Books March 2014

001 full sea  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)   002 6 senses

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.

003 big clock  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.

004 hyegyeongThe 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.

005 bane Baneblade – Guy Haley (2013)

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.

006 long windedThe 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.

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6 responses to “Books March 2014”

  1. asakiyume says :

    I feel like a bad person for enjoying negative reviews now and then, but there you go. I enjoyed your first review here a lot! (And, it doesn’t really cut down on my curiosity about the book, just sort of gives me a forewarned-is-forearmed outlook).

    • Justin says :

      Well, two things: 1) The fact I finished the book should be a recommendation. I don’t talk about the books I don’t finish. 2) I really liked the book at times, and recommend people read it, so we can talk/argue about it.

  2. R. H. Kanakia says :

    I really enjoyed The Big Clock, mostly for its fiendish conceit: a person is in charge of finding himself. I read it as part of a Library of America volume: Crime Novels of the 1930s and 40s. The other books in the volume are worth checking out, particularly the Cain, McCoy, and Woolrich novels.

    • Justin says :

      Yeah, the conceit’s great. Good to see Nightmare Alley getting a reprint. I know NYRB did an edition of it too. That’s a great book. Have never read any Anderson, and like all the other authors in it,so will have to track down the collection.

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