Monday, July 18, 2016

Summer reading

I have just completely lost the plot on this project. I'm not even sure where my book count stands. (There are several I have read and not yet discussed here. In terms of total books read this year, I'm pretty sure I'm on pace, or even ahead of it. In terms of qualifying books, though—since I'm excluding rereads and the books I copyedit for work—I'm laughably behind.) Anyway. I was on a ponderous-history kick through the gray months of early spring, until a book about the Nazi doctors got to be too much. Then I copyedited a bunch of books about business, which is also depressing, in a different way.

Then I found a Judith Krantz book (Princess Daisy) on the Noyes Art Center book exchange shelf, and I picked it up, because a) I was desperate for something light and b) I thought I remembered that one of my artistic heroes, David Foster Wallace, used to include Krantz in his fiction curriculum. (I just looked up that curriculum again. No Krantz. But he did use a lot of commercial fiction in the same vein,, honestly, I can't call this anything except a beach read.) So yeah, objectively, this is ridiculous. There's a polo-star playboy who has a Polish nickname despite being the son of Russian aristocrats (one of whom is herself named Titiana, which...Tatiana? Titania? Nope, we're going with Titty-ana) who retain their fortune during and after the Soviet Revolution. There's a movie star who's discovered in a high school play and has an Oscar within five years. There's a brain-damaged secret twin. There's an evil half-brother whose comeuppance, never fully explained, happens essentially offstage, and whose death, also offstage, may or may not be a suicide, but since he has never shown one whit of remorse it sort of seems like more of a hunting accident. There are elaborate sex scenes between characters you barely hear from again. It's almost defiantly un-literary. The adverbs string you along bafflingly, blindingly, brilliantly, and the metaphors are un-parseable (seriously: they work at a passing glance, but fall to pieces under analysis). And yet I flew through this preposterous thing. Functional escapism. I dunno.

I went from there to Good Omens, Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett's goof on the apocalypse. Several blurbs mentioned Douglas Adams, which made me a bit wary (I liked the Hitchhiker's Guide books when I read them as a teenager, but since then I've encountered a lot of wannabe imitators and have learned that there's a certain style of forced absurdity that is just not my thing). Fortunately, though, this is genuinely funny. I suspect there are a lot of people in this group who have already read it, so synopsis isn't necessary, and the revelation that it's funny will be met with a resounding "Duh." I'm curious whether anyone has listened to the audiobook (evidently very well cast); I spent a lot of the book envisioning my ideal cast, particularly for the central angel and demon, both of whom rank among my favorite characters I've encountered in months. I did, in the wake of this group's recent posts, enjoy the nod to 1984 in the closing pages:
And if you want to imagine the future, imagine a, imagine a sneaker, laces training, kicking a pebble; imagine a stick, to poke at interesting things, and throw for a dog that may or may not decide to retrieve it; imagine a tuneless whistle, pounding some luckless popular song into insensibility; imagine a figure, half angel, half devil, all human...
Slouching hopefully towards Tadfield...
And just yesterday I read Tom Hart's graphic memoir Rosalie Lightning, about the sudden, unexplained death of his daughter, just shy of her second birthday. It''s a tough book to put into words, and I expect that if you're the parent of a young child it would be damn near unreadable. It's as raw and honest about grief as anything I've read, using visual language for the moments where words fall down. You want to read it all in one sitting, but at the same time feel as though you should be taking months to process it. I'm certain I'm going to have to come back to this one.

No comments:

Post a Comment