Friday, July 6, 2007

Reading for a Hot Climate

The West is in the midst of a heat wave—100+ temperatures for the last week—and my only relief from the heat is a fan. One measly fan.

Not surprisingly, my thoughts turn to “hot” literature. And I’m not talking about Paris Hilton hot. If I have to be miserably uncomfortable, then I wish I were somewhere exotic. Instead, I'll just write about a few books that take place in a hot climate:

  • I Dreamed of Africa: I read this book years ago—not long after the movie version came out. I thought the movie looked interesting. Rather than see it, though, I decided to read the book. I, like Kuki Gallmann, have always had a certain fascination with Africa. As such, I could sympathize with her to some extent; ultimately, though, the author garnered little sympathy from me. She left her son in a boarding school to live in Africa—she chose a country over her own child.
  • Dear Exile: One of my other secret desires is to join the Peace Corps. Dear Exile is an interesting exchange of letters between two friends—one who joined the Corps and one who stayed behind. Although I am one who has stayed behind, I felt more kinship with Kate Montgomery—who was posted in Africa—than Hilary Liftin. Maybe one day I, like Kate, will garner the courage to actually join.
  • The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency: I had to include this series even though I know these Alexander McCall Smith books are old news. However, I recently read the eighth book in the series, The Good Husband of Zebra Drive, and I enjoyed it as much as the first. When the first book was published in the United States, I admit some reluctance to read it. How could a white male write from the perspective of a black female? I was skeptical, to say the least. In general, I don’t believe a writer can authentically write about another gender or culture. Yet, McCall Smith does it. Granted, I have never been anywhere in Africa—let alone Botswana—but Precious Ramotswe sounds exactly as I imagine Precious Ramotswe should sound. The books have a light tone and rhythm and are not simply pleasure reading—they have genuine literary qualities to them.

I’m growing even warmer writing about these books. Perhaps I should read something from a cold climate to cool me down. Don’t I have a copy of Doctor Zhivago laying around somewhere?

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