Thursday, June 28, 2007

A Thousand Splendid Suns

In a previous blog entry I raved about The Kite Runner, the debut novel from novelist Khaled Hosseini. When I heard his second novel was about to be published I was a bit apprehensive. How does someone follow-up such an astounding debut? Would the new book be a thinly veiled rehash of the first? Would Hosseini become a footnote in the literary world as a one-hit wonder?

Happily, Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns is a tremendous novel that in some ways is better than its predecessor. It’s the story of two Afghan women, spanning three decades, whose lives are brought together through a series of tragic events: war, deceptions, betrayal, spousal abuse, murder, and death. It’s sometimes brutal, but always honest. These characters are real. Their lives are a testament to the power of survival.

The book’s title is taken from a 17th Century poem by Saib-e-Tabrizi:

One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs, or the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls...

I admit my ignorance when it comes to Afghanistan. All I really knew was what I’d heard on television and through newspaper, which we all know is a slanted perception. This book gave me a lot of insight and understanding into a culture that is so different from who I am.

There’s a movie of The Kite Runner coming out this year. Let’s hope the filmmakers create a film that compliments the book and doesn’t embarrass it.

I anxiously await Hosseini's next novel.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

He's a Universal Soldier

These past few days I’ve been totally engrossed in reading A Long Way Home: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah.

Beah’s journey from youngster to alone and homeless in war torn Sierra Leone to teenage soldier forced to perform unthinkable torture on civilians and soldiers to rehabilitation and escaping his country is astounding. It’s written in a matter-of-fact style that doesn’t ask for sympathy but simply tells his story the way it happened.

At times I was in disbelief, horrified, and uncomfortable at what I was reading. But I knew I had to continue reading. Beah’s story is that important.

I look back on my own teenage years and cannot imagine being so young and having to endure what happened to Beah. For me the biggest worry was what I was going to do on Friday night. For Beah is was whether or not he’d survive the barrage of bullets, scarcity of food, and torture that surrounded him.

Let’s hope that A Long Way Home: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier reaches a mass audience and convinces people that child soldiers are not the answer.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Speaking In Tongue...

Last night a friend and I ventured over the hill into North Hollywood to catch the opening night of a one-man show called "Almost Walking A Straight Line" at the Secret Rose Theatre. It's written and performed by the talented Greg Haskins.

Back in the day when I was a theatre critic I sat through numerous one-person shows that ran the gambit from wretched to mediocre to outstanding, with very few achieving outstanding status. I remember one particular show (somewhere between wretched and mediocre) where there were eleven people in the audience: ten friends of the performer and me, the newspaper critic. After every song the friends would slowly look my way to gauge my reaction. Their applause was forced and their whispered praises were loud enough so I could hear. It was not a good theatre experience.

Luckily "Almost Walking A Straight Line" has wonderful moments with some crisp writing. It's Haskins' story of growing up in an overly zealous Charismatic Catholic family in the mid-west and his struggle with being gay, Catholic, and feeling trapped within the confines of religion.

He spent years praying and participating in various religious therapies that were promising to set him straight. (Sounds a bit like Scientology and certain gay celebrities, doesn't it?) Did he succeed? Hell no.

Haskins' recollections make for some very comical moments, especially his attempts at speaking in tongues.

I thoroughly enjoyed the show and like all good theater, it got me all excited to get up off my lazy ass more often and to go to more shows. And I plan on doing just that.