Sunday, March 4, 2007

Where is Red and what have you done with him?!

Title: My Name Is Red
Author: Orhan Pamuk
Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2006
Tranlator: Erdag M Goknar

# of Pages: 413; Hardcover
ISBN: 0375406956
Published: Originally in Turkish in 1998
English 2001, A A Knof

Challenge: 2/12
TBR February Read

Began Reading:
February 20th, 2007

Finished Reading:
March 4, 2007

Oft times, while seeking more innovative and entertaining ways to procrastinate from shelving books during my eight hour shifts at Indigo, I would pull out the ol' pen 'n' paper, walk the aisles sideways as my gaze devoured the covers of the thousands of books that filled the store. The angel face of Ondajannte's Anil's Ghost called out to me in whispers, Xao's One Man's Bible was promising secrets each time more and more inviting and Atwood's Edible Woman kept reminding me in a stern voice that I had certain obligations to fill. Each of these I listened to and wrote on my list usually accompanied by an adjective: 'Classic', 'must read', mark's recommendation', urban lit', and so forth. Each I listened to carefully. Orhan Pamuk's My Name is Red I did not. Every time my eyes came upon the cover of the book with it's bold title, my hands, voluntarily or not, reached out and touched it. My thoughts would begin to run away with themselves on who this Red was and what was he like? Passionate? Violent? Flamboyant? I could not wait to read it... but never did.

Years later, after the Nobel Prize ceremonies, I logged online to read who accepted what and to read the acceptance speeches (which are usually great reads if any of you are looking for more ways to pass the time in front of your computer screen) and dam! there in my face he was - Orhan Pamuk with his nerdy glasses and his oh-so-foreign aura. In fact, I had posted a quote from him with a pic in an earlier blog entry just because it was so great:

" ...I write because I love

the smell of paper, pen, and ink."

Of course, my hands, once again voluntarily or not, reached over for the mouse, typed the letters a,m,a,z,o,n,.,c,a and ordered the hardcover edition of the book whose title had haunted my thoughts for so long... I just needed a kick in the ass to get there.

The Story: Orhan's tale is a murder mystery with a love story woven in. The Sultan has commissioned a book to be written and illustrated that would illuminate the power of Allah and the Sultan. When two consecutive murders occur, both related to some degree to the creation of this work of art, the search for this killer and the threat he poses to the miniaturists of the palace is on. The love story is between Black, the nephew of one of the victims - Enishte who happened to be coordinating the entire project - and Enishte's daughter Shekure, the most beautiful woman in the district. As Black comes closer and closer to discovering the culprit so is he to Shekure's heart. the thrill is in that fact that this murderer holds a threat not only over all the palace miniaturists but also to the fruition of this love affair.

The Setting: is the most attractive and alive aspect of this tale. Istanbul's smells and people come alive. One feels the crowded streets, the shouts of the clothier, the spices of the market place. Pamuk enriches this novel with tales, myths and philosophy of a culture that I myself, other then historical context, am unfamiliar with.

Narration: is by far the best part and where the author's genius shines through. Like Faulkner, every chapter is headed with the name of the narrator for that section: 'Black', 'Shekure', 'Uncle', 'Murderer'. The last was where the villain invites the reader directly to discover who he is:

"If I do have a style and character, it's not hidden in my artwork, but in my crime and in my words as well! Yes, try to discover who I am from the colour of my words!" page 98

And so we do, as clues contradict and facts become tangled, we the reader can only rely on the style of the murderers voice in comparison to all the other characters that are introduced to us. Therefore a warning, there is lots of flipping back and forth, comparing grammar and sentence structure, etc. etc. There is also another means of solving the puzzle - which I actually did ( though am peacocked yet again, it sucks that there was no surprise. boo!) - which is through the characters philosophy. My Name is Red has as much art philosophy as Dorian Gray guys and that's tons. Each character presents a variation on what art is, it's function and role. By seeing the Murderer's reasons for his crime and comparing it with the character's ideologies, you can possibly come to the right conclusion.

Furthermore, there are chapters which are named 'Dog', 'Coin', 'Tree' and other objects/characters that are present in drawings. They speak their history and their place. They talk of their master, or their desires and hopes. It was always a pleasure to read these chapters that were so insightful on life in Istanbul and in general.

Worst Part: It was just a little too long! And the love story was very artificial. I couldn't stand either of them after the second half of the book.

The Title: Where the hell was Red in all of this? I was extremely disappointed to see that a) it was not a person or anything that breaths and b) it had all of 6 pages devoted to it. Oh yeah, I feel just a bit duped even though its not Pamuk's fault but my own overwrought imagination.

Read this When: you need to write a paper on a good book, a classic or whatnot, and are worried about the length of pages. There is so much possibility for analysis with this book that you need not worry about not coming up with the right quantity.

... when your about to hop on a plane for Istanbul. I would kill to have read this book for the first time there.

What does this mean for Pamuk?
Well, the guy won a Nobel Prize and he is like Faulkner in that though the book wasn't enjoyable per say your inclined to read more by him, to explore his style and psyche. So am definitely adding Snow to my list of TBR's for this year or maybe next. Like any NP winner, it is the body of work and not a single book that the award is given to.


iliana said...

Great review (by the way, glad to see you blogging again!). I tried to read Snow last month and unfortunately I had to return it to the library before finishing it. It was not what I expected and I would like to try it again. I would probably go back to it first before I tried Red.

Joy said...

Hi Nessie! Welcome to the Non-Fiction Five Challenge. I look forward to reading your list of choices. If you peruse the Mister Linky List, you'll get many we need more, right? It's difficult enough to whittle the ones we already know about down to just five. Happy book hunting! :)

Bookfool said...

Okay, I love what you said about Faulkner - "not enjoyable, per se, but you're inclined to read more by him to explore his style and psyche". Yep. I kept a vocabulary notebook when I read Faulkner and had to wonder . . . did he have a thesaurus in his lap? Was he just brilliant? I read the book in order to quiz my eldest (who apparently never even opened the book - he failed my quiz and then bombed the class test). The writing boggled my mind but it also tantalized me. I want to figure that sucker out.

So, what does is the Red bit about? What was in those 6 pages that gave the book its name?