Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The stack

Pictured in random order, but described in a particular order according to a logic I couldn't possibly begin to explain to anyone.

(I've already actually read a couple of these, but they're still in the stack as books I have to contend with (write about, shelve, pass on to someone else). It may not look like much of a stack, but it's enough to make me feel daunted — I've gotten pretty good at not acquiring books I don't actually mean to read fairly immediately. Sure, I have a shelf of book I haven't gotten to in years, but I do my best not to let it grow.)

The Locust and the Bird: My Mother's Story, by Hanan Al-Shaykh. This was a review copy and I'm not sure why I accepted it because it didn't sound like the sort of thing I would ordinarily read. But! It was captivating! I was not familiar with the author's name, but apparently she's quite revered for her short stories. I was a bit put off by the prologue, which sets up how this book came to be; there was a lot of ego (both Hanan's and her mother's) and little humility. But I guess it speaks to the author's skill that she took me past that and so convincingly channeled her mother's story, about growing up as a woman, and a free-spirited one, in Lebanon in the middle of the last century, with fairy-tale-like exuberance. (Here's a great review.)

The Mystery Guest: An Account, by Grégoire Bouillier. Along with the Greene and Mann below, these are books I ordered for myself just because I really wanted them, and I'd put it off long enough. (The trailer for this book is among the first I ever saw, and still my favourite.) It's a kind of memoir, about a guy who overthinks the significance of every single social gesture or nongesture, particularly as relating to the girl who dumped him with no explanation (I'd've dumped him too). See this review for more details. The book is charming and funny, even while the narrator is a bit of a weenie. At 132 pages it makes for a great read on a rainy Sunday afternoon (which it did this past weekend, between turkey cooking and card-playing).

The End of the Affair, by Graham Greene. I hear it's devastatingly good, and I quite liked Brighton Rock this past summer.

The Magic Mountain, by Thomas Mann. This is my own personal next project as a close and careful read, or as much like it as I can muster. I've been wanting to get to it for some time, as I myself have a tale of a magic mountain. I've been even more keen on Mann since coming across (via Maud Newton) this quotation from a 1955 interview:

The basic theme on which I've tried to play all my variations is the problem of the artist, the contrast between the excitement of beauty and the demands of life; between, if you will, the ab- or super-normal poetic vision and the normal necessity of catching the eight o'clock bus. My theme is also the paradox that the vision could never live without the opposing necessity since it must be inspired by it.


Geek Love, by Katherine Dunn. I picked this up at our fundraising book sale at work. I'm certain some bloggers have raved about this book in the past, but I can't remember who. Was it you?

Wake, by Robert J Sawyer. I won this book about a week ago (and so far, this is the best reason I can figure to join Twitter: the contests). I find Sawyer has his ups and downs; the ideas in his novels can be awesome, but the writing at times brings it down. In some books, the dialogue was hopeless, and the characterization of women and relationships was less then believable; but he fares better than many genre writers. I've read a few chapters already — while I'm not convinced that Sawyer has the voice of a 15-year-old girl down, the story has a cool concept and I do want to know how it turns out.

The Museum of Innocence, by Orhan Pamuk. To be released October 20. I have a review copy. For which I am dropping everything. First sentence: "It was the happiest moment of my life, thought I didn't know it."
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