Archive for November, 2009

a month!

Novels I finished in the interim, with a thought or two:
–Per Petterson’s Out Stealing Horses was perfect. Best book this year, possibly.
–I really, really needed the romping fun of Brock Clarke’s An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England.
–I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to get into Kelly Link’s Stranger Things Happen, knowing there were re-imagined fairy tales and fantastic stories. But with a couple of exceptions, these stories blew me away.
–After reading the article by Alexander Chee I mentioned in my last post, I checked out his novel, Edinburgh. Lovely writing, a main character I miss having around, and Chee is a very nice guy online, it turns out.
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. Hmm. Well.
Generosity: An Enhancement by Richard Powers lived up to the hype. Most of the people I’ve talked to in person about Powers dislike his writing, but I really like how knotty and issue-driven the two books I’ve read are.
–Jim Harrison’s The English Major was fun and occasionally delightfully vulgar and didn’t hurt my brain while also not insulting my intelligence. A good combination. I had a dream a while back that I must read Harrison. This is the first book I’ve picked up, and it bodes well for my subconscious’s demand.
–I have no idea where I got the recommendation for Daniel Menaker’s The Treatment, but I’m glad I followed through. Wasn’t life-changing or awe-inspiring, but an enjoyable read, and I’d read him again.
–And the monster: I finished DeLillo’s Underworld. Which I’ve been reading since at least March, every day, a handful of pages. There is a massive hardcover-shaped hole in my daily routine right now. I didn’t like the book. Still thinking about it.

Currently reading:
Gravity’s Rainbow drags on. It wasn’t dragging until sometime last week. I’m tired of it. I’m tired of the madcap goofy episodes, I miss the characters from the first third (I’m feeling taunted by their brief reappearances and then redisappearances), and I’m feeling occasionally abused by Pynchon. I’m behind about 30 pages on the schedule, which I need to catch up this weekend or I predict I won’t finish on time.
Lark & Termite by Jayne Anne Phillips was my (losing) pick for the National Book Award fiction winner this year because the first half has been delicate and compelling. I haven’t hit the place where I can’t put it down, but every day when I sit down with the book, I enjoy the pages I read. I think of the characters while I’m walking, away from the book.
Man Gone Down by Michael Thomas. Again, not hooked, but liking the characters. The indie-publisher lack of proofreading is distracting, unfortunately.
–Lydia Millet’s Oh Pure and Radiant Heart *is* making me want to sit with it all day, preferably in a location that would qualify as vacation. I would love to read this book in an airport, or on someone else’s couch. In the first 15 pages: J. Robert Oppenheimer wakes up in a motel room in 2003, with no memories since the Trinity atom bomb test. I cannot wait to see what happens, and I’m happy this is a solid chunk of pages, so there is space to get there.

That’s it! Four books! I can’t remember the last time that happened. My next big force-read might be Ulysses, or maybe War and Peace, or possibly The Tunnel or London Fields or Snow. Multiple contestants (ohmygod I need to read everything right now ohmygod), but after Underworld, I need a week or two off.


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