Monday, 28 September 2015

Update: Literary

When I first started this blog several years ago, I planned it as a celebration of the written word and all things literary (my own efforts and those of others). I realize that I have cross-pollinated quite a bit with some of my other passions, namely music. However there are cables and threads that link artistic pursuits (which is why we have Broadway musicals, rock operas, and Raccoons on Ice) so I don't feel I'm being untrue to my chosen theme by sharing notes on my film and musical projects. That said, I am going to try to package the content a little more comprehensively. Today's update - long overdue - is myself as a book club of one, sharing what I took away from some of my most recent reading experiences.

I read books like sugar junkies binge on candy. Most of the time I have several books on the go at once, and I also frequently re-read my favourites. For many months over the past year, I was battling some anxiety and nerve issues which made it very difficult to concentrate properly, so I was doing more re-reading than new reads. Re-reading a familiar and well-loved work is soothing to me, and I don't feel like I'm missing much if I zone out for a few paragraphs or so. This summer's re-reading list included such behemoths as Gone With the Wind, Game of Thrones (I have the 5 novels on my Kindle and just keep going back to the beginning and reading them all again...endlessly entertaining), and It's So Easy (and Other Lies) by Duff McKagan, one of the founding members of Guns 'N' Roses.
I've read many rocker autobios over the years and this is one of the best. It's well-written (unlike many such books which literally come off as some attention-deficit prima donna ranting stream-of-consciousness blatherings into a tape recorder), it's amusing, and it's encouraging. We have a bass player in one of the top rock bands of its time, who partied and drank so much his pancreas exploded -- he bounces back to become a high performance athlete, has several successful musical off-shoots for which he writes and performs all the songs himself, and he becomes a successful business graduate on top of it all. Highly recommended by yours truly.

On my new-reads list, I have scored some wins and some misses. Let's start with the biggest miss of the season, Emily Giffin's The One and Only.

 I was drawn to this book because of Ms Giffin's prior reputation as a best-seller, although I personally haven't sampled her other work yet. This one, however, was a total let-down. I won't launch any spoilers here if I can help it, but I'll have to discuss the plot a bit in order to explain my low opinion of the story. Before I decided to let loose about this, I checked some of the other criticism for this book at various sites online. Clearly I'm not alone in disliking this book, but not for the same reason as many other readers were dissatisfied with it. Most readers dislike the relentless theme of college football that underpins the whole environment of the book. I'm not a sports fan particularly, but the football focus didn't put me off. Rather, I came to enjoy learning a bit more about the game - the author is a skillful storyteller who doesn't hammer the theme down your throat, she eases it down with tie-ins to why football is so important to the protagonist, and I didn't feel it interfered with the plot or character development. Where the story failed for me was in the other aspects of the characters' portrayals: I didn't believe in the characters, I didn't particularly care about them, and I didn't for one second believe that the two key relationships that were portrayed would ever play out like that in real life. The two main romantic entanglements that the protagonist becomes involved in - which, next to football, are the key ingredients of the plot - were both completely incredible to me; the author did not succeed in persuading me that they were plausible on any level. Suspension of disbelief = epic fail for this story.

While I tend to purchase more ebooks these days in order to conserve real estate on my bookshelves, I couldn't resist a foray into McKay's Used Books and CDs in Knoxville when I was there last month. It is an incredibly awesome store packed with used books, CDs and DVDs in excellent condition at affordable prices.  Go see them if you're in the area.
I scored several readables there (I would have bought more but I travel light and my one bag was already overtaxed), including Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. There is a movie out for this as well which has somewhat overshadowed the book; I haven't watched it yet, but I'm keen to see how it would come across on film. The novel is amazing and I urge you to read it even if you've seen the film. Too many plot twists to count, and the author is not afraid to dive into the most unpleasant places in the human mind, which I thought was quite brave and edgy. I'm looking forward to catching up with her other titles.

As the band has a show this weekend, the next post is likely to be more musical than literary. Have a great week!

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