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Book Review: Panic in a Suitcase

I have this totally indefensible, embarrassing thing about foreign-sounding proper nouns. I probably should not admit this now, here, but a discussion of this arbitrary disinclination I have will prove germane to the subject of this review, Yelena Akhtiorksaya’s debut novel Panic in a Suitcase (which I’ll say now, just to show my cards, is a masterful work of art). Whenever I see a lot of italicized non-English words that seem unnecessary (e.g. “She said thanks a Dios”) or place names that could have been written in English but weren’t (e.g. “We took a left at the Tour Eiffel”), my eyes glaze over. Something about italicizing text makes it sound different in the reader’s mind. Or maybe I’m just an uncultured jerk. I am not proud of this and my Cuban grandmother wouldn’t be either if she knew about my close-minded weakness. But I’d hazard a guess that a lot of English readers have experienced something like this foreignness-fatigue. The issue is not that the places and names are not in English, but rather that writing them in a different language seems designed to underline the fact of their foreignness. The italics work like a neon sign indicating that here we’ve got something new, something different and exciting. It feels a bit like putting a goatee on Mr. Spock to show that he is evil instead of making him prove it.

Laura Pedersen Reads at Larkin Square

Buffalo native Laura Pedersen, novelist, journalist, humorist and playwright will be discussing her famous memoir Buffalo Gal and her humorous essays Buffalo Unbound. This event is a part of Talking Leaves Books Author Series and will take place at Larkin Square, September 22nd at 5pm.

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