Monday, June 09, 2008


Another Rare Success

Husband is such a picky reader, it's a miracle when he enjoys something I recommend. I think my first unqualified success was How To Be Good by Nick Hornby, which he loved as much as, though in different ways than, I did. Now there is Doing It by Melvin Burgess (Penguin, 2003), which I recommend to all fathers, mothers of teenagers (especially teenage boys) and high school teachers. The cover on the copy I picked up is arresting, as you can see here—actually, that's why I picked it up. The story starts out being about sex, but of course it's about so much more. The main characters are 3 males, one whose enormous self-confidence takes a licking, one who gets through his sexual terror, and one who saves himself, using dubious but necessary means, from a twisted situation. There are also a couple of female characters we hear from, and even, in a few instances, some parents. Here is one of the little brilliant moments in this book: one of the quaking bogs Mr Confidence (Dino) is standing on is his parents' marriage. In the book, he witnesses his mother passionately snogging someone not his father; mother and son dance around the fact that Dino knows for a while, and when it's finally out in the open, Dino can hardly stand it:

He watched her as she turned to make the tea. This was a woman, he hardly knew her. She was like a tiny box he had held in his hand all his life, and he had pressed a catch and she'd opened up and here she was, big as the sky. She was like the bloody Tardis. He felt a wave of resentment that she had so much life.

I loved this book!

I also loved Fun Home by Alison Bechdel (Mariner/Houghton Mifflin, 2006); so did a lot of other people, so it needs no help from me. I'll just point this out as required reading for any of those remaining literacy snobs who think graphic novels are only for readers who can't handle "real" reading. And for the subset who thinks they are kids' reading, a warning: sexual content, adult situations and existential musing.

A sister sent me an essay which pointed out a few writers I hadn't heard of (not the purpose of sending me the essay but the fruitful offshoot); one of them is Malorie Blackman, a British writer whose unpretentious tone comes with a side of quick and playful wit. I read Dead Gorgeous (Corgi, 2003), the most unscary ghost story I have ever read (except for The Ghosts Who Went to School, maybe!) and am waiting for a couple of others to arrive at my library. Slightly higher on the scary scale was Margaret Mahy's The Other Side of Silence (Puffin, 1995) which I bought at a secondhand store because I had never seen it before. (I've read many others by this excellent author.) This was the scariness of the unhinged, though. The book says some interesting things about what gets left unsaid, and why; and how people slot themselves, sometimes into different slots for different things.

An ARC of The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins, Scholastic Press, 2008) came my way (thank you, Rabbit Girl!) and it was down the hatch in short order, for both Son and me. The author (who wrote the Gregor books) must have spent some time watching Survivor; the logical extension of that appalling and soul-dirtying franchise is this: a television series everyone must watch in which the contestants battle to the death. The story's world is the poverty/decadence of our world condensed into one City and its twelve outlying and resource-providing Districts; the author adds to that a dose of ancient Greece and Rome, and a dash of video RPG (stuff appearing in mid-air when you need it! and if you have the means to get it) and creates a story that is consistently compelling and well-imagined. Only at the end, when the "hounds" are released, did its hold on me waver: I could almost see the jerky-fluid CG movement of the creatures, and the detail about the eyes seemed egregious, a mere plant for follow-up in the next book. However, I forgive and eagerly anticipate moving on.

Joanna Trollope's North American editors continue to annoy me with their laxity (Diane Krall? Hello!) but Second Honeymoon (McArthur&Co, 2006) was all right. Another title read for the author's sake: Light a Penny Candle by Maeve Binchy (Arrow, 1992; Century, 1982). I galloped through that at breakneck speed and enjoyed it.

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