Friday, February 22, 2008

A Little Light Reading

Having finally succumbed to the flu, or some fever/cold variation thereof, I have spent the day on the couch, dozing, fending off children, dealing with work crises by phone, and reading The New Yorker and Gossip Girl (first volume).

Re: New Yorker: found the McCain article kind of fascinating, though strangely empty--but maybe I am the one who is empty, because I also found the Louis Auchincloss profile (not, alas, on line) quite odd. For the first half, it was like why are you profiling this guy? He is just not very interesting, even if he has written 64 books. But then the profile takes a turn toward Groton (the school, not the town or the submarine base) which is quite fascinating, and really she should have written a piece about the history and legacy of Groton (to which I could contribute tales of college friends who really were the WASPiest of the preppiest of the preppy WASPs).

Re: Gossip Girl. Why do I feel like I've already read this? Maybe because I watched the first two episodes of the show? Or did I flip through it in a bookstore? Anyway, it's a bit of a slog, but maybe that's the flu... M likes it.

I've actually been meaning to write a reading post for a while, but now I'm not even sure I can remember what I've read, or what I've abandoned.

I abandoned this because geographical realism cannot trump plot banality; indeed, plot banality shows the inadequacy of geographical realism (click on that link, C, you'll laugh). Actually, wait a second, I did not abandon it, I skimmed it, because I wondered what would happen, though I could tell from scene one that it was going to be bad (never trust a novel with a first scene set in a college creative writing class).

I abandoned this because it was boring and pompous. She wants to be the George Eliot of Morningside Heights, but it just ain't happening. And you'd think I would have known better after abandoning her previous book, but I guess I'm not such a quick learner.

There's something else I think I abandoned. Well, I'm still stuck in Valencia, which made me wonder if I really did love Michelle Tea, but then I read Rent Girl and loved it, which made me think I like Michelle Tea when she's being thoughtful about sex, class, and gender, but not when she's just chasing girls around the Mission in the early 90s, but then again, maybe I am just a voyeur, because the sex trade is not something I know so much about from personal experience, whereas I was very much in proximity to the Mission dyke scene in the early 90s.

I'll try really hard to write about Without a Map without using the words elliptical, lyrical, limpid, or pellucid, but it will be hard. This birth mother memoir (Dawn, do you know this one?) is absolutely beautiful, despite, or maybe alongside? its depiction of terrible pain. I'm not quite sure why it took me so long to read, because it did, or why I don't have much to say about it, because I don't, unless the problem is denying myself those adjectives, but, really, this is a great book.

And I continued the Ian McEwan investigation with Amsterdam, which also took me a long time to read. Like all late McEwan, Amsterdam is technically brilliant, but it's oddly--almost disturbingly--mean-spirited. I wonder if Atonement is his one GREAT novel, but he got the Booker for this one because they didn't know he'd write Atonement, and then they couldn't give him the Booker again so soon thereafter, so they were screwed. Really, though, if you want a book that covers similar aesthetic and ethical ground, with more sympathy and spirit, try The Line of Beauty.

Oh man, I don't know where this post came from, and I hope it's coherent, but it has wiped me out. Back to the couch (actually, I've been on the couch all along). This may be it for a while, though I have a slight hope that maybe this won't be as bad as E's, since I don't seem as sick as E was. Then again, I have been liberally dosing with Advil, which she refused (her fever finally broke in the middle of the night last night, exactly 96 hours since it came on--in my feverish sleep, it was at least a small comfort to feel her recovering.) (Wow, really milking the melodrama there, eh?)


Dawn said...

Yes, I read Without a Map and I also kept getting in from the library thinking I *didn't* read it and then rereading it part of the way and going, "Wait I read this already!" I don't know why I kept doing this except the title sounds like tons of other books and I'd always thinking, "I probably read one of the other books besides this is about ADOPTION so I will love it!" And then I get it home and am disappointed. And then I thinking, "I should really buy a copy" but I only buy books at thrift stores etc etc.

Jenny Davidson said...

Hope you feel better. I too am coming down with some sort of respiratory ailment, very annoying! I just had one 2 weeks ago...

landismom said...

Hmm, now I'm wondering if our paths crossed in the Mission dyke scene of the early 90s.