Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Pile (s)

This is the ultimate in procrastination:  blogging about the books you are supposed to be blogging about but haven't finished reading.  Perhaps it is the turn of seasons, or sturm und drang at work, or thinking about a year ago when I was mostly laid up with a broken ankle, but for whatever reason I am having a terribly hard settling with books lately.  It makes everything feel a little off, not having My Book at hand, the one for which I can't wait to get a free moment at the gym or ballet, or best of all, in the tub or before sleep.

Why have none of these really stuck?  They are not all terrible.  In fact, I think some are pretty good (some are actual Great Works in American Literature).  But at that moment, when I started them, I found them either a) slow, or b) dull, or c) poorly-written, or d) depressing (that could have a whole range of triggers), or e) oddly paced, or f) trite, or e) having little discernible atmosphere or g) some unfortunate combination of these factors.

That said, in making this list, I'm reminded again why I started some of these, so you know, I might just finish them.  I'm bolding the likely contenders

Here's what's going on in the Crime Pays bookshelf.

Next to my bed (on the floor):
Patrick Leigh Fermor, Between the Woods and the Water.  Second in his walk-across-Europe before WW2.  Loved the first one, but got bogged down on the Great Hungarian Plain here.

Ruth Rendell, Not in the Flesh.  Everyone - everyone - thinks she is one of the greatest living crime writers.  I'm finding this dull, but maybe I need to try one of the 70+ other novels she's written.

Fuminori Nakamura, Last Winter We Parted.  From the Soho Crime Club.  Differing perspectives, wildly noir-ish, are making this hard to cotton to.  I should try again, though, it is certainly distinct from many of their other offerings lately.

Michael Dobbs, House of Cards.  Watched the Brit version, haven't watched the US one.  Sticking with this for the moment, the Parliamentary atmosphere is compelling, but the undercurrent of amorality is depressing.

Next to my bed (nightstand):
John Steinbeck, East of Eden.  I know, it is a classic, but it was a real downer so I put it down.

Matthew Pearl,  The Last Dickens.  After The Dante Club, which I liked in spite of its probably being Pearl's senior thesis, I tried The Poe Shadow (didn't get far) and this, in which I have not gotten far.  Don't know why, they have magnificent historical accuracy and atmosphere.  I really must give him another go.

Raphael Jerusalmy, Saving Mozart.  This is about a Jewish music critic in Austria who in his dying days tries to keep the Nazis from turning a Mozart festival into a propaganda extravaganza.  Something about the timing of this very short novel put me off.  It's written as a journal, maybe that is it, no setting.

And a bunch of sudoku books.

There are another two forgotten piles on top of a bureau under the eaves but since many of these are Bill's books I'm not going to count them.

Then there are the four separate piles next to the tub.  I don't even know what is in the far one near the candles except for Manhunt which is about the search for the assassins of Abraham Lincoln (Busman's holiday.  Actually not really anymore but still have a visceral reaction to CW books.)

The smallest pile isn't even a pile because it is usually only one book, which I've actually started and right now is Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse Five.  This is weirder than I expected, but I'm slogging through, since it promises a worthy response to the discussions of Allied and Axis bombing raids in The Rest is Silence. 

Then there are two giant piles, made up of many books I haven't started like two more from the Soho Crime Club:  Stuart Neville, The Final Silence and Timothy Halliman, For the Dead.  I didn't love Stuart Neville the way everyone else seems to, and Halliman is one of a series that takes place in Bangkok and I think I'm scarred from Behind the Night Bazaar.  There is also one more on the Corrections from Ian Rankin, The Impossible Dead and one more John Rebus from him, Standing in Another Man's Grave, courtesy of Cathy Pfister, former First Lady of Harvard College.  Got tired of Rebus, and while the Corrections were ok, it felt like not enough depth for so much book, so I haven't started these.

In the two big piles are Tom Rob Smith, Child 44 which I had to put down because it seemed to involve children in extreme and/or violent situations, yet another Henning Mankel (did this come from Cathy Pf too?), Conor Fitzgerald's Dogs of Rome (It takes place in Rome!  Why didn't I like it?  I think the protagonist is an American, who wants to read about them?), the aforementioned Stuart Neville's Ghosts of Belfast (violence felt gratuitous but what do I really know from The Troubles?), A. D. Scott's Death in a Great Glen which I have tried about four times but couldn't get past the triteness AND there was violence against children.  Then there are a couple of books by James Hamilton Paterson which were loaned by someone whom I can't remember and I haven't started because they have the air of cutesy about them.  Finally there are of course some history books - Zinn's People's History of the United States, a book about the Cape and the Islands, and something about Empire and naval buildup in Germany I think.  And let's not forget Hell Bent which is a gentle expose of the world of Bikram Yoga, with which I have a passing familiarity.


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