Between work and travel, February is a very busy month. I managed eight books in the shortest month of 2012, not too bad. For over half the month I was gone so the blog hasn’t been updated. I tried to maintain normal reading habit. Here’s the round-up:
8 books, 2752 pages, 95 pages a day
A Meaningful Life L.J. Davis
Got this book cold turkey. Never heard of L.J. Davis let alone to read him. The book is about a man who wills himself a meaningful life by restoring a collapsing house to its glory. But unknowingly to him, he’s the house himself—standing a slim chance of revival. Davis doesn’t give the cause of effect of Lowell, who is merely gliding through somnolence, making poor decisions without his knowing, and thus bringing about unexpected consequences.
The Falls Joyce Carol Oates
My first Oates and am quite impressed, although I have no idea what to read next by her. It’s the story of a man’s unselfish humanism and idealism against his his spouse’s inward-looking isolationism. While there are compelling shorter fictions embedded in this book, Oates’s handling of transitions is uneasy in this book.
One Day David Nicholls
Never say never. This book has been the biggest and most pleasant surprise for the month of February. I was at pause to read it owing to the breakneck speed with which Hollywood embraced it. It is a great read. The device of tackling the same day in subsequent years encapsulates the ideal solution to the novel’s greatest challenge of knowing what to leave out and to include. For readers the focus on just one day a year is a constant allure and tease to read on, leaving room for imagination as to what happens during the rest of the year.
Netherland Joseph O’Neill
This book uses American cricket to explore the larger theme of immigration: what compromises and sacrifices are made on the part of immigrants. Unfortunately, the book is too small-boned, despite a big ambition, lacking a central magnet that holds the disjointed, incohesive story intact. How can anyone in the right mind compare this to Gatsby, huh, New York Times?
Freedom Jonathan Franzen
I’m a fan and will always be. Whether Oprah disowns him or people slam him with negative comments, I always get his books. obviously bears the mission to demonstrate, to expose, and to mock the illusory nature of our freedom. Freedom abused and misconstrued. Through the Berglunds and their six degrees of separation, Franzen shows, with such disdainful imperviousness of a voice, people who are not only unable but unwilling to admit certain truths whose logic is self-evident. Despite the incessant cycles and tedium, this book is actually very witty.
The House Behind the Cedars Charles W. Chesnutt
Another cold turkey. It is about a young woman who fights for love and opportunity against the ranked forces of a pernicious society poised on racism, against immemorial tradition, and against family pride. However sentimental it might read, it is a beautiful novel about someone, deep in the misery that her own race subjects her, fully realizes her racial consciousness. It can read a bit outdated because it was published over a century ago.
How to Travel with a Salmon Umberto Eco
This collection is not to be missed if you are keen on light and diverting read but that which sheds light on what it means to be human in the age of technological and informational boom.
The Lost Language of Cranes David Leavitt
Leavitt’s debut is a perceptive novel about sexual identity and family. It poses the question about the relationship between who one is and whom one loves. Does a love object, particularly an unconventional one, confer identity upon the person who loves it (or him, or her?) Sensitively nuanced novel about how father and son deal with their sexuality, respectively.
On the strength of emotional depth and beautiful writing, my picks for the month are The Lost Language of Cranes and One Day.