The Devil Tree - Jerzy Kosinski
What does Kosinski do that makes him so readable? First, his books are thin and therefore not imposing. Then he divides his work into short sections (usually less than a page long) with big spaces between them, so that it’s kind of like eating potato chips for the reader – one section, then another, then . . . He concerns himself with subjects that fascinate people; in this book it’s fabulous wealth and the power it bestows. He puts in a lot of sex (the novel is almost pornographic) and cruelty (less present here than in his other work). He also jumps around to different voices, locales and does so without boring filler. His prose is simple, smooth – easy to read. We have to slow down at the speed bumps of understated meaning (existential void and all that), but, hey, with the lurid stuff waiting ahead, we can put up with that; in fact, it may help us (and the author) feel justified in reading (and writing) this stuff. But there’s much to be learned from Kosinski about engaging a reader; he’s a master of manipulation.
Keep the Aspidistra Flying - George Orwell
This novel has a poet railing against money (or his lack of it). Written in the thirties, it has relevancy today. The subject matter interested me, and, as usual, Orwell is very readable. After a while, though, Gordon became tiresome on the subject of his finances. He also treated his girlfriend poorly, which was alienating (I liked her). But then he receives fifty dollars for a poem and proceeds to go on a colossal drunk. He behaves abominably. It’s the type of behavior, in front of Rosemary and his best friend, after which he can’t continue his life as before. The book needed this jolt – the reader suddenly realizes the depth of Gordon’s unhappiness. The deus ex machina is Rosemary’s pregnancy. Gordon decides to marry her, get a job, and live a life like other men. And his poetry? – it gets dumped in the trash. *
Why Did I Ever - Mary Robison
Why did I ever read this book? What a dysfunctional, angry person the main character is! Yet there’s something smug (and phony) about her, as if she’s secretly pleased with her angst, her aimless driving about through the night, etc. She’s good with deadpan quips (in the face of despair), but it’s just part of Robison’s wounded bird act, and I wasn’t buying into it; instead my thoughts turned to her messed up children and how they got that way. Incidentally, she loves her cat. Who dies.