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The Kite Runner

I normally steer clear of books that appear on bestseller lists. I’ve always had the (possibly arrogant) impression that these books are written for the masses, and that their success is more due to the efforts of marketers than to the quality of the product itself. A truly good book normally requires such a time investment and such an incredible amount of effort to fully appreciate that I am inherently suspicious of anything that aims to offer the masses immediate gratification.

However, I had a strange feeling that The Kite Runner would be different, that it would be more The Life of Pi than the Angels and Demons word vomit.

The story kicks off in the 70’s, focusing on a childhood spent in an Afghanistan as yet untroubled by the Soviet Union or the malignant regimes that we became all too familiar with following the events of 9/11. And it is this setting itself that seems to be the book’s main draw-card. I can’t help but think that the only reason that this book was such a success is that it provided a glimpse into an intriguingly alien culture that had the world’s attention focused upon it immediately following the World Trade Center attacks.

While the writing in the first third of the book is admittedly very good at times, it soon begins to falter and rarely reaches a level deserving of such wide acclaim (the part where the protagonist attempts to write his first story is a noted exception). The plot is cleanly simple and should have provided a powerful mechanism through which to reveal complex and often dirty character traits that normally go unexplored by most authors and readers. However, Hosseini has a tendency to over-dramatise, and the main character swings so drastically between opposing stances that the reader never feels that he has the choice to make up his own mind about him. Rather, the author forces him upon you as either a hero or villain depending on what is required to move the plot forward at the time.

Ultimately The Kite Runner is a good book, but I’d be hard pressed to call it anything more than decent. I feel that if it weren’t for all the hype surrounding it, little attention would have been paid to the mostly average writing. Many have suggested that Hosseini wrote the book with the intent of having it translated into a movie, and this is evident as it is loaded with very obvious sentimentality throughout (and by the fact that it was indeed quickly adapted into a film).

It is a pity though, as at many times during the beginning of the story I felt that I was about to undertake a remarkable journey. By the end however, due to its poor characters and by the author seemingly taking the easy route out with the story, it was a book that left me feeling vastly underwhelmed.

Onion spoofs Obama

In thinking about US political candidates one can get a little distracted with what’s happening closer to home in Zimbabwe and start to take the race for the primaries a bit too seriously. When news channels show how much the candidates are spending on TV advertising, a person begins to wonder if we’re all living in the real world.

On our doorstep we have a potential democratic election that may yeild another African miracle (South Africa being the example to follow here). The MDC say they will “forgive and forget” and start building Zimbabwe up. Here’s to change.

Thinking about change, if you haven’t seen a recent Onion offering – do yourself a favour.

Did you know that sunny SA has our own version of the mighty spoof-page? Indeed we do. And what did they call it? Not Eish, Eina, Ys-Rys-en-Vleis or even Pap-en-sous… rather Hayibo. Nice SA flavour to it.

Barak Obama did indeed respond in a speech some are calling his ‘Lincoln moment’.

Michael Trapido blogs about it very eloquently. The full transcript of the 37-minute long speech makes stirring reading, and almost convinces you that he writes his own stuff.

The speech: A More Perfect Union

Before you laugh, bear in mind that my heading is realtive to South African politics where parliamentary debate like watching a B-grade sledge-fest rather than one where smart verbal riposte is appreciated.

Currently the primaries (which candidate the parties will endorse) are being decided with the main attraction being the Democrat race between Barak Obama and Hillary Clinton. The republican guy sounds like a slightly smarter version of Dubya (note: not that difficult) with the same agenda.

So Obama’s campaign to win the hearts and minds of American voters by being the clear cut-above of the two democtrats was steaming ahead when it hit a snag. Yes, the fact that a) he is black and b) knows people who say politically incorrect things seems to be playing into Hillary’s hands.

Sure, Hillary is a woman and also has loud-mouthed friends… but not like this she doesn’t. Here is abc television’s take on Obama’s pastor.

Obama’s Pastor: God Damn America, US To Blame for 9-11

Okay, so they’re not so subtle after all but I’ll be watching with interest to see how this soap opera plays out.

Flying Squirrels

I got this from a colleague in the office the other day, and it has to be the single most incredible clip that I’ve ever seen:

In case you were wondering, what these psychos are doing is called wingsuit flying. Popularised by Patrick de Gayardon (who subsequently died while testing a new modification) wingsuits seem like the stuff of dreams, and yet they’ve found their way into the mainstream.

It’s almost surreal just how awesome that clip is. The guys are practically living one of humanity’s oldest dreams and keep on pushing the boundaries. I love how the guy says that they got bored, so they had to try something more interesting!