Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Hanif Kureishi, The Buddha of Suburbia

Hanif Kureishi, The Buddha of Suburbia. Shallow. Funny. I liked the main character in spite of himself (which was the point, I think). Almost everyone else was worthless. I don't even like fictional actors, I suppose. This book had more fashion in it - or at any rate it was highlighted over by a design major or clothes lover- odd. One of the reasons I like to read random used books is how you can see someone else's personality in their underlining, or even in the dog-eared pages and old receipts stuck in for bookmarks (also, reading more-or-less haphazardly picked up bargain books keeps me from getting imprisoned by my own taste).

Augusten Burroughs, Running With Scissors

Augusten Burroughs, Running With Scissors. Disgusting. Hilarious. I kept snorting as I read this. One of those memoirs that makes you look fondly back at the most traumatic moments of childhood, (such as the time you stayed up late packing to go live with the squirrels in the tree canopy because you were unjustly punished) and say: "ah, the golden moments of my cherished youth where happiness flowered!"

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Colleen McCullough, Caesar

Colleen McCullough, Caesar. This was my post-finals binge reading. I enjoyed it very much. I didn't enjoy her as much the last time I read her - too many names, not enough character or depth to make me want to keep the plot straight. But this time, I knew the characters and the rough outline of the plot, and it made this book much more fun. The descriptions of fortifications and engineering works were fascinating. McCullough was obviously deeply enamoured with Caesar, but I couldn't quite ignore the massive civilian casualties going on in the background for the benefit of his glory. I'm glad I waited until after my ancient Rome class to read it, or my image of Caesar, Cato, Pompey, Cicero and all those old boys would have been hopelessly skewed. I was sad that it ended with Pompey's death, and now I'm going to have to find the hours to read the sequel.
P.S. I also found a fun comic set in post-Augustan Rome if you like the "sword and sandals" genre: SPQR Blues

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest

Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest. It's funny how I read things in unintended sequence. After reading The Age of Innocence, I must have been hungering subliminally for some satire of ridiculous social structures. So I listened to a few of Wodehouse's stories from LibriVox and then randomly picked up the Oscar Wilde. After the overt Bertie and Jeeves, Algie and Jack's antics seemed tamer than they would have otherwise, so maybe I was a little jaded. But still, it was one of those plays that I put down and thought "is that it?" about - I mean, maybe the thing has to be performed to have the required zing or something.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence

Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence. A beautiful novel about unfulfilled desires, useless self-sacrifice, manners, and life in a restrictive society that could easily have been titled "Keeping up Appearances". Reading about an "atmosphere of faint implications and pale delicacies" is naturally frustrating, because the point of the book is that there is no action, no emotional climax, no "scenes" of any sort. Newland Archer's repressed rebellion doesn't seem worth pursuing anyway: the reality of a love affair with Countess Olenska would have been disappointing, and he's too lazy to have been successful in any of his imagined literary or intellectual circles. I think that his repression gave him a feeling of self-worth that an unrestricted indolent life would not have provided because he could feel himself a martyr for his wife and children while secretly contemplating his wasted alternate life. Somehow characters who don't barge on through and grab what they want always irritate me - although I suppose that includes every person in every novel of manners ever written - and if Newland had barged on through the story would have been boring and pointless.