Townhouse Books

Sunday, January 14, 2007

The New York Trilogy: Paul Auster

I don't know how I managed to miss out on Paul Auster for all these years, but I received a copy of The New York Trilogy for Christmas and I'm smitten. The book is made up of three inter-related novellas about private detection in New York. The narrators are all drawn into strange, voyeuristic situations. The writing style is very hard-boiled, but instead of untangling the mystery you find yourself being drawn in to it. Everyone is damaged, no one is what they seem, and the author himself is an unsympathetic character. Lovely!


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Sunday, January 07, 2007

Roundup of Recent Reads

Things My Girlfriend and I Have Argued About: by Mil Millington
Amusing ending, amusing parts, but overall suffered from a weak plot involving a university and the Chinese mafia and weariness resulting from the main characters' constant mean battles. I was all set to love it, but somehow didn't. (I'm still very fond of the other one of his.)

The Accidental: by Ali Smith
*Yawn* Couldn't get past page 25. She can get shortlisted for all the Booker prizes she wants, but I give up.

The Center of Everything: by Laura Moriarty
Sweet novel about a girl growing up in Kansas. Covers big and small themes of love, friendship, religion, evolution, single mothers, limits and disabilities, abandoned kittens, and science fairs.

The Greenlanders: by Jane Smiley
I love Jane Smiley and always will. This book was a job though. A job I enjoyed, mind you, but it was work nonetheless to get through this dense work spanning three generations of Greenlanders at the end of the 14th century. I like the names, and the use of dottir at the end of a woman's surname. (Her father's name plus dottir, like her brother would have son.) A few times I thought of quitting it in the middle somewhere, but found myself drawn back to it every time.

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Friday, January 05, 2007

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
by Michael Chabon

It seems like it's been a trend over the last decade for a writer to prove his chops by writing a big, sprawling, tome of a book to prove his chops. Michael Chabon gets the sprawling thing down pat and creates a wonderful story in The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.

The book is set in New York in the 40's and 50's and is about two cousins, Josef Kavalier and Sammy Klayman (later Clay), and the comics that they write. Kavalier is an escape artist and illustrator while Clay writes the comics.

They create a hero named The Escapist who spends most of his time fighting Nazis and escaping from the fiendish traps they create for him. The Escapist comes out at the same time as the first generation of superhero comics and is at least partially based on Clay's view of Kavalier, who has smuggled himself out of Nazi-occupied Europe, and in comparison to the gimpy Clay, is tall, handsome, and athletic.

One of the best things about the book is the deftness with which Chabon describes the comics. He guides the eye of the viewer around, much like Dante, and in doing so, communicates what it feels like to read a comic book. The vividness of his writing is what makes the book such a tremendously pleasurable read.

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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

To your scattered bodies go; a science fiction novel: Philip José Farmer

I read this book over the break and I am currently reading the Sequel "
The fabulous riverboat"

I enjoyed the book, it had an interesting concept for an afterlife. Essentially everyone who ever made it past the age of 5 is resurrected at the same time on an alien planet. They are not told why, but they are given a perpetual source of food and decent living conditions. They apparently don't age and if killed they are resurrected somewhere else on the planet.

The story revolves around the historical character Richard Burton, and his attempts to get to the bottom of things. Who are the godlike beings who brought them here and why. To this end he builds a boat and travels from community to community seeking the source of the river. A number of other historical figures are introduced and the author plays with the idea of how they might react in a situation such as this one.

Overall a decent read.

-Jason


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