september reads!

mmm september was a dry reading month.  pretty good writing month, though, so there’s balance there.

forty-three.  acceptance, jeff vandermeer.

the world we are part of now is difficult to accept, unimaginably difficult.  i don’t know if i can accept everything even now.  i don’t know how i can.  but acceptance moves past denial, and maybe there’s defiance in that, too.  (338)

i blogged about the whole trilogy here.

acceptance is my favourite of the trilogy.  i love the different voices, and i particularly enjoyed the parts with the lighthouse keeper and with the director, both of whom turned out to be two of my favourite characters from the trilogy.  acceptance is the creepiest book, too, as we find out more about the characters and area x before it became area x, and i appreciate that vandermeer closes the southern reach trilogy without giving us a list of answers and explanations.  the southern reach trilogy basically avoided all the trappings of trilogies i dislike (convenient a-ha! moments, coincidences, heavy exposition, dragged-out stories to fill pages, heavy-handed explication), and acceptance ended on a very fulfilling high note that also left you thinking that these characters would keep on going even though the pages were over.

i had an awesome time reading these books.  and i can’t wait to go back and read them again, this time all the way through in one go.  that’ll be a whole new reading experience, and i wonder what more i’ll pick up then!

forty-four.  the children act, ian mcewan.

in moments of disillusion with due process, she only needed to summon the case of martha longman and runcie’s lapse to confirm a passing sense that the law, however much fiona loved it, was at its worst not an ass but a snake, a poisonous snake.  (55)

when i think of ian mcewan now, i think of gary shteyngart.  in his book trailer for super sad true love story, he’s teaching a seminar at columbia called “how to behave at a paris review party,” and he teaches his students the “proper” way to say “i do so much prefer early ian mcewan to late ian mcewan.”  which made me laugh out loud because that’s exactly what i’ve been saying …

because it’s true!  i do prefer early ian mcewan!  i miss that eeriness and grittiness of his older books, the feeling of something sinister and dark lurking underneath everything, and both solar and sweet tooth lacked that subversion that mcewan does so well.  i was hoping that the children act would bring some of that back, and, you know, i think i was more disappointed by the children act because it almost did — there’s a great twist roughly halfway in, but mcewan doesn’t delve that deeply into it and kind of just drops it instead.  pity, because it made me sit up and start reading with keen interest after slogging through the first half.

forty-five.  sweetness #9, stephan eirik clark.

i suppose i could have answered her by speaking of sweetness #9 and my experiences with it.  if the nine had been deemed safe for public consumption, after all, what did it matter if the medicine they wanted to give our son had also been approved for use?  but none of that came to me in the moment.  my answer was far simpler, even reflexive.  “we always want better for our kids,” i said.  “don’t we?”  (260)

this book is beautifully designed — i love the rich blue of the cover and the bright pink of the book boards (is that what they’re called), and the lettering is wonderfully done, perfectly fitting the theme of the book, which is this artificial sweetener — sweetness #9.

that said.

so wanted to love this book.  i was excited for it when it was published because (01) it’s a beaut of a book and (02) the premise is fascinating and (03) the story is set up to make interesting comments to contemporary food culture.  basically, all the potential was there, but, unfortunately, the book never got there.  the writing is good, and i did enjoy the narrative voice, but the story never takes off — essentially, nothing happens.  there are no stakes.  or that’s not true — there are stakes; they just don’t feel like stakes because there’s no urgency or nervousness or tension.  the narrator himself doesn’t really seem to care, like he’s only reacting in surface ways, so i couldn’t get invested in his struggles or worries or concerns, either. 

on page 244 (the book is 336 pages), i wrote, “i wish clark would dig deeper into the tension and anxiety, like really get into the narrator’s head and his uneasiness/guilt.  i feel like clark’s just showing things instead of going deeper so we can be down in his growing panic with him instead of merely observing.”  i was honestly considering dropping the book then, but, for some reason, i pushed through those last hundred pages, hoping it would pick up, but it didn’t.  and the ending was so lackluster and a little ridiculous and tied things together so neatly, i was simply relieved to have finished the book so i can put it away and take it out to admire its prettiness every once in a while. 

currently reading gilead (which i’m loving) and planning to finish that and home before lila is published on tuesday!