Monday, June 18, 2007

A pleasant hiatus...

Aaahhh....I'm back. Relaxed, mellow, and tanned. A week at Folly Beach, SC, who can complain?

I can tell my kids are getting older. For the last 2 years I haven't even bothered to bring books to the beach. This year I brought 4, and read 3 of them while there. Heaven...

So, for all you soon-to-be vacationers, here are my abbreviated book reviews:

1. Next, by Michael Crichton. I've read almost all of his stuff, and enjoyed most of it. Being the sci-fi dork that I am, a good Crichton book is like a trashy romance novel to me. This one wasn't great. Next explores the dangers yet to come in a world of genetic manipulation. Fascinating topic, not the most clever presentation. It felt like he thought up all the nightmare scenarios associated with genetic science and tried to fit them all into one story, not very believably. Still, we all love trashy romance novels at the beach, don't we?

2. Portnoy's Complaint, by Philip Roth. One word: wow. OK, maybe not one word, since that doesn't really cover it. Not "wow" as in "the best thing I've read in a while." More like "wow, I didn't know there was such a fine line between literature and porn." I'm a Philip Roth virgin (really, there's no way to review this book without ample sexual references), so maybe all his books are as uninhibited, but this was new to me. A very interesting portrayal of a young Jewish boy's experience of sexual growth. He brilliantly described a mother that made me feel claustrophobic through the book, but that wasn't the main thrust (he he). My take home message was that if all men think about sex as much as this man did, I'd rather not know about it. It was a quickie (really, I can't help myself) so I didn't have to invest much time, but I'm not sure that I'd recommend it.

3. Wickett's Remedy, by Myla Goldberg. I absolutely loved her debut novel (see my list of all time favorites), but this one fell short for me. The story follows a young woman's experience with the death and destruction wrought by the 1918 influenza epidemic in South Boston. The author included some novel literary devices, including converging storylines through letters at the end of chapters, as well as running commentary from dead acquaintances. The former kept the book a bit more interesting, the latter was distracting. An easy read, but not a great one.

The fourth I just started today, Suite Francaise, by Irene Nemirovsky. I'm not very far into it, but so far I love it. The prose is like a Paris croissant, light and flaky but chock full of saturated fatty goodness. "Children slept peacefully...their lips making sucking noises, like little lambs." Like buttah. I'll write a full review when I finish it.

Also, please note my new section, titled Dr. Smak's List of Truths. I'll be adding to it as more strike me.

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