I noticed this morning that I read the Sunday SF Chronicle’s Book Review section more than any other. My favorites – Comics, of course, Travel, Datebook – had all been made available by a generous patron of Printer’s Inc Café, and I snatched them as soon as the presumed generous patron had abandoned them on the table. I then noticed that many reviews are written by people who are probably not employed at the paper, and who knows if they are even paid for it. And then, why wouldn’t I try to publish a review of my recently read books on my blog? That is a very contemporary thought.
And so I started imagining what I would say about the most recent one, which will be the subject of the next article. I figured I should start with a confession as a preamble.
I don’t know why I have grown up liking to be among books, because I had hardly received any stimulation at home or in school. I just liked going through the stacks, reading the titles, making catalogs in my head of books that I would never read. Later, reading Computer Science at University, I often ended up in the Library trying to be intellectual and to do research by stacking books on the table and going through each one to find arguments in favor of my thesis.
Fast forward to helping a partner with research on Raymond Carver. Being a computer person, I of course scanned the stories and made lists of words to help understand the universe of the stories. Weird stuff, at best, and it didn’t help support my friend’s thesis. I read drama, and I still don’t know why. Then much later I had the opportunity to read Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin to a friend, and the quality of reading it aloud precipitated me into loving the text. Then I understood that it was time to do an M.A. in English, which required a lot of reading and analysis, also known as criticism. But I am uncomfortable with criticism, because of the blurred line between what is the critic’s opinion and what is absolute truth. It is a silly point, I must acknowledge, especially after Derrida and deconstruction. No, there is no absolutism in reviewing a book. We just like to put our ideas on paper, or, in this case, in a blog.
Recently Read Books, in order of preference:
Shroud, by John Banville
positive: the incredibly strong first person in the first part that learns from contacting a weak third person; the treatment of multiple personality disorders (the real and the built up); the richness of the language.
Arthur and George, by Julian Barnes
positive: the construction of how two characters develop separately; the believable absurdity; details (pearls) in the text.
disturbing: how the administration of justice gets its bias
oh, well: I’m always bothered by where is fiction, and what part is non-fiction – the characters are based on actual people.
Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro
positive: being able to hold a first person narrative all the way without becoming annoying; developing the horror without being horrible; the strength of the title as a mantra throughout.
oh, well: the overuse of “like”
The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
positive: it’s practically a thriller and the reader won’t sleep quietly until finished reading.
disturbing: being able to accept that it’s fiction.
oh, well: the fact that most of us will learn about Afghanistan through it and form weird opinions about it.
Life of Pi, by Yan Martel
positive: the notion that the tale is constructed in order to replace the unbearable reality
oh, well: I suppose there’s a limit to what can happen on a lifeboat, so as in Robinson Crusoe, it can be tiring to go through the details (lack of imagery?).