Books March 2014
On Such A Full Sea – Chang-Rae Lee (2014)
Lit-author does dystopian SF about a future USA where Chinese migrants toil for privileged Charters and the young Chinese immigrant woman who begins to change this system. There are some brilliant flashes in the story, most dealing with social commentary and group/individual dynamics, but there’s a collapse at the end and that’s disappointing. Maybe it was meant to be post-modern or something like we can’t have nice things because nice things are a genre convention. When I described the novel’s ending to my wife she said it sounded “very 70s” and, yeah, that’s kind of it. The story spirals inward towards a conflict and then spirals outward without resolving anything, and all the tension simply dissipates. Then again I could be completely wrong and it was all some subtle commentary on The Hunger Games or something I didn’t get.
The Man With Six Senses – Muriel Jaeger (1927)
I blathered about this book here. Short version, a fun book, possibly funnier now than when it was originally written. I hope to track down more of these “Radium Age” reprints at some point.
The Big Clock – Kenneth Fearing (1946)
One of those noir thriller novels with a crazy convoluted plot that seems more a means to get the most jaded, cynical commentary as possible out of the characters. Magazine Editor starts an affair with his boss’s mistress. Boss kills mistress. Editor witnesses it, but isn’t seen by boss. The boss simply knows there was a witness, so he sets his publishing company the task of finding the witness (so the person can be killed). And who does he put in charge of the search? The Magazine Editor, of course.
Definitely a fun, fast read. It’s ugly in places and cynical in a hard-boiled way but certainly worth tracking down.
The Memoirs of Lady Hyegyong – Lady Hyegyong (trans. Jahyun Kim Haboush) (1996)
You can read all about Lady Hyegyong’s sad life here. Sad, fascinating stuff. Even now a few weeks after finishing the book I’m still thinking about it. If your library has a copy, take it out.
For a novel about a three-story tall tank battling space orks in a grimdark future, this novel was much better than it needed to be. Also as a media tie-in novel it fits in with my fascination for fan fiction.
The Long Winded Lady – Maeve Brennan (1997)
Of all the books in this post this is the one that I most recommend. This book collects close to thirty years of Brennan’s New Yorker material. They’re like prose sketches of New York life made from lunch counters, bus stops, and restaurant windows. Brennan casts herself as the supreme observer, and these pieces are all close to amazing, by turns sad, perceptive, bitter, insightful, and comic. You won’t know what you’ll find until you start reading one. Like I said, of all these books this is the one I recommend the most.