Sunday, August 01, 2010

"Box 58 is Death"

The game of Nim and other ruses (via literary Eds).

Helen DeWitt: "A-free, C-free and G-visited".

It has been another odd week - I was only in Cayman for a few days before we went ahead and scheduled a trip to Miami for a nuclear stress test. There was no true worst-case scenario, I was pretty sure everything would be fine or (if not) eminently fixable (a term my more precise traveling companion corrected to "treatable!"), but I was nonetheless rather discombobulated and on tenterhooks until late Thursday afternoon, when the cardiologist declared him in the pink of health (not his exact words, but that was the gist of it). This is good!

So it was a week of airports and hotels and junk food and highway travel; we saw Inception and The Karate Kid at the mall opposite our hotel, and had a very good (but hot!) trip to the Miami Zoo on Saturday (the Amazon exhibits are particularly recommended - delightful venomous frogs and slinky snakes and lizards! - but I also particularly enjoyed the cotton-topped tamarins, always a favorite of mine, and a comical series of interactions between a bunch of lemurs that clearly demonstrated the dominance of the ringtailed over the red-ruffed when they share a single enclosure).

Had a bunch of light reading to while away the hours: first of all some fairly trivial stuff from the Humane Society Book Loft (it is not an infinitely renewable resources, alas, despite its excellence), Amanda Craig's Love in Idleness (very glad I am not the sort of English person she describes!) and Eileen Dreyer's Head Games (not as good as early Patricia Cornwell) and Lynda LaPlante's Red Dahlia (highly formulaic) and a pair of novels by Tonya Huff (the first of which it turned out I had read before, and the second of which mildly displeased me by failing to satisfy the obligations of a crime novel as opposed to "romantic suspense").

It was with delight that I then buried myself in another Humane Society find, Donna Tartt's wonderful novel The Little Friend. I loved it - the use of language is so much more vivid and interesting and appealing than everything else I've been reading recently - not to knock the other stuff - but really, it is something very special! Very funny in parts - and now I cannot stop using the word chunking - I chunked my duffel bag into the back of the SUV in the airport parking lot when we got back to Cayman a few hours ago...

And I had a bookstore splurge at the mall in Florida too (it was the slightly dubious-sounding Books-A-Million), and got a few things I've been coveting that made today's travels pass fairly quickly: Tana French's Faithful Place (not perhaps quite as good as the first two, and I was still expecting one more twist when the book quite abruptly came to an end, but still very good) and Joe Hill's Horns, which I am enjoying very much indeed and will finish as soon as I put a period to this excessively lengthy post.


  1. My sister and I both had the same reaction to the new Tana French that you did: I kept looking out for that final twist, but it never came. Still, I read it more or less in one long sitting and was glad of it, so it's hard to complain. (Oddly, though, most of the early reviews I've seen call it her best yet.)

    I've never read The Little Friend, despite having loved The Secret History way back when. I probably would have tried it, but a good friend whose taste I trust said she's never hated a book as much--hating each and every word. Despite that, I'd already been thinking lately for some reason about giving it a go, and you may have convinced me here.

  2. I adore The Secret History (I have read it at least five times, I think it is perhaps the contemporary modern book on friendship I can think of) but I found The Little Friend turgid and, ultimately, pointless. I do agree that Tartt's language is wonderfully evocative but I missed the tight intensity of Secret History; Little Friend is too diffuse for my taste.

  3. Oh, I think you will enjoy Horns. I'm not 100% convinced it lives up to its premise, but the premise is so very delicious that it's good enough.

  4. My husband, who is from Arkansas, says "chunking" like that too -- where I (who am from NY state) would say "chucking" -- and I love it. I remember it from The Little Friend, too, which I read long before I met him.

    I love that Helen DeWitt piece, too.