October 03, 2004

On Books: September

Its that time again - time to look back at the books I plowed through the previous month and make some recommendations. I'm definitely headed in the right direction - July was a pretty bad month for books and August showed improvement. September continued the trend.

First up, and probably the book I can most recommend is Well by Matthew McIntosh. Its a novel but that term is used somewhat losely. This is a collection of seemingly random stories, chapters and sentences that all seem to support one central premise - despair. The back of the book describes the "well" as a place almost devoid of happiness. The bits and pieces collected here seem to bear that out. However, I think its more appropriate to think of "well" as a feeling...for which this book provides the antithesis. Tales of drug abuse, physical and mental abuse, suicide, alcoholism all weave together to tell a tale of residents of a Seattle neighborhood who are not, indeed, well...at all. As you can tell from my incoherent review, I'm not quite sure exactly what McIntosh has done here and yet whatever it is proved to be a moving novel despite its dive into the deep end of despair. Take some Prozac before reading...but definitely read it.

Donorboy by Brendan Halpin was next up. I can't begin to express how much I enjoyed this short yet big novel. Told entirely though journal entries (much like a blog), email and IM conversations, Halpin tackles a lot in a very short amount of time. Donorboy is the tale of a girl who's two moms are killed in an accident, after which her biological father (Donorboy) takes custody of her. Halpin has an incredible talent for voices - he writes convincingly as both girl and father and displays a remarkable sense of humor while managing to convey the gravity of the situations in which the characters find themselves. An excellent read, especially for bloggers such as us.

Garrison Keillor's Love Me proved to be the one dissappointment of the month. I'll preface by admitting that while I'm a Prarie Home Companion fan, I've never read anything he's written. This was my virgin foray into Keillor territory...and I wasn't all that impressed. Perhaps its because he deviated from Woebegon territory. Maybe it was the fact that I'd rather not picture Mr. Keillor, purveyor of innocent tales of small town life in the midwest having sex with numerous members of the opposite sex. Maybe its simply because the story was flat and only provided him with opportunities to riff. It wasn't bad - it just wasn't great.

Old School by Tobias Wolff provided a return to decent fiction. Set in an all-boy's private boarding school in the 1960's, the story revolves around one boy, his love of literature and his desire to meet Hemingway. Wolff uses the story in an interesting way, primarily to highlight thoughts and feelings about some of the prime literary movers and shakers of that time. Its dry in spots but ultimately satisfying.

Paul Auster's City of Glass, the first volume of his New York City trilogy, rounded out the month. I've always enjoyed Auster's work and this was no exception. The story itself is like a literary Escher sketch - it folds in on itself like the sketch Escher drew of the one hand drawing the other, providing whatever the literary equivalent of an optical illusion is. Yes, its a little odd. And ultimately, it may not yield as much satisfaction as you might hope. Yet its still very much worth reading.

Posted by Chris at October 3, 2004 10:01 AM

Again, Garrison Keillor's Love Me may have been flat and just over all kind of blahhhhh, but really? J.D. Salinger starring on Hollywood Squares made the whole book worth reading.

Posted by: RockStar Mommy at October 3, 2004 11:16 AM

Hey! I read Tobias Wolff's This Boy's Life. It was very good. I guess I should check out Old School as well.

Posted by: Maureen at October 3, 2004 01:54 PM

Chris...your grammatical errors make me want to cry. :P But then, I am an obsessive compulsive bitch. Anyway, I appreciate the reading reviews...someday I'll read novels again.

Posted by: Heather at October 3, 2004 03:09 PM

Ok, now you've made me need to go out and get Old School... I love Tobias Wolff, but he's been a bit blah the lasts couple of books.

Posted by: amber at October 3, 2004 04:05 PM

My gosh Heather talking about grammatical errors, whats with all of this "...." in between

Posted by: Maureen at October 3, 2004 08:17 PM

all I have to say is no should one come to my blog expecting grammatical perfection...there will be very little to be found.

I've been intrigued by Old School...simply because I love any story that takes place in a English boarding school. I am adding it to my 'Must Read' list!

Posted by: samantha at October 4, 2004 12:44 AM

I'm absolutely amazed at how much you read!

Posted by: DeAnn at October 4, 2004 04:42 AM

I just read "City of Glass" over the weekend, as part of Auster's "New York Trilogy". I love his style of writing - he's so descriptive.

Posted by: Zandria at October 4, 2004 07:50 AM

I love Paul Auster! :) Donorboy is now on my list.
I'm glad to know someone else who reads as much as I do!

Posted by: tulip at October 4, 2004 09:26 AM