Monday, November 10, 2008

Another Catch-Up

Again, I've been neglecting the roundup of books. So much so that I think I'll have to break this "Catch-up" into multiple parts. Here goes part number one:

The Book Against God by James Wood - After reading a chunk of Wood's essays, I decided to check out his novel. Thomas Bunting is working on his Ph.D. but spends most of his time jotting notes in his "Book Against God" and lamenting his relationships with his wife and his father, a small town priest. As one would expect, Wood's style is lyrical and humorous and is what makes the book worth reading--otherwise it's a standard "my life is falling apart, existential crisis" novel.

The Sea by John Banville - Elegiac is the word most often used to describe this short but dense novel and that's the first that came to mind for me when attempting to describe it. I'm not sure if anyone writing in English today writes a more beautiful sentence than Banville. Sometimes it's almost too much, like a whole dinner of incredibly rich Alfredo sauce. Still, beautiful with the great little twist at the end.

Harry, Revised by Mark Sarvas - I picked this up because I read Sarvas' blog, The Elegant Variation. While I think that the review in the NYTBR was unnecessarily nasty, there were several points made that I have to agree with. Most of the "comedy" scenes played like bad television slapstick (the ball-busting exercise bike ride, the peeing out the window onto someone's head scene) and the humor in general just didn't work for me. Almost all of the character's ploys (Harry goes way out of his way to help a downtrodden waitress in order to impress her coworker) felt like they were contrived solely to advance the plot of the novel, not because they fit with the character's motivation. I wanted to like this one, because I do enjoy Sarvas' blog, but it never took hold with me.

That's it for now. I'll get to the rest later. Today? I don't know--that's kind of stretching it.

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