Archive for August, 2010

Super Sad True Love Story

Sunday, August 22nd, 2010

By Gary Shteyngart

The Short Take:

Shteyngart’s satiric novel, set in an all-to-possible near future, is just as frightening as it is funny. He’s the Jonathan Swift of our post-modern world. Wow!


The big “why” is, “Why haven’t I read Shteyngart before?” Man, have I been missing out.

In this novel he creates a future that is so outrageous yet so entirely beliveable you truly don’t know whether to laugh or cry. In his post literate world, corporations have merged into behemoths, America is on the brink of financial disaster, and people relate mostly through their digital devices. Sounds pretty possible to me.

Within that universe, he lets you inside the minds of two completely disparate individuals — the leads in this sort-of-love story. The 15 years difference in age is just the beginning of the gulf between them. Lenny is aging (not good), with a fondness for books (really not good). Eunice is a beautiful 86 pounds (very good) who stays glued to her digital device for shopping, streaming, and checking the status of others (also very good). In fact, the only thing they have in common is their parent’s immigrant status (his being Russian, hers being Korean), but their cultural backgrounds actually separate them further. Lenny adores her. As you can imagine, she’s more conflicted. And, the world around them is cracking apart.

Their story is revealed through each of their eyes in alternating chapters. He writes in a diary (shocking!). She sends messages through the future equivilents of texting and email. The utter and complete difference in their worlds and mind sets shines through brilliantly.

It’s a super shocking hilarious heart-breaking novel. But it’s also insightful touching tender sad. I loved it.

A Little Plot:

The night before he is to return to New York from Rome, Lenny meets Eunice at a party and instantly falls completely in love. Worried about the actions of her abusive father, Eunice soon returns to New York as well and moves in with Lenny, as much for convenience as anything else.

As their relationship develops, it changes both of them. At the same time, their world is fast approching a crisis that will change everything.

Sorry, that’s all you’re getting plot wise from me. You want more? Go to the book’s website by clicking here.

The Weed That String’s the Hangman’s Bag

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

By Alan Bradley

The Short Take:

Did Bradley follow up his first thoroughly delightful mystery with a worthy successor? Yes, he did indeed. Ten-year-old detective Flavia de Luce is still one of the most delightful fiction creations you’ll find. And, this mystery is worthy of her skills.

Bradley’s The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie was just a joy to read — for any age. I wondered if his next effort would hold up. After all, now he was on a writing timetable and had to produce on schedule. Not to worry, Flavia continues to be just as bright, brave, inquisitive, vulnerable, and fascinated by poisons as in her first outing.

Even better, Bradley gives us further glimpses into the peculiar de Luce family. I was really hoping that as this series of books grew, so would our understanding of the strange distance between the family members. Bradley is in no rush to reveal all, but he is taking baby steps in the right direction to make one want to lap up every new book. Which, I must admit, I will.

The 1950s England setting for these books is inspired. So much of what we think of as modern life had not really caught hold yet, and England was still just barely scrambling out of the rubble of WWII. Childhood still had an innocence and freedom that is not to be found today (at least that’s how we think of that era). It all adds to the charm.

There’s really only one thing I didn’t love about this book: the title. It is just too much to deal with. Sorry.

A Little Plot:

The traveling show vehicle of famous BBC puppet master Rupert Porson breaks down in Flavia’s town. The vicar cajoles him into putting on two puppet shows to raise money for the repairs he needs. The show is on.

Of course, it’s not long before someone turns up dead — murdered. And Flavia is off to find out who did it and why by hook or by crook. Sorry, you’re not getting more out of me. I don’t want to spoil your fun.

For more about Flavia de Luce and Alan Bradley, click here.


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August 2010