I’ve had some things going on in my life. Some major life things, or Life Events, or what-have-you. As a consequence I’ve been really, really good at not falling asleep, and fretting, and ruminating, and considering pro’s and con’s. I’ve been really, really poor at reading an entire novel. So between the start of March and now I’ve read things that made space for my fleeting focus (which isn’t to say these things don’t require focus, only that I was only able to muster focus for a fleeting period: half an hour in the bath, twenty minutes on the bus): Alice Munro short stories, re-reading for the hundred million-th time the Beverly Cleary Ramona series and starting and then dropping a sequence of novels that in another time would have had me captured (Colson Whitehead’s Underground Railroad is the most unlucky in the lot – I made it a third of the way in, put it down for a week of fretting, and when I returned could. not. recall. what I had already read and so abandoned the whole project. Even though I recognized in the first third that it was an excellent novel. I digress). A side question for you then is what do you read when you’re anxious? Or unable to focus? Continue reading
Tag Archives: genius
Don’t make the mistake I did and be caught off guard by this literary sensation. Go read the first installment (and then immediately all the others because you won’t be able to resist) of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s masterful, genius autobiographical series My Struggle. You probably already did. You’re probably one of the bazillions of people who have read the book and have read the countless articles extolling its virtues, its genius. And if you are, I say to you: Why didn’t you tell me earlier? Why did you let me wander around without this book? (to be fair, the book was endorsed on the Slate Political Gabfest ages ago, and was a book recommended by the fabulous L. – thanks!)
Okay, okay, so why so great? Why so necessary? Continue reading
I know I rave about books all the time. I’ve been called out more than once by N. for overselling a book that’s only really good. Not the case with David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks. This novel is genius. Extraordinary in so many ways: in its approach to genre, to plot, to character.In its hyper-imaginative renderings of the near future world and of the past. It’s a book that asks about mortality, familial-responsibility, ecological-responsibility, identity and grief. It’s a book that gives the finger to genre tick-boxes and plots made-for-movies. It revels in the brilliant beauty of its own writing without being showy. It’s exuberant in the possibilities for the novel as a form and for readers as enthusiastic consumers of imagined worlds and people. Continue reading
So two books and one post ought to tell you something (and yes, the something is that I’m a little behind on posting).
First up – The Love of a Good Woman
So you know my deal with short stories and my deal with Alice Munro (hate the former, love the latter, the complexity of this hate-love keeps me up at night). So why did I find this collection to be… less than satisfying? I don’t know. I think maybe I had some weird and misplaced expectation that these stories were going to link together more – I kept waiting for a bit more resonance. Of course the usual Munro things stayed true: her genius, the capacity for a single sentence to capture an entire character/setting, the thrust of a verb… so no complaints with the stories themselves, more a complaint with the stories as a collection. I just wasn’t thrilled.
Cue – Death in Summer
I’ve been meaning to read more of William Trevor since discovering him with “Love and Summer” (like discovering “Madonna” as a pop star – I must have been living under a rock not to know about him). So on a recent used-book-store adventure with S. I bought a couple of his books. I was giddy with the prospect of more genius (maybe my problem with both writers is that I expect perfection and am crushed when I read only really, really, utterly, brilliant, genius?). The book delivers knockout descriptions, but is lacking in plot coherence. It sets itself up as a murder mystery, but unfolds as a Sunday tea in the heat of summer: lazy, oppressive and plodding. That reads a bit cruel, and I’d take it back, except I didn’t like the book (gasp! did I say it? yes, I did) – I love Trevor, think he’s genius, but wasn’t at all captivated by this one. I’ll try the other one I bought and hope for better things. Until then…