Monday, June 13, 2011

Mudbound, Hillary Jordan

This book was great!-it succeeded on all levels. Successes of note:

1. Dialect! The dialect was smooth and seamless and crazily good. How did it get so good? Mostly through word choice, I think, plus some arrangement / grammar (“living down to Charlottesville,” etc ). Phonetics--the super-dangerous etching acid sometimes splattered disastrously all over dialogue--were used sparingly. I was so fully transported down South that after I had been reading, I came out with words I hadn't said in years.

2. Narrative structure: The story is narrated explicitly from multiple character perspectives, in chapters titled with the characters’ names. I don't know why, but I enjoy reading this device. Also, the first chapter occurs at the "end" of the story, then the story jumps back in time and proceeds forward in a linear fashion until we finally meet the scene we saw in the beginning. Despite / because of this, there is some good tension in the story.

This is Jordan's first book, and she has gotten lots of attention for it. It won the Bellwether Prize, founded by Barbara Kingsolver, for literature of social change. When She Woke, Jordan's next novel, is forthcoming this October.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Passage, Justin Cronin

The Passage was perfect to read at work. (shhh.) It kept me turning the pages, but was nice and easy to pick up and put down. However, it took a significant turn for the crappy in the last 200 pages or so. It seemed (a) like a lot of action needed to happen by the end of the book, but also (b) weirdly formulaic. Luckily I wasn’t really invested in the book’s “good”ness, so I only cared occasionally when the crappiness became obtrusive. I'll read the next one for further entertainment if it crosses my path.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Pym, Mat Johnson

Mat Johnson in his own little sub-genre with Victor LaVelle: just suspend your disbelief and hang on. Pym is a sharp and funny book, the characters and dialogue are great, but I’m pretty bogged down in the Thomas Kinkaide part. I feel like it stretches credibility even a little further than the bounds I had given it...for the purpose of making clever points. Which is a buzzkill.
Pym is hibernating on my Kindle right now, but I'll probably finish the book soon.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself, David Lipsky

A pretty quick read, though not a page-turner. Interesting conversations about writing, fame, Infinite Jest, entertainment, etc. Uninteresting conversations about movies, authors comparing themselves to other authors, etc. Pinpointed for me a kind of fiction I do not like: fiction purposely incorporating theoretical or self-referential postmoderny things into the "real world" of the novel, at the expense of elements like character or plot that make a body enjoy reading. (e.g. Raw Shark Texts, The End of Mr Y, Broom of the System.) These are not my favorites. On the other hand, I do enjoy the challenge and interest of these postmoderny incursions when they do not occur at the expense of my precious woobies of both character and plot (e.g. Pale Fire... surely there are others).

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet, David MItchell

Compelling read. Historical novel, in the best sense, plus some kind of supernatural adventure section there in the middle too. Views of a few cultures, understated and fascinating. The characters shine--as I’m always surprised when they do in historical fiction--with insight, intelligence, loves and motives. Some of that wabi-sabi beauty-of-the-ephemeral (autumnal?) Japanese aesthetic infuses the whole book. Entirely satisfying, good on the brain. I understand Cloud Atlas by the same author is really something special; it's been on my to-read list for a while but after reading Thousand Autumns, it has shot to the top!