This week’s reading:
Bloom, Wil McCarthy
Slipping into Darkness, Peter Blauner
Money: A Memoir, Liz Perle
A Disorder Peculiar to the Country, Ken Kalfus
The Portrait of Mrs. Charbuque, Jeffrey Ford
The Girl in the Glass, Jeffrey Ford
First off, I’m quite surprised that my creative acts (i.e. taking time every day to make something) hasn’t cut into my reading time. One of my New Year’s resolutions was “Read less, write more,” but it seems like my writing time is coming out of something else. My personal theory is that I do my creative acts to avoid answering email.
That said, my reading week started off pretty crappy, with a mediocre sci-fi novel (a bunch of misfits do a fly-by mission of an Earth taken over by nanotechnological fungi) and a mystery that did not live up to my high expectations. But then it got radically better with Perle’s Money, where Perle uses her own experiences with money and about two hundred interviews to examine some of the problems that women have with handling and managing cash. As a) a feminist and b) a woman with some pretty typical female money issues, I found the book to be fascinating, if sometimes depressing. But it’s sold me on the notion that I need to get a clear picture of my financial situation and, you know, actually invest that money I kept meaning to invest, and it’s less scary to think about these things now that I’ve had some of my assumptions and expectations exposed.
The high point of my week, I think, though, was discovering Jeffrey Ford. He does these historical quasi-fantastic novels (artists, circus freaks, mysterious patrons, blind men) which are incredibly satisfying. Or, more accurately, The Girl in the Glass was incredibly satisfying, with its young hero learning what it means to become a man in a world of con men, circus freaks, twins, and possibly psychic powers. The Portrait of Mrs. Charbuque was more overtly fantastic, but I found the ending rather a let-down. Also the main character shoots himself in the foot one too many times for my taste; I much preferred Diego, who makes his mistakes out of naivete rather than pig-headed idiocy.
Finally, the Kalfus was a wonderfully black comedy about 9/11 and how it changes the lives of a divorcing couple, each of whom thinks the other has died that day. Like the best satire, it’s howlingly funny and painfully true, and the epiphany the characters reach at the end is all the more meaningful for being so hard-won. Warning, though: this book is not for the squeamish. There’s plenty of gore in the 9/11 sections of the book, but in some ways the things the protagonists do to each other are even worse.
That’s all for now, folks. Shabbat Shalom, and I’ll see you tomorrow with another creative act!