"The book I'm looking for,' says the blurred figure, who holds out a volume similar to yours, 'is the one that gives the sense of the world after the end of the world, the sense that the world is the end of everything that there is in the world, that the only thing there is in the world is the end of the world."
- Italo Calvino, If on a winter's night a traveler

Friday, April 1, 2011

Mini Reviews, April 2011


Recently I was offered a THIRD (!!!) job. The position is an incredible opportunity, and I'm very excited about it! But it adds and ADDITIONAL 40 hours of work each week to my already full-ish schedule. The position is a temporary one, so I'll be back in the swing of things around July. But until then I don't have much time to read or to post here.

But I've read a few books since I last made an entry. Here are some quick thoughts about them!

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen

Jonathan Franzen has basically become my new favorite author. I liked Freedom better than I liked The Corrections, which is saying something, It's not that Freedom is a better novel. They're the same good. Same-sies. But Freedom had things to say that were more immediately relevant to me. I know that the title of the book isn't precisely central to the interests of the story, but I'm a person at really specific age and of a really specific temperament that happens to have held some really specific ideas about the notion of "freedom" that are... changing as I enter my ripe mid-bigenarian years. Franzen has had (roughly) this to say about the notion of freedom (not a quote): that we're told that it is basically the most important factor to the happiness of a person, but maybe happiness really comes when you finally give up all that freedom and just deal with the fact that you are person you always were. I'm just at the right place in my life to find that idea fascinating and dangerous and important. Good timing, J-Franz!

Empire Falls by Richard Russo

Empire Falls is about the manager of a diner in a small town in central Maine. It won a Pulitzer. It's my kind of thing, guys. But Franzen may have ruined other books for me. His characters are so uncomfortably realistic that I feel a little embarrassed reading more timid character authors, now! Miles Roby--the protagonist--is essentially perfect, or anyway he's perfectly sympathetic. His flaws are things like, "too self-sacrificing," and "too much of a dreamer." There's nothing seriously wrong with him or anyone else. Even the villains are transparently motivated. These are people who can only populate fiction, and so I didn't feel like they had anything really informative to say about my own life. Russo is a good writer, but this story's seams were sticking out all over the place--I could see his pen strokes on every page, and in every event. Let me give you an example. The story's two central conflicts: whether or not Miles will ever move out of Empire Falls, and whether or not he will ever get together with Charlene (of course: sassy, smart, confident, with huge breasts) never once feel like organic extensions of the characters. They feel like things meant to keep me reading. They feel like things to add pages. And I never cared about them. Anyway, it's a good enough book. No regrets. Just... nothing exceptional.

The A.B.C. Murders by Agatha Christie

There are a few ways to write a "mystery" novel. One of them is the Thriller, where the book revolves around trying to catch an established criminal before he or she commits his or her next crime. Another is the Whodunit, where the book revolves around placing together clues to reveal which--of a cast of possible suspects--committed a specific crime. I read Christie because I don't like Thriller, but I like Whodunits. And this story starts out like a straight Thriller, but ends as a Whodunit. It's one of the better Christie books I've read, though I didn't think I'd like it. Good book!

Packing for Mars by Mary Roach

This book was pretty good. It's about the science that goes into having human beings in space. It turns out this is a hard thing to do! Space is cool, but it sounds awful to be there. Roach is a good non-fiction writer. She's funny, clear, informative. I liked her book about the science of sex better.

1 comment:

  1. Rub it in about the jobs why don't ya.

    Freedom is on my list! I will read it soon!