What I’ve been reading (and not reading)

I have to confess I’ve been in a reading slump. I start a book and then wonder if it’s worth my time. I close it and go on to another and then have the same experience. I just closed Emma Straub’s new book, This Time Tomorrow after reading about sixty pages. Sigh; I’ve liked her other books very much, especially All Adults Here and Modern Lovers. This one was too slight for me right now. A friend gave me The Midnight Library by Matt Haig and I closed that one too. 

Crossing McCarthySo what has caught my attention? My older son recommended The Crossing by Cormac McCarthy. I hadn’t read any of McCarthy’s books before, tried The Road, but was put off by the incredible bleakness. The Crossing is also bleak, but it’s very haunting. I felt literally sucked into the story, grim though it was. The plot is minimal, the dialogue cryptic, so the reader needs to concentrate to get the juice out of what’s going on. The characters’ motivations are opaque: never stated, only felt. It’s about two brothers, Billy and Boyd Parham, and the trips they make from New Mexico to Mexico in the 1930s. I won’t say more; it’s quite an experience to read it. My son says it’s the best of the three books in McCarthy’s Border Trilogy and he’s pretty reliable about literature, but I may still pick up the other ones. 

Colony MageeI also enjoyed The Colony by Audrey Magee. The characters and setting are unusual and the author tackles some interesting issues of cultural appropriation in a novel way. It takes a while for the story to warm up. Mr. Lloyd, an artist, comes to an isolated island off the coast of Ireland to spend the summer painting the beautiful cliffs. He’s channeling Gauguin, hoping to go off in a new more naturalistic direction that will catch the London buyers. His wife, a gallerist, won’t sell his works anymore or share his bed. The local folks have agreed to rent him a cabin and provide food. Lloyd is joined by a French linguist, Mr. Masson, who is surprised and annoyed to find the artist there. Masson is studying the Gaelic language on the island and is worried that speaking English to Lloyd will corrupt the islanders’ language. Two cranky, disappointed men face off in this short novel of ideas. The islanders are more appealing, especially the teenage James, who may be a better artist than Lloyd. 

2 responses to “What I’ve been reading (and not reading)

  1. Lynne Schmelter-Davis

    Hi, Roz…Hope you and Gerald are well and enjoying the summer so far. I have to say Cormac McCarthy is one of my favorite authors and I’ve read everything he wrote (i think). I especially loved the Road which might be considered weird considering its bleakness but I always enjoyed dystopian stories because when I finished the book I felt so relieved to be out of that hopeless place and back in the real world. If the real world keeps going on in the direction it has been I will have to give up reading that genre. I have having similar issues starting and then closing books. I attributed it to aging and an inability to relate to many of the stories in contemporary fiction. But last week I read and really enjoyed a novel my daughter-in-law recommended. It’s called “Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead”. I found the story to be unique. The protagonist is an old lady, the other characters are her male peers, the setting is in a place that we haven’t visited and the plot is surprising. I hope I haven’t said too much. Give it a try and see what you think.

  2. PNINA MOED Kass

    And I’ve retraced my steps to “assigned” books that I faked reading. Ahh, the laziness of school requirements. Right now it’s The Great Gatsby….

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