Quickie reviews: Oyeyemi, Womack, Granta

White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi: A haunted house book mixed with soucouyant myths mixed with class/race wars mixed with paranoia…and the list goes on.  The novel  left my head spinning in a good way.  Told through multiple POVs overlap and contradict, Miranda (who suffers from pica) lives with her twin brother Elliot and father Luc.  Their mother Lily died and but Luc refuses to leave Silver House: once owned by Lily, now run as a bed and breakfast, a house that dislikes and ultimately attacks non-British guests and help.   Oyeyemi achieves some real moments of dread throughout, but the true feat is the sense of disorientation she creates, while still managing to keep it all together.

Random Acts of Senseless Violence by Jack Womack:  Like Oyeyemi’s book, this novel is masterwork of style.  Told through the diary of 12 year old Lola Hart, the plot is basic: Lola is the daughter of well-to-do Manhattanites, America begins to collapse, and she documents it.  Eventually, Lola’s parents have to move to a slum, where Lola is befriended by locals, Iz, Jude, and Weezie, who form their own gang.  Lola’s voice transforms as the novel progresses, as does her character.  What makes this one of the best apocalyptic novels I’ve ever read, is the character work and detail Womack gives Lola and the novel in general.   A terrifying and sad book, but in an odd way, somewhat uplifting, as Lola is Job-esque in the amount of suffering she is made to endure, but endure she does, solely through the power of her own self.

Granta issue 107:   This features two powerful essays.

American Power (with accompanying photo essay) by Mitch Epstein.  He spent years taking pictures of America’s power suppliers.  Besides the obviously chilling environmental impact, he was trying to take these photos during the height (depth?) of the Bush Administration, and encountered problems, shall we say:

“It was true–I had already gone through many interrogations by then.  One resulted from a call the police had received in Shippingport, Pennsylvania, reporting a man on Main Street carrying a missile launcher.  The missile launcher was my tripod.  A police officer escorted me out of town, explaining that the power company I was photographing didn’t allow pictures.  I had broken no law, however, having attempted to photograph a coal stack from a public street in the centre of town.  Apparently, Shippingport police now enforced corporate instead of constitutional law.  I was witnessing the Patriot Act in action.”

“Capital Gains” by Rana Dasgupta details India’s capitalistic takeover of their culture.  The stories of social caste place determined by the car you drive (and how you can get away with vehicular homicide if you drive a fancy enough car) and other tales of people and culture being trampled under a corporate foot are horrifying, made more so by the realization that while it’s somewhat new in India, here in America, we’re totally used to it.

“Delhi is a segregated city; an impenetrable, wary city – a city with a fondness for barbed wire, armed guards and guest lists. Though its population now knocks up against 20 million, India’s capital remains curiously faithful to the spirit of the British administrative enclave with which it began: Delhiites admire social rank, name-dropping and exclusive clubs, and they snub strangers who turn up without a proper introduction. The Delhi newspapers pay tribute every morning to the hairstyles and parties of its rich, and it is they, with their high-walled compounds and tinted car windows, who define the city’s aspirations. Delhi’s millionaires are squeamish about public places, and they don’t like to go out unless there are sufficient valets and guards to make them feel at home, and prices exorbitant enough to keep undesirables out.”

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1 Comment

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One response to “Quickie reviews: Oyeyemi, Womack, Granta

  1. I read Random Acts of Senseless Violence several years ago. And it really and truly crushed me. Womack’s stuff is usually slightly wacky dystopian future so I wasn’t really prepared for the bite of the novel.

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