Monday, October 15, 2012

Indulging Myself



By Kathleen Bradean
Last week, I was so excited when power went down in the West Side for two and a half hours. No computers, no phones, no internet (not even wifi) and no lights in our office. So I grabbed my Kindle, perched on a window sill, and dove in to a story. Best day at work in years.
Once I started reading I couldn't stop. I tore through a few novels in a couple days even though 1) the power eventually came back on in the office, 2) I was writing a novel nights and weekends, and 3) the people who live with me get grumpy when they stand two feet away from me and talk and I don't hear a word they say. You'd think they'd know better by now.  At least the cats understand. Reading Kathleen = cat lap.
If you want to know about erotica I've read lately, go to Erotica Revealed and read my reviews. Honestly, I haven't read much erotica just for fun for a while. Now that Remittance Girl's novels are available again I probably will, but my current reading outside of review work falls under crime, science fiction, and the weird. 
A while ago I picked up Haruki Murakami's 1Q84 but didn't get around to it until now. 1Q84 is either magical realism or urban fantasy, and very imaginative. It's also a bit repetitive, and as long as he was writing an eight hundred page tome he could have written twenty more to wrap up a few of his loose ends, but those are minor complaints for a very long novel that kept me captivated. It's not like any other story I've read and that was a wonderful surprise. But I also love beyond reason Glass Books of the Dream Eaters by Gordon Dahlquist, so I like surreal, odd, quirky, dense tales. You might not be so inclined.
Lisabet Sarai suggested Jonathan Lethem's As She Climbed Across the Table a while ago. I read it and liked it, so I picked up his Gun, With Occasional Music. Oh man. This was my kind of book. So weird. He throws you into a world that's at least one giant step away from this reality and keeps you off balance by never explaining anything. You can't even trust the things that seem normal. He challenges you to keep up as he charges ahead. That might be annoying. I haven't decided. I guess you could say it's a standard hard-boiled detective plot, but the science fiction aspect was so creative that I can't call it just a murder mystery.
I'm not a big fan of horror, mostly because I hate startling at noises in the middle of the night. That's the curse of an active imagination. But I picked up Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist because it has enjoyed such popular acclaim. I liked the reimagining of vampire mythos and the adolescent love story, but as a horror story, it failed me. Maybe the problem was the translation. Horror tends to use beautifully wrought language to evoke a spell but opulent wordsmithing was absent from this translation. I don't care so much about being horrified as it takes real people doing terrible things to truly scare me, but as I read a horror story, dread should take residence in my gut like the parental-myth swallowed seed that grows into a gnarled creeping vine. It didn't. The soulless subdivision could have been used to much greater effect to enforce a feeling of alienation. I sensed that theme running through the story but it never fully developed. It was as if he were afraid to write something that bleak. I saw from an emotional distance how the events built toward an awful conclusion but there wasn't enough tension. I wanted to like this novel more than I did. On the other hand, I slept perfectly well and the shadows in my bedroom behaved themselves through the night.
The Zahir by Paulo Coelho. Sometimes I wonder why I read his books as several chapters in I start to lose patience, yet I keep going. Does it always come down to a man chasing a woman and finally catching her? I suppose it does in his stories. I've only read three so that's hardly a definitive sample, but I sense a pattern. I'd rather read Gabriel Garcia Marquez's work.
Of all the books I've read these past few weeks, Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl is by far the most amazing. Twists, turns, and oh so dark. Flynn is a master at her craft. The suspense never let up. I don't want to say anything about the plot because you deserve to go into it as unsuspecting as I did and exhale in relief as you turn the last page. Admittedly, at first I wasn't satisfied with the end, but on reflection, I realized it was perfect. Every word of this novel was perfect. 
Next up:  Dark Places by Gillian Flynn.

4 comments:

  1. Thanks for the references to books I'm not familiar with -- will look them up in hopes that the power goes off some time. :)

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  2. I saw Kristina also suggested Gone Girl. It was truly a book to inspire writer's envy. 1Q84, Gun with Occasional Music, and Glass Books might be a bit to surreal for most people's taste. I still can't decide if I like Coehlo.

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  3. Hi, Kathleen,

    1Q84 is on my list, but the Strand didn't seem to have it when I was there last week. However, I picked up another Murakami book that I think is new to me, After Dark. I've read most of Murakami's novels - we discovered him decades ago, when nobody had ever heard of him. Ever read A Wild Sheep Chase? Deliciously weird. And his more recent Kafka by the Shore is also excellent.

    Gun with Occasional Music was the first Lethem title I read, and I totally agree with your opinion. It really does defy categorization. For your next Lethem book, I recommend Motherless Brooklyn. Equally weird, very different!

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  4. Lisabet - I read Lethem's Motherless Brooklyn too, right after As She Climbed Across the Table. I'm trying to keep my TBR list down to a couple thousand, but Murakami's The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles, RG's The Waiting Room, and three books by Mark Gatiss somehow found their way into the house this week. (I suspect they come in through the dog door in the middle of the night.)

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