Reading for January, 2007

Atonement by Ian McEwan. See my comments here.
The Wapshot Chronicle by John Cheever. Number 63 on the Modern Library list.
The last 50 pages of An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser. Number 16 on the Modern Library list. I started this book in July 2005, then stalled at the halfway point for about a year. Somewhere in the middle, before Clyde commits his crime, there are about 150 pages where Clyde continues to string Roberta along and nothing much else happens, and that is where I and probably half the readers get stuck.
The second half is interesting in that the narrative shifts into a procedural investigation by the district attorney. The character of the DA is so relentless that it makes you sympathetic to Clyde, though you know he is guilty and quite doomed.
One indicator this novel has earned a significant place in literature is the reaction it continues to produce, from Ayn Rand’s angry condemnation to the pathological defense of capitalism by the “Brother’s Judd”. These criticisms never address the story itself, they simply attack its thinly veiled premise — that untempered ambition is a destructive force.

* * *
Since I feel I have been slacking on the quality reading in the past year I have decided to get back on track. However, I now find myself being even more critical in how I invest my time, and have been “browsing” quite a few books without actually reading them. For the sake of the record, then, here are my browsings:
Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre (Peter Warren Finlay). Winner of the 2003 Man Booker Prize. Felt no desire to finish.
Oxygen by Andrew Miller. On the shortlist for the 2001 Man Booker. Dreary.

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One Response to “Reading for January, 2007”
  1. MR says:

    Wow, where did you find the Brothers Judd? I knew these guys were dopes worthy of the Usenet Pantheon as soon as they referred to evolution as a scare-quote bracketed “science”. (That, and giving their own book an “A+”.)