Sunday, June 30, 2013

19. Best American Short Stories 2005

Michael Chabon, ed. (397 pp.)

I love these collections. I've been reading them for years. I don't keep them, though, because they take up too much space. That would be a great idea to sell the entire collection electronic version. Maybe they do. I'm too lazy to look it up. Probably too many rights issues to make it work.

Even though I love them I rarely read them from start to finish. I tend to read a few stories and then put them away. There are at least a half dozen story and essay collections like this on my shelf. It's taken me years to finish this volume.

I thought almost all of the stories were terrific. Tom Bissell, "Death Defier" made the biggest impression on me and unfortunately I read it right before I went to sleep and then I had insomnia issues and unsettling thoughts. But it's quite a story. It was originally published in the Virginia Quarterly Review, v.80 n.3, Summer 2004. If you have access to literary databases (public library!) you should check it out.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

18. Freedom

By Jonathan Franzen (562 pp)

We saw Franzen at Arts & Lectures during the last season and I liked him a lot. I told Bob I wanted to read one of his books and a hardcover copy of Freedom appeared on my nightstand. As I have said on many occasions, I do 90% of my reading on the bus and I kept putting off starting this because it's huge and because I didn't want to be dragging it on the bus for a month and I'm too cheap to buy an electronic copy of a book we already own. Last week, I decided to give it a shot and what do you know? I was sucked in immediately and ended up spending half the weekend on the couch finishing this book.

I have a million thoughts about it and I wish I had the time and brain juice to write them all out because I think it would be a good exercise for me. I've become so lazy about doing any personal thinking project that requires more than two brain cells rubbing together. But the weekend is almost over and my garden needs some attention and I have a few administrivia items that I need to wrap up so this is the short version.

The writing is amazing and there were only a few moments when the book felt a little long. There were a number of passages where different characters experienced emotional moments that I have felt, and thought were deeply personal and exclusive to me.  At the same time there were bits that I thought implausible and I had some trouble with the women characters. Overall: huge recommend.