Wednesday, September 7, 2011

What I'm Reading Wednesdays: Sept. 7

For the WWW weekly blog meme:

What I finished reading: 

"The Magician King": Lev Grossman's follow-up to "The Magicians" is a popcorn for the Williamsburg crowd -- it combines meta-fantasy tropes (the characters know they're supposed to be fantasy characters, but they still have real-world issues) with a certain raw-edge look at the powers that rule Fillory, the fantasy land in danger at the beginning of the novel. Quentin, the central character of "The Magicians" and one of Fillory's four kings and queens, cedes half the book to his childhood crush Julia, whose backstory takes up the rest of the novel. The stories find their confluence in Fillory, where magic is going crazy. Quentin, desperate to be a hero, at first hesitates when starting on a quest, then throws himself in, only to get himself (and Julia) exiled from Fillory and back to our reality. Many familiar characters from the first book show up, and some new ones add to the festivities. Still, you don't get quite the sense of giddy discovery in "The Magicians" (tempered humorously by rigorous training at Brakebills). Grossman is great at piling up the heartbreaking costs of quests and fantasy, and at the end, we're left waiting for the (possible) third entry in this saga.

"All Families are Psychotic": But not quite this psychotic. Douglas Coupland's black comedy chronicles the Drummond family as they converge in Orlando, awaiting for sister Sarah's ascent on the space shuttle. The mother and father (Janet and Ted) are divorced; Ted has a trophy wife. The brothers, Wade and Bryan, are habitual losers -- Wade, a veteran of many shady professions, is broke because of a medical procedure to allow his Christian wife, Beth, to become pregnant, and Bryan burns Gaps with his annoying, pregnant girlfriend, Shw. (No vowels.) Meanwhile, Janet and Ted battle medical issues of their own, and Janet is forced to confront and deal with her past. The book is full of random occurrences -- robberies, family members run into each other, sudden deaths -- as well as incredibly bad behavior. One subplot involves dealing with a stolen letter of huge value. Meanwhile, Sarah, seemingly the least scarred person (an astronaut with a birth defect), may be the one with the most problems. Coupland is really writing about genetics, medicine, addiction, faith and the disgrace of contemporary culture -- he's particularly unfair to Daytona Beach -- and once you figure that out, the novel becomes much more enjoyable.

What I'm reading now: I'm reading two books at once, more more or less: "Miss New India" by Bharati Mukherjee, a novel about a young woman escaping her traditional upbringing by going to Bangalore; and "The Days of the King" (Amazon Vine), a novel by Filip Florian about the emergence of Bucharest on the European scene in the 19th century (it's translated from the Romaina by Alistair Ian Blyth). "Miss New India" is for a book club.

What I'll read next: I want to get back to "The Indian Clerk" by David Leavitt, then "Domestic Violets," an Amazon Vine title. But I may bag both and go with finishing "Wolf Hall" by Hillary Mantel, the "Ice Trilogy" or even one of the novels in a Flann O'Brien anthology. I also want to read Raymond Chandler's "The Long Goodbye." I may declare October "anthology month" and read only novels and short stories collected in anthologies.

1 comment:

Amy said...

Great reads! More books to add to my TBR list – thank you for sharing! :)

Here’s mine: