books recently read...
its time for another recent books list...
Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
This book was one of the two novels selected as the best american novels written since 1990 (is that right?) the other was Beloved by Toni Morrison. I was talking to this online guy (here is why i never end up having sex) and we were discussing this book...and he pointed out something so true...that it seems so **crafted** in the most writer's workshop kind of way. Something about the prose is so corny and cozy it kind of makes me want to dig my fingernails into an orange. Parts of this novel are very beautiful...and the story -- of two girls in a flood-prone small town and their itinerant aunt who takes care of them after their mother commits suicide and their grandmother dies (is that what happens? see i am senile i cant even remember now) -- is kind of gripping...but its so juicy and feminist. Maybe i was just in the wrong mood for it. Maybe i shoudl have read it in the summer, in a woodsy yard outside a cottage.
The Savage Girl by Alex Shakar
A novel about a trendspotter named Ursula who learns the evils of her trade in a New york City of hte near future. Her sister is a former model who went crazy and is re-emerging, Kate Mosslike, to wild acclaim, exploiting her own tragic downfall to orchestrate her comeback. This is so selfish but I guess for me every novel ends up being a lesson in writing novels. And the lesson i learned from reading this one is not to fall in love with your futurismo imaginings. Shakar creates a book about trend spotters, and how consumerism swallows any thought whole and creates a market from it, no matter what it is...which you would think i would totally love...but he becomes too focused on his bag of tricks and his characters lose an emotional fullness. It ends up having a morally traumatized protagonist who watches her gorgeous, lost, weakling Kate Moss-like sister become a tragic hero at the hands of an evil empty morally bankrupt Less Than Zero style guy. Nothing new. i think what i resent is that it follows a very traditional story arc...the one we have heard a thousand times that man and technology are bad and they will be punished for their excesses. The Great Gatsby Bright Lights Big City Less Than Zero etcetcetcetc. There are some great passages though...like when Ursula gets out of bed one morning and looks at every single things as if it is a product to be branded:
"I stood up and i said, 'Standing:the world at your feet.' I knocked on the wall and i said, 'Walls: giving you some space.' I took off my Tshirt and saw him staring at me and i said 'Erections: Feel your Power.' and he felt his power and i felt my power. You get the picture."
The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
If you dont know this book, its about a family and their various horrifically normal minor tragedies. I am so glad I waited this long to read this book, so i could read it outside of the fluttering buzz around it and really appreciate it. This book blew me away. I loved it. Who knows if Franzen is pompous or irritating as a person...the work he created is truly expansive and gorgeous. The only small flaw i feel is that the older brother, Gary, is kind of thrown away as a character after you invest so much concern in him and his family. The other characters I feel achieve some sort of deliverance and passage except for him. My favorite character by far is the father, who is slowly growing demented. He is an almost mythic representation of an American...
Satyr Square by Leonard Balkan
This nonfiction book is about a gay jewish academic and his year in Rome. I read it while i was there and it was such a great companion. Balkan is so well read. He plucks a wide array of wirters from the past and summarizes their own obessive walks through the city, so that i felt a huge compression of time and space while i walked around the same city myself. I was particularly drawn to Balkan's account of a jewish scholar's trip in Rome -- Alphonse Ratisbonne -- who came to Rome as a Jew and then had what sounds like a totally lonely time, walking around, waiting for this Roman magic to happen, that he became desperate for something life-changing to occur and walked into a church, looked at a cheesy mural of mother mary, and converted to christianity in one night. You kind of get the sense ratisbonne was a latent gay himself...i can attest to this...as a homo walking around Rome, waiting for somethign to happen, there were times when i...a semi-athiest modern gay guy, became so frustrated with the city that i fell under its oldworld christian marketing, and though maybe i should pursue a spiritual renunciated life. but of course i would never do that...and my inner fire to be secular and self-identified and forward thinking made me feel worried for poor Balkan, who seems trapped in a pre-stonewall-style gay life where he attracts and is attracted to straight men who become his close friend but never satisfy him sexually. Throughout the book Balkan makes these elaborate dinners with various striaght guys...both American and Italian-- who seem like total obsession promoters...
Next on deck:
Let it come down by Paul Bowles
The Double by Jose Saramago
The Duchess of Nothing by Heather McGowan
The Collected Works of Jane Bowles
Holy Skirts by Renee Steinke
and Ryder by Djuna Barnes!
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