Thursday, June 07, 2007

Some books I liked recently... and some I didn't

No bike content today, so if that's what you're here for, you can skip the rest of the post.

When Gravity Fails: I liked this book a lot - it's an interesting examination of how technology can dehumanize, but also a great sci-fi noir book that's hard to put down. Thumbs up!

Babel-17: I've decided that Samuel Delany is my favorite gay black science fiction writer. Actually, I think he's the only one I'm aware of, but Babel17 is a pretty kickass book, especially if (like me) you find linguistics and grammar really interesting (I was briefly, believe it or not, a linguistics PhD student at CU). Big thumbs up for this one. I'm still trying to decide if I liked the Neveryon stuff, also by Delany, but I enjoyed Ballad of Beta2 and to a lesser extent, Empire Star. Delany is a really clever guy who has a talent for mixing in linguistic theory and literary criticism, to an extent that I'm sure a good portion of it is going right over my head. But that's ok, because he's also a great storyteller.

The Road: Cormac McCarthy is like Hemingway for idiots. You know how you had to read The Old Man and the Sea in high school and discuss all the stuff Hemingway was trying to tell you between the lines, which (IMO) he might or might not actually have been trying to tell you? You know how the super-simple declarative sentences lend themselves to endless analysis and pointless theorizing by classes of first-year English majors? Well, Cormac McCarthy is just like Hemingway, but instead of being a badass who tells a good story, he's a pretentious dork who wants people to think he's saying something deep, when in reality, he's just aping a writing style that only really worked for one author, ever. The Road reads like a nuclear post-apocalyptic Americanized version of Grave of the Fireflies - lots of pointless suffering and attempts to beat you senseless with unsubtle metaphors. It also reads like a book written by someone who has never read any post-apocalypse genre sci-fi. Then again, I'm guessing the book isn't aimed at your typical science fiction reader. Bottom line: The Road sucked.

Coming soon, a review of Futureland!

In the meantime, though, expect some more bike-related posts. I know very few of the people who read this are interested in the weird books that I like, but I like to type this stuff up.


John said...

Yep, Delany's my favority gay black SF writer, too. :-)
Actually, he's one of my favorite SF authors of any kind- right up there (almost) in my pantheon with JG Ballard and Robert Silverberg. I think "Triton" and "Nova" are some of his best works. Weird, poetic, and yet concrete at the same time...
I can see what you are saying about Cormac McCarthy. It is odd, though... his first novel, "The Orchard Keeper" is almost baroquely complicated, both in style and structure. I quite liked "All the Pretty Horses" but the movie (in which he was involved, btw) was pretty flat. Even though it was faithful to the book, it had me going back to the book wondering why I liked it.

Walt said...

Hey John -

That was actually the first (only) Cormac McCarthy I've read. So maybe I'll give him another chance.

I'll check out Triton and Nova, too. Thanks for the suggestions!

Anonymous said...

You need to stick to shoving metal tubes together and not engaging in literary criticism. The Road not only won the Pulitzer, but was written by a legendary fiction writer. He's not trying to be Hemingway - that's a horribly facile comparison - but trying to be Cormac McCarthy, author of Blood Meridian, Outer Dark, Child of God... seriously... He wouldn't come in and point at your bike and say, "This isn't a Merlin."

It's not trying to be.

Walt said...

Hey Anonymous - wow, feels like I'm back in college! I stand by my critiques, regardless of how facile they are - the Road sucked. Period. I don't care if it won the Pulitzer, I don't care if CM is a legend. I didn't like the book. Just my opinion, and as I said, it's the only CM I've read.

Anonymous said...

i won't cheer for you at the short track anymore. i was impressed by your fluidity and power, but i'll cheer for the guy behind you... until you apologize to cormac, the pulitzer committee, and oprah's book club.

- love, anonymous

Walt said...

The bad karma I accumulated from my public trashing of CM was probably why I flatted on lap 2 of the short track... and why all those people (from all walks of life) keep spitting on me in the street... jeez, I really blew it!

Hey, while I'm being unpopular: I also hated Pan's Labyrinth. And Goonies. Especially Goonies.

Feldy said...

You hate the Goonies? WTF? We are no longer friends