A collection of strange shorts, each slightly removed from solid reality, Errantry has been a tough one for me to recap and review. Each story seemed to stay with me longer than I expected it to, but at the same time, float away almost immediately. Unexpected, without being startling, wispy, without being unsubstantial, and surreal. Not in a Salvator Dali melting clocks surreality, but as if you took one step outside of regular and noticed things were only slightly amiss.
I’d love to hear what any of you have to say about this, if you’ve read it. Another one of Bloodmilk’s superb recommendations, I enjoyed it immensely.
Death in Spring
I removed my clothes and dropped them at the foot of the hackberry tree, besides the madman’s rock. Before entering the river, I stopped to observe the color left behind by the sky. The sun-dappled light was different now that spring had arrived, reborn after living beneath the earth and within branches. I lowered myself gently into the water, hardly daring to breathe, always with the fear that, as I entered the water world, the air – finally rid of my nuisance – would begin to rage and be transformed into the furious wind, like the winter wind that nearly carried away houses, trees, and people.
I bought Death in Spring while we were on vacation in Los Angeles a few months ago, entirely because of its cover art. I didn’t even read the first paragraph in the shop, like I usually do when I haven’t heard of a book before. I got it home, where it sat in a pile of books waiting to be opened for over a month. A few nights ago, I unexpectedly had a few hours of free time, so I went to my favorite wine bar, and three hours later I had read it cover to cover.
Narrated by a teenage boy in an unnamed town, he describes the town’s bizarre and grotesque rituals. As the story opens, the boy witnesses his father’s death, as according to these customs :: cement is poured down his throat to prevent the soul from escaping with the dying person’s last breath, and then is sealed in a hollowed tree. As the boy ages, he doesn’t necessarily question the rituals, but doesn’t fully understand them, and continues along with them. Beautiful, poetic, and powerful, I highly recommend this.
An Extraordinary Theory of Objects : A Memoir of an Outsider in Paris
This was charming memoir of a girl not quite as crazy as Sylvia Plath or Susanna Kaysen (or however crazy Elizabeth Wurtzel wanted us to think she is), growing up as an American in Paris in the 1990s. I purchased it because of my recent Francophilia, and for the illustrations dotted throughout, and I’m very glad I did. Stephanie LaCava is like any other confused teenager, and she channels her frustrations and depression into finding security in objects, rather than people. Lengthy footnotes fill half the pages with descriptions and histories of people, objects, and cultural lore, which I may have enjoyed more than her actual story.
The problem with having a novel you love so very much is that everything else the author will ever produce will fall far from its graces. That’s the problem that I’ve had with every Nicholas Christopher book I’ve read that isn’t either Veronica or A Trip to the Stars (my two all-time favorite novels. I dare you to try to not love them). Tiger Rag was no different.
Set between New Orleans, in the early 1900s, and Florida, present day, it weaves the stories of Buddy Bolden, the “inventor” of jazz, and the long lost sole recording of his career, and a modern day mother and daughter, both unraveling at the seams of their own lives. The cylinder has been lost, stolen, and stored for over a century, and evolves into the holy grail of jazz. Mother and daughter discover their own family’s involvement in the long lost cylinder, and uncover truths they never expected.
Maybe, if I were a bigger jazz fan, I would have enjoyed this much more than I actually did. The present day characters, specifically the mother and daughter, just seemed to trivial to me. The mother, Ruby, is having a post-divorce breakdown, and acting out a midlife crisis that involves only wearing purple and not sleeping or eating. Skipping back and forth between that, and the only in italics turn of the century jazz stories felt tedious, and by the end of it, I didn’t really care about who had the cylinder or where it was.
I had pre-ordered this from Amazon, and was so excited that he had a new novel out, and wound up returning it in the end.
Paris, Paris : Journey into the City of Light
For whatever reason, I found this book to be a bit of a chore to finish. As I’m drafting this, I still have about fifty pages to go, and I’ve been reading it for nearly a week – longer than usual for me to get through something. I should be enjoying it – it’s [another] account of life in Paris, by an American living in the city. Thirty-one essays regaling places and history and people, told by someone still in love with the city. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is about this book that I’m not enjoying. It may just be the author’s voice, or it might be I’m a little bitter that we’ve had to postpone our trip for at least another year, but whatever it is, it all feels like an over articulated travel guide.
This was the first in my Murakami run. I’ve never read this one before, so I decided to start the marathon with it. Truthfully, I didn’t dislike it, but it felt like total fluff. It was like watching Garden State or another one of those indie romance movies. Nothing so strong to last with you, just something that was on cable when nothing else was. Maybe I just expected more, since everything else I’ve read of Murakami’s has been so surreal and fantastical.
Can any of you Murakami Cultists out there explain to me the recurring themes in his books? I’ve noticed that Sundays, phrenology, and cats are all laced into his stories.
What have you been reading lately?