Here’s part 2 of my fall/winter 2012 post of short, feminist book reviews. For part 1, which has the non-fiction books and books that don’t quite fit into either category, click here.
The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories by H.P. Lovecraft
H.P. Lovecraft horror stories are like candy. They’re cheaper and arguably as effective as therapy. They’re the type of thing you’d want to read if you were having a rough day in a time before you could just go on YouTube and watch cat videos to get over it. My absolute favourite in this collection was “Herbert West — Reanimator”. though I also liked “The Whisperer in Darkness”. I enjoyed how Lovecraft uses unreliable narrators in a way that makes you question the incredible stories being told while at the same time wanting to believe them.
I would recommend though that readers take a look at some of the discussion around Lovecraft’s racism, which definitely concerned me. I particularly recommend Nicole Cushing’s response to the defense that Lovecraft’s racism(as exemplified in the way he characterizes several heathen groups as “negroid” or coming out of the “South Sea Islanders”, as well as the depiction of the black boxer in “Herbert West — Reanimator”) can be explained away by saying he was a “man of his time”. At minimum, I’d like to see the stories generally presented with more critical, historical context in introductions as well as when the stories are taught in schools.
The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai
There is plenty of beauty and plenty of horror in Kiran Desai’s The Inheritance of Loss. The book is set in the 1980s in Kalimpong, a town on the Indian side of the Himalayas, where the characters (an orphan girl named Sai, her grandfather the judge, their cook, Sai’s Nepali tutor Gyan, and – in a parallel storyline – the cook’s son Biju trying to live and work in America) live out lives set in motion by Western colonization and continuing to be shaped by global corporate and political forces:
“Sai realized that her own delivery to Kalimpong in such a manner was merely part of the monotony, not the original. The repetition had willed her, anticipated her, cursed her, and certain moves made long ago had produced all of them.”
Desai raises many big and important questions (“But the child shouldn’t be blamed for a father’s crime…but should the child therefore also enjoy the father’s illicit gain?” Sai muses at one point upon reading a British book on India) and depicts a range of issues (bride-burning, domestic violence, the rise of nationalist militias, poverty, immigrant labour exploitation and police brutality) as part of the legacy of colonialism.
At one point in the book Desai writes: “There was no system to soothe the unfairness of things: justice was without scope; it might snag the stealer of chickens but great evasive crimes would have to be dismissed because, if identified and netted, they would bring down the entire structure of so-called civilization.” Read more