Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A Thousand Splendid Suns

A Thousand Splendid Suns A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
The accessibility to the Western reader of Hossieni's narrative journey through the eras of modern Afghanistan is an incredible accomplishment on its own. Add to that the care with which he crafted the characters who drive this story forward, and this novel becomes a signal to me of a writer who will hopefully continue digging deep into the well of his craft, alternately enchanting and educating.

Not everyone who liked Kite Runner will like this novel, but I prefer it. The page turning suspense of his first work is reduced here to moments of narrative climax, while the overall tone is one of subtle persistence. There is an insistence upon the reader to recognize that the mundane in one context can be horrifying or electrifying in another. Sorrow and joy are explored here as Kahlil Gibran paints them--they are inseparable.

In this novel, the ambiguity of Amir's actions in Kite Runner is now extended to nearly every character portrayed. Each has the stain of complexity that makes us truly human. Though the reader might be unfamiliar with the cultural setting, there is a similarity that invites empathy while simultaneously defying universality. The joys and sorrows of the people of Afghanistan--Pashtun, Tajik, Hazara, and Uzbek alike--are unique to their history. Yet, in making us laugh and cry through their stories, Hosseini allows us a vital, and all too brief connection.

I highly recommend this novel.

View all my reviews.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Produce Row

Every Monday night from approximately 8:30-11:30pm there is a jazz jam at Produce Row. The quality of the music depends on the caliber of musicians who show up each night, but it is always worth the $3 cover.

Tonight was different though. I have never seen so many musicians and such a high caliber of musicians at a Monday night jam. Some of them had played with the likes of Etta James, the Stan Kenton Orchestra, and Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. Tonight's overall instrumentation included:

Four vocalists
Five drummers
Three pianists
Two tenor saxophonists
Three trumpeters
One flugelhornist (Not your flugelhornist, Jesse)
Three guitarists
Three bassists
And finally, one bad ass who did things on the bass so ridiculous that he has to be listed in his own category - Essiet Essiet (the last bassist to play with the late Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers).

And that's just the people who got the green light to play.

I'm exhausted. I should have been asleep hours ago, as I work at 5:15 this morning. But, the music I heard tonight will not let me sleep.

That is the power of jazz.

Monday, March 23, 2009

These Days

I had a lover
I don't think I'd risk another these days
These days
And if I seem to be afraid to live the life
I've made in song
It's just that I've been losing
So long

--Kathryn Williams, These Days (originally by Jackson Browne)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

I'm in the same boat...

“I’ve been grappling with that a lot lately: how I have certain obligations to both the past and the future, and they’re not always easily reconciled. I think it’s important to feel the full weight of history sometimes, but there’s also a place for being fearless about things…you know, being naïvely hopeful, taking risks. I’ve been given a pretty amazing life, and I’m grateful for everything it took to put me here. So now the question is, ‘How do I spend this inheritance wisely?'”

--Vienna Teng, from an interview on the Aladdin Theater webpage

If you've never heard Vienna Teng's music, I envy you the discovery process. She has inspired me time and again as both a writer and musician with her sublimely crafted songs, overachieving albums, and enchanting performances.

I'll be there to see her at the Aladdin Theater on April 22nd, 8pm. If you set aside just 50 cents a day, you can easily pay the $17 cover and join me. Afterward, we can discuss how we paid a bargain price to see a treasure of modern American music.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Street Ballet

Walking home tonight, it got all bunched up inside--the contentment, the angst, the worry, the uncertainty, the excitement, the longing. I tried to pound the asphalt into some semblance of sensibility, my pace quickening to match an eerily appropriate waltz by Laura Marling.

All I could think about was how good it would feel to run through the streets, jagged breath and murmuring heart carrying me up toward the enchanted night sky. How free it would feel to loose gravity in a Swan Lake leap over the puddled curbside. How simple it would be without the need to run toward something or away from something. How elemental it would be to just run.

I thought about it all the way home, hands stuffed in pockets, feet disappointed in their downward mobility.