Friday, September 30, 2011

Short stories!

I don't know why I don't like short stories more. It is nice to sit down and quickly read a whole story - even when you don't have a lot of time, you can read one and then go about your business while turning over the ideas.

The next book on the list of New York Times Best Books of 2006 is The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel by Amy Hempel. I had not heard of this author before. I really liked this collection. Her work is very direct and her sentences are very short. Not a lot of extra words in here. But the stories were really interesting and good and full of emotions. I liked these a lot.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Books 101-110

Here are the next 10 books on the list.

101. The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera (1979)
102. Born in Exile by George Gissing (1892)
103. Borstal Boy by Brendan Behan (1958)
104. Bouvard and Pecuchet by Gustave Flaubert (1881)
105. A Boy's Own Story by Edmund White (1982)
106. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (1932)
107. Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote (1958)
108. Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (1973)
109. The Breast by Philip Roth (1972)
110. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh (1945)

It takes a lot of the fun out of a crime story...

...when there isn't a whole lot of suspense. John Banville's The Book of Evidence is kind of a unique way to write a book. Basically, this guy has been arrested for a crime, and the book is his confession. So at the outset you know that he has been caught - hence there is sort of no suspense about how it is going to end. The story was OK, and it was an interesting idea. It just wasn't a page turner and didn't really stand out that much for me.

Monday, September 19, 2011


The Book of Daniel is based on a really cool premise. The book imagines that the Rosenbergs had children, and follows Daniel, the older son, as he grows up through the 1950s and 60s and deals with his parents' deaths. The idea of it was so great, I was really excited to read this one.

It turned out not to be my favorite book, though. The way it was written was really confusing and there were a lot of flashbacks and jumping around points. I can definitely tell it is good literature, but for a casual reader like me, it wasn't the greatest. I'm sure I missed a lot of important stuff. So I was a little bummed out - I really wanted to like this more than I did.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Seventeen-year-olds are amazing.

What I think is most amazing about Bonjour Tristesse is that it was written by Sagan when she was just 17. When I was 17 my biggest concerns were (1) friend drama and (2) math class. Meanwhile, Sagan at 17 put together this amazing short novel. Very impressive.

The narrator of the novel is also a 17 year old girl, Cecile. She and her father are on vacation with a woman her father, a widower has been dating. When her father turns his attentions to another woman, Cecile decides to take matters into her own hands and manipulate the situation so that the woman she prefers can win back her father's heart. The novel is very short and beautifully written. I liked it a lot.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Extra credit.

The version of 1001 Books that we are using ends with books published in 2005. I had been thinking recently about how it is going to take me probably 20-30 years to read all of these books, and, during those years, a lot of other really good books will be published.

So I decided to read the New York Times Best Books of the Year for the years 2006-on, one every month or so. This way I can also read some newer good books as the years go on.

The first Best Book of the Year that I read is Absurdistan by Gary Shteyngart, one of the Best Books of 2006. This book is a clever story that satirizes American values and how those values and ideals are transmitted across the world. Sometimes it seemed like the author was getting a little too cute, such as where the main character's girlfriend leaves him for the evil Professor Jerry Shteynfarb. On the whole though, I thought the book was funny and interesting. Halliburton, cost plus contracts and even Dick Cheney come into play in a story about a Russian guy who is trying desperately to get back to the US and finds himself the Minister of Multicultural Affairs in Absurdistan, a tiny republic on the Caspian Sea.

Next up, back to the regularly scheduled programming. Bonjour Tristesse is next on the list.