Saturday, October 24, 2009

september reading, part 2

I forgot about this bit...

Poe's Children
edited by: Peter Straub

This is the first book I've ever picked up from the horror section of a bookstore. It has a terrifying cover: some sort of shadow box filled with dolls in pieces and eyeballs, shadowy and gruesome and one of those covers that I actually make sure to turn the book facedown on the bedside table because I can't stand the thought of it looking at me while I sleep. The stories themselves were mostly not the kind of horror that keeps me awake at night, but the kind of insidious, creeping unease that stuck in my head and invaded my dreams. This is an anthology of what Straub calls "new horror," and also, "beautiful, disturbing, and fearless." (His introduction is an interesting essay on genres, and the excitement of work that blurs or ignores the boundaries between them.) The stories are exceptionally well written. Some of them seem more effective than others, though I think that's to be expected with any stories that make a point of titillating fear... fear being such a personal thing, after all. They all excited me though, and I think it's because they all got around to the fear in such different, elegant ways.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

by: Haruki Murakami

Basically, Murakami makes me feel like I am an underachieving, lazy, lump of a human being. He does this by talking about his odd, obsessive, extremely effective routines in the most straightforward and everyday manner. At the end of the book, I had started to think that, of course, strapping on a pair of running shoes and training for an ultramarathon was the most obvious thing in the world to do. I should just start right now. Not to mention the writing of strange and brilliant novels. One just needs to start such projects and then finish them, and that is that. I still can't decide if I find this inspiring or disheartening.

Going Bovine
by: Libba Bray

There were parts of this novel that I LOVED (capital letters and all), and parts that I did not like at all. The first category is filled with the insane, wildly disparate bits that only stick together because of the solidity and energy of the main character. I believe in him, because he is rude and real and has problems that aren't laid out in soppy, vague issues, so I believe in the stuff that he tells me, even if it veers from the luscious desirability of his sister's friends to angels in combat boots and graffitied wings. The second category is for things that I found silly, or flimsy, or obvious ... the sort of things that made me feel like someone was whacking me over the head and yelling, "Have you got it? Have you got it? Are you sure?" It didn't entirely connect up for me; the lines didn't quite come together, so I ended up not being sure about the whole thing.

by: Kazuo Ishiguro

Ishiguro is the kind of writer who peels your heart with thin, gentle, almost surgical strokes, laying it bare while hardly leaving even a fingerprint on it. And then he drops it into a vat of salt water. The shock is so huge that you can't remember the moment when it first hit you. The Remains of the Day is one of my very favourite novels, and these short stories don't come close to touching the huge, brain-breaking effect that it had on me, but they are still good in a understated way. "Quietly devastating" is a cliche that is probably tailored precisely for any description of Ishiguro's work. He somehow manages to present a story in such a clear, stripped down, disciplined way that you fill the space around and through it with all of your own experience. They're not opaque or vague in the way that kind of story can be. They just encourage you to slide your life into them, so when the devastating part comes along, it usually beats your breath out of you.


Kat Howard said...

And now there are more books that I hadn't thought about reading that I am going to need to read. Reading other people's reviews is a dangerous thing.

Megan Kurashige said...

I know. Your reviews have bloated my to be read pile in the most fabulous way.