Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Thornton Wilder, The Bridge of San Luis Rey

Thornton Wilder, The Bridge of San Luis Rey. After five travelers die in an "act of God" (a rope bridge collapse), a priest tries to discover a rational system to determine why some are chosen to die and some are chosen to live. What evolves from this research is a beautiful distillation of the essence of five lives.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Bernhard Schlink, The Reader

Bernhard Schlink, The Reader (translated by Carol Brown Janeway). I had forgotten that I had read this, but couldn't stop. It's a surprisingly subtle story. Unbridgeable chasms between individuals. Language, literacy, awareness, guilt.

Terry Pratchett, The Color of Magic, Eric, and Feet of Clay

Terry Pratchett, The Color of Magic, Eric, and Feet of Clay. Feet of Clay was a detective story featuring golems and the City Watch. Cheery Littlebottem and Dorfl join the Watch, Lord Vetinari gets poisoned, Commander Vimes and Captain Carrot investigate. The Color of Magic and Eric (or Faust) were Rincewind adventures.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Jane Smiley, Ordinary Love and Goodwill

Jane Smiley, Ordinary Love and Goodwill. Two beautiful novellas about family life.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Audrey Niffenegger, The Time Traveler's Wife

Audrey Niffenegger, The Time Traveler's Wife. A delicious fluffy layer-cake of a story. I loved the holey time-addled story line (and while chronological impairment is a plot gimmick, it's fun, enlivened the plot, and provided an excuse to talk about the nature of love, identity, and choice). Henry and Claire were lovable, their friends and family were perhaps even more interesting, and the setting in and around Chicago was an extra layer of icing. But I wish Claire had more of her own identity. So much of her self was wrapped up in Henry, waiting for him, helping him, loving him - although I suppose she was essentially a child-bride and so perhaps that level of entanglement is not surprising. I really wonder about her art. Were her thoughts expressed in her sculptures alone and hidden from us? Perhaps not, since most of her works that were described also seemed to revolve around her relationship with Henry or around Henry himself. I would have found the love story more powerful if I felt they both had stronger identities- Henry apart from his time-wandering, and Claire apart from Henry. But I suppose that our personalities are often constrained and defined by the happenstance of our lives.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

William Gibson, Spook Country

William Gibson, Spook Country. This book wasn't really science fiction, more like techno-now fiction; sort of a spy-art-gizmo-post-9-11 hodgepodge. The only hazard of writing in the near-present is that the tech in this 07 book already seems quaint. Interesting plot with (wonder of wonders in this genre!) a moderately interesting grown-up female reporter/ex-musician with an actual personality as narrator. Naturally she gets sucked into a strange and intricate caper involving satellites, dirty money, and shadowy government organizations. My major complaint about William Gibson is that he doesn't really like people, he likes things. All his books are absolute love stories to things and designs (they should come with tiny replicas or glossy catalogs) but the people never really go anywhere or develop - if you expect that than they are a fine entertainment.

Samuel Shem, The House of God

Samuel Shem, The House of God. Dr. Roy Basch undergoes a curriculum of self-defense training and skill set acquisition including bouncing, buffing, and turfing during the absurd purgatory of intern year in the Seventies. It's hilarious (and bitter, and very very raunchy). I kept hearing this strange vocabulary and references to characters like the Fat Man over the last few years - so, I thought I had better read this and then anything I get myself into in the next couple of years will seem benign by comparison.