Brutal Little Book

I put down The Comfort of Strangers last night, reluctantly, at about midnight. I only had twenty-five pages left, but I was exhausted. So this morning, before getting out of bed, before coffee, I finished it.

This is a short, mean little book. It’s less than 130 pages long, so many readers could polish it off in a day (although not me; I’m a slow, slow reader). I don’t mean for the adjectives to cast the book or the story in a negative light. I really liked it. I just mean that it’s impressive how much suspense McEwan has managed to cram into such a short novel.

And it’s not all muscle and plot, either. There’s a fair amount of thinking and philosophy here, and real characters.

It’s, basically, about Colin and Mary, a couple from England who are on holiday in (presumably) Venice, Italy. They settle into a kind of boredom, but then they meet Robert, a strange, forceful man who befriends them.

I’ll stop there with the description. If you’ve never read McEwan, you should. I read Amsterdam, which won the Booker prize, first, then Saturday. Saturday, despite some negative reviews, was a wonderful book–more thrilling and suspenseful than anything James Patterson or Stephen King or John Grisham can concoct. After reading The Comfort of Strangers, I’d say it’s as good a place as any to start.

What I’m Reading

I’ve been in one of my fiction slumps in 2008. Maybe it’s because a lot of my reading time has been usurped by parenting time, but it’s also more than that.

For one thing, I spend a lot more time online than I used to. The proliferation of blogs and the movement of print content onto the Internet has given me so much more access to information and entertainment that it’s even harder to turn away from than cable television used to be. (I disconnected the cable thinking it would give me more time to read and write, but now I spend all that time–possibly more–on the Web.)

The fiction I did manage to read during the first three months of Sean’s life was primarily short fiction. I read from the Best American Short Stories anthologies from this year and last. I read John Barth’s Lost in the Funhouse, which was amazing. I also read David Foster Wallace’s novella Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way which is collected in Girl With Curious Hair.

When I finally got around to reading a novel it was because of a movie I saw, No Country For Old Men. The movie is wonderfully ambiguous, and I thought the book might expound on certain characters a little more. Turns out, it doesn’t. It’s a page-turner, but the Coen brothers may actually handle the material more effectively than McCarthy does. It’s the sort of story that works really well on film.

I’m also finding myself drawn more and more to nonfiction. Much of this is for research purposes. In fact, the vast majority is, but every once in a while I get extremely curious about a subject and start reading all kinds of stuff about it. Lately it’s been crime. Don’t ask me why.

I’m starting to move back toward fiction though. I opened up Ian McEwan’s The Comfort of Strangers the other day, and I’m enjoying it. I also bought a couple of Hemingways at the bookstore: For Whom the Bell Tolls and A Farewell to Arms. Shockingly, I have never read either of them.

Note: Edited to add a link in the final paragraph.

Who’s the Bigger Dork?

Last month, when Danielle and I went car shopping for a “family tank,” we were watching a lot of Battlestar Galactica. So, when it came time to name the new ride, Danielle suggested the Raptor. (For anyone not familiar with the show, (a) Shame on you, and (b) here’s Wikipedia’s Raptor page.)

As if that weren’t bad enough, when we purchased a new stroller, I coined it the Viper.

So, who’s the bigger dork? Danielle for coming up with the Raptor in the first place, or me for thinking it’s cool?

And, yes, we refer to our house as the Battlestar.

Well, I’ve Done It

I’ve finally stopped marking up old drafts and outlining and daydreaming. I’m rewriting Lithium. Complete rewrites are painful, but also freeing.

I can’t believe I’m doing it.

The View From Denmark

My friend Walter, who works for the State Department, just forwarded this e-mail from a friend of his in Denmark:

“We in Denmark cannot figure out why you are even bothering to hold an election.

On one side, you have a bitch who is a lawyer married to a lawyer, or a lawyer who is married to a bitch who is a lawyer.

On the other side, you have a true war hero married to a woman with a very large chest who owns a beer distributorship.

Is there really a contest here?”

American Spirit

Danielle found this cool article over at the New York Times. It’s the story of a family who renovated a seriously broken down house over the course of twelve years.

Isn’t there just something quintessentially American about someone who will pay $65,000 for a 1913 Tudor and then do almost all the renovation work (minus the new roof, electrical, and plumbing repairs) himself? It’s the pioneering attitude.

Plus, the guy used to write for Beavis and Butthead.

Shiny New Blog

I posted my first entry over at the blog. It’s just your basic introductory blog post, but check it out, anyway.

If you look over to the right-hand column on this blog, you’ll see a nifty little widget that will automatically display links to my new posts over there. I’ll be posting about once a week. Enjoy!