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September 26, 2001 - Image 9

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2001-09-26

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ARTS

The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, September 26, 2001- 09

Lincoln's
12 stories
view e
struggles
By Carmen Johnson
Daily Arts Writer
In 12 short stories Christine Lin-
coln uncovers a web of characters liv-
ing in Grandville, Md. - young

Pamuk's fine new novel uses multiple
story lines, magical realism, hashish

By Andrew Field
For the Daily
In "My Name is, Red," by Orhan
Pamuk - written in Turkish and trans-
lated into English by Erdag M. Goknar
food for
thought is dished
out on steaming
My Name plates of rice
pilaf with
is Red almonds, succu-
Orhan Pamuk lent mutton and
Grade: B+ another dish,
Knopf mysterious in ori-
gin, that tastes
faintly of wonder
and hashish.
The closest to
describing
Pamuk's style
could be the
magical realism of Gabriel Garcia
Marquez and other Latin American
writers; fantastic elements are written
about without a trace of their implau-
sibility, and are thus, with the subtle
prodding of Pamuk's virtuoso pen,
entirely believable without any loss of
enchantment. There is, however, a gap-

+iiC,
81 4
Sap
Rising
Christine Lincoln
Grade: B
Pantheon

. people who want
better lives.
Expressed in
beautiful and
imaginative lan-
guage, she tells
the stories of
African-Ameri-
cans faced with
realities and
hardships. Lin-
coln's influences,
who include Toni
Morrison and
Alice Walker, are
evident not only
by subject matter
but also through
similarly emo-

ing hole in this comparison; and as
Marquez's pen seems to write as if
existing magically, autonomously
from the author, Pamuk's pen brings
to mind images of some surrealist
puppet master, dangling the strings of
his characters and, in effect, the reader
as well.
The novel takes place in 16th centu-
ry Istanbul. Here, Istanbul (with
Pamuk leading the way) is a labyrinth
of bustling marketplaces, towering
palaces, muddy streets and pungent
aromas. Inside smoky coffee houses,
poets, dervishes and artists congregate
and listen to a master storyteller, pay-
ing for their drinks with coins "redo-
lent of opium dens, candle-makers'
shops, dried mackerel and the sweat of
all of Istanbul."
The story is told through numerous
perspectives (a corpse, a dog, a tree,
the color red, not to mention a whole
stew of vivid, colorful human charac-
ters) that often address the reader
directly, and revolves around two mur-
ders and a stolen manuscript page.
Much of the fun in the book is picking
up clues yourself, noting the varying
styles of voice Pamuk masterfully

employs, and attempting to uncover
the identity of the murderer before the
murderer himself does. In fact, this
seems to be one of the driving forces
behind "My Name is Red" - as the
book is a mystery, so are its charac-
ters. As we interact with them, we, the
reader, are shrouded as well into the
rich, velvety mystery of the novel.
Love and lust also pervade "My
Name is Red," and Pamuk manages to
be delightfully vulgar and honest
without sentimentalizing the former
or overdoing the latter. Pamuk does
not claim to have any answers; his
characters constantly contradict them-
selves, lie bold-facedly and reinvent
themselves. They seem just as con-
fused (if not more) than the reader,
which works as both a reassurance
and a sort of introspective double-
take. However, everyone is so ungod-
ly manipulative, persuasive,
intelligent and deducing, that occa-
sionally the tone of the characters
belabors on the absurd - it's as if
Pamuk feels the need to explicitly
describe every notion and its many
implications. Rather than just offering
up a detail ("she looked down at her

toes,") Pamuk continues, considering
every possible connotation of such an
act. This seems to contradict Pamuk's
entire idea of mystery (however, you
could make the case that it serves to
further the sense of mystery through
the exploration of possibilities).
Art (like love) has oftentimes been
compared to a mystery; we can look at
the same painting and construe whole
worlds of different meanings and
worth. So, it seems appropriate that
Pamuk's story revolves around an illu-
minated manuscript, commissioned by
"His Excellency Our Sultan, the Foun-
dation of the World." The manuscript
is rumored to bring about the demise
of Persian art (calligraphy and illustra-
tions often based on stories from the
Koran), and the start of a new Venet-
ian movement, one that extolls the
beauty and individuality of the self
(the Italian High Renaissance), over
the blurred relationship between the.
Istanbul state and religion. Much is
made of style and signature, painting
and time, blindness and memory.
From this emerges a crafty, if some-
what overstressed, investigation into
how and why we look at art.

Courtesy of Knopf

tionally-detailed characters.
Whether it's pregnancy, abuse,
death or just a need to escape, every
character handles their situations in
unique ways. Sounds depressing,
huh?
But what makes an even better
story is the author herself. It's hard to
imagine that this author was once a
suicidal teen drug addict, who had an
abortion at age 16.
Not anymore, though. Christine
Lincoln, 35, graduated top of her
class from Washington College in
Chestertown, Md., a year ago. She
won the 2000 Sophie Kerr Prize,
given to "the graduating senior at
Washington College who demon-
strates the greatest ability and
promise for future fulfillment in the
field of literary endeavor" for this
debut collection of stories.
It also earned her $54,000, money
she once desperately needed. Only a
few years before entering college, her
son Takii was born with major health
problems and needed bladder surgery.
Lincoln quit her job, sold everything
and moved in with her family in order
to pay the medical bills.
Takii recovered later and inspired
Lincoln to look back at her life, and
focus on what she really wanted to do
- write. She enrolled into college,
without knowing how she would pay
the $20,000 tuition.
Four years later she became the
subject of many magazine and news-
paper articles after winning the
Sophie Kerr Prize, which hail her as
the new voice in American literature.
She was also noticed by a well-
known New York. literary agent. "Bid-
ding was competitive," according to
Linton Weeks of The Washington
Post, "with several (publishing) hous-
es involved."
Lincoln, who is now studying at
the University of Johannesburg, is
feeling a lot of pressure to create
good pieces of writing in the future.
She is already working on a second
book, a novel about rape and recon-
ciliation set in South Africa.
Lincoln's long road to college grad-
uation, plus the recognition of her
writing, is now the spotlight of many
articles. What she went through is a
testament to the favorite American
belief and cliche: No matter how dire
one's conditions may be, one should
still reach for their dreams. Talent
prevails over social status.
Lincoln's voice can be heard
through characters such as Ebbie Pin-
der who leaves the man who loves her
because she needed something more,
something that couldn't be found in
him or in their home.
"There were no street lights, just
the moon to navigate her way, the
sway of her hips, like a ship crossing
the ocean taking her closer to where
the train's whistle sang her lament."
Or how about Sonny's stranger,
who came into his life "like wind,
like a storm that blew in one night
and was gone the next, leaving him
with a yearning that would take years
to fill."
Whether you read these short sto-
ries to learn about the character's
struggles, or to see why Lincoln
received so much attention for her
writing, you'll find yourself enjoying
her words.

I ..-

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