Thursday, November 17, 2005

"Ordinary Heroes" by Scott Turow

Of the two most prominent lawyers-turned-novelists, Scott Turow is considered the better writer, and the other one, the one who calls Mississippi home, is better at coming up with cinema-worthy stories that Hollywood likes to throw money at. "Ordinary Heroes", however, ought to alter that simplistic comparison in the minds of some Hollywood executives, for after having spent some back-breaking hours ("back-breaking" because its gripping drama has caused me to remain in one position or another for lengthy periods of time that are hazardous to my health), I can now declare that "Ordinary Heroes" is not only cinema-worthy, it is entirely Oscar-worthy, that is, if the project ends up in the hands of a high-caliber director.

I don't want to write a review like the ones that can be readily Googled online, because "Ordinary Heroes" is so chock-full of dramatic twists and turns that it is sinful for me to reveal even the themes of Mr. Turow's magnificent tale of the intricacy of humanity. In the fashion of pithy book-jacket one-liners, I'll just say that "Ordinary Heroes" is a WWII yarn told from the perspective of a military lawyer. See, I'm not going to tell you anything except to advise all of you to click away to your favorite online book stores and purchase this book as quickly as you can, so you're able to experience what I meant by those "back-breaking" hours of devouring this utterly inspiring love story (don't be intimidated by the war backdrop), the uniqueness of which is beyond the bounds of a mere blog post.

Mr. Turow's success in writing novels set in the legal arena is evident, and he does not need me to yell out another praise from the sidelines, but I must say his skill in injecting what I call the "read-on factors" is impressive -- at the conclusion of a scene or a chapter, the readers are often rewarded with a narrative device that compels them to read on.

On a personal note, while doing some research, I found out that Mr. Turow and I have one thing in common: we're both admirers of Saul Bellow, the literary master of intellectual machismo and angst. Growing up in Taiwan, I devoured Dostoevsky, Turgenev, Tolstoy, anything I could get my hands on, albeit in Chinese translation (I still have vivid memory of sitting in the heat of one certain Taiwanese summer, reading "The Brothers Karamazov" and trying to imagine the icy Russian landscape and those characters speaking with vapors shooting out of their mouths) . Having settled in my second linguistic environment, I "discovered" Saul Bellow, whose background could not be more different than mine. So much has been said about "literary universality", but one cannot experience that precious treasure of enlightenment until one finds a way to enter those different worlds with reverence and eagerness, and I am glad that Mr. Turow seems to share a similar view in this regard.

Here is a relevant link: www.ScottTurow.com

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