Monday, May 23, 2005

I had a delightfully reclusive weekend

finishing my novel revisions, virtually no human contact whatsoever, so of course there was time for some light reading. Four enjoyable novels, though nothing in the end completely earth-shattering (they're all good, really, but suffered in comparison to a few extraordinary ones I've read recently--or perhaps I was just in a jaundiced frame of mind, since I see a pattern emerges below): gods in Alabama, by Joshilyn Jackson (a prime example of why I love lit blogs--I'd never have picked this up if I hadn't seen the author-to-author interview at Beatrice--I really liked it, it's smart and funny and everything chick-lit should be but isn't, but it isn't as good as the truly exceptional The Bitch Posse, with which it shares a number of features); Shannon Hale's Enna Burning (good, but not as good as The Goose Girl, to which it's a sequel); Midnighters 1: The Secret Hour by Scott Westerfeld (I loved some things about this--the thirteen-letter words!!!--but in the end it didn't quite work for me, mostly because the main characters are a little flat--it feels too much like series fiction, I love young-adult trilogies but don't love young-adult series and this somehow was more like the latter than the former; but I am looking forward to reading his other stuff, this had lots good in it); and The Sunday Philosophy Club by the dreaded Alexander McCall Smith. I've held out against this guy for a long time--I simply will not read books with such coy and cutesy titles (though I see that I have a "No. 1" in my novel title as well, not sure if this counts as some kind of a Freudian slip or just a failure of self-knowledge?). I picked this up randomly at the library. I enjoyed it while I was reading it (the main character thinks about writing an article "In Praise of Hypocrisy" that actually sounds exactly like my academic book, which opens with the sentence "Very few people are willing to speak up for hypocrisy"), but afterwards I felt the reading experience had been quite thin. I am not a reader for whom the words "charming" and "whimsical" are compliments, and this book is certainly charming and whimsical. However perhaps I'm not being fair--he's certainly an unobtrusive and skilled stylist, and I suppose I will be interested to see how far he develops Isabel's character flaws in the next one(s). Perhaps I'm not doing McCall Smith justice, but I felt that he was too kind to his character--he could have taken a lesson from Austen's Emma and handled her a little more ruthlessly....


  1. Thanks for the link to the Beatrice interview with Joshilyn Jackson. I put "gods in Alabama" on hold at the library a week ago, so I'm just waiting for my name to make it to the top of the reserve list.

  2. And if you didn't see it already, there's also a good "Backstory" with Jackson at M. J. Rose's publishing blog, link is