Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Carol Shield, The Stone Diaries

Carol Shield, The Stone Diaries. The intricate story of Daisy Stone Goodwill's life. She's orphaned, emigrates from Canada to Indiana, is married twice, raises children, writes, travels, gardens, and dies in old age. She remains an evasive and enigmatic figure to her family, who see her as they see themselves. Shields highlights the inaccuracy of memory, the incompleteness of stories, the fundamental mystery of other people - how we can never really know another person, how there are always mysteries and ambiguities, how often we deliberately misinterpret and pigeonhole for the sake of simplicity. Biography, even a fictional representation of a biography is necessarily incomplete. I enjoyed the early part of the book about Daisy's parents and early life, which was beautiful and direct.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Barry Hannah, Yonder Stands Your Orphan

Barry Hannah, Yonder Stands Your Orphan. I thought it was named after the Bob Dylan song - I had no idea it would feature actual orphans with guns. A bloody, grotesquely violent story about a bunch of old geezers living around a swampy lake, heading variously toward death. Full of gore, fancy cars, whores, nudity, even sex, without a moment of sexiness or joy. No sympathetic characters, no redeeming qualities in anyone, just rotting decay leading to moldy death. The book was full of beautiful, evocative sentences, but I didn't feel it cohered into a whole that said anything as ambitious as the epic Hannah was aiming for.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Brian Moore, The Statement

Brian Moore, The Statement. A chase-story in Southern France. Pierre Brossard, a convicted war criminal sheltered by the Catholic Church, police, and government officials, has lived for over forty years hiding in plain sight. Now a new set of gendarmes are looking for him in earnest, the church is under scrutiny and investigation, and a mysterious vigilante group is trying to bring him to justice by assassination. Fun. Different people are following his trail, and we also see events unfold from the hunted point of view. A weakness or two in the plot (Brossard was too smart not to have deduced who was betraying his movements, for one), but engaging and perfectly paced. A little complexity was introduced with the religious conversion of Brossard, but on the whole he was too revolting to feel even a twinge of sympathy for.