Friday, May 1, 2009

You go on. I'll catch up with you later. If I'm not too depressed, that is.

This is the last weekend before the great influx of final papers I will have to grade next week. I've turned down all but the most insistent of invitations, just so I can roll around on the couch and read a good book. And I've assembled a small stack of titles that are, by several accounts, good. It wasn't until I had gathered them into a pile, though, that I realized how dark they all were:

From the New York Times Briefly Noted book review of Elizabeth Stout's book of short stories, Olive Kitteridge:

And there in every story, like a tree that’s been blackened by lightning but still leafs in the spring, stands Olive Kitteridge, a retired math teacher who loves her tulips, bullies her husband, and barks at anyone foolish enough to irritate her. You loathe this woman at the book’s beginning; you long for her at its finish.

George Stewart's post-apocalyptic Earth Abides:

This 1951 Winner of the inaugural International fantasy award is said to be the inspiration for Stephen King's The Stand.

From Publishers Weekly review of Kim Stanley Robinson's alternate history novel, The Years of Rice and Salt:

It's the 14th century, and the Black Death has swept through Europe, killing not 30% or 40% of the population but 99%. With Europeans now no more than a historical curiosity, the empires of China and Islam spread rapidly across the world.

Let's hope the fact that I've been trying to reading another Black Death fantasy novel, The Plague Tales, since 1998 isn't indicative of anything.

Cormac McCarthy's The Road:

Everyone on earth but me has read this National Book Critics Circle finalist and New York Times Notable book. I've resisted only because of McCarthy's obstinate refusal to observe any but terminal punctuation. In the past, I just wasn't able to stop noticing what isn't there. Perhaps I've become accustomed to missing punctuation, after having having read two semesters of freshman comp papers. Freshmen, alas, also have little regard for quotation marks.

I know this one is going to be a big downer, though, because Oprah chose it. Anything Oprah picks for her book club is guaranteed to make you want to crawl into bed and pull the covers over your head.

It's difficult for me to choose, when I have more than one book. So, please, if you've read one of these and enjoyed it, let me know. If one of them caused you to lose your will to live--well, that would be good to know, too.

edit: I forgot to mention that I was inspired to write about my book quandary by my Material World friend.


Laura said...

_Earth Abides_ is the only one those that will ever be on my reading list. And even that one only gets there because it is post-apocalyptic fantasy. I've always been a sucker for post-apocalyptic fantasy...

But, then, I mostly read trash. :)

Cheryl said...

Trash, trash, I vote for trash! I haven't read any of these. And I don't think I will. I choose books with dogs on the front. Or vampires. Something like that. You should try it!

Anonymous said...

Anything by McCormick will not be on my next reading list. That man has such a black mind it would make even me want to go bury something. There were such raves about his last book that I even took in the movie, then wished I hadn't wasted my money. Never take Jack Nicholson's word on literary questions. He's a great actor so leave it there.

Anonymous said...

See, just the mention of the name and I get in such a black mood I screw the whole comment up. I meant Cormac McCarthy's book.

Mundane Jane said...

Update: I took the first comment I received (Laura's) as a sign and started with that one. I needn't have worked myself into such as state over the choice, as it turns out. 3 pages in, and I fell asleep for 2 hours.

That's no reflection on how well I liked the beginning of the book, though. In fact, I'll pick it up again tonight when I am awake into the wee small hours.

More recommendations, please.

Nancy said...

Um...I haven't read THE ROAD yet either...I do have it on my nightstand waiting.

I just finished reading a very short very good book called "Wish you Well" by David Baldacci. About 2 children that go to live with their great grandmother in the Appalachian Mountains. Great book about living dirt poor... makes you happy to have running water, electricity and indoor plumbing...

Sarah said...

I'm not sure I'm ever going to forgive McCarthy for the ending to "No Country for Old Men." Not that I READ it, but no movie has ever left me so MAD. I believe I yelled "WHAT?!?!?!" and sat there for at least a minute in disbelief.

I don't mind the no punctuation thing, but I was introduced to McCarthy by the same prof who introduced me to Fauklner.

Myself, I started reading David McCullough's biography of John Adams on the beach today because I'm just that nerdy.

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