Thursday, March 3, 2011

A Shocking Turn of Events


Sorry about the title---this post brought to you by hyperbole! Last week I so depressed about my lack of progress with the TOB list. But then something amazing happened: I managed to do a bunch of reading. I have now read 10 of the 16 books, and the tournament doesn't even start until Monday!

Skippy Dies
As you know, I finished Skippy Dies. I liked it way more that I expected. I'm not sure if I'd call it irony, but you know when I really started to enjoy the novel? It was once the event promised in the title actually happened. I stopped waiting for it and just sat back and enjoyed the aftermath. I feel gruesome admitting it, but it's the truth: Skippy Dies improved dramatically once Skippy died.

I got stuck a couple of times over the weekend and through Monday with my phone and finished off Next by James Hynes. I really don't know what to make of this book. Basically, it starts with a middle-aged guy leaving Ann Arbor for a job interview in Austin, TX. He spends the first 2/3 of the novel stalking a girl he sat next to on the plane and thinking back on all his previous girlfriends, relationships, and sexual conquests. This is one of those disheartening books where I found myself thinking, "Is this how men really think about women?" It's also a book where I found myself really wondering where the plot was going.

I will finish my discussion of this novel with the following rule of literature, which I formed when reading Next. Jenny's Rule of Literature #1: When it becomes clear that the events novel will take place all on one day, you know some massive, unexpected (but strongly foreshadowed) shit is going down in the last 75 pages.

NoxAfter reading this, I've decided it's more like a poem than a novel, and it's more like art than a book. I think you will love it. The author, Anne Carson, is a Classics professor. Nox (which means "Night", thanks Elissabeth!) is an elegy she created for her brother who died after spending 25 years living abroad. The writing that tells the brother's story is sparse and poetic; the other half of the book defines all the latin words used in an ancient poem by Catullus. Throughout the definitions, she buries references to her brother and her feelings of loss. It's somehow very moving.

However, the amazing thing about this book is IT, the physical "book" itself. I am literally stunned at it's construction: the unfolding, accordian-style pages, the reproductions of photographs and letters, the amazing level of detail in the reproduction. Many of the photos and letter are a little blurry and hazy, just like her feelings for this brother she hardly knew. It's an artifact of a life lost, and I found it haunting.

Wow. This book by Don Winslow is a killer. It's about 2 friends: Chon, a former navy SEAL, and his best friend, Ben. Chon and Ben are young men who have made a killing by growing and selling some of the best hydroponically grown pot in Southern California. A drug cartel wants a cut of the action, and the cartel kidnaps their best friend/girl friend, O, to ensure their compliance. It's a thriller, pot-boiler, and page turner. But it also has super sharp writing, much of which is composed in a kind of almost-poetry. Mix that all in with a dose of biting social commentary, and that's Savages.

Okay, actually, there's this other teensy-tiny little problem. I asked one of my librarians to get this book, because she's been into the Tournament of Books, too. But this sucker is full of violence, profanity, and a lot of sex. Whoops. Maybe I should "lose" the book and pay the library back? I mean, our library doesn't typically censor or anything, but jeez. This book is NSFW, especially when work is a school.

I guess I should write another post predicting the winners of the match-ups. Or are you bored by listening to me blather on about this?



  1. Not bored! Keep blathering!

    Looking forward to reading Nox, although it probably won't be until April -- feels like every minute of March is already spoken for, and I want to be able to spend time really reading/looking at it.

    Savages sounds great. Maybe you could "lose" it this way. ;)

    Meanwhile, I got slowed down in my TBR reading this week with brain candy -- in the form of the latest Mercy novel.

    Mercy v. Screwtape? Yeah, Mercy won. But it was short so I'm back to ol' Screwtape now.

  2. I have not read Mercy yet. I am saving it to reward myself for finishing my grade report writing! I'm not sure that's a big enough carrot, though. Not sure anything is a big enough carrot for that.