Saturday, July 18, 2009

june reading

You would think that a trip to Hawaii is the perfect time to swallow down a great stack of books. I assure you that it isn't. Not, at least, if you are hauling several thousand pounds of copper wire to the recycling center, chopping down banana trees, and going camping with 60-something members of your extended family. I usually read in bed before going to sleep, but in Hawaii, I skipped all that and just clunked straight into unconciousness. Still, these are the books I read.

The City and the City
by China Mieville
This book hurt my head while I was reading it. It is set in two cities, somewhere like Eastern Europe probably, that exist on top of each other, in the same place, only kept separate by the insistence that the residents of each meticulously unsee the other. It's a wonderful idea, a totally bizarre and crazy one, and it makes your brain have to twist around corners to picture it. It felt like looking at those drawings that are two things at once--a goblet and two faces; an old lady and a young one--but your brain can't see them both, so it flips them back and forth, back and forth. The actual story is a murder mystery, an investigation with the quiet, grey desperation of the hardboiled type, and I didn't find those aspects as tense and dangerous, or as satisfying, as I wanted them to be. But there's this scene of a shooting across the two cities that explodes with weirdness and frustration and it's absolutely fantastic.

A Natural History of the Senses
by Diane Ackerman
Love this book. It is crammed with thoughts and facts and descriptions about the senses, and about how what people sense shapes their interaction with each other, with the world, with themselves. Reading it was like wallowing in the glory of being a physical creature. It suddenly felt so intensely luxurious to be human.
I bought it as research for the novel about perfume that my friend, the lovely Kat, and I are going to write someday. But the thing is dripping with tidbits and ideas: psychological dwarfism, a museum in Japan that has human skin tattooed by master tattoo artists in its collection, the untranslatable specificity of music...

Jitterbug Perfume
by Tom Robbins
There is so much about this book that made me giddy.
There is so much about this book that made me impatient.
It's a romp. It's ridiculous, over-the-top, completely strange, and distractingly beautiful. It is also tiresome (at points and briefly) and repetitive when it bangs certain things against your head in slightly different shapes in case you didn't receive the proper bruises the first time. It starts with an ode to beets. It includes a mad perfumer who wears a whale mask when contemplating scent and believes the dinosaurs were wiped out by the sensuous overkill of flowers. There is quite a lot of sex. There is also an extraordinary sentence which goes: "The highest function of love is that it makes the loved one a unique and irreplaceable being."

The Angel's Game
by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
This book disappointed me. Maybe I was looking forward to it with too much slobbery excitement. I adored The Shadow of the Wind and wanted to read this one in the same rush, staying up all night to devour the wonderful, odd version of Spain where stories bleed out of all the shadows.
The characters irritated me. There was blood, but it was boring blood without any weight behind it, and the ending folded everything up in a way that made the rest of the book seem silly. I skimmed the last hundred pages.

I also read the 55th/56th issue of the Sonora Review, which has two of the most disturbing covers that I've ever seen on a magazine. Highlights: tributes to David Foster Wallace and a story by the man himself ("/Solomon Silverfish/") that made me wish I had read him before so I could have appreciated his work while he was still in the world. Also, Etgat Keret is interesting, spiky, and loud on the imagination.


Lauren said...

Ohmigod ohmigod ohmigod okay you HAVE to read "Little Expressionless Animals" by DFW now. Have to. Now. Read it. (Also, what prompted Sonora Review? They sent me that when I didn't get picked in the short-short contest, tear. So I also read it but have retained absolutely nothing.)

Megan Kurashige said...

Have just found "Little Expressionless Animals" online. Can't wait. Recommendations from Lauren are always exciting.

Emily gave me the DFW issue of SR for my trip to Hawaii. I hadn't read it before and was disturbed by its cover, but some of the stuff was pretty interesting.

Lauren said...

YES! *cackles*, not that I've structured my whole life around my desire to assign reading (& punish people for not doing it) or anything....

Megan Kurashige said...

Am afraid. Very afraid.

No, not really. Reading assignments from Lauren can only be an edifying and excellent thing. I picked up a Sarah Waters book because you said she's good. The Little Stranger.

Lauren said...

*blinks* Did I? Well, Fingersmith is good. The Little Stranger may very well be more of a Megan book than a Lauren book, actually. Hmm.