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>Slumping In September

>I read 6 books in September, which brought me up to 76 books for 2008. Things have got to happen this month and the next and the next to get me to where I want to be. October = serious business. I’m giving up — sacrificing! — a lovely weekend with friends at the beach on Incheon Island in favor of the Readathon, so that my Tough & Cool Inner Bookworm (who has petitioned for a name change; she now wants to be styled as The Book Goddess Within Me) might have full expression. No, I can’t read on the beach. I get mesmerized by the waves, and there would be that unfortunate sand-in-the-keyboard issue.

Here’s September’s reads:

Persuasion – Jane Austen. Jane, all is forgiven. I love you. It was all my fault anyway — reading all of your work in a rushed 8-week summer course is not the way to build a full appreciation for your work. You’re full of humor and dazzling precision. Your novels are meant to be savored and enjoyed while being discussed in a lively and agreeable fashion. Also, I think you are one of the novelists I had to grow into.

The Pillars Of The Earth – Ken Follett. Reviewed in a previous post, I not only enjoyed this robust look at the beginning of the Middle Ages, but I’ve also enjoyed seeing the affection and enthusiasm people have for this novel. Not only was it pressed into my hands by an insistent fan, my friend Belinda was carrying her copy everywhere, and now my coworker, Evan, is working on my copy. If books are friends, then books repeatedly shared with friends must be doubly so.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma – Michael Pollan. Coworker Martin loaned me this book, but I simply must have my OWN copy. Pollan discusses how Americans have a strange relationship with food, an eating disorder, if you will. We’re constantly being told this food is bad, then in a complete switcheroo, *that* food is next-door to poison. Part of the reason, but not all, is that we really don’t have a single cuisine that is native to the United States.

In TOD, Pollan examines four different methods of getting our food and eats four different meals based on his research and experiences. His week-long visit to the “beyond organic” farm is the showstopper and is alone worth the price of the book. His hunting and gathering experiences brought out the playful side of his writing that I remembered so vividly from The Botany Of Desire.

I long to write an intelligent review, but all I really want to do is grab prospective readers by the lapels and yell READ THIS NOW. Although crude, I hope my method will be effective. As well as being on the lookout for my own copy, I’m hoping to find Pollan’s offering from earlier this year, In Defense Of Food.

Plainsong – Kent Haruf. This novel follows the lives of several people in a small, rural community near Denver, Colorado. There is not a single false note. All of the characterizations are superb, and Haruf’s depiction of Harold and Raymond, the two old bachelor farmers who come to the aid of Victoria, a desperate, pregnant teenager, is luminous. I was reminded of some of the elegantly crafted stories that Raymond Carver wrote towards the end of his life. I have Eventide and I’m looking forward to reading it as well.

A Spectacle Of Corruption – David Liss. Benjamin Weaver, the pugilist-turned-thieftaker-turned-detective hero of A Conspiracy Of Paper, is back again. In 18th century London, during the heat of an election season, Weaver has been framed for murder and sentenced to hang. He escapes from Newgate Prison and sets out to clear his name. In the process, he gets a full stomach of the shady and unsavory vote-getting tactics practiced by both the Whigs and the Tories. If you get a chance, pick it up; it’s perfect reading for this time of year. The only difference that spectacle and the current one seems to be that the one in the novel was slightly more blatant.

There was an interview at the back of the book with David Liss, and he assured readers that he’ll be bringing Weaver back again for more adventures. Great! One of the things that I appreciate most about Liss’ writing is that he is obviously a reader himself. He’s managed to avoid the main pitfall of writing historical fiction — he’s done a ton of research, but it doesn’t weigh down his story. Instead his sights are set on entertaining his readers.

The Road – Cormac McCarthy. With this novel, I can finally appreciate McCarthy. He still reminds me of a mixture of Ernest Hemingway and Larry McMurtry, though, but that’s not bad. It’s sad that John Gardner isn’t alive to read this stark vision of the end of the world, because the way the novel is executed seems to pay homage to Gardner’s The Art Of Fiction.

In The Road, McCarthy doesn’t answer several questions, uses obscure-not-quite-archaic vocabulary, and then there’s that punctuation thing, but all of this seems to show a strength and confidence in his readers to do some of the heavy lifting themselves. As a parent, my heart went out to the man, who lost everything and is struggling to stay alive and care for the boy. The boy was fascinating because he was born into a violent and ashy world but was irrepressibly tenderhearted and morally alert and questioning. Unlike the man, he had no endless array of heartbreaking comparisons. I’m really eager to see the movie version, due out sometime in November.

A little short in the count for September, but long on quality reading — I’m a happy bookworm.

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