Friday, June 05, 2009

The Blue Notebook by James A Levine

The Blue Notebook by James Levine begins as a beautiful and brutal narrative about a young girl’s life when she is sold into life as a prostitute, which is to say she is sold into slavery. Set in India, the narrator, Butak, was inspired by an incident when the author met with a child prostitute who was sitting, writing in a notebook. Through Butak, the reader shares in the harsh reality of what it means to be a child prostitute and, because Levine infuses Butak with a beautiful voice, much of her story is told through metaphor and brilliant imagery. “I lie on a bed of everlasting youth, and those who lie with me taste youth. It is not a bed of eternal life, for my life will only be eternal when I die.”

Unfortunately, the novel fails in the end. While the first half of the novel is explicit in the horrors of prostitution, there are times when one wonders if there isn’t some implied eroticism not very different from the explicit and exploitative violence of slasher movies. By the end of the novel, whatever doubt there might is has flown out the window and the implied intent of the story becomes lost in a melodramatic climax and denouement worthy of any soap opera but unworthy of this novel’s beginning.

I hate that I didn’t love this novel, not only because I do love the first part so very much but also because the proceeds of the sale for this novel will be donated to the International and National Centers for Missing and Exploited Children. I wanted desperately to adore this novel so that my encouragement might stir others to spend money on this novel and support a very worthy cause. I wish I could encourage people to read this novel. At best, I can only encourage people to read the first 106 pages. Better yet, read anything written by Arundhati Roy.

(I want to add that I hope James A Levine will continue writing. I think that, with time, he will produce novels that can live up to their concept and fulfill the promise of their beginning. This, a first novel, may not do it but the potential is absolutely there.)

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