Reading in Newfoundland; or, How to Hit a Moose

Moose Standing in WaterFear not. We didn’t hit a moose. But I also didn’t get as much reading done as I intended because my time as a passenger was spent on moose patrol, rather than reading. What? Oh, yeah, I was on holiday in Newfoundland for eleven days. Saw some whales, dolphins, puffins, no big deal. No moose spotted (happily), though we learned that in Gros Morne (where we spent the latter half of the trip) there are five moose per square kilometer. Symbols of Canadiana don’t come much more dense (ha ha).

In retrospect, with such a quintessential ‘Canadian’ vacation planned (though many of the Newfoundlanders we talked with disputed the ‘Canadianness’ of Newfoundland) I probably should have selected Canadian or Newfoundland-based novels. As it was, I took along several of your summer recommendations (thanks):

Annihilation, Jeff VanderMeer

Post-apocalyptic fantasy finds a group of four ‘explorers’, defined by their roles (the psychologist, the anthropologist, the linguist…), sent into a [anthropomorphic][animated][alien] landscape/environment to gather data. They encounter a range of challenges that are at once metaphoric and practical. With a nightmarish, oppressive atmosphere, the book asks the reader to consider the environment/natural world as both hero and antagonist to our present and our future. 3/5

Euphoria, Lily King

Following the anthropologist theme, Euphoria is based on the life of Margaret Mead with Mead fictionalized as Nell, her husband as Fen and their collaborator as Bankson. In addition to being one of the best love stories I’ve read in recent memory, the book is a thoughtful and nuanced exploration of ideas of ethnocentrism, positivism and colonialism. Principally narrated by Bankson, the retrospective time frame infuses the novel not only with urgency and threat, but with an assurance of the importance of the narrated events: for it is only in retrospect, the novel argues, we recognize and signify small choices, taken-for-granted actions and chance encounters with power. 4.5/5

Bleeding Edge, Thomas Pynchon

Gawd, N. Gawd. What a mess of terrible boredom. Maybe I’d have liked this one if I knew anything about the early years of the Internet. Or New York. Or business ventures. Who am I kidding, the point of fiction is that you ought not need to know anything about the subject to be captivated and moved by it (see Euphoria above!). The novel was altogether too interested in its own clever turns of narrative direction and layered sentences to present anything like compelling character or plot. I was marginally interested in the thematic concern of American greed and self-centered ambition, but only barely. 1/5 #worstbooks

The other books recommended still to come: I’m nearly done part one of My Struggle (Karl Ove Knausgaard) (It is So. Good.) and have the Pope and Mussolini and Snow Boy Bird from the library, and am on the waitlist for Station Eleven. All this to say: stay tuned.

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Filed under Fiction, Prize Winner, Reader Request, Worst Books

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