Thursday, May 26, 2005

Low Res Book Update: I Aint Slacking! Honest!

Yeah, yeah. I hear what you’re all saying.

“So, Joe, seriously, what’s up with the reading? We realize you don’t want to talk Yankees, especially since this little winning streak of theirs has been based on beating the bottom-feeders of the American League. But weren’t you supposed to get all nerdy about books, too? What gives? If we wanted to hear monosyllabic movie reviews and incoherent TV ramblings, we’d hang out with you in person.”

Okay! First of all: Shut up, Universal You. You want the Yankees should lose to Detroit instead?

Second of all, I have been reading. I just haven’t exactly been finishing books, and the plan going into this blog was to do full(ish) book reviews.

And third of all, did you guys see Alias last night? You’d be rambling incoherently, too, if all you had to go on until the new season in September was, “My name isn’t Michael Vaughn” -- CRAAAAASH!!

Anyway. Here’s a bit of an update on what I’ve been reading.

Stephen King - The Gunslinger:
I’ve been trying to read the Dark Tower books forever. This last time I really thought I had made it past that point where you find your bearings within a story and the momentum takes you through to the end. That’s what happened with me and The Talisman: umpty-nine false starts, and then one day I just hit the point of no return and blazed through the rest of it.

Not so with The Gunslinger. I had actually pinpointed the exact chapter – the exact word - at which point I thought I had gotten over the hump (“Nineteen,” for those of you that remember the story). But, alas, two chapters later and I had once again stalled out. I will persevere with this book, and hopefully by the end I’ll be invested enough to keep going. I’m not used to getting hung up on Stephen King like this.

Neil Gaiman - American Gods:
Thank god for this book. It was a big part of me getting through The Amtrakyville Horror with my sanity (such as it was) intact. This would be my second trip through Gaiman’s America, littered as it is with the cast-aside gods of the old countries. I adore it, and it’s easily among my top five favorite books of all time. Can’t recommend it enough.

This second time around, I was impressed with just how funny the book is. My initial reading, I think, was so concerned with the plot – and more importantly with figuring out which characters represented which gods, like, thanks, Internet! – that I missed the many places where Gaiman’s dry comedy comes through. Mr. Wednesday, in particular, was a character whose humour I missed almost entirely the first time around, probably because he seemed so sinister at the time. I think originally I was reading him as Brian Cox in X-Men 2 while this time I was reading him as Brian Cox in The Long Kiss Goodnight. [Why do I have this obsession with casting every literary character I come across as Brian Cox? A question for another time.]

The train trip took care of just over half the book. I’m thinking of saving the second half for my Brooklyn trip next month. Not tempting fate or anything – if things go smoothly it’s still a nine hour train, and I’ll need something to pass the time.

David Sedaris - Me Talk Pretty One Day:
I’m new to Sedaris, and I’m quickly becoming a devotee. I’d already read Barrel Fever, which was mostly short stories. Me Talk Pretty is a collection of essays, but either way you slice him, Sedaris is the kind of funny where you actually have to put the book down and compose yourself. Last night, I’m reading the one about his friend from North Carolina who brought her decidedly less pleasant companion to visit David in New York. By the time he lets fly with “We should have beat her to death,” I’m nearly in tears.

I don’t think anything he writes will ever be as funny as the short story in Barrel Fever in which a young girl’s suicide note ends up calling for the ritual stoning of her best friend and boyfriend. But with everything else he writes, it’s certainly been an excellent time waiting to see if he can top himself.

Jonathan Franzen - The Corrections:
This book, of course, was the one that broke Oprah’s Book Club. Which, point: Franzen. But it’s also one of those “bestselling, acclaimed, everybody else is reading it, asshole, so why aren’t you?” books that always seem to turn out to be completely not worth the hype.

I’m barely ankle-deep in the story so far, but I have to say I’ve been pleasantly surprised. Yes, it seems to be the 1,675th book/movie/TV show about middle class family dysfunction, but I’m liking the way he describes the living conditions of his characters. And it’s brighter and funnier than I’d imagined it. Stay tuned to see if it can sustain itself through 567 pages (yeesh!), but I’m optimistic.

And, of course, one of these days I’m going to have to delve back into The Watchmen (Alan Moore), although I may have to star back at square one since it’s been over a year since I left that story hanging. And Easy Riders, Raging Bulls (Peter Biskind) had to go back from whence it came before I got too into it, so there’s that. This summer may be the summer of completion as far as half-read books go. I can think of worse ways to spend the next few months.


mathan said...

Wait a minute; you didn't finish reading The Watchmen!!!

How do you not finish reading one of the best comic tales of all time? Get on the ball Joe.

Joe R. said...

I know, dude. What can I say, I started it while I was on vacation and I never went back to it. I did a similar thing when I started The Sandman, but then by book 2 of that I was flying through it.

Watchmen's definitely on the Summer list, though.