Wednesday, February 10, 2010

On a book with a great title and distinct voice

The snow machine currently whirring over the DC area has given me a number of things, not least of which is time to sit home reading and writing. The first book to succumb to my snow-induced reading crusade was Brigid Pasulka's A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True. I'm not going to write up each book I read, but I wanted to highlight this one for two reasons: one, it was really good; two, it has a tremendous voice.

Voice, as writers know, is that often-elusive, ever-touted sense that the words on the page come together with a certain personality. Pasulka's book is a great example because she has two distinct voices alternating. One is a sort of magical realism tale-teller's omniscient POV voice, and the other is the first-person voice of a twenty-something single woman languishing on the edge of Poland's new, post-Soviet modernity. The first sparkles with fairy tale glitter, even when it's diving into the bloody horrors of war, and the second resonates with the repressed hope of a serious young woman unwilling to recognize her dreams, much less embrace them. I strongly recommend reading it just for the interesting study in contrasts.

That said, it's also a really good story. Not necessarily a page-turning, thrilling adventure, but still an engrossing depiction of love, sacrifice, and the search for meaning. Yes, that sounds cliche, but I'm trying not to spoil anything. And, distilled, just about any life-affirming story sounds cliche (even calling it "life-affirming" is cliche). Maybe it's better to phrase the question in the way the first-person narrator does - is she on the shelf, put away from life, or off the shelf, circulating? Get to know her, and her answer might surprise you.

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Princess Nijma

Princess Nijma