Sunday, May 15, 2011

Recent Reading

The Slap by Christos Tolkias 2011. Recounts, person by person, the repercussions in an extended Greek-Australian family of a father slapping someone else's unbearable child. Tails off into tedious psycho-drama in the second half. Would make a good film.
Started Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson, 2010. I can't help feeling that Kate Atkison underuses her talent in this series of books. They all hinge of on the coalescence of unbelieveable coincidences, a device that I think undermines her fabulous sense of character and narrative. Still a great read though. Best line - "ladies who lurch".
Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell, 2006. I enjoyed this account of the mechanisms and effects of instant decisions and intuitions. I'm highly sceptical though about the theory that says that certain Americans are more impulsive because their forefathers hailed from the Scottish-English Borders where cattle rustling was rife and aggression the only means of survival. We are generally quite a peace loving nation, honest. Anyway, I enjoyed it enough to download "Outliers" and I'm in the process of finishing that.
A Widow's Story: A Memoir by J. C. Oates 2011. Blogged my reaction to this a few weeks ago.
The Chronology of Water: A Memoir by Lidia Yuknavitch, 2011. A friend recommended this authobiographical narrative in terms that were more incandescent than glowing and I was blown away by the writing which was quite unlike anything I have ever read before. Despite some reservations about aspects of the story (especially the complete absence of any self-criticism ) and its delivery - I object to being collared by authors as a singular "you" who probably doesn't "get it", I recommend this book wholeheartedly.
Solar by Ian McEwan, 2011. Extremely funny - I frequently guffawed at McEwan's portrayal of this puffed-up middle-aged man. I especially liked the bit where he "only half ran back to his car" after an altercation with a burly builder because "he had his dignity".
Paris to the Moon by Adam Gopnik, 2001. American journalist lives in Paris, writes articles about life there than realeases them all as a book. And it's a good one, if slightly dated now.
How to Live: A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at An Answer by Sarah Bakewell, 2010. I loved this venture into literary popularization that cleverly intertwines a biography of Montaigne with readings of the essays. By half way through I was itching to read the essays themselves.
The Gravedigger's Daughter: A Novel by Joyce Carole Oates, 2008. A slightly tedious historical novel. I'm not quite sure what the point was.
Teach Us to Sit Still: A Sceptic's Search for Health and Healing by Tim Parks, 2010. I blogged my rather self-indulgent reaction to this quite brilliant book a while ago.
The Secret Diary Of Adrian Mole Aged 13¾ by Sue Townsend, 1998. I had never read this and thought it was about time I filled this gap in my popular culture reference system. I read The Cappuccino Years too, but that's enough.


nmj said...

Hey Lesley, I jotted down the Montaigne a while back after reading a review, I would like to read it even more now.

Hadn't heard of 'The Chronology of Water', thanks for tip! I know nothing about this book but sounds intriguing.

Am afraid I could not finish Tim Parks, I got it from library after you had recommended but I just got kind of bored, not so much the writing, but just the whole illness narrative, and I think that is a lot to do with living for so many years with illness myself, it is just not that interesting (for me) unless the writing utterly appeals. I actually found your earlier blog review far more engaging than his book!

Lesley said...

@nmj I think that <hat I like about Tim Parks's writing is that it doesn't draw attention to itself but it is interesting all the same. In contrast, Lidia Yuknavitch's writing craves attention - really in your face and arresting. I can understand that you might not be able to take Parks's illness narrative, although I thought it was sincere and unwhiney.

nmj said...

Agree, didn't think Tim was whiney at all, just that I am not as interested in 'narratives of illness' as I once would have been, even ten years ago! (That is why I wrote my own as fiction.)

I read this review of The Slap last year, which put me right off.

Did you see that Lidia Yuknavitch has a blog, though not updated for a while.

i def want to read her book now!

materfamilias said...

I linked to you from my reading blog yesterday in my very brief response to The Slap. Can you fathom some of the praise for this? Or see how it won such a big prize?
I loved Gopnik's book, having read it soon after its release, and have been thinking of peeking back at its pages.
Also read Solar -- I didn't like it as much as you did, not being a fan of satire, but I agree it's really funny in many spots.
did the Sue Townsend books when my kids were young (well, teens) -- they're quite good, I remember, def. funny.

Lesley said...

@materfamilias The praise is definitely overblown. Makes you wonder if you read the same book.