Thursday, June 26, 2008

A Confederate General from Big Sur - Richard Brautigan
For a while I enjoyed the book’s brisk pace, its simplicity, its surprising juxtaposition of odd images, its fresh way of stating things. Though its glibness made me wonder “How hard did this guy work at this?” I read on until it was clear that the author had a bag of tricks and nothing of real value was coming out of it. An interesting style though, very engaging. I can see why young people were so taken with Brautigan.

My Search for Warren Harding - Robert Plunket
A deft touch with comedy. The best kind, humor that comes from the characters and the situations they’re in; no jokes necessary. And then Plunket blew it, lost all my good will. The book turned mean, and it couldn’t survive that (maybe some books could, but this one set up a gentle, likable quality that it needed to retain). First the word “faggot” is continually used. Then the main character has an affair with a woman who he puts down in an ugly way, and he keeps on doing so to the point of alienating me. In changing the tone of this book the author not only ruined it, he revealed some unpleasant aspects of himself.

Love In the Ruins - Walker Percy
I’ll bet Percy enjoyed the hell out of writing this. And he took the effort to keep the prose polished, the descriptions fresh. Even the premise is good. But he simply dawdles around with a few of his favorite things. The novel is static. No drama, no purpose in sight; maybe some philosophical point emerges, but I never got to it (I stopped reading halfway through). Percy has an irritating tendency to get enraptured by female charms – that gets icky, when an author tells how he loves a woman’s elbow. Maybe too much craftsmanship, too much indulgence, without bothering (or being able) to tighten the nuts and bolts that build a strong storyline.

The Long March - William Styron
A novella about a military march, but it concentrates on thoughts, ideas. It’s an exploration of the psychology of two different sorts of men. Though interior monologues prevail over action, there’s plenty of forward momentum. I’m not sure if the ending – an offhand, trivial remark – is weak or strong. Maybe, after so much contemplation, Styron wanted to plop us rudely back to earth. Anyway – a good book.

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