[lit-ideas] Re: booksbooksbooks

  • From: "veronica caley" <molleo1@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 12 Jun 2009 16:26:28 -0400

I think your judgment would have been more accurate if you had added the words "most" or "few" to your estimation of which gender would like which books.

There have been a number of books mentioned on this list about books members wanted to discuss. I didn't respond because I had read the books a long time ago and did not feel able to discuss it intelligently, due to an unwillingness to re-read them.

I think Cormac McCarthy is one of the best writers in the English language, as does one of my best lady friends. I read "Canticle for Leibowitz" when it first came out, years ago.

"The Winter Vault" sounds like something I would not like and would not read. I agree that Mr. McCarthy is an unlikely choice for Oprah, except that she likes books with children in it. But it doesn't go with her always upbeat/spiritual bent.

Veronica Caley
----- Original Message ----- From: <dsavory@xxxxxxxxx>
To: <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Sent: Wednesday, June 10, 2009 1:45 PM
Subject: [lit-ideas] booksbooksbooks

I've been binging on books to an unprecedented degree and I thought I'd give you some food for thought.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy: I don't know if it's because I have a small son and I felt like I could identify with the main character but this was a devastating read- the most engaging, page turningest novel I have read in a very long time. A man and his son meander across post-Apocalyptic America. A Canticle For Liebowitz crossed with No Country for Old Men if you read that or saw the movie. This is a story that is simultaneously heartening and harrowing. It's interesting this is an Oprah Book Club book because I can't imagine a single female reader I know who would like this.

The Winter Vault by Anne Michaels: this on the other hand, women would like. I class this as "Really good but I hated it." It's all womb-as-garden and it features lists of plants on every other page. I was initially excited by the location and re-location of Abu Simbel but nothing really engaging comes of it. The dialogue is inauthentic and nothing really happens although what gets said and what doesn't happen is all very finely wrought in beautiful language. This is the perfect present for your mother in law.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro: this is another "Really good book but I hated it." It reads like an authorial experiment to create tension by dropping minute hints and dragging out the reveal for as looooong as possible. It's agonizing, reading the "he said she said" minutiae of high school life, knowing it's sort of tangential to what you really want to know about the characters. I’m kinda tired of Ishiguro’s characters who are dupes but don’t know it, like the butler in the Remains of the Day, the conductgor in the Unconsoled who keeps going arounf in Kafakaesque circles and the ones in this story. It would have made a better story if the characters (and the reader) were aware of their plight from the beginning and then we got to witness them emotionally arcing. Not so challenging to write maybe.

The History Man by Malcolm Bradbury: This is a lot like Nice Work by David Lodge and the difference between them is like the difference between the English and American versions of The Office. The History Man is funny in a way that makes you wince. It's a very interesting study of the way successful and intelligent people can use ideology to disguise their own hypocrisy. I bought it for 10 cents on Amazon and it's safe to say that this is the best 10 cents I ever spent.

The Yiddish Policeman's Union by Michael Chabon: I love this book. Love love love it! Cool premise: Jews have settled in Sitka Alaska where Jewish police battle a Jewish Mafia. Cool characters: Meyer is a hard-boiled, hard-drinking detective with hulking half-Jew, half-Indian sidekick. Cool language: lots of Yiddish neologisms to throw around at cocktail parties. Plus it's a whodunit.

David Savory

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