Monday, February 11, 2008

"Things Fall Apart"

I've been wanting to write about stuff I've been reading, watching and listening to lately.

I recently finished reading a book for a history class I'm taking called "Things Fall Apart" by Chinua Achebe. It disturbed me. It's about a tribe in turn of the century Nigeria, and the changes they go through as they are invaded by Christian missionaries. I say "invaded" because that is essentially what they do. Just real aggressive.
It made me feel judgmental at first because all I was doing was judging how horrible a lot of the practices and customs of the tribe in the book were. I guess the thing I didn't like was how the author seemed not to condemn or condone their behavior.

What kind of a dummy am I?

What good would an author be if he commented on his own book?

I guess the practices, things like throwing away twins when they're born, and convincing children that they are "zombies", were so disturbing that I was looking for a friend to agree with me, and the author was committed to his storytelling technique so he was no help. Then midway through the book I realized that I'm glad he was so committed, and did not show bias, because when all of their customs and rituals are
corrupted by the white missionaries, you feel a part of your own world has been destroyed.

I didn't know how to feel at the end. I was angry and sad. I think Achebe accomplished what he set out to do.

It certainly changed my outlook, which I believe good books are supposed to do.

I would recommend it. Just press through passed the scary stuff at the beginning.

'The Road' By Cormac McCarthy.
I chose this at the airport today instead of 'No Country For Old Men', which I'd been previously set on buying, because I wanted to read a new story that I had no preconceived notions about. Lately I've had trouble reading books based on movies, most of which I bought on the spur of the moment, because I liked the films they were based on so much (See 'The Prestige' by Christopher Priest). Something about going over the same territory again. I'll buy No Country in a few weeks when I finish 'Road". I'm surprised I bought this one, because I know it's post-apocalyptic, and today I was feeling gloomy about returning to frozen tundra land (i.e. Utah), and it doesn't seem like to much of a "sunny story" we'll see. What's my obsession with depressing stories? I'm sure all my artsy and Oprah loving friends already read this after it won the Pulitzer, and the tenfold more coveted prize "THE Book Club Recommendation". Sad. Let's just hope James Frey isn't involved.

OTHER BOOKS I'M CURRENTLY READING - 'I Am Legend', a collection of Short Stories by Richard Matheson, including the novella for the recent film. I picked up this book because I loved how creepy and yet delightfully campy 'The Omega Man' was for me growing up, (Andy you know!) and I'd heard good things about Matheson. I'm pleased to say that some of his stories are delightfully messed up.(See "Dress of White Silk" or something along those lines.) Reminds me of Bradbury only on bad mushrooms, which is kind of cool if you think about it. Don't do drugs kids!

Also reading 'Gangs of New York', which I've owned for about 4 years now, and finally got bored and started reading one night. I love 19th and early 20th century city history, so it's right up my alley. I'm pleased to say it's nothing like the movie.


vonblake said...

Great description of Things Fall Apart. I felt the same way when I read it. It is easy for us to condemn the author for not taking a stand against the craziness in the book, but if he did, perhaps we would not be so outraged ourselves because we would feel like the matter had already been taken care of.

A Spooky Ghost said...

Haven't read Things Fall Apart yet. I am reading Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy though. I'll tell you how that goes.

Tell me how Gangs of New York goes. I've walked through that area multiple times and I always think about the movie and getting a cleaver in my back. I am suspicious of mustaches now.

ibid said...

Jeff, I just finished The Road; it is too good.

glad you found me pal.

Jeff B said...

It's good to hear from you! I'm so silly. I keep leaving 'The Road' at my office at night. I just want to hold it while I sleep.