Monday, October 23, 2006

BOOKS: What's My Mantra?

If you want to check out the latest "Best of DNTO" podcast, go here. And I'm not just saying that because my segment on doocing appears in the last ten minutes or so. The whole darn show is pretty awesome, particularly the extended interview with Alexander McCall Smith, who is cultured and witty and has one of the most lovely speaking voices I've ever heard on a fellow human being.

Reviewing books! I knew there was something I was forgetting to do.

I'm a little behind on filing reports on the eight books I've read in the past month and a bit, and I'm probably not going to get through them all today, but I'm racing to get at least a few of them logged before I finish my ninth and tenth books (which I'm reading concurrently). Because being behind by eight books is a bit embarrassing, but being behind by ten? That's just plain discreditable.

Now, the bad news is that not only am I not good at following other people's good advice, I'm not even good at listening to myself when I quote the exact same advice. So my memories of some of these books are a bit spotty. But the good news is that I can remember enough to tell you if they're worth reading (in my always-humble-bordering-on-servile opinion). And the even better news is that many of them are worth reading.

Until I Find You

by John Irving (#32)
This isn't Irving's best work (that title goes to either
The World According to Garp, The Hotel New Hampshire, or A Prayer for Owen Meany, depending on whom you ask), but it's not his worst, either. It's a somewhat messy, sprawling story, or more accurately two stories about the same set of events. Intrigued? Confused? I wish I could help you more, but I read this two months ago, so anything I could tell you would probably confuse you more.

If you've never read any of Irving's novels, I wouldn't start with this one. But if you
have read Irving's best novels (see above) and have a hankering for more, it wouldn't kill you to read Until I Find You. I liked it, anyway.

Stories from the Vinyl Cafe
by Stuart McLean (#33)
Speaking of CBC Radio (have I mentioned that you can download my recent appearance, in podcast form, here? Are you sure I already mentioned it?), I've always had a soft spot for some of CBC's venerable radio personalities.
Bill Richardson. The late Peter Gzowski. And now Stuart McLean.

turned me on to McLean when she pressed this collection of short stories on me a couple of months ago, and now I'm regretting that I didn't grab the sequel from her when I had the chance. These stories have a sort of incisive poignance that occasionally reminds me of Alice Munro, but they also possess a self-deprecating charm that Munro lacks.

The Snapper
by Roddy Doyle (#34)
Another winner from
DoppelSis. I know that Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha is officially Doyle's great book, but between you and me, while I was technically dazzled by Paddy Clarke, it left me a bit cold emotionally. The Snapper, on the other hand, was warm and funny and clever as all get out. And yes, also charming. I'm a sucker for charm these days.

I was occasionally disturbed by the casual mentions of pregnant women getting shitfaced, but I kept chanting the mantra I use during these kinds of literary challenges: "Different context, different context, different context." It really helps. I may even start using this mantra in my real life.

All right, kiddies. It's late, and I'm tired. You're probably tired, too, so get to bed. I don't care if you're at work or school.

You heard me.


Anonymous said...

I've not read 'The Snapper' or 'Paddy Clarke', coming quite late to Roddy Doyle, but over the summer I picked up 'The Woman Who Walked Into Doors' and its sequel, 'Paula Spencer' (which wasn't a patch on the original) and I can honestly say that they were some of the most moving books I've read for ages, seriously. I cried my lamps out at 'The Woman Who Walked Into Doors', and it's not often a book can make me cry.

Marg said...

McCall Smith definitely has one of those voices that you could listen to for hours. Yum!

Rebecca said...

Did you mean Stuart McLean? My mother and I have been listening to that show for years now, and we've even gone to see him at one of his live shows. He's a funny, generous, warm human being.

And did you catch Mcall Smith on Sunday afternoon?

Andi said...

I would throw The Cider House Rules into the ring as Irving's best book (also most underappreciated), but I lovingly gush over it at every available opportunity. Don't mind me. *gush gush gush*

Have never read either of the Doyle books (had Ha Ha Ha in my possession once, but it slipped away). Will have to give one or both a try.

Anonymous said...

I'VE READ THE SNAPPER! (Sorry. I get a l'il bit excited when I've actually read one of your 50.) And I was ... not put off exactly, but at least put into a constant state of nervousness over the boozing. I just expecting something terrible out of it--either a disaster for the baby, or at the very least, a showdown where someone says, "Hey Sharon, remember how your baby's due next Tuesday. Maybe you should think twice about that sixth vodka and coke."

Em said...

We did McLean's live Christmas show last year and it was amazing. Saturday mornings I'll sometimes turn him on at work when I'm feeling lonely or down. Couple of girls who I'd've pegged as my polar opposites came over to gab about how much they liked the show and I nearly burst into tears right there, for some reason.

Carrie said...

oh, you.

I wish I could follow my own advice too. Is eight books behind really that lame? Well then I guess it is lucky that I lost the records of four or so books on my list!

Anyway, loved the reviews and i am officially recommending Mothers & Other Monsters by Maureen McHugh.

read it. love it.

Booklogged said...

Thanks for introducing me to DNTO podcast. I enjoy all of it. McCall Smith was delightful and so were you. The only person I've said anything negative is a school board member and I hope she never finds out because she is EVIL!

Anonymous said...

Weird. It *is* late and I *am* tired. Think I'll grab my book and head to bed. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Did you know, they made The Snapper into a movie with the Irish guy who played the engineer on Star Trek: The Next Generation! I remember it being cute, with less of the drinking while pregnant by Sharon.

Thanks for keeping up a great site! I really enjoy reading it, even during the spells between reviews. :)