17 November 2014

The Guardian's list of 100 Greatest Novels

The Guardian has posted a list of "The 100 greatest novels of all time." Of these, I have read, think maybe I've read, or attempted to read 38 of them. To wit:

A= attempted; R=read; ?=I'm not sure but I may have read, or attempted this

T=thanks to my high school education; *=one of my favorite books ever

Don Quixote A
Robinson Crusoe R
Gulliver's Travels R -- my elementary school library had a really beautiful edition of this, as I recall, with illustrations, such as one of Gulliver tied down by the Lilliputians.
Tom Jones R
Frankenstein R*
David Copperfield R
Jane Eyre R
Scarlet Letter RT
Moby Dick A
Alice in Wonderland R*
The Brothers of Karamazov A
Huckleberry Finn A*
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde R
The Picture of Dorian Gray R
Jude the Obscure R
Call of the Wild ?
The Wind in the Willows R*
Ulysses R
The Trial A
Brave New World R* "a gram is better than a damn"
The Big Sleep R*
The Plague RT
Nineteen Eighty-Four R* "war is peace"
Catcher in the Rye RT--I recently re-read this, and it didn't really hold up.
Lord of the Rings R
Lord of the Flies RT
The Quiet American -- I think I only saw the movie made from this. Really should read it. Greene is always delightful.
On the Road R*--Capote said it wasn't writing, but typing, but I loved it when I read it.
Lolita R
To Kill a Mockingbird R*T--I always felt I wanted to see more from Harper Lee, but she felt that she had written all she needed to.
Catch 22 R
Herzog ?
One Hundred Years of Solitude A
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy R*--and the miniseries at least twice, and the recent movie.
Song of Solomon R
The BFG ?--not sure, but I have definitely read "The Twits."
The Book of Laughter and Forgetting ?
LA Confidential R







13 November 2014

The Falls, by Ian Rankin

An Inspector Rebus novel. And another great one.

Rebus is called in when a wealthy student at Edinburgh University disappears. In the course of this mystery, Rebus falls typically afoul of his commanding officers and winds up on suspension. This does not stop him from working on, and ultimately solving, the mystery.

This one is full of academics, quirky pathologists, strange artifacts, and Rebus's co-workers who, in varying degrees, either admire or despise him for his methods.

Ian Rankin's Website

Observer Review


06 November 2014

Bark, by Lorrie Moore

This is an audio book, a collection of short stories.

I'm almost done listening to it, and my conclusion is that I'm going to have to get the book in print, as I think these stories are too good for commuting. That is, they require more complete attention. 

03 November 2014

Poor White, by Sherwood Anderson

An electronic book, available online: http://www.fiction.us/anderson/porwhite/cover.html

Published in 1920. Covers the beginning of the industrial revolution while telling the story of young Hugh McVey, of Missouri, who moves to Ohio and begins to dream of making machines.

http://ndbooks.com/book/poor-white

I don't know, I'll probably reveal my ignorance here, but I didn't think this book was very good. Boring, too full of exposition, lifeless characters, and a really strange plot. There's some good stuff on the industrial revolution and the oppression of workers, equity trading, financial corruption, etc., but all in all, my advice: don't bother.

The Other, by David Guterson

An audio book.

The narrator is an English teacher named Neil Countryman, who had a friend from high-school age named John William Barry. John William came from a very wealthy, if dysfunctional family.

Countryman and Barry shared a love for back country hiking. At one point, Barry arranges, with Countryman's help, to disappear into the Ho Rain Forest on the Olympic Peninsula.

According to the blurb on the CD case, there is a "revelation" near the end of the story, but I'm damned if I know what they mean. Perhaps this clip from the NYT review linked below covers it:

There’s a deus ex machina at the end of this new one that, a little disappointingly, plants guilt for John William’s struggles at the feet of a certain suspect. But the voice of Neil Countryman is that of a good, thoughtful man coming into middle-class, middle-aged fullness, and his recollections of life in Seattle have a wonderful richness and texture.

Set in Western Washington, as are other Guterson works, there is a lot of poetry in this book, but it does go on. And on.


New York Times review