Sunday, March 16, 2008

Joanne Harris, Chocolat

Joanne Harris, Chocolat. Ugh. Too sweet. The book equivalent of Hershey's Syrup. I haven't seen the movie, but I bet it was better.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Iva Pekárková, The World Is Round

Iva Pekárková, The World Is Round. A occasionally beautiful, filthy, shifting novel. A beat-inspired hedonistic travelogue (with a rare female protagonist) meets One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich . This wasn't nearly as powerful, but the small details of camp life were so significant and lovingly described that comparison was inevitable. Somehow I felt the structure, or the narrative, was lacking - too amorphous. But the characters, the feelings, the dialog, even in translation, were often perfect. So - flawed - but enough beauty to savor.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

David Sheff, Beautiful Boy

David Sheff, Beautiful Boy. A memoir of living with a son's drug addiction, so a fairly terrifying book for a parent to read. Matt brought this home because they're promoting it at Starbucks and he wanted to know if it's "well-written" for his customers. Fairly. Not incredibly gripping, a little repetitive. But still, I had to keep reading, hoping for a neat resolution and a happy ending for Nic. By the nature of the story, you care for the characters despite Nic's flaws (the subject of the book, after all) and David's extraordinary navel gazing. Although you have to excuse some of the constant self-blame, because mostly David's role consisted of worrying. The second half of the book was tighter than the first. David suffered a brain hemorrhage some way through the writing process,and I wonder if that paradoxically cleaned up the narrative. I read that Nic Sheff wrote a memoir published at the same time, and I'm curious to read it. Not curious enough to buy it, but if I run across it I'll read it.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Roddy Doyle, Paula Spencer

Roddy Doyle, Paula Spencer. I really like Roddy Doyle - he's funny and gritty, and not too self-conscious. Paula is a rough, loving, recovering alcoholic struggling to stay dry and discover who she actually is. She's a working class house cleaner, widow, and parent relearning life. She's living in the new Ireland, but stuck in the economic past. She's great. She's grand. The only thing that struck me as a little off was the huge amount of pop culture references - they weren't jarring or anything, but the book's only a year old and I was struggling to connect some of them (but they were not pathetic, like poor Tom Wolfe's awful I am Charlotte Simmons) and they do work because the story is embedded in a very specific place and time.

M.T. Anderson, The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing

M.T. Anderson, The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing: Traitor to the Nation. Excellent, even though it has the longest title ever (there's another subtitle- Volume I: The Pox Party - which would have been great alone). Octavian is a classic hero, as precocious as his namesake, and absolutely indomitable. The children's literature I've always loved best contains heartless adversaries, punishing circumstances, and plot and characters that completely suck you in. The angles of this story about science, oppression, freedom, hypocrisy, and greed were incredible - the complexity and honesty of the perspective made every fiction of the revolutionary war I read as a kid seem hagiographic and shallow.