Nobody has evinced interest in this series, but this has not deterred me. Forward march!
Ayiti by Roxane Gay
I am 138th on my library’s hold list for Roxane Gay’s Hunger. I think it is safe to say I am taken by this author, I seem to be working my way through her titles – in reverse order, but that should not matter I think.
Ayiti is Roxane Gay’s first book – a collection of short stories in which she mines the Haitian experience, both in Haiti and the United States. While we know what the news tells us about Haiti – the instability, the natural disasters, the poverty – Gay’s characters help us get acquainted with conflicts in the inner world. The scorn a local reserves for someone who left the country, while simultaneously revealing a desperation to escape, the immigrant’s yearning for the country left behind, which grows more and more idyllic in repeated reminisces, the outsider trying to make sense of an American culture that is baffling – these people offer us such contrasting perspectives. The author acts as a literary anthropologist, by giving to us many Haitis and people. Each story is complete in itself, but together, the collection immerses us thoroughly in its world. The narratives are different each time too – sometimes written to shock, sometimes a curious mix of the mundane and magical, a poem or a letter, memoir or fantasy. These stories succeed by not reducing Haiti to a convenient adjective – exotic or dangerous. This Haiti is both real and imagined, tragic and beautiful, like every place whose secrets have been unearthed by those that belong.
Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
Fates and Furies picks apart a marriage, one that is seemingly successful. We are given both sides, with interjections in square brackets from an authorial voice that resembles a Greek chorus. [Yes]
Lancelot “Lotto” Satterwhite is the one we like to call a Greek God – tall, blond, with an ugly face that makes him oddly handsome, and rich – a golden boy with a shining future. Mathilde Yoder is nobody, an Ice Queen, tall and bony, all sharp angles and small smiles.
They marry young, and start their life with ambition and in poverty. Soon it becomes apparent that Lotto is destined to be a failed actor, and it is left to Mathilde to look after the practicalities of living together. She holds the house together. One night, in a drunken haze, Lotto writes a play that shows a spark of brilliance. Mathilde corrects it, edits it and ensures its success, while Lotto, unaware, continues to play the part of Genius.
Both versions follow roughly the same years of the marriage, but in Mathilde’s version, the marriage is transformed into something far less ideal. We come to see how Lotto sees her not as her own person, but rather, as an extension of himself – the person who is fulfilled by making his life run smoothly. She is the more interesting one in this partnership, the one with secrets and malice. We are always left questioning if she is good or evil. She is both at different times, grey at the best of times.
Some revelations are cliched – like the man whom Mathilde meets, Ariel. He agrees to pay for four years of college if she consents to being abused by him. The things he does to her are details I could have lived without. Lotto’s side of the story is interspersed with excerpts from his plays, which were tedious to read. I was also a bit taken aback by the level of manipulation and dishonesty, which might even put some people off marriage, probably not too difficult to achieve in a post Gone Girl world.
But this is the most exasperating novel I have read in recent times.
So this is it for today. If you like the pictures that accompany these not-reviews, please let me know. No, I do not own a camera. I use an android phone that has seen better days. Until we meet again!