Archives for category: Fiction

I read the first two of Penny’s mysteries in order, but then skipped ahead because I found a used copy of this one. I regret it a little because I think there’s one prior to this that informs a subplot here. Does anyone know? But this one was a step up from the previous two which I thought were quite good. Penny, perhaps because she’s grown confident because of the success of her earlier books, delves into Canadian history and politics here. They are essential to the plot (in ways that made me wish I understood them better) and make the story take on an impressive level of depth in the way Mankell did in his Wallender series.

Really good stuff. I have one more used one to read, but perhaps I should go back to reading them in order.

This collection is not for those who like their stories to go in straight lines. Though Millhauser is intersted in straight lines. In my experience with his work, he’s very much interested in the architecture of our lives. If I inferred anything from what he’s up to here, there seems to be a theme about happiness and place. It is not new to say we are forever discontent, but to say that we’d become more in love with a woman’s reflection in the mirror than the woman herself, well, that’s new. Or that there’s a place where they will help counsel you to commit suicide? That’s new as well. Or that there’s a place that will expel you when you no longer belong there? You get the idea.

I find Millhauser to be very much underrated, but maybe he’s just my kind of strange.

I had decided a while ago that it was time for me to move past just Kindred, and this title kept popping up after the recent election. As with Kindred, I wanted just a little more nuance and polish in the writing. The ideas in both books are thought-provoking, but the prose, especially the dialogue, can be a bit wooden and didactic.

I have never really understood the purpose of genres – beyond marketing and shelving things in libraries and bookstores. I don’t see why this title was in the Science Fiction section at the legendary and awesome Strand Bookstore. It is no more science fiction than any other dystopian novel. And those are generally found in the general fiction section. I only know the two titles I’ve mentioned, so perhaps her other books are more obviously science fiction, so people tend to put all of her work in that section.

I wasn’t so sure about this one. The premise, a novel based on a performance by a stand-up comedian, worried me. Was this just going to be an excuse for an epic monologue, as in, say, the wildly overrated The Reluctant Fundamentalist?

Though it is told without chapter breaks, it is far from just a single monologue. It is another brilliant example of Grossman’s ability to combine the personal and political in a compelling story. Here, as in To the End of the Land, it is a story that needs to be told, not for entertainment or information but, as is often the case in Israel, for survival.

I had the good fortune to hear Grossman talk about the book at the 92nd Street Y (a personal Mecca for me), and his insights and explanations made me want to read it again.

On top of all of that, many of the jokes in the book are really funny!

Less a mystery than the story of a kind of “fixer,” Morath, embroiled in the build-up to World War II. He tries to solve problems, both personal and political. Furst is generally not as concerned about plot as he is about atmosphere and details. He certainly makes the situations seem authentic, though of course our man survives every time and beautiful women love him. A good escape.

I’m glad Berlin has been (re)discovered, but I wonder about the decision to put quite so many stories in one collection. Why not just re-print the collections she published in her lifetime?

The stories are off-beat, honest, quirky. I most appreciated the ones where we see the same story from two points of view, not in any clever modernist way, but the story of the old couples watching the sisters on the beach and the story of those sisters – both in one story. A single story, however short, rarely contains just a single story.

Though I could have used a family tree, I also thought the collection picked up when it became apparent that so many of the stories were interconnected. The same characters at different ages, featuring here, having a bit part there. It was, at times, tempting to consider the stories Flannery O’Connor-esque, but I don’t think that does either writer justice.

Good stories. Honest. In interesting places with flawed and fantastic people. Real.

I’m not going to be able to say too much here because I read 2/3 of this a long while ago and then (honestly) misplaced it. I was hoping our son would forget about having asked me to read it, but he didn’t, so I tried to stall for longer by saying I had other things to read ahead of it, but he persisted and I had promised.

Look, I’m not in love with the fantasy genre and haven’t really read much that would allow me to offer an assessment of whether this is better or worse than other fantasy novels. The writing is uneven. Sometimes, it’s wonderfully specific; occasionally, there are some glaring generalities.

I like how Mull handles the genders and that this book has an honest ending, not just a cliffhanger to push me to the next book (#2 of 5, which our son insists I will finish).