Tuesday 24 April 2007

6. Artemis Fowl: The Opal Deception

I'm in the midst of marking 100+ exams right now so can only handle really light reads: thank goodness then for kiddie lit - big font, no deep thoughts, and lots of adventure. I'm reading Eoin Colfer's fourth installment in the Artemis Fowl series, The Opal Deception. I've read all three of the books preceding this one but can't keep them straight and remember details only of the second one, The Arctic Incident. It's high quality stuff, I tell you, and it's keeping me entertained.

The Artemis Fowl series features an adolescent criminal mastermind (Artemis) who is always getting into some kind of trouble involving the People (the fairies who, as the result of the rise of Mud Men (humans), were pushed underground). There are lots of clever jokes about the relations between Mud Men and the People and western stereotypes about Ireland - e.g., the Lower Elements Police are the source of the name leprechaun (LEPrecon - har har).

In The Opal Deception, Opal Koboi has returned to take vengeance on both the People and Artemis for imprisoning her - apparently this happened in the last book, but I didn't even recognize her name! Anyway, it doesn't seem to matter - the book is easy as pie to follow.

Anyway, how I got The Opal Deception is more interesting than this book will be to me when I try to remember it in a year's time, I'm sure. I was staying at my mother-in-law's last February working on a paper for the Shakespeare Association of America annual meeting, and I found this book (along with several empty wrappers that had once housed beef jerky) in the closet of the guest bedroom. B. made some jokes about how thorough her cleaning lady was and then concluded the book must have been F.'s, my brother-in-law's. F. is the most prolific reader I think I've met, and I'm pretty sure he never keeps the books he buys new and then reads in 10 minutes. If he had a book blog I'd have to go hide my head in shame.

(R., if you're still reading, which I doubt you are given that this post is about a series of kiddy lit books, I first heard of Eoin Colfer through my friend at Queen's who teaches kiddy lit.)

Tuesday 17 April 2007

5. American Gods

I'm now about 200 pages into Neil Gaiman's 600+ page fun-time novel American Gods. It's a modernized imagining of the age-old tale of a battle between old and new gods for supremacy. The difference is that in this conception, the new gods exist in malls, TVs, electronics, computers, etc - all the "commercial"and "convenience" products and places to which we literally sacrifice much of our lives. (Don't worry, Gaiman's moral, if he has one, is not nearly as heavy-handed as my summary makes it sound.) So far I'm really enjoying it, but it's nothing like what I would call literature - it's just a good read. There is a certain irony in the fact that all of last night the phone at the place I'm staying in Kingston was out of order - the god of the phone deserted me for the evening I guess.

R. asked me to give some indication of how I've come across the writers I'm discussing here. As I recall, I was introduced to Gaiman by a Children's Lit. professor at Queen's. She suggested I check out Gaiman's Coraline, which is for kids but is actually quite terrifying at points. American Gods, while for adults, is much less dark than Coraline or his graphic novels in the Sandman series. Gaiman's works are a guaranteed nice, light snack for the mind - and with all the marking I've got on my plate right now, that's exactly what I need.

As for how I've come across the other authors thus far mentioned:

- Su Tong: I was shopping at the Coles bookstore on Spring Garden Rd. in Halifax the week before it closed forever and I saw a book called Rice. I bought it because it was written by the author of Raise the Red Lantern, which I had heard of but not read. Rice was $2 or something so it seemed worth the financial risk. Rice is actually still my favourite by Su Tong.

- Janet Frame: I read another novel by her in an undergraduate course I took at Dal called Commonwealth Lit.

- Michael Chabon: My friend Melinda gave me Kavalier and Clay when she was done with it; she's also recommended his Mysteries of Pittsburgh, which I'll get around to one of these days.

- Junichiro Tanizaki: Another book by Tanizaki, The Key, was recommended to me by the crusty and well-read owner of The Last Word, a good used book store on Windsor St. in Halifax.

Friday 13 April 2007

4. Quicksand

Well, it took me forever to finish The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay - B. and I were in San Diego and doing a lot of walking and not much reading. Then I figured I'd finish it on the plane but I got distracted by a bad film called The Holiday (which was like Love, Actually or Four Weddings and a Funeral watered down).

Anyway, I finally finished the Chabon book yesterday and I have to say the ending was really lame. I enjoyed the whole book very much but it concluded on a note of complete blahery. I wonder if Chabon got bored, or if his editor was putting the pressure on to finish. In any case, disappointing and underwhelming.

Now I'm about halfway through Quicksand by Junichiro Tanizaki. It's just okay. I've loved Tanizaki's work in the past - The Gourmet Club is a real favourite - so I don't know what's going on here. It's supposed to be a tale of passion and obsession but it's about as passionate as a deflated, dirty balloon in a parking lot three weeks after the fair has left town. Good thing it's short. I don't think I can recommend it.

Tuesday 3 April 2007

About 2. The Carpathians

I told a friend of mine here at Q. who works on Modernism that I had just read The Carpathians, and I mentioned the letters raining from the sky part. He laughed a lot and then mocked me for both reading and enjoying something so "preciously post-modern." I have to admit his mockery is not without basis, but I refuse to take entirely seriously anyone who thinks The Crying of Lot 49 is a great book. (Sorry Scott.)

Monday 2 April 2007

3. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay

I just started this book yesterday on the train back to K. after finishing The Carpathians on Saturday.

I ended up quite enjoying The Carpathians - there's a really great/ultra-horrifying scene near the end when letters and punctuation marks start raining from the sky and everyone save the narrator loses the ability to either articulate or understand language because of it. Crazy!!!

So, I started the Chabon book yesterday and am now at page 160. It's a dead good page-turner and compelling yarn. And man, there just aren't enough good yarns out there. It's 600+ pages long so I suppose I might become less enamored of it than I am now. But right now I'm thinking I'm going to make a point of reading all Michael Chabon's stuff. Except maybe for Summerland which is apparently about baseball (yawn!).

Anyway, Kavalier and Clay is about two "boy geniuses" in 1939 NY City who are trying to break into the burgeoning comic book industry. I thought that because I haven't read many comic books I wouldn't get into this one, but it doesn't seem to matter in terms of readability, etc.