I’m now back to my usual schedule after my long trip. It took some time for my sleeping pattern to get to normal, but my reading didn’t hurt at all. Unfortunately, it’s been sluggish getting back into my writing. I’m at about the 1/3 mark for my longest writing to date, and I now where I want to go, but I just can’t sit down and do it. Otherwise, big reading this month: 20 books! First that high ever, although it is due to a large amount of graphic novels that have just caught me and won’t let go.
The first book was a quick read on the plane back that my daughter bought and wanted me to do so too. Graveyard Shakes. At first, I thought it was going to be better than it was. The story starts right away with conflict as a father needs to kill a child every 12 years to keep his son alive, but soon after this tale falls apart. The end is happy, but not satisfying, and the plot gets no more torqueing than the immediate one at the start.
At the same time, I tackled a read everyone was raving about: Sing Buried Sing. Many have compared it to Faulkner’s As I lay Dying, which I can see, with the down south tone, the multiple voices, including ones that transcend death, and the jumping of consciousness with a little magical realism. That being said, the story fell flat in certain places. We get a lot of repeating of the characters stories, a lot of unnecessary details, and little plot beyond a certain point—and that is usual expected. Not bad—but no Faulkner.
I quick read another Joyce Bio: Joyce. Unlike the earlier one, this didn’t delve as detailed into his life. You got the overlay, but was particularly interesting was how it picked apart his novels and famous outings. We get certain scene by scene breakdowns which help identify major themes, which can help out new readers to Joyce. Overall, not bad, but in color and less photo-copy looking would have been better.
In the airport, I picked up Calypso, by Sedaris. I hadn’t read anything from him in a while, especially after trying to read the one where he quit smoking in Japan and found it boring. I tried this as I was reread Me Talk Pretty One Day with my students, enjoying it greatly. This one, although not like the former one with its funny stories, it was enjoyable and somehow had a theme tying it altogether. Overall, a nice add to his oeuvre.
Then I read It’s Kind of a Funny Story. I’ve heard about this book for a while, too, mainly because the author killed himself. The story is about Craig, a boy who is depressed and tries to kill himself, but ultimately checks himself into a mental ward for help. The author did the same, from which he wrote this. Although the writing was light and fun, and the story never dried up, I wouldn’t give it the rave reviews many have attached to it. Like many critics have mentioned, he seems to suffer from young, white boy disease, rather than full-blown depression, and he doesn’t really grew up much by the time we get to the end. He just gets a girlfriend.
Another book on everyone’s lips: Strange the Dreamer. I was hoping good things here—especially as long as the book was. There’s a lot of creativity about it at first, until it becomes and expected plot twist in a long drawn, overly described, heavily repeated mess. Close to 200 pages could’ve been chopped. Despite liking many things in this part one to a series, I doubt I will join it for the even longer ride it has next. This is mainly due to the cliffhanger ending that finally ratchets the plot up a bit. For some reason this is the trend nowadays in YA—make the story good only when you finish the book to get readers back. Boo!
I tossed another Saga collection down then. I still like many elements here, but after taking a break found it hard to rustle up that enthusiasm I once had for it. I hope to get to the rest, but that may not happen.
Wanting more Sedaris, I reread Dress Your Family up in Denim and Corduroy. I first read this when I moved to Chicago and got turned onto Sedaris, devouring all of his works up to that date—2004. I recall loving all of his work then, but now, in hindsight, I’d have to say this one wasn’t as good as I remembered. His other books were better, and I have Naked on board for a reread and wonder if it’s as good too.
Then I tackled Manhattan Beach. After reading her Visit from the Good Squad earlier this year, I wanted to read this one badly. Her previous book was creative and well done. Sadly, I can’t say the same here. She has interesting scenes and even characters, but much of it is drawn out, overly detailed, and does little. It, again, could’ve been chopped down to a more digestible size. Sad.
I was happy to jump into Bright Lights, Big City—a book that has got notice for ages. He was part of a literary brat pack with Brett Easton Ellis, and reading it, I can see why. The story is unique—being in 2nd person –and captivating. Eventually, he delves into why the character is the way he is, but all of it comes of beautifully and believably. It was a short, fast read, but sadly it appears the author hasn’t done much sense, and suffers like many to stick to a genre or time frame that limits their creativity. For him, it’s the 80’s.
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry was next. It’s a famous book, one that I didn’t know much about. Apparently, it is part of a long series done over decades by the author. This one stands somewhat in the middle of the long line of books. What’s odd about this book is that it takes place roughly around the same time as Manhattan Beach, so the stark difference in writing and content is startling. The young protagonist who is the narrator does an amazing job at tying you into it even if it is well along in a series. Many complained about lack of character growth, which I don’t understand. It was fun, fast, and had the classic set-up all stories want.
Finished with one middle grade read, I moved onto another—Wolf Hollow. This book is actually the third by the author, but her first two books—written two decades ago and then a decade ago—garnered little attention, so many are calling this her debut. Although it is her first one for kids, the story follows a classic form, and draws you in quickly. The voice of the narrator is smooth, even though it wastes a lot of time every so often—then again, this is for kids. I liked it a lot.
Jumping from MG to adult fiction can be jarring, especially if the prose and vocabulary are that diametrically different as in Tobias Wolff’s Old School. I knew of this author for his This Boy’s Life, which I didn’t know was considered memoir. On the other hand, Old School is straight up fiction—his first, despite being an professor at Stanford since 1997. I thought this guy had much more underneath his belt before that, but I guess not. Still, it was an amazing read, full of fun. The one down note was the anti-climatic ending that many bitched about. I agree, it was a sour way to end such a riveting narrative.
Then I hit The Walking Dead Graphic Novels. I’ve watched the show up until the most recent ones and wanted to see how steadfast the creators were to the original. Many things play out the same, while others are batty strange. I’m enjoying this series immensely.
Lastly, I started Joe Hill’s graphic series Locke and Key. Initially, you need to give this tale a wide berth. There are many elements that need to be taken in, not to mention the abnormal story-telling. But as each character enlightens you, the fun of this colorful book comes out. Interesting start.
Progress on 2018 goals
1) Finish Brief Lives / Query / Synopsis: Done / 2 letters / halfway: Done
2) Chewy Noh (graphic novel): Done (with outline)
3) Student workbook: Done
4) Spring Reading:
Quixote: Not started
5) Read 100 books: 99—this total will probably be boosted up!
6) American Snowflakes: 50,000 words done
Next Month’s Agenda
Next month, I hope to get some headway on my novel, as well as have Don Quixote started, if not finished. I’ll keep plugging away at my read books—which appears to be growing exponentially. All in all, I see a busy month ahead.