WordPress insists one must have a title before one can blog. This “one” blogger is fresh out but has many comments – so watch this space. And consider these books!
To start: My local library book sale was a good one – nailed a Karsh 50th Anniversary signed 1st edition – cover was dodgy but the photos were divine and it was only $5. Who would ever donate such a treasure? He was my mother’s epitome of portrait and wedding shots of the 40’s and 50’s. She wasn’t a buff, but she commented on photos that were not Karsh (wedding announcements in the “Women’s Section” mainly) with a shake of her head. So I knew from a young age that Karsh was very special.
This past week I have read several books that are almost indescribably brilliant.
Inferno by Steven Hatch, M.D. What to say except I could not put it down? His thorough and graphic description of his own time in Liberia during the Ebola outbreaks there and in Sierra Leone was astonishing for its humanity, honesty and dedication to his profession. His description of this virus was important and necessary to the book – in very basic and available terms.
He also elucidated much of the pre – Emancipation history of the creation of Liberia and its founding. Dispelling myths about “happy slaves who set out to create ‘Negrotown’ back home in West Africa”. (I use Negrotown in a serious salute to Jordan Peele and Keenan Michael Key for their remarkable sketch on Key and Peele). The story we have learned was propaganda and revisionist history. Overall Africa and its people as individuals and fellow humans may be one of the most exploited and assaulted continents on earth. Sub-Saharan Africa suffers most and in ways he revealed, that “we” have never been told. This is an important book and should be read widely by medical professionals and laymen. It offers an historic record of past and present importance. (The screaming and publicity that accompanied the outbreak was inaccurate and it was propagandized to spread fear and anger.) It was not a true pandemic but the numerous deaths in the regions of West Africa were fast and hideous. Dr. Hatch and his small group of medical personnel were simply put, heroes. And I also truly believe that had this filovirus epidemic happened in any anointed First World Country – it would have been turned into a conspiracy, a nightmare, a weapon and of course a cash cow. I shall not rant further – but this is a book that needs to be read. Steven Hatch is not just a doctor but a unique humanitarian. His name should be known globally for his actions. I salute him.
And then on to India – and another member of my short list of Indian mystery writer has joined – Arjun Gaind. He has created and promises to continue his Maharajah Mystery series and he had better do it! As I approached this first one I was fearing a bodice ripper with jewels but it was no such thing. The entire story was a page turner, a great mystery and an invitation to learn much more about the Princely States of India and the smug and obnoxious British who “ran” India . Plotted and visual and sparkling ( there were indeed lots of large jewels). I loved it. Mystery fans will too I suspect. He joins Vaseem Khan and Abri Mukherjee for coast to coast Indian whodunits. So well written. I cannot wait for the next three titles nor can I wait for Sujata Massey’s Malabar series.
I have said before, Indians and South Asians write the way Haitians paint. They just do it as an almost genetic gift. It is stunning to see the ways of telling unique stories of South Asians at home and abroad as they have dispersed throughout the world. No One Can Pronounce My Name by Rakesh Satyal delivered a tour de force. Layers and tranches of characters whose paths crossed in not only clever but believable ways in and around Cleveland. Sattal is a brilliant writer whose uncharted landscapes add light and a shining to his characters. His dialogue is pitch perfect. Pitch perfect. I am a devoted reader of Indian fiction and this is one of the endless list of favorites. (I also have a Rakesh Satyal moment I will share – years ago in a used bookstore I found “Blue Boy’ – Satyal’s first novel. I was ecstatic and it must have shown because the books person said to me in a very small voice, “You know this is about …well…men.” Considering it was an AIDS charity store – I had to suppress my laughter. Was he warning me or what?” LOL). I loved Sattal’s first book and I loved this one ( caution: it has men in it too!!). I just started “The Golden Legend by Nadeem Aslam.(author of The Blind Man’s Garden) and thus crossed the Line of Control and entered Pakistan. Watch this space.
Note: I am growing to despise the NYTime’s Book Review on Sunday. I feel the same way about the L.A. Jewish Journal – feh. It’s not so much change itself but stupid change.
It’s also the fiftieth anniversary of my cherished New York Magazine and there will an estimable volume of the same name on sale very soon. I cannot wait.
Comments welcome. Thanks for reading.