on May 23, 2004
What is most striking about a book that contains multitudes of gob smacking passages is Alexandra (Bobo) Fullers excruciating honesty. At every turn in this story of her return to Zimbabwe there is an opportunity for an easier and more palatable course. Bo's hard drinking hellfire willed and most definitely bigoted mother is shown in all of her grace and courage, rather than an easy stereotype of colonialism, which is an almost impossible balance to achieve with one's own parent. Ultimately Bo's decision to enter her own Heart of Darkness with K., a brutal, broken and heartbreaking former soldier of the wars for Independance makes sense if there was no other way to heal the damage and accept the beauty that being from Africa has left her with. The conditions of their travel (hellish heat, corrupt officials and the Furies that lurk at every watering hole and dune) and K.'s sudden outbursts, both intensely savage and tender by turns would make a woman less dedicated to finding the truth at whatever costs catch the first plane out of Africa. For an understanding of what war, any war, actually costs this book is unparalleled. I heard the author speak here in Wyoming recently and I can't stop thinking about what she said about her attempt to heal herself, to make whole what had been broken in herself and in K. She said that what they had done instead was to wrench those wounds open and dig their hands deep inside, gripping the most sensitive, raw depths of each others shame and hurt. By laying open these wounds and exposing their flaws without flinching or turning away they were both given a greater gift. I shrink to say that the result was acceptance or something easy. There isn't anything easy about this book but it is searingly honest and it also bears mentioning really funny in a sort of death may come soon why not crack a joke here, what have I got to lose way.
on July 16, 2004
I wasn't sure what to expect when I picked this book up, but was looking for a change of pace. Unlike most of the readers here, I haven't actually read the other book of hers. It was simply something different.
So the book starts off rather charming. People wandering around Africa (Zambia, I suppose) and just describing the absurdity of the condition. Describing the landscape and the people. I enjoyed that. A refreshing change.
As it continues, we actually begin to notice ... what aren't really flaws in the Author's character so much as, well, as the Amazon reviewer put it, craters. You start to see that both the people (K and the Author) are fairly scarred and unhappy people.
This goes on, and the unhappiness really increases substantially. I found the book to have gone from charming and lighthearted to depressing and rather bleak. This, perhaps intentionally, seems to coincide with the landscape. We start off in Zambia at the downright comical parents' fish farm, and continue to a somewhat bleaker K's home, and then back to the States, thoroughly unhappy and indeed missing everything in Africa, and then it gets really unpleasant -- lost in the African outback, being chased by a pet Lion (!), and so on.
So while it might be hard to finish, as the change is so drastic (although mercifully slow), like other art, it is sometimes painful, and we as readers are compelled to do so.
As another reviewer mentioned, there just isn't a hollywood ending. It ends. There isn't anything tied up or completed, the threads of the book remain, sadly, frayed. That, however, I suppose, is the Author's point.
I'd been trying to decide between 3 and 4 stars for the book, and erred on the side of 4. I'd probably read it again, but I'd make sure to do it at a time when I wasn't looking for anything pleasant or uplifting.
on May 10, 2004
Satisfying and captivating. This is a haunting, yet beautifully textured, continuation of Fuller's younger life memoired in "Don't Let's Go to The Dog's Tonight". After skimming over seven years of living the fat life in the US she's drawn back to the raw life of her African childhood to research the wars which raged on around her youth. She encounters soldiers reluctant to reveal the realities of being a warrior, including her father. Bo's faced with a new understanding of her own history, the people she's left behind and of the war torn Africa (specifically former Rhodesia and Mozambique) that was beyond understanding as a child.
Though this isn't meant to be a history lesson in itself, however, it's timely; considering the HIV epidemic and the many conflicts currently raging round the globe, the attitudes of those that start wars, and how wars effect so many for so long.
Her travels are written with the eyes of a painter along with humerous, soulful, philosophical observations of what it is to be human here on earth. It's all here; love and longing, fear and hatred, courage and bravado, depression and abuse, faith and endurance, peace and tranquilty: and advice from Alexadra Fuller's father, "Don't look back so much or you'll get wiped out on the tree in front of you".
We're left wondering if Fuller has learned the lessons from her travels with a soldier that are obvious to the reader regarding accountability and vulnerabilty. I missed the unapologetic observations she's famous for regarding her view of her role in this journey. Fuller finds herself, however, unapologetically halfway around the world from her husband and children with some pretty questionable characters and claims she is the same person she was at the beginning of her journey. I loved this book but I can't help but feel it's a memoir written too close to real time to be completely told. I'm not sure if she hit the tree or not but maybe that was her intention. Read it and decide.
on June 1, 2004
Readers of Fuller's first book, Don't Lets Go..., will likely be both pleased and disappointed with Scribbling The Cat. Fuller has lost none of the poetic earthiness and honesty that makes her work so delicious. Sadly, the story line seems somewhat lacking in substance, given the complexity and gravity of the war. Readers are provided with a only a vague itinerary (Mozambique battlefields) and only the briefest thumbnail sketch of the conflicts' major events. Also missing is the charm of Fuller's own innocence. Unlike her first book, birth and fate are not why she finds herself in precarious circumstances. Rather, it's her own questionable judgment and admitted desire to push the envelope. Nevertheless, the characters are memorable, and once again Fuller brings to life the land in all its sensory glory.
The book reads like a gifted-but-underachieving student's school report. As if she attempted to overcome a dearth of solid research by relying heavily on descriptive talent...B+
on May 22, 2004
With so much to recommend this book, where does one begin? At the outset, give Alexandra Fuller her due: this young woman is more than just an accomplished writer; she is one of the most talented authors alive today. Her prose weaves a tapestry so vivid and exhilarating you find yourself being sucked into its very warp and woof. Time after time in my reading I found myself nearly falling off my chair and thinking, How the hell did she ever come up with that? Mind you, she does this special word-magic of hers not just once or twice between the covers, but on every page. Frankly, I don't care whether Fuller is writing about Africa or about apricots, her command of the language is such that you get that special electricity shooting down your spine again and again (to paraphrase Nabokov, one reads Fuller with one's spine). Even more than with her first book, "Don't Let's Go To The Dogs Tonight," this volume contains scenes of horrific violence and war atrocities, and she meets these clear-eyed and dead-on, refusing to flinch or turn away. After reading "Scribbling the Cat," I come away not quite the same person I was before. Few persons will come away from reading "Scribbling the Cat" unchanged.
on July 19, 2004
I don't know what to say; rather, I have too much to say. I didn't grow up in a godforsaken war zone as Fuller did in Africa but I was neck-deep and more in the colonial environment of Panama. This book cut me to the quick. Even without my background, however, the book is a special compilation of pages that very much need to be read. It's an unusual and amazing book; a reminder of how humanity stretches and can be brought to the edge of redemption before it knows it's not quite human any more. This book will be on my end-of-year Best Books list, no question. Even though I still am flumoxed by its contents. Which, I think was the writer's point. In which case, she done just fine.
on August 31, 2012
This is the follow-on story by Alexandra Fuller to her previous book, Let's not Go to The Dogs Tonight. Alexendra is now a mature woman and mother who has returned to Africa on assignment. While visiting her parents she meets an old soldier who was involved in the Rhodesian crisis. The two go on a journey to the old battle areas and visit old soldier friends who have chosen to stay on in Africa. It is a moving account of post traumatic stress disorder, how some seemingly cope or appear to cope with it. It is the continuing story of the changes shaping the regions in the post clonial era and those who survived the civl wars, and stayed on because of their love for Africa, including Fuller's parents. A moving, sometimes funny,sad,loving and thoughtful journey in Africa, a country and people she understands and she loves. A very moving and enjoyable story of life.
on May 28, 2004
This is another amazing book by Fuller. Buy it. Read it. Soak up all of its unflinching honesty. What a wonderful and refreshing thing that there are no Hollywood endings in this book, or pretty bows that tie everything up all nicely. It's raw and so completely human. And so beautifully written.
on May 22, 2004
I bought this book because I loved Alexandra Fuller's first book. However, this one is riddled with factual errors. First, I was born, raised and educated in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. There is not and never has been an Mweni junior school. Milton junior and senior were popular with Bulawayo's jewish community. Is this what K means? and whose error is it? K's or the author's?
Second, even the cover is wrong. Zimbabwe's civil war occured during approximately 1967 and 1980. By 1981, the date mentioned on the fly leaf, the war had been over for more than a year.
Not up to the high standard of the first book, I fear.
on May 4, 2004
I've found this very informative, as I have just started learning about Rhodesia, with only small tidbits from old SOFs