Saturday, 11 July 2009

A Thousand Acres


I thought I would recommend a book to you today. I don't get a lot of reading done in the Summer - there is so much else to do and I am not one for sitting out in the garden (a midge can sense my presence at a mile), so most of my reading is done on cold winter nights.

But this book was lent to me by a friend this week. I don't find books by American authors easy to read - I think the whole ethos is different (I am sure my American readers feel the same about British authors) and for the first few chapters I found this hard going. But then I "got into " it and found it un-put-down-able!

It is a modern transposition of the King Lear story set in the farming community of Iowa and is a very powerful story. Jane Smiley, the author, was born in Los Angeles and now lives and writes in California. This particular book won both the Pulitzer Prize for fiction and the National Book Circle Critics' Award in 1992 - so it is not a new book. But if you haven't read it and you want a good read - try this book.

21 comments:

acornmoon said...

Thanks Weaver, I might give it a go but have to confess that i don't have much reading stamina these days.

I enjoyed reading about your garden and all the tasks that it involves. It always seems easier to enjoy other peoples gardens, I suppose when I look at mine I just see a list of jobs.

Your little dog is very cute. I am sure Ted would like him.

Elizabeth said...

I second your recommendation.
As a Brit living in the US, I'm managing to read books from both sides but Jane Smiley is a gem.

Heather said...

I already have a stack of about six books to enjoy at some point, but will look out for this one. I only sit in the shade as I burn easily and only then when I have done enough work in the garden to merit such a treat! Reading is a wonderful pastime but I have to be very strongminded with a good book, otherwise I can lose myself completely and everything else is neglected.

Phoenix said...

It is strange that I saw this on your post, just a few hours after I actually found it from my old treasures.

The Solitary Walker said...

I've heard much good stuff about Jane Smiley, and I've been intending to read her. After your recommendation I really must.

Leilani Lee said...

Yes Weaver, this is a powerful story and it was also a powerful movie. Jane Smiley is a favorite -- especially like "Horse Heaven"

Derrick said...

Hello Weaver,

I'm intrigued by your comment about American books. If you were given a manuscript that didn't have any fly notes to read and the spelling was in English English, do you think you would detect American authorship?

Robyn said...

Most of my reading is done in summer with the air conditioner on high. I will put this one on my wish list thanks Weaver.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Jane Smiley is a good and popular author. And while I haven't read this particular book of hers, I've enjoyed several others.

Like Derrick, I'm intrigued by your statement regarding American/British authorship of stories. I'm a lifelong and consistent reader, regardless of season, and probably finish two or three novels per week. I've always read fiction from both sides of the Atlantic. I understand your use of the word "ethos" in that there is a discernible difference in "the characteristic spirit of a culture, era, or community as manifested in its beliefs and aspirations" as one of my dictionaries puts it—between Great Britain and the United States. But isn't that similarly true on a regional basis? Say, in your case, between England and Scotland, or even London and the Lake District? Here in the U.S. there's a considerable difference in the ethos between the Deep South, the Southern Mountains, the Plains, the Midwest, New England East, etc. Language, culture, beliefs…lots of differences. So, too, of someone born and raised in New York City and New Orleans, or even Cincinnati and Cleveland. Los Angeles and Savannah are practically different planets.

My point is, don't you find this ethos difference apparent in almost all books written by authors from anywhere slightly removed beyond your local area or community?

For a long time I've been reading a lot of what I think of a "foreign fiction," which in my simple definition means books which have been translated into English. This, of course, puts a secondary layer between the writer and reader—but given a skilled translator, I think it still works well enough that the reader experiences the genuine differences of place, experience, culture, and thought. While any good travel book may give you the first three, the thought-processes and approach, the specificity of viewpoint and intent, the enveloping "take" on a scene or event within the story, still clearly makes it from writer through translator to the page you're reading.

Personally, I like that, the difference…just as I like the view into the ethos of the Navajo as presented through the works of the late Tony Hillerman. And I also like the reassurance of the similarities throughout all humankind, too.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Thanks Valerie. My reading stamina goes in cycles. At present I have been lent a few interesting books, so must ration myself.
Elizabeth - I had not heard of Jane Smiley prior to reading this.
Heather - I know exactly what you mean - I got so engrossed in this book that it took me a time to return to the real world when I put it down.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Pheonix - coincidence is a funny thing.
Robert - i had not heard of Jane Smiley but shall now look out for others.
LL - I didn't realise it had been made into a movie already.
Robyn - hope you enjoy it.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Derrick and Scribe. I seem to have put the cat amongst the pigeons here! Having read what you both say I suddenly realised that probably my favourite author of all is John Steinbeck!!!
However, I must say that often I do not persevere with books by US authors -things like the geography, the food, some of the language - I am not sure what it is
but maybe I had better qualify it and say"some American authors".
I think, Scribe, that translations are altogether different as they are translated into English - this business of our two countries being divided by a common language is very true I think. Also, as I get older, I am less inclined to stick with a book unless I am really enjoying it - there was a time when I would say if I started a book I made myself finish it - but not anymore - life's too short now.
Thanks for taking the time to send me such thoughtful comments.

Kayla coo said...

What interesting comments.
I myslef wish I had the opportunity to read more.
I read while on holiday and a good book makes a good holiday!

steven said...

hi weaver, i'm not sure if "the loved one" has read this yet but i'm going to pass on this review and then at the very least, if she hasn't she can pick it up and (as so often happens) then i'll read it when she's done. thanks for the recommendation!! have a peaceful day. steven

Leenie said...

Putting it on my --books to read list.

Amy said...

Sounds like my kind of book, I'm getting into Philippa Gregory at the moment and Kate Morton :-)

Alaine said...

Funnily, reading the intro on the cover, Steinbeck immediately sprang to mind. Thanks for the recommendation, I've added it to the list!

Pom Pom said...

I loved this book. I just glanced at it on my book shelf and thought I might like to read it again and now you are featuring it! Wow! I think it is interesting that you find American authors sort of hard to read. Jane Smiley is a unique writer - very well respected. I think some American writers try too hard or maybe they get bossed around by their editors and publishers JUST a little too much! Great blog! Great post!

Crafty Green Poet said...

There are many American authors who I really enjoy (Barbara Kingsolver probably beign at the top of the list) and others who I can't read at all. I read Thousand Acres a while ago and though i enjoyed it I wouldn't rave about it

Woman in a Window said...

That's interesting, Weaver, how you don't feel connected to American literature. Peculiar, but a notion worthy of consideration. I wonder how I feel about it, versus Canadian literature and vice versa.

BT said...

Thanks Weaver, I'll have to look out for it.