Saturday, December 1, 2007

Book Review 2 (Joni)

Justin and I have both recently read books about Moldova. Justin read a deep and ponderous tome exploring the historical and political facets about Moldovan identity. I read a book by a British comedian exploring his misadventures in accepting a bet that he could beat all 11 players on the Moldovan national soccer team at tennis or else he had to strip and sing the Moldovan national anthem on a public street in downtown London.
Playing the Moldovans at Tennis by Tony Hawks was exactly as funny as my brief description of it above makes it sound. This is Hawks' second book and also Hawks' second bizarre bet. (The first book/bet involved something about hitch-hiking across Ireland with a refrigerator? That book is next on my "to find and read" list.)

Besides the hilarity of the whole situation, the book is actually pretty insightful about Moldovan culture. It definitely expresses very well the feeling one from a more Western country gets upon arriving in Moldova and trying to accomplish anything. The adventures set forth in this book took place in 1998, so it also helps me understand how far Moldova has come in just 9 short years. Some things are very different from the way they were back then (For example, now Moldova has street lights at night. Back then, the government wouldn't pay for the power to light the streets at night - the danger of falling into an uncovered manhole was imminent.), but some things are still very strangely the same (For example, there is still a strong possibility that the inattentive person could fall into an open manhole...).

I have come across some who didn't think the book was as great as I did. (My husband is one of those people.) The storyline is pretty basic and could be outlined in about 10 pages. However, with the humor and insights, Hawks manages to fill about 200. Justin thought this was kind of gratuitous and wished he would just get on with the story. I, for the most part, enjoyed all of his notes and side stories, especially things involving the family he lived with in Moldova. He in fact was able to form moving relationships with them, and it was very neat to see him explore how to cross that line into becoming accepted into the hearts of Moldovans - something I am still trying to learn about.

And Hawks is just plain funny. By page 6 I was laughing out loud, and by chapter 2 I had tears streaming down my face. I literally had to stop reading and put the book down so I could start breathing again because I was laughing so hard! Not every chapter was that funny, but just when I started to get bored and wish the story would move on, he would include a funny story that had me laughing again. (The one where he compared the way one of the Moldovans played tennis to a man trying to ward off an attack by a swarm of bees comes to mind...)

So I would recommend this book to those who want to be entertained and learn a bit about Moldovan culture.

DISCLAIMER: There is some language in this book, and I've spoken to others who found some of the humor to be off-color. Please don't read this book and then be offended or think I'm some kind of heathen. If you might be offended, don't read the book!

1 comment:

JTapp said...

I actually like the book. And all of the off-colour humour is British, so sometimes you don't know what's offensive and what isn't.