10 January 2014

Bleeding Edge, by Thomas Pynchon

Copyright 2013, by Thomas Pynchon.

It took me until about page 77 before I decided that I could read this book. I almost gave it up. It's a mess of hip conversations, and it's set in 2001. But once I began to recognize the character Maxine as someone that I could actually care about, I wanted to keep reading, and find out what's going on. So I almost feel as if I skipped the first 77 pages.

This is from page 140:

"Madoff Securities. Hmm, maybe some industry scuttlebutt. Bernie Madoff, a legend on the street. Said to do quite well, I recall."
"One to two percent a month."
"Nice average return, so what's the problem?"
"Not average. Same every month."
"Uh-oh." She flips pages, has a look at the graph. "What the fuck. It's a perfect straight line, slanting up forever?'
"Seem a little abnormal to you?"
"...it's got to be a Ponzi scheme..."

And this from 143:

"Future of film, if you want to know--someday, more bandwidth, more video files up on the Internet, everybody'll be shootin everything, way too much to look at, nothin will mean shit. Think of me as the prophet of that."
From page 432:

"Look at it, every day more lusers than users, keyboards and screens turning into nothin but portals to web sites for what the Management wants everybody addicted to, shopping, gaming, jerking off, streaming endless garbage -- ... [this ellipsis is mine, as is the next. The ones in the following passage are from the text]
"...hashslingrz and them are all screaming louder and louder about 'Internet freedom,' while they go on handing more of it over to the bad guys ... They get us, all right, we're all lonely, needy, disrespected, desperate to believe in any sorry imitation of belonging they want to sell us... We're being played, Maxi, and the game is fixed, and it won't end till the Internet--the real one, the dream, the promise--is destroyed."

04 January 2014

The Corrections, by Jonathan Franzen

A novel. Copyright 2001 by Jonathan Franzen.

Among other things, this is the story of the Lambert Family, of St. Jude, a fictional place that may be intended to make us think of St. Paul, MN. Alfred and Enid are the parents of Gary, Chip, and Denise. This novel moves back and forth in time, seemingly without effort, and illuminates the corners of all their lives, from the time when Alfred and Enid were very young to when they are, in the end, rather old.

This is a thoughtful and well-written story of American culture and life, and a useful picture of the world and the USA at the beginning of the 21st century.

I look forward to reading more from Franzen.

Here's a review from the NY Times dated, ominously, 9 Sept. 2001.

02 January 2014

Saturday, by Ian McEwan

The entire plot of this novel takes place on a Saturday in February 2003. Neurosurgeon Henry Perowne wakes up early and has a very full day. In the course of this day he sees every member of his family, including his elderly (demented) mother and drunken poet father-in-law. In addition to the reunion, Perowne faces a serious and dangerous confrontation.

I was glad to find that this book was not like the last McEwan I read, which had a trick ending. Saturday was a thoroughly good read, with a great plot and plenty to think about. There is much debate in the book about the wisdom or folly of invading Iraq, and speculation about what the outcomes of such action--or, indeed, the outcomes of inaction--might be.

There is an issue toward the end that I don't want to be too specific about as it would spoil the book for another reader, but I do think there's an unrealistic representation of the professional behavior of a surgeon here. I doubt that the event described near the end of the story would or could have taken place in a British hospital, but I suppose I could be wrong.

McEwan includes an interesting American, Jay Strong, who has come to London to work as an anesthetist, thereby reducing his salary by a great deal, because he loves (1) socialized medicine, and (2) a British woman.

A Guardian / Observer review.

The Overlook, by Michael Connelly

This was an e-book from the PC Library.

This book was quite short, but still pretty entertaining. Harry Bosch solves a murder in spite of interference from the FBI, who seem determined to turn the incident into a national security issue. Bosch doesn't think it is.

As I've been reading a number of Wambaugh's LAPD novels lately, I was interested to note several details in common, for example, the mention of the Federal Consent Decree under which the LAPD was operating (still is? I don't know). Of course, most of these details are simply factual, so they would have to be identical.

01 January 2014

The Blind Assassin, by Margaret Atwood

So wonderful. Maggie can't miss, it seems.

This is a complex, multi-layered novel, but not a bit confusing. Atwood tells several stories here, not the least of which is the history of the decade before the outbreak of World War II, and the repression of unions and progressives.

The central characters are sisters, Laura and Iris. Their father is a minor industrialist with a factory near Toronto. Laura, we learn early on, does not live long, but becomes famous posthumously for writing a novel, the title of which is the title of this book. We get segments of the novel-within-a-novel throughout the work. Atwood also uses news clippings (fictional) among the chapters, which switch back and forth in time. All this is done with great skill; one has the impression that this is the way to tell these stories, that no other method would be as satisfying.

Among other lessons, The Blind Assassin teaches us that greed, a lust for power, and the forces of unbridled capitalism have human and individual consequences, some of which are quite specifically illustrated, others hinted at or implied.

Iris and Laura are women, though born into a wealthy family, they are still without power. We see them treated as children at best, and slaves at worst. Since they are both very intelligent and resourceful, they manage to wrest some freedom and self-determination from the world, but not without great cost, especially in Laura's case.

The Hollywood Crows, by Joseph Wambaugh

An audio book.

Community Relations Officers, CRO, pronounced "crow."

Good stuff. Made me feel like I knew Hollywood a little better.

Hollywood Moon, by Joseph Wambaugh

an audio book

Another of Wambaugh's novels about the LAPD, with characters that appear in other books. This was quite entertaining, and improved many a commuting trip.

There is an interesting bit of conversation that advocates very strongly for equal treatment and respect for female cops.