Thursday, August 28, 2008

Telex from Cuba by Rachel Kushner

Covering the years around the revolution in Cuba filtered mostly through the eyes of children, Telex from Cuba tells the story of the American community living in Cuba managing the United Fruit sugarcane factory and the U.S. government-owned nickel mine.

This book was mesmerizing- beautifully written and truly evocative of the time and place of the story. Kushner paints an indelible picture of life in the United Fruit company's outpost in Cuba, her words creating a vivid portrait of a way of life in collapse. The characters, including Cuba itself, are wonderfully drawn- true to type in many ways but just eccentric enough to stay interesting as different layers of their lives and personalities are revealed.

Knowing that Kushner's mother lived through this tumultuous time in Cuba lends even greater reality to the narrative. I picked this book up and could barely stand to put it down. The book highlights the inequalities that helped lead to the revolution, and the sadness of people on both sides when it didn't all work out as planned. I highly recommend this book.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Waiter Rant by Steve Dublanica

Though I had never heard of the blog before receiving this book, I can only imagine how popular it must be given the subject matter. For anyone who has ever waited tables, this book will cover familiar ground- the insanity of the kitchen staff, the abusiveness of the owner, the obnoxiousness of the customers, and the mind-numbing aggravation of it all are covered in great detail. Tempering this of course are the rare moments of joy- the couple deciding to have a baby, the couple who truly enjoy their budget-busting night out thanks to the waiter's guidance.

I thought the book was a bit rough around the edges, and the underlying narrative structure was a bit weak, but the stories rang true enough to counter these negatives. Waiter Rant was an enjoyable read, one that exposes the ugly underbelly of the restaurant business. Definitely a must read for anyone who works in or patronizes a restaurant!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

The Tall Pine Polka by Lorna Landvik

I liked this book, but not as much as I really wanted to, and nowhere near as much as I enjoyed some of Landvik's other offerings. Though the cast of characters was initially interesting, they all seemed a little too eccentric as the novel progressed. The movie in a small town element was done better in the movie State and Main, and I for one thought there were too many subplots running throughout the novel which overcomplicated it all.

I did think that Fenny, Bill and Lee were well-drawn, developed characters, but found the entire ex-husband/abuse story line deserved more inital attention especially given its sudden importance halfway though the story. The Hollywood people all seemed fairly shallowly drawn, and poor Boyd never really got the development he deserved.

Truthfully, even a mediocre Landvik novel is better than a lot of other books out there, but I was disappointed that this novel didn't live up to her usual high standards.