Thursday, December 10, 2009

Some Recent Reads

OK, so here are a bunch of mini reviews/comments on some of the books that I have read recently, which probably means within the last couple of months, or so.  I am sure that I have missed a few.

Justin Cartwright - In Every Face I Meet

I still fail to understand why Justin Cartwright is not more famous.  He ought to be.  This book was short-listed for the Booker Prize.  It didn't win.  I am not certain that it should have won.  It's good, for sure, but not his best.  I still prefer White Lightning, but this is certainly a good book.  I'll give it an 8/10.

Jess Walter - Citizen Vince

I don't normally read crime fiction.  There might be crime in the fiction I read, but the genre is not something I normally check out.  I can't really say why that is.  It just is.  So, I read Citizen Vince mostly because I liked what was written on the back cover.  The blurb mentioned sex, drugs, prostitution - all good things, really.  It mentioned mobsters and a cross-country chase.  While it is true that all of these elements are part of this book, I have to say emphatically that the blurb is over-written.  That's not to say that I was disappointed. After all, the book is a lot more subtle than the blurb would have you believe.  The protagonist is not such a bad guy, for a bad guy.  He's truly reformed, though still earning some money on the side by means of a few illegal activities.  So, yes, he's a bad guy doing bad guy things, and yet we like him in a noirish way.  He's alright, in many ways, and one feels for his plight. The book is alright too, but I wouldn't suggest that you read it.  I would suggest that you read the blurb and then decide if you want to read it.  Just remember that the cover copy is over-written.  I give this book a 6.5/10. If you are one of those crime fiction readers, you would probably rate it higher, maybe even an 8.5/10.

Paul Quarrington - King Leary

Paul Quarrington could be my favourite Canadian writer.  Sadly, he has been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer.  I have read many of his books and recently read King Leary while on the train to Montreal. Leary won the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour.  Stephen Leacock was a funny Canadian writer who wrote lots of funny things, by the way.  This book is probably deserving of the award, as it is funny and a good read.  But, I have very little to go on, since the only other Leacock winner I have read is Jake and the Kid by W.O. Mitchell, but that was really read to me in public school by the teacher a long time ago.  I tried to read Barney's Version, another Leacock winner, but found it unbearably boring.  My fav Quarrington novel has to be Whale Music, but his best piece of writing is The Boy on the Back of the Turtle.  I give King Leary 8/10.

Jim Thompson - After Dark, My Sweet

I don't normally read crime fiction.  Wait, I already said that.  This book, however, might better be described as pulp fiction, but not in a Tarantino kind of way.  It may be that Jim Thompson has been overlooked as a writer, despite the evidence that he was on to something.  This book was made into a film.  I know, that's not really a good indicator of a book's relative value, but it is interesting to consider, especially when you note that other Thompson books were filmed as well. These books include The Grifters and The Getaway, which was filmed twice, I believe, the first time by Sam Peckinpah.

Anyway, I liked this piece of noir pulp fiction and I am thinking that I should locate the film.  I'll rate this book a 7.5/10.

Louis de Bernières - The War of Don Emmanuel's Nether Parts

This book is a satirical, magical, and hilarious look at a fictionalized nation in South America.  The writing is so genuinely terrific that it is a difficult book to put down.  Other words that might describe this book could be zany and beautiful and violent.  At the heart of this book is a parody of third world banana republics, filled with unusual characters and with hilarious yet poignant observations.  It might not be everyone's cup of tea, but I loved it.  I have almost finished the second book in the trilogy: Senor Vivo and the Coca Lord, which is funnier that it's predecessor.  The third and final book in the trilogy - The Troublesome Offspring of Cardinal Guzman - is waiting for me on my bookcase.  The first two books in this trilogy deserve a rating of 9.9/10.

Don Delillo - Falling Man

I never thought that it would happen, but Don DeLillo has finally penned a novel that I did not like.  Sure, there are the usual pieces of genius and his poetical use of the English language, but this book left me unimpressed.  Let me just say that the dialogue irritated me. No one speaks the way they do in this book.  It doesn't mater who the character is, everyone speaks in a jarring, fragmented fashion that is difficult to accept.  I appreciate what DeLillo is trying to achieve, but I am not convinced that he pulled it off.  For that, I have to give this a 6/10.

Graham Swift - Out of this World

This is perhaps a minor work from Swift and, while I think I enjoyed it, it really didn't stay with me.  I have no complaints, no praise, and not much at all to say about it.  The book is fine, but not at all out-of-this-world.  If you are planning to read Swift, better start somewhere else, say with Last Orders.  6.5/10 for this one.

Gao Xingjian - Buying a Fishing Rod for My Grandfather, Stories

Are these really stories?  They feel more like random pieces of prose.  I suppose that they qualify as both.  This is an entertaining book and it's extremely well-written.  It's enjoyable, but I didn't think too hard about what I was reading.  The words just flowed over me and I absorbed them.  8.5/10

1 comment:

tweetey30 said...

Have to admit these sound like good reads to me.. might check some of them out when i get back on my feet again...