12 August 2010

Oh good, I'm not as far behind as I thought!

That is great news.

Two phenomenal reads:

Bad Marie
by Marcy Dermansky is, somehow, a French film from the '60s in book form (starring in my head, probably because of the cover art, Audrey Tautou as Amelie's evil twin). Wicked, swift, and a curious but well-executed mix of detached from and deeply involved in the exploits of its eponymous heroine, who within the first 50 pages has absconded to Paris with the husband of the friend who gave her her first post-jail job and the friend's little girl. Read it in one go, work the next morning be damned.

How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, Charles Yu: A father-son story bound up in time-travel trappings, which I'm not sure I wrapped my head around entirely, but which came to marvelous fruition in the last ten pages. With some marvelous sidekicks: a flirty operating system with self-esteem problems, a chatty boss who doesn't know he's a computer program (though his wife, who's spreadsheet software, does), and a dog that only sort of exists.

And I finally read Colm Toibin's Brooklyn and was terribly disappointed--bored me to tears. And then I felt guilty for being bored, because it's such a nice, calm, unassuming little book. I suspect having heard Toibin's name linked with Henry James in the past should have warned me off; I've only read Daisy Miller and The Turn of the Screw, both of which I liked, but years ago I read (what the introduction told me was) Edith Wharton's most Jamesian novel, The Reef, and thought it was such a snooze I've never even attempted Portrait of a Lady or The Ambassadors. (I further suspect that we all have our own half-willful gaps in our literary pedigree.)

Splitting the difference between boring and engrossing were a photo-laden book on pre-Code Hollywood, Mark A. Vieira's Sin in Soft Focus, and Juliet Nicolson's recent book on the two years immediately following the Great War in Britain, The Great Silence. Both shared a curious tendency to jam way too many disparate anecdotes into one paragraph, and Nicolson's has an unfortunate over-reliance on how 1918-1920 affected the wealthy and the nobility (she comes by it honest, being the granddaughter of Vita Sackville-West. And how weird would it be to have a grandmother who slept with Virginia Woolf?)--I don't really care that the Duke of Devonshire had to sell off some of his houses. Both were worth reading, however, and were well-done evocations of historical periods I knew little about.

Next up, because I'm worth it: Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan, a YA re-imagining of the Great War in which it's fought between steampunk armies and genetically engineered super-beasts. I have no idea how I haven't read it before now. Or, hell, written it.

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