Monday, November 14, 2011

Monday's Books in Brief

I'm thankful for many more new books than there is time to review in depth here.  My compliments to:

Last Man in Tower by Aravind Adiga, the author of the wildly comic and worthy Man Booker Prize winner, The White Tiger.  A bit too wordy in this one, but Adiga again demonstrates his grasp of situational power politics with a keen sense of human nature, illustrated with off-edge comic irony.  Recommended.

Jonathan Lethem's The Ecstasy of Influence: Nonfictions, etc.  I've hardly begun this one yet and may review it at length later.  There are 437 pages of miscellaneous Lethem items, including an interview with Bob Dylan, reviews of music, books, and movies, and random humorous pieces.  A keeper, no doubt.

Fear and Loathing at Rolling Stone: The Essential Writing of Hunter S. Thompson, nicely edited by Jann Wenner.  We caught Johnny Depp doing his terrific imitation of Thompson last week on television too.  A natural.

Novelist Katharine Weber's interesting memoir, The Memory Of All That, especially for the sections concerning Cole Porter, but as a former member of Readerville, I know the lady is somehow related to nearly everyone.  Six degrees of separation from Katharine Weber, we used to say.  She writes beautifully.

Jim Harrison's The Great Leader.  On the surface, Harrison's flawed protagonist chases his own shadow/animal self.  I loved its inspired nuances and little quirky moments, all of which add up to the usually great Harrison novel.  Read Pete Dexter's funny review of it at this link.  But I liked it much more than he did.

Mark Bowden's Worm: The First Digital World War.  The author of Black Hawk Down is always worth reading.  Crazy hacking terrorists.

Rohan Wilson's The Roving Party, which was touted as Blood Meridian-like.  I loved it, though it is not nearly as deep (nor as dark) as McCarthy's masterpiece.  It is similar in surface plot, attitude, punctuation, dialogue, cadence, and vocabulary, though not in philosophy nor symbolism and it is based upon an entirely different history.  I'll review it at length one of these days, when the mood strikes me to read it again.

Most novels being compared to Cormac McCarthy are no such thing, of course.

Daniel Woodrell, author of Winter's Bone and other good ones, when asked (in this interview) about the reviews which compare him to Cormac McCarthy, replied:

"Well, I've certainly read and admired Cormac. However, the books that influenced him also influenced some of the rest of us who are always getting hit with that 'sounds like Cormac' thing. I've read Shakespeare and the Bible and Hemingway and Faulkner as well, and so if that means I have echoes that sound like Cormac it doesn't necessarily mean it comes from Cormac. It comes from the original source. I don't think I'm that much like him, to be honest, but it does come up a lot."

There are two other books I've recently that are especially worth mentioning.  Both of them would have made my best lists if I'd been lucky enough to read them when they first came out.  The first is Nicholson Baker's The Anthologist, which brims with spacey humor and lovely poetic turns of phrase.  The second is Teddy Wayne's Kapitoil, which I passed on last year, probably because it was a trade paperback and I wanted to read it in hardcover.

These two are not to be missed in any format, both of them charming, insightful novels.  Detailed reviews of them are not hard to find, but with these, the less you know ahead of time, the better.

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