Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A few more

Came across a few more recent and "on deck" books:

Ian McEwan's Atonement. Picked this up in San Diego. Superb and well worth the hype (I have not seen the movie). He writes from a variety of perspectives so convincingly that it's like looking through a window: the author is transparent. Or rather, invisible. A master.

Alan Garner, The Stone Book Quartet. A highly regarded series of novellas, bound into a single volume. Like Atonement, I read to learn the craft from a master.

Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart and a collection of essays. Ditto the above on learning from a master. Plus I'm interested in a non-Western approach to story and memory.

Daoud Hari's The Translator: A Tribesman's Memoir of Darfur. Saw this reviewed in the NY Times and was intrigued. The voices of the underserved and victimized in print: there can never be too much of that. And Hari's account will, I hope, give me a glimpse of a perspective I could never get on my own. Isn't that one of the beauties of a book? And after reading Dave Eggers's "What is the What" and Uzodinma Iweala's "beasts of no nation" I continue to want to learn more about that troubled region and the very bad things happening there.

Victor Hugo's The Three Musketeers. One of the first adventure novels, and on my re-read list for a look at a masterful portrayal of humor, swordplay, carousing, and honor. Swash swash, buckle buckle.

Carl Sauer's Northern Mists. Picked this up at Maxwell's House of Books in La Mesa, CA -- again -- for research. It's a nonfiction survey of European seafaring during the Middle Ages. Plus it's filled with irresistable maps. Imagine rowing or sailing to the endless horizon in a ship filled with stinking dried fish and skins of water, hoping to find ... what? Cibola? Vinland? Gold? Redemption? The last great mystery? Before the world was mapped, it was all out there, waiting. And in many cases, peopled.

Okay, you loquacious lurkers. I know I'm not the only one with a book habit. What's on your nightstand / kitchen counter / coffee table?

[Updated with this from my brother: his book takes place during World War II. Beyond that I cannot go; tace is Latin for candle.]


Peter S said...

I just finished reading "Tits Up in a Ditch", a short piece by Annie Proulx in the New Yorker fiction issue. Great exposition, though you can tell her sensory experience is of Wyoming and not Iraq. Interestingly, her secondary characters have much more depth and reality than the main character, who is almost an empty vessel into which the story is poured. Maybe on purpose, maybe not.

Clabbered Dirt, Sweet Grass by Gary Paulsen is awaiting me on the bedside table. Like a box of fine chocolates, each page is rich and savory, and a couple weeks or months between readings enhances the flavor. Yum!

S R Wood said...

A couple of weeks between chocolates? That's, um, an interesting approach.

But I know what you mean. Patrick Leigh Fermor, for me, is too rich to read more than a few pages at a time. But man, can that guy write.

Kenneth said...

Currently in my "Jack Bauer Bag" along with my "Jack Bauer Tools" is "Retribution" by Max Hastings. More WW2 stuff, this time about 1944/45 in the Pacific. Remarkable not as a synthesis of disciplines like Ferguson but rather as a treasure trove of little-known incidents and insights. Example: the strategic bombing of Japan wasn't about winning the war (cutting off their supplies by torpedoing their merchant ships and mining their harbors was doing that) or even racist animus against the Japanese, but rather mainly because we'd sunk all this money into the B-29 bomber and we just COULDN'T let it go to waste. A good book but not as good as the last book to reside in my bag-- "Nixonland." About how our whole modern culture and increasing political polarization is derived from the results of the 1964 elections. That description makes it seem dry, au contraire, it's filled with rioting students and hardhats, clouds of marijuana and looming over it all a veritable shower of sweaty Nixonian duplicity (that's two separate, unrelated "24" references. Upstairs bathroom reading: the best of H.P. Lovecraft (still recommended as a model of how to develop an atmosphere of crawling horror). Downstair bathroom reading: "I'm a Lebowski, You're a Lebowski", a massively detailed concordance to the movie that won the Oscar for Coolest Movie Ever.