Every now and again I get a complement from someone who enjoys reading the spirits blog. "You're a good writer," they'll say. I appreciate it. I like writing and it's brought me a lot of joy. Part of what I enjoy about my job is the interaction with people, both in the store and via email, that illuminates for me a great deal about the human condition. In the ways that people respond to alcohol, I learn more about the ways of people in general. I try and write about those observations and draw analogies that make sense, hoping to increase our understanding of spirits and each other.
However, there's a difference between a few observations regarding booze and the level of thought that went into Americanah, the latest novel from Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche. This is good writing, and I'm not talking about an intellectual brain teaser, or dictionary-required romp from the latest Infinite Jest wannabe. What gets me is when someone can describe something familiar, a truth about life and the relationships between humans, in a way that makes me stop and smile – either because I recognize it in others, or perhaps (gulp!) about myself. That's what impresses me about a writer – not necessarily their prose, their vocabulary, or their quirky imagination, but rather their ability to observe society and capture those observations in a way that anyone can appreciate and understand. That's what I aspire to do on this blog; that's what I wish I could do as a writer.
I won't go into a plot rehash about the various storylines in Americanah, but I will say that if you're a blogger of any kind you need to read this book – soon. There's a lot of talk about blogging in there. More importantly, however, there's an honest dialogue about happiness and how our tastes and perceptions change as we're exposed to new ideas and experiences – about the people we meet and what must be going on inside their heads. This is fundamental knowledge to any writer who strives to connect with an audience, hoping to strike that chord of understanding with his or her readers. These observations are cleverly and carefully woven into a story about Nigerian life, immigration to America, issues of race, and love. I've never been so wowed by profundity and challenged by an image of myself that matches up with some of the characters described in the novel. I cringed, laughed, cried, and mostly thought while reading Americanah. I questioned it. Went back to it. Talked about it with my wife. And now, after finishing it, am writing about it here.
What does it have to do with booze? If you've ever thought about why we drink, why we like what we like, how perception skews our tastes, and how our ego is ultimately in the middle of it all, then you need to read this book by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. There are dozens of quotes I've considered posting over the past two weeks that remind me of attitudes and ideas surrounding whisky right now, but there were simply too many to post! Since this blog is also about writing and relationships, I've never read a book this aware and able to explain the state of modern day American living and I felt I should pass that on. Sometimes it takes an outsider to tell us exactly what's happening on the inside. That's what Adichie has done with this book.
I'm breathless. I'm inspired. And I'm jealous. I wish I could write like this.