Books read (all or part of) this week… and last week:
The Steady Running of the Hour by Justin Go
4 1/2 stories from Bark by Lorrie Moore
68 pages of The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
75 pages of The Bees by Laline Paull
38 pages of Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin
Redeployment by Phil Klay (genuinely reading this now)
A tough pair of reading weeks, these past two.
First off, I finished Justin Go’s forthcoming debut – which had a very promising premise that just didn’t pan out for me. I feel bad about this assessment, because I really wanted to love this book – and Justin seems like such a nice fellow. (I met him when I was in Seattle recently.) But that’s not the name of the game here on the Book Catapult, now is it? The general storyline, like I said, is quite good and had a lot of promise. A modern day college student finds out that he might be the sole remaining heir to a massive lost fortune that originated with a man who died on Mount Everest in 1924. The British law firm that has been the keeper of the estate for the last 80 years finally tracks Tristan Campbell down with just a few weeks left before the trust expires – the catch being that Tristan has to prove that he’s actually The Heir. He begins tracking this unknown branch of his family tree all over Europe – and we’re with him every step of the way, seeing his every move in piecing together this puzzle, until… the very end, where through narrative manipulations that frankly feel like a writer’s cop-out, the penultimate discovery is presented veiled from our view. Tristan receives an end result to his quest, but after all of this, we are left to puzzle over what that result actually is. Immensely frustrating. It’s going to sell well, though, that’s for sure. It has all the hallmarks of a midlevel bestseller that indie stores will probably get behind – and the writing is quite good for the most part. But that ending… dang… made me want to throw the book across the room.
After that, nothing I read seemed to stick – you know how that is? 10,000 books at my disposal and I can’t find anything to hold my attention for more than a day. I read a bit of Lorrie Moore’s Bark, but found the thematically connected stories about failing marriages and bad relationships just wasn’t doing it for me. She can write, that’s for damn sure – and there were many flashes of clever wit and wonderful prose throughout what I’ve read to date, but the subjects just weren’t doing it for me right now. (Great sentence: “At this my heart sickened and plummeted down my left side and into my shoe.”) That’s the funny thing about books and reading them – if I’m not in the mood or the right frame of mind for some particular subject or style, there’s no coercing that can be done to get me to pick something back up. I’ll be back to Lorrie, but I need a break right now.
So, then I spent an evening with Gabrielle Zevin’s The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry. I can’t remember a book that has had the backing of so many independent booksellers before its pub date. The galley copy has an impassioned letter on the back cover from Mitchell Kaplan, owner of Books & Books in Florida and has an additional 24 blurbs from other independent booksellers on the inside. And at least 2 people who I work with have already read it and keep telling me I HAVE to read it – always a red flag. All of this is because the book is about the owner of an independent bookstore on a small, Martha’s Vineyard-type island in the Northeast. All great, for sure, but the rest of the plot (owner is a widower who ends up adopting an abandoned baby… presumably his life as a curmudgeonly bookstore owner is changed forever?) I found to be a bit cozy for my tastes – I might still try to get through it, but it read a bit soft to me. But I’m a jerk, so…
After giving up on that for the moment, I settled on a novel where all the characters are bees. Hmm… Then I came down with a wicked cold on Wednesday last week and everything between then and now is a bit of a blur.
A bee-filled blur.
This would be why I missed last week’s post – I just didn’t have it in me, friends. All day on the couch on Saturday and Sunday – made a little better by all the college basketball I was able to watch – and I didn’t read more than a few words of anything. I just couldn’t keep my eyes on the page for more than 5 seconds. I read a little about bees (meh) and a little revisiting of GRRM’s Dance of Dragons, because I’ve been watching G of T on HBO while lying on the couch. Monday was a little better and I started Phil Klay’s powerhouse collection of modern war short stories, Redeployment. Really great, really heavy stuff – more on that next week, I suppose.
And now, all I’m reading is my bracket. (82% of Americans fill out NCAA brackets, btw.)
So… see you next week?