Friday, November 25, 2011

Ansary on Hosseini

I recently finished listening to Tamim Ansary read his book West of Kabul, East of New York while driving back and forth to work.  I feel I have been given a wealth of ideas to complement my reading of The Kite Runner, which I will do with students in the next few weeks.  From the sheltered privacy of Afghan life to the philosophical stances dividing Muslims, form the pain of leaving family in a far country to the sense of not quite fitting in --these two books have much to say to one another.  Toward the end of his, a work of nonfiction, Ansary describes a meeting he attended along with Hosseini, who had probably already completed The Kite Runner.  I had to smile when he describes him as a highly energetic physician who wrote short stories in his spare time, "horror stories," (I'm paraphrasing here) "in the tradition of writers like Ambrose Bierce." 

Monday, April 25, 2011

Nocturnes --Ishiguro

A striking example of how the same people whose novels make life worth living write short stories that leave me luke warm.  I laugh out loud at "Come Rain or Come Shine," and very much enjoy "Malvern Hills" and "Nocturne," but I miss the emotional connection that comes from spending time with the characters in When We Were Orphans and Never Let Me Go.  It seems as though I have a problem with the form, because I could say the same about Roth and Murakami.  Then again there are others whose sense of humor carries the day, even with stories over ten pages long: Franz Kafka, Roald Dahl, and Stephen King.  Poet James Tate wrote an excellent collection of short stories.  Faulkner wrote some not so memorable, but "Two Soldiers" and the stories that extend or continue the lives of characters in his novels are iirreplaceable.  Then there are people who write stories of five pages or less that serve up the same kind of impact as a good poem: Lydia Davis, Shirley Jackson, Heinrich Boll, Luisa Valenzuela.  So there are short stories I wouldn't want to live without, but nothing stays with you like The Sound and the Fury or The Windup Bird Chronicles.