broadway production starring James Spader and Kerry Washington certainly suggests there were more laughs on stage than on page but for me, this is a play of ideas that never really engages the heart.
Read On: Book
Number Read: 20
Number Remaining: 726
No 726 Revenge by Yoko Ogawa
March Madness 9/10
What is it with me and books you feel like reading with one eye closed?
Hotel Iris is the story of Mari, a 17-year-old young woman who works for her tyrannical mother in a hotel by the sea. She meets an older man, a translator of Russian novels, who lives on an island and is rumoured to have murdered his wife. They start a relationship based on dominance and sado-masochistic violence yet they love each other.
“It occurred to me that I had never heard such a beautiful voice giving an order,” Mari thinks. “It was calm and imposing, with no hint of indecision. Even the word ‘whore’ was somehow appealing.”
Hotel Iris is reluctantly compelling. Ogawa is skilled at writing beautifully even about ugly, violent things and is a master at creating mood. The story is outside of time and using spare strokes and ingenious, often macabre detail, Ogawa creates a dreamlike narrative that, challenges our sense of security. There is a profound unease in this study of dependency with Mari ruled by an uncaring, tyrannical mother at home, and a domineering, sadistic lover in secret. Mari trades one form of servitude for another. She is a wisp of a girl, seeking her true self through pain and her lack of self awareness is both what draws the reader in and holds us strangely at arm’s length.
The book is as cool as the ocean breeze by the Hotel Iris, giving up no easy answers for why these characters do what they do. It is a story in a beautiful, tender and disturbing world all of its own.
Read On: Book
Number Read: 21
Number Remaining: 725