Archive for June, 2009

Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin: Three Cups of Tea

Posted by nybookworm on June 17, 2009

3 cupsThree Cups of Tea has become incredibly famous and widely-read so I won’t bother with too much background.  It’s a book about one man’s (Greg Mortenson) efforts to build schools throughout rural Pakistan and eventually Afghanistan. Mortenson was an avid mountain climber, which is how he ended up in rural Pakistan in the first place (trying to climb K2) so the book is packed with references to climbers and the climber lifestyle. This is obviously a timely book that is well-written with a lot of powerful images of the poverty and lifestyle of Pakistan’s rural mountain people. It’s also entertaining and enlightening but it is obviously by no means an impartial look at Mortenson’s work and his Central Asia Institute (CAI). It’s basically a promotional pamphlet for CAI turned into a book and it should be read as such.

Link to the book’s website: www.threecupsoftea.com


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Joyce Carol Oates: The Falls

Posted by nybookworm on June 9, 2009

JoyceCarolOatesJoyce Carol Oates is one of most prolific authors of our time.  At my last count she has written over 38 novels, 11 novellas, 34 collections of short stories and many other novels under various pseudonyms she uses.  I have read many of her novels, have heard her speak and think she is one of the greatest writers of her generation (she disagrees, BTW).   But it has been a little while since I last picked up one of her books so when I saw The Falls at my local bookstore I had the urge to dive back into the Oates library.

Having said all that, I don’t think The Falls is her greatest novel I have read.   The novel begins around the late 1940s in Niagara falls where Ariah’s new husband commits suicide on their honeymoon. The novel progresses through the 40s and 50s as Ariah meets and falls in love with an influential Niagara falls lawyer who is attracted to Ariah’s tragic story and her frailty in the wake of her husband’s suicide.  The story follows Ariah and her family through the birth and adulthood of her three children with the falls figuring as a prominent character throughout.  Although Oates is known for her portrayal of tragic heroines, Ariah is not her best or most sympathetic character.   She is certainly a product of her time and her experiences and the reader is never allowed to forget that but her frailty and distrust of life make her very difficult to relate to and a hard character to digest.  I generally think it’s admirable to write unsympathetic characters as leads in a story but I think Oates takes Ariah’s melodrama a tad too far in this novel and it infects the rest of the characters and the story in a way befitting of a soap opera not an Oates novel. 

In any event, the last thing I would like of this review is to discourage readers from Oates’ excellent works.  I highly recommend the following of her novels which I have read: them (National Book Award winner 1970); Marya (1998); You Must Remember This (1998); Because it is Bitter, and Because it is my Heart (1991)

This is the Amazon link to the “Joyce Carol Oates page” on which you can find all of her novels:  http://www.amazon.com/Joyce-Carol-Oates/e/B000APT3DK/ref=ep_sprkl_at_B000APT3DK?pf_rd_p=478269791&pf_rd_s=auto-sparkle&pf_rd_t=301&pf_rd_i=joyce%20carol%20oates&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_r=1BYEXHV5QZSJGS8G3XCF

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