Wednesday, December 14, 2011

What I'm Reading Wednesday: Dec. 14

For the WWW Web meme:

Finished reading: The Other by Matthew Hughes: Hughes' elegant, somewhat horrific journeys into the far, far future of the universe sets off apparently on a new trilogy with The Other, which focuses on a rotund purveyor of stolen artifacts named Luff Imbry. Imbry is shanghaied to a distant planet where nearly everyone looks about the same and those who don't end up as outcasts -- including Imbry. Hughes' style is satiric, and the epicurean obsessions of the main character prove an impediment to surviving in this hostile, desert world. Many mysteries remain at the end, suggesting the author has more of this character to come.  

The Late Great Creature by Brock Bower: Bower's 1972 novel recently was declared a neglected book and brought back to life through a reprint. This satirical, often raunchy novel focuses on Simon Moro, a Lugosi-like actor who specialized in playing monsters in horror films in the 1920s and '30s. His wild personal life intertwines as he first tries to make a comeback in a grade-Z horror film, then precedes to sabotage said comeback in a series of increasingly risky and disgusting antics in New York in 1968. His tale is told first by a magazine writer, then his awful director, and finally Moro himself, as the secrets of his past come back to haunt the ever-more-horrific present. A very good Hollywood novel.

Lucky Break by Esther Freud:  This charming novel follows three actors from a Method-laden British acting school through a series of successes and failures that illustrate the up-and-down nature of show business. Charlie, the beautiful, coveted actress; Dan, the handsome actor who starts a family way, way early; and Nell, the character actress whose struggles form the core of the novel. In a series of overlapping chapters that alternately focus on each of the three actors, Freud shows how British actors cope with stress, survive the grueling audition process and finally face the call of Hollywood.

Ready Player One: The fascinating plot overcomes some less-than-stellar prose. In a dystopian future when the energy's run out and the Great Recession is in its third decade, a high school boy strives to find the keys to the fortune of the founder of the OASIS, an online virtual reality MUD with hundreds of planets. He must battle his friends, the woman he loves and an evil corporation to sort out the clues left by the OASIS founder, a recluse steeped in the pop and computer culture of the 1980s. If you lived in the '80s, played Zork and video games and listened to the music of that decade, this novel will bring at least some of it back.

What I'm reading now: I'm dividing my time between finishing the novel The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris and the biography Wendy and the Lost Boys (about the playwright Wendy Wasserstein) by Julie Salamon. I'm also listening to The Tiger's Wife on my MP3 player.

What I plan to read next: I have two library books I might try to finish -- Super Sad True Love Story and the National Book Award-winning Salvage the Bones, as well as the Amazon Vine copy of Domestic Violets,  or I may read The Barbarian Nurseries or The Stranger's Child to finish off the Chunkster Challenge (I think I already have six chunksters this year, however).

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