Saturday, January 2, 2010

november and december (reading)

These two months were mostly full of fragments. I started a great many books, got bored, distracted, or otherwise engaged, and put them down. Some of them I intend to finish, but some of them were so forgettable, that I would have to start them over from the beginning, and then it probably wouldn't be worth the trouble.

So the only book that I read straight through, from page one to the end, was Amsterdam by Ian McEwan. It's a slim, tidy novel, definitely a thriller, and one of those stories that relies on the easily visible twist at the end to close itself off with uncomfortable smoothness and a sort of cruel wink. You see the end bearing down on the characters, and you know that it's going to flip their expectations inside out in the exact worse way. The thrill comes not from wanting to see what happens, but from the particulars of how the characters react. It's like "The Gift of the Magi," only not nice at all.

I couldn't sleep the night after I finished it. There were just so many awful people in the story, and they were such a weird mixture of believable and unbelievable, with the believable parts being all their selfish, inhumane, angry, jealous, delusional thoughts. The kind of thoughts that flicker on the edge of mine, sometimes. The kind of thoughts that would make you feel like a bad person if you ever grabbed onto them and actually thought them with purpose instead of flinging them away. The unbelievable (and fascinating) part was the way the characters luxuriated and wallowed in them, taking them to ridiculous heights that were almost funny except that you could see how they got there.

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