The Courier-Journal from Louisville, Kentucky on September 4, 2010 · Page A7
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The Courier-Journal from Louisville, Kentucky · Page A7

Louisville, Kentucky
Issue Date:
Saturday, September 4, 2010
Page A7
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Time: 09-03-2010 18:14 User: jmeshew PubDate: 09-04-2010 Zone: KY Edition: 1 Page Name: A 7 Color: Black WHAT'S HOT BOOKS SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 4, 2010 Keith Runyon, editor 582-4594 1 Fax: 582-4155 A triumph of hope, love "Cutting for Stone" by Abraham Verghese (Vintage, 688 pp., $15.95, paperback). That Abraham Verghese is a doctor and a writer is already established; the miracle of this novel is how organically the two are entwined. I've not read a novel wherein medicine, the practice of it, is made as germane to the storytelling process, to the overall narrative, as the author manages to make it happen here. The medical detail is stunning, but it never overwhelms the humane and narrative aspects of this moving and ambitious novel. This is a first-person narration where the first-person voice appears to disappear, but never entirely; only in the beginning are we aware that the voice addressing us is speaking from the womb! And what terrific characters even the most minor players are given a full history. There is also a sense of great foreboding; by the midpoint of the story, one dreads what will further befall these characters. The foreshadowing is present in the chapter titles, too "The School of Suffering" not least among them! "Cutting for Stone" is a remarkable achievement. John Irving John Irving is the author of "The World According to Garp." Best sellers (LOUISVILLE) L Postcard Killers by James Patterson. 2. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. 3. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson. 4. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. 5. Crimes Against Liberty by David Limbaugh. 6. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese. 7. The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson. 8. True Blue by David Baldacci. 9. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. 10. Little Bee by Chris Cleave. 11. Are You There Vodka? It's Me Chelsea by Chelsea Handler. 12. The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory. 13. Women, Food and God by Geneen Roth. 14. The Help by Kathryn Stock- ett. 15. Sht My Dad Says by Justin Halpern. Based on sales at Louisville branches of Borders Books & Music Author events at CarmichaePs Two upcoming author events in Louisville: David Herlihy, author of "Lost Cyclist: The Epic Tale of an American Adventurer and His Mysterious Disappearance," will be at Carmichael's Bookstore, 2720 Frankfort Ave, at 7 p.m. Thursday. The book is about the joys and dangers accompanying renowned high-wheel racer and long-distance tourist Frank Lenz in the days before paved roads and automobiles. Jessica Leader, local educator and young-adult author, will discuss her debut novel, "Nice and Mean," at Carmichael's at 4 p.m. Saturday. This is the story of two middle-school girls who face off in their video elective class. Popularity and diversity are at the heart of the drama in this story of middle-school peer pressure. Life story is moving By Aimee Zaring Special to The Courier-Journal Aug. 15, 1947: The date India gained independence from British rule. The date one country was divided into two, segregated by religion, resulting in riots and murders and one of the largest migrations in human history. Neela Vaswani's father was among the 14 million people displaced and relocated, rendered homeless and landless. In explaining to his young son the word partition, Vaswani's grandfather slapped his hand against a wall: "This separates one side from the other." It is this very divisiveness that BOOK author and edu- REVIEW cation activist . Vaswani chal-You Have Given k through. Me a Country out her deepl By Neela Vaswani moving memoir Sarabande Books You Have Given 208 pp.; $15.95 Me a Country; In the spirit of full disclosure, I have known Vaswani, who has a Ph.D. in American cultural studies and teaches at Spalding University's MFA in Writing Program, for many years. I have always admired her lyrical, innovative writing, including her award-winning collection of stories, "Where the Long Grass Bends." But I had no idea when I began her second book that I would be embarking on such a mind-expanding journey, that I would meet such unforgettable characters or discover such a sacred message. Hers is the message of unity, grace and love. "You Have Given Me a Country" is a mixed being a unique fusion of styles and genres. One would expect perhaps no less from r the offspring of an Irish-Catholic mother and Sindhi-Indian father. Vaswani guides us through her parents' fascinating childhoods, the courageous journey that brought them together and her own unique experience as a bicul-tural child growing up in America. As a young girl, Vaswani liked to play a game: Unfocus Your Eyes. Objects would bleed together, become undistinguishable. "No man, no woman, no table, no chair." An apt metaphor for the interconnec-tedness Vaswani sought in real life. Vaswani recounts the time she and her parents entered a store in North Carolina. The clerk, after sizing up the three, asked Vaswani's mother if she was a Christian. When her mother replied affirmatively, he pointed to Vaswani and said, "That's disgusting," then threatened them with a shotgun. Vaswani found refuge in story, the power of words. "To join things, even opposites, was as easy as writing the word 'and.' " Vaswani's parents shared their faith and family stories "as an act of love, of resurrection" They taught their daughter to listen to words, even if she couldn't understand their meaning. "It was a taking of words into the body, like Communion, -4)k ; A A. '' Neela Vaswani emerges as a hero in her book, along with her parents. like prashad. A seeking after words, a seeking after God. A God of paper, a God of trees. A God of ink." Though Vaswani sometimes felt divided growing up, like there was a war within her body, she also learned how to hold two things in her mind at once. "Two feelings, two ideas, two languages. The in-between, inside me. Like two spotlights on a dark stage, coming together. And where they overlapped it was brightest. It was easiest to see." Vaswani's book is like the spotlight on that dark stage, illuminating the pain of isolation and the cruelty of prejudice, but also the beauty, wonder and necessity of Other. Vaswani avoids one of the common pitfalls of memoirists self-pity. Hope, humor and an indomitable spirit fill these pages, and by book's end, three heroes have emerged: Vaswani's parents, who defied the cultural, religious and societal norms of their time and instilled in Vaswani a love and appreciation of story; and Vaswani herself, brave enough to "pledge allegiance to the in-between" and to deliver the often unpopular message of tolerance and compassion. "To me, the point of love is to overcome difference. Nothing is too hard for love. Not threats, not a lifetime of alienation, not money, not religion, not skin, not ruined reputation, not gigantic corporations with a long reach, not famine, genocide, poverty, government, not the power of one's raising. Nothing is too hard for love. Nothing." Aimee Zaring is a Louisville writer and native. Brilliant look at the world of light Brox's prose shines By Scott Coffman Special to The Courier-Journal "I will love the light for it shows me the way, yet I will endure the darkness for it shows me the stars." 0G MANDIN0 0923-1996) Urbanites may find it nearly impossible to imagine a time without light. So much of a city's very existence is owed to this precious and overlooked commodity: Without artificial light, the 24-hour center of commerce would not exist. Instead, our vast concrete canyons would stand empty and echo hollowly, perhaps lit occasionally by a flickering candle or firelight. Yet only a few generations ago, the "day" was what the sun made: Families would retreat to the safety of the indoors to continue living for a few stolen hours by manmade illumination, but ultimately the darkness of sleep came soon after the darkness of sunset. Jane Brox's book is a, well, brilliant look at not only the creation of artificial light, but the many ways it has transformed the world. The subtitle refers to light other than the sun or moon, so the author has a broad canvas upon which to paint her compelling narrative. Brox's prose engulfs the reader in the sensations of the eras she describes: You can feel the foggy mist encroach upon you in the darkness of Victorian streets, and the prairie darkness is a malevolent predator held at bay by timid candle flame. Besides her descriptive gifts, the author crafts a propulsive narrative from the many examples of human ingenuity she expounds on. An early match, for example, was a strip of paper whose tip had BOOK REVIEW Brilliant: The Evolu tion of Artificial Light By Jane Brox Houghton Mifflin Harcourt $25; 368 pp. i V (T EVOLUTION j K J ARTIFICIAL ' J V ' I AM been dipped in phosphorus. It was sealed in a glass tube which, when broken, ignited the chemical. From this convoluted and dangerous beginning evolved the modern safety match. Candles and lamp fuels followed similar evolutionary paths, gaining popularity with each technological improvement. Their increased safety with each iteration also guaranteed that users would live long enough to buy replacements. Dozens of these developments are laid out in a clear path from early civilization to modern man, with each creation furthering the advance of humanity even as the light created defeats the night. Another strength of the book is the author's focus: Her story spans the world as well as the ages, giving equal due to disparate lands and times. The burning bear fat and rock lamps of the wintry Alaskan lands share space with the City of Light; prehistoric cave drawings dancing in firelight share pages with the walls of light in modern art galleries. She also spends not a few pages explaining the problems created by all this illumination in a chapter called "At the Mercy of Light," in which we learn the physical, psychological and sociological problems that can be created by too much of good thing. Finally, she delves into the ways in which light can spread hope into the developing world. "Brilliant" is an astounding read that engulfs the reader in darkness and then metes out light and illumination with each chapter. You'll never flip a switch nonchalantly again. Scott Coffman is a writer, cartoonist and bookseller who lives in Louisville. A loving taste of Vietnam Author's words let readers almost smell the cooking By Deborah Aubespin Special to The Courier-Journal In reading "Communion, A Culinary Journey Through Vietnam," I was struck by the fact that it was everything that "Eat, Pray, Love" was not. It was not self-indulgent. It was lovingly written by a young woman whose depth of understanding and deep appreciation of another culture and its culinary delights teases the reader to follow her on her odyssey to a country she knows well. This was not a quickie jaunt into foreign parts but a true journey to more deeply delve into the food ways of a country the author loves. Written by Kim Fay, a Los Angeles-based writer, editor, foodie and traveler, the book is a Valentine to a part of Asia that most Americans know only through a failed war and perhaps its restaurants. Traveling with the author north from the former Saigon to areas regarded as specializing in particular dishes, readers discover that Kim Fay has an un canny ability through her gifted writing skills to allow one to almost smell the cooking, feel the southern Vietnamese heat and the mountainous cold and along with Fay, ache for clam rice. Her physical senses explore Vietnamese food with a passionate energy. She learns to prepare regional dishes haltingly at first and then more confi dently as she progresses through classes given by very different teachers whose skills she hopes to emulate back in Los Angeles. The other teachers she encounters and there are many, from her "adopted" family in Saigon to ex-pats whose lives are now very Vietnamese, to everyday women and men she meets along the way create an Asian tapestry of warmth, humor and appreciation. Historical reasons for the development of particular dishes are duly noted and underscored in order to disabuse the reader of any ethnic prejudices. This is a special book and is recommended for all whose lives are enhanced by reading beautifully written observations of a country most of us will probably never visit. Deborah Aubespin, a writer and teacher, lives in Louisville. BOOK REVIEW Communion: A Culinary Journey Through Vietnam By Kim Fay Global Directions Things Asian Press 325 pp., $19.95 (paperback)

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