Sunday, November 29, 2009

Mason & Dixon

Mason & Dixon, Thomas Pynchon

This book is hard. But it is better than any of the books below.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

The Blank Slate

The Blank Slate, Steven Pinker

This took me a really long time to read (see below), because it often gets into this subtlety thing that I just didn't feel like unraveling.

What I did unravel is that some of us have been taught to feel guilty for Western society's achievements, and that perhaps even more of us has gotten used to thinking that reason is the only human faculty worth mentioning. It is therefore stimulating to think that what defines a human being is not just reason, but other faculties and idiosyncrasies that exploration of which may lead to more targeted invention, or more striking art.

Let's not forget that Pinker's a pretty funny guy, and writes very approachably. But he takes on problems of large magnitude: what happens when individual instinct goes up against a carefully constructed community convention? The Language Instinct was more fun than this, and in Blank Slate, it's surprising how much subtle argument goes into a conclusion that Pinker himself admits is self-evident. The book is an academic navigation, a very careful one, and appreciable for the quality of its thought and writing, not for its pull.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Hide and Seek

Hide and Seek, Ian Rankin

Very nice: captivating but a tad repulsive, so discourages all-nighters.

You know how detective novels are all about some macho guy into whose lap multitudes of chicks and the solution to the mystery helplessly swoon? In this one, the main character is not assigned to the case, is mean to subordinates, bad at lovemaking and although he figures out the case is unable to make the arrest. The broken cliches are nice.

Unnatural Causes

Unnatural Causes, P.D. James

Good read. End is a bit artificial.

You know how detective novels are all about some macho guy into whose lap multitudes of chicks and the solution to the mystery helplessly swoon? In this one, the main character is not assigned to the case, and all but the ugly girls flee him, but he still solves the mystery without effort. The partly-broken cliches are nice.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Runaway Jury

The Runaway Jury, John Grisham

A Grisham. My first. Exciting, solid, fast.

Le Royaume de la paix

Le Royaume de la paix, Frédéric Moitel

This was hard to read, since it was rather intensely intellectual, deeply probing of human participation in urban society, exhaustive, cataloguing and of course archetypal. It gives little for the reader to hang on to. Intentionally.

But there are good bits. I like the repetition. I like how he says things like il a le temps ou non d’observer les boutiques qui se succèdent et s’illuminent or il y a la personnalité qui développe ou non des affinités or my favourite: Les fantasmes et les souhaits de rencontres furtives pendant les vacances au soleil ou non apparaissent et occupent durablement les cerveaux ébranlés des hommes et des femmes célibataires ou non, homosexuels ou hétérosexuels, à plusieurs dans une chambre où ils transpirent en jouissant ou pas.

This is really, really hard to read. And I don't feel I did it any justice given the little effort I put in. But it's very, very tight, it's lyrical, it's possessed, it's right.

Harry Potter et les reliques de la mort

Harry Potter et les reliques de la mort, Jean-Francois Ménard

Two things distinguished this one from the other potter books: no school year structured the narrative, which suffered, and the story actually ended. I found the part just before the end, the penultimate part, very tense. But the ending was a fight, and Rowling simply can't do fights, and it was, as always, a letdown.

Nice to have things wrapped up for these slightly-more-than-usually-touching characters, but the narrative is not memorable.