Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Murder Room

After I posted a "meh" review to P.D. James's Children of Men, a gentle reader left a comment setting me straight P.D.'s sex and encouraged me to read one of her Adam Dalgliesh novels. When I saw The Murder Room, I snapped it up.

Alas, I didn't, uh, even finish The Murder Room, but I love that my guest commenter suggested it (check out her blog, Entre Deux Solitudes) and just because it's not my cup of tea, if you're into mysteries, you'd probably love it.

What I liked: It's really English. One of the characters was always talking about taking a walk on the "heath." It made me absolutely LONG for a walk on the heath, whatever heath is. Reminded me of, after reading The Mill on the Floss, wondering, what the hell is floss?

James's writing is sophisticated, and she never insults the reader. Her writing style (obviously not her topics) reminds me of Barbara Pym, who I've been enjoying lately. I think she's decidedly old-fashioned - I was actually surprised when one of the characters pulled out a cell phone, because I thought it took place much earlier than that.

What I didn't like: The pacing. It's a murder mystery, but the first hundred pages basically just introduces the characters with little action. It moves r.e.a.l.l.y. slow. Sometimes, I like a book with a slow pace, but, in this case I didn't. I ended up skimming and then skipping to the end.

It used to be almost impossible for me to put down a book - I felt like I was giving up on it, and myself. Lately it's merely difficult, but I can do it. When I don't enjoy a book, it gives me a thrill to pass it on to someone I think will enjoy it, or to leave it on a bench in a public place to let fate help it find a home. That's what I'll do with this one, tomorrow.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Going Nowhere


Anybody going to read it? Personally, I think if she didn't have the decency to write it, I'm certainly not going to read it. I suppose I could hire someone to ghost-read it for me...

Friday, October 09, 2009


Push is a novel I heard about some time ago and tried to sell my book club on. Most people were largely turned off by the description of the main character: 16, obese, illiterate, pregnant with the child of her father and sexual abused by her mother. I can respect that.

The funny thing is, I just read it a few days ago, and I read the whole damn book almost in one sitting and in less than 24 hours, and even though all those things (and more, I hate to tell you) are true about the main character, Precious (there's a movie by that name coming out soon), it was somehow uplifting and invigorating.

The author's (Sapphire) voice, and the voice she gives Precious is so strong and purposeful. Precious has slipped through the school system until grade 9 but is completely unable to read - when she finally finds a program that invests in her, her pleasure in reading, and the power she finds in reading and writing is awe-inspiring and thrilling. Sapphire writes the book largely from Precious's point of view, complete with colloquialisms and misspellings, and as Precious learns, the language becomes more and more refined. It reminded me, in a way, of the text of Flowers for Algernon, a manipulative story, but with a hell of a trajectory.

Precious is truly an ignorant person with some misplaced allegiances and horrifying impressions of what it is to be good, or lucky. For example, she categorizes everyone she meets by the shade of their skin. But through language and literature, she finds new heroes and even finds empowerment in her own language - what "push", as a verb, becomes is the necessity to find the power within herself to to break out of the horrible situation she lives in, and create a new world for herself and her children.

She say, "Write." I tell her, "I am tired. Fuck you!" I scream, "You don't know nuffin' what I been through!" I scream at Ms Rain. I never do that before. Class look shock. I feel embarrass, stupid, sit down, I'm made a fool of myself on top of everything else. "Open your notebook Precious." "I'm tired," I says. She says, "I know you are but you can't stop now Precious, you gotta push." And I do.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

The Wild Things

I picked up a (signed!) copy of The Wild Things by Dave Eggers at the movie, Where the Wild Things Are, last week. Mostly I bought the book because it was signed and I was excited. I honestly think Eggers is a literary hero, but I didn't really love this book. It's quite similar to the movie, and, perhaps more importantly, true to Maruice Sendak's book. (Eggers book is dedicated to Sendak, whom he calls "an unspeakably brave and beautiful man.")

Eggers fills in the blanks for us for Max - where he lives, his family situation, where the costume came from, what happens in the land of the Wild Things, the names of the Wild Things and their various insecurities.

What Eggers explores in the book is how Max is bridging that awkward period between being a child, with really no barometer for what's socially appropriate, to an adolescent that's becoming self-aware. Max's decision to return to his home (I don't think I'm ruining it for you) becomes a rejection of those things wild and a commitment to well, society. Whether it's a choice that any child makes, or a role that all children are simply forced to accept, I'm not sure - for Max, it's more like a choice between certain death and ... dinner.

I'm not sure if I'd necessarily recommend this book to anyone but die-hard Where the Wild Things Are and Eggers' fans, or perhaps pre-teens. Eggers' YA book was less appealing to this adult reader and I started skimming about half-way through. At 281 pages, I found it rather long, but it's certainly charming. Eggers is a poetic writer and therefore this is more than your average book-after-the-movie.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

The Little White Car

I picked up a copy of The Little White Car (2004) by Danuta de Rhodes at a library book sale. It was an advance copy, so maybe I was swayed by the effusive praise. It's a fine enough book but the storyline (I don't think I'm ruining it by writing) in which the main characters believes herself to have inadvertently killed Princess Diana with her little white car, is ridiculous, and it completely lacks poetry.

It's a pretty good book if you're looking for some kind-of mindless, fun weekend or vacation reading. The character is a young french woman, not unlike Bridget Jones in that she's fairly irresponsible and devil-may-care - she gets drunk a lot and is largely unconcerned about causing the death of Princess Diana.

There is one mildly-amusing post-coital scene:

'So...,' he said, looking away from her. 'It is over. Finished.'

'Yes,' she said. 'Goodbye.'

'We will never see each other again.'

'No. Probably not.'

'There must be no kiss goodbye, no final embrace.'


'I mean, we have just been like ships in the night.'

'Yes. Off you go now.'