I have been a reading fiend lately and I love it! Now that the kiddos are getting older and entertaining themselves more, not only am I able to read more while they're playing, but I am less intoxicated exhausted after they go to bed and therefore can stay up just a little bit longer. The last book I read from my top 150ish list was John Cheever's Falconer.
This gem of a book is about a guy named Farragut who is conivcted of murdering his brother and sent to Falconer prison for the rest of his miserable life. So, the back cover blurb claims he struggles to remain a man in a "universe bent on beating him back into childhood." It's a modern crime and punishment prison story. Can you tell how unimpressed I am? If you haven't caught my somewhat sarcastic tone, let me tell you, it's there. Let's begin with our protagonist (if he can really be called that; he did kill his brother after all regardless if the guy was a jerk and asking for it). Farragut is one of the least likeable characters I have encountered. I didn't even feel sorry for him. His marriage sucked (I think there was some mutual cheating), he was a failure as a father, and his family was a nightmare, but he is an arrogant prick addicted to drugs who feels absolutely no remorse for the damage he's caused. He doesn't even own up to the fact that he murdered his brother, even though he admits hitting him with a fire iron, it was the hearth that killed him. Nothing really awful happens to him in prison that makes me feel any emotion other than disgust and he never has a "come to Jesus" moment to redeam his pathetic self. And then he suddenly breaks out and you're thinking, "Huh?" and then the book is over. Thank goodness.
What could possibly be worse than reading about Farragut's pointless journey to anticlimactic freedom? All the prison sex. Yeah, and I'm not talking about rape. Because men have needs and god forbid they don't achieve release because that would lead to anarchy and riots, so the guards turn a blind eye and ear to all the "relationships" and a special room in the basement where the men go for communal jacking off. I am not joking. And I just love hearing all the details about that. Really this was one long jack off of a book. I seriously cannot believe this is a top novel of all time. I don't feel like a better person, and I certaintly don't think I learned anything of value except that a brilliant prison escape imagined by Alexandre Dumas can be stolen rewritten in modern times. I am so happy to be done with this book, but John Cheever owes me for all the time I wasted reading it.
Maybe there was something I missed? Maybe I'm not smart enough to have enjoyed the irony, the case study of our American judicial system, what it truly means to be a man? No, I got that. I just didn't care. And this book got so many positive reviews! One person even said that if you don't like this book, you don't like American literature.
As I continue to check books off my All Time List, I find I'm also getting emotionally bogged down. It appears that every book on the list so far has been "serious," a serious shocker, she said sarcastically. Apparently, to be considered brilliant literature, it must move you to tears and wine. Lots and lots of wine. Of course, that's the point, right? As a writer, we want to evoke strong emotion, make you think, be memorable, and what better way to do that than to appeal to the basest feelings of devastating heartache? What I want to know is, what happened to a good belly laugh a la Sedaris, Brautigan, and one of my favs, Christopher Moore? So memorable because they crack me up and I end up telling everyone silly little anecdotes that made me about wet my pants. But, alas, I must admit that the literature I recommend most often are the ones that made me think.
But if you're anything like me, reading book after thought provoking book can really wear you out. Its like watching nothing but the news: its important, but sometimes you just need to change the channel and watch some Maury. But instead of trash tv and junk food, readers have oddball novels. So, with this in mind, I'm not only going to share my journey of betterment through the masterpieces of literature, I'm going to recommend some great books to help "clean the slate" if you will, especially after reading something particularly deep. Don't forget, just because they're not on a list, doesn't mean they don't deserve some props. They'll make you laugh (whether intentionally or just because they're so ridiculous), they'll melt your heart, and they'll lift your spirits. At least until the next depressing, yet brilliant, read.
A lot of the great random books I've read have been recommended by my best friend and business partner, Kelly. I've loved every book she's told me to read, and A Countess Below Stairs is one of my favs that you could go back and read over and over. It's the story of Anna, a countess who after the Russian Revolution is forced to go into hiding as a servant, trying to keep her past a secret while performing her duties as a maid and trying not to fall in love with Rupert, the earl of the house. Good luck with that. This book will definitely lift your heart after a depressing read that may not have ended quite the way you would have liked.
This next book, I Never Fancied Him Anyway, was a random selection from a Barnes & Noble trip. I was attracted to the witty title and then intrigued by the blurb on the back, and decided "what the hey." I am so glad I took a chance, because it was almost impossible to put this one down. The story is kinda odd. It's about a late twenty-something woman living in Dublin and working for a magazine answering "Dear Abby" type letters. Oh, yeah, and she's psychic. She can predict the future for everyone but herself. Her love life sucks, but her friends are awesome. And suddenly, the man of her dreams enters her life. Rather, her best friend's life. And hilarity ensues. I read this one after the emotional ride that was Seabiscuit.
OK, I am not a Twilight fan. Do I need to go into why? I think you all know me well enough that you've heard my rants into why the sparkly vampire series is probably the worst waste of paper in the history of ever. Want to read a series with some real vampires? That actually have fangs and are charming and *gasp* have sex? Want to not roll your eyes every five seconds at the awfully weak female lead? Then please read the Sookie Stackhouse novels. Another awesome psychic that hangs with vampires, werewolves, fairies, and pretty much every supernatural creature you can think of. Deadlocked is the 12th book in the series, and there is one more after this. *tear* Sookie has a great sense of humor and a strong, independant will. Lots of drama thats better than any trash tv sitcom. Oh, and don't forget to watch the series on HBO. The plots are somewhat different between the books and the tv series, but there's lots of eyecandy and great entertainment. Watch it after the news.
Hope these get you off to a great start. I'm currently back onto the list with John Cheever's Falconer. I'll let you know how that turns out. Until then, great reading!