Okay, I can’t do it, I’ve read too many books and not reviewed them and then I can’t remember anything about them. So whatever. I’m doing little bitty ones here. I’m declaring bloggy bankruptcy and giving myself a clean slate. Have to. Here are a series of cranky little reviewlets.
Mr. Fox, Helen Oyeyemi
Liked it a lot! I went to see Helen Oyeyemi talk at McNally Jackson, and she said that writing Mr. Fox was just fun, that she was just enjoying every minute of writing it. It shows when you’re reading the book. Mr. Fox plays with ideas of inspiration and violence against women and writing and imagination and Bluebeard stories. It’s a little weird and confusing but a lot funny and clever. Helen Oyeyemi remains one of my favorite young writers. As before I can’t wait to see what she does next. White Is for Witching remains my favorite of her four books because it involves a haunted house and I love a haunted house.
An Episode of Sparrows, Rumer Godden
Little street urchins try to make a garden in a Blitz-wrecked London. My mother loves this book, and I liked it, certainly, but it was awfully sad. The ending is hopeful, but not quite hopeful enough to make up for how extraordinarily sad it was in the meantime. Maybe upon successive rereadings I will love it better.
A Gate at the Stairs, Lorrie Moore
My coworker said that Lorrie Moore writes the best women characters he’s ever encountered. Better than Alice Walker (he said). Y’all know it’s never a good idea to read a new book in a combative mood. I read A Gate at the Stairs with skeptical eyes but I have to say? I didn’t think the women characters were that great. They didn’t feel real at all, and neither did the men, and the whole thing just, eh, I didn’t like it. I thought it was going to focus more on the experience of being in college, so there was also that expectations gap that’s an enjoyment-killer.
Hopscotch, Julio Cortazar
Argh. I loved the idea of this book. There are 55 basic chapters and 99 “expendable” chapters. The author says you can read the 55 chapters in order and dispense with the 99, or you can read in an order he suggests that hopscotches between the regular chapters and the expendable ones. The idea is that you’ll have quite a different book if you read straight through, compared to if you jump around. Per usual, experimental fiction loses me by not giving a crap about plot. I couldn’t stop thinking about how cool it would be if a plot-minded author had done this same thing. If Barbara Vine had done it, say. If the expendable chapters had cast a new light on the events of the regular chapters. That would have been amazing. But that wasn’t what happened. I just got fed up and started wanting to punch the characters, and I couldn’t stop reading because I borrowed the book from a coworker (the one who thinks Lorrie Moore is better than Alice Walker OBVIOUS NONSENSE) and I wanted to be able to say something nice about it when I returned it because I hate it when someone asks to borrow a book from me and I lend them the book in spite of strong inclinations against lending my books and then they give it back without reading it. So I staggered on becoming more and more resentful, and by the second half of the book — which actually was significantly better and more interesting! — I was too fed up to enjoy the good things about the book.
And I hate reading books in translation. Sorry. I just do.
The end! Clean slate! Clean slate going into the New Year. I am going to be awesome at writing posts this year. YOU WILL SEE.