Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Summer Reading

I’ve gotten off to a bit of a slow start on my summer reading this year; (it’s hard to pay attention to the written word when you’re in a crowded bar, drinking beer and staring up at the soccer ball world championship on flat-screen TVs), but I’ve made some headway with texts that aren’t completely recreational (like Wodehouse), and I’ve got plans for a few more, including, I think, to finally try again to tackle Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow (although I may opt for his more accessible latest, Inherent Vice, which I’ve had sitting on my shelf for a couple months.)

So far, the book I’ve liked best this season has been David Mitchell’s bildungsoman, Black Swan Green, just the sort of coming-of-age novel with precocious narrator that I’ve enjoyed ever since I read James Collier’s The Teddy Bear Habit back in fourth grade. Mitchell has a brilliant ear for dialogue; there are passages in the book where Jason, the young stammering protagonist, recounts the tense the dinner-table discussions between his parents that are as hilarious as they heart-breaking and other places where he gets the way teenagers establish status hierarchies through insults and comebacks just absolutely spot on. I only just heard about Mitchell a few weeks ago in a review by Dave Eggers of his new book; now I’m all hot to try out his masterpiece, Cloud Atlas.

I also enjoyed—if you could call it that—Goethe’s Sorrows of Young Werther. I’m sure I’m not saying anything new to note how contemporary many of the sentiments were in spite of the book being like 240 years old, like this one: “...I see that all our efforts have no other result than to satisfy needs which in turn serve no purpose but to prolong our wretched existence…”

And speaking of wretched existence, now I’m into Sinclair Lewis’ classic, The Jungle, which I think I may have read before, which might explain why I don’t eat meat.


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