Here is a chronological list of how I read the books. Sometimes there were reasons for choosing, and sometimes I just stuck my hand in my box-o-books and picked out the next one. This review will be in parts because it started to get a leeeetle long.
First up was America Pacifica because I had gotten it on my kindle and our fucking mail man delivered my box-o-books to someone in an entirely different building though the address was correct. So I got antsy and needed reading material.
- The first half of the book is beautifully written. It plays on my ever-mounting fears that we are 1) killing the planet and 2) will suffer greatly for it. I enjoy that it doesn’t go with the (now) stereotypical global warming fear, and yet still tackles the social responsibility of handling the planet. Anna North creates an amazing alternative world with inventive fixes for real problems. When you’re writing about an entirely different environment landscape I think it’s hard to not default to vagueness. How do people build things? What do they eat? What do they wear? What are the societal structures? There are some holes that pulled me out (like how do they make cigarettes?) but for the most part I could just go with it.
- The second half of the book felt rushed. I didn’t feel it was as thoughtful as the first half. A lot of things happen in a short amount of time that thrust the plot forward. Things are quickly wrapped up without a lot of explanation as to why. Sometimes I felt like I had missed something, and I felt unsure of how we had gotten from point A to point B at times. Where we literally were in the book, where the characters physically were and how they got there was sometimes confusing. And the ending. The ending did not satisfy me.
- This is all to say – while reading the book I almost missed my stop on the train 3 or 4 times. I would think about the plot at work and have the urge to share what was going on with co-workers, like the main character was my neighbor and you would not believe what’s going on with her right now. This book reminded me a lot of the Oryx and Crake stuff from Atwood. But was less technically fabulous. Super entertaining and would definitely recommend if you can overlook the second half.
Second, I read A Visit From The Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan because Margaret wanted to read it again and wanted to read it with me (aww!!) so we did. This is an ultra modern novel. Some of this ultra modernism (let’s pretend like I know what I’m talking about for a moment) I really liked and some of it I didn’t.
- I don’t like when novels talk about brands or time-specific products in a specific way. It always, always, always pulls me out of the story and suddenly I’m thinking about the product, thinking about the reference it is making to era, thinking about how this dates the story, how it may put a shelf life on the story, etc etc etc. Because this novel is about a certain time period in music, music in general, and how an era in music changed the lives of the people in that era, I don’t feel like it needs any more time stamps.
- Sometimes I felt like the characters were over indulged. I’m not sure what this means. Maybe you do?
- I LOVED the chapter that is entirely powerpoint slides. It made me want to start journaling in power point and visual aids. I won’t, but I think it’s fabulous.
- I LOVED how the stories inter-connect. The way they all flow, this is the writing I want to do, this is what I wanted my first novel to be. It makes me ache with the inventiveness, and the success of it all.
At first I thought, “Sweet jesus, these characters are all whiny and fucked up.” But then I fell in love with them and wanted to give them all hugs, or be there when shit went down, or contribute positively to their life in some way. Even if some of them were lost causes. I think you’ll fall in love with them too. This is an excellent, excellent read.
Third, and just before Spain I finished The Enchantress of Florence because Kamel had seen Salman Rushdie speak a few years ago and really wanted to know what I thought. My overwhelming feeling about this book: It’s a 349 page piece of foreplay.
- There is so much lust and sex and desire in this book it leaves you in a sexytime brain cloud.
- Also, it took me 2 full weeks to finish even though I routinely and easily finish a 300 page book in a week. This novel is like brioche; so incredibly dense.
- Even though I most likely won’t read another novel by the Rushdie, there were some really great quotables and a really great story burried under the tiresome prose. I had to share this one with you:
“Women have always moaned about men,” Birbal said, “but it turns out that their deepest complaints are reserved for one another, because while they expect men to be fickle, treacherous, and weak, they judge their own sex by higher standards, they expect more from their own sex – loyalty, understanding, trustworthiness, love – and apparently they have all collectively decided that those expectations were misplaced.”
- Sometimes I feel like the only person in the whole world who hasn’t read Rushdie up to this point. So I was really surprised at the affected “storyteller” voice that the book was written in. Is this how all of his novels go? They seem grander than they should be, they seem like they come from a different time, and they are almost entirely made up of telling and have very, very few scenes. Their is a narrator, and also a story within the story narrated by another story teller. It felt very “Inception” to me. Too many rabbit holes, too many words. Let’s all just get to the point already. I would really really love to know what other people think of his writing and if they’ve read other books by him.
Fourth in line was Gold Bug Variations. I was trying to figure out which book to pick up next and I thought it probably needed to be one of the thick ones. I didn’t want to leave a handful of really long books till the very end, that seemed overwhelming. So the Gold Bug Variations it was! This book is a brioche of a novel; super dense but also sweet. It reminded me of Moby Dick with the way it dealt with science and genetics. And Richard Powers does an amazing amazing job with character. I mean… the people in this book are beyond unique. I would swear up and down that these are real people and this was a creatively laid out biography. It’s just that good.
Here are my own truths about the book:
- I did skim a lot of the science parts. Bottom line: genetics is hard, finding the source of why and how we are, the root of how it all begins is really really hard. It’s also beautiful, but I skimmed it.
- I kept thinking I was going to get bored of the book because it’s so ginormous and deals with so much science, but I never did. Sometimes it was so intense I had to put it down even though I had more time to read. Sometimes I had to get a hug from Kamel because something in it bothered me. A lot of this book strikes a chord with anyone who has ever been in a relationship of any kind, ever.
- There is a point in the book where I actually let out a gasp and said, “Oh… no!” in the train.
- I just feel like everyone should read this, even if you’re not a big book person, even if you don’t dig science. I feel like this story is going to sit with me for a while and pop up during quiet moments. I wonder how the characters are doing now.
- It deals with computers in the 80s and that is really endearing and slightly comical to read about now.
- The only thing that bugged me is that someone in their 50s just isn’t that old, yet they talk about the character as if he is ancient.
I’m still plugging away at my stack of books! And almost finished with the next selection, but I wanted to let you know what I’ve been reading. For those who suggested these books or have read these books please please please let me know what YOU thought in the comments. I’ve been dying to talk about them with people. What were your impressions? Have you read things that made you feel similar? And how are your own book lists coming?