Monday, November 16, 2009

What I'm reading on Monday: Nov. 16

Finished: "A Confederacy of Dunces"

I listened to this on CD in my car. This method turned out to be fitting, because the novel is really episodic by nature. I agree with some of the contemporary (1980) reviews that said the novel had much too much dialog. I did like the way the story lines eventually flowed together, with the theme of the wheel of fortuna turning, sending Ignatius Reilly down into the gutter of Bourbon Street, and from that low mark sending everybody up again, especially Patrolman Mancuso, Darlene, Jones and Mr. Levy. Also, Toole provided some remarkable riffs, including the satire of gay life in the French Quarter and Reilly's petulance and staggering ability to produce baldfaced lies when needed. And I realize this is an ironic-satiric novel, Frye's winter mode. But Toole seemed to have no love for women at all; they're either violent (the mother, the women's auxiliary, the artists behind the cathedral) or domineering (Lana Lee, Mrs. Levy, Santa Battaglia, Myrna) or both. Of course, the men are all presented as caricatures as well. Mrs. Levy is particularly insufferable. Anyway, the book was a great deal different than I thought it would be. Still, it was worthwhile to persist to the end.

I'm glad I persisted on this one as well, because the ending was fairly satisfying. The novel has tinges of satire, particularly in its take on the Society of Creative Anachronism, and the main character is a 60-something manchild ill-equipped for the modern world, until the end. Still, his strained relationship with his children seems to be exaggerated, and the lawyer character is a little too convenient. Still, it might make my list of favorite novels for 2009.

Reading now:

"The Good Life" by Jay McInerney: I decided to let this one leap ahead on my stack because I've had it since late 2005 and I was curious about it. I didn't realize it's a sequel of sorts to McInerney's "Brightness Falls," which I read in the 1990s. More on this one later, but it's got all of McInerney's qualities and flaws in one neat package.

"Here There Be Dragons" by James Owen: Rachel and I listened to this on Saturday when we were driving down to Mobile and back. At one point, she turned to me and said, "I'm being overwhelmed by the references!" This is a fairly funny (but at the same time serious) mash-up of "Lord of the Rings" and Narnia, as two of the main characters are John (Tolkien) and Jack (Lewis).

Once the Shore: I broke my rule (again) about reading only books I own for this short-story collection that's on a lot of best-of lists. The author went to Wesleyan and several of the stories are about Korea, so I thought I'd move it up my list.

Also reading at odd moments: "Googled" by Ken Auletta.

2 comments:

J. Kaye said...

You've had it since 2005? Wow! Now you have me curious. Do you have others that have been waiting longer?

Richard LeComte said...

I'm pretty sure I received Updike's "The Afterlife" when it was published in 1994, and I read that a few weeks ago. Yes, I have a number of books that I've had since the 1990s and have not read. This drives my wife insane. This situation is the result of the fact that I've given away most of the books I have read, leaving those I have not gotten to.