Thursday, February 26, 2009
Lessing, Doris, The making of the representative for Planet 8
Brett, Simon, Death under the dryer
Brett, Simon, The witness at the wedding
Evanovich, Janet, Plum lovin'
Grafton, Sue, T is for trespass (and I'd just returned Q Is For Quarry)
O'Connell, Carol, Shark music
Queen, Ellery, A fine and private place
Winspear, Jacqueline, An incomplete revenge
And this was in addition to the books I already had at home:
Winterson, Jeanette, Gut symmetries
Le Guin, Ursula K., Always coming home
Le Guin, Ursula K., The telling
Le Guin, Ursula K., A fisherman of the inland sea
Le Guin, Ursula K., The birthday of the world and other stories
Reichs, Kathy, Bones to ashes
Of the ones I had at home I'd read all but Gut Symmetries, because I'd found it a bit hard to get into at first, but now the novel and I are getting along swimmingly as they say, whatever that really means. What if one doesn't swim very well? Most of it is a bit meh, if I'm too be honest (most of the list, not of Gut Symmetries. Winterson is never meh). But Winspear is not terribly good really, nor is Brett the most awesome of writers, but he's so light and entertaining I couldn't help myself. And Evanovich.... well, we all know. Doris Lessing did win a Nobel Prize, but I've read the book now and didn't care for it much, I have to say. More on that later. Nor is O'Connell that fabulous - a little OTT tbh, if I may chatspeak some - but it's entertaining.
Now, I'm off to bed again (today I overslept and missed the alarm (or else it didn't even ring), so my son was forgotten at pre-school. VERY embarrassing. I have to write an entry about all the Le Guins I've read - the pressure, the angst! So I need my sleep.
Monday, February 16, 2009
It's a great novella, wonderfully describing the thoughts and culture of the isolated travellers. I might even get to finish it one day. Googling for it led me to the information that it has been adapted for the stage as an opera, which is exciting, and gives the Aniara parallell more zing. Also, I found this blog entry just choc full of marvellous reading tips! The other short stories are also all good. Le Guin is very good at imagining different cultures, and not afraid to make thought experiments that we might shy from normally. Several of these short stories centre on relationships and sex, with fucking being a much-used word. This crudeness, if you will, differs immensely from the by comparison almost ethereal tone in the Earthsea chronicles. So so far I'm very pleased with my Le Guin kick... feel free to recommend books in the comments section if you're a stalwart fan!
Sunday, February 15, 2009
Our main character is a physicist named Shevek, who lives on the barren planet Anarres in an anarchist society, where humans are bonded together to live without laws and instead work together for survival. The Anarresti left their home, the sister planet Urras seven generations ago. Urras is a a pathriarcial class society with strong state control and a history full of horrible acts of cruelty. (In one memorable scene Shevek sees the cloak once worn by an Urrasti queen - made from the skin of executed rebels, she wore it in public to humiliate, terrorize and shame the survivors.) Shevek now finds that his own world is developing unwritten laws of its own, despite having no structured government. When his own highly innovative research is thwarted by jealous and power-tripping colleagues he becomes the first to return to the home world, in an attempt to broaden and share his research.
There is a little too much theorizing in the book, with Shevek and others holding forth at length about the ideas behind a lawless world where personal responsibility is the only moral code – that, and the overall rule of sharing. Since I’m snatching reads between patrolling at work etc. I found it a little hard to concentrate. Nevertheless it’s thought-provoking and maybe a little provocative. I love stuff like this, heartily recommended!
A famous retired singer is found murdered in her study. On the desk is a final scrawled clue: the word face. The singer was a mystery and puzzle buff as well as an artiste, you see. With the warped judicial method of this type of novel the father policeman allows the son detective to do whatever he wants to solve the puzzle. Hurrah. Not bad at all. I especially appreciate that it’s a proper whodunnit. I’m given everything I need to solve it, just like the detective. Nice. I failed (I guessed, but not thanks to the clues so it doesn't count), but nice.
Finally, some old-skool detective fiction! I took my youngest with me to the local library branch a while ago to stock up again, since my first supply was all but depleted. It’s a small branch so it doesn’t have much in the English fiction department, but on the other hand you can strike lucky and find something that might have been moved off the shelves long ago if it had been down town. I have read some Carter Dickson/John Dickson Carr before (see the labels), and although I think it’s nicely crafted in its style, I’m just not completely enamoured. Our detective hero, Sir Henry Merrivale, is just too much, for one thing. He’s fat and bald, and rides around on a motorized wheelchair in a toga for a while. He blusters and roars and bosses. Not altogether my thing. Also, it’s not a proper whodunnit either, since we the readers aren’t privy to all the clues from the beginning. Here, the narrator has information about caves that he springs on us towards the end, for example.
The narrator himself, a country doctor with plenty of empathy and a bit of a heart problem, belongs to the book’s assets. Also it’s a rather nice little micro-cosmic description of a village at the very onset of the war, before it had gotten painfully real. Herein lies the strength and charm of the novel, because while the riddle is hard to solve, it just made me grumpy when I didn't get all the information to solve it anyway.
Story: a scientist and his ten years younger wife life in a remote house. The wife has a lover, and one night they appear to have killed themselves by leaping off a cliff. Except when the bodies are found they have bullet holes, so suicide is out. Ta-daa. I loved the title by the way, very evocative (one of the reasons I borrowed it). Stems from the purported suicide note left by the wife after listening to Romeo and Juliet on the radio: “Juliet died a lady [..]”. I’d recommend this if you’re into this type of thing and all. a huge bonus is that although the writer was American, he didn't fall into the trap of having everyone constantly having tea and scones which a fair few Americans do when writing about England (including, but not limited to, Elizabeth George and Martha Grimes).