Saturday, November 17, 2007

Enright's The Gathering a superb novel; also Shakespeare by Byrson and a new Mosley

Books now read in ’07: 104
Title: The Gathering
Author: Anne Enright
Genre: Fiction
Date Completed: 11-6
Pages: 261

Four books. Three strong recommendations.

First, Anne Enright’s The Gathering. It’s terrific. After several egregious selections, the Mann Booker Prize Committee got one right. The Gathering is the story of an Irish women whose brother has died. As the family assembles, she recalls their childhood. It is a story of family and of memory and of the lacunae of memory. It is especially about an adult trying to make sense of events witnessed in childhood. What did she really see and what did it ultimately mean?

The Gathering is a challenging book that rewards the patient reader with a powerful story and insignificant insights into human nature.

Books now read in ’07: 105
Title: Shakespeare
Author: Bill Bryson
Genre: Biography
Date Completed: 11-10
Pages: 196

We know so little of the actual facts about the life of William Shakespeare that there isn’t sufficient material to fill a proper biography – even on as small a stage as that provided by the Eminent Lives series. Bill Bryson does a superb job of marshalling what we do know into a most readable and entertaining book in Shakespeare, The World as Stage.

Because we know so little about Shakespeare, biographers, such as Bryson, must travel others paths – telling us about the time in which Shakespeare lived, the state of the theater, the rumors that abound around Shakespeare’s life as well as the theories that the plays weren’t really written by William Shakespeare, but someone else.

Bryson was a terrific choice to write this brief life of the Bard of Avon.

Books now read in ’07: 106
Title: Blonde Faith
Author: Walter Mosley
Genre: Mystery
Date Completed: 11-11
Pages: 308

Easy Rawlins is back in Blonde Faith, which may be Mosley’s best book yet. Easy is attempting to solve a couple of mysteries including the disappearance of his best friend, Mouse. But as always – with this series – it is less about the story than about Easy’s musings on the state of race relations in America.

There’s a shocking moment at the conclusion of Blonde Faith that leaves the fan of Mosley’s series wondering exactly what has transpired. We can only expect the worse, but hope for the best.

Books now read in ’07: 107
Title: Then We Came to the End
Author: Joshua Ferris
Genre: Fiction
Date Completed: 11-14
Pages: 385

Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris is one of five books that was shortlisted for the National Book Award. It didn’t win and it should not have. Then We Came to the End strives not to be a literary version of TV’s The Office so much as the work world’s version of Catch 22. It’s not.

It is, ultimately, a disappointing book. Part of the problem, I think, is that Ferris writes in the first person plural. Everything is “we” did this and “we” did that. The difficulty is that, as a result, the reader has no one to identify with. The grim events that unfold in this Chicago ad agency seem remote and without emotional resonance.


  1. I was disappointed by this book, too. I kept reading it, though, because of all the buzz.

  2. There is a Shakespeare Reading challenge starting in January if anyone is interested. I'm saving my copy of Bill Bryson on Shakespeare to read for the challenge.

    Shakespeare Reading Challenge