October 21, 2003
37. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Michael Chabon
'Amazing' is an excellent word for this book. Ostensibly it's about two Jewish guys in New York in the 30s who become two of the most well known figures of the Golden Age of comic books. But it's not just about that. It's about history, and World War II, and it's an analysis of the comic book as a pop art form and as a means for the artists to release their own demons and dreams. Chabon manages to slip in all these disparate things, seemingly random bits of conversation and action, and then makes them all fit together in a single illuminating moment--particularly in the creation of Kavalier & Clay's superhero, The Escapist. The fifty or so pages of seemingly trivial history of the two main characters all snaps into place as not only vitally important but ultimately revealing as well.
I spent most of the book in awe of the structure, but not so much that I didn't get completely sucked into the story. I was so into this book that I dreamed about it, three nights in a row while I was reading it. I think I'm going to start insisting that all my friends read this book. It's worth it.
October 18, 2003
36. William Shakespeare: A Popular Life, Garry O'Connor
I think it's interesting, given how much Shakespeare I've read and how much I adore him, that I've never actually read a biography about him before now. I've read a lot of biographical information, but never an actual biography. After reading this one, I want to read more. O'Connor approaches Shakespeare's biography with a sense of respect for the man and the artist, but without a sense of overawe. He spends a lot of time placing each play in the context both of what Shakespeare might have been experiencing himself and of what was going on during Elizabethan England at the time. O'Connor also isn't afraid to point out where he thinks the Bard fell down with certain plays or characters--which is not something I've seen before.
Overall, I think this book did what any good biography or history should do: make me want to read more about the subject. Alas, now my fascination with Elizabethan England is going to be slightly more manic than ever...
October 16, 2003
35. Beloved, Toni Morrison
I don't think the full impact of this book has really hit me yet. Morrison never fails to just blow me away. I can't always even put my finger on why. Her writing is so subtle; she says things without really saying them, leaving clues in the corners about what she really means, letting the realization of the atrocities and wonders her characters experience slowly dawn on the reader.
What she writes transcends all genre. She writes spec fic, she writes mysteries, she writes historical fiction, she writes poetry; she combines it all and leaves me breathless. 'Magical realism' is far too simple to describe what she writes. She breaks all the rules, of tense, of point of view, of genre... she reminds us why these rules exist to be broken. She inspires me and she flings me into despair. If I ever end up half as good as her, I'll be brilliant.
October 02, 2003
34. Why Girls are Weird, Pamela Ribon
Well, I wasn't sure about writing up my thoughts about this one, for fear of getting flamed. I used to read the author's journal, referenced extensively in her book, which can only be, which has to be, roman a clef. While I wasn't a rabid fan, I liked following her life and she made me laugh. What she implies in her book is that what she wrote on her website was all a lie, that like the protagonist of her novel, she made up stories just to keep people entertained. I had a hard time getting past that to get into the book.
The book isn't bad, exactly. It's basic chick-lit, brainless and cute. Sometimes the dialogue is so wooden or full of in jokes that it was hard to stomach, and the prose made me wince on occasion, but it does what it set out to do: give the reader a couple of hours of mindless brain candy. The best parts of the book, ironically, are "Anna K's" journal entries (most if not all of them taken with little revision from the author's website) and her online correspondence with various people. All of the 'story' in between seems to exist just to get us from one online excerpt to the other.
So, not horrible, but I'm glad I didn't buy it.