book reports
August 2013
ARANA'S VISITOR - Julie Rollins
CHILDHOOD'S END - Arthur C. Clarke
All three of these are scifi books that act like they're going to have something bizarre and important to say about God or people or religion but none of them do. SPEAKER FOR THE DEAD and CHILDHOOD'S END both have some weird and cool parts, but ARANA'S VISITOR is boring the whole way through.
SILENT HOUSE - Orhan PamukMatt Stowe gave me SILENT HOUSE for my birthday. It's the only book this month that I didn't read on my kindle, and I read it in about two days because I was lonely. One of my favorite things about Pamuk is how good he is at making people who fervently believe in God and people who fervently don't believe in God both seem likeable and reasonable and slightly insane. I didn't learn as much about Turkish history and politics as I did from Pamuk's SNOW, but I did learn a little and I had some feeeeeeeeeelings about time and people and memory and it was good to have a physical book in a lonely place. Thanks Matt.
STORIES V! - Scott McClanahanThese are some stories by Scott McClanahan that I've already forgotten all of. Well, no, I remember one. It was good and sad. I liked Scott's newer book CRAPALACHIA quite a bit better than this collection though, and I'm hoping that I'll like his even newer book HILL WILLIAM better too.
PAN - Knut HamsunThis is a book I had looked forward to reading for a long time. I really loved how quiet and steady GROWTH OF THE SOIL was, and HUNGER - Knut's most famous book - was the opposite, so panicked and impatient that it upset me too much to finish. I wanted PAN - named for my favorite Greek god! - to be somewhere in between but leaning toward calm. And it was. I liked it, but not as much as GROWTH OF THE SOIL. It reminded me a lot of Per Petterson, who I think has called this his favorite book. But there's a stupid epilgoue in which the narrator and the continent are different; it's overtly racist in the way that books from the 1890s often are and it adds nothing to the story and makes the main character seem less cool.
FOX 8 - George Saunders
YOUNG IMMIGRUNTS - Ring W. Lardner Jr.
FOX 8 was published in 2013 and YOUNG IMMIGRUNTS was published in 1920. They're both short stories and they're both funny and they both have a lot of intentional spelling errors. FOX 8 is about a fox who can talk and YOUNG IMMIGRUNTS is about a 4 year old boy driving from Indiana to Connecticut with his parents. Phil Bridges somehow made a car read the first page of FOX 8 to us when we were driving to Memphis. A month later I read the rest of it on an afternoon when I was a little sad and it made me feel a little better. I liked it more than any of the stories in Saunders' TENTH OF DECEMBER. I don't really have anything to say about YOUNG IMMIGRUNTS other than that I like when words are spelled wrong. Those were the best jokes for me. Is it strange that a story from 93 years ago can still be funny? I feel like if something is one thousand or two thousand or five thousand years old then of course it can still be wise or funny or scary, but a hundred years ago is a strange distance to try to relate to. Anyway, you can read YOUNG IMMIGRUNTS at the bottom of this webpage if you want to.