Thursday, June 12, 2014

Closing tabs

Ayn Rand, cat fancier.

Vanilla is the old black.

Rebecca Traister on the violence of adolescent girls. (Joyce Carol Oates and Megan Abbott are two great novelists on this theme - I am much looking forward to Megan's new novel The Fever.)

This is interesting. (Via GeekPress.)

Have been doing some very interesting reading this week, about which more anon, and am more strongly resolved than ever to stop rotting my brain with so much junk! I am not contemplating denying myself light reading altogether, that would be simply penitential, but I would guess only about a third of the novels I read are things I am really avid for, the others are just to fill up the time. More nonfiction for the rest of the year, and I have some research topics I'm excited to begin reading in more deeply, so that's perfect.

(I think this disgust was particularly prompted by two poor books I read last week. Usually I link to bad books without naming them - I have a protective feeling that minor authors of minor books should not have to read me saying cruel things about their novels in the first page of Google results! But these two were ones by high-profile authors that inevitably have a lot of buzz, so my scruples in that case do not apply - instead I think I am doing a bit of public service in warning others about their demerits....)

I have let it go too long without logging light reading - it becomes a pain when I have to paste in a ton of links!

First of all, and very good (though I find the spin put on things at the end quite bizarre), Jo Walton's My Real Children, which among other things confirms my suspicion that the novel as a genre is built upon a scaffolding of counterfactuals!

A reread of Dorothy Dunnett's first Lymond book, but I am not sure I am really in the mood for this (I like having a long series on the go in a month when I am spending time in airports - started the second one but have left it idle for now).

Deborah Coates's Strange Country, which is frustratingly slow in opening (as if you set Alice Munro to rewrite the first half of a Lee Child thriller!) but picks up speed to become one of my very favorite kinds of novel. The writing is really exceptionally good, and the characters are very appealing, though I wish she were getting more crime-series-type editing (I don't know that you would enjoy this without having read the first couple in the series, whereas I think some editing ought to have made it into a more satisfying book in its own right).

Now the two really poor ones.

First of all, Mo Hayder's preposterous Wolf. The violence in her books has always been polarizing, and they are also uneven in quality, but the best couple are in my view superb. This one is terrible! The writing is still quite good, and I can't fault it for readability, but the central drama (with ridiculous twist at the end) hinges on a family who are being kept hostage and the detective trying to figure out who they are (and as a consequence where they can be found and rescued), with chapters alternating between the hostage scenes and the detective's quest to identify them. But in fact the information he has plus five minutes with Google would have answered this question immediately!

Then Greg Iles' Natchez Burning, which is particularly cartoonishly written in its sequences set in the past and which more generally just reminded me of the dreadful John Grisham at his most portentous on the topic of race relations in the South (A Time to Kill is possibly one of the most banal and silly books I have ever read). It's marketed as the first in a trilogy, but really we are supposed to know the characters from a prior series of books that I hadn't read - hadn't read and don't intend to! I really, really didn't like this one, though it is competent enough that I read it to the end rather than putting it aside. In fact I dimly recall that I have read one or two others by this author and didn't like them either - this one is a mass of good intentions but didn't work for me.

Finally, Mary Rickert's The Memory Garden, which I wasn't keen on at first but which grew on me as I read further. The first half is dreadfully whimsical, but it becomes much more satisfying as the engagements with the past grow more substantive.

Halfway through Knausgaard volume 3 and very happy to have temporarily arrested the brain rot!

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