Wednesday, November 23, 2011

*Insert Interesting Headline* or Recap Part 1

            So it’s been about a month since I last posted. Miss me? Oh you didn’t notice. Yeah that’s what I figured.  Anyway the last month has been crazy though have been able to do some reading so instead of spending the next few weeks trying to catch up on full length write ups I’ll just patch together a brief overview.

“Pnin” by Vladimir Nabokov
Nabokov is better known for his controversial novel “Lolita” which I’ve yet to read.  My Dad gave me “Pnin” because he remembered reading and enjoying it some 30+ years ago and though it took me awhile to get through I’m inclined to agree with him.  The novel, about an inept Russian professor, is equal parts funny and heartbreaking.  Though the writing can be a bit dense at times ultimately it’s what really made this book shine.

“33 1/3: Pavement’s Wowee Zowee” by Bryan Charles
About two months ago I wrote a review professing my love for Bryan Charles’s novel “Grab on to Me Tightly as if I Knew the Way.”  “Wowee Zowee” is Charles’s foray into the world on nonfiction.  The book chronicles the making of the album “Wowee Zowee” by Pavement, one of the leading alt-rock band in the 90s.  Prior to reading Charles’s novel (which I first came across about a year ago) I had never heard of Pavement but being interested in reading another one of Charles’s books I decided to try their music which I ended up really enjoying.  For those who haven’t heard of them here’s one of their songs:

As for the book, I found it interesting but not nearly as engaging as his novel.  Charles used a very different writing style, which though more informative did not have the same poetic tilt to it.  This type of style was far more suited to a nonfiction work but a part of me couldn’t help being disappointed.  Some fascinating interviews with the band members and others associated with the making of the album make the book worthwhile for any Pavement fan though some prior knowledge about the band is necessary to get through this slim volume.


So I wrote those last few paragraphs in September (?) and set it aside hoping to add another book or two to the list before I posted it.  Considering it’s now Thanksgiving I’m going to go ahead and say procrastination got the better of me.  Despite my absence I have still been reading though, granted not quite at the same rate as this summer.

“City Life” by Donald Barthelme
I feel pretentious even admitting I read this so I’ll just be completely honest and say that not only did I read this short story collection by the postmodernist writer Barthelme, but I greatly enjoyed it.  Some of the stories definitely went over my head, most notably “Blood Bubbles” (though I think the incomprehensible nature of it was part of the point), but I found some of his more accessible stories to be fascinating.  Barthelme makes use of unconventional story structure and often includes multiple pictures in his pieces.  It is all very surreal and imaginative but if you’re in a mood for some substance free mind altering I highly recommend this collection or any of Barthelme’s stories for that matter.  Highlights include: “Views of my Father Weeping,” “The Glass Mountain,” “Sentence,” and “City Life.”

“Self Help” by Lorrie Moore
I’ve recently discovered that short stories work a lot better with a busy schedule than full fledged novels (why it took me so long I don’t know) so I’ve been picking up more short story collections lately.  Moore’s “Self Help” was one of these collections.  I read and enjoyed (mostly) her novel “Who Will Run the Frog Hospital” this summer but I kept hearing how short stories were really her best medium.  After reading this book I’m inclined to agree.  She writes about rather mundane situations but the elegance and emotional power she harnesses while covering these subjects is remarkable.  I, and lately even more than usual, enjoy reading things that are fantastic or unique.  Moore’s stories are neither, but I still found her stories to be engrossing.  I would recommend the best stories of the collection but in truth I loved almost every single one of them.

“Mao II” by Don DeLillo
I read my first DeLillo book this spring and since then I’ve been a fan.  “Mao II” is my fourth DeLillo book and maybe it’s a case of too much of one author in too little time but I was rather disappointed by this novel.  It’s about an aging reclusive author (read: Don DeLillo’s depiction of himself) and his handful of “friends.”  There are quite a few meditations on crowds, fame, terror, and death.  It’s supposed to be one of his best books but I found it to be painfully slow and I felt no connection with any of the characters who were, to put it in middle school vocabulary, weird and annoying.  Perhaps I wasn’t in the right mood but I think I’ll take a break from DeLillo for a few months.

To be continued…