Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Well, I'm back at work. The squirt's gone to daycare, which he loves, and apparently the world continues turning.

I should mention that William Ham is funny as hell.

I finished on the Foer book during my month off of work, but I'm reading three others, so it's only a matter of time before I have more to review. Thanks to the kindness of one Scott Von Doviak, I'm almost finished with the second season of Deadwood, and it's been a doozy.

The last month also allowed me to catch Spoon live with Sally Crewe and The Clientele. The Austin American-Statesman's Joe Gross covered the show with elegance and grace. All I can add is that I felt like a senior citizen when surrounded by the teeming hoards of fans of The O.C. who apparently have embraced Spoon as one of their own.

Finally, the other night I had the great fortune to see The Wild Bunch on the big screen. I've seen it 8 or 9 times in my life, and it's never looked better or been more engrossing. Strangely, the family of four sitting in front of us inexplicably got up and left about 1.75 hours in, right during the train robbery. Were they shocked? Bored? Unaware that the movie's 2 1/2 hours long? Odd.

OK, enough rambling.

Book #19: Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer.

As I posted before, I found this book annoying and unfocused for the first half. Emlyn Lewis advised continuance and promised that it would get better. I'm happy to report that he was correct: the end of the book was quite affecting. I don't know if I'd go so far as to call it great or even among the best I've read this year, but I'm glad that Foer managed to find a real destination to his narrative.

Much has been made over its "postmodern" structure in various media. Eh. The novelty of having an author create a character with the same name as himself wore off the first time I encountered it (which was, I think, in the far weirder Arc D'X by Steve Erickson, which I read sometime in the early 90s, but was I really in my 20s before I encountered that? Doesn't seem right), and the wacky foreigner tries to write/speak English trope was old when Yakov Smirnov was doing it. Fortunately for the reader, the wacky foreigner turned out to have more going for him, and the story for "Jonathan Safran Foer"'s past was actually quiet resonant. The historical wacky-small-town-historical-Ukrainian-Jew sections never really came to much, except as an sort of negative space in the climax of the story, which was strangely both brutal and sudden and altogether too easy on the main characters. Perhaps that was the point. Brutality does suddenly snap out of nowhere to paint history with blood, but many of the Westernized younger adults of today have been carefully sheltered from it and can approach it now only from a distance.

I was hard on Bee Season, which was also a first novel, and I feel like I'm being more than generous with this one. If this were the work of a more accomplished writer, I would have found the muddled thinking more egregious. As is, this is not bad. I've heard several people tell me that Foer's second novel, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, which is about the WTC bombing, is awful, and I suspect that Foer probably makes the same mistake as his namesake in Everything Is Illuminated in thinking that he finally understands something about brutality, when in fact he is simply taking a vacation in someone else's misery.


Tiffany 2:00 PM, July 07, 2005  

I appreciate the update. It makes my day more enjoyable. Thanks!

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