Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Books of December

This blog needs a little focus, so instead of adding another rant about something that's bothering me, I am now introducing the first in a monthly series: what I have been reading. Below are the books I read in December & my thoughts on each. Enjoy!

My Name Is Red by Orhan Pamuk
A beautiful novel - I can see why Pamuk won this year's Nobel Prize in Literature. It was a little slow moving at times - a complaint that I know many Orhan readers have experienced - but worth hanging with, if for nothing else than to revel in his beautiful prose style. I especially liked his alternating narratives - each chapter is narrated by a different character, each time offering a different perspective on the unfolding drama.
He had me at hello - Chapter 1: I Am A Corpse. Come on, that's brilliant.

L.A. Rex by Will Beall
I had been looking over & around the galley for this book for months - it never really passed the first page test - until my friend William tossed his finished copy at me and demanded that I read it. An absolutely brilliant debut novel. Granted, this isn't for everyone - a lot of the books I read are dark, violent, crime noir - Bruen, Wilson, JLB, Steinhauer, etc. Your grandma would have a heart attack reading Will Beall. In addition to being a novelist, he is a cop in the heart of darkest South Central LA - which lends a relatively unprecedented air of truth to a book in this genre. Joseph Wambaugh started writing detective fiction while he was still LAPD 30+ years ago, but I feel, and this is just one man's opinion, that he has become very far removed from the reality of those streets so that his writing doesn't ring as true anymore. Beall picks up that gauntlet of truth and smashes the shit out of it.

Travels In the Scriptorium by Paul Auster
I have said on this blog before that Auster is always hit or miss for me. I generally love his work, but it really seems to be an every-other-book sort of thing. I loved Book of Illusions but was disappointed by Oracle Night. I really loved Brooklyn Follies but....this is one was a miss for me. I don't know if I don't think & operate on the same level as he does, or what, but I just didn't get this book. Well, I got it, sort of, but it just didn't do it for me. It's not that it comes off as overly pretentious, I just feel like I'm not transcending my earthly form in order to grasp his metaphorical meanderings. You know?

Perfume by Andrew Suskind
Pretty good. Though I felt it didn't live up to the hype I've always heard about it. "You have to read this book!" usually tips me towards never, ever reading said book (Kite Runner, Shantaram, which I've read 1/2 of) but something about Suskind's book seemed compelling in the face of all that. It did feature one of the most wicked, creepily evil protagonists I've ever seen.

Smonk by Tom Franklin
Some good ol' western pulp. Smonk is an evil, twisted piece of shit, & he's wonderful.

All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy
Keeping with the western theme. I have long debated whether to read this book, mainly because I think of Matt Damon, sappy love, and pretty horses whenever I look at it. However, as it turns out, the title is the only flowery part of the book (what was Cormac thinking with that one?) and true sparse Cormac grit prevails. His prose style is absolutely perfect for his open, lonely prairies and dusty border towns. Granted, it's not as violent or gritty as Blood Meridian, but it certainly has its moments: Grady survives his unlawful incarceration in a Mexican jail by stabbing an inmate in the heart. Giddeeup!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Thomas "The Greedy Cannibal" Harris

Thomas Harris has written yet another Hannibal Lecter book. There's nothing wrong with this, on the surface, if you can manage to look past the obvious attempt to make another steaming wad of cash off of a tired old character. Fine - this is nothing new, even from Harris, who's last book, Hannibal, was essentially the same thing. BUT... I just found out that Harris actually wrote the screenplay for this story at the same time as the novel - finishing the script first, in fact. And, the film is actually completed and scheduled for release in February. This bothers me.

Writers writing novels with the underlying intention of having them made into films is nothing new, I understand this. I have often come across ridiculous books that conjure images of slobbering, wild-eyed authors hunched over laptops, dreaming of Oscars instead of Nobels. (Please refer to the novel Hannibal for examples.) And sometimes, the reverse happens, like Graham Greene's The Third Man - except, that was actually good. But there's just something about this that sticks in my craw, you know what I mean? It just seems particularly slimy, shitty, greedy, and underhanded. So, Mr. Harris, not that I'm really anyone of real consequence (and the fact that the average readership of blogs is exactly one person) I am nonetheless placing you at the very top of my 2006 Publishing Pieces of Shit list. Congratulations. I hope Hannibal eats your liver, you fat bastard.