Big Daddy's Bookstore
Updated 20 December 2000.
- Ethel & Ernest
by Raymond Briggs. A
"graphic novel" - or, in other words, something
akin to a high-brow comicbook? Don't sneer. This is a
very touching and surprisingly deft portrayal of 20th
century Britain told through the lives of Briggs'
parents. Highly recommended.
- Disgrace by
J.M. Coetzee. Won
Coetzee the Booker Prize for the second time in his
career. Next stop the Nobel? Another of Coetzee's highly
affective [and affecting] stripped down narratives. I
haven't yet been able to figure out what it is - I'm
working on it, I'm working on it - but there is something
about Coetzee's prose style that just tugs on you, long
after you put any of books down. They leave a hole, a
small one, yes, but a hole that is never filled and that
at some level, in all you read, you are constantly
looking to patch up.
- In Search of Africa
by Manthia Diawara.
Turned out to be a rather interesting read, if a bit
labored and repetitive at times. Diawara splits his book
into chapters providing something of a travel narrative -
tales and tribulations of the return "home" -
and more academic considerations of wider theoretical
issues (of blackness, migrating cultures, alienation).
Sometimes it works and sometimes not. The story of his
return is by far the more engaging, but he unfortunately
strays too far from this story too often, especially in
the latter half of the book.
- Darkest England
by Christopher Hope.
Quite a disappointing book. The premise, it seems, might
have been too "easy": a black South African
travels to England to explore and for possible
colonization. Hope tries to avoid the easy, obvious gags
but finds nothing to put in their place. Not worth the
time - boring at the most fundamental level, sometimes
borderline, albeit mildly, offensive, and very
frustrating to any fan of Hope. Read Tom Sharpe's Riotous Assembly & Indecent Exposure instead.
- The Jew of New York
by Ben Katchor.
Another graphic novel, this one much more complex that
Briggs' rather minimalist story. Almost Joycean in its
twists and turns. The obscurity is never willful but
rather piques the curiousity [and, ultimately,
- Search Sweet Country
by Kojo Laing. An
intriguing, at times entertaining, and at times confusing
book. In the critical literature, has been labeled a sort
of magical realism, along the lines of Ben Okri and Syl
Cheney-Coker's The Last Harmattan of Alusine Dunbar, though I'm not sure what any of that means. I
thoroughly enjoyed reading it, however, and will return
to it again.
- The Only Son
by John Munonye. The
first work of the recently passed Nigerian novelist. Now,
I have to ask, why has Munonye, or rather, this work, not
gotten more critical attention? To my mind, a much better
novel than Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart, which is trumpeted [perhaps "hailed"
is a better word] as the ur-text of African literature.
The stories are quite similar [it is obvious that Munonye
used Achebe's as a model], but Munonye's characters are
much better drawn and the prose seems much less labored
than in Achebe.
- The Sounds of Poetry
by Robert Pinsky.
Provocative yet understated. If you've always wondered
how to read poetry or what it is all about, you can't do
better than this slim, accessible volume by the former
Poet Laureate of the United States. Doesn't have all the
answers but it will get you thinking.
- Lives of the Poets
by Michael Schmidt.
Purports to trace the history of English poetry. Not
being an expert on the topic, it seems to me he does a
good, if lengthy, job of it [the early chapters
discussing the struggles of English-language poets to
wriggle out from under the thumb of the French language
are excellent]. I've read reviews that talk of Schmidt's
idiosyncratic selectivity - can't comment on that, but
Schmidt does write an engaging and frequently quite
incisive narrative. I have caught myself glazing over at
some of his glosses of specifc verses, but I think that
stems more from my unfamiliarity with and distance from
the works than flaws in Schmidt's style.
- A Vast Conspiracy
by Jeffrey Toobin. The
first book on contemporary political events [if you can
call it that] that I've ever bought: it's the
"whole" sordid story of Clinton's impeachment.
Toobin goes back to trace the origins of the Paula Jones,
Whitewater, and Lewinsky affairs and their explosive
confluence. No one looks good here. It's all so dirty,
dirty, dirty. And you know what, I kinda miss it. An easy
read and, if you're inclined to put the mess in
perspective, well worth it.
- The Last Chronicle of Barset
by Anthony Trollope.
The last of Trollope's Barsetshire novels, which starts
with The Warden,
and continues with Barchester Towers, Doctor Thorne,
Framley Parsonage, and The Small House at Allington. Every long break for the past few years I've
allowed myself the treat of one of these. A whopping good
read. This last one is a monster, at 700+ pages, which
proved somewhat daunting and, in the abstract, I kept
thinking, "how long can he go on?" Yet for all
the repetition and recapitulation of scenes, the writing
and the story are always fresh and every time I picked it
up I wanted keep reading to the end. To my mind,
Trollope's storytelling ability, characterization, and
satirical bite are unparalleled. But now it's goodbye to
the clergy of rural 19th c. Barsetshire.
- The Ponder Heart by
Eudora Welty. One of
Welty's short novels, it's a quick and joyous read.
Recapitulates many of the themes and notions that we've
come to associate with that beast called "Southern
literature" but never to such an extent that it
seems a caricature. I also pushed my way through Welty's Delta Wedding.
Working in what I can best surmise is a
"modernist" style [I thought, at points, I was
reading Woolf], the story sometimes got away from me,
although by the end it came together nicely. Deserves
another read at some point; and perhaps some closer
||Books Mentioned Elsewhere
on this Site
Not all the books mentioned elsewhere are listed
below. As is the nature of the field, many of those books are now out of
print or lost in the realm of the backorder. You can also check out the
Reading List of the Graduate Student Reading Goup
here at the UW-Madison's Department of African Languages and Literature.
- Anowa by Ama
- The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born
by Ayi Kwei Armah. Not
his best, by far, but a very important book in the
history of modern African literature in English.
- In Africa Even the Flies Are Happy
by Breyten Breytenbach.
Eerily prescient collection of poems. Translated from
- The Memory of Birds in Times of
Revolution by Breyten Breytenbach. Prescience turns to pain and a bit of (self-)
- A Season in Paradise
by Breyten Breytenbach
- The True Confessions of an Albino
Terrorist by Breyten Breytenbach
- The Blood in the Desert's Eyes
by Syl Cheney-Coker.
His earlier collections, The Graveyard Also Has Teeth
and Concerto for an Exile, are stronger overall,
but this lacks none of what makes Cheney-Coker such an
important and striking poet.
- Harvest of Thorns
by Shimmer Chidodya
- Walter Pater: Lover of Strange Souls
by Denis Donoghue.
Take Donoghue's critique of Pater - especially of Pater's
personal life - with a grain of salt. An interesting read
- Literary Theory: An Introduction
by Terry Eagleton. A
good introduction to the muddied - and increasingly
inaccessible - field. Unapologetically biased, Eagleton
provides an insightful and pointed reading of many
strands of contemporary theory.
- The Joys of Motherhood
by Buchi Emecheta
- Black Skin, White Masks
by Frantz Fanon. Still
resonates. Still aches.
- The Wretched of the Earth
by Frantz Fanon
- Secrets by
- Sweet and Sour Milk by
- Discipline and Punish: The Birth of
the Prison by Michel Foucault. My nod to postmodern theorizing. A good read
- Paradise by
- Maru by Bessie
Head. I hated - hated!
- Head's other books. There is something about this book,
though. Compelling, thoughtful. Quite good.
- Nedjma by
- The Poisonwood Bible
by Barbara Kingsolver
- In the Castle of My Skin
by George Lamming
- Your Madness, Not Mine: Stories of
Cameroon by Makuchi. I wrote a review of this book - a review too
long and blustery by far - which you can read by following this link.
Now, be kind...
- Theories of Africans: Francophone
Literature and Anthropology in Africa
by Christopher L. Miller. I can't say I agree wholeheartedly with
Miller's approach or theoretical underpinnings but he
makes an extremely convincing case and writes very well.
- Essays on Literature and Art
by Walter Pater
- The Renaissance: Studies in Art and
Poetry by Walter Pater (Cheaper
- The Renaissance: Studies in Art and
Poetry by Walter Pater (Fully
- Season of Migration to the North
by Tayeb Salih
- The Open Sore of A Continent: A
Personal Narrative of the Nigerian Crisis
by Wole Soyinka
- Without a Name
by Yvonne Vera
- Calamities of Exile: Three
Nonfiction Novellas by Lawrence
- The Artist As Critic: Critical
Writings of Oscar Wilde
- Repair by C.K.
Williams. Borrowed a
poem from this volume elsewhere on the site - click here to read.
Otherwise, an undistinguished volume to my mind.
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