Sunday, December 02, 2007

Recent Readables

Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town by Cory Doctorow
Note: free downloadable at
A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby
Who's who in Hell by Robert Chalmers
Talk Talk by T.C. Boyle
Tales from the Blue Archives by Lawrence Thornton

None of these novels are amazingly good, but they are good, worth reading.
Cory Doctorow has a new spin with magic cyberrealism in Someone Comes to Town...
Set primarily in Toronto's Kensington Market, one of my favorite spots, characters weave in and out of shared surreal experiences, sort of schizo-realities. Not fantasy, not cyberpunk, it's published with scifi insignia but it's not. It's something else, something new. Not as plot driven as cyber-punk, not much so much magical but not reality either. More like a surrealist painting, where the author has said to himself, Hey, I can do whatever I want, so I will give them wings, make them sons of mountains with golden gifts from father's creatures to pay the rent. There's a mythic quality to the story line, the heroes want to give away free access to the internet by installing wireless devices on rooftops in the Market. Noble pursuit, all hail freedom of information warriors.

Nick Hornby entertains with a dark comedy of suicidal wannabees who bolster one another through a difficult time in their lives. One of the nice things about living in a city the size on London, there's bound to be others who are just a fucked up as you are even if sometimes you have to go to the favorite local jumping off place to meet them. I like the theme of sanity through solidarity.

Whose hell is probably the appropriate question to ask if you want to read Chalmers' Who's Who...
Because of short stint working in publishing, I can relate to Chalmers' hot spot as the obit department of a London newspaper. The point seems to be that anybody can write but few have the balls to write anything really worth saying. So much of the media is sensationalism and so much of the potentially sensational is glossed over to accommodate societal expectations. It kind of made me think of Doris Lessing's essay, Prisons We Choose to Live Inside but funny and fiction.

I have read a couple of T.C. Boyle's novels. I found him in my local library. He's been writing for ages and has an honest grasp of California then and now. I think I may have reviewed DROP CITY in this blog, if not I'll add it later as I intend to read more of his stuff. They made a movie of his Road to Wellville that sort of flopped. Haven't read it, but I can see how this latest novel TALK TALK would make a great film. It's very edge of your seat, with characters you sometimes want to strangle. Timely topic too: identity theft. Someone at work said you can't change your name if the only reason you give is because someone is using your identity. That can't be right? In the 80's people were changes their names left, right and center for no better reason than the cool factor. I must research this further.

Finally, Thornton has written another lyrical novel of Argentina's tragic history. Same theme as IMAGINING ARGENTINA but didn't have the same punch reading about the horrors of "the disappeared" the second time around. You may have seen the movie. It was quite well done, but not as good as the book. The whole premise of writing the story on the walls of the prison cell wasn't used in the movie at all and it was one of the most compelling metaphorical devices I have seen used in a long time.

I've got a few books on the go at the moment. One non-fiction that is going to be my little brother's xmas present. I'll definitely be writing a blurb on it when I'm done. I'm also reading a couple of Jungian shadow self-help, or "individuation" type titles that might show up here eventually, this site's purpose being a therapeutic one.