Monday, May 31, 2010

Short Takes

I do horrible on updating this blog, ever since I started working at the newspaper and writing all day. Or maybe it's that I can get people to listen to me every week and don't need it as much here, I don't know. So I fgiured I'd write about a couple of books at once, books that don't really merit separate entries anyway.

Whiter than Snow, by Sandra Dallas.
I always like to see a new one for summer. It's good, simple, uplifting summer fare. Like a street vendor hot dog, or a fresh croissant in the morning, you devour it quickly, savor the taste, but are sort of hungry again an hour or two later. Whiter Than Snow concerns an avalanche in a mining town that buried several children alive. The book is really about the hopes and dreams of their parents, and about the different ways life can trap a person. The town's sole black man absconded from the terribly racist Deep South after his wife died in childbirth -- essentially of racism. Lucy and Dolly haven't spoken in years after Dolly stole Lucy's fiance. Lucy wound up marrying the first man who asked in order to have some measure of freedom from her father. There's a lot more: Essie, the Jewish hooker, the grizzled Civil War vet who let his best friend die.

It's the same sort of Sandra Dallas book, though. The ending is usually sort of brutal (one thing about her is that she's not afraid of a strong dose of tragedy) and uplifting at the same time. If you've read any of her books, there are no surprises in this one.

E2 by Matt Beaumont is the follow up to E, which I read on vacation last year. Not all of the characters return, though several do. You could easily skip the first one to read this one. It's been updated to include not only email, but texts, blog posts and IM conversations. It was sad to see how poorly one of the horny young men had aged. Other than that, there's little to say about this one that I didn't say about the original last year. Not that it was a regrettable choice or anything. But it's another good fun, summer read.

Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel would surely merit its own post had I finished it. I got about 75 pages in, and would likely have kept going had it not been due back (and had I not already renewed it once). It's a slow start, about a writer who had developed a conceptual book that his publishers refused spectacularly and is just kind of adrift. His adriftness reminded me of myself over hte past year: he got involved with community theater and a volunteer group, and took a part-time job in a pleasant environment with no status and low pay.

Then he gets sucked in by this manuscript written by a taxidermist about Beatrice and Virgil, his howler monkey and donkey. And what I think is going to happen is that it will wind up being an elaborate metaphor for a re-imagining of the Holocaust, as the writer's original conceptual book was to be. At some point I'll pick it up again and find out.

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