Luddite Update

March 15, 2009 at 10:17 pm (Books, Graphic Novels/Comics, Science Fiction and Fantasy) (, , , , , )

Finished reading in the past week:

Mostly speculative fiction this past week, a welcome change from the relentless realism of Crime and Punishment, which occasionally made leaps into a fascinating character-study, but mostly just frustrated me. Also, I had the same problem with dialogue in Crime and Punishment as I did with Haruki Murakami’s Wind-up Bird Chronicles and Kafka on the Shore: all the characters sounded like the same, slightly stilted speaker. I’m thinking it may be the translation, rather than the original authors in either case, but I don’t know.

The View from the Seventh Layer, Kevin Brockmeier
Very well written speculative fiction/fables. Brockmeier’s prose has a smoothness which feels like being read aloud to; it may be in the cadence, I’m not sure. Occasionally the plots are too mild to provide much kick (or to stay in the memory), but the title story is fantastic. It’s paragraphs are made up of occasionally disconnected sentences, switching between the current action and previous descriptions, giving the story a cyclical feel. The four fables in the book were meaningful and touching, startling in their imagination, and with lovely titles, my favorite being, “A Fable Ending in the Sound of a Thousand Parakeets.”  “The Year of Silence,” found in this collection, can be heard through WNYC’s Selected Shorts.

“She was carrying the husks of the insects outside on a dustpan when a blast of wind sent them whirling off toward the palmetto barrens. People who read Tom Wolfe feel that they have never abandoned their ground, that it is the world around them that has snapped free of its foundations. The sheet of embossed tin that the hurricane had ripped from her house had sailed almost half a block after the wind lifted it out of the palm tree, landing finally in the pool behind the kindergarten. Olivia paged through her copy of Insects of the Greater United States when she got home and discovered that the bugs were neither grasshoppers nor mosquitoes, but mayflies.”
“The View from the Seventh Layer,” Kevin Brockmeier

Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro
Well written, though not in the same mesmerizing fashion as Brockmeier’s writing. I imagine this is partly because NLMG is written in first person, so it would be distracting for it to be written in a style like Brockmeier’s. The story is well-told, though I found the important, long conversation at the end to be a little too much of an info-dump/reveal than fit the rest of the book.

Strangers in Paradise, Book 1
, Terry Moore
This was entertaining for one book, but didn’t draw me into continuing with the others. There’s a blurb on the front from Neil Gaiman that says, “What most people don’t know about love, sex, and relations with other human beings would fill a book. Strangers in Paradise is that book.” That may be, but I found the characters to be a little too caricatured (yes, even for a comic) to hold my interest. I may try again with Book 2 some other time.

Currently reading:

Magic for Beginners, Kelly Link
One thing to mention now: Link has no problem with leaving things unexplained, a characteristic she has in common with Brockmeier, and distinguishing her from Ishiguro. These are fantasy/speculative fiction type stories, where the reader is thrown into situations that aren’t quite “normal,” where even the humans act on information that’s just outside the reader’s grasp. The obvious downside to the lack of explanation is the frustration it can cause for readers who go in expecting it all to be laid out for them, but the huge upside is the way the stories and images continue to sit in the mind (in my mind, anyway) long after the book has been set aside. It’s fantasy as the truly strange.

Hoping to read in the future:
Sarah Canary, Karen Joy Fowler (Watch Nancy Pearl’s interview with her)
A Fine and Private Place, Peter S. Beagle (Interview on io9)

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