posted in Books on Jun 3, 2007

If you’ve been keeping up with my book reviews over the past year, you’ll notice that I rarely say bad things about books. It’s not that I don’t have the courage to debase someone’s work (see my thoughts on Red Steel), but I do have a certain respect for people who write novels. It’s hard for me to say anything negative because I know how hard it is to sit down and write something, much less write something of worth that other people enjoy. I’ve kind of set this up to be a negative review, but it’s not going to be. I just wanted to note that if you – for whatever reason – think that I should be a little more critical of what I read, thus making these things more of a “review,” then you’re bound to be disappointed by reading this. This is going to be another time when I sit and pour praises on a novel I really enjoyed.

Not to be confused with Snow Crash, Snow, by Orhan Pamuk, tells the story of an exiled poet finding his way back to his homeland. You know what, come to think of it, maybe I just have luck in not reading assy books because, damn, I liked the hell out of this thing.

In Snow, Ka, the novel’s main character and fillip for all activity contained within the pages, is a poet from Turkey who, as I just mentioned, was away from his country as a political exile. Now, some years later, he returns to the country and finds himself in Kars, a town currently riddled with strife and religious/political instability over a breakout in young female suicides caused by a recent law banning the wearing of head scarves in school. Ka’s main goal in the start of the novel is to figure what is behind all of this suicide business and to take that information back to the West. Ultimately, though, he is caught up in all of the political struggles in addition to finding an old flame. And for the first time in years, poems begin to flow from his hand with an ease he had never before experienced.

The way the novel is written makes me think a lot of Dickens. Why that is, I dunno, because they share little to no traits in common. The one similarity that I did find while reading through Snow, though, is that the author exudes imagery. I never really questioned what something looked like. Now, I have a very vivid imagination as it is, and if you tell me there’s a dog sitting on a bench, I can give you a very descriptive analysis of that bench and why that stupid dog is on there to begin with. While reading this novel, though, I never felt like I had to purposefully think about conjuring up any images. They were all right there for the taking. This aspect of the novel reminds me of Dickens, but don’t get put off by that association. Instead of spending seven pages describing, say, a door knob so you can pretty much taste the sweat of the last person to open the darned thing, Pamuk, with little effort, succinctly and accurately describes a surrounding and the mannerisms the characters have. Now, that’s not to say the novel isn’t dense. Note that I said dense and not thick. The novel is 460 pages, and if you consider that thick, then that’s fine, but the content within the pages lends itself to concentrated reading. You can’t simply browse over the words and not imbibe them, lest you find yourself rereading passages.

An additional thing I like about the writing is how no-nonsense it is. For example, there are moments in the book where people do die, get shot in the face even, but the book doesn’t try to hold your hand through any of it. You’re given the facts (however fictional they may be), and the climax of a chapter won’t revolve around the incident itself, but what its intrinsic value is to the story. In this sense, I instantly contrast it to a work by Dean Koontz, for example, where every chapter ends on a cliffhanger and the story plays out in very “vertical” moments. I don’t know if that makes an entirety of sense, and I mean not to say any bad words about Koontz (I own several of his novels), but the way Snow is written unfolds like a flower where throughout the course of the journey it retains its innate beauty only to build upon itself to become a greater whole at the end.

And lastly, I found some damned good quotes while working through this puppy, and because I’m so nice, I’ll share them:

What does God in his wisdom intend by making me think so much about Kadife?” (Or insert any person you wish at the end there.)

“There are women who can’t resist a man who believes in nothing but love.”

“Happiness is holding someone in your arms and knowing you hold the world.”

“People who seek only happiness never find it.”

And my favorite: “My unhappiness protects me from life.”

So there you have it. I didn’t say anything bad about this one, get pissed if you wish. The more I think back on the novel now the more I like it. Take that as you will, but I definitely recommend it.