This week? Fiction was read in abundance. I finished Dead Souls after taking a break; the second book, in its fragmented condition, wasn’t as memorable as its first half — but that’s probably stating the obvious. (And even incomplete, it’s fantastic, with some of the omissions curiously in tune with the narrative perspective in the novel’s first half.) Stacey Levine’s Frances Johnson and Penelope Mortimer’s The Pumpkin Eater made an interesting double bill: dreamlike novels of women navigating complex and stifling situations. Levine’s novel pulled off the particularly impressive feat of simultaneously evoking both the weight of years and the bewilderment of childhood; I suspect I’ll have more to say about it soon, either here or elsewhere.
I’d heard plenty of good things about xTx’s collection Normally Special, and was very impressed by its range of short, immediate stories. (One could use Kevin Sampsell as a point of reference and not be too far off, I’d say.) These stories were jarring in the best way, ranging from subtle domestic narratives to one wrenching scene of a dystopian future.
Also read: Kio Stark’s novel Follow Me Down. I’ll have a review of that here before long, so I won’t go much in detail. It’s both a fine noir-infused narrative and an interesting examination of ambiguity and physical evidence.
I’m closing out the week with a return to nonfiction. Tony Judt’s Ill Fares the Land blends the righteously angry with clear-headed political analysis and a fair treatment of numerous political philosophies on the left and right. (Though the placement of a Dominique Strauss-Kahn quote late in the book did prompt an inadvertent shudder as I read it.) And I’ve just started Ann Powers’s Weird Like Us: My Bohemian America; more on that next week.
300+ pages into Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN, and I’m convinced that Will Ferrell and Adam McKay must have interviewed these people for Anchorman. “Drugs, sex, misogyny, Chris Berman, and Australian Rules Football” may have been a good alternate title to this thing.
Also cracked open Koba the Dread: Laughter and the Twenty Million by Martin Amis. Aside from the obvious focus of the book being Amis taking leftist colleagues to task for being sympathizers of communist Russia, it’s an interesting look at the circle of friends and family Amis came of age around, as well as their differences in political views. It also makes me realize just how brilliant Amis is even when he’s not writing fiction.