Crudo – 4/5 Stars
This book has a central conceit that I think is less good and less necessary to the novel as a whole than the quality of the writing. This is a novel that unfolds across about two weeks in summer of 2017 as the narrator, who is fashioning herself as the writer Kathy Acker dealing with the lead up to her wedding.
So it’s hard to capture the writing of this novel, but it feels a little like auto-writing and spends a lot of time thinking through and attempting to capture the fractured sense and state of mind a lot of us (especially me) seeing and feeling each day as we interact with the complete absurdity of the world, writ omnipresent and vulgar and oozing, by Donald Trump.
So this novel looks at what it means to want to marry, to engage and connect to that sense of contiguity with history and the economy and the heteronormative structures, but still deeply question not only the very morality of each of those structures, but looking out into the world, the very stability of them as well.
So there’s a trope that circles around these days “I wish ___________ were here to make sense of all this.” And that blank is often something like George Carlin, or Hunter Thompson, or Bill Hicks. And this is NOT what this book is doing with Kathy Acker, because all of those desires are false and empty. The thing is, those guys would not be able to make sense of it. And neither would Kathy Acker, but she might provide a model for surviving, and I think that’s how the novel is employing her.
Troll Nation – 3/5 Stars
I am not sure how successful this book is, and more to the point, I can’t begin to figure who this book is written for. The central premise is either insane or perfectly obvious, depending on who you are and what your politics. I guess it’s a satisfying and validating reading experience, and perhaps for someone who doesn’t spend their life on the internet and hasn’t yet found a supportive and thoughtful community to run ideas through and watch conversations as a part of, again, this could be a very interesting and satisfying book.
But what this book really reminds me of, and why I worry about it, myself, and all of us, is that while it feels incredibly freakish and abnormal to have Donald Trump as president, notably and possibly the worst president of all time, or at least least competent, is that it’s not all that freakish at all. Sure, it sucks, and it’s terrible. But I have had many conversations with older people who remember living under Nixon, and maybe it’s not all that different.
And to that point this book feels like the kinds of partisan muckraking that was very popular in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and probably was popular ten years ago, but I wasn’t really paying attention. So that makes me think that this is just the kind of book that gets written at times like this in response and in reaction to the shitty times, but it’s not going to have much impact, it’s perfectly apt and correct in a lot of ways, but doesn’t really add to the conversation, and worst, isn’t going to do anything but make me feel good that I read it and smug about how smart I feel.
The Devil’s Star – 3/5 Stars
This was a pretty good mystery novel. Among the Harry Hole novels, it’s the better of the middleground novels. I think that a few of the Harry Hole novels are very very good — The Snowman, The Leopard, The Bat — and some are not very good – Cockroaches, The Redeemer, Police and others are perfectly good — this one, Nemesis, Redbreast. This is among the better of those.
The best part of this novel is a moment about 2/3 the way through that actually delighted me in a great way. There was a narrative moment that when it developed and was revealed I was pretty excited and thought it was really intelligent.
But on the other hand, the book has the same issue that many many many mystery novels have and plenty of thriller movies have: if I know how long the book/movie is, then someone getting arrested half way through the novel doesn’t do anything but put me on edge and know for a fact that that’s not the resolution.
So I don’t try to guess the solutions, mostly because I am happy to let the stories play out, but when I can clearly see the feint, it’s not working for me. But like I said, it’s mostly good.
My Sister, the Serial Killer – 3/5 Stars
I actually had a hard time reading this novel because of the structure of it. It’s not a difficult novel to read; in fact, it’s in decidedly plain language and is kind of laconic and clipped in tone. It’s written in a kind of matter of fact professional nurse’s voice and comes through this way. The issue is that there’s a chapter break almost every other page, so it’s hard to find fluency and flow as I was reading. I enjoyed listening to it a lot more. It’s not a perfect novel, and I think it’s a little limited in what it does, but it’s intriguing and interesting in a lot of ways too.
My biggest issue throughout is that for as novel and interesting as the concept is, it’s an incredibly dreary novel. It’s not ever funny and there’s nothing really ironic or wry about it either. It’s like watching Dexter or American Psycho, but seriously, and with nothing to cut through the overly serious subject matter. So the experience can be disjointed and that’s a kind of unfortunate situation because this book has a really interesting premise and a lot of promise, and maybe it also had too much hype or promotion, but I was little underwhelmed.