Thursday, July 30, 2009

A House for Mr. Biswas (by V.S. Naipaul)

Augh, I hated this book. It's on the Time 100 list and one of the few (so far) complete misses for me. I spent half an hour ranting to Ian about post-colonial literature and how annoying it is. I mean, one of my favorite classes in college was History of the British Empire; I love the history part, I am not unsympathetic to the issues of colonization. But the fiction can blow me, because IT IS BORING OH MY GOD. (See: Passage to India, A, My Hatred For.)

But why, you might ask, did it annoy me so much? The main character, Mr. Biswas, I found completely unsympathetic. Towards the very end, I caught glimpses of a sympathetic character. He was actually not a complete asshole to his wife on like page 460. (Or at least she was nice to him. They had a Moment, finally.) I understand that the point of the book is that his life was mostly a waste and whatnot, and it's supposed to be... comedic, I guess? And an incisive commentary on post-colonial Trinidad? What it is, in fact, is an irritating book about an annoying asshole.

So, so, so, so glad to be done with this one. (The only good thing about it was that Ian kept calling it "Mr. Dishwash." Hee.)


Friday, July 24, 2009

Infinite Summer

My reading of Infinite Jest continues; I just finished up to page 394, which is right about on target (the deadline coming up on Monday is page 390, I think). Before I started reading, people were saying you really get sucked in at around page 200 or page 250, but I am finding it mostly a slog. And sometimes really gross (Lyle, It, all the scatalogical stuff, and c.) Last night I was trying to get through the chapter on the game Eschaton, and I was so bored. I'm sorry, DFW fans.

On the plus side, I did finally find a chapter on tennis that I liked (the one about the competition that they go to) and there continue to be magical parts. For instance, anything to do with Joelle, the phone conversations between Orin and Hal, and the whole Orin's crush on Helen thing, which is hilarious. Oh, and Found Drama! Another part that had me laughing. The Statue of Liberty. And then the whole chapter about Joelle in that bathroom was amazing. So there are tons of bright spots. (On the flip side, I may never get that Raquel Welch thing out of my head, satirical or not, oh my god, sweet jesus.)

I like that things are starting to come together. I keep referring back to the filmography (the infamous footnote 24) and things are beginning to be clarified there. And characters from all over the place are converging on each other. So that's a plus.

I started to get the sense in this section that Hal is the book's narrator. I've been trying to figure it out because of the "like" tic, which has begun to drive me completely crazy. I think it's overused. For instance, on page 195, it is used three times: ("twisting hands and bulging eyes at like dawn," "they were watching, at like 0630h.," "and then within like three hours"). At first, I could handle it, as a conversational way to establish tone. BUT IT IS EVERYWHERE. And it is beginning to grate on me. Now it jumps out at me, and I spend like a minute deciding if it could have been deleted or not. (See what I did there?)

So there you go. Some pros, some cons. I'm interested to see where it goes next. And if anyone can figure out a rationale for the "like" thing, I'm all ears.

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Monday, July 20, 2009

Columbine (by Dave Cullen)

I had been curious about this book because Entertainment Weekly gave it an A and a friend of mine read it and confirmed that it was excellent. But it did not exactly sound like a laugh riot or even much of a page turner.

Then I was at my sister's house and she pushed the book across the coffee table to me. "Have you read this? Just read the intro." And I was completely hooked. I couldn't put it down. I stole it from her so I could finish it on the plane ride home, even. Riveting, page-turning stuff. You probably already know if you have any interest in this book or not, I will just add my voice to the chorus: it's a really good book on the truth and the myths behind the Columbine massacre.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Many Books About Princesses (by Meg Cabot)

While on vacation and immediately after I got home, I read the final four books in the Princess Diaries series: Party Princess, Princess on the Brink, Princess Mia, and Forever Princess. I love this series so much. Can you tell I love this series so much? I would never tell anyone to inflict Shopaholic on themselves, but I think everyone should read the Princess Diaries; so much fun.

I can no longer quite remember what happens in which book, as there are many cliffhangers. Nor do I want to spoil the ending of the series. But Mia's maturing and dealing with sex is handled well, and characters develop plausibly. There are a couple of really ridiculous plot developments, of course. (I will spoiler code: the parchment being in the portrait, because why would the portrait get sent to Mia anyway, for one thing; and of course the publishing contract she magically gets offered at the end of the series, which seems like a stretch.) And I still hate Lilly, right up until the end. But oh, the ending was satisfying, and so much made me laugh, and I can't imagine a more satisfying ending to the series than the last book.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Under the Net (by Iris Murdoch)

The first of a pile of books (mostly about princesses) that I read on vacation, and one of the books on the Time list. And the first time I've read a book by Iris Murdoch! That's a lot of firsts.

Here's another: during the first half of the book, I was mentally preparing to praise this book to the skies and insist that all of you run out and read it immediately. A terrific and convincing unreliable narrator, a surrealist-comedy-noir plot, it sucks you right in and is delightful from the beginning. But I'm not quite going to insist that you buy it. I still give it a thumbs up, don't get me wrong, but the tonal shift towards the end of the book disappointed me a little. I didn't have any problem with the ambiguity, the circular plot, or the ending, and I don't even have any problem with the tone changing, but it felt abrupt and strange to me. I can't quite put my finger on it.

That said, I would love to read more Iris Murdoch. I have a feeling she's another of those underrated female authors; this book is really terrific.