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April 24, 2007

In Search of Worse Books

Special Topics in Calamity Physics. Now that's a well-done book. Sure the characters are disruptively unbelievable and the plot doesn't really start until page 300 and the ending makes no sense at all, but those are virtues; they help the book hit my sweet spot: Entertaining, but not grabbing.

I hate being grabbed by a book. It's troublesome. You lose sleep, sneak looks during the workday, don't want to get off the bus, and generally act out all the downsides of infatuation. Jonathan Rosen's Joy Comes in the Morning, for instance, is currently making a run at ruining my life. Wonderful book, to be sure, but a pain in the ass for that very reason. It's keeping me up at night, and, come the day, beckoning from my bag when I actually need to be writing.

With Special Topics in Calamity Physics, I could merrily read for 20 minutes before going to bed without any particular interest in knowing what happened next. It was The Entourage of books: Great dialogue, charming moments, fun characters, but no nettlesome investment in the characters or interest in the plot to muck up the experience. I need more like it.

April 24, 2007 in Books | Permalink

Comments

Jonah Goldberg's tract on fascism will be that sort of book, Ezra. Unprecedented in its seriousness and scholarly intent.

Posted by: jimmmm | Apr 24, 2007 10:46:27 AM

As a bookworm with precious little time for true worminess many days, may I offer a suggestion? Anthologies. Two of my favorites are by Martin Amis: Heavy Water (fiction) and The War Against Cliché: Essays and Reviews (non-fiction).

Collections of short works allow you to sample different flavors and characters without getting to attached to them. And since the story is over, with ends neatly tied up (one hopes) before you arrive at your train stop, you won't feel as though you're abandoning anything (though if you're like me, you may occasionally find yourself wishing that the short story went on and on for a few hundred papges). I like to keep such books in my backpack and car for exactly that reason: I can dip in whenever there's an empty moment during which I'd otherwise be bored and impatient, gnawing at my nails or making origami birds out of take-out menus.

Posted by: litbrit | Apr 24, 2007 10:51:16 AM

"I could merrily read for 20 minutes before going to bed without any particular interest in knowing what happened next. It was The Entourage of books"

If you're not already, you really need to subscribe to The New Yorker.

Posted by: Petey | Apr 24, 2007 10:59:12 AM

I read somewhere that science is all about testing hypotheses by trying to prove they can't be true (instead of finding ways of proving they are true).

So it is with blog writers. Hypothesis on Ezra: a nice, well educated, articulate writer of liberal leanings who soaks his mind in white papers writen by 'heavy thinkers'.

Then it is revealed that he reads fiction and loses sleep and daytime relaxaton by the fascinating worlds revealed in the NYT as written by the latest wunderkind.

Wrong! There goes the hypothesis. Next I'll find out that he reads People in the bathtub, watches E! on tv, and some other horrors to be later revealed.

You just can't tell much about a person from the blogs they write, I guess.....

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Apr 24, 2007 11:14:04 AM

This is a kind of depressing post.

Posted by: djw | Apr 24, 2007 9:46:24 PM

Recommendation for you.

Daniel C. Dennett's Darwin's Dangerous Idea.

Once you get past the grandiose alliteration of the title, you will find enough good philosophical discourse to fill most of the empty sponges sitting in the White House. (And I don't mean the ones in the custodial closets, either.) Think Richard Dawkins' complete and total approval of big-E Evolution, yet almost completely without Dawkins' obnoxious self-congratulatory egotism.

And I can comfortably say that it is public-transit safe. I've read it many times on the bus and light-rail, and have yet to miss a stop because of it.

Posted by: Off Colfax | Apr 25, 2007 2:07:24 AM

South Wind by Norman Douglas. Written about 1915. A bunch of ex-pats lapping up the Mediterranean sun on a mythical isle, drinking wine, talking about classical sculpture and staging the occasional genteel domestic disturbance. Hilarious but not too filling: Wilde Lite.

Posted by: Kent | Apr 25, 2007 10:30:00 AM

With Special Topics in Calamity Physics, I could merrily read for 20 minutes before going to bed without any particular interest in knowing what happened next.

In other words, it's the Ezra Klein of books...

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Posted by: judy | Sep 28, 2007 4:26:31 AM

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