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Reading Through the Fog of Ondaatje’s “Warlight”

Recently I shared a comic on Instagram about how sometimes hating a book becomes an absolute defining character trait—it’s irrational, I know, but it can’t be helped. I’d referred to Pierce Brown’s “Red Rising” and the ‘Red Rising Saga‘ as that book/series that I just hate despite everyone else I know absolutely loving it.
In the comments Michael Ondaatje’s “The English Patient” was mentioned as one of those books that’s overrated. I haven’t read it, although I saw the movie and recall being fairly disappointed, but the exchange reminded me of Ondaatje’s new book, “Warlight”.

Warlight Michael Ondaatje

“In a narrative as mysterious as memory itself–,” the publisher writes, “at once both shadowed and luminous – Warlight is a vivid, thrilling novel of violence and love, intrigue and desire.”

The only mysterious thing about this narrative is how anyone could actually describe it in this way.

I started writing down my impressions of the book about a quarter of the way through it and by that point the most interesting part of the novel had been the brief paragraph offering a history of the lost rivers of London. This was only because it reminded me I need to get caught up on Ben Aaronovitch’s Peter Grant/Rivers of London series.

‘Warlight’ is one of those meandering, kind of plotless, novel by anecdote—a fictional memoir that reminds me of John Banville’s “Time Pieces: A Dublin Memoir”, in which there’s less linear journey of story and more loosely guided walk through the narrative grocery store; grabbing certain stories, memories, ideas, backtracking occasionally to pick up another item, another character or experience for a meal that you’re trying to prepare for without actually having the recipe to guide you.

There are so many great stories hinted at in this book, but none of them are sufficiently expanded upon. The opportunity for intriguing, absurd underworld adventures with fascinating, odd and war-damaged characters is completely wasted with only fleeting mentions of crimes and events. Everything is just out of reach, just beyond the reader’s grasp, as if you’re reading the book trapped in a fog with large portions of it obscured and hidden from you.

Maybe this was intentional, given the story I think is being told—as the reader you are the narrator, and his understanding of his post war life and the wartime actions of his mother specifically, and even her own personal history, are obscured—although for his and his sister’s protection.

But it feels more than that. It feel unfinished and poorly structured, with information inadequately doled out, the sharing of the synopsis-promised mysteries of postwar London unbalanced and lacking. It feels like such a wasted opportunity to create a unique but historically anchored world populated by odd characters existing within the dark fringes of a society that has been so broken by multiple wars it is unsure how to reintegrate it’s fractured, schizophrenic selves.

Instead I’m left needing it to just be over because I’m too far into it to walk away even though I just don’t care….

Follow me on Goodreads to see if I actually manage to finish this book, or to check out what else I’m reading.

📚🎧

Exploring Dark Matter

Ok, so “Dark Matter” is the first thing I’ve read from Blake Crouch—or the first exposure I’ve had to his work given the tv adaptations of his work too—so I’m not sure if he’s super pretentious and that comes through naturally in his writing, or if his characters are all so astoundingly in love with themselves and their own brilliance, and he’s just that good at capturing it.This is an interesting story, but it feels hampered by how little I care about the actual characters. At this point I’m barely a third of the way through it, and it feels like I already have an idea of what’s going to play out—so either I’m astoundingly brilliant or there are some twists coming.

It’s reminding me so far of “Predestination”, the movie based on Robert Heinlein’s short story ‘All You Zombies’, although that was focused on time travel and the interweaving manipulations of timelines rather than exploring multiverse theory.

While I really enjoyed “Predestination” I’ve never read its source material, and after hating reading Heinlein’s “Stranger In a Strange Land” I’m a little hesitant to check it out. So I wonder if this might be a similar situation; that I might enjoy adaptations of Crouch’s work—‘Wayward Pines‘, ‘Good Behavior’ for tv and eventually “Dark Matter” itself as a film—more than I like his writing itself.

Or maybe I’ll enjoy this more as it gets going—like I said, there are probably some twists coming….

Intolerance and The Fate of Fairy Tales in West Virginia

Inclusivity in children’s literature for one community comes down to a pastor and the county library board as the decision to ban a book about a prince and a knight falling in love is pushed back.

from Daniel Haack’s “Prince & Knight”
from Daniel Haack’s “Prince & Knight”
The Upshur County Public Library Board in West Virginia recently pulled the children’s book, ‘Prince & Knight’, from the library due to its LGBTQ content. This is another example recently of one person or group shouting louder than everyone else and forcing their opinions and personal beliefs on others in an intentional effort to destroy access to information.

In Citrus County, Florida, the county commissioners laughed at the idea of paying for a subscription to the New York Times, a subscription which would have benefitted 70,000 people, allowing them access to news and research. Their reasoning? The commissioners personally felt the New York Times was “fake news”.

Now another community “leader”, this time a pastor in West Virginia, is taking a similar position—his personal beliefs or opinions should supersede his community’s access to reading material, because the fairy tale he believes in of an omnipotent god who created the universe in seven days two thousand years ago is more realistic than a fairy tale about two guys falling in love.

from Daniel Haack’s “Prince & Knight”Because how dare you teach kids to be happy with who they are.

The children’s book was removed from the shelves of the library at the wishes of a pastor who released an anti-LGBTQ statement claiming the book “is a deliberate attempt to indoctrinate young children, especially boys, into the LGBTQA lifestyle.” Pastor Layfield claimed that the only reason his four sons are straight “is that they never read children’s books with gay knights in them.”

GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis states that “The decision to remove Prince & Knight from the shelves of the Upshur County Public Library is an act of discrimination, plain and simple. Inclusive children’s books do not ‘indoctrinate’ but do allow LGBTQ families and their children the chance to see themselves reflected in the world.”

Daniel Haack, the author of ‘Prince & Knight’ (as well as coauthoring ‘Maiden & Princess’ with Isabel Galupo) said the book is “meant to be a fun little adventure story that also just happens to better reflect the reality of millions of families not seen in other children’s stories. If the protesters are worried that reading this book will turn someone gay, I can easily refer them to all the gay adults who grew up only reading about straight romances.”

At a meeting of the library board on November 20 the president of the board walked out after several minutes of protest when it became clear that the board would not hear public comment on the banning of the book.

The book’s ultimate fate—whether it is to remain in the children’s section, get moved to the adult section, or get banned entirely—will be decided at a later date.

Until then you can show your support for inclusive storytelling by purchasing your own copy of Daniel Haack’s books, ‘Prince & Knight’, ‘Maiden & Princess’, or other similar titles such as ‘Jack (Not Jackie)’, ‘Our Rainbow’, ‘Except When They Don’t’, ‘Jacob’s New Dress’, ‘The Princess and the Treasure’, and ‘And Tango Makes Three’ just to name a few.

Are there any diverse or inclusive titles you’ve found or read to your kids that positively represent LGBTQ characters? Add them in the comments and I’ll try to update with cover images and links for others to purchase them.

Daniel Haack, Prince & Knight, Stevie LewisDaniel Haack, Isabel Galupo, Maiden & Princess, Becca HumanOur rainbow, Little Bee BooksJack not Jackie, Erica Silverman, holly Hatam Except when they don’t, Laura Gehl, Joshua Heinsz Jacobs new dress, Sarah Hoffman, Ian Hoffman, Chris caseThe princess and the treasure, Jeffrey miles, j.l. PhillipsAnd tango makes three, Justin Richardson, Peter Parnell, Henry cole


Also check out Megan Walsh’s article, “The Missing Youth: How Rigid Gender Roles In Children’s Media Leave Many Kids Out of the Picture”

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