Sunday, February 10, 2008

A. S. Byatt, Little Black Book of Stories

A. S. Byatt, Little Black Book of Stories. A Stone Woman was a magnificent and memorable image made into a story - I dreamt of turning to stone after reading it. Didn't so much care for Raw Material - the writer was just not convincing (ha). All of the stories were enjoyable. Byatt is always entertaining and clever. Her erudite characters make me wish I was better educated in the classics. Why didn't I attempt Latin instead of failing miserably at French and Spanish? I'll never feel learned unless I learn some Latin, but I don't think my chances are good.

Friday, February 08, 2008

John Le Carré, The Mission Song

John Le Carré, The Mission Song. My favorite comfort read, who is unfortunately never comforting. This particular Le Carré is about Salvo, a gifted interpreter, who of course works part time for a deniable government organization. On his first important assignment, he is the interpreter (above and below the waterline) for a shadowy multinational syndicate and a collection of warlords and political leaders who are of course going to bring peace to his beloved Congo. The story is like Le Carré's others, in that the unprincipled and ruthless win, and the possession of a conscience dooms a hero. But I think these books are always beautifully written, perfectly constructed, and true. The heroes are not good men and women, but they have a core of good. And, strangely, the stories are mostly about love.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Saul Bellow, The Adventures of Augie March

Saul Bellow, The Adventures of Augie March. Augie grows up in depression-era Chicago and floats from calling to calling, recruited by one than another crackpot or schemer and eventually rejecting him and drifting to the next. Something about Augie makes others want to adopt him, and all Augie knows about himself is that he is not a specialist and he has some fate to find. He is a reader (like so many Bellow heroes) and seems content to drift through life, although his defining characteristic is opposition. It's so easy be Augie - anyone who lived through adolescence should recognize the feeling of special destiny mixed with apathy and discouragement. It's not so much a "coming of age" novel, because it ends with Augie still half-formed. Bellow is becoming my favorite author.