Townhouse Books

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Rabbit is Rich: by John Updike


Loved it.

Like real people, Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom has mellowed as he's gotten older. He still thinks about sex constantly, but does it less often. He's actually been faithful to his wife for ten years, since the previous book, and often looks at her lovingly, though sometimes he wishes she were dead. The country is in the middle of an oil crisis and Rabbit's Toyota dealership has taken off. His kid, who drops out of Kent University and who had a pregnant girlfriend, returns home to wreck a lot of cars and make Rabbit feel guilty by his mere presence. But all in all, Harry's living large and living the American dream. He's more than halfway through his life and it's made him reflective. And Updike, brilliant with words as always, and 49 when this book came out, continues to pace his creation.

Oblong cocooned little visitor, the baby shows her profile blindly in the shuddering flashes of color jerking from the Sony, the tiny stitchless seam of closed eyelid aslant, lips bubbled forward beneath the whorled nose as if in delicate disdain, she knows she's good.... a real presence hardly weighing anything but alive. Fortune's hostage, heart's desire, a granddaughter. His. Another nail in his coffin. His.



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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Sister Pelagia and the White Bulldog: Boris Akunin

I picked this up to kill time between meetings, and it is wonderful. Akunin writes mystery novels set in 19th century Russia. I've reviewed his Death of Achilles here; it's one of a series of mysteries featuring a Sherlock Holmsian detective. This is the first book featuring Sister Pelagia, a young Russian nun with a talent for observing small details and character nuances. Her bishop sends her to investigate when his aunt's prize bulldog is murdered, and she ends up tying the crime to political intrigue and multiple murders.

Two things make this a special reading experience: Akunin's nostalgia for the past has a complicated relationship with his feelings about Russia today, and his writing style reminds me of seamless bilingual code-switching, in this case between a dreamy, detailed 19th century style and a witty, tongue-in-cheek modern style. The societal constraints of the time, the place, and the religious order make the plot move forward in a way that is counter-intuitive to the modern reader, but pleasant to follow. Good fun!


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