Sunday, June 25, 2006

My Book List

In lieu of a real true post about anything useful, which would require effort that I, frankly, do not really care to invest, I have decided to post a list and synopsis of all the various books that I am reading currently or have just finished reading. And there is a reason for this decision. It so happens that my method of selecting books- picking up things around the house that look interesting- has gotten me a range of books that are a) eclectic and b) make me look all smart and studious and so forth.

1) A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius- Well. It actually is. Heartbreaking and Staggeringly Genius that is. And so many levels of meta and self-consciousness that it could make your head spin. It's all about being aware of yourself as a member of the intellectual youth, and it's quite interesting. At times, it gets a little annoying, but the thing is, you know that the author knows that too, and so it's nice.

2) The Truth and Pyramids (Terry Pratchett books) Of course, I'm re-reading these, since I've read all of Pratchett's books, but they are just so much fun. I adore Pratchett characters, and both of these are not part of his regular series so there's no chance of having already gotten tired of the protagonists. Pyramids, especially, I have not read for a while and I had forgotten just how wonderful it is.

3) Rachel and Leah Part of Orson Scott Card's Bible Stories. A little weird. I mean, the concept, of trying to write novels around the Biblical stories is interesting, but unfortunately Card is crippled by a) the Mormon readings that he must include and b) his inability to write romance that is not painful. And the romance in this book was the most painful of all, since he decided not only to make Rachel and Leah madly in love with Jacob, but to make the handmaidens pretty much swooning as well. Which he accomplished by making Jacob an action-figure, perfect hero character. Card had, I must admit, some interesting insights, but he ended up convoluting the whole story in an effort to make Laban a wonderful guy. Now, considering the whole switch and so forth, it's tricky, but he manages. Sort of. Not a bad read, but I think the book made me grimace and go "icky, icky" a bit too much for a proper Biblical rendition.

4) First Circle- I'm only in the middle of this one. It's the story of prisoners in the very upper levels of the Gulag, the bits reserved for the intellectuals and so forth who can produce better if not mistreated. It's a great story- the characters are all fun and the characterization of Stalin is cuttingly clever. The only real problem is that the author introduces a new character every chapter- and I'm already on page 200- and they all have Russian names and keeping switching names and patronyms and nicknames and so forth so that you can't hardly keep track of any of them. I mean, I'll be halfway through a conversation before realizing that there are only two participants, not the three or four that I had assumed.

5) Burn Rate- Somebody's story of his time as an internet entrepaneur. I got most of the way through this and then got a little bored. His life is just such a constant whirl of disasters and betrayals and deals and desperation and no real income. You pity him, but you also want to hit him over the head and ask him how he got into this mess.
There are a couple others here and there- SciFi anthologies, history books that my father pushes on me, and so forth, but these are the ones that I have finished or at least made a decent attempt at in the past week.

And just for the record, my brother was, in fact, hovering over my shoulder for a large portion of this post. Which is why I can't be expected to do anything more inspired than a book list.

11 comments:

Halfnutcase said...

beat him and chase him out the door. ;-)

(brothers are so annoying)

dbs said...

Yeah Mom, that's right, I'm sort of working for my future father in law now...

Uh, no, not exactly a cash sort of position...

Yeah, yeah, I know you never really got along with him, but he's really okay...

What, sure I trust him, I'm engaged to his daughter after all...

Oh, you know, working with the sheep and that stuff...(yawn)...yeah, it's kind of tiring...

Huh...password...okay good idea...look I've got to run, I'm up to my eyballs in strays...say hi to dad...realy, it's been that long...what...socks...sure...uh, no dreams lately, why do you ask?

Tobie said...

HNC- If only. But he's gotten to the stage that he's bigger than me. Alas.
DBS- LOL

Irina Tsukerman said...

Who are the authors of the last two books? They sound like something I must check out! : )

Halfnutcase said...

so blackmail him out.

that works pretty well ;-)

(and even though i'm a boy i can fully sympathize, my little brother is one of those monster kids who can beat up anyone. actualy he's been that way scince he was about 5...)

e-kvetcher said...

I really liked "Heartbreaking Work..." The thing is that in many ways, I think exactly like the main character. Which blew my mind that someone could think this way, cause I always thought that I am pretty weird. Of course, when I told my wife, she said "You do realize that this is autobiographical, and the author is clinically mentally ill?".

The thing about "First Cirle" and the names and the characters - well, it is probably no worse than War and Peace, Anna Karenina, most Dostoyevsky, etc... I wonder if as a public service I should put up a website which explains how the stuff works. I mean, there's no magic to it. If you saw Dick and Richard and you just flew in from Cambodia, you wouldn't suspect that they are the same name, would you?

Tobie said...

Irina- First Circle is by some incredibly long Russian name Alexandr Solzneizchin or something of that kind and I can't recall who wrote Burn Rate. Probably you could google it or something. (You have such intellectual tastes ;) )

HNC- To be fair, Mike will let me use the computer if I nag enough, it's just a bit of a pain.

E-Kvetcher- Absolutely. I spent of ASWOHG thinking that this is just the way that I would write a book if I ever wrote a book. I wonder if there's a personality type that is always self-aware- not self-conscious, I mean, but just constantly self-editing and so forth.

I had the same experience with Notes from the Underground- our whole college class was talking about how crazy the man was and I timidly raised my hand and asked if I was the only person present who thought that resembled them. And everybody looked at me sort of oddly.

As for Russian names, I get the general theory, with the patronyms and so forth, but the nicknames are over my head and I can never keep track of who matches up to whom. And, I have to say, not many English books will switch between first name, last name, and nicknames within the same conversation. Usually there's a name that the person goes by and that's that.

Miri said...

e-kvetcher is right about the Russian names. the thing with Tolstoy and Dostoevsky is that they're long enough that eventually you catch on and can follow it, but it usually takes about 2-300 pages. I also think very similarly to the author of AHWOSG; not quite as hyper or paranoid though. For all Eggers fans, I have to reccomend Please Don't Kill The Freshman by Zoe Trope. similarly autobiographical, heavily self-concious narrative type style, but she's a high school kid. and as to heavy self-editing, or rather heavy self-concious narraration, ever read Doonesbury?

Irina Tsukerman said...

O, Solzhenitsin! Ok, got it. The name in English didn't strike me for some reason...

I had an extremely similar experience with "Poor Folk". Everyone in the class was sure the protagonist was nuts... and I thought the class was the one with a problem.

Halfnutcase said...

i've done that before, read a book for class and had everyone in the class think some character in the book was nuts and i felt like they where.

it's kinda freaky.

(i forget which book it was)

alessia said...

hi, I'm also reading novels that retrace the story of Rachel and Leah (and Jacob), but that I'm sure you probably would enjoy much more. They are by Liz Curtis Higgs, if you want to check them out. I've been blogging about them a lot recently. What's interesting is they take place in 18th century Scotland, which gives the plot an interesting twist.