Sunday, March 09, 2008

a few good books: Thirteenth Tale, Brief History of the Dead, Boomsday

On the bestseller lists for weeks, Daine Setterfield's THE THIRTEENTH TALE lives up to the hype. A reader, a writer, a ghost, a father with an antiquarian book store, an orphan--what we have here is a gothic romance thoughtfully written and artfully implemented. The author even warrants a "readers club guide" in the back of the book with "discussion points" and an interview. Not particularly impressed with the first two pieces of the afterword, the interview is well conceived and the glimpse into the author's personality reinforces the novel's underlying theme of writers' atonement being readers' redemption. Setterfield asks "I'd be interested to know just what happens inside the brain, chemically and structurally, when someone reads. Like me and you, she wonders if she is "addicted" to reading. She describes her reading experience as "hopping into another mind," sort of like hopping a train of thought. She asks how can people stay inside one head all the time, but reader or not, there are a million ways to explore someone else's point of view (any of the art forms really) but I must acknowledge that my taste for the written word in general and the novel in particular runs on the same track as hers. Like most bestsellers, the novel engages and reads quickly. The unwritten book is at the heart of the novel's mystery, just as the unexamined life not being worth living.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE DEAD by Kevin Brockmeier is an intriguing title and tale. What if, the author considers for his reader, we each live on in a similar reality after death but only as long as we are remembered by the living. In this similar but alternate reality, what if only one person was left to remember, struggling against a hostile antarctic environment. And when she lets go, one becomes none.

On a lighter note, but only if you harbor a sense of humor on the dak side. BOOMSDAY by Christopher Buckley, author of Thank You for Smoking (made into a hilarious movie), is another tongue in cheek political spin fest. This time Bucklely takes on social security, the national debt and proposes tax cuts for those baby boomers willing to "transition" into the next world by 65 for the good of national debt reduction.