Well, I finished Part 1 of Bolano’s 2666 and then put it down. I was not inspired or excited about what I had thus far read, nor was I inspired or excited to continue. I even called a literati friend who I happen to know loved Bolano’s The Savage Detectives. He couldn’t help, having been unable to slog through it himself. That was all I needed to officially table 2666. After that experience, I needed something slightly more fast paced, so I hefted Stephen King’s Under the Dome onto my lap and began to read.
As I do most of Stephen King’s works, I enjoyed it and it moved quickly despite its millenary page count. I really like how he populated a town and then forced them to remain together through the plot device. Very interesting dynamics. Now, some of his characters were larger than life and a little hard to believe, but that was acceptable. The only thing that persistently bothered me during my romp through this tome was the timing. The degeneration of the town took place not over months or even weeks but days. I guess I just have a little more faith in humanity than that. To me, the work would have been strengthened if the time frame had been expanded. There were also some silly little supernatural things which occurred that felt out of place (mostly involving a dog), and there was one very postmodern chapter that was really out of place. In it, a disembodied narrator appeared and flew through the town describing everything that was happening in a summary fashion. It was weird, came out of nowhere, and disappeared just as quickly. You have to wonder if it just got missed by an editor. All in all, though, I think this was one of his better books and his characteristic exploration of character and setting were on full display.
Then I read online NPR’s list of the 10 best pieces of fiction for 2011. I felt ashamed – not only had I not read any of them, but I hadn’t even heard of any of them. At least I had heard of one or two of the authors. So, I did an ebook check out of the only one the library had available at that moment, The Illumination, by Kevin Brockmeier. It was very, very good. (The nice thing (or the mean thing) about ebook loans from the library is they force you to read fast, otherwise they just disappear. It’s not even like you could take one more day to finish the book and pay a late fee; they just disappear.) I felt like it was much better at the beginning than at the end, but still it was very good. It explored the notion that pain became visible as light and how that affected people. But really it was a story about the characters’ pain. The first section of the book was so damn sad and well written that it almost brought me to tears on more than one occasion. The rest did not have that effect, but it was still a sad book and probably worthy of note for 2011.
The next book I wanted to read also came from that list, Karen Russell’s Swamplandia!. However, it was checked out and had a 7 person waiting list. I joined the list. This is risky because I could be in the middle of a book when it become available and then I have to decide, do I stop what I’m currently reading, and start that one or do I let it go, only to have to join a long waiting list again. Now I am number 2 on the list, which means, at the max I have 28 days until it is my turn, but those people could be speed readers or not even want it at all and I could have it much, much sooner. I decided to risk it, checked out another book, and will read like crazy. I figure I have at least 3 weeks.
The book I checked out was one of China Mieville’s newer ones. A while ago, I gave up on him having not cared for any of his “New Weird” books past Perdido Street Station. (The Scar was a straight rip off from Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash, and The Iron Council was boring.) But this one seemed different. Kraken is the story of a squid worshiping cult that steals a giant squid carcass from a museum. At least, its about that up to where I am, it may change. But so far, it’s fun.