Patchett touches on a lot of big themes in State of Wonder, including race, colonisation, research ethics, the agendas of pharmaceutical companies and the decision of when to have children. However, she also combines this with a fast paced and interesting plot, which is surely the best of both worlds. I enjoyed the character of Dr Swenson, who was full of contradictions, and Marina's personal growth was well done. Patchett's writing was lovely too, especially in the section where Marina has to inform Anders' wife of his death. My only complaint is that the final section moved way too quickly, with too many plot points resolving themselves in a way that seemed a bit too coincidental to be true. Reading State of Wonder was an enjoyable experience and I'm looking forward to picking up Bel Canto now. 4 out of 5.
One of Parks' main arguments throughout the collection is that 'world literature' is leading to everything becoming too similar, with the variety of local experiences being lost. He quotes authors who make decisions based on the fact that their work will be translated into English, if they aren't writing in English themselves. Characters with complicated names are avoided, and local customs are either left out completely or over-explained. Authors paint a picture of their country that they think will satisfy the West, as so much emphasis is now placed on global sales and translation rights as a mark of author status. Parks argues that this means that lots of the variety and richness of fiction rooted in a particular culture is being lost. Again, I'm not sure that I agree, but it's something I had never thought about before.
Whilst Where I'm Reading From was definitely thought provoking, I found it too repetitive. Lots of the essays basically say the same thing, just from a slightly different angle, and this made the collection feel over-long. I enjoyed mentally debating with Parks, but think Where I'm Reading From would have been a lot stronger if it was shorter. 3 out of 5.