You’ve probably noticed that I’m not writing much these days. My productivity on the blog usually mirrors my fiction writing–the more you see here, the more I’m putting on my own private pages. For the past couple of months, instead of writing, I’ve been reading non-stop. Hopefully, this will recharge my literary engine and help me remember what I am trying to achieve when writing my own novels. Here’s a random sampling of the books I remember reading and what stands out in my mind as having thrilled or annoyed me:
Thrilled with …
- Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler–this book won the Pulitzer Prize and is so simple and breathtaking it made me cry a few times. Most of the 8044 reviews on Goodreads seem to have liked it as well. But could you imagine this book getting published these days? “What’s your book about?” “It’s a book about a husband and wife on a driving trip to a funeral and back.” “That’ll never sell. What else have you got?” This book reminds me that brilliant fiction can be small in scope.
- The Beginner’s Goodbye by Anne Tyler–I’d picked this up as a best bet from the library (7 days to hold and enjoy). I read it in a day and then thought about it for the rest of the week; so simple and yet so good. Nothing fancy, but again, the characters drawn in such detail that you have to read this book to the end in one sitting. Then, I had to get another of her books to see why, why does it work? Anne Tyler’s books are nothing and everything at the same time.
- Peter Pan by JM Barrie–the original is inventive and whimsical in ways that I had not expected having read the picture book & Disney versions; this is a brilliant book, which incidentally also has experimental diversions and unexpected tangents that add charm to the narrative.
- Better Living Through Plastic Explosives by Szuszi Gartner–weird and wonderful; I’m only part way through the first story and feeling sad that this book will end, and rationing pages already. Here’s a review that seems bang on for what I’ve read so far.
- Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs–this article by Mark Medley piqued my interest and the book delivered what I had expected; strange and delightful (the stalled writer in me wonders whether there’s a theme here; my early drafts of The 29th Day had a quirky charm that I gradually edited out …)
Annoyed with …
- The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides–the opening meanders about using way too big words while not saying much that grabbed my attention; I gave up after a few pages and don’t really know why … maybe this review explains it. I feel bad to say this as I’ve enjoyed his other books and was predisposed to savour this one.
- 50 Shades of Grey by E.L. James–Despite all the sex parts, this book gets tedious the longer it goes on; forget what the global marketing machine & NY Times have to say about this book, this brilliant review by Jessica Napier for Metro Canada sums it up. If you have bought and read 50 Shades, the parody 50Shames of Earl Grey might compensate for having read the book. You can read some here. It’s so bad it’s funny, and the book it parodies is even worse. And this is what people are buying, and what everyone is recommending as the book to read. Why, why, why?