Wednesday, February 29, 2012
The Last Four Books I've Read
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon
This is a brilliantly narrated tale of discovery and hardship told through the perspective of Christopher, a boy with an unnamed mental disorder, as a mysterious death and sudden disconnection from his father send his carefully ordered world into interesting turmoil. The language is beautifully constructed with one of the best narrative voices I've read in a long time, keeping the reader at the perfect distance in the protagonist's head. It feels like a vividly imagined case study or a children's adventure tale. You will see the events of this novel through a lens in your mind that points exactly where it should. Every detail is perfectly synced with the mindset of the narrator, even down to the very physical construction of the text. And above all, it is a good story. If this was a movie, it would be Amelie if it was made by Pixar.
Lost and Found by Carolyn Parkhurst
I first encountered this author when I read The Dogs of Babel, which was brilliant. This book I liked a little less because I feel it tried to do too much. It is a multi-narrator story following a troupe of people filming an Amazing Race-esque reality show as they deal with the drama of their relationships and the odd tasks they must complete. Parkhurst links the stories and the voices together quite well, never confusing one for the other, and it all ends up more or less balanced. There is the sense of rushed consumption, however, and I feel that my emotional connection to the characters was lost in the attempt to swallow all of them at once. It reminded me of books written for a younger audience, because the need for succinctness watered down the descriptive potential and very much had to be told rather than shown. Parkhurst showed me she could illustrate two characters brilliantly in Babel, and though I was very wrapped up in the story and enjoyed her second novel, I did not feel the same electric spark between my flesh and the flesh of her characters. If this was a movie, it would be Love Actually if it was directed by the Olson twins.
The Republic of Love by Carol Shields
Brilliant author, brilliant book. I hate the title, but I love the text. This follows the late-in-life romance between two characters who seem like they will never be happy. A split narration in the first half of the story follows their history and daily lives through a rich and tangible town, coming and going between their heads until we are sure they are perfect for each other before they even meet. It is agonizing, as it should be, and when the union finally happens it is a Darcy-and-Elizabeth style crescendo of happiness. Shields has an addictive application of language, one of those authors that seems like she has shimmering paragraphs and savory metaphors just springing out of her head every morning. She takes a while to get to the point sometimes, but it is well worth the journey. If this was a movie it would be Pride and Prejudice if it starred Emily Blunt and Viggo Mortensen.
Misadventures in the (213) by Dennis Hensley
This is a disjointed, slightly ridiculous Hollywood satire about shit happening to quirky people. It's romantic in a sad, unreachable sense, and it's almost as funny as it thinks it is. The main character is bland and insecure in a necessary way, and his crazy TV-star friend is a flash of adventure and destruction. It is episodic and gives colorful tastes here and there, name dropping and referencing in a very disorienting yet captivating swirl. If you're in the mood for realism and deep immersion, however, this is not the book for you. It's campy, it's touching, it's a feverish jaunt through some of the most creatively absurd situations you never would have imagined. If this was a movie it would be Mulholland Drive if it was written by Tina Fey.