Sunday, January 31, 2010

When You Reach Me, Rebecca Stead

The winner of the 2010 Newbery Award.

I read few books without knowing a great deal of background. Knowing I want to commit time to a novel. With young adult and juvenile fiction, it is easier to go in blind. The books are shorter, the content lighter, the dialogue easier.

In this book, a lot of this true. And, a lot of this is false. A gifted young adult author refuses to cheapen the story for a younger audience. In the case of this novel, the story is still very complex. By the novel's end, there are still things not fully resolved. Is it to do with the way the young mind is so quick to explain away specific problems? To make sense of all that is confusing?

After finishing this book, I read a quick review. The reviewer believes this is a book best read at least twice. Many reviewers claim this after they have completed a book. In the case of When You Reach Me, I believe this is true. I could have read another 400 pages.


Friday, January 29, 2010

Let the Great World Spin, Colum McCann

Many novels have been written about September 11th. Only one other novel, before this one, has felt truly genuine and original, Don DeLillo's The Falling Man. What makes McCann's novel stand above the rest is how removed it feels from September 11th.

The novel's central focus is on Philippe Petit's tightrope walk between the Twin Towers (see the documentary Man on Wire). Each chapter plays as a short story. A character's response to spotting the man walking what seems mid-air or a life being lived near the famous walk.

As most novels which use short stories to tell the story... the characters are all tied together. The main tie between most characters is that of an Irish priest named Corrigan. September 11th isn't even mentioned until a small passage in the final chapter (which is perhaps the weakest in plot but the strongest in writing).

McCann writes beautifully. I haven't read prose so well written since Banville's The Sea. And, the way the stories fold together so well reminds me of Mitchell's Ghostwritten.

This is a novel one holds close for many years.

"The thing about love is that we come alive in bodies not our own." (p.275)


Thursday, January 28, 2010

Teen Dream, Beach House

I think to their first two albums while listening to this album. The first two sounded so similar. In fact, there are times I forget there are two... they melt as one long, double release. The voice is still so similar. A ghost down the hallway mood of Victoria's voice.

The compositions are slightly more complex. Verging on experimental. At the same time sounding out of touch, out of focus, and from decades past. There is something learned in the sounds of the third Beach House release.

The album is released with a DVD. The DVD contains a music video for each song. Each video from a different director. This is too much gimmick. I haven't found the time to watch the videos. Not sure when I'll have interest in said DVD. This is too much a pull away from the album itself. The sounds and the lyrics.

Despite the change, Beach House is still a little bit lost in their own minds. They never quite express their thoughts beyond themselves. Nothing is wrong with personal art. But, after three albums... I would have liked to be let in a little.


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Good Wife, Stewart O'Nan

I think of all O'Nan missed out on in this novel. The idea of Patty being just as caged as Tommy. If not more caged than Tommy. Is one able to lock themselves to someone based solely on an idea of what might have been? The past has a way of trapping us, but Patty is too quickly suffocated.

O'Nan never focuses away from Patty. The story suffers from a single point of view. We are told of opinions of friends, of the mother, of Tommy... but, what if we had been able to hear another voice? In such a stifling history of a woman, one feels forced to create a judgment against Patty.

The characters appear shallow due to Patty's inability to think beyond the surface level of her life. This is effective in helping us to understand Patty, but is ineffective in the way the reader is unable to feel connected to the living.