Saturday, July 27, 2013

Mid-vacation reading report

I've been on vacation (staycation, for now) for two weeks and have read six or seven books. They've ranged from meh to good to great. Below, a few words on the great one. First, a note on a new phenomenon I've observed: I'm losing the capacity to read vacation-y books. That is, horror, mystery, etc.--light stuff. OK, I've never been into any of that, but most years by the time I tumble into my vacation weeks I'm so tired and wrung out that I feel like all I can manage is some non-taxing reading. What I'm discovering this time is that, pooped and brain-weary as I may be, stuff of little substance doesn't sustain my interest. Yes, I read one or three early in the month--Red Moon, about which see my post below, and a couple after that--and yes they were each a cut above the run of the genre, each touted as literary to one degree or another. One or three was enough. None mattered. As to literary attributes, sure they were not laughably bad, but even in my limpid state not laughably bad is not good enough. Thus it was that when I finally hit the #1 position on the e-book waiting list for a library copy of NOS4A2 by Joe Hill, downloaded it, and read the first 70 pages or so, I woke up the next morning realizing I had no desire to read on. Hill is Stephen King's son, not a factoid I'd have commented on if those first 70 pages hadn't read exactly like a Stephen King book--no, not exactly, Hill is a slightly better writer, or at least less prone to pack his prose with irritating repetitive tics of various sorts--but they do. Story, style, characterization, all of it is King-ish to the nth degree. And what I woke up thinking was: who cares? Who cares about this story, these characters? Not me. Luckily, I've amassed a big pile of books, physical and virtual, to choose from over the next two weeks, so chances are decent that I'll find some meatier fare.

I did read one great book earlier this week. Mo Said She Was Quirky by James Kelman. I've blogged before about my regard for this wonderful writer, and with this most recent novel he does not disappoint.

Perhaps two or three times in my life I've read a novel with a female protagonist that left me marveling that the male author was able to write so true, so real a woman character, to so fully inhabit a woman's consciousness. Those all pale next to Kelman's accomplishment here. Consciousness here is both the medium and the message: how her lived life leads to these thoughts, these feelings. You know, being determines consciousness.The book lives us through 24 hours in the head of a young worker, seamlessly conveying all that her life is: work, worry, motherhood, pain, sorrow, sex, hope, love, loss, hope, bitterness, rage, despair, exploitation, frustration, fatigue. In the course of it she observes and comments on racism, women's oppression, homelessness, social service cuts, British imperialism and much more. Kelman is always a political writer, no less here than in his other books. His take is dead-on, here again.

Now I've got two more weeks off work, one more in the city and one--hooray! hurrah!--down the shore where Teresa and I will take our first real vacation in 15 years. I hope to get some good reading in, though I doubt I'll find another book as good as Kelman's this time around.