Friday, October 20, 2006

Last night I finished The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop by Lewis Buzbee, which I wanted to like a lot more than I actually did. I don't know what it was that put me off. I enjoyed the history parts for the most part, especially the section on Shakespeare & Co. in Paris, but all that made me want to do was read a book specifically on that. There has to be one on S&C, right? I thought I remembered one coming out not too long ago. Excuse me while I go do a bit of research... bingo! Time Was Soft There. Aaaaaaand it's on its way to me from Berkeley Public. Sweet! ANYWAY. I didn't mind the bits on the different bookstores he worked in or the parts about being a sales rep or anything, they just didn't strike a chord with me. Perhaps it was because of this sentence, toward the beginning of the book: "The problem with libraries, I discovered, was that two weeks later, I'd have to load up the bike and, with a sense of loss, return the books." That was so different from my reaction to libraries that I could tell we would never have a real meeting of the minds. For me, libraries represented near-infinite possibilities, free and available to all, whereas with bookstores I was limited by the amount of money I had. Or didn't have, as was usually the case. Plus, while I love any and all bookstores and will hit one whenever possible, my particular love is reserved for used bookstores, but they don't figure much in his experience. Seriously, a visit to Las Vegas isn't complete without 1) seeing my family 2) seeing my best friend and 3) going to Dead Poet Books, my absolute favorite used bookstore. So, overall the book was okay, but I was disappointed I didn't make much of a connection with it.


Monday, October 16, 2006

Late last week I read An Abundance of Katherines by John Green, which I enjoyed a lot, maybe even more than his first book. It's the story of a former child prodigy, dumped by the latest in a long line of girls named Katherine, worried that he is never going to make a difference in the world. He joins his friend Hassan, who is drifting through his post high school years, on a road trip to nowhere in particular. They soon find themselves in a small town named Gutshot where they do some growing up. It's geeky and very funny (and the inclusion of footnotes only helped).

Then this weekend, at Daisy's urging, I read The Keep by Jennifer Egan. It's got the layered story thing happening with a man in prison writing about a group of people renovating a castle in Europe, a story we're not sure is truth or imagination, before finally pulling up away from both of those to give us a third perspective on the whole thing. It's concerned with the real/unreal dynamic, both within the stories and as a meta statement on fiction as a whole, but mostly it's just an entertaining, suspenseful book that I liked enough to check out Egan's other books.


Thursday, October 12, 2006

Sunday morning I finished Tomato Red by Daniel Woodrell. It's the story of a drifter who falls in with a brother and sister who have ambitions far beyond their low economic and social status. Trapped in a hick town, they dream of getting out, but every attempt they make in that direction is met with frustrating failure. "'God damn,' she says, 'you know, that big rotten gap between who I am, and who I want to be, never does quit hurtin' to stare across... if I was only stupid, it wouldn't be so hard.'" It took me a relatively long time to read this book, perhaps because I could sense tragic events coming and wanted to avoid getting there for as long as possible. There was plenty of beautifully written tragedy and heartbreaking desperation though, and it hurt when it came because Woodrell did such a wonderful job of making me care for his characters.

So, to cheer myself up I went on a YA rampage. First up was Absolutely, Positively Not by David Larochelle, a book about a teenage boy who tries desperately to convince himself and others he is not gay before finally accepting the truth. It wasn't ground-breaking or anything, but I enjoyed it. And it was a good antidote for Tomato Red.

Next was That Summer, Sarah Dessen's first book and the only one of hers I had yet to read. It was interesting to see how accomplished she was right from the start. Sure, it isn't quite up to the standards of her later books, but it was entertaining and well written.

I have it on good authority that Julie Anne Peters' books aren't all that great, but that Far From Xanadu is worth the effort. I can't say I agree, but then perhaps my expectations were a little high. While I liked the supporting characters and the way the town was portrayed, I disliked Xanadu (she remained fairly stereotypical through the whole book) and couldn't understand Mike's fascination with her, which, in turn, made me dislike Mike. I did read the whole thing, but I skimmed more than a few pages and it ultimately felt like a cross between What's Eating Gilbert Grape and Dairy Queen but without the heart of the former or the humor of the latter.


Monday, October 02, 2006

Last week I read Marcel Proust by Edmund White, a short little biography with an admitted "homosexual bias." Right up my alley, then. And indeed, I enjoyed it very much. I was hooked from the first page when White says, "Studying him, of course, can have a disastrous effect on a young writer, who either comes under the influence of Proust's dangerously idiosyncratic and contagious style or who feels that Proust has already done everything possible in the novel form." I've noticed how contagious it is and I know some of the others participating in the group read have as well. It was interesting to learn that Proust's writing actually seemed old-fashioned to his contemporaries, but it is precisely that style that "renders it eternally fresh to us." While White writes about Proust with a homosexual bias, it isn't unwarranted given that Proust essentially turned his male lovers (some of whom had wives or girlfriends) into women in the book. Knowing this makes the male characters' jealousy when confronted with the women's affairs with other women make much more sense (White terms this "literary lesbianism." Heh). Anyway. I jotted down a couple more titles on Proust to read later and am still kicking myself for not hitting the biography tables at the gigantic booksale we went to yesterday where they apparently had several on Proust. Oh well. Maybe next year.

Saturday night I read Gothic! Ten Original Dark Tales edited by Deborah Noyes. I love the exclamation point there. It's like the brightly colored balloons they had at the anarchist book fair - somehow out of place, but in a good way. Anyway. This is a teen anthology and I mostly checked it out because it has stories by M. T. Anderson and Neil Gaiman. Turns out those are the best ones of the bunch. Neil Gaiman's story "Forbidden Brides Of The Faceless Slaves In The Nameless House Of The Night Of Dread Desire" wasn't new to me - I'd seen him read it at an event and it was still as funny as the last time. M. T. Anderson's "Watch And Wake" was nice and creepy. Set in the same alternate reality as Thirsty, it's definitely in the style of that book and similarly bleak. Man, I really need to get his new book. There were only three others that I liked: the straightforward campfire style ghost story "Morgan Roehmar's Boys" by Vivian Vande Velde, "The Stone Tower" by Janni Lee Simner, and "Writing On The Wall" by Celia Rees. The others were all right, but didn't impress me that much.


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?