Friday, November 03, 2006

A book update

Two books I've read recently:

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson - This won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction last year, and it was really different from other books I've read. It's in the form of very long letter written by a Kansas pastor, Reverend John Ames, to his young son. Ames is aging and knows that he and his son will not really have a chance to get to know eachother, and this letter is a sort of autobiography and history for the boy. He is writing the letter in the 1950s and he recaps stories of his grandfather and father, both ministers before him, as well as his godson and namesake John Ames Boughton. It's a sort of rambly novel, without a whole lot of plot, but it's written beautifully and powerfully. It's incredible how well the voice that Robinson gives Ames evokes his generation, his occupation, and his life. There are lot of musings about religion and Christianity, and as a Christian, parts of it really spoke to me. I highly recommend this book. It's not a page-turner, it's much more of a book to linger over, and it left me feeling really warm and satisfied.

Veronica by Mary Gaitskill - I had an almost exactly opposite reaction to this book. It left me feeling somewhat unsettled. It follows the life of Allison, who runs away from home as a teenager and finds herself in Paris as a model, then in New York, where she meets the title character, Veronica, who dies of AIDS. It's hard to describe this book. Allison looks back on her life very frankly, even though it's filled with quite a lot of dark experiences. Somewhere in there I think the book was trying to say something about beauty and love and stuff like that, but I had trouble grasping it, and I found the book to just be depressing in general and I just couldn't relate to it. Perhaps I'm just not at the right stage of my life to really appreciate it or something.

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