Monday, August 30, 2004

Well, the hormone levels are definitely back to normal because despite the several tragic deaths and abandonments in A Home at the End of the World by Michael Cunningham I remained steadfastly unmoved. That's not to say that the writing wasn't beautiful or the plot wasn't interesting. I just felt removed and not sufficiently involved in the book. Maybe my mild annoyance with certain NYC bloggers made me predisposed to dislike Clare and the adult Jonathan. Maybe seeing The Hours (also written by Cunningham) blunted the effect of Alice and Erich. Maybe picturing Colin Farrell in that horrible wig turned me off of Bobby. Maybe the idea of creating your own concept of family isn't as revolutionary now as Cunningham thought it was when the book was written.

Maybe I needed a palate cleanser after The Book of Joe instead of jumping into something similar.

I wanted to like this book. On paper it would seem to be a slam dunk - the story of two boys (one gay, one bi) who grow up to create their own idea of family with an older, jaded woman. And I didn't dislike it exactly. I guess I was just expecting to be more enthralled, to care more about the characters and their fates than I did.


Wednesday, August 18, 2004

I first saw The Book of Joe by Jonathan Tropper on a cart down in the basement while I was waiting for a friend to join me on a break. I liked the cover (sometimes I do judge a book by its cover), and when I opened the flyleaf, there was a rave from Augusten Burroughs (whom I love) at the top and the summary sounded interesting. That was enough for me to put it on my to-be-read list. I don't really know why I'm writing all this filler. Maybe it's because the book really hit me hard and I don't know why because there is almost nothing in it that even remotely resembles my life. All I know is I spent yesterday evening in tears while I finished it. And now I've had my second instance of a roommate walking in on me crying over a book and, you know, maybe I should just stop reading anything with a death in it when the hormones are a-raging. Taking away the hormone factor, it's still a good book; it reminds me a bit of Wonder Boys and a bit of Joe College and Chabon and Perrotta are good company to keep. The flashbacks to Joe's senior year of high school read like a great YA book and I liked how they were interspersed between chapters occurring in the present day. Plus it was really funny, with lots of smartass one-liners. I'm a sucker for sports dramas and for teen coming out stories (and I don't really know why I love either of those topics so much - I just do), so when you combine the two you're pretty much guaranteed a thumbs up from me. Which this is, albeit a rather incoherent and unorganized one.

When I told my friend that I picked up yet another book not knowing about the gay content she laughed at me and asked if I have some sort of psychic gaydar when it comes to picking books. I think she might be onto something here.


Monday, August 16, 2004

The Ghost Writer by John Harwood scared the crap out of me. Now, I'm the first to admit I'm a total wimp. I couldn't make it through the first 10 minutes of Halloween. Heck, just the DVD menu of Session 9 freaked me out. But books are different and this is the first time since reading The House of Leaves that I can remember being afraid to read the next page. I was finishing it at lunch today and I was so deep into it and dreading the appearance of, like, the freaky-ass crab walk from The Exorcist or something on the next page, that when my phone rang I actually jumped and my heart started racing. This isn't to say that the whole book is that suspenseful; it's exactly the opposite in fact. It takes its time building the creepy mood and sense of horror with seemingly incongruous reactions from the main character's mother, Phyllis, the ghost stories written by his great-grandmother, Viola, and the unsettling sense that something is just not quite right with his "penfriend," Alice. The growing dread that blossoms into full-fledged, thumb-biting fear by the time the last 100 pages rolls around is paced very nicely. Viola's stories that break up the main plot are very reminiscent of Daphne DuMaurier and ultimately hold the key to the answers Gerard seeks about who he is, why his mother left England for Australia, and what other secrets she was hiding about her past. The ending is very abrupt, but it's a testament to the vividness of the writing that I was left wanting to know more, even though most of the book's mysteries had been solved.

Daisers, I think you'd love this one.


Wednesday, August 11, 2004

I think I've read most (if not all) of Carl Hiaasen's books. He definitely has a set formula that he sticks to in most of them, but even after 10 books that formula still serves him well. In Skinny Dip, his latest, there are the usual outlandish bad guys, cartoonish thugs, refreshingly intelligent women, and the loner hero(s). The mix of humor and action is just right and we even get some recurring characters popping in. I think what I like so much about Hiaasen's books, formulaic as they may be, is the strong current of righteous anger that runs through them - anger at the greediness of the powerful individuals and corporations that deliberately destroy the environment and that wield so much power in the government. His writing exposes this greed and destruction and in it he is able to give them the outcome they deserve. That, and they're funny as hell.


Monday, August 09, 2004

I don't read a lot of hard science fiction. Well, that's sort of a lie. What I should say, rather, is that I don't read a lot of hard science fiction that isn't written by Neal Stephenson, William Gibson, or Melissa Scott (although they're typically classified as "cyberpunk," a term I dislike). However, when I read in an interview that Sean Stewart recommended Collapsium by Wil McCarthy, I thought I'd check him out. The first book I grabbed of his was Bloom. It took me a bit to get into because of the initial science overload that seems to characterize a lot of hard sf. But once I got into the story - Earth and the rest of the inner solar system overrun by omnivorous nanotechnology run amok, refugees fled to the moons of Jupiter, proposed mission to deposit sensors to monitor newly discovered adaptation of said nanotechnology nearly sabotaged and beset by problems - I was hooked. There's even a twist at the end which is a bit deus ex machina, but it hangs together with the rest of the story because of the science buildup so it's not completely out of left field. Plus he resisted the big cowboy finish (complete with a spectacular explosion) so I have to give him bonus points for that. I'm looking forward to reading more of his books, including the one that Stewart praised.


Friday, August 06, 2004

Normally From Hell by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell would not have taken me over a week to read. But I've been unusually busy lately with free movies (the first of which I loved and the second not so much. At all), my favorite Shakespeare play, and much TiVo related drama. Plus, how many extensively annotated graphic novels do you know of? Anyway. From Hell is absorbing - a look not only at the Jack the Ripper murders, but also at the dawn of the 20th century and all that they foreshadowed. Told from the viewpoints of Inspector Abbeline, the murder victims, and the murderer (here presented as Dr. William Gull, Royal Physician to Queen Victoria), the art is as detailed and well-researched as the story itself. And I thought the sex and murder in In the Cut were graphic. Whew. I don't feel qualified enough on the subject to place judgment on the identity of the suspect and the given motive for the killings, but it sounds plausible and hangs together well. But then, I thought the same thing of Patricia Cornwell's book naming Sickert as the Ripper too. Maybe it's like Moore says in the second appendix - that the search into who Jack the Ripper was has become less about the identity of the murderer and more about "the complex phantom we project. That alone, we know is real. The actual killer's gone, unglimpsed, might as well not have been there at all" and we will never know for sure who it was.


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