Thursday, March 23, 2006

I was off work for a week and had a lot of time to read. Here's the roundup:

Walk Me To The Distance by Percival Everett
This is about a Vietnam veteran who winds up in a small town out west, staying with a rancher and her mentally handicapped adult son. It's is one of his earlier works and it's missing the humor that lightens his later novels. It's still very good, though.

The Portrait of Mrs. Charbuque by Jeffrey Ford
I was excited to read this one after loving The Girl In The Glass. The synopsis sounded very interesting - a painter is commissioned to paint a portrait but he can't view the subject, only ask her questions about her life and if he paints an accurate likeness he will receive a large payment. Somehow, though, it just didn't leave me satisfied. I felt echoes of The Ghost Writer at times, but I think it wasn't as strong as that book.

The Lady In The Lake by Raymond Chandler
I loved this one. It was one of those books where I just knew the major plot twist right from the beginning, but didn't even mind because of how much I enjoyed the way it slowly played out. Phillip Marlowe, a Los Angeles private investigator, is hired to find a prominent businessman's missing wife, but gets caught up in another mystery when the body of a woman is found in the lake by the businessman's vacation home.

Watershed by Percival Everett
I like how Everett throws in so much to make you think (in this case Indian rights and the lingering effects of the civil rights struggle), but at the same time tells an exciting story without letting either take over or get too heavy-handed.

Tell No One and The Innocent by Harlan Coben
Two more quality thrillers from Coben. I preferred The Innocent because its plot was a little less typical of him. Tell No One was a little too like Gone For Good, although it was still able to surprise me a couple of times.

American Desert by Percival Everett
This one was great. Surreal, funny, and thought-provoking. Ted Street, a literature professor, is beheaded in a horrible car accident. Three days later, during his funeral, he sits up and no one can figure out if he's dead or alive. He just wants to resume his life but he becomes subject to powerful figures who want to use him for their own ends.

Areas Of My Expertise by John Hodgeman
A silly and very funny almanac of entirely made up facts about, among other things, hobos, lycanthropy, omens and portents for the future, and the five central struggles in literature (man v man, man v self, man v nature, man v society, man v cyborg).

I also skimmed through 13 Ways Of Looking At The Novel by Jane Smiley, from which I got a few more titles for my list of books to read.

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