Monday, September 11, 2006

20, 21, 22, 23. English novels read while in B.C.

[I read four english novels while I was in B.C. for a family wedding and then 2 weeks of work on the Excelsior Club in Golden. I had a 10-hour bus ride and really had no access to french comics.]

20. Slam the Big Door by John D. MacDonald
John D. Macdonald (along with Patricia Highsmith, who you'll see next) have become my two favorite cheap paperback authors. You can always find their books in a used book store for cheap and both were prolific (especially MacDonald). Slam the Big Door is a non-Travis McGee, but still contains all the classic elements: decadent establishment types in the height of the sexual revolution, spoiled, sour marriages, drinking, levels of toughness. This one was entertaining but meandered a bit at the end, not sure of where it was going and thus not totally delivering.

21. The Cry of the Owl by Patricia Highsmith.
She really was a disturbing genius. Her books look with depth and detail at the lives of normal people, people with weaknesses, and what happens to them when things start to go wrong. In this one, a recently divorced man who moves out to upstate NY accidently comes between a nice but quirky girl and her petty resentful boyfriend. The protagonist is really the good guy, but he's just slightly off, a little weird and this dooms him. He meets the girl by sneaking up to her house and watching her through her window. But he's not a pervert. He's sad and lonely and watching her quietly and happily living her life makes him happy. He didn't even want to meet her, but he does and she starts to like him. He is constantly trying to hide from the rest of the town that he was looking through her window (she caught him and didn't mind; that's how they met) and when the shit hits the fan (the jealous boyfriend tries to kill him and then disappears, putting the suspicion on him) this one weird thing starts to make everybody suspicious of him. It's a dark book and fascinating. Very hard to put down because of the narrative and the character study. Good stuff.

22. A Passage to India by E.M. Forster
A funny and complex look at the relationship between british and indian society as the Jewel in the Crown starts to lose its shine at the beginning of the twentieth century. It's much more about the characters than the politics (unlike the movie). It made me extremely interested in the history of India and how it was colonized in the first place. An excellent book and I won't say more about it here because it's all been said by smarter people.

23. A Long Finish by Michael Dibdin
Dibdin is one of the better current mystery writers. His Aurelio Zen books portray a hyper-cliched, but rich enough to probably be realistic Italy and they do it well. The protagonist is very likable, with an excellent toughness of style. He's no big fighter but he knows how to play the game of politics and culture and it makes him very cool. This one is about the murder of a local vintner and has a lot of stuff about regional wine politics and truffle hunters. Great side characters and great locations. Recommended.

3 comments:

Jarrett said...

why do you hate teh 20?

Buzby said...

In one blog entry you surge ahead of me in the book count - damn! I agree with you about JDM and PH, they are both good and reliable authors. Their prose is also tight and pleasant. I was interested that you read a Passage to India, I wouldn't have thought that you would have found that interesting but you still confound us all!

beemused said...

I'd like to read more Highsmith - that one in particular sounds like a good one.

and yeah, what's with skipping numero 20?