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.

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“Superb”… “magnificent”… “The best thing he has ever written” — the kinds of things that are said about almost every book that is published these days, from James Patterson to Mo Willems. Yet when I heard these same things said about Atonement by Ian McEwan, I somehow thought such praise was well-deserved.
Silly me.
The overall narrative is fairly light. There is the tale of Robbie and Cecilia (two star-crossed lovers), and the personal struggle of Briony, and then a handful of plot-driven characters in the background. The story spans five years or seventy, depending on whether you include the final section.

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2006 in Review

It used to be my practice to post a year-end review of books, but for the past two years I have been posting monthly (/semimonthly) summaries of recent reading, and I never wrote a 2005 review. If I recall correctly, there was a one month old child in the house at the time.
Errata: Some time during the past year I read A Room with a View by E. M. Forster, but it got left out somehow.
So, in the past year I made a concerted effort to read some forty-one books. Four of these were nonfiction, the rest fiction. Of the fiction, I abandoned or otherwise failed to finish four books, those four being:
* Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
* Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
* Hominids by Robert J. Sawyer
* JR by William Gaddis
There is a fair chance that I will eventually resume reading Dostoevsky or Gaddis, but no chance that I will finish the Willis or Sawyer volumes.
Out of all the fiction, I would say about eight of the books were of literary quality. The rest were fluff, but enjoyable fluff.
Best fiction of the year: Gateway by Frederik Pohl. Written in 1976, still a good read, and it motivated me to read several other books by Pohl.
Worst fiction of the year: The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. I have my doubts that Hosseini actually wrote the book, more likely there was an uncredited ghost writer/team of editors behind this.
Well, time to get back to reading. Currently working on: Not Even Wrong by Peter Woit.

Reading for November and December 2006

I did not finish either JR by William Gaddis or Hamlet on the Holodeck by Janet Murray. JR was interesting, but a little too much like trying to read a television.
I also did not get much beyond the first week of writing for NaNoWriMo.
I did read:
* Myth-ing Persons (1984)
* Little Myth Marker (1985)
* M.Y.T.H. inc. Link (1986)
by Robert Asprin. The series really hits its stride with Little Myth Marker, then Asprin’s writing output started sputtering in the 1990’s.
After a year on my shelf, I resumed Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy from page 500 or so. I still have about 40 pages to go.

Reading for October, 2006

Fool on the Hill by Matt Ruff, written 1988. This book came highly recommended by a coworker, and I tend to follow friendly suggestions (with the exception of certain authors I will not name here). An amusing book, some interesting ideas, with a very thin execution.
Sophie’s Choice by William Styron. I am actually only 80% through this. Styron passed away earlier this week.
Next: Either JR by William Gaddis, or Hamlet on the Holodeck by Janet Murray. Murray’s book is almost ten years old now, so I figured it might be worth another look.

Reading for September, 2006

I spent a number of hours last month playing Caesar III and the demo for Caesar IV. I did a little light reading:
Books by Robert Asprin:
* Another Fine Myth published in 1978
* Myth Conceptions published in 1980
* Myth Directions published in 1982
* Hit or Myth published in 1983
I also read about a third of Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky. I wasn’t really enjoying it, so I left it in the back of my car where it remains.
Now reading: Sophie’s Choice by William Styron. This, too, I am not enjoying.

Reading for July and August, 2006

It looks like I forgot to update my reading diary last month. I also haven’t been doing much in the way of summer reading — in many ways I have taken on the role of a large pair of hands, taking care of the child.
In August I read Tatja Grimm’s World by Vernor Vinge. Given Vinge’s current popularity they have published a new edition of this book, which is an assembly of two or three of his stories from the 60’s. It is not worth reading.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bront

Reading for June, 2006

First I read the first half of Hominids by Robert J. Sawyer, which won the 2003 Hugo Award. The writing relies on an alternative worlds premise to keep the reader interested, but the reader has access to characters from both worlds so there isn’t any mystery involved. After that, the characterizations were too weak to keep me interested, and I skimmed through the rest.
A Passage to India by E. M. Forster. Number 25 on the Modern Library list.

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Reading for May, 2006

Andrew Glassner’s Interactive Storytelling: techniques for 21st century fiction.
Slowly working through Main Street by Sinclair Lewis.

Glassner’s Interactive Storytelling

Scene 1: An apartment. The walls are covered with Academy Award-winning movie posters. A man slouches on a couch, his hand resting in a giant bowl of popcorn. A pile of DVDs tumbles off of a coffee table. The drone of music and the chatter of voices can be heard from a small television screen.
The phone rings. A hand reaches for the phone.
Man on couch: Hello?
Voice on phone: Glassner! Some maniac has left another package for the mayor in the basement of the Cartwright building. Get your butt over there pronto!
The camera turns to reveal the face of our protagonist, Andrew Glassner. His eyes glint with the excitement of another bomb to be defused.
Glassner puts down the phone. He takes a remote control out of his pocket and pauses the movie on the television. He grabs his keys from a table, and picks up a black bag marked “Bomb Squad” by the front door. Before we can fully comprehend the speed of his actions, we see the front door closing. Glassner is on the job.

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