22 February 2008

2 Books that Make for Very Interesting Back-to-Back Reading

Hi internets. I feel like I've been away for a very long time. Not away from the internet itself, especially not since I set up an iGoogle page, with which I am obsessed. (The fox is drinking tea! The tiger kitten is writing in her journal! She wears reading glasses! It gives me angst that I am not in her watermelon garden with her.*) No, what I've been away from is this, the writing lots of words for lots of seven people to read. In some sort of regular fashion. Ha. Why do that when I could post video of a Cadbury Egg trying to die?

So, um, Friday isn't too late to report on the previous weekend, right?

In what's blessedly become a yearly tradition, I spent Presidents' Weekend in the Berkshires with James and Kate at their parents' house. (Also spent the weekend with said very generous parents.) Brunches and concerts and other insanities ("Arrested Development" on DVD) interfered a little, but these weekends are basically us parking our asses on The Most Comfortable Couch Ever, sometimes under blankets, especially the one that freaks Kate out because it's like fur, but polyester, and then we read. For hours. Last year I plowed through the entirety of The God Delusion and half of Little Children. This year I finished the last 150 or so pages of The Yiddish Policemen's Union, all of Persepolis, and a magazine or two. But wait, first, did I mention the view from The Couch?

In the summer there's an awning on that frame, and underneath it the parents drink wine and serve all sorts of bizarro WASP foods like pate and tiny pickles. Here it is at a different angle, and with a bit of my fat finger in the way:

I am a cell phone photographic artist.

Anyway. Books. I'd been reading The Yiddish Policemen's Union slowly until the weekend, relishing it like I don't know I've ever done with a book. I'd heard what I thought were pretty negative things about this book, though James tells me reception was mixed. I may have created 90% of my impression from this. Which also means that now I have to break up with CrimeNotes, because I thought the book was amazing.

My slow reading hadn't been the bad kind of slow, the oh god do I have to get that out of my bag and read it again? thing. (Wuthering Heights, anyone?) No, I was just reading slowly because I was actually stopping to savor the prose.

When there is crime to fight, Landsman tears around Sitka like a man with his pant leg caught on a rocket. It's like there's a film score playing behind him, heavy on the castanets. The problem comes in the hours when he isn't working, when his thoughts start blowing out the open window of his brain like pages from a blotter. Sometimes it takes a heavy paperweight to pin them down.
It's a lot, and too much for some people, sure, but in a world peopled by Yiddish-speakers, this almost-awkward verbosity feels exactly right and made for a thick, specific language that (if On Beauty was something to swim in, and Call Me By Your Name was someone else's dream to live) is like... like warm rice pudding? (I don't know if rice pudding is good warm.) Thick, delicious, best taken slow, maybe once in a while a little cloying, but still amazing and leaves you full and a little heavy. (This is why Michael Chabon writes the novels and I... don't.) Anyway, I loved the book. It's a vivid, interesting, funny world, and has a few of the best characters I've ever known.** I'm not a murder mystery sort of person, and I was more interested in the characters than the at-times unwieldy plot, but I thought it was, in a word, great.

Also great was Persepolis, the collection of Marjane Satrapi's 2- (or 4-, if you're in France) part graphic novel memoir of growing up in Tehran during and after the Islamic Revolution. (Now, as this edition reminds you, a major motion picture! Which I'm seeing tonight!) I'd seen this book on bookstores, being read on the subway, and, Christmas Eve, I saw the trailer for the hope-it's-as-great-as-it-looks movie. The book did not disappoint. While not formally inventive as a graphic novel (like Chris Ware's Most Depressing Book Ever, Jimmy Corrigan), the art is lovely, and the story is well-told and interesting. Very glad I read it.

So there. Now I'm caught up. I will not be liveblogging the Oscars on Sunday because, a, I don't think I've ever actually liveblogged anything except a Thanksgiving Day Parade and five minutes of a Tonys preshow, and b, because I will be at Town Hall seeing The Magnetic Fields.

*I don't know how ubiquitous iGoogle and its themes are, so I don't know how insane that all reads.
**There's this little club in my head for literary characters I love more than is probably sane. Chairman X from Moo (founding member), Sirius Black, and, now, Meyer Landsman. Meyer & Bina reminded me a lot of the Chairman and Mrs. X, actually. Is it bad that Meyer & Bina make me want to be in love?

1 comment:

anna said...

you've officially overrided my concerns about typu and it's going on my list (heart chabon). chabon had my ex check the chess in a late draft, and i watched r not much enjoy the novel - but! he has no yiddish in his little ear.

loved persepolis 1 and 2 (and embroideries), and was lucky to have a very long break between reading and seeing film... which i enjoyed a lot and hope heaps of people will see. why did it end so abruptly?

your reading weekend sounds marvelous. i and my stack of untouched novels smolder with envy.

i too have great affection for the little google fox. as well as a beloved characters club that includes several chabon creations. the characters that make me want to be in love (or, hm, not) are henry and clare from time traveler's wife. (which, oh my god, i just looked, is a film in post-production. eek.)