Sunday, January 4, 2009

Life on Mango Street

Thanks to the holidays, I am way behind on blogging about books I have read, although I managed to keep up my reading, more or less. My November/December choices varied widely, because I was trying to clear the stragglers from my TBR list before the end of the year. Now I realize I am showing signs of the malaise known as Not Enough Fiction. Reading of any kind is very soothing (and sometimes there's no substitute for a nice magazine, so I can just turn the pages and look at the pictures). But I need to dive into another world on a regular basis to be truly happy. I expect to embark on the cure for my disease soon.

And so, without further delay . . .

The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros -- Usually I am not keen on books that are written in the modern episodic form. When the chapters are too short, I envision the author saying "Okay, I'm not in the mood today, so I'm just going to write for an hour and see what happens. After an hour I'll quit." As one who likes to work and read in big chunks of time, those bits and pieces just don't do it for me. I assume they are meant to mirror the fragmented nature of modern life. But I turn to art for structure and form, motifs that reoccur, characters and events that balance their counterparts, and so on. I've got plenty of fragments already!

That said, the fragmented form works very well in this novel. Each tiny chapter is almost a prose poem. They are that brief and finely tuned, with a poet's careful choice of language, but without any stuffiness. There is plenty of urban air here. At the same time, the bits and pieces form an enchanting mosaic of Esperanza Cordero's Latina life, a life that she loves and hates and is inexorably drawn to escape. In her heart, she already lives in another house, not the one on Mango Street, but her own house, "quiet as snow, . . . clean as paper before the poem."

4 comments:

  1. Lovely review! I haven't read that book, but now you've tempted me to try it out.

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  2. Thank you! It totally won me over and might do the same for you. Are you in paperbackswap.com? Then you could impulse buy it on the spot (definitely feeds the book habit).

    Thanks for being a follower, too. I am enjoying your blog.

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  3. Nope, not in paperbackswap.com. I'm a library addict, instead. I seriously do not have room for any more books (and I'm not willing to give up any that I have), so I stick to borrowing them. Unfortunately, my husband is not so conservative; most of the new books that crowd our little apartment are his. (I suppose that's fair, since our original book collection started out predominately mine, so I guess now he's just trying to catch up.)

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  4. Yes, I definitely have a number of "keeper" books I could never part with. But hooray for the library, too. It provides that lovely feeling of abundance and "I'll take one of everything, please."

    Glad you hear your husband is a reader, also. Gotta love than in a man.

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