NOTICE: (Updated March 5, 2010)

Beginning December 19, 2009, Books 'N Border Collies will be posting but only intermittently while I pursue personal goals. I plan to share some reading I'm doing, but there will be no reviews. I will, however, be sharing my exploration of vegetarian cooking and the cookbooks and websites I use to educate myself. I hope you enjoy it!


Saturday, March 29, 2008


by Chinua Achebe

I was about ten chapters into Things Fall Apart when it occurred to me. I was enjoying the book, but I felt like I was missing some serious points. The sparse writing had temporarily lulled me into skimming the surface. I hopped on Google and found myself a fabulous study guide that supplied questions to ponder as I continued reading and a resource website that explored Post-Colonial Literature from various parts of the world. Suddenly I was reading a book that went from "quaint" to "powerful".

On the off chance that it’s not completely obvious, I lack a college education in literature. While I often am tempted to remedy that, I am also acutely aware that years of required reading being laid out for me would probably not produce the desired effect, because, quite frankly, I want to read what I want to read when I want to read it. Therefore, I am doing my best to educate myself while indulging in my wide-ranging tastes. Hence, the occasional forays into the world of online study tools. In this case, I was extremely pleased that I did. I think that I would have picked up on more of the themes once I had gotten into the coming of the missionaries, but I’m not sure I would have fully appreciated the entire first section of the book where Achebe describes many of the intricacies of tribal life. I ended up becoming so engrossed that I immediately went out and purchased the two books about the main character’s descendants, Arrow of God and No Longer at Ease, which I plan on reading right away.

Ultimately, I had a hard time drumming up a lot of sympathy for Okonkwo, the main character. Even in the light of his own culture he was a jerk. But I did understand his feelings at the end. And I felt terrible for the Ibo people as their world began changing before their eyes. While the Ibo traditions look harsh and primitive to Western sensibilities, it worked for them and had beauty and nobility despite its flaws. While I have no desire to live in a tribal culture, I find myself envying certain aspects of a simpler life. And every time I read about things like this coming of the missionaries or the displacement of the Native Americans and the like, I always think to myself, “And what makes our way of life so much better? Why do we think we are so superior?” Granted, leaving babies out in the woods to die because of superstitious beliefs is abhorrent on every level, but why do we feel the need to wipe out every aspect of life that doesn’t look like ours? And as I sit in my mid-western suburban home pondering these questions, American troops sit in Iraq. I’m not getting political here. This is a book blog. I’m just saying there’s a lot to think about.



Anonymous said...

"I am doing my best to educate myself while indulging in my wide-ranging tastes."

You are a far better person than me! Even so, I like the study guide. Pretty cool!

Bridget said...

I had to read this book in college for an international relations class. At first, I was determined to consider it boring and stupid, but in the end, it's one of the best books I've ever read.

I think I need to re-read it, thanks for the reminder!

BooksPlease said...

I just made a comment, but I think it disappeared!

BooksPlease said...

Yes, it looks as though it did. I'll try again!

I read Things Fall Apart when I was doing on Open University course on Literature in the Modern World,(that was a good way to catch up on literature, although it took me a long time and was a bit expensive).I remember that I first thought the book was a bit simplistic, but then realised there was much more to it.

I'll look at that study guide - it sounds interesting and I was going to reread Things Fall Apart anyway. I'd also like to read those other two Achebe books you mention. So much for my plans to read, but like you I like to read what I want when I want.

And as for politics, well I agree with you - it does make you think!

Jeane said...

Heavy stuff. I read Things Fall Apart in high school, and even then under forced examination it felt powerful. I would love to read those other two you mentioned.

Lezlie said...

J. Kaye ~ I have an intellectual inferiority complex I'm working to get over. I think it stems from trading college for playing in rock bands. Now at 43 years old, I'm not sure it was a good trade, but my cocktail party stories are a lot of fun! :-)

Bridget ~ You might want to try the other two also. I'm almost half way through Arrow of God, and it is just as good.

Books Please ~ I almost left that last bit out, but I really felt it had to be said. It was in my mind the entire time I read Things Fall Apart. I liked that study guide a lot. It helped me grasp many aspects of the writing that I would have missed otherwise.

Jeane ~ I'll be posting about the others as I finish them. I don't think it will take long. They're all quick reads.

joanna said...

Great post Lezlie!

I recently bought this book and it's in my TBR stack. Thanks for the study guide links, I'll definitely use them - I wish I'd used one for Catch-22 as well, I'm sure I would have gotten much more out of it.

And I agree with your political things to think about. For sure.

joanna said...

I forgot to add something re Native American Indians - have you read Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee? I reac half of it last year - only half because it was really depressing, but I hope to finish the rest of it at some point... in any case it's really good and might be something you'd like to check out!

Lezlie said...

Joanna ~ I think I'll link any cool study materials I find from now on. They can add a lot to the experience. And you don't have to write a paper when you're done! :-) I think Peter has Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee in the basement. I'll have to dig that out! Once I thought about it, using the word "displacement" with regard to the Native Americans seemed woefully inadequate.