This week’s reading (well, okay, I’m still behind, but now only by a few books):
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, J. K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, J. K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, J. K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J. K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, J. K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, J. K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, J. K. Rowling
White Walls, Tatyana Tolstaya (two-book compilation)
Black Cross, Greg Iles
The Ruins, Scott Smith
The Final Judgment, Richard Patterson
Triple, Ken Follett
The Third Victim, Lisa Gardner
The Life and Loves of a She-Devil, Fay Weldon
Thriller, ed. James Patterson
Why Read?, Mark Edmondson
Planet of Adventure, Jack Vance (four-novel compilation)
Note to self: thriller short stories usually aren’t. Or maybe James Patterson just has bad taste - which, I guess, wouldn’t be a surprise. Even though I’m someone who really enjoys a cheesy thriller now and then, his stuff is a little too much like intellectual Cream of Wheat. If anyone has a suggestion of other short stories in the thriller genre, I’m willing to be convinced!
Other than that, Smith, Tolstaya and Edmondson were the real stand-outs of this lot. Scott Smith does a classic horror story: a group of young adults does something terminally stupid and then proceed to get deeper and deeper into trouble. Just when you think things can’t necessarily get worse, they do - and the ending is bitter and painfully ironic. If you are prone to nightmares you might want to give this one a pass; otherwise, go find this clever, nasty gem right now.
Tolstaya was a challenge to read. I think it was the complete collection of her short stories, and I found myself losing steam halfway through. This wasn’t because they were bad stories! In fact, completely the reverse: each story is a chewy little nugget that could satisfy you for days. She reminds me of Gogol in her lyricism and her use of the fantastic, but her stories are very clearly modern as well. She’s got at least one novel that’s been translated into English, so I’m pretty excited to read more of her. I, er, just can’t do it right now because that part of my brain is tired.
The Edmondson book was a lovely piece of critical work on reading, literary theory, values, and the point of a humanistic education. His central thesis is that we read in order to become greater than ourselves, and that the role of literary criticism is not to become an artifact of study but rather to lead us to a deeper understanding of who we are. He’s a good deal more eloquent than I am about it, and he’s funny and well-spoken and committed to what he’s saying, so you should all just go read it for yourselves. I happen to pretty strongly agree with him about the point of reading, but that may be because I can point to any number of things about myself that I’ve developed through my relationship through books.
Finally, Harry Potter may eventually rate its own post, although having ranted about it in person (short version: it’s okay, but not great) I’m not sure if anyone needs to hear me do it again.
Shabbat Shalom, everyone!