Sunday, November 15, 2009

Modern fiction time

Hey, I'm catching up with my reviews! It helps in that I have been so overwhelmed with school and life that I've been in a bit of a down mood that has left me unable to both identify what I want to read and focus on what it is I'm reading when I do finally pick something out. So there hasn't been much to add to the list. The semester is about to come to an end, though, which will help my mood and focus immensely. Cow holy, this has been a tough semester.

Enough with the whining. On to the reviews.

I've wanted to read Bret Easton Ellis and when I was in one of my "What do I want to read next?" moods, I came across Lunar Park, the only one of his books we have in our library. Much more recent than his "classics", it is a novel about him. I'm not one for horror novels but man, this was SPOOKY and good. Ellis is haunted by Patrick Bateman, the main character in American Psycho, who, according to the novel, is really based on his father so it is his father who is haunting him. There are also evil stuffed animal spirits. And a double.

The thing is, Ellis takes a lot of drugs and consumes a good deal of alcohol. We don't know what is real and what is imagined. Which is interesting because since Ellis is the author and narrator, we also don't know what parts of the book are real and what are imagined.

Great book. Almost two star worthy but in the end I opted for a single star. I'm not sure how good it would be for someone who had no idea who Ellis is or why his self-importance in the book is so important. I may be wrong on this, though, and this might be a two-star. Or maybe I'm imagining writing this post and I haven't even read the book.

The Weekend by Peter Cameron came about because I realized as much as I love City of Your Final Destination, I've not read much else by Cameron. Remedied. This was about as meaningless and plotless a book as I have ever encountered and it was fantastic. The book is about character conflict. There is a couple, John and Marian, living in a country house in upstate New York. They are two pretty boring people. They are friends with Lyle, who decides to come visit them and bring his lover of a week, Robert. No big deal, right? The thing is, Lyle is visiting on the one-year anniversary of the death of Tony, Lyle's former lover and John's half-brother. And John and Marian's house is where Tony died. Awkward. Add in a strange Italian woman who is sort of a neighbor and the book just becomes more awkward. Yet it's really good. Despite there not being a plot, it ends in a satisfying manner. The dialogue, typical of Cameron, is fantastic. The people, despite lacking much in the way of redeeming qualities, aren't bad either. Just sort of troubled. It was a different book (for me, anyway) and I recommend it for the entertainment value.

Lastly came An Invisible Sign of My Own. I enjoyed this so much I shot an e-mail off to the author, Aimee Bender, an English professor out in California, letting her know how much I enjoyed it. I didn't realize until after I read it that she is part of the same writing group as David Glen Gold, author of one of my favorite books Carter Beats the Devil and Alice Sebold, Gold's wife, and author of The Lovely Bones. Sort of bodes well when you're hanging with a pair like that.

I loved the shade of blue on the dustjacket. That's what made me pick it. It stood out. Then I read the epigraph, a quote from the mathematician Wim Klein, which read "Numbers are friends for me, more or less. It doesn't mean the same to you, does it--3,844? For you it's just a three and an eight and a four and a four. But I say, "Hi! 62 squared."". Awesome.

The story is about a 20 year old woman named Mona who, despite lacking any sort of education or background to suggest she is capable of doing so, is asked to teach elementary school math, mostly because she is a math whiz. Mona's got problems. Her mother pretty much kicked her out of the house. Her father has been suffering from some mysterious ailment for years. Mona quits anything she ever gets good at. She eats soap to become sick to avoid having sex with guys she likes. When she's out of sorts, which is quite often, she knocks on wood to comfort herself, sometimes for hours on end. She turns out being a decent teacher, though, at least for a period of time.

Everything gets really crazy as Mona begins to believe that numbers are causing the deaths of people in town. She then finds that the numbers are at least somewhat connected to a neighbor who then vanishes. And one of Mona's second grade students gets a little crazy with an ax in class and ends up in the hospital. All works out well in the end.

Writing this review reminded me of just how much goes on in this book. Mona's constant quirks/mental problems keep the book moving as Bender does a good job of making the reader as on edge as Mona is. When the ending works out well, because you're so in tune with Mona, it feels good. But I think most people will have to work hard to suspend their disbelief with everything going on. Because it's a little too out there, I have limited my rating to one star. If you're as off-center as I am, though, you'll probably really like it.

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