Monday, 14 May 2018

Reading Challenge Week 19 - A Book with a One-Word Title

This week's challenge in the 52 Book Reading Challenge was to read a book with a one-word title. When you're only using one word in the title, that word has to do a lot. It has to declare the book's intentions, give you an idea about what you'll find inside the book and grab the reader's attention.

A lot of books with one-word titles end up with subtitles trying to pick up some of the slack (particularly on the cover). We chose to forgive these books, just because we can, as long as they only had one-word titles on the title page.

Brenda Carter read Colour by Edith Anderson Feisner.

Colour by Edith Anderson Feisner (701.85 FEI) is not a book I would normally pick up, however it made a splash on the shelving trolley and it’s always good to read something outside your comfort zone.

The book’s subtitle is How to use colour in art and design. It provides an in-depth treatment of colour theory but the chapters that interested me most explored the influence of colour – in symbolism, language and emotion, and health care, as well as sections on how colour has been used throughout history in fashion, and in the environmental, studio and commercial arts.

With colourful illustrations on every page and useful appendices of colour charts, summary tables and a comprehensive glossary, Colour is an illuminating read for the art student and recreational reader alike.

Scott Dale read Pnin by Vladimir Nabokov.

Nabokov wrote Pnin (found on the shelves at 891.7 NAB 2C PNI) in sections, publishing the final book in 1957. Pnin was written while Nabokov’s most famous novel Lolita (also a contender for this week’s challenge) was finished but remained unpublished. But this is no Lolita - Timofey Pavlovich Pnin and Lolita’s narrator Humbert Humbert are markedly different characters.

I am always impressed by Nabokov’s precise use of language. That he wrote so many great works in English, rather than his native Russian, makes it more remarkable.

But to the book at hand. Professor Pnin teaches Russian in a U.S. College. He is “ideally bald, sun-tanned, and clean-shaven” with a big upper body and little legs. Pnin has not improved his English from the basic level he quickly achieved and for most of the book, he boards in various imperfect rooms around town. The story spends a lot of time in the academic world of the college but also takes us back to Pnin’s journey to the U.S. and to a country gathering of Russian emigrants which felt to me a bit like a Robert Altman film.

Pnin is both funny and sad. Many of the comedic moments come from the clown-ish Pnin but as I learned more of his past, I was sometimes unsure whether to laugh or cry at this comically tragic figure. 

Sharon Bryan read Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi.

Quite a number of the books we've reviewed over the past few weeks could fit into more than one category in the 52 book challenge, so sometimes the challenge is to chose which week to review that particular book.

Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis (955.054 SAT) fits into so many categories, it's almost ridiculous. It's a non-fiction book (week 5), a book by a female author (week 7), a book that became a film (week 9), a book with a name in the title (week 12), a book you can finish in a day (week 17), a previously banned book (week 18), a book with a one word title (week 19), a book translated from another language (week 20), a memoir or journal (week 22), A book by someone from another country (week 23), an award winning book (week 25), a book with a place in the title (week 28), a scary book (week 31 - although the events in the book are scary, not the book itself), a funny book (week 32), a book with an appealing cover (week 42), a graphic novel (week 45 - although technically it's a graphic autobiography), a book from another country (week 48) and - for me - a book set in a country I've never been to (week 51).

Now, just going through that list makes Persepolis sound like an interesting book - and it is. Marjane Satrapi, who studied visual communication and illustration, uses striking black-and-white illustrations to tell the story of the political upheaval in Iran during the period from 1979-1983 through the eyes of her childhood self. There's a 'knowingness' to the book that comes from a memoir written with the aid of hindsight, but at the same time the book always rings true as the story of a 10 year old girl who is experiencing events that are so much bigger than she could ever imagine (and yet, become part of the fabric of her imagination). Iran in the late 20th century is going through an immense upheaval - and it's fascinating to watch this upheaval through the eyes of a young girl.

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