Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Having a laugh, are we?

Here's the best thing I've read about that whole "n+1 hates bloggers, bloggers hate n+1" business.  I needed a laugh.  Excerpt:

Open Letter to n+1*

Dear n+1,

Can I get my Totebag! embroidered?

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

2007 Tournament of Books: Round one, match five.

In Arthur and George, it was clear from the beginning that the mystery would be solved and that the solution wasn’t the sort that could be sussed out by a careful reader. That takes away much of the fun. The weakness is especially apparent in the final third of the book, when the plot seems to slow down and the story disintegrates into a legal tug of war over the fate of George Edalji. It wouldn’t have been so dry had Sir Arthur’s skills been more in doubt; the knowledge that eventually he would tap the correct villain and clear Mr. Edalji’s name took away some of my interest as I neared the end.

Conversely, One Good Turn has a slow start—it’s never completely obvious which of the many characters is the main crime-solver—but the twists and turns of the final chapters (indeed, the final lines) kept me up late, anxious to read just one more chapter rather than go to bed and leave the mystery unsolved. And when I was finished, I was pleased to be able to say that I’d had my suspicions about the character eventually pegged for the crime. Early on I’d thought, Now, that person is acting pretty funny for the circumstances. It is possible for a careful reader to solve the crime in this book, and for this sleuth, that makes a big difference.

Winner.  Eventually, Max must stumble. 

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Auster on Marquez.

It was the spring of 1970. I was twenty-three years old, writing and
translating poems, writing essays and reviews, but also dreaming of one
day being able to write novels. By then, I had read nearly all the
masters of the twentieth century--Joyce and Proust, Kafka and Beckett,
Faulkner and Nabokov, Fitzgerald and Céline--and was feeling a little
crushed. How on earth could one ever get out from under those giants?

day, I read a highly enthusiastic review of a novel by a South American
writer whose name was unknown to me. At the time, thirty-seven years
ago, buying hardcover books was an extravagance I could scarcely
afford, but my curiosity had been aroused to such a degree that I went
out and sprang for the book anyway. I started reading One Hundred Years of Solitude
in the early afternoon and I didn't put it down until I had finished
reading it late that night. Here was soemthing new and fresh and
altogether mesmerizing: an imagination, a voice, a sensibility that
resembled nothing I had encountered before. And yet Gabriel García
Márquez's novel, in the masterful translation by Gregory Rabassa,
contained many old-fashioned virtues as well, most of which can be
summed up in a single phrase: love of storytelling.

This love is
what creates pleasure in the reader, the sense of amazement and
happiness that washes over us whenever we stumble upon one of those
rare books that changes the way we look at the world, exposes us to the
infinite possibilities of what a book can be. Every passionate reader
has had that experience, and each time it happens, we understand that
books are a world unto themselves and that world is better and richer
than any we have traveled in before. That is why we become readers in
the first place. That is why we turn away from the vanities of the
material world and begin to love books above all other things.


Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Soon, "After Dark."

Quick peek from Bookdwarf at Murakami's forthcoming.

After Dark
by Haruki Murakami (coming in May from Random House)—Short novel from
one of my father authors. Set over the course of an evening, the
chapters cut between several interconnected stories: trombonist
Tetsuya, entering a Denny’s one evening, runs into Mari Asai. He was
once interested in Mari’s beautiful older sister Eri, who has been
asleep for a month, trapped in some netherworld. Meanwhile, a Chinese
prostitute is beaten badly by an officeworker at a love hotel and the
propietor, Kaoru, needs Mari’s Chinese translation skills. The book
doesn’t go anywhere. Rather it seems to be more of an observation on
coincidences and time.

Well, that could be horrible or really great. 

Friday, March 2, 2007

Do you believe in Magic for Beginners?

Audrey Niffenegger sure does; excerpt:

Thankfully, one need pine no longer: after a couple of years' worth of
word-of-mouth buzz on the internet, Magic for Beginners, Kelly Link's
superb collection of short stories, is finally available in bookshops.
Now, you may be thinking, I don't like science fiction. I don't like
short stories. Get over it. This isn't exactly science fiction (it's
not exactly not science fiction either). Link is the literary
descendant of Jorge Luis Borges and Franz Kafka, those supremely
matter-of-fact creators of alternative realities. "Josephine the
Singer, or the Mouse Folk", Kafka's cheery little fable, would be right
at home nestled against Link's story "Catskin", in which children are
created from bits and sticks, turned into cats or princes, and
sometimes drowned in the river.

a narrative uncertainty at times, moments when the author simply tells
us to decide for ourselves, or brusquely informs us that we aren't to
know what happened. But there are Borgesian, labyrinthine levels to
many of the tales, especially in "Magic for Beginners", the title
story, which features the aforementioned Free People's World-Tree
Library. This vast library is the setting for a TV show which is avidly
watched by a small band of ordinary American teenagers, even though it
never appears on a regularly scheduled day or channel. But the
teenagers themselves are in the TV show too, and the characters are
trying to contact them for reasons that are urgent, though hard to
figure out. It's complex; it is also continuously surprising,
compelling and strange.

That's right: Borges.  Big name to be dropping, no?  Give Stranger Things Happen a try.  (Free.)