A lot of December and January was taken up by reading technical books for a writing project. So the recreational (?) reading took a back seat. Here’s the combined list.
M Train — Patti Smith
Feels very important. I’m not sure why a book that features a laconic cowpoke dream figure and a lot of visiting cemeteries and grave sites should feel so important. But it does. I gave it to a friend who is in the middle of reading it and points out that Patti Smith is poet first. Poetry relies on a lot of techniques that more dense than those used in prose (fewer words, more obvious structure.) The need to dig deeply into each statement might be part of the appeal for me.
* I’ll be pondering this for a while. *
A God in Ruins — Kate Atkinson
Follow on to her Life After Life. Sort of. It takes up the story of Ursula Todd’s younger brother Teddy who flew a Halifax for the RAF, crash landed in the sea, then again in Germany, and never expected to find himself living through war, let alone into the late 20th century and beyond. Life is a confusing place sometimes and Teddy’s life has it’s odd — seemingly out‐of‐place moments. You’ll love his granddaughter and come to despise his daughter (though I’m not certain that the author means you to.) The ending two sentences are opaque to the point that I don’t understand them and I followed the book closely. (Yes, I could go look up some reviews and analyses and figure it out, but do I want to? Not really. Too much explication can be as bad as too little.)
* Sun and Moon are not just bad names for children. *
My Life on the Road - Gloria Steinem
* Sadly dull. *
One of the greats. I read it mostly to learn formatting for screen plays and to look at the structure of the thing. I can judge the timing of plot points better by pages that I can by minutes.
* Just watch it. *
Song Dogs — Colum McCann
I read this years ago. The book I read this month is not the book I remember. I could be wrong about which McCann I read. Or I could be a different (older) reader. This time the points of connection and disconnection between the son and his father seemed entirely natural. I’ve been told that you have to be careful reading McCann lest his voice infect your own work. I’ll never sound like a middle‐aged Irish guy. I don’t think. Even if I do not finally drop all of the extraneous hemming and hawing and qualifying that goes into my average sentence. (See the word “finally” in the previous sentence.)
* a classic of father/son awkwardness *
Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic again. Because I needed the boost. It is likely going to be a book that I revisit regularly. Odd that. I generally hate self‐actualization books.
Mycroft Holmes — Karem Abdul Jabar with Anna Waterhouse
It lacks the snap and smack and acerbic wit that we associate with Sherlock Holmes. And doesn’t play up to Mycroft being the smarter less sociable brother.
* Meh. *
Radiance — Catherynne M. Valente
A world in which we have colonized all of the planets but movies are still shot on film and often without sound. There’s a murder(?) mystery at the heart of it. I got lost a whole bunch of times. But I liked what I could track well enough that I’m going to read the book. (Which I’ve just finished doing as I write this and am grateful that it was my second attempt at the story.)
* I’d tell you about the callowhales but that would spoil it for you. *
The Bone Clocks — David Mitchell
Having been confused through much of the story when I read it — listening to it made it much clearer. Especially the use of separate narrators for each of the six sections. Which made the point of view changes more obvious. A good story, but not deep or intellectual. Immortals fighting the vampires (in essence) isn’t anything new. Throw in a climate change driven world collapse at the end and … well that part seemed gratuitous. Mitchell writes well but something keeps me from loving his work. Probably the lack of originality in plot even though it is hidden under an original or at least sophisticated structure.
* is it possible to fall in like with an author? *