Tuesday, April 01, 2008

'The House On Mango Street' ...

Let the record show that I finished The House on Mango Street last night (in March) and then I promptly fell asleep (reading has that effect on me) so I didn't write this post last night, as I am thankfully not prone to sleep-blogging, though that might yield some pretty interesting results.

Anyhoo, regular readers know that for 2008, Mercurie has challenged me to read one book of fiction per month in 2008 because he thinks we just don't read for pleasure enough anymore.

(In the spirit of yesterday's Cubs home-opener): Hey, hey! I'm 3 for 3!

You will note, however, that The House on Mango Street is not Lamb, the book I've mentioned in past posts. I'm still plugging away at that one. I really like it. For some reason, I just don't pick it up regularly, and it's a long-ish book, about 400 pages. which will require that I make more of a commitment to it.

So, as the month of March drew to a close, I perused my bookshelves for a thin tome, something I could whip through quickly, as I did with last month's Pobby and Dingan, and my eyes fell on ... Mango Street.

My friend Qusai recommended it to me many years ago. So, as I do with books, I bought a copy of it, having heard of it many times over, promptly read the first few pages, and then just as promptly put it on a shelf.

It wasn't that I didn't like what I read, I just wasn't in the mood at the time, I guess.

But I read it over the past two nights (though you can absolutely read it in one) and I found it not only charming but quite the literary feat.

It's a wee book, only 108 pages of white space and prose (it ends on 110, but it starts on 3). It's written as a series of small character studies, vignettes, some of which are very short.

But the characters are very artfully drawn in these pared-down strokes, like a Picasso sketch. (That's one of his. It's an owl, if you were wondering.) I marvel at Sandra Cisneros's skill. Anyone can blather on for pages and pages and never really get to a point (Faulkner, anyone?), but to convey so much story in so few words – and words that appear to be effortlessly chosen though I'm sure the effort was great – make me want to doff my hat to Ms. Cisneros. If only I wore a hat. And I were a man. Women don't doff.

I won't spoil the plot for you, though there's not a plot to spoil, per se. But I will absolutely recommend it to anyone who has a true appreciation of the well-written word, to anyone who grew up wanting their life to be more than the sum of its lowly parts.


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