For me, this novel was a perfect summer read, and not because it was a lightweight piece of fluff, either. It starts in an summer arts camp in the Berkshires in the mid-1970s. This is a classier camp than I ever went to, full of privileged, talented high school students. While my music and church camp experiences were more low-rent, there’s something about the experience of being thrown into communal, semi-outdoor living with a bunch of strangers at that age that’s universally traumatic and memorable. I could almost smell the musty, reindeer-flannel-lined sleeping bags. Read more
Posts from the ‘Sensible Shoes: Book Reviews’ Category
I loved the characters in this book, and cared what happened to all of them. My problem was that the elliptical style — and my uneasy grasp of NW London slang — left me groping occasionally to figure out what was happening, and sometimes to whom. I loved both of Smith’s earlier novels, White Teeth and On Beauty. Read more
I’m working my way backwards through Jess Walter’s fiction, after reading and loving his Beautiful Ruins last fall. Ruins jumped from Italy to Edinburgh to Hollywood, from the 60s to the present. This earlier novel is solidly American in setting and themes, but no less engrossing. The main character, Matt Prior, has given up his day job as a reporter to pursue a venture that sounds like a joke: a financial journalism website composed entirely in blank verse. Unfortunately for Matt, his wife, their two sons, and their mortgage (with its upcoming balloon payment), this works about as well as it sounds like it would. Read more
This book should quickly clear up any romantic notions you might have about how idyllic it might have been to live on a commune in the 60s. True, it’s fiction, but the numerous ways it could go wrong (winter, infidelity, bad parenting, rock star egos, and outhouses, to name but a few) are so convincingly portrayed that I found myself searching the author’s bio to see if she might have done time in one herself.
The prospect of a fat new Michael Chabon novel always makes me clear the reading decks for action. Telegraph Avenue sounded especially appealing, with its Bay Area setting, musical subject matter (two of the four main characters are co-owners of a vintage record store), and Chabon’s established track record for skillful yet affectionate mockery of a certain brand of East Bay liberal orthodoxy (see his Manhood for Amateurs, 2009). Read more
In the past few months I’ve been reading like there’s no tomorrow. Here’s my attempt to catch up the blogging to the reading.
This was a book club read, and not a genre I generally visit: Nordic crime fiction. Probably Stieg Larsson fans would devour it, or at least I guess they would (I’ve only seen the Dragon Tattoo movie — parts of it with my hands over my eyes — and haven’t read the book). Plot-driven doesn’t begin to describe it; I will say that the pages practically turned themselves. Read more