Friday, August 25, 2017

Reading roundup

Oh boy, am I behind on my book reports! From best to worst...

The Beginning of Spring
Penelope Fitzgerald
This little novel is full of little mysteries, and bits of wisdom. You'll learn a little about the art of printing, circa 1913, and a little about Russian politics of the same era. Mostly you'll learn a good bit about the beating human heart of Frank Reid, the English printer whose story this is. Not a single letter of type is wasted in this exquisite book.

The Moonstone

Wilkie Collins
The first (1868) and best detective novel ever? Some have said so. I wouldn't know, but I can report that it's very funny, socially astute (for its time), cleverly composed, and highly entertaining from start to finish.


Paul Beatty
Beatty's latest novel The Sellout won the Man Booker Prize, but it was checked out at the library, so I settled for Slumberland. The narrator-protagonist is an African-American DJ in Berlin in search of the perfect beat, around the time of the fall of the Wall. The writing is virtuosic and smart-ass and full of inside jokes and references that would appeal to an American music fan of a certain age. A mysterious, reclusive Ornette Coleman or Sun Ra-type plays a central role. As a meditation on race and racism, the book's conceits sometimes get the better of it, but it's still a good read.

The Idiot
Elif Batuman
This coming-of-age tale of a Turkish-American Harvard first-year garnered much praise from some critics. I found the plot soporific, the characters annoying, the attempts at humor largely unfunny, and the writing pedestrian. Then again, it's quite possible that the deeper Dostoyevskian allusions flew right over my head.

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