The Quarterly Book Report: Daylight Savings Time (R.I.P.) Edition

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Wulp, months after the first two installments on watermelons, I’m still not happy with my thoughts on immigration. I’ll try to post them before the end of the year. My thesis statement so far is: we need migrant farm workers, legal or otherwise; and, all consumers of fruit products in the US is responsible for this need, even those who oppose the idea of workers who are here illegally. Seriously, I’ll try to post an entire thingy sometime soon – that way JU can preach to me about social contracts and whathaveyou.

Short notes on books I’m either reading or have read recently that are worth noting.

The Stolen Child, by Keith Donohue. This is a fairy-tale of sorts. There are these “changeling” creatures who steal children. A changeling becomes the child. The child becomes a changeling and lives with the other changelings until such a time as it is their turn to steal a child and become human again. Decent book, although the concept of it is better than the actual book (I didn’t really do the concept justice here, but whatever). This is Donohue’s first novel, I believe, and his idea for a book is good. Hopefully he’ll develop the writing skills to back up his very interesting concepts. It’s worth at least looking at in the bookstore.

Black Swan Green, by David Mitchell. This is an excellent book. The narrator is a young boy, a nerd with a stuttering problem. Mitchell is an under-appreciated writer, I think. I’ve read a couple of his other books, and he seems to be able to write about anything and do it well. I love this book so far because you can feel the ache in the young boy – he wants to be accepted by the cool kids, he wants to be accepted by his family. I highly recommend this book.

Only Revolutions, by Mark Danielewski. This novel is proof that absolutely anything can get published. It is the lighthouse on the shore for any novelist lost at sea. That it is a finalist for the National Book Award, though, is just sad. Because it means that someone on Danielewski’s staff slept with someone from the committee. And I hate it that our literary awards have come down to prostitution. A brief exerpt: “Prairie Coneflowers glipper too while bristling Dandelions parachute away seed. I’m sooooo from these uplands, wide fell and dome. From corries and chines. From the freezeloss and slowwash slushgushing out of basins and brooks to miles of Nothern Rock Jasmine growing: – Hello.” I don’t like providing quotations without context, but really, there is no context to provide. It’s three hundred pages of these sorts of descriptions. Don’t get me wrong, I actually like the sound of that line. Dandelions parachuting is a great image. But this is a book of images and pretty sounding lines. None of which actually make sense in relation to each other. As JU once told me, life is too short to read bad books. Maybe if I had time to try to make sense of this book, it’d be great. But I really just want my $25 U.S. back.

The Zero, by Jess Walters. Buy this book. That it is a finalist for the National Book Award gives me hope that the process of award-giving isn’t completely corrupted. The book is kind of mystery. But the mystery is really the lead character trying to figure out what’s going on in his life. He was a policeman on the scene when the planes flew into the WTC. His life has more or less gone to bits since then, and he’s hired by some secret agency to do some secret work. Problem is, he has “lost moments.” He’ll wake to find himself in a meeting with one of his bosses – a meeting he had apparently asked for – and not know how he got there or what the meeting is about. Even if the story weren’t good, which it is (again, I’m shortchanging the concept here in the interest of time), the characters are amazing. Some of the best imagined characters in a book I’ve read in a long time.

The Children’s Hospital, by Chris Adrian. This may be the best book I’ve read since One Hundred Years of Solitude. I love it. I have to make myself not read it. It’s kind of a re-telling of The Flood story and the Creation story. Except Eden is a Children’s Hospital and Eve is a woman named Jemma who does drugs and cusses and gets her swerve on outside the bonds of marriage. It’s a funny book. I’m only one-third of the way through it, but it’d have to go terribly wrong for me to dislike it at this point. It’s had too many good things happen so far. And Adrian is an amazingly talented writer.

A couple of musical notes.

I’m listening to a band called Big Silver (album: Afterlife) right now. I think they’re technically labeled alt-country, although they sound like a pop band to me. Good stuff. Give them a listen on iTunes, if you can.

The new The Killers Album, Sam’s Town, is worth listening to. I like them despite their not really being that good of a band. They’re fun. And they’re fun to listen to.

Jay-Z, in case you missed the commercials, has a new album coming out later this month. Am I the only one excited? Itching to buy it, is what I am. I’m a sucker for Jay-Z

A couple of Halloween notes.

I’m no longer surprised that the majority of costumes for women involve wearing very little clothing, although the “slutty angel” at school today did take me aback. Note to women: men have pretty good imaginations. It’s almost insulting. Costumes for men seem to revolve around dressing as someone (like a doctor, say) that allows them to ask if they can touch women. None of this is surprising to me. What is surprising to me is the number of people who think their costume idea is unique.

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18 Responses to “The Quarterly Book Report: Daylight Savings Time (R.I.P.) Edition”

  1. Al Sturgeon Says:

    Hey Mikey, my lack of reading is delightfully offset by my great enjoyment reading your reviews. Maybe you could write an entire book of in-process reviews, and maybe that could warrant a nomination for the National Book Award? Or would your slutty angel friend need to be involved?

    I’m always trying to read two books at a time. For now:

    #1: The Ersatz Elevator by Lemony Snicket. I’m racing a 9-yr old friend through these 13 books. I’m on book 6, and he’s on book 12. I have to say that I love reading these books, however!

    #2: The Unnecessary Pastor by Eugene Peterson and Marva Dawn. Definitely not my favorite Peterson book so far, but I’m only about 1/3 of the way through.

  2. juvenal_urbino Says:

    The Zero is also laugh-out-loud funny, IMHO, which probably isn’t true for most 9/11 novels.

    I’ll have to check out Big Silver.

  3. Michael Lasley Says:

    Al — HA! When I write my book, I won’t need a slutty angel to get me nominated. I read the first three Lemony Snicket books and have plans to finish the series at some point. So don’t spoil the ending for me. I’ve not read any Peterson. I’ll have to get on that.

    JU — agreed about The Zero. And Big Silver really is worth checking out. I’ve listened to Afterlife a couple of more times this morning.

  4. juvenal_urbino Says:

    Maybe you should do a 9/11 novels in-process review. I can think of 3 others: Updike, Roth, and McEwan. There must be more, though.

  5. Michael Lasley Says:

    I’ve started to do something of the sort with books by Foer, McEwan, and McInerny (and seems like someone else as well). But I haven’t gotten around to it yet.

  6. juvenal_urbino Says:

    I guess Cormac McCarthy’s new one would fit in that category, as well.

    BTW, the skimpy Halloween outfits must be a college girl thing. Or maybe it just hasn’t arrived here.

  7. Sandi Says:

    I have definitely noticed the skimpy Halloween costumes trend. Fortunately, I never had an opportunity to participate during my days of skimpy clothing (now long past). I think it’s of a piece with all the other aspects of what Ariel Levy calls “raunch culture” that for some reason young women seem to think is empowering to them. I have the feeling they will change their minds about this as they get older and hopefully wiser. As for me, I just feel sorry for those women and breathe a sigh of relief that I’m not part of that world.

  8. Michael Lasley Says:

    I agree, Sandi, that part of it is a raunch culture. I also think a lot of it has to do with self-esteem — a lot of women on the campuses of my two most recent colleges think this is the only way to get attention from guys. (Also, women lined up to get mammograms and whatnot from the men in doctors’ costumes — which again sends the message that sex is the only way to get attention from men.)

    It’s just odd that I live in a beach town where I’m used to seeing people walk around in bikinies. Half-naked people are kind of the norm. So it was more than just lots of skin. It seemed to be a contest of who could look the naughtiest.

    JU — It probably is more of a college thing. Or maybe it’s just an Eastcoast / Westcoast thing that hasn’t found its way to the Heartland yet.

  9. juvenal_urbino Says:

    Based on that snippet, the Danielewski reads kinda like Finnegan’s Wake. Maybe that’s why it’s getting attention from the NBA people — it’s hipexperimentaljoycean. (Although not really all that hip or experimental, since Joyce already did that experiment and it was, like, a hundred years ago.)

  10. Michael Lasley Says:

    It does remind me of Joyce somewhat, what with the playfulness with words and whatnot. But, yeah, like, Joyce wrote FW in, say, 1920-something? Plus, just thumb through it at the bookstore sometime. It’s almost unreadable, as half the story is upside down on the page. So you have to turn the book over and over (revolving it, that clever Danielewski). Plus, Joyce occassionally threw a plot or at least an interesting scene into his books, even if they didn’t follow a traditional narrative arc. But there’s really nothing but pretty words to the Danielewski book, from what I can tell.

  11. juvenal_urbino Says:

    It’s almost unreadable, as half the story is upside down on the page. So you have to turn the book over and over

    Really? I was doing that on h.s. graduation invitations 20 yrs. ago, and none of the recipients nominated me for a major literary prize. How dense must they have been?

  12. Michael Lasley Says:

    Well, obviously you weren’t sleeping with the right people.

  13. juvenal_urbino Says:

    Truer words were never spoken.

  14. juvenal_urbino Says:

    Back to the Joyce thing, though. Isn’t it interesting that new books trying to do the same thing as Ulysses or Finnegan’s Wake are still considered tres avant garde? I mean, seriously, Joyce did do that 100 yrs. ago. And Stein. And Woolf and Faulkner and so forth.

    It was an interesting and useful experiment, but it’s been done. I’m not saying people shouldn’t explore that approach further. I’m just saying it seems odd that it’s still revered as new and edgy.

    For my money, if you’re going to try to follow in Joyce’s footsteps, take Dubliners as your paradigm of hope. If you do that well, you’ll really have something worth reverence.

  15. Michael Lasley Says:

    Agreed on all points, JU. From what I understand about Danielewski’s book, he is doing a play on stream-of-consciousness or inner dialogue or whatever you wanna call it. I’ve not actually heard the term used when discussing it, but I’ve not read any reviews of it (at least not in the past couple of weeks).

    He also has these little newspaper type headlines on each page for each day. Let’s you know what was going on on that particular day in the world. Or a song lyric or movie scene or something that places the novel in a specific moment in time. ‘Cause the novel jumps around in time, I believe.

    Which, actually, might make the book a bit more compelling, experimentally speaking, in that it would be a mixture of the experiments in High Modernism (Ulysses) and Postmodernism (fracturing the narrative with multiple voices and distractions and whathaveyou).

    But, yeah, whatever. Stream-of-consciousness was revolutionary in its time, as Joyce and Woolf and Faulkner were writing in ways that no one’d ever really thought of writing before. Now it’s just headache inducing. For my taste.

  16. Michael Lasley Says:

    And now I feel really smart for my last comment. This from Library Journal: “A pastiche of Joyce and Beckett, with heapings of Derrida’s Glas and Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49 thrown in for good measure, Danielewski’s follow-up to House of Leaves is a similarly dizzying tour of the modernist and postmodernist heights—and a similarly impressive tour de force.

  17. Michael Lasley Says:

    Except the Library Journal must have forgotten that dizzying things can also be headache/vomit inducing.

  18. juvenal_urbino Says:

    And tiresome. “Hey, look at me! I’m clever! I’m clever!”

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