Carolyn Puts Forth
a Model for the Nobel, Khaled Hosseini's Grand Literary Efforts
If Nobel Cares for the Human Condition
I have a theory that intolerance is at the root of all
evil. It is a topic I explore in my novel This Is the Place, my book of creative
nonfiction, Harkening: A
Collection of Stories Remembered and even some of the poetry
in my chapbook Tracings.
These books deal with subtle forms of bigotry, a danger always because
intolerance and all of its forms— including discrimination—start
small. And then they grow. Khalid Hosseini tackles the subject head
on, in its final most unspeakable forms, the kind that corrupts
and destroys entire populations, indeed entire geographic areas
Let's put aside the idea that at least one religion espouses the idea that
we are all born with evil in us and must seek grace to overcome
it (something that, though it seems that none of us is perfect, I can't quite buy). That
argument is outside the purview of a column on literature.
Rather, I'm addressing what writers call the premise and others outside of literature
might simply call a theme.
It's something the committee for the Nobel
Prize for Literature addresses when they select their prize
winners along with the beautiful use of language.
Hosseini is the author of the New
York Times bestseller, The Kite Runner, in which he examines the demise of Afghanistan
and now the absolutely brilliant A
Thousand Splendid Suns
in which he looks at the same subject but this time from a woman's
perspective. If the Nobel Prize committee looks at books that explore
the human condition as they claim, they will not pass up Splendid Suns for 2007. They can be forgiven
for ignoring Kite Runner
because it was a first book (prizes in literature are usually
awarded for a body of work). But now, with a body of two like this,
it is time.
Splendid Suns is
not an easy read. That is not because the language is too dense
or ideas too erudite. It is just plain hard to plough through the
pain suffered by Afghanistanis in the years between the time the
Soviets invaded their country to the post-Taliban efforts of it
people reach for some kind of normalcy for its populace.
In fact, this book hustles from turned page to turned page as readily as
if it were genre fiction. In case some say it isn't poetic enough
for Nobel, that Hosseini doesn’t live up to the committees standards
for exquisite language, I argue that Hosseini's skill is evident
in his skillful setting of scenes, motivation, characterization
and all the other aspects of great writing.
And, yes, that includes his use of language. In fact, I wonder if he tends
to reign in his talent for poetic language in order to make this
book a bestseller, rather than reaching for the Nobel. Lest anyone
should doubt, here is a passage from p.326 of the newly released
hardcover. It is paraphrased in order to accommodate free use copyright
laws, but you will get the idea:
"Miriam spent ten days in prison . . . watched the prison life in the courtyard.
When the summer winds blew, she watched bits of scrap paper ride
the currents in a frenzied, corkscrew motion, as they were hurled
this way and that high above the prison walls, She watched the winds
stir mutiny in the dust . . . . the dust would not be denied. It
made homes of ear canals and nostrils, of eyelashes and skin folds,
of the space between molars. . . . And then, if a night breeze blew,
it did so timidly as if to atone for the excesses of its daytime
If you, as a reader, are interested in understanding man's inhumanity to
man, the true meaning of evil, what it can do and how religion can
be twisted to do its bidding, read A
Thousand Splendid Suns. And then, write a letter to the
They may need a bit of prodding to so honor a book written to entertain
as well as this one does.
Each month in this box, Carolyn lists
a writing or promotion tidbit that will help authors and a
tip to help readers find a treasure among long-neglected books
or a sapphire among the newly-published.
Tidbit: Find a list of websites that will help you proclaim
to the world the release of your book at www.howtodoitfrugally.com
. Click on the Resources
for Writers tab at the top of the page and then when the
resources page comes up, scroll down for the list of free
media release disseminators.
Find other ways to promote your books at little or
no cost with The
Frugal Book Promoter: How to Do What Your Publisher Won't.
Tidbit #2: I am searching for a few books that the Nobel
misses for my Noble (Not Nobel!) Prize. Qualifying books include
the kind of literature Noble acknowledges but somehow gets
overlooked. I do not judge books by their cover or by the
press they are printed on, only by their literary merit. Send
me an e-mail for more information: HoJoNews@ao.com.
Sept 15th is the deadline.
Tip: I just finished
the last of the books I collected at Book Expo America! (www.bookexpoamerica.com)
in New York in May. In addition to Hosseini, I recommend
Lisa See's new book,
Peony in Love. It is an excellent read but it
will also help women understand the history of gender discrimination
better, and also serve as a reminder of how important self
expression is to self worth and independence.
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