Foray Into Fiction

May 22, 2008 at 7:47 pm (books)

As I mentioned a short time ago, I plan to read a lot of fiction this summer. Many of you, dear readers, gave me suggestions for which I am truly grateful, though most of them were of genres I’m not quite ready or in the mood to delve into right now (sci-fi/fantasy epics–thanks for trying, though!). Despite my picky, almost fearful approach to selecting fictional To-Reads, I’ve come up with a short list of recommendations (some online, but mostly from friends and family offline) and random browsing finds which I’m pretty excited about. Here it is:

Almanac of the Dead, by Leslie Marmon Silko

House of Leaves, by Mark Z. Danielewski

The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver

The Melancholy of Resistance, by Laszlo Krasznahorkai

The Musical Illusionist, by Alex Rose

And something by Roberto Bolano, probably either By Night in Chile or the Savage Detectives.

Also, I’ll be reading the short stories Infra linked in the 19th comment of this thread, and I’ll definitely be watching the Call of Cthulhu as well. Maybe a To-See post later, too, now that I think of it…

Before I can begin on those, though, I must complete the small collection of books I’ve already amassed thanks to my mother and my aunt in the past few weeks, which inlcude Life of Pi, by Yann Martel (reading now), The Widening, by Carol Moldaw, and Half Life, by Shirley Jackson. In the past two days I’ve finished two others: Play it As it Lays, by Joan Didion, and Under My Roof, by Nick Mamatas, both of which elicited a pretty big “Eh” in response. Somehow I managed to enjoy Didion’s style, but not her subject. Her protagonists’ ambivalence/lack of control over her own life was more boring than it was engaging or interesting. My roommate and her brother have both convinced me to give Joan Didion another try, and I think her book Democracy is up next.

Under My Roof is a silly, satirical story set in a Long Island suburb at the peak of post-9/11 American irrationality and details the consequences of a father’s decision to plant a homemade nuclear weapon inside a garden gnome on his lawn and declare his family’s home and property a sovereign nation. This one did make me laugh out loud more than a few times, but as the book went on the laughs were shorter and farther apart. The book was fun for a short while, but it was also pretty insubstantial and a little stupid.

Anyway, there ya have my most recent reading update. Recommendations are still and always welcome, even if they’re for works of sci-fi/fantasy/things about werewolves and dragons. I mean, you never know.

And if you’re so inclined, leave a note about what your summer To-Reads are in comments; fiction, not, whatever. I’m interested.



  1. Daran said,

    sci-fi/fantasy epics–thanks for trying, though!

    Can I have another try?

    Earthsea isn’t really an ‘epic’, in the 300-page doorstop sense of the word. The stories are each self-contained, though you should read them in order to pick up the backstory. (Or just read the first, but then you’ll want to read the rest.)

    The first three books were written for a young teen audience, so not especially heavy, but not light either. Taking/being in control of ones life is very much the theme of these books

    The fourth book, “Tehanu”, is the reverse in that respect. On the plus side the author’s writing has discernably matured in the two decades if I recall correctly between writing it and the third. It’s a distinctly feminist book, and not really a fantasy novel. Rather it deals with ordinary non-magical people, women, mostly, who just happen to be living in same magical world as the other books.

    The fifth, “Tales from Earthsea”, is a collection of short stories, including one of my all-time favourites: “The Bones of the Earth”. Many feminist themes.

    The sixth reconciles all that came before.

  2. Emily said,

    Alright alright, I’ll pick up the first in the series. :)

  3. ballgame said,

    I’m midway through It’s a Jungle Out There … a review is forthcoming.

    As for fiction recommendations, have you read any Doris Lessing? I liked Briefing for a Descent Into Hell and The Summer Before the Dark.

  4. Emily said,

    I have not read any Doris Lessing, but those titles sound right up my alley. Thanks, ballgame.

  5. Iz said,

    I’m reading The Widening too! Carol’s a friend of my mom’s, so she asked me to check it out…. any opinions thus far?

  6. Emily said,

    I saw in the acknowledgments section that she thanked your mom! Haha. I’ve only read a little bit so far, and her writing is really beautiful, but beyond that, I’m not sure what I think. It’s interesting because my first impression is exactly the opposite of what my mom, who’s also reading it and has met Carol briefly, has to say about it. She loves it for the description of a young woman so in touch with her sexuality and with the ability to act on that, though I thought the main point was some sort of huge disconnect between the narrator’s idea of sex and her actual experience with it. Maybe I’m just not far enough into it, and there’s a notable transition later on? My mom thinks it may be a generational difference in our reading, but I’m not sure exactly what that would mean. What do you think?

    We’re trying to get Carol to do attend our Sandwreck and do a short reading for us (and your mom too). Maybe she could put in a good word?

  7. Iz said,

    Ha, weirdly I think I agree with your mom. Obviously I can’t really speak for her or her generation, but in my discussions with my own mother I’ve noticed a difference in how she views sex and sexuality. For her, the whole “free love” era meant that you were involved with at least one, if not more, sexual partners and that you were definately sleeping with them. The fact that someone of our generation might change how sexually involved they were from partner to partner or time period to time period literally throws her for a loop. I know this sounds a little silly, but I do honestly think that the generations view sex differently. Maybe someone of our parents age sees Carol’s “freedom” with her choice of sexual partners as mature, while we would see it as confused.
    And that’s what I like about the book, too. It’s a good illustration of a young adult’s journey through sex…
    I’m pretty sure my mom will be out of town, but I can ask her to speak to Carol about it. I wish I could go!

  8. Iz said,

    Just for fun, what I’m reading right now:

    Constantine’s Sword, by James Carrol
    Friendly Fascism, by Bertram Gross
    The Call of Cthulhu and other Weird Stories, by H.P. Lovecraft
    The Gangs of New York, by Herbert Asbury
    The Widening, by Carol Moldaw
    A Clash of Kings, by George R.R. Martin
    The Ornament of The World, by Maria Rosa Menocal

  9. Daran said,

    A Clash of Kings, by George R.R. Martin

    I’ve not read anything else by him, but I love this collection.

  10. Emily said,

    Yeah, Iz, what you’re saying about generational views toward sex/sexuality is starting to make more sense to me. I don’t really see the narrator as confused, exactly. Just having sex without really exploring its relationship to what she likes, what she doesn’t, what really turns her on, etc. Which is whatever the person having the experience makes of it, I suppose, not necessarily good or bad or anything. Although I’m still not very far into the book and suspect that some cohesion between the two concepts (I believe they are two, not one, and I think this is where my mom and I start to confuse each other…) will develop a little. Of course, clearly, I’m filtering the book through my own ideas about the ways these things overlap and interrelate. Anyway, interesting.

    And I didn’t realize you couldn’t come to the festival until you said something and Daisy confirmed! That’s too bad. Next year…

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