Sunday, July 12, 2009
The Other Hand, by Chris Cleave
This book was very well-written -- so well-written, in fact, that the ending could not match the buildup of the characters. I was disappointed with it; but, to be fair, I knew that there was probably no way the ending could satisfy me. Unless it involved some glorious act by Batman. (Seriously. He's in the book.)
But here's what I'm wondering (and this isn't a rhetorical question, a springboard off which I plan to jump into some diatribe or some cultural, philosophical musing; I really want to know what you think): Why must so many of our books, especially those considered "literary" or "good" books, deal with foreign cultures so extensively? Is there some reason that staying domestic (from an American perspective) isn't considered good enough?
Before I get jumped on, let me clarify: I don't think this is, in itself, a bad thing. I don't think that western, natively English-speaking cultures are in any way better, superior to, or richer sources for literature than other places, peoples, and cultures. But nor do I think that they are in any way worse, inferior to, or poorer sources for the same types of literature.
Maybe it's just what I've been reading lately. Look down the blog -- so many of the books involve German, Middle Eastern, Ukrainian settings and characters and themes. Obviously the books are in English (either originally or translated), and many of them involve the collision or blending or some other form of meeting between these cultures and American or English ones. But I feel like this isn't just a falsely perceived trend, nor do I think my observation is a result of my spending a year in Europe.
(And although this article isn't about what authors include in their works, but rather where they come from, I think it's relevant. If Americans aren't good enough for the Nobel Prize, maybe they aren't good enough to be written about, either.)
I said this wasn't my chance to jump into speculations, so I'll leave it to you all -- and I will continue the conversations in the comments section.
UPDATE: I just discovered that this book was released in the United States as Little Bee. Apparently I bought the British release in Germany. Go figure.