Sunday, October 11, 2009

Fiction Corner

Recent reads: Joyce Carol Oates's The Gravedigger's Daughter. Very engaging novel, essential JCO, in other words, emotionally wrenching and intense. A bit of an autographical aspect too (loosely based on her grandmother's life).

Also, Dan Chaon's Await Your Reply. This was my second novel by Chaon: You Remind Me of Me was also excellent. This one's about identity: understanding what it is, stealing it, losing it, regaining it. Read another book about this a while back, also fascinating, T.C. Boyle's Talk Talk.

Now I'm about half way through Margaret Atwood's latest: The Year of the Flood. Like the earlier Handmaid's Tale and Oryx and Crake, this one is a futuristic dystopia. It's interesting and I am drawn into the main characters, but I suspect that dystopias are getting harder to pull off. The current state of affairs, in terms of human society and the future of the planet, is such that dystopias often wind up using either wild exaggerations or thinly veiled references to present-day situations. More on this later when I finish the book.

In our reading group, we're in the middle of The Lost Art of Gratitude by Alexander McCall Smith. It's the most recent addition to the series about Isabel Dalhousie, Edinburgh philosopher and kind-hearted meddler. We've also read all the Botswana series (starting with The Ladies' No. 1 Detective Agency), personal favorites, and the serialized sketches from the Scotsman newspaper, first collected in 44 Scotland Street.

We are also reading Malcom Gladwell's Blink in group, an interesting nonfiction book about human intuition. We read aloud and then discuss. This has been going on for many years, usually including some biography, history, psychology, and whatnot.

On my recommendation, husband David is on the third in the Simon Serailler mysteries, The Risk of Darkness by British writer Susan Hill.

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