Friday, April 2, 2010

Finding Time for Book Reviews and Friday Finds



 Friday Finds


(amazon)
Readers of Eire's award-winning memoir, Waiting for Snow in Havana, won't be surprised by the tongue-in-cheek title of the Yale history professor's latest book. Despite its heady topic, Eire's engaging style and sense of humor keep things light enough to carry readers through a history of how conceptions of forever, or eternity, have evolved in Western culture, and what role these conceptions have played in shaping our own self-understanding, personally and collectively. Beginning in the ancient cradle of civilization and ending with the postmodern present, the author addresses both religious and secular notions of eternity in the context of how people throughout time have treated such mysteries and conundrums as what happens after death and the relationship of time to space. Diagrams, photos and artistic representations accompanied by Eire's commentary illustrate difficult concepts or provide visual representation of how people have conceived of eternity in reincarnation, mystical experience, heaven and enduring truth. Eire gives readers so much to think about and in such an entertaining manner that he can be excused for occasionally overreaching.

(I loved this book - have you read it?)
(amazon) 
"Metaphors matter to me, especially perfect ones," Yale historian Eire writes in this beautifully fashioned memoir, as he recounts one of many wonderfully vibrant stories from his boyhood in 1950s Havana. As imaginatively wrought as the finest piece of fiction, the book abounds with magical interpretations of ordinary boyhood events-playing in a friend's backyard is like a perilous journey through the jungle; setting off firecrackers becomes a lyrical, cosmic opera; a child's birthday party turns into a phantasmagoria of American pop cultural icons. Taking his cue from his father, a man with "a very fertile, nearly inexhaustible imagination, totally dedicated to inventing past lives," Eire looks beyond the literal to see the mythological themes inherent in the epic struggle for identity that each of our lives represents. Into this fantastic idyll comes Castro-"Beelzebub, Herod, and the Seven-Headed Beast of the Apocalypse rolled into one"-overthrowing the Batista regime at the very end of 1958 and sweeping away everything that the author holds dear. A world that had been bursting with complicated, colorful meaning is replaced with the monotony of Castro's rhetoric and terrorizing "reform." Symbols of Jesus that had once provided spiritual enlightenment by popping up in the author's premonitions and dreams were now literally being demolished and destroyed by a government that has outlawed religion. The final cataclysm comes when Eire and his brother, still young boys, are shipped off to the United States to seek safety and a better life (another paradise, perhaps). They never see their father again.As painful as Eire's journey has been, his ability to see tragedy and suffering as a constant source of redemption is what makes this book so powerful. Where his father believed that we live many lives in different bodies, Eire sees his own life as a series of deaths within the same body. "Dying can be beautiful," he writes, "And waking up is even more beautiful. Even when the world has changed." Taking his cue from his beloved Jesus, the author believes that we repeatedly die for our sins and are reborn into a new awareness of paradise. How fortunate for readers, then, that by way of Eire's "confessions," they too will be able to renew their souls through his transcendent words.


 

19 comments:

  1. i review everything i finish, and comment on anything i know i will never finish. ;)

    ReplyDelete
  2. I review almost everything I read. Sometimes I will skip small paperbacks like Agatha Christies just because my readers don't need to know my thoughts on every single one!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I do review everything I read, but then I don't read so much in a month. As I am reading, I like taking a few notes, so that review-writing will be easier and faster. Good luck managing your time. I would say - this is likely the status quo for the first week, after that you will get settled into it.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Diane, I do review everything I read, but not everything I listen to. But, I don't read nearly as much as you do. So you're definitely off the hook in my book!

    ReplyDelete
  5. I do review everything I read. Waiting for Snow in Havana sounds wonderful - I haven't read it.

    ReplyDelete
  6. this year I've almost reviewed all that I've read except for a few graphic novels...I'm working on keeping mine short and sweet and then moving on!!!

    ReplyDelete
  7. I don't review everything I read. I could probably write more reviews if I managed my time, online and offline, better. :)

    Happy Friday!

    ReplyDelete
  8. I hadn't heard of Waiting for Snow in Havana, but it sounds excellent! And I do review everything I read - unless too long goes by and I can't remember enough to write a fair review anymore. But that happens seldom.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I post something about everything I read because I use my blog for an archive, but I don't read the volume of books that many of you bloggers do.

    I remember picking up this Havana book once and thinking it might be interesting. If you mix some humor with it, I'm in.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I review almost everything - I don't usually review classics. Your Friday Finds look interesting!

    ReplyDelete
  11. I review everything I read, b/c I like to keep track of my thoughts on a book.

    Waiting for Snow in Havana sounds like a book I would enjoy.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I review everything I read but you read way more than me so I can see how it can get overwhelming!

    ReplyDelete
  13. I try to review everything I read. I know the biggest problem with that for me is audio books and if I can't write the review and relisten to it and then write it.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I don't review everything that I read. I usually skip reviewing the ones I don't like.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Once and a while I am so overwhelmed by the greatness of a book I do not feel I can blog on it with out reducing the book and my experience of it-recently I felt that way about Flaubert' A Sentimental Education-I blog on about 95 or more percent of what I read

    ReplyDelete
  16. I've reviewed everything I've read for several years now. My work hours are so long that I usually wind up reviewing everything on the weekend when I have time, and I'm afraid that means that the reviews I read earlier in the week get short-changed because I'm not fresh out of the reading experience. I figure that even an okay review that basically says, "I liked this. Read it!" is better than nothing.

    I bought Waiting for Snow in Havana for my Cuban father-in-law, and he absolutely loved it. He said that it was everything that he remembered about growing up in Cuba. He got me curious, so I read it and enjoyed it too. The end with the politics got a little too heavy-handed for me, but I truly enjoyed learning what life was life for my father-in-law before coming to the U.S.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I loved WAITING FOR SNOW IN HAVANA, and didn't realize he had a new book out ...

    Yes, I review everything I read ... eventually :)

    ReplyDelete
  18. I try to review everything I read, but right now I'm lucky just to find reading time...

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for taking the time to visit and double thanks for any comments. If you ask a question in your comments, I will try to reply to it here, or by email if your settings allow me to do so. Thank again for visiting.

(I apologize for the word verification, spammers spoil it for all sadly.)