Saturday, February 16, 2008

skoob skoob skoob

For once the name "Drunken Housewife" is a propos. I wrote these book reviews after getting moderately trashed at Las Ramblas (mother-in-law in town = time to self medicate). In the sober light of the morning after they aren't so bad. Enjoy!

I have not kept up with reviewing my reads here, and I know I won't remember all the books I've read this year. I don't mean that I've completely forgotten them, but some of them have entered a blurry sort of brainspace. It's scary to me, how much I read, when I stand back to look at it.

"The Cottagers" (2006) by Marshall Klimasewiski: a very intelligent and gripping literary novel about a peculiar teenager on a Canadian island who is obsessed with the wealthy summer residents. I loved this book; the plot goes in unpredictable directions. I only wish Marshall Klimasewiski will shave his horrible facial hair and get new glasses before publishing his next oeuvre, which leads me nicely to

"The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person In The World"" (2004)by A.J. Jacobs (the only non-fiction book on this list. I read a ton of non-fiction last year, and so far this year, I've been shoveling down novel after novel). Why did my stupid criticism of poor Mr. Klimasewiski's author photo make a nice segue? Because A.J. Jacobs forthrightly confesses that one of his books was rejected by a publisher because they considered him unattractive enough to represent the book. (Cheer yourself up, A.J. Jacobs, by taking in the unfortunate photo of the very talented Marshall Klimasewiski sometime).

It's distinctly weird to write about A.J. Jacobs, as he has stated in both "The Know-It-All" and "The Year of Living Biblically" that he googles himself obsessively. I'm not a stranger to authors finding my snarky remarks (indeed the irrepressible Ayun Halliday found my snarks within just a few hours of my writing them; I wish her children luck in getting one over on her), but it's different to write something with a reasonable expectation of the author reading it. I feel like a suck-up by saying that I love A.J. Jacobs and adored this account of the year he spent reading the Encyclopedia Britannica in its entirety (although he cops to skimming at times; for shame, A.J. Jacobs, for shame). This wasn't as deep yet snarky as "The Year of Living Biblically", which the Sober Husband and I enjoyed so much that we gave out a lot of copies for Christmas presents, but it satisfies. Jacobs is clever and obnoxious, but he wants to be wise and good. His epic attempts at self-improvement and inquiry are witty and thought-provoking.

"Taking Off" (2006) by Eric Kraft: I wanted to love this, as I have an affection for Eric Kraft stemming from "Herb 'n Lorna", which I read in the late '80s. I hated it. Mr. Kraft had an idea basically good for a novella or a short story, and he tried to spin it out and sell it as a hardback. I am so sick of seeing tiny little hardbacks with big fonts and overly-generous margins (and not-so-coincidentally tiny, undersized little plots). In this case, it's even more heinous because "Taking Off" is the first volume in a trilogy. What should be one short story is being spun out to THREE FRIGGING VOLUMES. Unforgivable, people, this is unforgivable.

"A Good and Happy Child" (2007)by Justin Evans: a very intelligent and gripping novel exploring the space between mental illness and religion. A boy is tormented by demons and in need of an exorcism... or does he simply need some lithium and perhaps a stay in a mental hospital? Is there room for extreme religious experience in the Prozac era?

"Charlie and the Chocolate Factory"
(1964) by Roald Dahl: I picked this up for Iris Uber Alles, remembering it fondly from my childhood. It's much shorter than I remembered (evidently I read much more slowly back then). I love Roald Dahl, but sadly I think the book was ruined for me by seeing the movies. I liked the Willie Wonka of my childhood imagination better than Gene Wilder or Johnny Depp's versions.

"The Trouble Boy
" (2004) by Tom Dolby: a coming of age story, about a young gay college graduate in Manhattan in search of a boyfriend. Perfect reading for fag hags! I loved it, but don't expect depth;

"The Sixth Form" (2008) by Tom Dolby: another coming of age story from the talented Mr. Dolby (NOT the "She Blinded Me With Science" Dolby, by the way). Boys at an exclusive boarding school grapple with homophobia and fears of coming out, sexually predatory teachers, mothers with cancer, and college applications.

Addendum: I left out "Surveillance" (2008) by Jonathan Raban, a novel which is a bit short on plot but nonetheless worthwhile, about the reactions to the post 9/11 obsession with security and terrorism. What's not to love about a novel starring an overweight, stuttering journalist working on a piece for the New Yorker?


hughman said...

you should check out the sequel to Charlie called "Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator". there's no movie (yet) to ruin it.

the Drunken Housewife said...

I remember not liking the sequel as much as a child. We actually have "C and the GGE" out from the library, so I'll take a look at it.

hokgardner said...

I've been meaning to read the Year of Living Biblically and the Know-it-all. Now I'll definitely have to.

the Drunken Housewife said...

You've got to read them, Hokgardner. I have to say that he's like me, only a much more accomplished (and published) writer. People say they like me because I'm smart and snarky, and he's that in spades.

hughman said...

you snarky? say it ain't so. (hee hee hee).

Anonymous said...

where do you find the time to read all of these? i can barely finish the new TIME before the next one arrives...

now US Weekly? i can devour that in an hour. :hangs head in shame:

hughman said...

lemonjuicer :

you suscribe to newsweek and us weekly in REALTIME??

for SHAME! for thing, for SHAME!

the Drunken Housewife said...

Here are the secrets to my pathetic overconsumption of books: I'm a powerful speed-reader by nature, I don't like much television, and I am incredibly lazy.

hughman said...

oops, i meant TIME.

still, for shame.

Anonymous said...

well, i get UTNE reader and Mother Jones, too. does that somehow redeem me???

Vodalus said...

Hughman, I have to confess that my favorite weekly magazine is "US News and World Reports".

GENE WOLFE is totally an author worth checking out. I suggest starting with Fifth Head of Cerebus followed up by Latro in the Mist or the Long Sun Quartet. They aren't very funny but are intensely complex. I find they are best read as if one was surfing: just roll with it and it'll make sense when it's finished.

Missy said...

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is an all-time favorite with me. The description of the two sets of grandparents--hilarious. And the obnoxious children such as Augustus Gloop? Much better in print.

The Sixth Form was excellent as well and got me through a rough weekend (Thanks, DH, you are up for sainthood.)

the Drunken Housewife said...

Lemonjuicer, I want you to report to us on Mother Jones. I used to be insane for that magazine but stopped reading it ages ago. Fill us in!

Missy, why was your weekend rough? I'm glad I could give you some comfort.

Vodalus, I'll look for that author. like complexity.

Anonymous said...

Who doesn't like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory?

I just started reading Charlie and the Great Glass elevator,
It isn't really as good as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but at least theres no movie there to ruin it.