Bad books

booksLast week I read through the “notable books of 2012” section of the NY Times Book Review and put in reserves at the library for a bunch of them.  So far, I’ve started and given up on five of them in short order:

Shout Her Lovely Name, by Natalie Serber. The stories in this collection felt contrived and the mostly young women heroines seemed imagined, not real. Contrast this to How to Breathe Underwater, by Julie Orringer. The mostly young women heroines in these stories fairly leap off the page with authenticity.

Beat the Reaper, by Josh Bazell. The disaffection of the hero of this unthrilling thriller, who battles incompetence, the mob, and his own imperfections was too much for me. I didn’t care what happened in his improbable and bleak universe, and certainly didn’t want to spend my time there.

Salvage the Bones, by Jesmyn Ward will probably be popular with those who liked the movie, Beasts of the Southern Wild, as it shares the same aesthetic.

John Irving’s autobiographically written novel, In One Person, was tedious from the first page. Not enough sex changes to redeem the pedestrian tone.

The tone and the main character in Hope: A Tragedy, by Shablom Auslander, were so off-putting that I didn’t hang around after he discovered the old woman in the attic.  I think the tone is supposed to be comic, but it just seemed pathetic.

And lest I sound too much like Scrooge, I am reading something that I like: At Mrs. Lippincote’s, a 1945 novel by Elizabeth Taylor (no, not that one!). It’s full of little paragraphs like this: “It is seldom safe to confide in lonely people. Their very loneliness requires the importance of making known the confidence, at hinting at its existence and source, if not actually divulging it; better to trust in busy, popular people who have no time for betraying one and no personal need to do so.” Whether or not you agree, it makes you think! And no publicist recommended this novel.


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