Sunday, February 24, 2008

What is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng (part I of II)

I recently read two remarkable books, and I’d like to talk about them both, in separate posts. The first is What is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng, the story of one of Sudan’s Lost Boys as told by Dave Eggers. The second is The Devil’s Highway, by Luis Alberto Urrea. Both these books became bestsellers, and have been reviewed and discussed extensively elsewhere. I write about them now because I only read them a little while ago.

Each of these books revived for me an experience I used to have commonly as a child, but much less frequently in adulthood. I would pick up a book and not be able to focus on anything else until I had finished it. I would read on the bus to school, at my desk during class, and often during lunch break. Late at night I would sneak to my bedroom doorway to read by the light in the hall, which was ostensibly left on to comfort my siblings and I from nighttime terrors. On Saturdays, I would shut myself in the bathroom for hours to read and avoid my chores. On Sundays, I resented the three hours that church took away from my books. As an adult, I read primarily nonfiction, and much more slowly given the multiplying demands on my time, and I thought maybe I had lost that childhood compulsion completely. But with each of these books, the hunger to continue the story continued until I had read both of them in the same week. This I find a little strange, considering that either one could be the most depressing book I have ever read.

[Continued at Citizen Orange]

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