Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Clearly, too many books at once.

Details on each book are available on my Shelfari shelf, at right.

Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention
I have about 80 pages left, but the pace has slowed considerably. Maybe it's me, but I think it's the book's structure, as MarItalicable has lapsed into a day-to-day recounting rather than providing overviews. Is all of this necessary? Not by my lights. My impression is that he's breaking the story down this way because he's got Malcolm's diaries to rely on, as well as news accounts (during Malcolm's final journey to Africa and the Near East).

More Jim Shepard
Read another story, "Your Fate Hurtles Down at You," from the collection You Think That's Bad. Again, you see in the details about four scientists studying the nature of avalanches in the Swiss Alps Shepard's research-backed approach to these stories, and in this one, I think he gets the balance right, with a moving story about the protagonist's loss of his brother in an avalanche years before and his reconnection with a young woman they both loved. Everything's just right until the end . . . or including the end, depending on how you look at it. The ending fits the story perfectly, but it's the same ending (jumping ahead in time to see his looming fate) Shepard employs in another story in the collection (a device also used in his previous collection), so, having read those other stories, the conclusion feels like an easy stunt. Too bad.

The Land at the End of the World, by António Lobo Antunes
I tried. Some beautiful writing; gorgeously long sentences. Nothing happening in the first chapter, however. I didn't have the energy.

The Man of Bronze
Till now, I've avoided rereading any Doc Savage adventures because I didn't want them influencing my homage to the character in my "Old Man" stories. I needn't have worried, at least not where this first Doc novel is concerned. Everyone runs around in a rather silly way; even in the opening scenes, the thing is borderline incoherent, the logic of how one scene connects to another absent as the narrative is obviously being constructed on the fly. As a figure, Doc is interesting—or rather Doc's abilities propel the story forward. Doc himself has no consistent voice. Dent seems unfamiliar with the slang of his own era, as Monk talks like someone trying out expressions. (Rudolph Fischer captures New York black slang beautifully in his stories, by contrast.) I've lost count of how many times Dent has referred to Ham as "waspish." Nearly every time the character's name appears, so does the adjective. Awful. The constant appearance of cool inventions and the kind of falling-down-the-stairs progress of the story do make it entertaining.

The Quantum Thief
This is one of those SF books in which you just have to keep up with the terms-for-things-that-don't-exist, as the narrator avoids info-dumping. I think I'm getting a fair amount of it, but, really, I'm not understanding some key concepts. I haven't done adequate reading in those futures in which everyone is uploaded or downloaded or whatever. It's fairly short, and it won a lot of praise, so we'll see how it goes. I'm about 30 pages in.

Barnacle Love
I can't decide about this book, though I'm halfway through. Each chapter takes place in a discrete time of the main character's life: he's a Portuguese sailor who was lost at sea, landed in Newfoundland, and stayedBold, partly by his own wish and partly by the machinations of others (though I found confusing exactly why he's such a victim). There's a gap between each section that's jarring; the thing needs more contiguousness, I think. After the last jump, I felt burdened by knowing I'd have to labor to fill in the space again, and I'm not sure I care enough to do so.

And as for writing . . .
I've gotten back to "Unearthed," now from the point of view of the character Qwerty. I haven't quite caught her voice yet, but it'll come. Switching to first person will allow me to have her think things that she won't have to reveal to "the Old Man" (in this story known as "Little Boss"), and I can maintain that narrative distance from him that's necessary to keeping him enigmatic, even as we see more of his humanity this time.

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