Saturday, May 30, 2009

Terry Pratchett, Monstrous Regiment and Going Postal

Terry Pratchett, Monstrous Regiment and Going Postal. More fun. Monstrous Regiment is about the small criminally insane nation of Borogravia and its very unusual recruits. It changed my relationship with socks. Going Postal follows the, er, choice of the very talented con man Moist von Lipwig to go straight (more or less) and take a civil service job reviving the post office.

Friday, May 29, 2009

V.S. Naipaul, Magic Seeds

V.S. Naipaul, Magic Seeds. The next half of Willie Chandran's life (or the next third of it, anyway). Willie floats with the same reserve and disconnection. He somehow drifts through years of fighting with a guerrilla revolutionary force and further years of imprisonment. He lives more and more within his own skin and the best parts of the story are the details of how he connects minute to minute of time. His return to England pulls away from that focus, and in the end it's no different than his first arrival. He's still amiable, but full of less and less potential.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Terry Pratchett, Night Watch

Terry Pratchett, Night Watch. Marvelous. Scratched so many itches at once that I'm going to have to invent a new category of fun reading. This one had all the satisfaction of a good mystery/police novel smooshed in with science fiction and a really great imaginary universe and slathered all over with just slightly over the top hilariousness. Like Douglas Adams with more plot? No, not exactly. But that absurd humor that makes me snort when I'm reading and whisper lines out loud to myself just to hear them again. I can't exactly recap the plot, but Commander Sam Vimes is the kind of archetype who's fun to read about even when he's boring, and he was definitely not boring.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Edward P. Jones, All Aunt Hagar's Children

Edward P. Jones, All Aunt Hagar's Children. These are longer short stories, but the book doesn't have the scattered feeling of some collections. They are coherent and narratives transition smoothly: the people aren't connected, but the personality of the growing city of Washington provides continuity. Many of the characters are transplants, leaving rural communities behind, while others never left but are seeing their city change around them.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Kevin Crossley-Holland, At the Crossing-Places and King of the Middle March

Kevin Crossley-Holland, At the Crossing-Places and King of the Middle March. The second two books in this Arthurian trilogy. Again, the short chapters and the interweaving of two stories are original and pleasing. The book is meticulously researched ("our" Arthur's story is at end of the twelfth century) and therefore absolutely fascinating. The narrative is vivid and nuanced at the same time, which is hard to pull off when writing a squire's account of events leading up to a crusade.

V.S. Naipaul, Half a Life

V.S. Naipaul, Half a Life. Willie Chandran moves from continent to content, half escaping and half creating. He leaves behind his parents, but not quite their resentment and shame. And so he lives a life of repetition. The hypocrisy and entanglement of class and pigment follow him around the world. He's always almost absent, always leaves himself a backdoor open for escape. He manages to never be fully invested, to be continually making time. His half lived life has so far been cushioned by falsehoods and protective coloration. And yet he's attractive, amiable, full of untapped promise.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Italo Calvino, The Baron in the Trees

Italo Calvino, The Baron in the Trees (translated by Archibald Colquhoun). Cosimo, disgusted by snails at dinner, runs away to the trees and never comes down. His little brother records his life as an adventurer, scholar, lover, madman and revolutionary. Wonderful.

Adam Gopnik, The King in the Window

Adam Gopnik, The King in the Window. This story had a wonderful sense of place, and Paris through the eyes of a lonely child was enticing. But that's the best I can say for it. It had entrancing moments, but the plot splayed out and the story wasn't cohesive. The quantum computing subplot was especially clumsily patched on to the world of water, windows, and mirrors.