Some Good Books

I've been reading a lot. Here are some good ones. I'm looking for more good ones if people have suggestions:

(Gotta go to work, can't make the links. Sorry, you'll have to use the google. I'm too lazy to be a blogger anymore).

Good Ones:

A Drink Before the War (Lehane)
Darkness, Take My Hand (Lehane)
Postman (Lennon)
Technopoly (Postman)
The Technics of Time (Mumford)
Our Story Begins (Wolff- reviewed for TOC- the section's second ever six star review)
The Soul Thief (Baxter- I'm not so sold on the ending but its baroque cleverness was perfectly appropriate)

Some I've picked up but not read yet:

The Torrents of Spring (Turgenev, not that American guy)
The Lost World (Doyle)

Some I read less recently but have not sufficiently praised in these particular environs:

You Remind Me of Me (Chaon-having replaced "The Count of Monte Cristo" as my favorite ever)
The Tesseract (Garland)

Some books I didn't love so much but finished anyway:

Bright Lights, Big City (Mcininininininery)
The Sun Also Rises (That American guy-A good friend practically took this personally. I hope no one here does).


msf said...

I've been on a mystery kick myself (I noticed the Lehane at the beginning) and I have to recommend Laura Lippman, aka David Simon's wife. She writes Baltimore-based mysteries and the two I've read so far are pretty good. Also enjoyed In the Woods by Tana French--sort of Irish mystery, a little more upscale but still fun. And for a real beach read, check out The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfeld--British bestseller, super reader-friendly.

El Gordo de Amore said...

I've been reading Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon, which is totally awesome.

dunkeys said...

Pete, great post. I've wanted to read the Wolff -- nice review & reminder.

Anyway: I've been reading and rereading most of DeLillo and McCarthy.

Yay: Americana & No Country For Old Men (very flawed, and liking it surprised me).

Both of these writers are so silly -- in different ways -- that it's hard to get worked up about them. McCarthy more so, but DeLillo gets pretty damn wacky, too.

Now: War & Peace (for the first time, the fancy new translation -- it's awesome!), then a re-read of Under the Volcano.

I'll not ask Grendel his thoughts on Tolstoy, but has anyone read Under the Volcano? Any thoughts?

Grendel said...

That's really funny, Dunks. I JUST bought Under the Volcano last week. Opened it one day and started. I think I lasted an hour before I couldn't go on. The beginning anyway is the exact kind I don't like: very long-winded, circumspect, grandiose, full of observations of landscape, etc. And no action, all in one character's head (at least as far as I read) -- a character I have not come to know through any action. Reminded me of the Thomas Wolfe I tried once upon a time. Not often I put down a book knowing i will not be picking it up again. So instead I started Tree of Smoke. Really enjoying that so far. Also, how come no one ever told me Deborah Eisenberg was a genius, huh? Some of the stories in All Around Atlantis are jaw-dropping. Finally, I also started A Farewell to Arms and it struck me what I don't like about Hemingway: the complete and utter lack of humor.

kclou said...

I made it my summer project to watch all five seasons of The Wire consecutively and read War and Peace. The former is going faster than the latter, in large part because the first book of W&P didn't grab me. Maybe it was the million different characters, each with a million different names, or maybe Google simply ruined my brain. The war scenes haven't lifted off the page in the way that Frank promised, but I'm being patient, and it's going better now. The stuff with Pierre and Dolokhov is particularly good.

kclou said...

FWIW, I despised The Road. I found the language, especially in the beginning, insufferably pretentious, and the dynamic between father and son never won me.

Tree of Smoke I really liked, though the "plot" doesn't get it done, and the last 150 pp or so are far from his best work.

dunkeys said...

Here-here on The Road, at least to having a generally negative impression. But if you think the language in that book is pretentious . . . well, don't read Cormac. His prose is markedly more spare lately than in his early works.

Dolokhov is an asshole! (I say with glee.) I'm about a third through W&P and the last hundred pages have shocked me at how fast they are (moreso than the war scenes, which also pale for me, compared to the peace). It's so gossipy and hilarious -- intentionally so, I think -- *especially* the Masonic initiation. Good stuff.

One think I'm greatly enjoying is how Tolstoy seems to build his main characters not through events so much as through interactions with other people. When I think about plotting a novel, I think, What should happen to this character? Tolstoy thinks, Who should this character meet? It's a simple but distinct difference. Plus he's great at capturing internal emotional complexity (even if it comes across in goofy Starbuck-esque interior monologues, it works).

I'm going to the setting of UtV, more or less, so I thought I'd be lame and reread it. There are some great passages from what I remember -- this is what it's like to be miserable, smart, and drunk. But it's a slog. The end is horrific, if I recall. Maybe worth seeing through, but who knows.

Grendel said...

Antoine really liked Nam Le's The Boat.

kclou said...

Something interesting, stylistically, about War and Peace is Tolstoy's constant use of the first-person plural possessive. Can anyone think of American writers talking about "our" this or that in a third-person narrative? Wouldn't it be odd, for example, in a third-person novel for Hemingway to use "our" to refer to American customs or soldiers.

dunkeys said...

Yeah, the 'our' is totally strange. The book was published about fifty-five to sixty years after the action takes place, so I wonder if his using the 'our' is a conscious attempt to place the past in the past, as if he's writing a national myth (he has chosen the supposed 'height' of Russia, based on my quick scanning of the excellent introduction).

The parallel would be like, what, Roth using 'our' in The Plot Against America? I think it works (caveat being that I'm inclined to think that most of what LT's doing works). He's emphasizing himself as story-teller, talking directly to his peers and readers. It is odd . . . more Twainish or Hannahesque than what we're used to seeing. Plus he does it so rarely.

Anyway, here's a great passage from McCarthy: ". . . along the nearby ridge the white blooms of flowering yuccas moved in the wind and in the night bats came from some nether part of the world to stand on leather wings like dark satanic hummingbirds and feed at the mouths of those flowers."


Pete said...

I meant the technics of civilization, not time. Anyway, that one fucked me up good.

I don't have a whole lot of patience for McCarthy, either, and I've been regarding the copy of "The Road" that sits on my shelf-- a gift from my sister-- with a gaze not unlike the one afforded to my unbalanced checkbook. I'll probably never read it. Even the recommendations I've gotten for it describe it as "depressing," and not just in the usual overstatement of "sad" but in the "this will induce depression." Uh, no thanks. There are enough such inducements in the modern world without thinking too vividly on where they might eventually take us.

Just started "Christine Falls." I like it.

I'm glad KClou is watching "The Wire." We'll have a conversation about that sometime, yes?

kclou said...