Sunday, April 13, 2008

Strip City (by Lily Burana)

I believe it was on the advice of Wendy that I decided to read this one after not being wild about Diablo Cody's stripper book. I definitely enjoyed it more, although it's still not the perfect stripper book. (It's still not as good of a read as Jenna Jameson's How To Make Love Like A Porn Star.) Is it the author's navel-gazing ambivalence? The distracting use of verb tenses? Not enough nitty gritty details? Maybe. Still, a fun stripper book and certainly better than Cody's. Plus, I couldn't put it down, so Burana must have done something right!

Snow (by Orhan Pamuk)

I read this for our recently resuscitated book group, and it resulted in a really great conversation. Some of us hated it, some of us loved it, some of us couldn't get through it--but it seemed like we all had something to say about it. I personally liked it a lot--the complexity of it (politics plus poetry plus femininity plus identity) and the postmodern elements of the narrative.

It seemed like the more you know about modern Turkey, the more you liked the book--at least in our group. I don't know a lot about Turkish history, don't get me wrong, but I was in Istanbul in 2000 and our tour guide talked a lot about Ataturk, and was at pains to emphasize the "Westernized" and progressive nature of the Islamic culture there. She emphasized it so much, it seemed like she was glossing over something--and this book seems to peek a little bit into the complex issues that make up modern Turkey.

God, this makes it sound boring. I think the story (full of murder, love, betrayal and intrigue... and poetry)is as suspenseful and well told. It is definitely not a boring, dry book. And yet I don't think it's for everyone. So... there you go. Read this in a book group!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Then We Came To The End (by Joshua Ferris)

As good as you've heard. Really, this book is fantastic. It's like the perfect storm of a novel--stylistically interesting, funny, relevant, perfectly pitched, totally inventive and original. One of those books that's so good, it's exciting. (Like Black Swan Green.) It's even set in an ad agency, which is where I spend my days. If you and I share any overlap in taste at all, go read it.

And then I came to the end (ho, ho) and got to the best part--Ferris's list of favorite books. Seriously, I almost died. Not only is Pale Fire on there but seriously, EVERY SINGLE BOOK ON THAT LIST, if I read it, I loved it. The list includes Pale Fire, We Have Always Lived In the Castle, Slaughterhouse-Five, Mrs. Dalloway, White Noise, and Catch-22 (this book really reminded me of Catch-22. I was going to write this review and say that TWCTTE was like Catch-22 minus the war, plus advertising, but it turns out, all the critics have already pointed this out). Humor (especially black humor), quirkyness, and unreliable narrators seem to be the throughlines there. I certainly do enjoy all of those things.

The only book on Ferris's list that I didn't love was The Ambassadors, and honestly, given Ferris's endorsement and the fact that I otherwise adore Henry James, I'm totally willing to give it another shot. (I have a feeling Ferris studied in in grad school, because I do remember reading that it has a perfectly symmetrical structure, or somthing like that--if I investigated that, maybe I'd appreciate it more.) Anyway, that's how much I liked his book--and I am totally going to read every single book he recommends that I haven't already read.

To sum up: read this book. I won't spoil it for you. Go read it.