Monday, January 7, 2008

Some Things I Read Over the Last Couple of Months

  • Michael Chabon's The Yiddish Policemen's Union
  • Richard Russo's Nobody's Fool
  • Richard Russo's Empire Falls
  • David Gates's Jernigan
  • Russel Hoban's Riddley Walker
  • Connie Willis's Dooms Day Book
  • Robert B. Parker's The Godwulf Manuscript

I think I'm forgetting something. I'll add it later if I think of it.

The new Chabon is really good. Google is your friend, if you want the Hollywood pitch. I'll just say, if it sounds like something you'd like, you probably will, and as usual with Chabon, the prose is fluid and stylish.

Nobody's Fool is as good as everyone says it is. Funny, compelling, surprisingly deep exploration of character. Empire Falls was something of a disappointment after Fool. I'm not sorry I read it, but finally there wasn't enough at stake, I think.

Jernigan is probably the bitterest book I've ever read. Wry, but sad sad sad. The last line is perfect, and for that reason alone, I think every novelist will want to read it.

I liked Riddley Walker as much as I expected to. Sort of a mashup of A Clockwork Orange (the language) and A Canticle for Leibowitz, two books I really admire. I wasn't really expecting the dash of Idiocracy, a welcome surprise. (That movie, is a fine satire, BTW, if you haven't seen it. Ow my balls!)

I admired Willis's ambition. A compelling book, despite prose that was sometimes too flat (for me). Godwulf is the first Spenser novel I'd read. I'll be reading more. Funny literary allusions, embarrassingly obvious Chandler-esque wise-cracking (but still good). And Parker really knows how to nail the end of a paragraph.

Not a bad lot of books, though not enough of them. 2007 was a bad year for me in terms of reading volume -- I'd guesstimate about half of what I normally read? Just too much going on. I hope 2008 will go a little better.


  1. Imported on behalf of: McI
    Yeah, *Empire Falls*, a bummer after reading his others. The parental dilemma over the struggle for the world's largest booger in *Fool* is among the funniest novel scenes I've read.

    I found the problem with *Doomsday* is the future strand (who cares?/lame suspense in those characters' stories), very similar to the weakness of *The Sparrow*, I think it's called. Then again, maybe it just built tension for getting back to the real action...

    And welcome back (margehomeunix)!

  2. Imported on behalf of: Lee
    A common (ubiquitous?) problem with books with 2+ parallel story lines is that readers will be more interested in one story than another. Of course there are things you do to mitigate this problem. Like one thing you do is try to make sure the stories aren't lame. That's thing one.

    In short, you make an excellent point. That novel is full of, if not exactly *false* suspense, at least *contrived* suspense. How convenient (for the novelist) that the one guy with all of the information/expertise keeps coming down with a fever, which allows him to drop hints without actually revealing the situation before its time. More generally, the clanking of the plot machinery is really distracting in that one.

    But what I find esp. interesting is that despite the flaws, it still worked pretty well for me as a novel. I mean, when I got close to the end, there was *no way* I was putting it down. Contrast with *Empire Falls* which, while technically a superior novel, was a struggle to finish.

    Did somebody mention basketball? I hear Cornell has a killer team this year. And I understand Pitt is on something of a losing streak.