Summer Reads Update

August 1, 2013 at 6:12 pm (Uncategorized) ()

Half way through summer, and I’m making progress on my list.

Read Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane on the plane to Italy. It can’t be easy writing in a style which captures a child’s sense of wonder and sense of horror.  If you thought Coraline was spooky, Ocean is terrifying, because instead of parental indifference, you have the very real parental disbelief. If you can’t rely on your parents, then the world is a very scary place. Regular Gaiman readers will notice a few familiar themes (and characters), It’s not a long book, but it’s a good one.

Next was Teenage, the most recent book by Jon Savage. In the work, Savage traces the development , but studying examples from Britain, France, Germany and the united States, of this thing we call the teenager. I sat with a notebook continually writing references and notes I still want to explore.  Marred only by several careless errors. The Industrial Workers of the World are misidentified as the International Workers of the World (twice), and Savage refers at one point to the unnamed narrator of Camus’ The Stranger. Er, it’s Meursault. Mistakes worry me because then I wonder what else am I missing? But that aside, a really interesting work.

I finally made it through Madame Bovary, and I’m puzzled as to why I failed in the past. It’s an enthralling novel.  Emma Bovary, her head filled with romantic notions, grows tired of her staid provincial life married to a well-meaning but ultimately dull, country doctor. She takes a lover, then another and ultimately dooms both of them. The genius of Flaubert is the painstaking detail of the story and also the neat trick of making us feel sympathy for Emma and also marvel at her selfishness.

Shortly before we left I also burned through Richard Hell’s autobiography. It’s a warts and all account of his early years, the founding of Television, his time in the Heartbreakers and then a brief solo career before he quit music in the early eighties.  It also contains Hell’s version of who really wrote “Chinese Rocks. ” Hell now makes his living as a writer and his skill with words is evident here. Like the story of many musicians, Hell’s life is not pretty, but the telling is.

I read the “A Series of Unfortunate Events” books to my daughter.  My son read them on his own. This is the prequel, and it’s only the first part. The prose is sparkling. Lots of funny digs and the cleverest Lord of the Rings joke you’ve seen in a while. It’s a quick read, but it’s a fun little tale of mystery and secret agents. And children who are much smarter than they ought to be. I’m looking for the next part.

And then I went off the rails.

I ran out of things to read in Italy, but fortunately my son had the first two Percy Jackson novels with him.  If you saw the first movie, you might wonder, but the book is way better. If you loved the Greek gods when you were a kid, you’ll enjoy this one. The movie guts some core elements from the novel, namely the central man-on-a-white-horse/am -i-he-chosen-one? plotline that runs through a lot of it. The second novel lifts from the Odyssey and the third (yes, I read that), the twelve labours of Hercules, but who cares? Oodles of fun.

Then while I was in Florence I of course wanted to learn more about the history of the city. I ordered a book on the city, which is waiting for me at the library. But I also read that Dan Brown’s new novel Inferno is set in Florence. OK. I read the Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons, but nothing since. Part of the reason being that while the DVC was like empty calories, it was fun, so I read A&D only to discover it was basically the same story – same plot lines, secret society stuff and fact and fiction blended awkwardly. Well, I hadn’t read The Lost Symbol, so I ordered that (I like to read in order). The Lost Symbol is very similar to the previous too except it’s a lot duller and the prose more wooden. It’s not an overly cerebral book, despite the amount of information Brown throws at the reader, but it cost me a few days. I’m now rethinking the decision to read Inferno.

So waiting at the library is the Florence history, and a mystery Cover of Snow and my other five books (and another Percy Jackson novel on the way). Argh.

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