THE HOOPLA LITERARY SOCIETY
“I was very pleased, obviously, to have outsold such great writers. But I’m not insane – I do realize that I am a popular writer who people buy to take on vacation.”
This week saw the passing of one of Ireland’s most loved and best selling authors, Maeve Binchy. It’s no real surprise that Maeve Binchy has sold more books than fellow Irish writers like James Joyce and Oscar Wilde. Her books always read as if she were a pen pal filling you in on the goings-on of her life and by the time you finished them it was like leaving behind new friends.
Best known for such books as Tara Road, Quentins and Circle of Friends, Binchy made The New York Times best sellers list an amazing 11 times. She also wrote a hugely popular monthly column in the Irish Times called Maeve’s Week, which ran for 32 years, and was a successful playwright and writing teacher.
Another favourite Irish writer, Cathy Kelly, posted this comment on Facebook:
“Such a sad day when a wonderful woman like Maeve Binchy leaves us. She was an amazing writer, a lovely woman and a real mentor.”
Hear, hear. And in case you haven’t had a chance to read it yet, here is The Hoopla’s tribute to Maeve Binchy.
There are other things to share in the world of books, so let’s to it.
The Woman Who Dived into the Heart of the World, Sabina Berman
“…I seem not to feel all those complicated things and imaginary things that standard humans feel.
Standard: normal, typical.
Standard humans: humans within the norm.
I don’t feel those 101 things that are somewhere between pain, fear, and happiness, or between hunger and sleepiness. Which, the way I see it, is to my advantage.
I mean, I know that I am dimwitted, at least compared to standard human beings. I know that on standard IQ tests I score somewhere between idiot and imbecile. But I have 3 virtues, and they are big ones.
1. I don’t know how to lie.
2. I don’t fantasize, so things that don’t exist don’t worry Me or hurt Me.
3. I know that I only know what I know, and that what I don’t know- which is a lot more- I am sure I don’t know.
And that, like I said, over the long run has given Me a big advantage over standard humans.”
When Karen’s mother dies, her Aunt Isabelle returns to Mazatlán, Mexico to take over the family tuna cannery. Karen is autistic and through torture and neglect has become more wild animal than human. But Isabelle immediately recognises the green eyes reflected back at her and sees that it is her duty to educate Karen and bring her into the real world.
This compassion begins Karen’s journey to Me. Finding solace and fascination in equal measure from the tuna business, Karen becomes a world expert in sustainable aquaculture, animal welfare and husbandry. Along the way she learns to make her emotions small, determines that metaphors and euphemisms do more harm than good and ponders whether the human obsession with “I think, therefore I am,” is a conceit that places the philosopher Descartes in a position in the human psyche that Charles Darwin should occupy.
And like the naturalist, Karen prefers the company of her beloved tuna, and their complex existence and future, to the problems of human kind.
Sabina Berman is one of Mexico’s most admired and innovative playwrights, winning the Mexico National Theatre Prize a remarkable four times.
Reading this book reminded me of the first time I read Yann Martel’s Life of Pi, in that the story was so completely imagined – at times surreal, and the writing is wonderful. Karen is both character and narrator, and being part ingénue and part stubborn child, allows Berman to reveal the unattractive side of human behaviour often as an observation rather than as an interaction. It’s a device that makes even simple scenes all the more powerful because the reader exists in Karen’s head, which is often a very funny place to be. Karen’s experience of Japanese toilets is a classic, as is her use of emoticons.
This book is almost impossible to explain in a few hundred words but is best summed up as a thought provoking, wide-ranging novel told in deceptively simple language. BUY THE BOOK
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