Recent Reads

From the last week or two:

V., Thomas Pynchon.  A great book.  But I wish I had more time to absorb it, as I left it all to this weekend .  I could spend weeks dissecting this text.  Having not read much (it’s been years) Pynchon I expected this to be weirder than it was.  It was really not that hard to read or incomprehensible or anything like that that people seem to say.  Of course, V. came out in 1961.  The ideas and techniques in V. have since then trickled down into plenty of contemporary fiction–I found myself reminded of all sorts of things (produced later than V.) while reading it, which is the mark of an icon.  Finally, I’ve met the character Benny Profane, after being introduced (a la Tin House) to the pornographer who adopted the same name. 

The Robber BrideGroom, Eudora Welty.  This was a fun little slap-stick, fairy tale type novel, a novella really. It was hard to get into given the antiquated style, so it’s a good length at 88 pages.  Later this term I’ll be scouring this text for the influence of Robert Coate’s The Outlaw Years on Welty.

A Curtain of Green, Eudora Welty.  This is a fantastic story collection including such famous stories as “Death of a Traveling Salesman,” “Petrified Man,” and “Why I Live at the P.O.”

The Ecstatic, Victor LaValle.  This is a voice driven first-person adventure.  The inside cover calls it a comic picaresque but I’ve also looked at it in terms of the gothic novel.  It’s a strange little product, completely insular, the crazy (or not?) narrator, Anthony, explains the world in a compelling, entertaining way.  A mash up of 39 odd chapters exploring mental illness, domestic violence, eating disorders, beauty pageants, and the seriously weird, The Ecstatic is an enjoyable read.  It’s one of those books that feels like a whole ball of yarn unwound and knotted up.  There is no nice braid here, but strings trailing off at every angle.  Enjoy the ride, but don’t look for answers (or serious questions).

All the King’s Men, Robert Penn Warren.  This is simply an awesome book.  A true classic, but contemporary, on the cusp.  We have the accordingly flawed first-person narrator, Jack Burden, and we also have a believable array of other characters.  The plot is juicy.  And Jack, the misguided philosopher, historiographer, talker, maker of deals, gives us more meat than could be expected for a ‘political novel.’  And the prose and imagery is incredible, daring.

Reading right now: The Wide Net and Other Stories (Eudora Welty), The Devil’s Larder (Jim Crace)…

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