30 March 2005

8. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

A good book. It didn't grab me the way it grabbed the others, but it was good. Things came a little too full circle, though, a couple of times. Things that if I read them when I taught 9th grade Lit I would have crossed them out.

With that, I admit that there were gripping parts, by the last 100 pages I couldn't put it down. Some of it was shocking, and after a while I kept waiting to be surprised.

Anyway, read this book before the movie version comes out.

17 March 2005

7. In Dubious Battle by John Steinbeck

Finally, another book read. February was a tough month for reading (and for biking - I got about 20 miles, if that).

I'll say right from the start that Steinbeck is one of my favorite writers. One of my favorite books is "The Winter of Our Discontent." Probably in my top five. And the other Steinbeck books I have read I'bve enjoyed a lot. Not just for the style of writing, the dialog and description, but the ideas and things the characters make me think about.

This book is set in the 1930s and concerns a labor strike at an apple orchard. Jim and Mac are the main characters and they set off to organize the strike. They do so by talking to the workers about how lousy their living conditions are, how lousy their work supplies are, and how low their wages are. Mac is the more experienced leader and Jim is supposed to be his student, learning how to organize laborers into strikers. Jim constantly asked Mac to use him, that he wants to be used to further the cause, and man, does Mac come through.

The story made me a bit sad, seeing how the labor organizers manipulated the workers into strikers by explaining how the owners manipulate them into being animals. Is that what it comes down to? The most persuasive manipulators? Mac turns heartbreak into opportunity (an old Wobblie falls off a ladder and breaks his hip which Mac exploits to illuminate how crappy their tools are) and so on. Whenever the strike looks like it breaks down, Mac tries to push a few more buttons to get the mob worked up. And while the goal is a better wage for the apple pickers (and to show the cotton growers they can't cut wages in the Autumn either) the long term goal is to get the strike to last as long as possible and to put up as much a fight as possible. Like a general in a war who doesn't care about casualties, Mac keeps pushing and pushing, small scale consequences be damned.

Though having said that I am a sucker for characters who act rather than get acted upon.

Like "The Winter of Our Discontent" the ending is not fully explained and spelled out, leaving it to the reader to sort of create a last chapter on his/her own.

This was a good book.