Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Three Recent Books and Other News

The last three books I read (or didn't read) were American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis, Purple Cane Road by James Lee Burke, and Cuba Libre by Elmore Leonard.

Of the three, I thought Purple Cane Road the best by far. Burke's hard-boiled detective is very much within expectations for the genre, and really he doesn't give us much of an intellectual stretch beyond what we'd expect from a stereotypical pre-Katrina New Orleans and environs, but his storytelling is superior, his characters jump and live and hurt and feel and you honestly worry how they'll come through it all, which is what good storytelling is all about. I read the last quarter of the novel in a single night between 9 pm and 1 am and afterward I barely slept because I couldn't get Burke's voice out of my head, which is what good writing is all about.

Elmore Leonard is Burke's equal as a writer, but with Cuba Libre, he isn't Burke's equal as a storyteller. Cuba Libre is a good historical novel, filled with lovely historical details through which a cast of characters walk and talk like cutouts on a felt board. They don't seem part of their environment, or even really part of each other, and everyone is just a little too good at what they do, a little too comfortable with their roles, as though they've already seen the script and know how everything's going to turn out. I expected better from Mr. Leonard.

By the time I finished the second chapter of American Psycho, I was begging for the killing to begin. Never have I seen so many utterly obnoxious characters so obnoxiously drawn. I hated everyone and everything about this novel and couldn't finish it. I don't often pick up a book without finishing it. I think the last time was around 1989 with one of the early Dragonlance spinoffs. Unfortunately, readers can't skiddoo into the pages and start strangling the characters, which is what I really wanted to do, so we do the next best thing - we close the book, take it to a used bookstore, and trade it in for credit.

Speaking of strangling, over the weekend I read Macbeth and Suddenly Last Summer.

Monday I began The Fifth Child by Doris Lessing.

A book I want to read - I'm Looking Through You: Growing Up Haunted, by Jennifer Finney Boylan. Why? Read this to find out. It doesn't come out until January, and then in hard back. I'll probably wait until the soft cover.

The Futures from Nature anthology comes out November 13, with my story "Hot Dogs at the End of the World," plus some other writers you might have heard of, like Arthur C. Clarke, Greg Bear, Cory Doctorow, Michael Moorcock, Frederick Pohl, etc..

Meanwhile, my thoughts appear as if by magic in the latest two issues of the Los Angeles Free Press. Go figure.

No comments: