Jun 09 2009
I have been doing a lot of summer pleasure reading in the last few weeks:
White Butterfly, Walter Mosley
Iron Council, China Mieville
My Name is Asher Lev, Chaim Potok (for the new book club I joined recently),
and a slew of Kathy Reichs novels, which I am substituting for actually going to the beach:
Death du Jour, Deadly Decisions, and Fatal Voyage (the first few books of the Temperance Brennan series, which the tv show Bones was based on).
I’ve enjoyed all of them. The Kathy Reichs are gory and sciencey and, though I don’t always like such graphic things, I am enjoying these because of the tone of the middle-aged, overworked and funny main character, which rings true with so many scientists I have known. They aren’t great writing — I can finish one in an evening — but it’s been entertaining. (And I can see why on the show they cast David Boreanaz for the part of the unreliable hunk who is always turning up).
I have always been a fan of Walter Mosley (though I have only read the Easy Rawlins books) and I recommend them, but they are very dark and, with their little morality plays of African-American life in 1940s L.A. that have no easy resolutions, harder to get through than the clinical descriptions of severed bodies that Reichs serves up.
The Potok book is very different from all of these, and is about Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn in the ’50s from the perspective of a boy (then young man). Though Potok is a powerful writer who captures the sensations of the child, I felt the world Potok writes about is so foreign to me that I had a hard time understanding My Name is Asher Lev, though I do know what it is to live with artists.
Mieville, my favorite of all these authors, is shockingly good, puissant and strange. He is one of the best authors working in fantasy today, and one of the most original, leaving images that have remained in the front of my brain weeks later. This is the last book of a trilogy that started with the outstanding Perdido Street Station (which is what I would start with), and helps add dimensionality to the universe in a way that was missing before. These are also bizarre and frightening books, but in a very different way than the crime novels, which seek to make sense of the world we live in now; Mieville writes about a world that feels so gritty and real and yet completely not the one we live in, that it startles me every time. Iron Council is about a revolution, and a kidnapped train, and imperialism, and is told with complicated grace.
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