Friday, September 9, 2011

Yay & Nay: A Friday of Books

This month, I have begun hacking through the enormous "To Read" pile that looks as if it will soon over-take my studio. The pile's refill rate is much higher than my rate of book consumption, but I've been finishing new reads like it's my job and think it's time to start keeping track of the awesomeness.

And so, I give you "Yay or Nay Friday," in which I will recommend something of remarkable literary deliciousness, and then ferociously warn against that which was disappointing.

YAY: "CHRONIC CITY" - JONATHAN LETHEM

This is one of those books that I'm buying everyone for Christmas.  Admittedly, I entered "Chronic City" with a bit of a bias, having fallen in love with Lethem's prose via "The Fortress of Solitude."  However, this longer, more contemporary novel provides a much different reading experience than Lethem's other work.

Perhaps my favorite thing about "Chronic City" is the brilliant collection of beyond-quirky characters.  The protagonist, one Chase Insteadman, is a former child star turned NYC loft-dweller who finds himself in a highly publicized relationship with a tragically beautiful, space-stranded astronaut (the "lostronaut," as Lethem so charmingly refers to her.) Chase's narration is underscored by the belief that he is a holographic entity, a mere follower-along, but the lofty syntax and vocabulary that characterize his voice lead readers to quite a different conclusion.  Such tension between reality and perceived reality (of the characters, of the reader, of Lethem himself) drives "Chronic City" to some of the mind's most fascinating corners. 

NAY: "THE MAN IN THE GRAY FLANNEL SKIRT" - JON-JON GOULIAN

It is a rare thing for me to leave a memoir with the singular reaction of, "...so?"  Truly, Jon-Jon's memoir of a life in which he has admittedly accomplished little and tried even less, is just as one-dimensional as its author. 

Getting through 300 pages of Goulian's "poor little rich boy" ramblings, which seem arbitrarily connected and lack a framework that would perhaps provide some semblance of logic, was nearly impossible.  I kept hoping Goulian would have something to offer, that at some point he would provide anything other than vanity or recollections of his lifelong lack of motivation.  Sadly, such redemption never came. 

UP NEXT: "GEEK LOVE" - KATHERINE DUNN


Many people that I love and respect have been recommending "Geek Love" to me, and I can't wait to get cracking on this book on my lunch break today.  Featuring an interesting mash-up of cults, carnivals, and extreme body modifications, this book sounds twisted and smart. Hooray!

6 comments:

Kyla said...

I just looked up Geek Love, and that book looks great! I think I'm going to have to add that to my reading list, too :)

elledoubleyouu said...

I like the "Yay or Nay" idea! I'm excited to see your thoughts on more books.

♥ LW

punkychewster said...

AWESOME! i love this Yay&Nay book review post! Please continue so i have another source for recommended books to read (even though i'm reading so little now, gotta pick up the pace again!)

i would do them too, except i read too slow, and too lazy to write reviews for books... thank you karen!

Inda said...

Yay! Just what I've been waiting for from Karen.

Bucho said...

dammit woman. you KNOW i've got a stack of books to get through on my own already and yet you convince me to add another, "Chronic City," to the pile.

Andrea@Fancy That! said...

Oh how I wish I had real reading time during the school year. Thanks for the recommendations (and warnings :)