Been busy this month, as usual, but actually complete a lot more than I expected.
Again, I tried something light, so I read They Both Die at the End. Ah…yeah, it’s YA, and it fits all the horrible requirements that are YA. There is heavy repetition, bloating the book out to twice its size. The characters are flat, with melodrama and hackneyed expression to fake depth. The only thing that was kind of neat was the idea—that a company would call you before you died. Besides that, the story played out like a bad high school poetry reading. Yuck!
Next up, the unbelievable JR. This book blew me away. First, it was hard to get into. There is a whole mass of characters, and the non-stop dialogue with little or no warning when transitioning from scenes was tough, but around 250, I synced up with it. I remember Infinite Jest was similar. The bigger the book, the more time it takes to ease into it, and when I did it was worth it. JR, himself, was hilarious, as well as Gibbs. Despite the serious topics at times, most was fun, and all of the dialogue had an unbelievable amount of naturalness to it. Can’t love this book enough.
Empire of the Ants was a student re-read. I originally borrowed it from a parent of one of my students a decade ago. I like it and wanted to read more by the author—who is French—but little else has been translated into English. In Korean, there’s a boatload of them. He’s quite popular here. That being said, with this re-read, I began to see why he maybe fell a little flat. Though the whole book was interesting, by the end the whole spiel no longer had the magic that say a Crichton book is able to hold from beginning to end. Still, something interesting to pick up.
The Big Sleep. I’ve actually wanted to read this forever. It is perennially on top book lists, and a teacher at my work who’s a fan lent me it. Right away, you can see where all the modern day detective stories get their feel and language. Chandler pioneered it, and for that he deserves his due. However, with this book being his debut, it was actually a bit thin and wanting. It may be for the same reason I found Agatha Christie weak and boring—these are master that everyone has copied ad nauseum since. There formula has flooded and been copycatted everywhere, so I guess I gotta cut him a break.
Needing something to liven things up, I check out a supposed ‘Hardest Books to Read List,’ and found Tampa. It got my attention right away with its portrayal of a pedophile from a female teacher’s perspective. I can definitely say that at times it bordered on pornographic, to which it may turn off many readers, but even when it did dabble in that murky area, I still would never call it ‘Hard to Read.’ In that way, I was disappointed. I did think it was amusing that a chipper-faced girl wrote it who now teaches writing somewhere in Iowa. All in all, I liked it, but it’s not for everyone.
Finally, I got around to White Noise. Everyone has raved about this ground-breaking book. Shockingly, it actually took me more time that I thought, and by the end, I was less than impressed. For one, many said it was funny, and I can see where they’d draw that. In many ways, it is kooky and strange—think borderline Arrested Development—but it was never as funny as I thought JR was. Secondly, the message was a bit hard to decipher. Obviously the main character was obsessed with death, and this got crazier with the chemical spill—which was exciting—but the end killing scene really left me lost. Maybe I’m missing something.
Another ‘finally,’ is for Manufacturing Consent. I got this book back when I was in grad school, having read other Chomsky for my language classes. This is his standout work, but it was written back in the 80’s. For this reason, all of his examples are dated—ranging from Vietnam to Central American regimes and failed Pope assassinations. All of them were interesting, but the style and presentation are clearly not very modern. So many current non-fiction books have much more ease and ability to tell their stories that this was a bit of a drudge. Still, it was unnerving with its implications, and I definitely distrust the media more—though not as much as Trump.
Hoping for a moving book, I tackled into Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. This book is referenced everywhere—including a now debunked bar here in Korea that probably wasn’t too aware of the implications it was drawing. Nonetheless, the writing style was as expected—150 years old. At many points, it was long-winded. However, the story, despite being known as one impetus to the Civil War, was greatly lacking. Much was predicable—though not a fault—but overall, the characters were lacking. Uncle Tom, himself, was too angelic, and religion is just shoved down your throat at every turn. The best part was the last chapter where the author explains that many anecdotes came from real life events.
Gligamesh, I got from a co-worker that was emptying his shelves. I obviously have heard about this one before and somehow made through my undergrad studies without any forced reading of it—unlike Beowulf. The story is toted as being one of the oldest, if not the oldest, in recorded history, being translated from Symerian Cuniform only 100 or so years ago. And…I kind of liked it. The story had a very myth-like feeling and flowed with a much greater ease than other old classics. On top of that it was short, and clearly even with its short length, I can see a thousand theses written regarding it. Not bad.
Then, for that oh-so unique Japanese feel, I read The Professor and the Housekeeper. It didn’t disappoint on the Japanese tone. It was riddled with it. Furthermore, I don’t think Japanese write long books—this one clocking in at around 200 or so pages. I like the overall flow and characters, but the ending was lacking with the power that I’ve kind of expected from Japan lately. This is her prize book, too. Go figure.
Lastly, with a struggle, I got through The French Lieutenant’s Woman. It is post-modern—which I liked, but it also reeks of Victorian England, you know, Jane Austen and such, which I don’t particularly mix well with. Needless to say, I had a hard time with the flowery way of speech and the heavy reliance on manners. The only part that broached a postmodern feel was the slight meta fiction and the multiple endings, both didn’t sit well with me. Frankly, it seemed poorly done, and yet this book was not only critically lauded, but also loved by the public. Strange. The one thing I can say, is it makes you think—mainly about how it could have been adapted to something a bit more modern.
Progress on 2018 goals
1) Finish Brief Lives / Query / Synopsis: Done / 2 letters / halfway: Done
2) New project: Something brewing to do with graphic novels. Working on it.
3) Student workbook: More than half written out. Still looking into template.
4) Spring Reading:
Quixote: Not started
5) Read 75 books: 48
Next Month’s Agenda
Frankly, I got a lot done this month. I now have 3 full ideas in the works for future novels or stories. I’m hoping to maybe turn one into a graphic novel, but who knows. Otherwise, I have started my new story—tentatively titled: American Snowflakes. Hopefully, I’ll have much more to report next month.