Monday, March 23, 2009

Recently Read and Reading

1. "Shantaram" by Gregory David Roberts (Australian becomes armed robber to support heroin habit, is sent to jail for 20 years, escapes after 10, ends up in Bombay (Mumbai) where he opens a free medical clinic for the slum dwellers, and then ends up in the Bombay mafia, and that's only me halfway through the book.) - Page turner in the extreme. Loving it despite far too much purple prose. Turns out I'm not alone: Wikipedia claims that both Russell Crowe and Johnny Depp expressed interest in buying the book's rights to make it into a movie.

2. "A Prayer for Owen Meany" by John Irving - finished it because Ai loved it and we usually have the same taste. Also, considered one of his best, and I had remembered really enjoying a few older Irving novels I read, and the movie version of "The Cider House Rules". Didn't love "Owen". Wasn't blown away by it. Not much more to say. I feel like I missed something. Also, and this might well be the main problem, it never went where I wanted it to go.

3. "Tokyo Fiancee" by Amelie Nothombe - Nothombe has style, and that's what I loved here, that and her accurate take on Japanese culture. Her ego and humor and depth of thinking is enough to get you through the book, but by the end I was tired of the writer's ego. (Still, I'd pick up another of her, like, 17 novels, or something ridiculous - Nothombe's only forty-something.)

4. "Mysteries of Pittsburgh" by Michael Chabon - This was Michael Chabon's first novel. I read this because I loved the movie of his second book "Wonder Boys," I thought "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay" was great fun, and because though I didn't enjoy his last, "The Yiddish Policeman's Union" (sorry Dan) I hoped since "Mysteries" was Chabon's first novel it would have more heart and a little less clever. I couldn't even finish "Yiddish Policeman" because it was so clever, the whole thing just seemed like one big wink, a joke, a really great trick - but I'm not into 500 pages of clever. I need heart with my brain and I was hoping that going back to Chabon's first book I might find that. No such luck. Wicked talent for writing, great sentences, original, impressive, and an ideas guy extraordinaire - so inventive - but like the "Yiddish Policeman," I didn't buy into almost any of what was happening in "Mysteries". It was like, instead of being transported to Oz, I couldn't stop/help seeing the man behind the curtain.

[Desert Island #5, coming this week, is much heart and the masterful ability to cut down, to severly cut down on clever, to the point where it seems simple]

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