Friday, December 28, 2007

Books I Heard in 2007, Part II

11. After the Wreck, I Picked Myself Up, Spread My Wings, And Flew Away by Joyce Carol Oates: Too pat at the end, but man could she get inside what it can feel like to be a teenager.

12. The Tenth Circle by Jodi Picoult: I think I’m over her now. Yes, I’m SURE I’m over her now. This sucked.

13. Runaway by Alice Munro: How good are these stories? I was, sadness in the pit of my stomach the third in the series of stories about Juliette, when everything went in a direction I just didn’t want it to go, because it just made me too sad, too hopeless. God, she’s good. Her writing is transcendent. Simple, and yet transcendent.

14. The Lost Continent by Bill Bryson: Old, dated in places, un-PC-ish in others (enough to make me cringe)...and yet freaking hilarious in so many spots. I laughed out loud more than once; actually, I laughed out loud more than a dozen times.

15. The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio by Terry Ryan: I hate abridged versions of books, and if I’d realized this was abridged, I wouldn’t have bothered. Which would have been a pity, because it was really quite sweet—for a book about how a woman can raise 10 kids despite having a drunken, abusive asshole for a husband. Glad I listened. Nothing earthshattering here, but still. Glad I listened.

16. The Sea by John Banville: I listened all the way through because it wasn’t an especially long book. But, frankly, had it been longer, I’d have given up halfway in, out of sheer boredom and lack of interest. And yet. The writing was quite wonderful, and I guess in that sense I can see why it won the 2005 Man Booker Prize, but it didn’t touch me. Except for the ending, which I didn't see coming. And when a book gets me in the end, when there are plot twists I didn’t even pick up on—old, over-read, way-too-jaded TC—then I have to give the book its due. I wouldn’t say you should rush out and drop everything, etc., the end, it turned out not to have been a waste of time. And though it doesn't sound like much, that’s more than just faint praise.

17. Moral Disorder by Margaret Atwood: I’m not convinced that this worked better as a collection of short stories than it would have as a cohesive novel, but I suppose I can see the argument for doing it the way she did. In any case, it was good. Not great. But really, solidly good.

18. The Know It All by AJ Jacobs: Even for a memoir (of sorts), this book was self-indulgent and often silly, and when it wasn’t it was preachy and pretentious. Still, I really enjoyed it. And not just because he uses my “I’m not a hypochondriac; I have things” line almost verbatim at least twice. But because I like book geeks. And anyone who read the Encyclopedia Britannica cover to cover and thinks that's cool is a book geek.

19. Fraud by David Rakoff: Yep. Still have a crush on him.

20. The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood: You know, I hadn't read any Atwood since The Handmaid's Tale in...what, the late '80s? Earlier? Anyway, I had it in my head that she'd gone commercial and silly and overly sci-fi-ish, none of which are things I'm especially interested in spending my time reading. But I kept hearing her books recommended, and then I listened to Moral Disorders and liked it, so I gave this one a try. Bad choice. God, I couldn’t wait for this book to end. It’s not that it was badly written, but rather that it was completely and totally overwritten. The book-within-a-book thing? Why? It was...condescending. And its characters—to a man and/or woman—were utterly unlikeable or unsympathetic or, worst of all, just plain boring. As was the novel as a whole. What a disappointment.


Leila said...

I wrote an "I loathe Jodi Picoult" post about 6 months ago. Everyone kept on saying "oh you have to read her, you'll love her" and I didn't. Hee.

Thanks for the recap. I'm going see what I need to put on hold at my local library.

Elizabeth said...

Abridged version sounds like about right for Prize Winner, which would have been a great long magazine article, but ran thin as a full book. And I agree with you on Runaway.