Saturday, May 31, 2014

20. The Beginner's Goodbye

By Anne Tyler (198 pp)

I haven't read Anne Tyler in years. I loved Breathing Lessons. I think my copy is still around here somewhere. I was at the library and decided to grab one of her more recent books. One thing I always liked about Tyler was that her style is deceptively simple. I thought this book was just simple. I wonder if a first time novelist was trying to shop this around if s/he would get anywhere. It's about a sort-of sad sack kind of guy in a quirky marriage and the wife dies unexpectedly. (Not a spoiler, the death is mentioned on the first page.) The story is about him dealing with his grief. Did not work for me.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

19. Me Before You

By Jojo Moyes (369 pp)

My cousin recommended this to me and I guess I was mixed up about the subject because it was a total surprise. It's set in a small town in England where the main economic enterprise is a tourist attraction castle. The main character is a young woman without a lot of drive who loses her job at the local diner. She gets a job as a helper to a man who is a quadriplegic after an accident. And they both open up each other's lives. I loved the setting and all the characterization especially Louisa's family.

Friday, May 23, 2014

18. Yellow Medicine Review (Spring 2014)

Carter Meland ed.,  (210 pp)

This is an indigenous literary journal that I am appearing in for the second time. It should be available at  their website and at Amazon shortly. This is a collection of poems, stories and prose pieces and a lot of them are terrific. My favorites were Benjamin Burgess's The Kennewick Chronicles: 101 Ways to Explain Kennewick Man's Pelvic Projectile Wound (hilarious, if not obvious by the title), Hans Carlson's Strangers Still, and the Land Nearly Devoured (about land stewardship and the Cree), and Carol Miller's Twilight exile: Elders, Aging, and an American Indian Family (about dealing with her aging parents.) My story is called, Reservation Jobs and I will post it on my website eventually.  I wish it were easier to find YMR out in the world because lots of interesting contemporary Indian stories that I bet would find an audience.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

17. S.

By Doug Dorst and JJ Abrams (456 pages)

My sister-in-law gave me this book. It looks like an old library book complete with damaged spine and dewey decimal sticker. The book is filled with margin notes and inserts like maps and newspaper cuttings. I love this kind of book. I told my sister about it and she ran out and bought a copy, too.

Sadly, it did not work for me.

Problem #1 is that I do 90% of my reading on the bus or right before bed. Didn't seem like a good choice for the bus with the inserts.

Problem #2 is how to read it. There is the book itself. Then there are the margin notes which are between a grad student and an undergrad and there are several timelines. There is story about a mystery concerning the book and its author that they are investigating and also a story about the two of them getting to know each other. So it's like if you set several books side by side and read one page of each and then repeat. This reader found it a challenge, after a long day and a couple of glasses of wine, to keep up with what was going on.

I started this in January and I've been trying to carve out chunks of time where I could get into it.

Which brings us to Problem #3. I didn't find any of the stories particularly compelling. The book itself was like a boring book you had to read for school. The academic mystery wasn't interesting and didn't feel genuinely urgent. And the exchange between the students, while feeling very authentic, made me want to poke my eyes out. Their communication style was, "Um, some people are kinda sensitive aren't they?" "You're one to talk."  I did not care how they ended up.

I thought I was reading toward some sort of interesting revelation so I stuck with it and I was disappointed. I looked online for some sort of summary to help me figure out what I read and holymoly. There are huge sites that dissect this thing to pieces. Check out this page that helps figure out the puzzle part (unlikely that looking at this will spoil anything) and tell me if you can understand it. I can't imagine being that interested.

I wish I was more excited about it because the presentation is amazing.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

16. This Is How You Lose Her

By Junot Diaz (217 pp)

This was a birthday gift. (Thanks Jennifer!) (She will never see this.) For some unknown reason I thought it was a YA book. If you've ever read Diaz you will know how ridiculous this is since his writing has a ton of sex and slang, and as they say: mature situations, in it. This is a book of short stories and they are terrific.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

15. Dreadful Dystopian YA That Will Go Unnamed

By Inexperienced Author (265 pp ebook)

Have I ever told the story about my cousin and Family Circus? She hates Family Circus because it's never funny. On Sundays someone would hold the comics section of the paper (this was 20 years ago) and say, "Family Circus is funny today." And she would say, "Let me see," and then read it and toss the paper aside and say, "No it's not. It's never funny."

WHY DO I KEEP READING THESE TERRIBLE YA BOOKS? I hear somewhere that they're good. The story elements sound interesting. And then I start reading.

First person, present tense. Weak characterization. Conflict consists of petty arguments that go on for pages. "Should we tell him?" "Don't tell him!" "Tell me what?" (repeat for 10 pages) Cliched writing: guttural cries, chills go up and down spines, stomachs clench and unclench. Plot issues are resolved by someone guessing a password or escaping an impenetrable fortress via a conveniently forgotten staircase or easily locating and administering life-saving medicine from an abandoned hospital. And scenes have details that sound like they came from watching TV or Wikipedia. Implausible police interrogations, medical procedures or military operations.

Do not recommend.