Reading Round-Up, 9/14/2014

Lots of interesting reading going on around here these days, including:

  • Elena Ferrante’s The Days of Abandonment. This is my first Ferrante, and probably won’t be my last. It was a strange book, difficult — in the sense of emotionally wrenching — unpleasant, surreal at times. It’s the story of a woman dealing with her husband’s abandonment, and it starts off in what feels like familiar territory but then veers off into unexpected places. I can’t say I enjoyed the book exactly, but I was intrigued by it. The book was unpleasant in a way I’m not entirely sure how I feel about, but this was not entirely bad.
  • Sarah Waters’s The Paying Guests. I may have been spoiled for further Sarah Waters books by Fingersmith, which I liked a whole lot. I’ve also read The Night Watch, which was good but not quite as good, and now The Paying Guests was not quite as good as well. I thought the first half was too slowly paced and the direction the plot was heading in was obvious. The second half picked up the pace a lot, which was good, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that the entire thing needed more shaping and editing. I was reasonably happy reading this — Waters is good at what she does — but I wanted more. I read Waters to get immersed in a good story, and she sometimes delivers that, but this was uneven.
  • Matthew Salesses’s I’m Not Saying, I’m Just Saying. This one was intriguing. It’s a fairly short book, and is described as a novel written in flash fiction, or “short-shorts,” which sounds kind of gimmicky, but it worked really well. There are 115 short chapters, usually only part of a page long, describing a man’s experience as he finds out about and meets his five-year-old son. It’s a first-person narration from this man’s point of view, and he is straightforward about his many affairs and infidelities and all his other character flaws. There’s something about his voice that is compelling in spite of all his unpleasantness. But mostly it’s the writing that makes this book so good. Each chapter is a self-contained unit that’s a little like a poem in its richness. I wanted to slow down and read each piece slowly so as not to miss anything.


Filed under Books

8 responses to “Reading Round-Up, 9/14/2014

  1. I have a review of ‘The Paying Guests’ ready to go up later in the week and quiet agree with your views. Water’s Lite was my general feeling.


  2. Oh, you have me intrigued with your description of Ferrante. I know Waters has a big fan base but I’ve read two of her books and while I found them good, just can’t get excited about her. Still, it’s too bad her new one wasn’t as good as you had hoped!


  3. I’m sorry to hear that about the Sarah Waters – it seems to happen too often that writers become famous and then suffer from too little editing. I do have a copy of it, so will be curious to see how it reads.


  4. Ooh, “I’m Not Saying, I’m Just Saying” sounds satisfying – I really like flash fiction.

    And oh, too bad about “The Paying Guests” – I wonder how I’ll like it (I have it checked out from the library right now/am about to start it). “Fingersmith” is definitely my favorite Sarah Waters, though I did also quite like “Tipping the Velvet” and “Affinity”. I liked but didn’t love “The Night Watch,” and liked “The Little Stranger” a little less – I guess so far her non-Victorian books haven’t been quite as engaging for me.


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