- Swamplandia by Karen Russell. I had high hopes for this book because the book flap was enticing. Although the book had a few great moments, it was a slow-paced read overall. I suspect Russell was trying to dazzle us with her prose rather than move her story along. It could have been a great story had the pacing been a little better. Here's my extended review if you'd like the deets on this one.
- The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown. I had low expectations for Brown's novel about three sisters, a sick mother, and a Shakespeare-obsessed father because I thought it was going to be fluffy chick-lit (which I will read, but that's not what I was seeking here). I ended up liking this story. The characters were well-developed and showed growth. It wasn't melodramatic (and the subject matter could have easily slipped into melodrama). I found myself laughing during some scenes and my heart constricting in my chest in others. Here's my extended review.
- Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. I wanted to know what all the hooplah is surrounding David Foster Wallace, whom I consider the Jim Morrison or Kurt Cobain of the literary world. His voice is as controversial as it is original: it is the sound of smug intellectualism strangely combined with earnest and humble self-awareness. But this voice was interrupted - DFW was dead by age 46. In spite of the respect I have for DFW, I failed at Infinite Jest. It's a long book (about 1000 pages), and it's semi-autobiographical, which depressed me. I had too many other books that were easier and happier to tackle at the time, so I put it away. Some day I will give it the attention it deserves. This foray into DFW was not a complete loss - right now I am reading his collection of essays entitled, Consider the Lobster. I think I enjoy him much more as an essayist than as a novelist. I consider this a partial success.
- A Visit from the Good Squad by Jennifer Egan. This book seemed compelling to me even before Jennifer Egan won her Pulitzer for it. There was recently much ado about Egan pooh-poohing the works of other female writers (of non-literary genres). Even though I think the whole controversy is stupid, the negativity generated makes me want to step back from the book temporarily (I don't entirely disagree with Egan - young female writers should aspire to heights of literary craft, but at the same time, I think the perception that a "female" flavor of writing is vapid, inferior, or "feminine tosh" is just silly snobbery. I have since changed my opinions about the value of chick lit in the literary world. Keep this in mind if you read my review of The Weird Sisters). I will read Egan's prize-winner some day. For now, it's simmering on a backburner with Infinite Jest.
- Light in August by William Faulkner. I wanted to get a little bit of Southern-fried literature in, but I failed to even get my hands on Faulkner. I've never read any Faulkner, but I've a suspicion that Light in August isn't the introduction to Faulkner I want. Should it be Absalom! Absalom! or The Sound and the Fury? Any Faulkner fans out there want to offer a suggestion? While I failed at Faulkner, I succeeded in reading the Southern and fantastically surly Flannery O'Connor (her personality was charmingly ill-tempered). Her novel Wise Blood was not a pleasurable read, but I gnawed at that story when I was finished like a coonhound with a hambone. You can read about my thoughts on Wise Blood here- it's not really a review so much as my untangling some sort of meaning from it for myself.
Sunday, June 19, 2011
Spring Reading Thing 2011 - What Happened?
My success rate for Spring Reading thing was about fifty percent. I'll recap my list and explain (make excuses for) why I didn't complete my challenge: