Thursday, January 28, 2010

Book Reports (and various)

This is going to be the year I read more novels.

Last year was a year - a glorious year - of poetry, of short stories, of essays, of non-fiction. But I missed that feeling of sinking into a novel. And for me, 2010 is going to be all about improving my concentration.

So, being the true geek I am, I'm also going to start a record of all the books I've read this year. With a little reminder of what I liked, or didn't like, about them. And some favourite lines. Not a review, so much as the sort of book report I had to do at primary school.

Imagine this blog now has nice thin lines, thick margins and some gold stars for good measure. I will try to not to blot my ink, or to scribble too much.

1. The Soul Thief by Charles Baxter.

This has real echoes of Patricia Highsmith, a university student meets the enigmatic Jerome Coolberg and gradually feels his life (and soul) are being taken over. The book is in four sections, taking us through Nathaniel Mason's life into adulthood. A truly spooky read, with some nice gaps to fill in. For a book that is so good on human psychology there are some GREAT descriptions of place.

The city, as a local wit has said, gives off the phosphorescence of decay. Buffalo runs on spare parts. Zoning is a joke; residential housing finds itself next to machine shops and factories for windshield wipers, and, given even the mildest wind, the mephitic air smells of burnt wiring and sweat. rubbish piles up in plain view. What is apparent everywhere here is the noble shabbiness of industrial decline. The old apartment buildings huddle against one another, their bricks collapsing together companionably.

Oh, so much to love there. Smells first - why do writers always forget smells, but this takes me right in. But also that last description of the apartment buildings - somehow those bricks collapsing together companionably is such a delicious surprise.

The book is beautifully written, and even more beautifully constructed. I am going to go back to this one and tear the structure apart to see how he has done it.

And in any other business, my brother, Henry Peplow, who has written a children's novel that is just quite amazing and is currently looking for a lucky publisher (if any read this!), suggests I tell you about this, Kidlit Contest. Done!

Any novel recommendations welcome btw. And for more sense about books, look at the Cornflower. She sometimes provides cakes too!


trying to write ... said...

the link for the kidlit contest didn't work =(


ps my word for the word verification was stumpled it made me smile

Megan Warren said...

I too am recording the books I read this year - thanks to Tracy Chevalier for the idea - A recommendation for you Salley Vickers - Dancing Backwards. I look forward to seeing what you're reading.

Sarah Salway said...

Will try to find out that link, it's the one I was given. Sorry :(
And I didn't see the Tracy Chevalier piece, Megan, although I tried to google it. Have you got a link? And let's swap book recommendations!

jem said...

Not geeky at all. I think that making notes about the novels you've read makes the reading process more engaging and more enjoyable. I remember the ones I've reviewed far more than those I haven't - whether I liked them or not.

I'll look forward to seeing what else you read too. Although I'll pass on this one, I didn't enjoy the only Charles Baxter I read.