Friday, December 21, 2007

Czechoslovakia and My Quest

Well, I just got back from an evening in the Balkans at Revels, which was fabulous. Who knew that Bulgarian music would sound so Eastern in flavor--almost Southeast Asian, with Indian-like twang. And looking at the program with all those words that contain letter combinations like "jro" and "dse" reminds me yet again how much trouble I have reading books about places that I can't even try to begin to fathom how to pronounce.

I know the author of Giraffe is trying to create a clear image of the country in my mind, but when the narrator talks about riding his bike down Jroklavske Street, through the roundabout and up Skvlinsiljrka Hill, I am not being made to feel like I know this place. I am being made to feel like I'm visiting the natives of Jupiter, and perhaps the sky here is maroon--I have no way of knowing.

It's such a petty complaint; I feel shame. Here's a more profound one--stories set in Communist countries are depressing. Especially the Eastern European ones (Colin Cotterill's Laotian mysteries are rather upbeat; but then, communism is young in The Coroner's Lunch). This isn't petty, just trite--why are the Reds always such a downer? It's like the sun never shone in Eastern Europe, when I'm sure there was, at some point between 1950 and 1990, a clear day.

In other news, I have begun my quest into the Newbury books. I will probably post the list here sometime, along with what I plan to do with it. Stay tuned!

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