Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Tuesday’s Thematic Thoughts?

I’ve finished a few books recently, and thought you might like in on them:

Waiting: One of the runner’s up for the 2000 Pulitzer Prize, author Ha Jin recreates Chinese culture in the late 50s through today via the married Lin (a doctor) and Manna, the nurse he wants to marry but cannot, since his wife (and the court) won’t grant him a divorce. For 18 long years, Manna faithfully waits while Jin makes the yearly trek back to his hometown asking, in vain, for a divorce from Shuyu, the bound-footed wife his parents picked for him more for their own ends than his.   

While fiction, the main characters are loosely based on real people Jin’s wife knew before the couple came to America for Jin’s education … and then eventually stayed after the events of Tiananmen Square. Waiting is in turns poignant, harsh, pragmatic, and above all, real. If you’re looking for sugar and happy endings, this is not the novel for you. If you want characters that make you think and feel, this should definitely make your reading short list. I read it with a group of fellow Ravelers, and our online discussion elicited strong, emotional reactions.

Zen and Now: On the Trail of Robert Pirsig and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: Author Mark Richardson records his experiences following the trail Robert Pirsig blazed on his motorcycle with his son Chris and two other travelers in the late 60s, famously recorded in the originally pink-covered Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I must admit that I was assigned Zen and the Art in an undergraduate course and barely skimmed it. At the time, I was not thrilled with it one little iota. (However, it was for a course that had so many otherwise awesome reading assignments that I’m not holding it against the prof.)

Reading Richardson’s second take gave me a new-found understanding of and appreciation for Zen and the Art. Richardson’s ride, and the insights he gleans from the journey between Minneapolis and San Francisco, are tied to a universal truth we all seek in one form or another: the true meaning of quality and the time it takes to produce it, in all facets of life. Richardson takes his time in telling his own story, using well-placed snippets from Pirsig’s original to highlight and underscore. For me, it worked. I found myself looking forward to reading my nightly passages from Zen and Now to see how Richardson handled each leg of his ride, as well as to rediscover, at least through Richardson’s lens, Pirsig’s own tale.

Maybe it is about the patience exhibited over time that also makes me want to comment on the recent, weekend events that have many Americans waving flags and talking about justice. Yes, Osama is dead. As someone who watched the events of 9/11 live from graduate school in New York City, I have very mixed emotions about this past weekend’s events. On the one hand, I feel a sense of relief – Osama needed to be found and captured, of that there is no doubt. The people who lost loved ones and friends can now have some measure of closure, however small.

On the other hand, watching innocent people jump to their deaths from burning buildings because they faced an unimaginable alternative is something that no amount of time will ever erase from my memory. There has been a lot of talk of justice these last two days, but I find no real justice in Osama’s death. Justice can only occur, as Martha Minow so eloquently wrote, in the space “between vengeance and forgiveness.” That space, that reconciliation really, can only be individually articulated. For me, I do not find it in Osama’s death, but longed to find it in seeing him be held publicly accountable for his crimes. But - it is what it is.

I’ll leave you on a much brighter note (and aren’t you glad for that!). I received some awesome fiber in a swap package yesterday – and here’s a photo of Schaefer Yarn’s Trenna in the Betty Friedan colorway (gotta love it everyone!):

I think I have just the right project in mind for these 1200 yards of yumminess. Creating is just about the best restorative there is.


  1. Thanks for the reviews, both sound like something I'd like to read so... onto the list they go :)

  2. I admire you for reading such thought provoking books. What great yarn you got there.

  3. Ha, I knew that if I watched your blog you would tempt me with yarny goodness. I have been without a wip for over a month, so I could probably use a yarn splurge soon.