Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Fat Kid Rules the World (by K.L. Going)

A YA novel recommended in my workshop, where we read the opening scene, which is the main character on a subway platform, contemplating suicide. (We were talking about ways to establish character. Yep, that'll do it.) I loved the way the main character's fat was a throughline of the whole story--for instance, being the source of his crippling insecurity, which in turn drives the plot forward. But it isn't your typical "fat kid loses weight, gets the girl" type of story either. Instead, the fat kid meets up with a very skinny kid, a punk rock guitar player who wants to form a band with him. Not what I was expecting, but I found myself really rooting for Troy, and really not wanting it to end.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

A Prayer for Owen Meany (by John Irving)

Got totally absorbed in this book and finished it with tears in my eyes, although it is not nearly as "sentimental" as I'd feared--at least not in a bathetic way. I loved Owen as a character and the story kept me interested to find out what would happen to him.

Minor criticism time. I got tired of the narrator going on and on about Reaganite politics. (I know that was the point, that Americans get bored by stuff like Iran-Contra, but god I was bored.) I was way more interested in learning about his arrested sexual development, which Irving maddeningly does not confront. I get that the book is essentially an antiwar nove, but I enjoyed it more on the story level and less on the "message" level. But this is a minor criticism because it really isn't particularly didactic or messagey.

Here were my two big questions when it was over, regarding the concept of Owen as "God's instrument": 1. What was the higher purpose (or the effect, rather) of Tabitha getting killed with the baseball? Was it just to reveal Johnny's father to him? If so, that seemed not to have much of an effect, in the end. 2. Isn't that an awful lot of trouble for God to go to, just to save a group of kids, when he could just have had the psychopath get run over by a bus or something? I've talked about this book with a couple of people and there are interesting things to be said regarding the idea of fate, God's role in the world, and that sort of thing. But those were the questions I was left trying to answer.

At any rate, it's been years since I've read Irving, and I'm glad I picked this one up. Engrossing and very captivating.