Monday, December 18, 2006

The bad and the great

With best-of listmania sweeping the land, the inevitable inverse is becoming popular. (See here and here.) So here's my dos pesos on some books that didn't ring my bell over the last year.

  • On the Road by Jack Kerouac: Meh. Egomaniacs on drugs. Repeat for 250 pages.
  • Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides: Gorgeously written, yes. But goes way overboard on melodramatic plot twists. And it stops just when it's getting interesting.
  • Sunset and Sawdust by Joe R. Lansdale: Terrific opening sequence [heroine shooting her abusive husband as a tornado wrecks their home]. Sloppy patchwork mystery plotting for the remaining time, replete with corny Texas-twang dialogue and oh-so-odious bad guys. Energetic but sadly nothing new.
  • The Sea by John Banville: Gonna have to agree with Book World on this. Pretty language does not a compelling tale make.
Not to be too negative... here's my favorite reads from this year:
  • Veronica by Mary Gaitskill: Harshly beautiful; prose like a diamond knife. Sad, haunting, and hard to forget.
  • Beasts of No Nation by Uzodimna Iweala: What a debut. A prose voice like none you've ever read.
  • The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Sholokov: What great fun. Gogol on acid; freakishly inventive, fearless.
  • M31: A Family Romance by Stephen Wright: Incandescent. For my money, Wright's one of the best writers working today.
  • Out of the Woods by Chris Offutt: Short stories with incredible clarity, precision and control. Not a wasted word, not an unfelt moment.
  • Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon: The head, the tail, the whole damn thing. It isn't hype; it's everything, and more.

No comments: