Saturday, February 09, 2008

What I Think About Some Things

Over the next few months, until the middle of April, I plan to blog about books I'm reading. I'm trying to finish my first novel, and as part of my fiction regime, I'm reading a lot of fiction. My entries will be short, and will be designed mainly to warn you away from, or steer you toward certain books.

* Middlesex. Way too long. Bursting with meticulous research on every goddamn page. I had to skim. Incredible writing, but the family saga wore me down.

* Absurdistan. Really good, but not mind-blowingly so. I'm going to read his first book (Russian Debutante's) and compare the two. Seems as though Shteyngart realized, two-thirds of the way through the novel, that he needed something to happen. I wasn't entirely taken with the last third or quarter of the novel -- the energy and momentum started to seep away. Still, an amazing writer, very funny, and worth checking out. [See also this assessment by the brainmachines at N + 1 magazine: (link)]

* Atonement. (spoiler alert). I really like that the first part of the book is longer and more uber-polished than the other parts, because near the end of the novel, Briony explains that she's spent 40 years (or so) writing the first part of the book. The rest of the book exists to allow for the Life of Pi like ending, which I have to say I was a little disappointed with. Not a must-read, but really good nonetheless.

* Lucky Jim. A little slow at times, and too much description of facial expressions. You know when you're watching a film from the 1950s and think to yourself: this story could be told so much faster because today's audiences are more visually literate and able to process narrative leaps and omissions more effectively? I felt the same way about Lucky Jim. I realize this is heresy, but it needs to be said. Plenty of funny stuff in the book, and worth reading to compare against those who are influenced by Amis, such as Russell Smith.

* The Crying of Lot 49. I couldn't get through it. Not even close. I realize this makes me a philistine.

That's it for now. More soon.