Posts Tagged ‘abundance of quirk’
Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace is one of those books that I guess you could say is on my bucket list; last year when the Infinite Summer readalong was taking place, I was sorely tempted to give it a try, but I know that massively long doorstop books are just not my style. And yes, I was woefully intimidated. While I wanted to read Wallace, I wondered if Infinite Jest was really the best place for me to start… I decided it wasn’t and instead decided I’d try Wallace’s first, and much shorter, novel, The Broom of the System, on for size and see how it fit. Rather than cannonballing (or bellyflopping, let’s be honest) into the deep end, I figured I’d spend some time wading about in the paddling pool instead.
If Infinite Jest is a full marathon, I’d say Broom is a half-marathon. It may look considerably slimmer than its successor, but you’d be foolish to consider this a trifling 5K. It starts off simply enough, with a fun chapter involving college party shenanigans, and while the novel certainly has a healthy dose of the absurd coursing through it, this is not a light or flippant novel.
I suppose if I had been patient I could have included this review in my “August Review” post, but I wasn’t and I didn’t so it’ll get a shout-out of its own. For BookPage I had the pleasure of reading and reviewing Matthew Dicks’ second novel, Unexpectedly Milo, which is in stores now. For longish-time readers of this blog, you’ll remember I read his debut, Something Missing, last year, which featured a rather endearing and unusual catburglar as its protagonist (note: Martin did not actually steal cats), and I was duly charmed. So when I saw Dicks had a second book out I was very excited indeed, and I’m happy to report that excitement was not misplaced.
Unexpectedly Milo features another oddball hero, this time a man who struggles with incorporating some rather intense (not to mention intensely bizarre) compulsions into his daily life. Alongside working as an aide to the elderly and infirm, and trying to keep his sinking marriage from becoming a total quagmire, Milo also juggles the need to crack ice from icecube trays, sing “99 Luftballons”, and sometimes smash a weeble between doors and their frames. And let’s not even get started with his Smuckers grape jelly fixation… Oh, and did I mention that despite these rather kooky desires, Milo has managed to keep them secret from everyone he holds near and dear for his entire life? Talk about stressful.
Rather than saying more about the thrust of the plot here, I’ll direct to you my BookPage review, which you can read here. Once more I was delighted and entertained by Dicks’ foray into the lives of those who live somewhere left of center. I love that you never know exactly what to expect with his novels, except of course that you’re in for a cracking good read. If Dicks continues his pace of publishing one book per year, at least we readers who like something a little bit out there will be assured of having one unabashedly fun read per annum. Highly recommended.
Ok, so it’s time for a confession: I’ve been running behind on my book writeups. I read The Great Perhaps by Joe Meno about two weeks ago and am just now getting around to writing about it… which means, that this is probably going to be a relatively nebulous post in which I assert things without really being able to back them up. Because at this point I remember how I ultimately felt about the book, but perhaps not specifically why I feel the way. Then again, maybe the fact that two weeks later and I’m struggling to say anything interesting about this book speaks volumes about the book itself.
But let’s backtrack a bit. I first read about this book over at Farm Lane Books when Jackie reviewed it and said it was one of the best books about an American family that she’s ever read. That paired with the quirky cover (featuring a giant squid! Y’all know how I’m fascinated with things that live in the sea) immediately caught my attention and I placed a hold on the book at the local library.
After the emotional turmoil of The House of the Spirits, I felt I needed a change of pace. I wanted a book that was light and somewhat frivolous; a real literary palate cleanser. Y’all know that I like serious, sobering fiction, but I also have a penchant for quirky literary fiction as well. Something Missing by Matthew Dicks definitely fit the bill!
Martin is anything but your run-of-the mill thief. Rather than lowering himself to the level of odious “smash and grabbers”, Martin cultivates long-standing relationships with his clients, visiting certain households on a fixed schedule and liberating them of certain items that are unlikely to be missed. This means stocking up on toilet paper, food items, and the occasional bottle of Draino. Of course, he does nab a few big-ticket items once in a while, but these feats of larceny require months of cautious surveillance and careful planning. Martin attributes much of his success to strictly adhering to a set of rules he’s established for himself, which he refuses to deviate from. Only, one day while on a job, things don’t go quite as planned and many of his rules fly out the window. Martin soon finds himself making up new rules as he goes, all in a bid to make the lives of his clients just a little bit better. After all, seeing how much they’ve given him, it doesn’t seem too much to ask that Martin give a little something back, right?
Faithful readers of this site might be crying out right now, “What’s this?!? ELIC is not listed as a contender in this year’s Tournament of Books! It was published in 2005. You said you were going to try to read through the ToB books next, so… what up?” I know, I know, I was supposed to start on my ToB reading after giving up on Eve, but here’s the thing: Last Friday, I bundled up and set off for the central library on campus, which claimed to have 5 of the titles on my list available. When I got there, I found out that one of the books was now reserved for someone (never mind that I can’t figure out how to reserve books myself), two of the books that were listed as being in the stacks were decidedly not in their designated areas, and one of the books penned by a Spanish-language author was in fact the Spanish-language edition. Which left me with 1 book… or a 20% success rate. Not good. It was so cold out and I had braved it for 1 lousy book? Well, on my way out, I happened to pass by the “Leisure Reading” shelf and ELIC caught my eye. I’ve been wanting to read it for several years now, and I figured that since I was there I might as well pick it up. After all, the check-out period for books from the campus library is a lengthy 3 months… or so I thought. Turns out, Leisure books only have a TWO WEEK check-out period, which is kind of ironic, since for some, that might require reading at a decidedly unleisurely pace. Once I realized this, I decided that I had better read ELIC first, given that it was due back so much sooner.