Saturday, October 27, 2012

your reading list

I've had some luck with my reading choices lately, books so good that reading alone makes living worthwhile.   In case any of you are bookless at the moment and needing direction, here you are!

"Joseph Anton" by Salman Rushdie:  Rushdie writes about his life after the fatwa, and as a memoir, it's deeply satisfying.  Who knew that the worst part of being in hiding wasn't the loneliness; it was the lack of solitude?  With police officers always lumbering around and frying sausages, Rushdie couldn't get any peace and quiet to write.  

Beyond an account of the thorough strangeness of being anointed Islam's top enemy, this book is a lyrical and profound examination of what it means to write, what a book is (was "The Satanic Verses" a novel or an insult? ), and the value of dissent and expression.  Bonus: lots of literary gossip!  The PEN meetings will never be the same again now the dirt is out.  

"Out of the Ordinary:  True Tales of Everyday Craziness" and "What I Do:  More Tales of Everyday Craziness" by Jon Ronson:  I've been reading Jon Ronson since before "Men Who Stare At Goats" was made into a movie.  He is amazingly witty, and he's not afraid to skewer himself (such as his piece about a new neighbor he meets, who won't ask Ronson what he does for a living, no matter what tempting little conversational morsels Ronson lays out for him).  These books are worth the price alone for the accounts of his marital spats alone, never mind the chapter on the strange cult which pressures its members into donating kidneys to strangers.  

"The Vanishers" by Heidi Julavits:  I thought Julavits' prior novel, "The Uses of Enchantment", was hugely overrated, and so I was skeptical.  But "The Vanishers" lured me in, and I will say without reservations that it is one of the best books I have ever read.  A washed up, physically ill psychic is hired to use her now pathetic powers to sense the truth about a bizarre feminist film maker.  The characters and plot are original and thought-provoking, but more than that, the prose is so luscious, so crisp.  Reading these gorgeous sentences is like receiving an almost endless series of odd little surprises.  

"The Collective" by Don Lee:  Three disaffected, unhappy Asian American college students form a lifelong friendship and devote their lives to art.  The most successful of them commits suicide, leaving his friends to try to make sense out of their lives, as well as the tragedy.  A dense and engaging novel with very real characters, whose flaws and gifts are carefully mapped out.  

"Some Kind of Fairy Tale" by Graham Joyce:  I've been hugely taken with Graham Joyce lately, and "Some Kind of Fairy Tale" was a joy.  He takes an ancient, hackneyed premise (a woman is taken away to live with the fairies and returns, thinking only a few months have passed, to discover that decades have gone by) and does something deeply moving and thought-provoking with it.  

"True Believers" by Kurt Andersen:  A law school dean decides to write a memoir about her long-covered up past as a college radical.  I love how Andersen conveys the passion of political thought and  the carelessness and purity of youth.  However, there were some bits which I found hard to swallow that broke up the mood for me (for example, his protagonist during her first year of law school has a memorable encounter with a charming third year student, President Clinton in a cute cameo, during a class they are taking together, never mind that a third year student would NOT be taking one of the basic, introductory classes everyone else takes during first year.  I cannot tell you how much this bothered me).  

Meanwhile Lola enjoyed "The One And Only Ivan" by Katherine Applegate, a lonely gorilla's account of his captivity at a peculiar shopping mall attraction, and Iris is reading "Murder On The Orient Express" by Agatha Christie.  The Sober Husband, upon my recommendation, is reading "Joseph Anton", but he's being driven crazy by wondering whether he should put it aside and read "The Satanic Verses" first.  "I feel like I'm missing so much," he frets.  


Oldsoul_NotQuite said...

I found Joseph Anton to be more of a bitchy indulgence. It has inspired me to read Midnight's Children which is brilliant. I've already read Shame, the Jaguar Smile, Haroun and possibly the Dancer Beneath her Feet book (not memorable clearly)

the Drunken Housewife said...

OldSoul, "THe Dancer Beneath Her Feet" is, in my opinion, his worst work, so far below the usual quality. But "The Moor's Last Sigh" is brilliant.