Thursday, January 07, 2010

Light reading catch-up

I haven't read much recently, but should be coming into a nice stretch of reading and blogging a bit more prolifically.

I happened to be passing my local public library just after Xmas and saw it was open, popped in to see what I could glean from the shelves - mostly a load of RUBBISH, it turned out.

I enjoyed James Lee Burke's The Tin Roof Blowdown (incredibly depressing to think about Katrina and its aftermath), Mercedes Lackey's Foundation (generic and not particularly well-written, but I like this kind of book - I think Lackey is somewhat inferior to Anne McCaffrey and Marion Zimmer Bradley, but I usually find her books worth reading in any case as they are so much the sort of thing I enjoy), Jennifer Weiner's Best Friends Forever (highly readable, but not so much my kind of thing - alas, the jokey mystery is not a favorite of mine - I am not a Susan Isaacs fan, either).

The other books in the pile were so drivelly that I could not finish any of 'em, it made me wonder how people can stand to either read or write such simple-minded things (I just about skimmed my way to the end of this, but I had to put this aside without finishing it - surely the early books in the series were far better?!? - and I found this nigh unreadable.)

On the plane down to Cayman, I read another of Morag Joss's books, Funeral Music; well-written, but somewhat preposterous in the plotting and I am also not crazy about the mildly satirical orientation towards the characters.

I also started rereading (and finished over the next day or so) Mary Renault's pair of novels about Alexander the Great. I really love Renault's novels, I grew up reading them (along with Robert Graves of course) - I picked these two up from my mother's house over Xmas after my friend and former student Julia Hoban mentioned one of them and reminded me how much I liked them when I was younger.

Fire from Heaven seems to me much less good than I remembered - it is written in the third person, unusually for Renault, and it is a voice that works much less well for her than the first. Rosemary Sutcliffe did this sort of thing much better in half-a-dozen of her books. But The Persian Boy is wonderful!

I read an amazingly good novel the other day, I would give it a very strong recommendation indeed and was surprised I had not heard more about it when it came out (but perhaps I just wasn't paying attention, 2009 was a year of having my mind on other things than literary fiction!). It is Michelle Huneven's Blame, and I truly loved it - beautifully written, both the characters and the setting are really wonderfully well-rendered and the book itself (it is the vein of Kate Christensen and Sigrid Nunez) is actually quite spectacularly good in an understated way.

Another good one (on a totally different note - I was combing the piles of unread books in my apartment the night before I left for Cayman and trying to find appealing things to take with me to read!): Me Cheeta: My Life in Hollywood. A one-joke book, but it is a very good joke, and beautifully well-executed. Also, one of the best cover designs I've seen in ages!


  1. I read Blame the other day too! Started out thinking it was fantastic, ended up thinking it was very good. I think I was irked by the AIDS plot--as soon as he coughed, it became totally predictable...his sainthood was much easier to bear when he wasn't dying. However, beautifully written, etc., and, yes, Sigrid Nunez seems an apt comparison (have not yet gotten what you and others see in Christensen--abandoned both the Epicure one and the latest, though more from lack of excitement than anything particularly negative).

  2. Yeah, the local public library is pretty horrible (I'm assuming you're talking about the same one that I'm thinking of). One of my pet peeves there is that the shelves are super-low; whoever designed the space seems to have an aversion to books! Also, the children's section is really weird: it has several overlapping alphabetical areas, also low shelves (even for the older kids who can reach higher, especially with the aid of a stool), hence not many books, also for some reason they have a dozen copies of some of their books. I don't care how popular they are, it's gotta be better to have 12 different titles.