The Books of August

Heavy on the audio books this month. A lot of lis­ten­ing while knit­ting or oth­er domes­tic activ­i­ties happening.

Books Read:

Lucy and Edgar — Victor Lodato (2017)

I fin­ished this out of a dogged sense of loy­al­ty to the old woman who dies at the begin­ning of the book. The char­ac­ters are stereo­types with­out any sort of depth to make them any­one you care about. In fact oth­er than Edgar, the child at the cen­ter of the book, I could have done with­out any of the oth­ers and their pre­dictable behaviors.
But… like I said dogged loy­al­ty — which is in part what this book is about. There comes a point at about 75% of the way through the book where there looks to be only two pos­si­ble out­comes, and nei­ther one of them is sat­is­fy­ing. I guess I also held on to see if the writer could pull off some­thing mov­ing that was­n’t easy or manip­u­la­tive. And I think he did — most­ly. It’s one of the obvi­ous pos­si­bil­i­ties from the mid­dle of the book but it’s done in a way that keeps you from want­i­ng to the throw the author off of the train. (And I can’t be any more spe­cif­ic about it than that or I’d spoil the book for you.)
Still, I don’t under­stand the huge amount of praise that has been lav­ished on the book by crit­ics and review­ers. It’s just not that inter­est­ing or original.

* one more lousy moth­er and dam­aged son *

Geek Love — Katherine Dunn (2002)

Weird, but I think that was the point. The Binewski tribe is trag­ic in all kinds of ways and a per­fect object les­son about the dan­gers of fam­i­ly. While the char­ac­ters here are freaks on the out­side they point out to us the fact that we are, most of us any­way, freaks on the inside and our world is warped around that freak­ish­ness. I don’t like to think of peo­ple being unself­con­scious­ly mali­cious; though I see the evi­dence of just that sort of behav­ior every day. In this book the hav­oc wreaked by one self­ish ego-maniac (Arturo) is stun­ning­ly wide and entire­ly believ­able. In fact one of the things that I liked most about this book was how believ­able the most out­ra­geous char­ac­ters and sit­u­a­tions were.
The writ­ing is love­ly enough to keep you involved in the book when the plot and char­ac­ters get beyond your com­fort zone.

* human­i­ty with all its gross, ick­i­ness on the outside *

The Sleep Walker Guide to Dancing — Mira Jacob (2014)

I did­n’t get very far in this, I think because it seemed too famil­iar and I was look­ing for novelty.
* I might pick it up again later. *

Books Listened to:

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender — Leslye Walton (2014)

Narrator: Cassandra Campbell

I read this one a cou­ple of years ago. It’s a love­ly sto­ry with amus­ing and intrigu­ing char­ac­ters. The sto­ry begins with Ava’s grand­moth­er’s trag­ic, ghost-filled fam­i­ly his­to­ry and con­tin­ues on to describe a line of women with what might be char­i­ta­bly con­sid­ered to have ter­ri­ble luck in love, lead­ing up the birth of the twins Ava and Henry. Ava is born with wings and Henry with what we might assume is autism but by the end of the book seems more like a prophet­ic gift of mute­ness. As Ava grows her wings come to define and cir­cum­scribe her place in the world. The trag­ic end­ing you expect is avert­ed, but only nar­row­ly, and only after a good deal of dam­age is done. But hope is a thing with wings. And so is Ava.
The writ­ing is clear and glis­tens with the sub­tle rain washed hues of the Seattle climate.
The nar­ra­tion is quite good. Worth a lis­ten if you haven’t read the book already.

* loved it again *

The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. — Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland (2017)

Narration: Cast of dozens :)

The new Stephenson. The title char­ac­ter — one Melisande Stokes an under­paid under appre­ci­at­ed lec­tur­er in lin­guis­tics — finds her­self involved with a mys­te­ri­ous gov­ern­ment agency and the pos­si­bil­i­ty of mag­ic in the mun­dane world. There fol­lows the usu­al byzan­tine plot and riotous com­pli­ca­tion of details that I love in a Stephenson book.
One of the few writ­ers that I auto­mat­i­cal­ly lis­ten to rather than read. I think that his in-depth asides work best if you are forced to give them equal weight with the nar­ra­tive and that is most eas­i­ly done when the woods are read to you.
DODO is good clean — slight­ly fan­tas­tic fun. A change from Stephenson’s most recent work SevenEves which was any­thing but light-hearted. The col­lab­o­ra­tion is seam­less, with no jumps from one writer to the other.
Narration is good, though the accents are a bit over done.
(Oddly there is a paint­ing called Melisande by a woman named Mariane Stokes — this can­not be a coin­ci­dence, not in a Stephenson book.)

* there are cat’s Schrodinger and otherwise *

Middlesex — Jeffery Eugenides (2002)

Narration: Kristoffer Tabori

Briefly reviewed in September 2015.  I found the book just as enjoy­able the sec­ond time around. Perhaps more so because I have become more aware of the con­ver­sa­tions sur­round­ing sex, gen­der, and iden­ti­ty and appre­ci­at­ed the light touch that the author uses in insist­ing that we look more close­ly at our assumptions.
Narration is good, and the voice used is just ambigu­ous enough to make the flu­id gen­der of Cal(liope) audible.

* the sins of the old coun­try come home to roost in mid­dle class Detroit *