Sunday, August 14, 2011

Recent Books

Little Newt snorted. "Religion!"

"Beg your pardon?" Castle said.

"See the cat?" asked Newt. "See the cradle?"

(From Cat's Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut)

Cat's Cradle was one of the books I read on vacation, continuing my Vonnegut streak. I also ploughed through The Meaning of Night by Michael Cox and A Widow for One Year by John Irving. I admit I have not been reading much of anything the last year. Too busy? Too distracted? There's no excuse, and this past vacation saw the rebirth in me of the joy of reading. I've also - after years away - joined another book club. I like the sound of this one; they only meet every couple of months or so, so lots of time for reading other books as well.

Cat's Cradle was brilliantly imaginative and subversively funny. I miss it already, and that's a great feeling, when you miss a book. The Meaning of Night was fascinating and frustrating. I was lucky that there was someone else at the cottage who'd read it, so I could vent and share my feelings. Set in Victorian London, it starts with the confession of a murder and then delves into the history behind that murder. In that respect it reminds me of The Secret History by Donna Tartt, which begins by telling you who has been murdered and by who, and then goes on to explain why. Meaning of Night was rife with detail of life in the London underworld of its time. And there is much to learn about those book collectors of the time and about how the great libraries of Britain stately homes came to be.


But what I found so frustrating -- the deeply neurotic and self-sabotaging behaviour of the main character -- was also quite believeable... or was it? And what of the mountains of coincidence that brought our main character time and time again in step with his nemesis? This is what we debated. Feel free to weigh in if you have read this book.

I avidly read all of John Irving's books, but stopped after A Son of the Circus. It's been a while now, so I don't recall why I didn't enjoy it. BUT... I kept buying his books. As I packed for our cottage stay I tossed A Widow for One Year into my bag. I'm glad I did. It is as whimsically Dickensian, as quirkily charactered and as funny and serious as any of his best books. It's also bulging with semi colons (hooray!) and even though it boasts none of the oft repeated stand bys (bears, Vienna), it does pay homage to at least one of his older books with one mention of one flatulent dog. I recommend!


Zuzana said...

I used to read a lot when I was younger, then my life took a turn and I simply found no time over for books. Now, just like you, I try to get back to that joy I once knew.;)
Thank you so much dear G for your recent "welcoming back" comment - it is indeed good to be back and life is good too;))

phil said...

KV's Mother Night should be next on your list.

And tackle his Welcome To The Monkey House short stories on your hour lunch break.


Blog Princess G said...

Phil: thanks for the recommendation.