Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Big Sleep (by Raymond Chandler)

I was looking forward to reading this; it’s always nice to get a chance to read a detective novel as part of the reading project, and here was my chance to find out what Philip Marlowe was all about. I’ve never seen the Bogey-and-Bacall movie, so I had no ideas or expectations.

I thought the book was boring, though, and a little confusing. I didn’t understand anyone’s motives all that clearly, least of all Marlowe’s. I thought some of his metaphors (those famous noir metaphors) were stretched pretty thin. It wasn’t that suspenseful or exciting because I didn’t actually care about anyone. It had its moments, but overall, it seemed more “important” than actually good. I far preferred The Maltese Falcon.

[Edited to add that I just went looking around the Amazon reviews, and the consensus is that his later books are much better. There are a lot of four-star reviews glowing about Chandler but then admitting that his plot makes no sense. So, yay! Not just me.]

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Don't Worry, I Won't Even Try

Here’s another book list, ten times longer than the usual. It lists 1,001 books, including Nabokov’s entire ouvre, incidentally. I doubt that any one person has read all of these books, and I suspect it’s a compilation of other booklists out there, but I guess I could be wrong.

There are a lot of good and great books on here, but I don’t think there were a whole lot of tough choices made; this person just included everything. Even The Black Dahlia, which is horrible! No Ayn Rand, though, which is something. And Breton’s Nadja is on there, which makes me happy. But did you know Edith Wharton wrote something called The Glimpses of the Moon or something? I didn’t. It seems like if an author is on there, the list includes all their minor and major works, and does no culling, and that weakens the whole list. And if you’re going to compile a list this exhaustive and not include The Epic of Gilgemesh, I just don’t trust you.

Anyway, I like seeing how many books I’ve read when I see a list like this. It took me awhile to calculate and I might have missed one or two, but I counted 143½. Seems rather pitiful when compared to Doppleganger’s 200 books, but hey, at least I’ve read Ulysses!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Book 100

I think Finnegans Wake might have broken me. I'm still on page 10. I know the idea is to let the words flow over me even if they don't make sense but... they don't make sense. That's seven hundred pages of nonsense. Can that be my review? Finnegans Wake is 700 pages worth of nonsense. The end.

I have read 99 of these books; I have suffered through Look Homeward, Angel and Atlas Shrugged. How can I give up now?

In the meantime, I have shifted focus over to the Time 100 list, since Ian seems to have many of those books on his shelf. I'm reading The Big Sleep right now, in fact. At least my entire reading project won't grind to a standstill as I struggle with this moral quandary about book number one hundred.


Sunday, October 15, 2006

The End and The Beatrice Letters (by Lemony Snicket)

I enjoyed them a lot, but I don't want to say too much since probably most of you haven't yet read them! A lot of unanswered questions, but I think that's part of the point. I also think there is more information to come.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Glass Castle (by Jeanette Walls)

Starting this memoir, I was excited about it; it felt very Liars' Club-esque, and we all know how flat-out awesome Liars' Club is. Now that I've finished it I still feel that I liked it quite a bit, but the ending was a little... I wouldn't say a cop-out, but the pace really picked up towards the end, a lot was skimmed over and left unsaid, and it left me with unanswered questions. The style is fairly pared down and simple (as opposed to Mary Karr's slightly more detailed prose) but both authors write poetically about their dysfunctional families and childhoods.

One issue is that the author right away tells an anecdote that makes you kind of hate her, but never circles back around to it to give you a better understanding of her motives... in hindsight, she seems like more of a bitch than I think she probably really is. (I'm sorry if that made no sense; I've had some wine.) Anyway, it's an interesting story, well told, and if you did love Liars' Club you'll probably like it... although it's not as good... although, what is?

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Even Better Than The Rand Apologists

A commenter in my post on Look Homeward, Angel has taken the award for funniest comment away from some of those Ayn Rand people who hate me for trashing Atlas Shrugged. I thought it would never happen, but you have to love a guy who accused me of being "on the rag" and called me a "fucking twat" who hates good literature because I hated Wolfe's book. And then insults RENT for some random reason. Awesome. Obviously, a well thought out counterargument like this has totally changed my mind about the book. I love it now!

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Marie Antoinette (by Antonia Fraser)

I read Fraser's Wives of Henry VIII a few years ago and absolutely loved it; Marie Antoinette is equally good. Meticulously researched and extraordinarily interesting if you are interested in history, royalty, or the truth behind the upcoming Sofia Coppola film. There are a lot of people who had it a lot worse off than Marie Antoinette, in spite of the unfair and cruel ways in which she was treated, but you can still sympathize with her story, or at least I found that I could. Makes me want to go back to France and visit Versailles. Highly recommended.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Black Dahlia (by James Ellroy)

This is the first book I've finished in what seems like months, and what a piece of crap! I'm not complaining, though, because at least I was on vacation and got to read a book. Plus I read a much better book also (see above review) so it wasn't a total loss.

I thought this book would be interesting since Ellroy's mother was also the subject of an unsolved murder, and the Black Dahlia murder is famously unsolved and et cetera. However, in this book, the Black Dahlia murder is solved by the main character and of course, to maintain the verisimillitude, he can't turn the culprit in. The problem is that there is very little reason not to turn the culprit in, and as the very long denoument continues, it makes less and less sense until finally it makes no sense at all.

The epilogue, though, is so horrifically written, in the most overwrought prose you can think of, that it's almost entertaining. Two thumbs down.