Thursday, August 05, 2010

From there to here

I'm having a hard time carving out some time to write in any reflective kind of way. I've been back from away for days, but tired, stressed, and busy.

In particular there are two books I finished reading before leaving and want to write about. You Lost Me There, by Rosecrans Baldwin, which was wonderful in ways I didn't expect it to be, and Remainder, by Tom McCarthy, which is mindfuckingly amazing. (Stay tuned for more!)

And I finished reading The Passage (all 800+ pages!). The pacing is good, and the characters are (mostly) believable, and ohmygod postapocalyptic biofreak vampires! so it's a good summer read, or long train ride read, or stormy night read, or snowbound winter cabin read (I'm guessing). I'll definitely be reading whatever books follow this one in the series, and I'll probably even see the movie.

I saw some clip of an interview with author Justin Cronin in which he discusses the book's genesis and the tradition he sees it following, being somewhat epic adventure, like, for example, Jules Verne (or am I confusing this with the China Miéville interview I saw? or was that element common to both?), but it's got me wondering, what kind of book is this really?, it's not exactly literary, but it's a far cry "better" than many a blockbuster à la Dan Brown (but how? by what objective criteria?), and I'd like to think this book will be read and enjoyed 100 years from now, maybe not as the cream of the literary crop, and not as some obscure gem, but as something people, real people, read and enjoyed, and it's pretty good dammit, and I wonder is this, say, Dumas-calibre? I mean: an adventure story! with heroes and villains and moral ambivalence and romance!

The vampires, I'll point out, are wholly original vampires, and I shouldn't even call them that — they're referred to as "virals." They are the result of biogenetic manipulation gone wrong, and have no relation to Vlad the Impaler and myths of that ilk, barring a few superficial similarities (but virals love garlic — you can set traps with it). I think Cronin owes a lot to Anne Rice (will people read Anne Rice 100 years from now?), actually, in terms of the vampire/viral sense of "family" and their manner of connection/communication.

(Note to self, apropos of nothing: Read Stephen King's The Stand someday before I die. No, I haven't read any Stephen King.)

There was only one expedition to a bookstore while we were away (I shouldn't call it that. Really, it was an expedition to get mommy an espresso-based beverage, the site of which caffeine-proffering establishment is on the premises of a bookstore, so I had to take a gander...), and I picked up only something for the kid, In a Dark, Dark Room and Other Scary Stories, by Alvin Schwartz, which was a big hit, in particular the story of "The Green Ribbon." Helena's reading skills are better in French than in English, so it's a coup for me, a huge relief, to find something that both involves and challenges her in a language I can more easily relate to her in.

My sister was lovely enough to bring me The Dud Avocado, by Elaine Dundy, which I've been wanting for ages, but then my daughter was careless enough (but no, it's not her fault, it's an accident of circumstance) to set a sopping wet paper towel beside it on the table on which it was resting, so the back third of it now is pretty severely warped, and this made me sad and angry, but I'm past it, it's still the same book I want to read, with all the same words, all still legible, a beautiful book, it's what's on the inside that counts.

The week (that is, the week since I've been home already) being what it was, I thought I deserved to treat myself to a book, and I specifically had in mind Beside the Sea, by Véronique Olmi, the reviews of which are overwhelmingly good (see for example, 1, 2, 3), but a little internet legwork showed I wouldn't find a copy within a reasonable radius of here, and not wanting to wait for one to be delivered, I decided, I'm smart enough to handle this in its original language (hah!), so today I got off the metro a station early to check out the French bookstore, and now I have for my very own a slim volume containing 2 novellas: Bord de mer / Numéro six. I've read a couple pages, I get the gist, but I know I'm missing out on nuances. We'll see how it goes...


claire said...

Mindfuckingly amazing is good enough for me! I'm rushing out to Chapters to get a bargain copy! There's also another McCarthy title there, also on sale.. "Men in Space".. are you going to read it? Not sure but I think I read somewhere it was his first novel.

And sorry about your Dud Avocado.. I would feel bad too.. but as my kids would say, "Mom, people are more important than books!" Lol. I get that a lot.

Cipriano said...

Just wanted to mention [your parenthetical comment, "apropos of nothing"] I have read King's The Stand and yes, I do recommend you read it sometime prior to dying.
PLUS, I clicked on the image of The Unit and was led to a synopsis and wow -- that sounds like a zinger of a novel. I've added it to my Wishlist and look forward to your comments on it.

Stefanie said...

Welcome back! I have read and enjoyed The Stand. It gets kind of long sometimes, but overall it is quite good.