Books of December and January

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. * 


Casablanca Screenplay

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 * 

Listened to:

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? *