Saturday, October 25, 2008

Sleepless Nights - Elizabeth Hardwick
This New York Insider novel (it’s dedicated it to Mary McCarthy and has blurbs by Didion, Sontag, etc.) is an arty exercise in prose styling that’s short on substance. Though autobiographical, Hardwick remains behind a gauzy literary veil; some of the characters she interacts with are identified only by initials. The book is composed mostly of vignettes, with much circumlocution and mood and angst. I’m sure the Insiders got more out of it than I did (and knew whose initials were being used). I quit halfway through.

No One Writes to the Colonel - Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Spanish)
One long story and eight short ones. The long one is the best – though it’s so dreary and dark! The shorter ones are insubstantial when standing alone, but cumulatively a town and its people emerge. Still, nothing here adds to the luster of Garcia Marquez’s reputation.

The Sun in Scorpio - Margery Sharp
An unusual novel. Cathy, at its center, is distant and sometimes unlikable. I often didn’t know what to feel about her. Why her fixation on the island paradise? What’s her problem with people? My sympathy for this integral character wavered, and thus my involvement in her story waxed and waned. Then came the ending, with Cathy at age forty, and at last I understood her, including who she was in her youth. She faces the fact that she’s led a wasted life, without loving or being loved. I was glad that Sharp gave her the opportunity to make up for that loss.

Strange Pilgrims - Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Spanish)
This collection has the great “Maria dos Prazeros” and the excellent “Bon Voyage, Mr. President” (plus some other good stories), but half of the twelve are just fair to middling, formless impressionistic pieces. Which brings up the question of why Garcia Marquez included them. To get the requisite number of words for a collection?

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