Tuesday, February 1, 2011

What I read in January

The dark nights and slower weekends following the mad holiday season made for a great month of reading! Finished all these books in January:

The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip by George Saunders (Illustrated by Lane Smith). This is sort of a children's book, sort of an adult book. The story is simple: Gappers, little orange balls with dozens of eyes torment the goats of the three townspeople of Frip. A change and adapt or perish sort of tale. While the story was cute, the illustrations were wonderful.

Solar - Ian McEwan. Typical McEwan: anti heroic protagonist, flat ending. Last year, this book riled up the critics last year like few others. Is it supporting or disproving global climate change? Are we supposed to like or hate the main character? Did his penis freeze and fall off?! Seriously?! Frankly, as an avid reader of McEwan's works, I'm more interested in whether or not he hates women. Or if he just hates everyone. I'd stop reading him if it wasn't so hard to stay away from his powerful prose and compelling stories. But if McEwan keeps killing it with the bad endings, he going off my favorite author's list. Except for Atonement. That will always be on the top of the "Bests" list.

Battle Royale by Koushun Takami. Only picked this up (okay, it was brought to me) by someone who was crazy about the book. Not a bad read, just juvenile and at times, terribly tedious. King writing as Bachman and Golding did the same idea much better. Nothing new here.

The Girl of His Dreams - Donna Leon. This was the BCB book club selection for January. Excellent international fiction, mystery story. Not exactly difficult reading but strong, funny characters and such a lovely Venice setting.

Nada by Carmen LaForte. Ever read a classic (in this case Modern Library Edition) and thought, why oh why is this a classic? What a dud. One of the most vapid and poorly written books I've read in ages. Somehow Laforte managed to make one the time after the Spanish Civil War so damn dull. Reading this was like peaking into a young girl's diary. A stupid, boring, girl's diary filled with such insightful comments such as "I had a feeling." Really? Do tell. Or, please don't. And Llosa gave the introduction to the book but "I had a feeling" he didn't actually read this book because Llosa states that Laforte hardly brings up the Spanish Civil War when actually there is a strong story line wherein one of the characters turns in another during the war and the conflict that now stands between the. So, yeah, did you read the book Llosa?

While Standing on One Foot (Puzzle Stories and Wisdom Tales from the Jewish Tradition) by Nina Jaffe and Steve Zeitlin. A brief introduction into some of the historical and contemporary Jewish thinkers set in a "What Would You Do" format. Definitely a book for someone unfamiliar with Jewish fables and stories.

The Torturer's Apprentice (Stories) by John Biguenet. Big mistake setting down to read these short stories at work. I could barely contain myself after "Fatherhood" and "Rose." Weepy booksellers freak people out. These short stories were just so beautiful and poignant they left me wanting more. That's usually my quibble with short stories. If it's good, just write a novel. Thankfully Biguent has (Oyster) and it's fabulous.

The Wapshot Chronicle by John Cheever. Finally some funny New Englanders! Not that they are humorous, oh, that wouldn't do at all, but funny in a lovingly, quirky way. One of the best lines comes when a young man has gone off to seek his fortune in New York and while watching the hustle and bustle of the city reflects: "with some skepticism, even with compassion, for although you have come here to make your fortune you think of the city as a last resort of those people who lack the fortitude and character necessary to endure the monotony of places like St. Botolphs.” He's right. I do lack the fortitude and character necessary to live in a small town ~ that's why I live in New Orleans!

The favorite for this month was The Wapshot Chronicle very closely followed by Biguenet stories. Looking forward to next month's reading, though Mardi Gras is sure to cut into the reading time.

Happy reading y'all!

Elizabeth

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