By THE EDITORS
Pico Iyer was born in England to Indian parents, and when he was 9 years old began commuting — alone, six times a year — between 1960s California and ancient British boarding schools.
“Globalism has seemed my destiny,” he said in a recent e-mail from rural Japan, where he has lived for 20 years. “Perhaps the most exciting development in my reading life has been to see even the starchiest and grayest literatures suddenly open up into rainbows of possibility. When I was studying English literature in Britain in the 1970s, it involved reading ‘Beowulf,’ Chaucer, Shakespeare and Johnson (even American literature was considered a little beyond the pale in England, and our main course stopped in 1832). Five years later, British literature was being blown open by writers whose names we couldn’t even pronounce — Rushdie and Ondaatje and Ishiguro and Coetzee. It was as if all the doors and windows of a stuffy Havisham house had suddenly been thrown open, to admit new sounds, strange spices, tropical colors, new histories and even new ways of telling history: new writers emerging for a new world and a new kind of reader.
A generation later, it seems we’re witnessing the same thing in American literature. So ‘world fiction’ has joined world music and fusion cuisine as a radically new and liberating feature of our all-over-the-place age of movement and cross-cultural collision and collusion. And these writers from everywhere are not just chronicling, but actively charting, the America of tomorrow.”
A version of this article appeared in print on July 22, 2012, on page BR4 of the Sunday Book Review with the headline: Up Front.
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Jul. 18: "At Home: A Short History of Private Life" by Bill Bryson.
Aug. 15: “In the Time of the Butterflies,” a historical novel by Julia Alvarez set in the Dominican Republic.
Sep. 19: “The Tiger's Wife,” by Belgrade-born Téa Obreht, a novel about two friends on a medical mission - a National Book Award finalist.
Oct. 17: “Cleopatra,” the bestselling biography by Stacy Schiff.
Nov. 14: “The Girl in the Blue Beret,” a novel set in France by Kentucky author Bobbie Ann Mason.
Dec. 12: “White Tiger,” a first novel by Arvind Adiga, an Indian writer and journalist and winner of the 2008 Man Booker Prize.
Jan. 16: “Bel Canto” by Ann Patchett, another award-winning novel set in an unnamed country.
Feb. 20: “The Buddha in the Attic” by Julie Otsuka, winner of the 2012 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction and a National Book Award finalist, which tells the story of a group of young women brought from Japan to San Francisco as “picture brides” nearly a century ago.
March 20: “White Teeth,” a novel by the British author Zadie Smith. It focuses on the later lives of two wartime friends—a Bangladeshi and an Englishman.
The group meets at the Main Library on the third Wednesday of the month, from noon – 1 p.m. and brown-bag lunches are welcome. Hope you can join us!
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The author, Bill Bryson, a lively writer of non-fiction, uses his 1851-vintage home in England – a rectory in the Norfolk countryside – to take people on a room-by-room tour one reviewer called “a history of the world without leaving home.
“The bathroom provides the occasion for a history of hygiene; the bedroom, sex, death, and sleep; the kitchen, nutrition and the spice trade; and so on…. Whatever happens in the world, he demonstrates, ends up in our house, in the paint and the pipes and the pillows and every item of furniture.”
The hour-long brown bag discussion will be at noon, July 18 at the Main Library, 301 York St.
Aug. 15: “In the Time of the Butterflies,” a historical novel by Julia Alvarez set in the Dominican Republic, inspired by the true story of three sisters who were murdered in 1960 for their part in an underground plot to overthrow the government.
Sep. 19: “The Tiger's Wife,” by young Belgrade-born Téa Obreht, a novel about two friends on a medical mission in a Balkan country that was a National Book Award finalist.
As we plan books to read this fall and beyond, we’d welcome your ideas for good titles that have roots in other cultures.
Feel free to consult our international-themed booklist - click here. Or recommend books you’ve liked - email here.
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But if you have book ideas for this international reading group to consider down the road, we’d like to hear them.
The current lineup:
Dec. 16 “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens
Jan.18, 2012 “The Kabul Beauty School: An American Woman Goes Behind the Veil” by Deborah Rodriguez with Kristin Ohlson
Feb. 15 “The World is Flat” by Thomas Friedman and “That Used to be Us,” by Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum
March 21 “The Elegance of the Hedgehog” by Muriel Barberry
April 18 “The Devil's Highway” by Luis Umberto Urrea
May 16 “You Have Given Me a Country” by Neela Vaswani
June 20 “Things Fall Apart,” by Chinua Achebe
The group meets from noon to 1 at the Main Library. Brown-bag lunches are welcome. Anyone can attend any session.
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Its story was a great picture of friendship – and the magic of story-telling.
And it offered a vivid look at the social and political history of China. To compare this picture of China to the China of today… was amazing.
Have you read it? Share your thoughts here.
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