Monday, August 18, 2008

Free Books!

Came home from vacation bearing garbage bags of laundry to face a week's worth of bills, newspapers on the stoop, and that musty, un-lived-in smell the house takes on when we're away. It took the kids about 45 minutes to take every last toy out of their playroom and distribute them throughout every other room of the house. Toys are like old friends, I guess. As Larry and I were sorting and washing and folding and unpacking, the kids were gleefully making a mess in every corner of the house.

Fortunately for me, the post-vacation blahs have been offset by two packages from publishers. I signed up to be an early reviewer at Library Thing, and it worked. One is by John Banville, who writes sometimes as Benjamin Black. I loved his first foray into genre writing, Christine Falls. Well, I loved almost all of it. His account of Dublin in the 1950s is wonderful; he describes a wildly tangled family mess, and a mystery of missing babies and old grudges, all fascinating.
He has one character in there, aptly named Mal, and there is one scene between the main character, named Quirke and Mal in a bar and I have the urge to memorize it because it manages to be funny and sad and suspenseful all at once. And there's another scene between Quirke and and Irish poet, also in a bar in which they are both drunk, and it has this wonderful quality of being a friendly conversation that is at all times about to erupt into a brawl. The thing I didn't entirely love, apart from the abrupt way in which some of the loose ends found themselves tied up, was the way in which he characterized the non Irish people of Boston in the 1950s. Granted, I didn't live here in the 50s. Or anywhere else for that matter. But these people have the feel of Texans rather than Bostonians. One of them is even nicknamed Tex. That just doesn't feel right, does it?

Anyway, the new one is called the Lemur, and so far it's pretty good. More cynical still, in subject matter, but still the evil father figure who dominates his family, still the confusion of an Irishman in the US who has lost himself somehow. And the prose features the same witty insights delivered by a third person narrator. I don't much like the characters, but they are interesting enough to follow around for the 120 pages of the novel. It's a skinny little book that doesn't take too long to read. I fear that it lacks subplots, and other points of interest. Final verdict to come.

The second one is called The Whiskey Rebels and it's about Colonial-era whiskey runners. I think. More soon. It's by David Liss, who wrote A Conspiracy of Paper and I loved that. Loved it.

I love books. 


Grace T said...

I'm loving all your book reviews here.

Thinking of you!

David Liss said...

Thanks for mentioning the book. I hope you like it.