Saturday, June 02, 2012

Some stuff I read

Right before I started residency down here, I finished two more books. One of them is by a visiting author. Short version: loved the book, can't wait to hear him speak.

The Book of Jonas by Stephen Dau

The Book of Jonas was my latest audiobook. I listened to it mostly as I drove from Sacramento to Southern California. It's a short listen, but I was captivated. So good. Jonas is a teenager when his family is killed accidentally in a US military mission. He ends up fleeing to the United States and starting a new life, while both trying to distance himself from what happened in his homeland and also come to terms with it.

The book is written in several different perspectives, and the shift between them happens easily. By about the middle of the book it becomes apparent that they're going to interweave, and Dau does this flawlessly. The prose is beautiful, and the characters (especially Jonas) are often funny even though this is a book dealing with some heavy material. Jonas' observations about American culture are particularly interesting, and there are lots of moments for astute observation through humor. In the end the story lines come together through Jonas' interaction with the mother of an American soldier who helped him survive after the attack.

My recommendation: This is a great read. I'd recommend it to just about anybody. Dau is a wonderful writer and this book is compelling from start to finish. I'm going to sit in the front row when he speaks.

Mrs. Dalloway by Viginia Woolf

I read this book because I was trying to remember if I read it long ago, before I was old enough to understand what it was about. After reading it, I'm still not sure if I read it before (and just didn't get it) or if I never read it. But on the heels of finishing The Hours, Cunningham's homage to Mrs. Dalloway, I wanted to go back to the original to retrace what, exactly, Cunningham referenced. I'm glad I did, but this book is heavy.  Heav. eeeee. Like, suicide heavy. As if I can't get enough of that in my reading, lately. Yay, tortured fiction.

Mrs. Dalloway is a character obsessed with appearance, obsessed with everything being just so. The book takes place over a single day as she plans a party. The book shifts perspective from one character to another with little to no warning. Are you ready for some heavy fiction writer's MFA terminology? FREE INDIRECT DISCOURSE. As in, this novel relies heavily on free indirect discourse in its narration. I had to Google that shit. But basically what that means is that it jumps around from one head to another. And often, ol' PDawg was lost as the pronouns got a little dicey.

I realize I've lost 99.7% of all humans with that last paragraph. So this is kind of only to serve my own sense of obligatory symmetry...

My recommendation: Don't. Just don't. Unless you're a depressed, lonely MFA-er, you're not going to find much here to make you feel good about humanity.

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