1.23.2005

The book you read

What'cha read lately? Anything you'd recommend to others? Not me, I'm too wrapped up in "novel research" books. Though I did sneak in Don Quixote, which I'd never read before. I was stunned, frankly, to discover that 400-year-old prose could still be funny. I actually laughed out loud a few times and hardly ever wanted to put it down -- and finished it.

16 comments:

TLB said...

I just re-read both Time Will Darken It and So Long, See You Tomorrow, because I had convinced myself that a line of prose in my book was something I must have lifted from one of these sources (turned out not to be in either one; I must be making myself crazy again). But they're so good, so deceptively simple, and written almost 40 years apart.

Also Shirley Hazzard's The Transit of Venus is so brilliant, I was blown away.

dunkeys said...

Van Gogh's letters are interesting.

ian said...

Ghost Wars by Steve Coll. A history of the CIA in Afghanistan from late 1970s up to Sept. 10th, 2001. Reads like a fantastic spy thriller, but of course (and unfortunately) all true. About 600 pages, but if I'd had time to read it in one sitting, I would have.

SER said...

Grendel, are we Babies allowed to post here? Anyway, I have a recommendation, and I'm recommending it to anyone who will listen and to many people who won't:
"The Line of Beauty" by Alan Hollinghurst. It's the most recent Booker Prize winner, and it's really fabulous - even the average throw-away sentence on the page is vivid and insightful. I'm almost done with it, and I suppose my opinion could change if the ending stinks, but I've been profoundly impressed by this book in a way that I haven't been in ages - and it's also quite entertaining.

A current Workshopper offered me a compelling recommendation of "Cloud Atlas," which I plan to read next.

Grendel said...

Of course Babies are allowed! I issued an invite somewhere on BAF. Anyways, yes, and thanks -- that's a strong recommendation. It goes on the List.

segall said...

I finallly got around to The Magus over the holidays, and for a book that takes a good 200 pages just to get going and that would cause the giver of any brief plot synopsis to sound like a dolt for having liked it ("Well, there's this guy, and he's on an island in Greece, and there's this other guy, and some people in masks..."), it really is quite compelling and memorable. I read it on a vacation I'd been trying to save Cloud Atlas for (but couldn't hold off); either one is suitably balllsy and fantastical and gripping.

I've also spent the last six months falling madly in love with William Kennedy's Albany novels. I'd be happy to harp on those for a long while.

Vampiro said...

Cloud Atlas is pretty fun & interesting. Had a few good conversations w/ Monsieur Segall about why it fails. But I found it entertaining and an interesting and fairly ambitious failure. A ballsy book, indeed.

Confucius said...

Anyone read Orhan Pamuk's Snow? Amid all the hype, I've been reading it for six months now, and keep dropping it for other things, then giving it another try. I'm beginning to think Pamuk may be the most overrated Great Author Future Nobel Prize Winner I know. Obviously nobody edits his stuff - the plot, though intriguing as an idea, circles and dead ends and reverses itself over and over again. He's obviously a brilliant guy, but is this just a book of big important ideas? or high modernism that goes way over my head? Or self-indulgent pontificating by a brave Muslim author everyone's too afraid to critique (say, because we need more of them). I guess I'm wondering, Is he any good?

ian said...

The Magus is awesome! I've got this falling-apart 1960s paperback edition with the kookiest, "um, er, no, of course this isn't a literary novel" cover I've ever seen. Fowles is way underrated these days. The Collector is a lot of fun and can be read in an afternoon. Daniel Martin is great, but if you thought the first 200 pages of The Magus were slow, the beginning of Daniel Martin makes that seem like the average Jerry Bruckheimer-Michael Bay film. I tried reading A Maggot, but it seems to be about space aliens in 17th century England, and I didn't want that to influence the plot of my own novel.

segall said...

Der Rosenbergs: I read the first two or three dozen head-scratching pages of "My Name is Red" and then promptly returned Mr. Pamuk to store from whence he came. Couldn't agree with the assessment more (if I might judge on so meager a sample, which I will). After reading Margaret Atwood getting all hot and bothered over "Snow" in the NYTBR you'd think the form of the novel had reached its apex. I just found it elliptical and unrestrained. Good call, y'all.

Far as Mr. Fowles goes, I am surprised he doesn't have more of a following, but that might have something to do with the fact that he spends his time in a Tesco parking lot in the Newcastle suburbs spooking the schoolchildren, or something. "Both frogs and oxen are very well by themselves; but the syzygy is fatal." Right on, bruh.

dunkeys said...

The Collector????

Has anyone other than Ian and Pete read that book? It's pretty silly . . . and the "creepy" ending, where he sees another cute girl? Lame indeed. Maybe there's a reason Fowles doesn't have a following. Just maybe.

(Okay, that was way too bitter. Sorry, guys.)

Has anyone read any of these books by Jonathan Lethem? I had to read a few recently . . . and apparently, Fortress of Solitue and Motherless Brooklyn were best-selling 'literary' works (the latter won a national award). I'd love to hear what other people think of them, if they've taken a look.

dunkeys said...

Solitu(d)e

ian said...

I'll grant you the ending, Kevin, but the bulk of The Collector is ace, especially the captive girl's diary. One of the few psychological thrillers that, in my mind, captures the soul of the captive (and, to a certain extent, the captor), rather than just the ordeal.

I thought Motherless Brookyln was overrated, although still a very good read. The prose is stellar, but I didn't really think the plot—the mystery—was very well done. If you're going to "elevate" genre fiction, then shouldn't the genre elements be at least as good as the real deal?

Grendel said...

[Dunkeys, dressed as Lucy van Pelt, sets up the ball and waits... Grendel, head shaved, in yellow shirt with zig-zag, starts running...]

Well, I enjoyed the hell out of Motherless Brooklyn. Talk about establishing a voice! Good God. But I don't know that I'd call it literary. It's a detective novel after all. With a narrator who has Tourette's. More fun reading that book, though, than any I can recall from recent reading. Fortress I anticipated eagerly, but was disappointed in the end. It was slower and more "writer-y" and just wasn't up to the Motherless standard.

dunkeys said...

(quickly: has anyone read Bend Sinister? Aside from Vampiro, and sir, please don't reveal me)

Yeah, maybe I let the ending of The Collector sway my reading too much . . . but isn't that like saying that it's only the ending of "Signs" that ruined the movie? Isn't the ending almost the point of a book? Aside from that, Senor Froeb, arguing that something is 'convincing' -- even while allowing that it's just your opinion -- is a bit of circular reasoning. Convincing to whom? "Convincingness" is like "beautiful." Or "tasty."

Anyway, Motherless Brooklyn. You guys liking that book surprises me; I was expecting boos and hisses, to be honest. There are moments when he puts in a double-space break in the middle of a scene; he doesn't break scene or shift pov or go into flashback: he just picks up where he left off. It's like a bad solo by CeCe DeVille -- ANYthing for effect. Motherless Brooklyn and Fortress seem so 'written,' even that shiny prose -- moreso that shiny prose. Everything shouldn't be Stop-Time . . . but the story should be good, at least. And the characters should be . . . well, characters. Did you guys honestly care about the people in Motherless Brooklyn? If so, my apologies. Maybe my inhumanity makes me hate all people, making mere literary apparitions the easiest to dismiss.

And wait -- I'm Kevin now?

ian said...

Sorry, dunkeys. I swear someone here said you were Kevin.

Anyway, saying the end of a book is its point — when its not a whodunit — is reductive, I think, especially in the case of something like The Collector. Yeah, the final few pages, when it shifts back to the captor's p.o.v., are rather lame, but I don't think that's the point: it's the captive's struggle, her decision in the end, to will herself to live (regardless of the outcome of that decision), and the captors' obliviousness to that moral decision. It's not a great novel — read The Magus instead, please! — but for a first novel it ain't half bad.

Enough about that. Anyone else read Julian Rubenstein's The Ballad of the Whiskey Robber? True story about an ethnic-Hungarian Romanian who flees Romania in the waning days of Communism and takes up ice hockey, alcohol, pelt smuggling, and — most famously — bank robbery. Hilarious, sad. Plus the funniest zamboni scene since the death of Carla's husband on Cheers.