I'm intrigued by one of the current giveaway books, 'Swans Are Fat Too,' for its Polish history and broadly-reaching narrative. Even the description is well written and compelling. But I can't click to win it until I blog, evidently. So here I am. I'm a novel writer and a tweeter -- I like little tiny snippets of news (and links, often) or I like long literary explorations -- ideally with plenty of dialogue and left-of-center humor. I like poetry! And personal essay! But blogging, I'm not so sure. It's supposed to be a web-log of my life, right? I just never quite know where to start (or why) or when to end. But hopefully this little addition will suffice because I do hope to click to win those fat swans in Poland.
And one more thing... if I ever do figure out how to do it, I think I'll blog about my recent conversation on Arabic tattoos with an Emirati pilot I met on a flight to Rome. You never know where the most wonderful connections will occur. I lost the little notebook I had with me that day (sadly got all giddy with my bad self at Paul McVeigh's book launch at Waterstones in London -- for 'The Good Son,' which I highly recommend, if you haven't read that), and I dropped said notebook, never to be recovered... it had my name in Arabic lettering, a gift from my pilot friend, who has now sent me a scan of my name by email and told me of a new tattoo he's inked on his thigh... a Biblical quote in Latin about resisting temptation. See what I mean? There are unimaginable riches to write about, but putting them into a story format worth delivering is often beyond me. And until I can learn to gift-wrap an experience or a thought, I'm just not much of a blogger, I guess. Still -- please wish me luck with the Swans.
I hesitate to review this. I met Jim Shepard in March and heard him read the opening of 'The Book of Aron' just prior to publication. It was a fantastic delivery of a deeply compelling story. I wondered how it would hold up, this Holocaust story told through a child's perspective, by comparison to Anthony Doerr's 'All the Light We Cannot See,' which I'd read for the purpose of working with that author the same week. (If you're at all inclined to apply for the Sirenland Writers Conference, by all means, DO. It's a big investment in time, travel, and money, but did you just read that paragraph above? Seriously, do it).
Oh my, this novel holds up. I hadn't read the reviews. I didn't even read the blurbs on the back, and I'm grateful to the universe that I was led to this book by entirely organic and encouraging ways... The interviews and jacket copy all ought to have spoiler alerts. I can't believe I got to experience this young boy Aron's life in the Warsaw ghetto as Shepard unrolled it, much like the protagonist, never knowing what would happen when I turned the page. And boy, did I turn them fast.
It's an important book -- a word people sometimes use for a book without humor -- but this one, even in its darkest moments, reveals shafts of lightness and light. And yes, you'll learn something about history, about the Holocaust, about Poland and Warsaw and the Nazi invasion, and power and crowding and the complexities of heroism, jealousy, weakness, hunger, family, and fear. And typhus. And a lot of lice.
Yes, I'm skirting the issues of plot here, and even character... on purpose. Just read it.