Thursday, September 23, 2004

The operation of grace in the material world

That's what the narrator on the last page realizes he's been looking for. It ends well. Not happy or even just, not particularly the wiser, but rather graceful.

I wanted to write something smart about Jane Smiley's Good Faith, which I finally finished reading, but I'm sick and not thinking clearly, besides which I really only just wanted to document the fact of having read it here, which makes 20-something books this calendar year to date, which means I haven't a chance in hell of making the year average out at 1 book per week, but still, 1 every 2 weeks ain't bad.

The book was breezy and mostly believable. The characters were rich and complicated — I still wonder what really made them tick, not because they had contradictions or shortcomings but because they were human.

Real estate in the early 80s. Small-town America. The Reagan years. Something about greed and money, but refreshingly it's not a big city story. It's big fish in a small pond dreaming about making the big deal.

It's written in the first person though, from a male perspective, by a woman. And I always find this jarring. Particularly the sex scenes. They somehow didn't ring true. (I wonder if I'd feel the same way if I hadn't known the name of the author, if it weren't plastered across the cover.)

The narrator, nice-guy Joe, is a bit of an idiot about some things, and you know his "friend" is a slimeball, and you want to shake him and open his eyes to the way these "deals" are going, but you just know he wouldn't listen to you anyway. We all keep a variety of people in our lives; they're not necessarily good for us.

The sleazy snake is ex-IRS, so he has a lot of theories about how money works and how to hide it from the government. Just like Joe, we never get to know him quite as well as we'd like to.

Reviews all over were generally positive (but no gushing). I'm not sorry to have spent my time on this one.

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