Archive for July, 2011

Two new reviews of The Geometry of God

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

This week the online journal asianamlitfans brings this review of The Geometry of God, by Stephen Hong Sohn. Here’s an excerpt:

“The novel focuses on four main characters: Amal and Mehwish, two sisters; Zahoor, their grandfather and proponent of evolutionary theory; and finally Noman, an individual who, over the course of the novel, comes to change his political viewpoints in relation to scientific inquiry. The most interesting aspect of the novel to me personally was the extensive exploration of evolutionary theory as it relates to cetaceans, which have been theorized to have descended actually from land mammals. Thus, while it is commonly understood by evolutionary scientists that all complex life originated from the oceans, cetaceans and sirenians and other such mammalian species tied to the sea, took the interesting approach of returning to that location. Thus, Amal is pivotal in that she discovers an important bone connected to what one might call a “bridge species” or “missing link” between land mammals and sea mammals. Like the famed archaeopteryx, the limbed bird that apparently exhibited the transition between lizards and birds, the “dog-whale” bone, found in Pakistan, incites interest in evolutionary theories in a place often inhospitable to such scientific ideas. In some sense, the major conflicts that arise in this text are between science and Islam, between women and career trajectories; thus Khan tackles salient and productive topics. … Khan has a poet’s ear for language and there will be moments where you will find yourself pausing to grapple with what is being said. One of my favorite passages: “The rain glows loud. I get the smell of Lahore I usually only get in summer, when it’s so hot people water their driveways. They turn on the hose to crack the whip on heat. And then that smell: of watered roads, of the earth opening up its maw, of tension released. Vapors slide over my tongue and deep into my lungs. It’s the smell of the fertile tunnels of Lahore’s past” (329). This imagery and these descriptions offered to us by Nomad vividly illustrate how characters are consistently embedded in an archaeologically inflected consciousness. Field dig sites located in remote geographies and dense urbanscapes alike become sites of excavation. A rich, multi-layered novel.”

Also let me excerpt from a review just out in the new print issue of Calyx:

Uzma Aslam Khan’s fourth novel, The Geometry of God, the first book published by Clockroot Books, more than adequately fulfills the publisher’s interest in fostering urgent, disorienting, vivid writing. In her latest work, Khan challenges the reader in multiple ways to make sense of the world she depicts in her pages. Her creative and exuberant use of language (Urdu and Punjabi words included) delights and puzzles us, and makes us think from start to finish.

In The Geometry of God, Khan’s literary landscape and sensibilities differ from those of the majority of female South Asian writers, except in her exploration of familial affection and forbidden romantic love. She plumbs female and filial repression as well as the struggle of science versus religion. Khan is most compelling in the latter, sometimes providing colorful dialogue to show the tension, irony, and silliness inherent in deprecating reason. …

The story, set in Islamabad and Lahore during the troubled era of Zia-ul-Haq in the eighties and nineties, follows the lives of two remarkable sisters—the younger one blind and the other a budding paleontologist—and a man named Noman. The novel unfolds through their voices in first-person narrative which, along with Khan’s employment of the present tense, gives the book an immediacy that keeps readers engaged. The first chapter rightly begins with the eight-year-old Amal’s voice since her life dominates the pages. We are drawn in by the child’s intelligent perspective…

Living in a repressive society, Amal has the good fortune to have Zahoor as a grandfather—not just because he is a paleontologist but also because she’s exposed to stimulating conversations, including debates about religion and science. Her childhood discovery of the ear fossil of the primitive whale, Pakicetus, or dog-whale as she likes to refer to it, is a major event in the scientific world. As a young woman, Amal becomes Pakistan’s sole female paleontologist, which is no easy feat since she has to tolerate the attitudes of male colleagues and the Islamic restrictions under Zia’s regime. Mehwish’s narrative reveals how she senses what happens around her and conveys her imperfect grasp of language, which Khan dexterously manipulates to add to the wordplay prevalant throughout the novel…

The only male voice in the story is Noman’s, though in the first half of the novel we get Zahoor’s perspective as well. Noman’s involvement with the Party of Creation (which wants to discredit science to Islam’s advantage) sets him on a course that will entangle his destiny with Zahoor and his granddaughters. …

Reading The Geometry of God is akin to being immersed in the sea of Khan’s language.

If not here, then where? and other news

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

We’ve been a bit quiet on this blog. As an excuse, let me offer that I’ve been blogging over at the Kenyon Review Online: the KR blog here, and me blogging on it here.

But in the meantime there’s been lots of news! A quick recap: Sunetra Gupta’s So Good in Black has been reviewed in Publishers Weekly, the Washington Times (“Sunetra Gupta writes of ambiguities brilliantly”), and most recently and at length in the Common (Amherst College’s new literary magazine, and so an exciting new addition to our local scene).

Alex Epstein’s newest, Lunar Savings Time, translated by Becka Mara McKay, has also been lauded by Publishers Weekly (“Consistently provocative”… “Best read first in gulps, and then in savory sips”), and by Bill Marx over at Arts Fuse, as well as here at the Complete Review.

Also have a look at this interview I had a lot of fun doing with Alex at the Kenyon Review.

Since we’ve been a little slow here, I’d suggest you might like to “like” us on Facebook, which will keep you updated with all things Clockroot when we’re slow on the blog.