Updating and a small rant …
Lawrence Block's Killing Castro. Block is a modern master of the hardboiled genre but this was written in less than a week. Thin in story, thin in size. It's main interesting feature is that it came out post-Bay of Pigs but pre-Missile Crisis. Five guys are hired to go to kill Castro. Gradually develop reasons to abandon the mission. Castro does die at the end, tho.
Jason Starr's The Follower. I love Starr's earlier books. He does the "decent person makes a series of bad choices" genre proud. However, his more recent stuff has moved away from that. This book is about a stalker. It's not bad by any means, but it doesn't really stand out. Not the book that would likely hook you on his work.
Jason Starr's Hard Feelings. An earlier novel about a chance encounter with an old neighbourhood friend triggers a repressed memory that sends a guy's life out of control. Good stuff. Starr writes simply but, fuck, he knows characterization. His early books are littered with totally three-dimensional and believable characters.
Bernard Crick's Orwell: A Life. Gave it a hundred pages then set it aside. A painfully academic style, whereby a snippet of a letter is quoted, then followed by some variation of "What are we to make of this?" It may be insightful, but boring as fuck.
Joe Queenan's America (published under a different title in the US). I say this with all seriousness: this is one of the worst books I've ever read. Five or ten worst, definitely. The premise is that Queenan decides to immerse himself into mass culture for a year. It's supposedly humourous, but it comes off as a humourless rant, relying on the word "sucks" far too much. Worst of all, I agree with most of his targets—I hate Adam Sandler, Billy Joel, New Age music, Red Lobster, and self-help books, too. But he's such a dick about it that he loses my sympathy. Example: On this Billy Joel album, these songs are perfect examples of why he sucks. When you want suck, you go to Billy Joel because he's a master of suck. And what is his point when he declares that a movie must suck because it stars John Candy and Rick Moranis? He doesn't explain why these things are garbage, just that they obviously are. I also have little knowledge of what he regards as quality other than The Atlantic Monthly. Even tho he's an American, I couldn't help but hear his voice as some fossilize aristocratic prig, bemoaning how he has to exist in the same world as, ugh, Stephen King. Horrendous in that it fails in pretty much every regard.
Ron McLarty's Art in America. Meh. McLarty's easily my favourite audio book narrator, but he's a so-so novelist. This is a book about an overly ambitious, under-talented playwright who goes to Colorado to write a play about the history of a town. The town is presently divided by a number of issues that require more characters than I could keep track of. Nothing memorable about it.
Mo Hayder's Birdman. Just started last night. I've read her Pig Island and listened to The Devil of Nanking. A pretty good gory crime writer.
Christopher Buckley's Boomsday. Good premise—a generational revolt against retiring Boomers over Social Security leads to a proposal to encourage voluntary suicide—but I just don't find Buckley all that funny. A bit too insiderish and reliant on wacky caricatures. I don't dislike the book, but I doubt it'll stay in my memory long.
Last edited by Dr. Medulla
on 31 Dec 2008, 2:56pm, edited 1 time in total.
Walrus birth doesn't make good breakfast conversation!