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Sunday, July 22, 2018

Two Gifts For The Future Present

Words of praise feel inadequate describing the bold imagination on display in speculative fiction like Naomi Alderman's "The Power" (2016) and Mohsin Hamid's "Exit West" (2017). Each novel uses a central conceit permitting these gifted authors to explore the world we inhabit at the same time each of them peers at where we might be headed.      

"Power doesn't care who uses it." Those in power have always had the means to create a narrative we refer to as history. In the inverted world that Alderman invents - where women have always had that upper hand - every upside-down twist reveals a fresh and startling irony. As I finished "The Power", my head was spinning trying to unpack all the layers Alderman inserted into her cautionary tale. And the use of illustrations throughout the book took me back to the Power Point presentation in Jennifer Egan's "A Visit From The Goon Squad". Both these exceptional books use fresh devices to advance the novel as a form.
"Their memories took on potential, which of course is how our greatest nostalgias are born." Any of you who have some trouble suspending disbelief might struggle with Hamid's metaphor - i.e. a door through which someone can escape an oppressive homeland - as much as you do imagining what Alderman proposes. But try locating a novel with as much imagination as "Exit West" that also masterfully juxtaposes tender wisdom and unsentimental tenderness. Though a love story about two young refugees forms the core of Hamid's book, there is so much more - letting go as a parent; the need for solidarity as a survival tactic among people of color; the subtle seduction of nostalgia.

I look forward to discussing either of these terrific books with anyone who cares to - online or off.

1 comment:

  1. “We are all migrants through time.” I read Exit West in March 2017 and have four sides of notes on this novel. If you can deduce which door I went through and which country I’m in, we can discuss it.