Saturday, June 21, 2008

Margaret Atwood, Cat's Eye

Margaret Atwood, Cat's Eye. The story of the remembered girlhood of a painter. A book that reminded me how intense being nine was and how cruel and complicated children can be. Atwood always tells a good story.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Zadie Smith, On Beauty

Zadie Smith, On Beauty. Incredible. Funny, entertaining, appalling. The Belseys are a liberal, academic, contorted, and confused family who are insanely fun to read about. Class, love, politics, selfishness, everything Smith put in this book is alive and sharp and deadly. And this story is much more fun to read than Howard's End.

Monday, June 09, 2008

John Updike, Marry Me

John Updike, Marry Me. The older I get the more I love John Updike's language, and the more I recoil from his characters. I don't know why I keep coming back to him, but I do. There is something there that draws me, even in the most woeful of his books. But really, his suburban adultery stories I find the most hopeless and dismal to read of almost anything. I'd like to check out one of his really good novels or better short stories to cleanse my mind. This particular book was the story of two couples and the excruciating mess they make of their lives. Although Jerry, Sally, Richard, and Ruth are scummy and irritating, there is just such sorrow and lostness in their descriptions (not in themselves, really, but in aspects of themselves), well, I can't explain it but I find it somehow compelling. He's writing about miserable, cowardly people, but not to redeem, exalt, or make examples of them. They are just people. Not very nice people. But recognizable.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Richard Brautigan, A Confederate General From Big Sur, Dreaming of Babylon, The Hawkline Monster

Richard Brautigan, A Confederate General From Big Sur, Dreaming of Babylon, The Hawkline Monster. Brautigan is truly funny and bizarre in splashes, but somehow there wasn't much going on in these books. I enjoy the absurd, but it helps to have some sort of structure. Really, they just weren't that great. (What sort of masochist reads three novels by Brautigan in a row? Well, it is summer vacation and they were bound together so I just sort of plowed right through with no regard for my sanity). Years ago I enjoyed Trout Fishing In America, although it wasn't the work of transcendent genius that I'd been promised. If I'd read these separately, buffered by several decades, I might feel more charitably toward Brautigan, but as it is I feel as if I drank a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster and used my head as a battering ram.