Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Kite Runner

The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini

Kiterunner was somewhat of an impulse purchase and impulse read; I had seen it “around” on store shelves, bestseller lists, and had recently noticed it on an Advanced Placement English reading list. So, my curiosity got the best of me when I noticed a lone copy left on the Middle East display table of a new, local bookstore. It’s not as if I needed another book to read right now (see sidebar) but as I thumbed through it I could tell it would be a quick read, and though I don’t read many recently published novels these days, I did want to know what all the acclaim was about. How easily I forget The DiVinci Code.

With over 2000 reader reviews logged at Amazon, The Kite Runner hardly needs another one, but I'll go ahead and add my two cents, mostly because I'm not very good at reviewing books and need some practice.

Reading the coming of age story of Amir, a privledged Afghani living in Kabul inthe 1970s, was not without pleasure. Hosseini writes as an insider and I enjoyed reading descriptions based on childhood memories of his homeland. I also felt like a bit of an insider myself as I found I was able to understand most of the Farsi transliterations, being closely related to Arabic and the Eastern themes of shame and honor, amongs others, were not hard for me to relate to. Additionally, a significant part of the novel is set in Fremont, California, the city I lived in from 1975-1978; the author's mention of Lake Elizabeth, Washington Boulevard, Ohlone Junior College and the San Jose Flea Market sent me waxing nostalgic.

The Literary Review says of Hosseini and The KiteRunner: "His description of Amir's relationship with Hassan is beautifully nuanced, and the moment of Amir's ultimate betrayal is genuinely shocking." Now this is a comment I can agree with. Though meant to be an endorsing comment, as it is in the back of the book, and while I have other positive and negative things to say about this book, the shocking moment of ultimate betrayal is the where the book lost it charm for me--though I admittedly read to the end.

As I said, I don't read many current bestsellers so perhaps this sort of graphic description of the violation of a child is not unusual. It was heartbreaking to read but even more heartbreaking, to me, was the thought that young people are encouraged to read this book. I know these kinds of things and worse happen in our fallen world every day, but I can't believe that reading about them in this way does anything to develop the moral imagination of our youth. Or, of mine.

As for the rest of the book, the beginning, other than the betrayal, was an enjoyable enough read, though not great literature, to be sure, however by the last half of the book the plot had become predictable and implausible. Many reviewers mention, in some way, the theme of redemption--unfortunately the protaganist is his own redeemer and he is not quite up to the task.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

First Rain

Though it's not the first day of fall it finally feels like fall; after six plus months of clear blue skies and nary a drop of precipitation, last night the lightening bolted, the thunder clapped, and the rain poured forth. The children (even the teenagers!) went running through the house with smiles on their faces, opening windows and shutters so as to enjoy the full effect of the cool, blustery weather. Tayta (youngest daughter) remarked that she was enjoying the smell of...wet dust. Well, we do have a lot of dust accumulated here, and it is wet.

So now begins the days of sweaters, soups and homemade bread, getting back into the garden to work, and olive harvest. They are welcome days.

October Mottoes (from The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady):

'A Good October and a good blast, to blow the hog, acorn and mast.'

'In October dung your field , and your land it's wealth shall yield.'

~October clouds enjoyed just before sunset~

Monday, October 08, 2007


I know, lots of pictures lately but this one was too sweet to skip. These are two of four kittens being raised around our yard. We have lots of strays in our neighborhood and their presence is only encouraged by two open dumpsters sitting on the vacant lot across from our house. It is unusual to see a litter of kittens of this age so healthy and clean, still being cared for by their mother. Someday soon they'll join the ranks of the "dumpster cats" but for now, they're awfully cute.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Bird ID

Our feathered friend, this time with a name, thanks to a friend who ID'ed it for me. Turns out it isn't a migratory bird but is indigenous to the region:

~ Nectarina Osea~
Palestine Sunbird

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Fall Lily

~Urginea maritima~
"Sea Squill"

Having received no precipitation since around April, the arid landscape of soil, rocks and dehydrated flora now presents itself in variegated shades of tan. The fall-blooming white Squill, whose thick, waxy green foliage has long ago dried up, is barely discernible against this neutral backdrop but I was on the look out for it since I had observed it blooming in a particular vacant lot last fall. I hadn't planned to take a night shot but since the vacant lot is in a busy neighborhood, I decided that 'iftar (the time of fast-breaking during Ramadan) would be an opportune time to take my pictures--no one would be outside to notice a goofy foreign woman traipsing around a vacant lot taking pictures of weeds.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Winged Migration

I heard a lovely but unfamiliar bird song from the open back bedroom window this morning; when I peeked out I saw this beautiful bird flitting amidst the grape leaves. Ran to my bedroom. Grabbed the camera. Ran softly through the house and into the backyard. One of the many stray cats which roam our yard had already arrived on the scene--and I don't think he came to admire the beauty of this aviary specimen! Now, here is where my inexpensive telephoto lens comes in handy. The bird stayed around for another 10 seconds or so and was gone. Later in the day, Younger son reported sighting a very small bright yellow bird but unfortunately by the time he got outside with the camera, it was gone.

I'm sorely lacking in my bird identification skills (I really just need to buy the $30 field guide) but Dear Husband says that based on its beak it may be a bee-eater. That makes sense, especially since the bird was flitting amidst the grape vines and the few over-ripe grapes that are left hanging have been attracting bees.

Winter is coming (though you'd never guess it by the still-hot temperatures), which means millions of birds are migrating from Europe to Africa; approximately five million migratory birds fly over Jordan, Israel, and Palestine annually. Though most do not make their path over Amman, we are sometimes fortunate to observe a few of these migrating wonders. Once, while waiting in traffic I saw a flock of pelicans fly overhead!

Meanwhile, inside the house, we are enjoying the wonders of David Attenborough's nature dvds. Fascinating! All of his series are brilliant and not to be missed. Really.

The Life of Birds David Attenborough