Reading for July, 2005

It turns out The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler has no plot. Oh, there are a handful of scenes in which characters interact, and things happen off-stage, but this is all “get to know the character” stuff, which culminates in… Fowler’s collection quotes of other authors talking about Jane Austen.
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy. The writing is at times poetic, but the narrative structure is haphazard, evasively moving towards “the big secret” which lends little momentum to the story. But don’t mind my opinion, this book has already made it only college reading lists where it will hover for a while before getting pushed aside for other things…

Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami. I’d like to be smug: I discovered Murakami back in ‘96, and I picked up a hardback copy of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle when it was in the remaindered section at Barnes & Noble. Now, everybody is reading him, which means I’ve lost some of my coolness factor.
I wouldn’t recommend Kafka to a first-time Murakami reader. I wouldn’t recommend it at all. The primary storyline appears to be a cryptic interpretation of the Oedipus myth, fragmented and incomplete. I’m going to guess that there are other myths hidden in the other storylines. Story elements float around and the characters echo one another, but to no purpose.
The Trees by Conrad Richter. I was looking through a book list and somehow Richter’s name caught my eye. His book The Town won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1951, and The Trees was an earlier book featuring the same characters — nowadays we’d call it a trilogy. Richter’s fate was to become the scourge of angry 8th graders across the US. This book makes me want to learn how to make handmade soap.
The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton, number 58 on the Modern Library list. I tried avoiding this list for a few months, but it keeps drawing me back. I didn’t like this novel as much as Wharton’s The House of Mirth, in part because here she writes with a supposedly male voice that is a little off, and in part because Mirth was so tragically romantic.
Current reading:
An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser. (Modern Library #16)
Next up:
Two years ago I was given Color: A Natural History of the Palette by Victoria Finlay, and now I feel an urge to read it.

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