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January 15, 2007

Fiction Free Association

Tyler Cowen names Vikram Chandra's behemoth new novel Sacred Games as his early pick for novel of the year. I'm not yet into the 2007 releases, but from 2006, you can't do much better than Claire Messud's exquisite The Emperor's Children. I've actually been reading a lot of fiction lately, including Michael Chabon's The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, which was significantly less good than I was expecting (though I couldn't get into Kavalier and Clay, either, so Chabon may just not work for me). At the moment, I'm deep in Jonathan Lethem's Motherless Brooklyn, a linguistically dazzling and inventive detective novel featuring a protagonist with Tourette's -- read it. I also recently read Lethem's book of essays, The Disappointment Artist, and found them intimidatingly intelligent, but not particularly fun or interesting to read. The Fortress of Solitude, however, remains one of my favorite books, and should be read by anyone who likes words.

January 15, 2007 | Permalink

Comments

I think you mean "Mysteries of PITTSBURGH". Don't mean to be snippy but I'm from Pittsburgh and we're touchy about such things. Plus it's one of my favorite books of all time and so the snippiness is doubled.

"Motherless Brooklyn" is a fantastic book. Haven't read "The Fortress of Solitude" yet, have to snag it from the library. Odd that you wouldn't like Chabon if you like words, because he writes gorgeous sentences/paragraphs/whatever.

Posted by: Mean Gene | Jan 15, 2007 5:53:36 PM

Nope, you're right. And yeah, I'm pretty sure the fault lies with me, not Chabon.

Posted by: Ezra | Jan 15, 2007 5:58:50 PM

Haven't read either Motherless Brooklyn or Fortress of Solitude, but I really liked Amnesia Moon and Gun, With Occasional Music, so they're on my list.

Posted by: Tom Hilton | Jan 15, 2007 6:06:40 PM

It's supposed to be a children's book but I could not put Summerland down. Fast-paced and absolutely fascinating. I read it first and then was terribly disappointed in Kavalier and Clay.

Posted by: peggy | Jan 15, 2007 7:41:04 PM

I picked up The Emperor's Children, read about seventy pages, and put it back down again. I found every character entirely intolerable. Really? You liked it? I'd wonder if it's an East Coast thing, except that you're a native Californian, right?

-- ACS

Posted by: ACS | Jan 15, 2007 8:13:29 PM

So far, I haven't been able to get into The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, though I'll probably try again at some point, but I absolutely adored Wonder Boys.

Posted by: Royko | Jan 15, 2007 8:15:01 PM

Actually, I'd say just the opposite as ACS about Emperor’s Children. As a new yorker, I found the profiles amazing. What killed it for me was the exquisite cuteness of it… and the exquisitely uncomfortable cuteness of the plot. OF COURSE 9/11 would shake all the characters’ worlds. They’d re-examine their lives, sure… but not THAT much. It was an amazing character study built over the top of an obvious see-saw of a cheap plot device.

Posted by: Brian | Jan 15, 2007 8:34:10 PM

I've liked Lethem since I was publishing the softcovers of his early books like Gun, with Occasional Music and Amnesia Moon. The Fortress of Solitude is one of my favorite non-genre novels of the last ten or fifteen years.

Posted by: Patrick Nielsen Hayden | Jan 15, 2007 9:35:14 PM

Ezra,

Someone to add to your stack: Orhan Pamuk. Snow is perfectly amazing, as an inventive novel, as a detective/puzzle piece and as an exploratory guide to much that is going on now. I'm now on The Black Book, an earlier work in a new translation.

Posted by: dell | Jan 15, 2007 10:08:53 PM

Oddly, I thought Emperor's Children used 9/11 fairly well, and it remained mericfully absent till very late in the book. Award for worst use of 9/11, though, has to go to Ben Kunkel's Indecision. I still shudder over that plot twist.

Posted by: Ezra | Jan 15, 2007 10:31:19 PM

Well, K&C won a Pulizer, and Pittsburgh was an MFA thesis, so I would think it would be a less perfect book. ;) Personally I like them both, but K&C is my favorite book, and Chabon hasn't missed yet in my book.

Posted by: Dave | Jan 16, 2007 9:02:54 AM

so much to respond to! I was personally underwhelmed with Orhan Pamuk's SNOW. The first 150 pages are so are magnificent, and then the book proceeds to slowly collapse into itself and fall apart after the scene at the theatre. I could feel Pamuk running out of ideas, which is too bad because his set up is amazing.

Motherless Brooklyn and Fortress of Solitude are amazing, and I don't just say that because I live in Boerum Hill. As for The Disappointment Artist, I find it shockingly (bracingly?) intimate. It's almost like a piece of experimental novel describing a protagonist through a series of popculture meditations.

Can I get a witness for Haruki Murakami? Kafka On The Shore is so f*ing good I can't stand it.

Posted by: isaac | Jan 16, 2007 9:40:14 AM

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Posted by: judy | Sep 26, 2007 5:02:42 AM

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