Sunday, November 4, 2012

(fairly) recent reads

Finding Everett Ruess: The Life and Unsolved Disappearance of a Legendary Wilderness Explorer by David Roberts I bought this book because Jon Krakauer wrote the foreword; I respect and enjoy Krakauer's work and expected similar adventuresome and thoughtful nonfiction from Roberts. Parts were great but the book got long because the story - a young man wandering the wilderness disappears in the 1930s and to this day no one knows exactly what happened - the story is a long one! And Roberts himself becomes entwined in its conclusion. Finding Everett Ruess is great if Krakauer's chapter about the young man in Into the Wild caught your interest. If your curiousity is only mild, google Everett. Enough people out there pay homage to his wandering spirit.

What I enjoyed most about Finding Everett Ruess was the language. I actually like having to look up words. Just not all the time. Which is why I read

Where'd You Go, Bernadette: A Novel  by Maria Semple I picked this book up because I heard an interview with Semple and laughed. At the time I was reading No Time Like the Present by Nadine Gordimer which has precious few laughs. So I was in the mood for a light, fun read. Which is why I was so pleased that while Semple works humor throughout her novel, she adds some complexity to her characters. I also appreciated that she wasn't quite sure how the book would end as she wrote it: I love that approach to writing, to let a story grow out of its characters.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette is set in Seattle and Semple has recieved a lot of attention about playing up the stereotypes of the city. But when I read the book, I thought there was more to talk about than its city. Semple takes a multigenre approach to telling this story: she uses letters, email and text messages to weave a narrative. I think it works perfectly for this story, giving the reader a few different perspectives on the same events. And I liked the end. Some plot twists made me wonder how Semple would conclude, but she managed a graceful end.

One of the first places I saw a multigenre narrative work well was in Monster, Walter Dean Myers' young adult novel. I don't remember much of the story or its characters but I remember thinking You can do that? Wow! at the storytelling technique.

I just finished Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close: A Novel by Jonathan Safran and will start Bunch of Amateurs: A Search for the American Character by Jack Hitt soon.


Steve said...

I love Krakauer too. I actually went through a Mountain Climbing reading phase. Those writers are always really good.

If you have any access to any mountain climbing books in the Himalayas I recommend them. Good reads, nothing I'd ever want to do. :)

I liked "Into The Wild" too.

Enjoy the camel races. ;)

Sergio is Somewhere said...

you are the x-numbered person to recommend "bernadette" so it might just have to make my list!

what did you think of "extremely loud and incredibly close"??? it is hands down one of my favorite contemporary novels. i couldn't even see the movie for fear of ruining the images i created in my mind from the book. safran foer is magical.

you need to put "the thing around your neck" on your list. kind of like jhumpa lahiri and her tales of the indian experience but with nigerians.