July 7th, 2013

  • cat63

Book 36 for 2013

Almost Human by Destiny Howell. 116 pages.

I should probably cut this book some slack as it's clearly intended for people several decades younger than me, but some authors manage to write books which are aimed at a teen audience but still eminently readable for older people - Terry Pratchett, Diana Wynne Jones and Garth Nix to name but three. Howell is not yet of that number, alas, although she can at least write decent clear prose, so she may have a chance of joining their ranks someday.

This is a slight tale of a teen girl who gets embroiled with the local werewolves. I was under the impression when I downloaded it that this was a novel, but it's not - in fact it reads like the first three or four chapters of a novel.

Not awful, but I shan't be seeking more from this author.

21 The Sportswriter

Originally posted by audrey_e at 21 The Sportswriter
21 THE SPORTSWRITER Richard Ford (US, 1986)

A week-end spent in Michigan with his girlfriend forces a middle-aged sportswriter to reflect on his life, and more specifically his failed marriage, the death of a son, his inability/unwillingness to write more fiction, and the state of his current relationship.

The Sportswriter is the first installment in the "Frank Bascombe trilogy", after the name of the main protagonist. The second installment, Independence Day, is the 1996 Pulitzer Prize winner.

The Sportswriter is one of those novels that focus on the life of average Americans, their work, family, expectations and disappointments. In other words, it should have been exactly my kind of novel. But the reality was different.
The entire novel is about the narrator reflecting on his own (average) life. My problem with this is not the format at all, but the execution. I don't think Richard Ford was as insightful in this novel as the self-indulgent format should have required. Ford's novel can easily be compared to the work of John Cheever, John Updike, Richard Yates or even Philip Roth. But these insightful writers usually know how to underline the tragedy that lies within everyday life, and leave the reader with a better understanding of it. In The Sportswriter, Ford simply could not match their talent, which makes the novel forgettable.
Another thing. While I was afraid that the subject of sports would be too overwhelming - I hate sports more than anything - I actually ended up thinking there were not enough discussions of the narrator's profession, and not enough powerful parallels between sports and the narrator's personality. I find this puzzling considering the title.
My hope is that Independence Day, which I intend to read eventually, shows a lot of improvements and is worthy of a Pulitzer Prize.


22 The Sun Also Rises

Originally posted by audrey_e at 22 The Sun Also Rises
22 THE SUN ALSO RISES Ernest Hemingway (US, 1926)

A group of American and British expatriates in Paris decide to attend the bull fighting festivities in Pamplona, Spain.

And my love-hate relationship with Hemingway continues.
It's always hard for me to define my feelings for Hemingway's books. Once more, I admired the precision and conciseness of his language, while there was a part of me that rolled my eyes at his need to constantly hold back on content and how pretentious it can be. Although I have to admit the limited content carries the idea that trauma can never be expressed with words.
But on a more positive note, this time the mixed feelings also stem from the bitter-sweet content itself.
The Sun Also Rises is the ultimate novel of the "lost generation", a group of people the reader is both meant to envy and pity. It is impossible not to long for their freedom and life of leisure, while their inability to communicate and move on is so crippling that it seems to make that freedom impossible to enjoy. Without saying much about the feelings of these men and women, Hemingway is very successful at "showing" how even the most pleasurable of situations can become a trap if the human mind makes it so.