Wednesday night, I stayed up way past my bedtime and finished reading Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club. While I certainly believe in intellectual freedom, I can see the other side of the argument and can possibly understand why the book is frequently challenged and/or banned in public libraries.

It was definitely an interesting read with not a single dry moment; however, the book is chucked full of anti-social/anti-society behaviors to the point in which, at times, I felt as though I was reading some sort of a manifesto. Definitely not a “JC-type-book” but I am glad that I stuck with it and can see the other side of the censorship argument.

Would I challenge the book? No. To each their own. I willingly read the book. It was not forced upon me as reading material. I was curious as to the controversy surrounding the piece and wanted to be able to form my own opinion rather than digesting the narrow spoon-fed opinions floating around in literary-land.

If I were practicing and a challenge to this book was submitted? I can think of several, fairly radical, “religious” pieces that fall into the opposite end of the spectrum that I would happily censor along with Fight Club. A good collection is balanced. Futhermore, a library’s collection should not be dominated by the most vocal and obnoxious.

/end intellectual freedom rant

On Thursday night, after completing a lesson plan, I began reading The Piano Teacher by Janice Y. K. Lee. The piece I am reading is not to be confused with Die Klavierspielerin written by Nobel laureate Elfriede Jelinek or the 2001 movie based upon Jelinek’s novel.

Thus far, in Lee’s piece, two eras are being portrayed: World War II and the Cold War. If you know anything about me, those two eras fascinate me which is why I purchased the book in the first place. (It was one of those “recommended” books on display directly next to the cash register, in Borders, that the staff “casually” mention while you are just beginning your sales transaction.) Many of the books I have read taking place during those eras come from the traditional American, Japanese, German, or even Soviet settings. This book is set in Hong Kong, China, soon to be occupied.

Unfortunately for me, it is not a history piece, but rather a work of fiction containing romantic themes and elements. Again, if you know anything about me: not my cup of tea. *gag* So while the plot is turning and encounters are occurring, I am focused on the clothing, the architecture, the automobiles, the use of human labor (rickshaws), gender stereotypes and roles, and of course, what is happening in the historical sense – not how this book was written to be digested, but it works for me!

From Publishers Weekly:
“Starred Review. Former Elle editor Lee delivers a standout debut dealing with the rigors of love and survival during a time of war, and the consequences of choices made under duress. Claire Pendleton, newly married and arrived in Hong Kong in 1952, finds work giving piano lessons to the daughter of Melody and Victor Chen, a wealthy Chinese couple. While the girl is less than interested in music, the Chens’ flinty British expat driver, Will Truesdale, is certainly interested in Claire, and vice versa. Their fast-blossoming affair is juxtaposed against a plot line beginning in 1941 when Will gets swept up by the beautiful and tempestuous Trudy Liang, and then follows through his life during the Japanese occupation. As Claire and Will’s affair becomes common knowledge, so do the specifics of Will’s murky past, Trudy’s motivations and Victor’s role in past events. The rippling of past actions through to the present lends the narrative layers of intrigue and more than a few unexpected twists. Lee covers a little-known time in Chinese history without melodrama, and deconstructs without judgment the choices people make in order to live one more day under torturous circumstances.”

The New Yorker:
“This cinematic tale of two love affairs in mid-century Hong Kong shows colonial pretensions tainted by wartime truths. Will Truesdale, a rootless, handsome Briton, arrives in the colony in 1941, and is swept up by Trudy Liang, the blithe and glamorous daughter of a Shanghai millionaire and a Portuguese beauty. They quickly become inseparable, their days spent in a whirl of parties and champagne, but when the Japanese invade, Will is interned and Trudy resorts to increasingly Faustian methods to survive. After the war, Claire Pendleton, the naive wife of a British civil servant, arrives. She begins giving piano lessons to the daughter of a rich Chinese couple, and falls in love with their wounded and inscrutable driver: Will. Lee unfolds each story, and flits between them, with the brisk grace and discretion of the society she describes a world in which horrors are adumbrated but seldom told.”