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Monday, August 13, 2007

Book Review July 2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - J.K. Rowling

Borrowed? Smoke.

Recommended? Hey, it was a fun read! Only if you have plenty of time to spare, and an interest in light reading material.

Reread? No.

Imaginary Homelands - Salman Rushdie

Borrowed? No.

Recommended? Highly. It always amazes me how erudite and fluent a writer Rushdie is. This book has sat on my shelf for years, and now that I've read it, I'm really annoyed that I put it off so long. Witty, acerbic, well-read, and unbelievably good. Please read this book. You'll enjoy it unless you're a witless schlumpf, and maybe even then.

Reread? Definitely.

In My Dreams - Kassandra Kane

Borrowed? No.

Recommended? No. This is a book of lesbian erotica, but I've read much better lesbian erotica. It's really more like the journal of a particularly unliterary and unerotic lesbian. I don't want to trash the author. I think she tried to write her experience. Unfortunately, her experience is not terribly interesting. Pity. There's a real need for good lesbian erotica.

Reread? No.

Japanese Gods and Myths -

Borrowed? No.

Recommended? Only for people who have absolutely no knowledge of Japan, or Japanese culture. Most of the material was familiar to me, and from better sources. Lately, I've developed a deep need to read about myths, legends, and folktales, and this book was an unsatisfying excursion into that arena. You'll notice no author's name was attached to this book. That's because there wasn't one. Perhaps the person who put it together was embarrassed by the elementary level of the information?

Reread? Certainly not.

On Beauty - Zadie Smith

Borrowed? Smoke, of course, again.

Recommended? Oh, yes. Zadie Smith never fails to amaze as a writer. I didn't expect to like this book - it's about rather mundane people, a college professor of BeyondWhiteness and his African-American wife, and his three boring children, one of whom is an aspiring Christian of the worst sort (you know, the type that wants to cram it down everyone else's throats). It turned out to be an excellent book, a really interesting look at the lives of people who might not be like us at all, and who may, or may not, seem boring, commonplace, of little interest, but who have their own particular qualities that are very interesting. Kudos to Smith for producing a fine work of art, full of dialogue that sounds very real, and characters who, despite their flaws and sometimes outright unlikeability are, nonetheless, real in feel if not in fact.

Reread? Maybe.

Red Sorghum - Mo Yan

Borrowed? No.

Recommended? Oh, deity, yes. Read this book if you only have time to read one more book in your life. My god, what a terrific writer Mo Yan is. I saw the film that was based on this book, produced by Zhang Yi Mou, who is an amazing director/producer, and I thought, I must read the book. Now, usually when I read a book after seeing the film, I am disappointed in either the film or the book. This time, I was simply ravaged by both. The subject is China before and during World War II and, as you can well imagine, those were the worst of times and the worst of times. The book (and the film) are unflinching in showing the devastation and suffering that was inflicted upon the populace by the Japanese invasion, yet the writing and direction were both so great that despite the horrors, you end up enjoying both book and film. The story of that hideous war is told through the portrait of the narrator's mother, an amazing woman, strong, self-aware, and utterly admirable. And of his father, a sometimes drunken lout, but madly in love with his wonderful wife, and capable of heroic deeds (as well as pissing in the wine she made). God, it's a great book. It will leave you shaken to your roots.

Reread? Oh, hell, yes.

Sometimes A Great Notion - Ken Kesey

Borrowed? No. Lent.

Recommended? Er. I really did not care for this book. I've liked most of Kesey's work, and it was surprising to me that I found this book so difficult to get through, so uninteresting, so ... tedious. At any rate, I did not finish it, though I tried several times. I've handed it off to someone else, with the hope that they'll return it saying it was absolutely wonderful, and I'll try it again then.

Reread? Maybe. I'll try, anyway.

Tipping the Velvet - Sarah Waters

Borrowed? No.

Recommended? Yes. Well, I liked it. I know lots of people didn't, but really, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It's a description of the life of a lesbian in (I think) Victorian England. Well-written, for sure.

Reread? Maybe, if there's time.

Water for Elephants - Sara Gruen

Borrowed? Smoke.

Recommended? This is an excellent book about an elderly man reminiscing about his life in the circus. It's a page-turner, too, with a great sense of pace, a stunning power of description, unbelievable detail, yet never boring, a look at carny/circus life about a century ago, the card sharps and freaks, the oh-so-human pain and suffering and rough and tumble of people who make their living as nomads of the entertainment world. Well worth reading, too.

Reread? Probably not, but not for lack of interest.

You Shall Know Our Velocity - Dave Eggers

Borrowed? Smoke.

Recommended? This is the second work of the author's that I've read. I really didn't like the first, and I was afraid I wouldn't like this, either, but it turned out to be an OK experience. Interesting, though not brilliant. Enjoyable, if nothing to write home about. There's a certain lack of maturity in the writing that reveals itself as artificially constructed episodes of life happening to people it's hard to care about, if that makes any sense. In any event. Read it if you want to.

Reread? No.

Crossposted at CultureVultures, where all book, film, music, and art reviews will be posted, from now on.


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