Tuesday, April 03, 2007
I don't know why I often avoid certain authors because they get so much buzz. I suppose I am distrustful of some authors who are popular for little reason I can ascertain (like John Grisham or Dan Brown).
I guess it was for this reason I took so long to discover Jonathan Lethem. At first, I avoided his popular books (Motherless Brooklyn was popular when I first decided to try reading his stuff), and picked up a copy of As She Cimbed Across the Table. I loved it.
So Gun, With Occasional Music was my second Lethem book, and I can tell you I'll be reading a lot more.
This book was a wonderful combination of hard-boiled detective fiction (think: Raymond Chandler) and twisted science fiction, set in a bizarre (yet somehow plausible) future where animals have been artificially evolved and your karma levels are kept on a card. The superb writing and the wonderfully crafted plot are almost bonuses.
I won a copy of Eliza Minot's The Brambles from our local paper's book blog a couple months ago. I put off reading it because, frankly, I hadn't heard anything about the book or the author.
I have mixed feelings about the book. The writing is superbly crafted and she really knows how to get inside the moment and the character. In fact, Minot gets a little too much inside. THe details are so combed over that I almost forgot there was a plot in there somewhere. The story is simple: the Bramble family is coming to terms with the death of the mother and a father who is terminally ill. The aging father is brought to the eldest daughter's house to finish out his days and the other two siblings visit.
Minot delves with excruciating detail into the day-to-day lives of the three siblings before finishing up with an odd twist that abruptly ends the book. I won't give away the twist, but I found myself wondering why the book was suddenly done, when there seemed to be so much more to be wrapped up, somehow.
I recommend this book for the lovely character studies and the lovingly painted details, but certainly not for the story that meanders about before stopping suddenly and tipping over.
Finally, I got to spend time with one of my favorite authors in his newest book, Freddy and Fredericka.
Mark Helprin's newest book was a delight to read. I don't quite know where to begin to talk about this book, as I had so many mixed feelings about it, and the book is so varied in plot and direction.
The story concerns the Prince of Wales, Freddy, and his vacuous wife Fredericka. To prove they are worthy of wearing the crown, they are sent on a mission (in the form of a bizarre Merlin-type character) to conquer a barbarian land (read: USA).
After reading Refiner's Fire, I sensed Helprin's love of the American countryside, and this book confirms this. The descriptions of America's land, waterways and characters helped me to fall in love with the country along with Freddy and Fredericka. The story was a bit odd, but the characters were so real and so endearing that I lost myself in the book several times.
This isn't Helprin's finest work (in my opinion, Winter's Tale takes that prize), but it is fun and, at times, laugh-out-loud funny. Definitely a good read.