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Friday, August 31, 2007 :::

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Why I read it: I like Cormac McCarthy

What I think about it: Bleak and depressing, this story about a man and a boy (never named) walking through a desolate, post-apocalyptic landscape, merely trying to survive each day is intense, suspenseful, and so powerfully realized that you can all-to-easily imagine and fear the possibility of it becoming a reality. It's not an easy book to read or forget. McCarty's writing style is unforgiving and he doesn't pull his punches. A lot of it hurts, and most of it is terrifying to imagine, because the possibility of it is all too real. If you're looking for a story with comic relief and inspiring moments of uplifting optimism, then keep on looking. Although it does occasionally offer the slightest glimmer of hope, this story almost reads like a warning label, or a prediction of the worst possible outcome of human civilization. But you won't be able to put it down.

Learn more about it.

::: posted by dan at 5:47 PM :: #

No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July

Why I read it: I'm a fan.

What I think about it: This is a collection of short stories by Miranda July. If you've seen her brilliant movie You, Me, and Everyone We Know, then you know exactly what to expect here: funny, playful, insightful, endearing, strange character studies that push a few boundaries when it comes to sex (especially considering that the author is female) but that never cease to surprise. It's hard to explain the charm of Miranda July, you just gotta experience it.

Learn more about it.

::: posted by dan at 5:42 PM :: #

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

Why I read it: Because I loved the author's previous novel.

What I think about it: The basic plot is about a boy searching for answers about his father's death when the World Trade Center towers collapsed, but again, Jonathan Safran Foer's huge accomplishment is his endlessly inventive and unique writing style, which employs so many different tactics and formats that it's impossible to describe them all here. Regardless, just know that it is an extremely creative, involving, heartbreaking, and ultimately satisfying novel, that is less abut 9/11 than it is about childhood, interpersonal connections, and overcoming grief. It's remarkably moving from the very first chapter to the very last, and although the author's technique of switching narrators without describing their relationships can be quite confusing at first, it all becomes clear by the end, which is a very clever way of making his point. Trust me, you'll get it by the end.

I've heard criticism about the author lately, about how he doesn't deserve the credit he gets because many previous authors have employed the same techniques he uses, almost accusing him of stealing a "style" of writing, but I don't understand their complaint. Even if someone has done it before, it doesn't mean that he isn't doing it well. And maybe I'm just not educated enough about authors and all things literary to know when someone is ripping off somebody else's writing style, but all I can tell you is that I was enthralled and impressed with each and every page, right up until the last painful act. There's always backlash when an author gets too popular or receives too much praise, though. Jealousy is a nasty bitch.

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::: posted by dan at 5:30 PM :: #

Possible Side Effects by Augusten Burroughs

Why I read it: I like Augusten

What I think about it: Yeah, he's a funny guy, and the more I learn about him as a person and a character, the more I want to be his friend, but I'm starting to tire of the short anecdotal comedy sketch format that he and David Sedaris employ so often. In fact, I've been getting the two of them confused. I really need Augusten to get back to narrative memoirs or perhaps even a full-fledged novel before I lose interest altogether. That's where he excels anyway.

Learn more about it.

::: posted by dan at 5:18 PM :: #

Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer

Why I read it: I heard it was good.

What I think about it: Ostensibly, this is a story about a young man searching for a woman who he believes saved his grandfather from a concentration camp in WWII. But really, this novel is more about character, history, and the connection between the past and the present. But regardless of the plot and the meaning, the truly impressive feat is the writing style, which deftly juggles multiple narrators, shifting timelines throughout numerous centuries, foreign language barriers, and so much more into a riveting collection of brilliant observations that are simultaneously hilarious and heartbreaking. It's not exactly easy to read, but the author injects every page with a sense of humor and a respect for history. The America-obsessed translator Alexander is one of the most inspired comic creations in recent memory, and all of the characters are handled with such care and agility that it's impossible not to identify with each and every one of them in some way. It's extremely difficult to describe the book, but quite easy to recommend it.

Oh, and please avoid the movie at all costs. Please please please.

Learn more about it.

::: posted by dan at 5:05 PM :: #


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The Road by Cormac McCarthy
No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Sa...
Possible Side Effects by Augusten Burroughs
Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryso...
Sickened by Julie Gregory
My Friend Leonard by James Frey
Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

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