Tuesday, September 05, 2006

To anyone who wonders why I'm never online any more

This is how my evening is going so far:
8.30pm: dial up. Open messenger client to see if friends are there. Get no response. Open web browser. Computer freezes.
8.40pm: Repeat
8.50pm: Repeat. Instead of rebooting computer, decide to see how long it takes to unfreeze. Go take shower. Come back just as computer unfreezing. Try to switch windows. Computer freezes. Consider throwing computer out of window.
9.15pm: Dialup.Do not open messenger. Open browser. Browse for three minutes. Open messenger. Computer freezes. Consider throwing self out of window.
9.35pm: Dial up. Feel thankful for free local call arrangement. Grind teeth. Vow not to open browser. Vow that if don’t manage to post soon, shall give up and go to bed. Realise have nothing to post about. Resort to posting book reviews.

I am so sick of this I can’t even be funny. Nothing I’ve tried has solved the fact that this relatively new computer doesn’t let me do anything useful. And now there’s a chance my laptop fund will be swallowed up by something that isn’t a laptop, so it’s not going to change any time soon. I realise this is a quintessential First World problem, and all, but still.

At least I have a good party to go to tomorrow night. With any luck something hilarious will happen to me.

Wednesday Book Review: Bumper Edition

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close - Jonathan Safran Froer

>I'm tempted to werite "fucking brilliant" and leave it at that for this one. It is, in fact, fucking brilliant.

Oskar is a precocious, charming nine year old who lost his much-loved Dad in the 9/11 attacks in New York. A year later, still grieving heavily, Oskar finds a key tucked away in a vase in his father's closet, and decides to discover what it opens. He begins a year-long expedition which takes him all over the city, making friends with a diverse group of strangers as he goes.

Oskar is one of the most charming characters I've met in a long time. Safran Froer's portrayal is sheer genius. I really did laugh, and cry, and ignore the world around me while I finished it. I can't recommend this highly enough.

Josie and Jack - Kelly Braffet

Very polished for a debut novel, and without any of the gimmicks that sell first books. Josie and Jack are sister and brother, living in a ramshackle house with an abusive father and left to their own devices most of the time. They drink and get stoned and pursue their twisted interpersonal power games, and it's mesmerising to watch. From the blurb, I was expecting more melodrama than I got, and I appreciated the balance the author struck. Not bad at all.

State of the Union - Douglas Kennedy

I'm a big fan of Douglas Kennedy and have been ever since The Big Picture. This is his latest, a book about a woman who makes one huge mistake in a careful and well-behaved life back in the sixties, a mistake which isn't discovered until George W Bush's second term. I use that timeline because Kennedy uses the reaction of the public to the revelation to vent his anger at the sanctimonious, hypocritical Christianity that currently permeates American media. Kennedy wrote a very powerful book a few years back called The Pursuit of Happiness, which is set in the era of McCarthyism, and the parallels are clear without Kennedy spelling them out.

State of the Union just isn't as good as that one, sadly, but it's not a bad read if you want to feel some righteous anger at the world we find ourselves in.

The Photograph – Penelope Lively

Sometimes I find that my reading follows a theme over a week without it meaning to. I read this just after the above, and they’re both about old secrets – specifically, old infidelities – coming to light. The widowed husband of a sparkling young woman discovers a photograph ten years after her death that suggests he didn’t know her at all. Through his search, and through the eyes of the others who were close to her, we get a portrait of the woman herself.

I’m always admiring of people who can create a protagonist who isn’t actually present in the book. Lively is a skilful writer; the sort of whom one says “she commands her craft”. It didn’t rip me raw, but it was a good day when I read it.

Reunion - Alan Lightman

A small elegant book filled with small elegant prose. A story of a middle-aged man looking back on his college-aged self with some pathos and a lot of joy. I can’t get too enthusiastic about it, but I can’t fault it stylistically.


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