Monday, January 17, 2011

Reading in December

Well, I'm only seventeen days late on this recap, so it's practically breaking news. Quite a few of the books have already been discussed in the various year end post, and many of them will be receiving reviews shortly, so I don't always go into that much detail here. December was my second most productive month when it comes to reading, though almost a  third of the sixteen books were from two authors (Thomas Ligotti and Haruki Murakami), which is pretty unusual for me.

 This was the Westeros book club book of the month.  The first thing that must be known about Banville, is that his prose is excellent:

We presided over this rabble, Daphne and I, with a kind of grand detachment, like an exiled king and queen waiting daily for words of the counter-rebellion and the summons from the palace to return. People in general, i noticed, were a little afraid of us, now and again I detected it in their eyes, a worried, placatory, doggie sort of look, or else a resentful glare, furtive or sullen. I have pondered this phenomenon, it strikes me as significant. What was it in us- or, rather, what was it about us that - that impressed them? Oh, were are large, well-made, I am handsome, Daphne is beautiful, but that cannot have been the whole of it. No, after much thought the conclusion I have come to is this, that they imagined they recognized in us a coherence and wholeness, an essential authenticity, which they lacked, and of which they felt they were not entirely worthy. We were - well, yes, we were heroes. (p. 10-11)

The second thing that must be known about Banville is that, in his haste to combine Crime & Punishment with postmodernism, he completely misses the dilemma of Crime & Punishment and ends up with a well written but meandering book devoid of thought provoking questions.

 The Big Sleep had excellent pacing and prose. The plot, while fast paced, managed to also be meandering and twist itself into dead ends fairly frequently, but Marlowe's character made up for that quite handily. For my first foray into Crime, this turned out to be a great choice.

Stonewielder is the best of Esslemont's Malazan novels. Which, given my thoughts on Night of Knives and Return of the Crimson Guard, might not be saying all that much. Review coming.

I already talked about Preludes & Nocturnes in my Best Reads post, so I won't really do so here, but I will say that it was simply fantastic. If this is the weakest volume in the series, as I've heard quite often, I'm damn excited for the rest.

Fast, fun, and absurdly violent. Review coming.

Like a lot of classics, the Metamorphosis had the problem that I've seen every single scene go on to closely influence three others and be parodied four times, meaning that there wasn't a single unexpected blow in the story. And yet none of those pastiches or parodies had Kafka's humor, which, for me, made the story.

Seeing as I wrote my longest review to date on the book, I won't speak more here besides to just say that I found it thought provoking and extremely well written.

Ligotti is one of my favorite authors, and this is perhaps his best collection. I talked about this in my Best Reads piece, and I'll have a review up before too long.

Like most Ligotti, I read Teatro Grottesco twice. As for how it was…see former comment.

As evidenced by it making my Best Reads list, I loved After Dark. Review coming.

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle was extremely interesting, but it was also extremely unfocused and is my least favorite of the Murakami I've read so far. Review coming.

Agent to the Stars was snarky fun through and through. Some events of the ending were a tad convenient, but the laughs never stopped, and, somewhere between them, Scalzi also managed to make me care. This is worth checking out, though don't expect a masterpiece.

Of the Shakespeare I've read, King Lear might be my favorite. Not much point in commenting further on something so discussed in so short a space, so I'll leave it at that.

A Thousand Acres – essentially a modern day take on King Lear – has a very powerful and affecting emotional core. Unfortunately, it also has a huge amount of slow moving scenes that served, for me, to dull the impact to some extent. It was, in the end, an enjoyable read, though I was very hesitant for the first third or so.

 Like with Oedipus and The Odyssey, my main reaction to Antigone was astonishment that something written so long ago could be read so easily. I preferred Oedipus (read a few months back), but this was still an interesting read.

I talked about this in my Best Released list, but the prose is so good that it's worth repeating the comment: Valente's prose is mind blowing. It's a flood of images that's easy to drown under, but you'll be enthralled for every second of it. 

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