New reading

I’ve recently started two new books of fiction that promise to be interesting; one of them is Denis Johnson’s collection of stories Jesus’ Son. This is one of those books I’ve been meaning to read for so long, that I can’t remember how I originally heard about it or who recommended it to me, but now that I’ve actually read the first two stories I’m realizing it’s nothing like I thought it would be. I didn’t have any concrete expectations, actually, but I still found myself surprised — the first two stories are dark.

The book is a collection of linked stories and is told in the first person by what appears to be the same narrator in each one. The stories tell about car wrecks, drugs, violence, anger, recklessness, death, desolation — and that’s only in two stories, both of which are very short.

But they are also beautifully written. There’s something mysterious and wonderful about them, although I’m not sure what — it includes a powerful use of language, but also something honest and bracing about the narrator’s voice.

I also began Lionel Shriver’s The Post-Birthday World; this book is quite long, at something over 500 pages, but I have a feeling that one of these days I’m going to have trouble putting it down and will ignore all my other books to devote all my time to it. I’m enjoying the story, the characters, and the narrative voice; I’m not that far into it, maybe 40 pages, but I’m already won over by the main character Irina, and I really want to know what happens to her. I’ve read that the narrative splits and explores two possible tracks based on a decision Irina makes — I’m very curious to see how I like this narrative experimentation, but my initial feeling is that I will like it very much.

And then I find myself in the delicious situation of having finished a nonfiction book, A Sentimental Murder, about which I’ll write more later, and so wanting to pick up another and getting to decide which one it will be. Should I read Adam Sisman’s book Boswell’s Presumptuous Task, on the writing of his great Life of Johnson? Should I read Edmund White’s biography of Proust? Robinson Jeffrey’s book on walking in the Romantic period? Calvin Trillin’s About Alice? Hmmm …

8 Comments

Filed under Books, Fiction, Reading

8 responses to “New reading

  1. Jesus’ Son sounds really interesting. Two good new books going and such a hard decision on a new nonfiction. A delicious situation indeed :)

  2. I have heard good things about the Shriver book and am on the list for a copy at the library. Her last book was also supposed to be very good, but it doesn’t appeal to me like this one. Isn’t it nice being able to choose a new book to read! I’m looking forward to hearing about the Brewer book, too!

  3. Oh, I realised I have “Jesus’ Son” on my bookshelf – yet unread. This should be carved on my headstone when I’ve gone – “Dead With Many Books Left Unread” There was actually an indie movie on “Jesus’ Son” a while back.

    I’m curious about Lionel Shriver – although it’s more her unapologetic, outspoken personality that interests me, and made me curious about her books.

  4. I hadn’t heard of Jesus’ Son but that sounds intriguing. I really want to read Lionel Shriver’s book. Did you read We Need to Talk About Kevin? That one is also on my tbr list.

  5. LK

    Oh, keep on with Jesus’ Son. It’s dark, but you’ve put your finger on it: Such a honest voice. And it’s one of those rare short story collections where every story counts and the thing works as whole. One of my all-time favorite short story collections.

    Geez, Dorothy, when do you get time to bike? With Proust and Cervantes and these books…! You are amazing.

  6. I’m tagging you for the 8 Things meme. The details are on my blog (no obligation if you don’t feel like it!)

    Robinson Jeffers is one of my favorite poets!

  7. Stefanie, yes, I’m really enjoying Jesus’ Son — I’ll post more on it I’m sure. Danielle, I’m glad I’ve finally picked up a book of hers because I’ve been meaning to for a while — so far so good! Dark Orpheus — same for me! I’ve got many, many books left unread, sigh. I should check out that movie when I’ve finished the book. Iliana, this is my first Shriver book — after I’m finished with this, I may be tempted to read more. LK — I’m so glad you like the Johnson book; it confirms my own impressions, which are very positive. And thanks! I’m reading in all of the books very, very slowly … Jenclair — thanks! I’ll check out the meme soon.

  8. How lovely to be engaged in lots of really interesting reading. I’m particularly looking forward to hearing what you have to say about A Sentimental Murder!

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