Wednesday 28 October 2015

A Good Scent From A Strange Mountain by Robert Olen Butler

I've been reading these short stories since my holiday in Vietnam at Easter.

I have thoroughly enjoyed each one, so I have no idea why it has taken me son long to get through this book.

Actually, yes, I do.

It's the font and the paper.

My edition of A Good Scent from A Strange Mountain came from an American publisher. It didn't cost very much. It's made with rough textured, off-white (okay, yellowed) paper and the font - type and size - is ghastly.

Australians often bitch and moan about the price of books here, but we pay for what we get. Our books are usually published on good quality paper, well-bound with generous fonts. It costs a bit more money to do this, but I think it is worth it.

I don't enjoy picking up this book.

It feels cheap and nasty.

Which is a shame, because the stories are delightful - poignant, descriptive and insightful.
Like many North American books about Vietnam, it focuses on the Saigon and South Vietnam experience only. Or more accurately, South Vietnamese immigrants living in Louisiana.

Butler served in Vietnam as a counter-intelligence special agent from 1969-1971 and later worked as a translator. So I guess that makes the connection and the reason why obvious.

The truly remarkable feature of these stories though, is how well and how completely Butler enters the Vietnamese character's psyches. It feels authentic and it feels respectful.

As an aside, I was curious to see that Butler has now been married five time!

Winner of the 1993 Pulitzer Prize.

A Good Scent From A Strange Mountain is no.15 in my #15in31 challenge - yay me!
Thanks Andi for the inspiration and encouragement to finish so many books this month. Now I just have to get on top of the reviews!

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